David Cameron ‘won’t rule out’ withdrawing from European Convention on Human Rights

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

David Cameron has said he has “no plans” for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights – but refused to rule it out.

The Conservative Prime Minister is currently scrambling to rescue proposals to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, after the proposals were jettisoned from the government’s first Queen’s Speech.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, the PM was asked to rule out withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights – Europe-wide legislation drawn up after the Second World War, that is overseen and enforced by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and the Council of Europe.

Tory MP Andrew Mitchell had asked: “My right honourable friend will be well aware that there is considerable concern on both sides of the house at the proposition that Britain might withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. Will he take the opportunity to make clear he has no plans for us to do so?”

Mr Cameron said: “We’re very clear about what we want, which is British judges making decisions in British courts, and also the British Parliament being accountable to the British people.

“Our plans set out in our manifesto don’t involve us leaving the ECHR, but let’s be absolutely clear – if we can’t achieve what we need, and I’m very clear about that… when we’ve got these foreign criminals committing offence after offence and we can’t send them home because of their right to a family life, that needs to change.

“I rule out absolutely nothing in getting that done.”

Belarus, Europe’s only remaining dictatorship, currently is the only country in Europe that is not part of the ECHR, which guarantees basic freedoms.

Article 14 of the ECHR and the Human Rights Act, which affords protection from discrimination, has been used in many legal cases to argue for protection for LGBT people.

The ECHR was vital in securing a settlement in the Republic of Ireland just last year on gender recognition.

A planning document that was previously made public on the Conservative website says the new British Bill of Rights will only be applicable in certain circumstances, and will not be valid for “trivial” matters.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said: “The Prime Minister needs an urgent lesson in constitutional and legal literacy.

“Under the Human Rights Act, British judges make human rights decisions in British courts and parliamentary sovereignty is perfectly preserved – scrapping it would make Strasbourg a first instance court once again. And despite past rhetoric about the importance of family, he shows a chilling disregard for its protection in law.”

David Cameron appointed former education secretary Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Justice earlier this month replacing Chris Grayling – and the minister will be responsible for pushing forward with the changes.

Liberty and other campaign groups are calling on Parliament to save the Human Rights Act, click here for more.