Tuesday 17 December 2013
Volume 572 No. 95
HOUSE OF COMMONS OFFICIAL REPORT
PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES (HANSARD) Tuesday 17 December 2013
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17 DECEMBER 2013
House of Commons Tuesday 17 December 2013 The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock PRAYERS [MR SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions JUSTICE The Secretary of State was asked— European Court of Human Rights
Chris Grayling: Let us be absolutely clear: human rights are important and remain a central part of what this Government, and any Government in this country, do to promote good practice around the world. That does not necessarily mean, however, that we all have to endorse the working of a Court that, in my view, has lost its way. Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): It is five months since the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the whole-life tariff case, so why are the Government still vacillating over what to do about it? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the problem is that the European Court of Human Rights is seeking to legislate rather than to interpret the law, because the whole-life tariff was a substitute for capital punishment? Chris Grayling: My view is that it is not appropriate for the Court to seek to make law for this country in such an area, which should be a matter for Parliament. My hon. Friend will understand, particularly given the realities of coalition politics, the care we are taking with our response, but he should be under no doubt that both I and the Prime Minister believe that the ruling takes us into a place where we should not be.
1. Mr Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk) (Con): What recent representations he has received about UK withdrawal from the European Court of Human  Rights; and if he will make a statement.
Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): Notwithstanding the difference between the two coalition parties in government, does the Secretary of State not believe that there are no examples of the Strasbourg Court defending our rights where domestic courts have failed?
The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): The coalition agreement commits the Government to the European convention on human rights and the Strasbourg Court. However, the differences between the two parties’ views on this subject are well known, so there will be no major changes before the next election, although, of course, it is my party’s intention that there should be afterwards.
Chris Grayling: That is an interesting point. Although we understand and respect the differences between the coalition parties on this matter, the Labour party is dancing on a pin. One week, it says that it opposes votes for prisoners; the next week, it supports the rulings of the European Court. As our party sets out its proposals over the next 18 months, it will be fascinating to see exactly where Labour stands.
Mr Bellingham: Does the Lord Chancellor agree with me that it is quite outrageous that the European Court of Human Rights has deemed whole-life sentences to be in breach of human rights laws? Is he aware that I used to be a strong supporter of the Court, but that I now feel strongly that the time has come when it is in our national interest to come out of it?
Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Can the Secretary of State list the European countries that are not part of the European convention on human rights? Does he really think that Britain’s international standing would be enhanced by joining the club with Belarus?
Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend echoes the view of many people in this country that the whole-life tariff ruling is entirely inappropriate. The Governm