European Convention on Human Rights

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th March 1998.

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Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge 12:00 am, 30th March 1998

If he will make a statement on the impact of the European convention on human rights on United Kingdom citizens. [35171]

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

The Human Rights Bill will enable people in the United Kingdom to have access to their convention rights before our own courts and will significantly enhance the protection of human rights in this country.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is absurd that British citizens are not able to access the protection of the convention through the British courts and have instead to take expensive and lengthy cases to the European Court in Strasbourg? Will he join me in welcoming the fact that it is new Labour which is putting this right?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

Yes. The Bill will enable everyone in the UK to enforce their convention rights before our own courts; it will bring rights home to the British people. It will not only improve access but reduce delays and costs—and it will not affect the sovereignty of Parliament.

Photo of Mr Tim Collins Mr Tim Collins Conservative, Westmorland and Lonsdale

Does the Minister believe that confidence among United Kingdom citizens in the proposals would be increased if they had the unanimous support of the Churches, which they do not, and if he was proposing reforms to tackle the fact that some members of the Court do not have a legal qualification?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

The Churches do not have a unanimous view on this, but many of them have welcomed in principle the convention's entry into our legal system. We are discussing with the Churches the issues about which they are concerned. We hope that we shall be able to bring the Churches with us in granting greater rights to all their members in our British courts.