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European Court of Human Rights

Justice written question – answered on 24th November 2011.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice

(1) what progress he has made in seeking reform of the European Court of Human Rights since the UK assumed the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe; and what meetings he (a) has held and (b) plans to hold with representatives from (i) the Council of Europe, (ii) the European Court of Human Rights, (iii) the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, (iv) the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights and (v) his counterparts from other countries to discuss the reform of the European Court of Human Rights;

(2) whether he plans to propose changes to the European Convention on Human Rights as part of the UK Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The UK assumed the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe on 7 November.

As I stated in my answer of 11 October 2011, Official Report, columns 23-24WS, the top priority for the UK Chairmanship is reform of the European Court of Human Rights. We aim to deliver a key stage of the reform process that has been ongoing for some years. The way the Court works is set out in the Convention, so reform could involve changes to the Convention if all 47 member states of the Council of Europe agree to it. We will be negotiating and agreeing a package of reforms with all member states during our Chairmanship.

The Commission on a Bill of Rights has also provided interim advice on Court reform, which we will be taking into account during our negotiations.

My ministerial colleagues and I have discussed the reform of the European Court of Human Rights with many key figures in the run up to our Chairmanship, many of which I met when I attended the Izmir Conference earlier this year during the Turkish Chairmanship. We will continue this approach in the coming months.

For example, I met the Secretary General to the Council of Europe during his visit to the UK on 25 October, as did several other Government Ministers. The Attorney-General met with Court judges and officials during his visit to Strasbourg on 2 November and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the handover ceremony in Strasbourg on 7 November. Last week, the Attorney-General and the Minister of State, Lord McNally, attended a conference on the long-term future of the Court at Wilton Park with representatives from across the Council of Europe and its member states. I am due to meet the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights when he visits the UK in December.

My ministerial colleagues and I have also been raising the issue of reform of the Court with our ministerial counterparts in other member states where there has been opportunity for discussion.

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