David Cameron has pledged to look at ways to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in the light of the sacking of his most senior legal advisor, according to the Daily Telegraph. The Prime Minister is believed to have wanted rid of the Attorney General Dominic Grieve because he was supportive of Britain’s continued ECHR membership.
Along with the Liberal Democrats, the “wet” barrister was able to thwart attempts to either reform the ECHR, and were opposed to pulling out altogether. The plan to reform it is being led by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling but Grieve has pledged to continue to fight for Britain’s membership from the backbenchers.
Grieve is understood to believe ECHR is about the fundamental rights of the citizen and should be cherished in the same way Manga Carta and Habeas Corpus are. But this is not a view shared amongst Conservatives, who cite examples of foreign criminals being allowed to stay in the country as evidence it is not working.
Criminals, for example, can claim they have a “right to family life” and that their deportation would rob them of that as their families would stay in the UK. This has allowed rapists, paedophiles and drug dealers to remain in the country when the government had wanted them deported. In one case the Home Secretary claimed a foreign criminal had been allowed to stay in the country to spend time with his cat.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that the sacking of Grieve had not led to a change in Government’s policy. However he pledged action if the Conservatives are elected next year without the Liberal Democrats: “If you are asking me about party manifestos, the Prime Minister has previously said that he wants to look at all the ways that we can ensure we are able to deport those who have committed criminal offences.”
Mr Grieve said he would defend human rights legislation from the back benches to “contribute to rationality and discourse”.
“Whilst we can pull out very easily from the European Convention on Human Rights if we wanted to, there would be serious reputational issues if we were to do it,” he said.
“If we send out a sign that human rights don’t matter, that is likely to be picked up in other countries which are also signatory states such as Russia.”
The Conservatives are likely to go into the next election with a policy to repealing the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European Convention in British law, and instead passing a British Bill of Rights. The exact details of it have not yet been published but they it is likely to resolve many of the problems identified with ECHR.