When the Minister didn’t quite get Alistair Carmichael’s sarcasm…

This week, Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael  put down an Urgent Question to the Home Secretary after she all too casually said that the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights. It’s clear that ,whatever the result of the Referendum, the Tories are desperate to have a big bonfire of all of our most basic rights. What they could object to about things like the right to privacy and freedom of expression is beyond me.

Anyway, Theresa May didn’t bother to turn up to face Alistair. She sent Attorney General Jeremy Wright instead. He didn’t really answer her question, prompting Alistair to say:

I am grateful to the Attorney General for that answer. I should make it clear that I hold him in the very highest regard; I enjoyed working with him as a Minister in the previous Government. But he is not the Home Secretary, and he should not be responding to the urgent question today. The Home Secretary was the one who could make the speech yesterday and she can, apparently, come and make a statement tomorrow. She should be here today. Yesterday she went rogue; today she has gone missing.

There is total confusion at the heart of Government policy. What the Attorney General has just said at the Dispatch Box contradicts clearly what has been said previously. Yesterday the Home Secretary said:

The ECHR can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals – and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights. So regardless of the EU referendum, my view is this: if we want to reform human rights laws in this country, it isn’t the EU we should leave but the ECHR and the jurisdiction of its court.”

That contradicts what the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab),  who has responsibility for human rights, previously told the House at Justice questions and in a succession of Westminster Hall debates. On 30 June, he said:

“Our plans do not involve us leaving the convention; that is not our objective”—[Official Report, 30 June 2015; Vol. 597, c. 426WH.]

Clearly, there has been a major shift in Government policy and this House should have been the first to hear about it. The Home Secretary tells us that she wants to remain in the European Union but leave the convention; the Under-Secretary of State for Justice wants to leave the European Union but remain in the convention; and the Lord Chancellor wants to leave the European Union, stay in the convention, but ignore the jurisprudence of the Court. Thank goodness we do not have the instability of a coalition Government any more.

It has been apparent for some time that everything in Government thinking is seen through the prism of the European Union referendum. Now it seems that the Home Secretary has taken that to the next level. She has an eye on the next election—the Conservative leadership election.

To be a member of the European Union requires us to be a party to the European convention. How is the Home Secretary’s speech yesterday consistent with that policy? The devolved settlements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have the European convention hard-wired into them. They are required to abide by the convention. How can that be done if the United Kingdom as a country is no longer a party to the convention? Does the Attorney General, a decent man who genuinely respects human rights, honestly want to see his country and mine stand alone with Belarus against the convention?

The paragraph in bold is a sarcastic observation that the majority Conservative Government is much more dysfunctional than the Coalition. You would think that a clever lawyer like Jeremy Wright would get that. Well, if he did, he chose to not let on:

He is a little unfair about coalition government; in my experience, it was not unstable much of the time.

It wasn’t unstable at all! And if anything ever does come out of the investigation into Conservative election expenses, this “majority” government may not even have a majority.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Parliament.


  • In out, in out, shake it all about …… and we do the hokey cokey ………. AKA the current Conservative governments idea of policy !!!

  • ………………..What they could object to about things like the right to privacy and freedom of expression is beyond me………

    They don’t! What they object to is that such rights are also available to the ‘undeserving’ in society….It should be remembered that, in the expression “We’re all in this together”, the ‘We’ and ‘This’ mean different things depending on who/what your circumstances….

  • The statement that the ECHR “binds the hands of parliament” is untrue and needs to be challenged. It may to an extent bind the hands of Government, but that is not the same thing.

    The ECHR cannot override primary legislation. So, Theresa May could introduce a bll to parliament specificly authorising (for instance) the deportation of foreign nationals to countries where they might face torture. If such a bill was passed then the ECHR could not stop such deportations, it could only issue a non-binding “Statement of Incompatibility”.

    So why doesn’t she? Because it would obviously (hopefully!) cause a massive outcry and be soundly defeated.

    The ECHR in this context just stops Government doing nasty things not specifically allowed by UK law.

  • It’s clear that ,whatever the result of the Referendum, the Tories are desperate to have a big bonfire of all of our most basic rights.

    I should think that “our most basic rights” have been around for quite a bit longer than the ECHR.

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