Human right judges go too far, says Grayling as he ratchets up hostilities with Strasbourg courtJustice Secretary says European human rights judges are interfering with domestic issuesThey have 'lost sight' of the core principles behind human rightsRights are 'too open to abuse', Mr Grayling added
08:01 GMT, 18 December 2012
Broadside: Conservative Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has accused European lawmakers of overstepping their authority and deciding matters best left to domestic courts
A senior cabinet minister last night accused European human rights judges of ‘overstepping the mark’ – in a significant ratcheting up of hostilities with the Strasbourg court.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s remarks are the strongest condemnation to date of the controversial court from a Tory minister.
He accuses the judges of prying ‘more and more’ into areas that should be decided in domestic courts or by MPs in Parliament.
His explosive comments came ahead of the publication today of the final report by a panel of experts set up to examine a replacement to Labour’s Human Rights Act.
But the ‘Commission on a Bill of Rights’ which was set up by David Cameron to end the rampant abuse of human rights laws – is expected to recommend yet more rights.
These could include a right to claim benefits, to have a pleasant environment to live in and to enjoy a comfortable standard of living.
Insiders said the commission had split ‘down the middle’ between Tories and Liberal Democrats placed on the commission by Nick Clegg.
Mr Grayling accuses the judges of moving ‘further and further away’ from the original European Convention on Human Rights – written in the aftermath of the Second World War to protect citizens against the horrors of Nazi Germany.
And he says a Conservative view of human rights is that ‘with rights come responsibilities’ – and that rights should not be used as an excuse for operating outside societal norms.
Mr Grayling said: ‘The human rights agenda that frustrates so many of us today has little to do with the freedoms that all of us still believe are worth fighting for.
‘Over more than half a century, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has moved further and further away from the intentions of those politicians who shaped the original Convention.
‘It has pried more and more into matters that should be routine issues for national courts and parliaments to deal with.'
He added: ‘As Conservatives we remain absolutely committed to the importance of human rights around the world. But we do not believe that people should be able to claim the right to family life as an excuse for operating outside the norms that apply to most people in our society. We believe that with rights come responsibilities.
‘And we believe that the European Court of Human Rights has overstepped its mark, and that things have to change.'
Mr Grayling’s comments will be welcomed by Tory backbenchers who have demanded ministers confront the European court over its rulings.
Powers: The European Court of Human Rights in the French city of Strasbourg. Mr Grayling says it has moved too far from its purpose of protecting the vulnerable
They are particularly robust given his other position in Government as Lord Chancellor, who by tradition does not criticise members of the judiciary.
Article 8 has been used by hundreds of foreign prisoners to stay in Britain despite committing horrific crimes using spurious claims about their right to a private and family life. It has also allowed paedophiles and rapists to demand removal from the Sex Offenders’ Register.
The commission’s interim report in July recommended creating a right to claim benefits, and other so-called ‘socio-economic rights’. It also called for new children’s rights and a ‘right to equality’.
At the time, critics said the commission had been hijacked by the human rights lobby and would lead to further rights inflation and an extension of the compensation culture.
An eminent academic, Dr Michael Pinto Duschinsky, quit the commission warning that the ‘the Lib Dem tail is wagging the Conservative dog’ as he claimed Nick Clegg and Ken Clarke had instructed the commission to ignore the will of Parliament.
Mr Grayling is engaged in a standoff with the court over its demands for an end to the ban on prisoners voting.
Rights: The original European Convention on Human Rights was written after The Second World war to try and prevent horrors similar to Auschwitz (pictured)
Strasbourg has threatened to hand inmates compensation of 1000 each if Britain does not pass a law giving them the vote – despite MPs voting overwhelming against a change.
Earlier this month, 71 Tory MPs, including former Crime and Justice Minister Nick Herbert called on ministers to scrap the Human Rights Act in a Parliamentary vote.
The vote, and the commission’s likely outcome, will heap pressure on David Cameron to take a tougher line on Strasbourg.
Last night Dr Pinto Duschinsky said Britain should withdraw if it cannot negotiate a ‘democratic override’ to allow Parliament to reject Strasbourg rulings.
Dr Michael Pinto Duschinsky, constitutional affairs expert at Policy Exchange said: ‘Even if the Commission does decide to publish a British Bill of Rights, it is likely that the Strasbourg court will have final say on matters of national significance such as prisoner voting.
‘The UK must alter its relationship with the international court. Firstly by trying to negotiate an ‘override’ so that national parliaments can overrule Strasbourg.
‘If this proves impossible then the UK should give serious consideration to withdrawing from the ECHR.’