Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Labour MEPs want to give more powers to EU over human rights

23rd March 2012

During its current chairmanship of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the UK Government is trying to introduce changes in the activities of the Court. It is felt that too many issues which should be matters of national jurisdiction are being dealt with by the Court. This has an adverse impact on national efforts to change immigration policy, to deport terrorists, and to set the rules for prisoners. The Prime Minister has stated that "what we are striving for is that national governments should take primary responsibility for safeguarding their citizens' rights".

The difficulties would be compounded if the EU itself were to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights, in addition to national membership. It would mean a double arm-lock and the EU's own European Court of Justice would then also get involved.

In the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament today, the Labour Party Spokesman called for encouragement for the EU's accession to the Convention and denounced "the obstructionist attitude of some EU Member States, notably France and the United Kingdom."

Conservative MEPs Charles Tannock and Geoffrey Van Orden, Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, condemned the Labour Party attitude.

Mr Van Orden, who has been particularly active on immigration issues, commented: "It is appalling that Labour is trying to use the European Parliament to frustrate much-needed reform. There are many people in the UK at the moment with no right to be there, but who can't be removed because of ECHR. The ability of the Government to introduce robust immigration controls is already affected by concerns about lengthy and expensive court cases, particularly relating to interpretation of Article 8 of ECHR. Imagine how much more difficult it will be to unravel all this if the EU also got involved."

Mr Tannock stated: "The intrusive actions of the European Court of Human Rights, telling Parliament that criminals have the right to vote in British prisons and that Abu Qatada cannot be deported to Jordan have stretched the credibility of this Court to the limit. It is now in serious need of reform and should be scaled back".