Election 2015 Wales

Election 2015: Human Rights Act 'banana republic' warning

The European Court of Human Rights Strasbourg Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Tory ministers want to give UK courts the final say on human rights issues rather than Strasbourg

Scrapping the Human Rights Act would "make us look like a banana republic", First Minister Carwyn Jones has warned.

The Conservatives, now with a majority at Westminster, have pledged to replace the Act with a British Bill of Rights.

They want to give UK courts and Parliament the "final say" on human rights issues rather than Strasbourg.

Asked about the impact of such a change on Wales, Mr Jones told assembly members: "It would make us look like a Banana republic, frankly."

The Human Rights Act came into force in 2000, bringing the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.

Critics say the Act has led to "perverse" judgements, including a ruling that found the UK's blanket ban on prisoners voting was unlawful.

'Kazakhstan'

But during Tuesday's First Minister's Questions, Mr Jones said: "Most countries in Europe including Russia are signatories, are members of the European Convention.

"The European Convention was drafted by British lawyers; it's a British invention, and there's a complete lack of understanding of history in Whitehall at the moment," Mr Jones added.

Under the Conservatives' plan, the European Courts would not be able to require the UK to change British laws, with its judgements being treated as "advisory" rather than binding.

Instead, the UK's Supreme Court would be "the ultimate arbiter" on human rights matters.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams accused Conservative ministers of wanting to "put us in the same category as Kazakhstan in terms of how we view human rights".

"Liberal Democrats stopped the Tories scrapping the Human Rights Act and we are determined to keep fighting these plans," she said.

Image copyright Ministry of Justice handout
Image caption The Ministry of Justice says ministers will announce their plans 'in due course'

The European Convention created basic human rights and freedoms for every citizen in Europe.

They include the rights to life, liberty and security, a fair trial, respect for private life, and freedom of expression.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The Government was elected with a manifesto commitment to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights.

"Ministers will be discussing their plans on this and making announcements in due course."

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