§ Lord Lester of Herne Hill
asked Her Majesty"s Government:
Whether they have decided, as reported in the Guardian on 18 March, to oppose giving a permanent right of access to the European Court of Human Rights for victims of alleged violations by the United Kingdom of the European Convention on Human Rights, and if so, why.
The Government are contributing fully to work within the Council of Europe on the reform of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights by their replacement by a single court. In the course of this work, it has also been proposed that states party to the European Convention on Human Rights should be obliged to provide a permanent right of individual application to the new court. At present, acceptance by such states of the right of individuals within their jurisdiction to petition the European Commission of Human Rights is optional, and may be accepted on a renewable or indefinite basis. Since 1966, the Government, in successive declarations, have recognised the competence of the Commission to receive such petitions from people who claim to be the victims of a violation of the convention in the United Kingdom.
In the most recent negotiations in the Council of Europe, between 21 and 25 March, the United Kingdom adduced reasons why the right of individual petition to the new court should, too, be optional and renewable. These reasons were: that the present arrangement provides a proper balance between the authority of the appointed institutions of the convention, which may make decisions requiring parliaments to legislate, and the elected governments of states which are party to the convention: that it would be inopportune to take the step of making the right of individual application mandatory just when the new court, which would of necessity be untried, came into being: and that the question of the nature of that right is in any event entirely separate from that of the reform of the present Commission and court. The Government have under consideration what position to take on this matter in future consideration of the reform work in the Council of Europe.