HC Deb 26 November 1958 vol 596 cc333-4
1. Mr. Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government have accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights which is now being set up in accordance with the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ormsby-Gore)

No, Sir. As my right hon. and learned Friend said on 29th July last year: The position which Her Majesty's Government have continuously taken up is that they do not recognise the right of individual petition, because they take the view that States are the proper subject of international law and if individuals are given rights under international treaties effect should be given to those rights through the national law of the States concerned. The reason why we do not accept the idea of the compulsory jurisdiction of a European court is because it would mean that British codes of common and statute law would be subject to review by an international court. For many years it has been the position of successive British Governments that we should not accept that status."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1957; Vol. 574, c. 867–8.]

Mr. Brockway

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what in the world is the good of ratifying a Convention theoretically if one does not accept the application of that Convention? Is not it the case that human rights involve personal individual rights and that if we do not recognise that we are giving way to the totalitarian conception?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

As I understand it, if one subscribes to a Convention one then sees that the laws of one's country are in conformity with the Convention, and the individual cases are then tried under the laws of one's own country.

Mr. S. Silverman

Would the hon. Gentleman explain how he reconciles that view with the action which the British Government took—and in the opinion of most of us rightly took—in regard to the Nuremburg trials? Can one really maintain a view of international law, international rights, on the basis that a man may be individually subject to penalties for infractions of it, but not be able to claim any rights under the same conception?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I quite agree that the procedure in the Nuremburg courts was entirely exceptional and was due to the actions that took place in the war. I agree that it does not square with all the other cases which we have in mind.

Mr. Brockway

In view of that unsatisfactory reply, I wish to ask your permission, Mr. Speaker. to raise the matter at the first opportunity on the Adjournment.