HC Deb 06 March 1972 vol 832 cc1005-6
5. Mr. S. C. Silkin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the United Kingdom has renewed the right of individual petition under Article 25 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, when it was renewed and for what period of time; and whether in respect of the United Kingdom only or the United Kingdom and dependencies.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Royle)

Her Majesty's Govern- ment renewed their acceptance of Article 25 of the European Convention of Human Rights on 13th January, 1972, for a period of two years. This renewal was in respect of the United Kingdom. The dependencies have been consulted about renewal on their behalf. Replies from a small number of them are still awaited.

Mr. Silkin

The House will welcome that announcement. Will the hon. Gentleman say why it has only now been made and why the period of renewal has been for only two years when the original period was three years? Does that suggest any lessening in enthusiasm of the Government for the right of individual petition?

Mr. Royle

There is no fixed period of acceptance for Article 25, and we judge two years to be a suitable period. It is the first time this has come up since the Government took office and we therefore had to consider it carefully before coming to any final decision. We consider that two years is an appropriate period and we do not feel bound to renew for the same period as did the previous Administration.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

Will the Under-Secretary of State expand his last statement? If renewal for two years is acceptable, what possible considerations could prevent the hon. Gentleman from renewing for three years? Will he give an undertaking that long before the two years are up he will consider renewing for the normal period, which is, I believe, three years?

Mr. Royle

I do not think there is anything sacred about the period of renewal. Other Governments have accepted Article 25 for periods ranging from two to five years. Sweden, Ireland and Iceland have accepted indefinitely, Belgium for two years and Austria for three years.

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