Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Joint committee on human rights

A new British Bill of Rights might simply re-state the UK's current commitments under the European Convention on Human rights, producing "no change at all", Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has said.

As the joint committee on human rights put questions to Mr Clarke on the government's human rights policy on 20 December 2011, the justice secretary told MPs and peers that he "never seen the need for a Bill of Rights in the past".

But a commission looking into the matter had been established because there were "a range of views within the government", he said.

Mr Clarke is chairing the commission along with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. The Conservatives had pledged to replace the Human Rights Act with such a bill before the general election.

But when they went into coalition with the Lib Dems, they agreed instead to set up the commission instead.

Mr Clarke cautioned against pre-empting the commission's findings, and told the committee that he had a "genuinely open mind" on the subject.

But he said that Parliament would not be able to change the law in a way which contradicted the UK's obligations under the convention, to which the government remained "very committed".

And he mooted the possible outcome that the commission could recommend that there were no changes to the current regime.

Mr Clarke confirmed that the government is using Britain's stint as chairman of the Council of Europe, which oversees the European Court on Human rights, to try to negotiate a deal with the body's other 46 member states on reforming the court.

The justice secretary has reportedly said that agreement is needed to prevent individuals repeatedly challenging deportation rulings under article eight of the convention, which sets out the right to "respect for private and family life".

But he told the committee that a reduction in the number of appeals could be achieved by altering the Home Office's internal rules.

Last month Home Secretary Theresa May sparked a row when she said a man could not be deported "because he had a pet cat", a claim Mr Clarke dismissed as "child-like".

The joint committee of MPs and peers was established to consider any aspect of human rights policy.

Joint committee on human rights

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