Ministers should fight European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings as they are advisory and “non-binding”, said Sir Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary.
Nearly 70 Tory MPs this week backed a bill that would have forced Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to ignore Strasbourg rulings on the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The Asylum Seekers (Deportation to Safe Countries) Bill – which was introduced by Jonathan Gullis, the Tory MP – was defeated by 188 votes to 69 after opposition parties and a handful of Tories voted against.
He had also been backed by Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, although he did not vote as he was overseas.
However, in an interview with Chopper’s Politics podcast on Friday, Sir Robert said ministers should use the courts to ‘push back’ on Strasbourg decisions.
This was preferable to withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights, which is enforced by the ECHR tribunal in Strasbourg, as some Conservative MPs had argued.
“The judgments of Strasbourg are advisory”
Sir Robert said: “What the hell are we talking about here? We wrote the convention. British Conservative lawyers wrote it.
“I think this is presented as a massive red herring with everyone. Please focus on the facts.
“When we look at all this, we realize that the judgments of Strasbourg are advisory. They are not binding.
“We are perfectly free and we have arguments with the European Court all the time.”
He said the UK had won a debate over whether or not serious murderers should serve all their prison sentences under the life tariff.
“We won that,” he said. “The UK courts pushed back. There was a clear ruling that everyone accepted that we could indeed adopt lifetime tariffs to make life mean life.”
Also on the podcast, Mr Gullis said he hoped his bill would give Mr Sunak the space to be more robust with the Strasbourg court.
He said: ‘As Parliament we are sovereign. We have regained control of our laws and our borders’, describing it as ‘the greatest political mandate ever granted’.
He added that Bill “actually had to give another weapon in Rishi Sunak’s arsenal to use when it comes to doing whatever he can to solve it.”
Listen to interviews with Sir Robert Buckland and Jonathan Gullis on Chopper’s Politicsthe Telegraph’s weekly political podcast, using the audio player at the top of this article or on Apple podcast, Spotify or your favorite podcast app.