Britain could withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if it does not get the changes it wants to the way the rules are applied, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday (3 June).
Cameron's Conservative Party, which won a surprise majority in last month's election, wants to overhaul existing human rights laws to reduce the influence of the European Court of Human Rights, based in France, which enforces the convention.
"We are very clear about what we want which is British judges making decisions in British courts," Cameron told parliament when asked by a dissenting lawmaker from his own party to rule out a withdrawal from the convention.
"Our plans set out in our manifesto don't involve us leaving the European Convention on Human Rights but let's be absolutely clear, if we can't achieve what we need...I rule out nothing in getting that done."
Critics of the Conservatives' plans, who include high-profile figures within the party, say quitting the convention would weaken human rights in all 47 signatory nations because other governments would feel free to ignore it.
But Cameron said the problem of foreign criminals citing their convention right to a family life to avoid deportation from Britain despite repeated offences "needs to change".
The European Convention on Human Rights, drawn up after World War Two in response to Nazism and Stalinism and ratified by Britain in 1951, was incorporated into domestic law with the introduction of the Human Rights Act in 1998.
The Conservatives have pledged to scrap that act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, although they have yet to provide details of how they would do that
The party is divided on the issue. Several prominent figures, including Andrew Mitchell, the lawmaker who asked Cameron the question, are in open opposition.
Cameron has a majority of just 12 seats in the 650-strong House of Commons so the new human rights plans would have to win support from the dissenters to pass into law. The house was packed on Wednesday for the first of Cameron's weekly question-and-answer session of the new parliament.
Opposition Labour party acting leader Harriet Harman returned to familiar ground challenging Cameron on his party's policies on benefits.
But the Prime Minister hit back: "Isn't it interesting the whole of the last parliament Labour came here and opposed every single spending reduction, every single welfare saving and they've learnt absolutely nothing. They are still the party of more spending, more welfare, more debt. It's extraordinary. The two people responsible for this great policy of theirs, one of them lost the election, the other one lost his seat. The messengers have gone but the message is still the same," said Cameron, referring to former Labour leader Ed Miliband and economics spokesman Ed Balls.