Clarke insists European Court will see 'real changes'

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke insists that talks on the future of Europe's human rights court would lead to "substantial" reforms. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, has insisted that Britain has steered through real reforms to the European Court of Human Rights.

He says that the Brighton Declaration will result in fewer cases being considered by the court and will therefore speed up decisions.

He has dismissed criticism from legal experts and the President of the Court, Sir Nicolas Bratza, that these are not dramatic changes.

The priority for the government was to ensure that greater leeway was given to legal decisions taken by individual national governments.

They have amended the Convention so that the ECHR can only overturn a decision taken in a British court if there is a "serious risk" to an individual's human rights.

Mr Clarke says that the changes will ensure that trivial cases can be thrown out and the court can focus on serious abuses.

However, some experts say there is little in the declaration that will alter the balance of power between the UK and Strasbourg.

The Secretary of the Council of Europe said today that the ECHR still has the "final word".