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Justice secretary says Rwanda ruling ‘not right’ and new bill will ‘correct’ ECHR’s powers

Justice secretary Dominic Raab has said it was “not right” that European judges scuppered the first migrant flight to Rwanda – and sketched out plans to try to limit their oversight in the UK.

Mr Raab, who is also the deputy prime minister, was speaking after last-minute injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights prevented the first flight to the east African country under a controversial new scheme for dealing with asylum seekers.

A series of legal challenges in English courts had failed before judges in Strasbourg acted shortly before the Boeing 767 had been due to take off earlier this week.

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Mr Raab told Sky News: “I think when three courts… dismissed the issue, it is not right for Strasbourg to intervene in the way it did.”

He argued that the UK should abide by the human rights convention which led to the formation of the European Court of Human Rights.

But he said that the power of the European court to make injunctions such as the one issued this week was not grounded in that convention – and that this would be addressed by a planned new “bill of rights” which will replace previous UK human rights legislation.

Mr Raab said: “On this specific issue of whether Strasbourg can injunct the UK, our bill of rights will correct that.

“I think it’s the right thing to do precisely because we should be following the convention but also so should the Strasbourg court.

“Our plan… is a bill of rights that reflects and remains within the European convention but overhauls the framework of the Human Rights Act.”

He said this would ensure that the UK could fully avail itself of the “margin of appreciation” – a term referring to the leeway given to national authorities in fulfilling their obligations under the convention.

The decision by the ECHR to ground the Rwanda flight has already been criticised by ministers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel stressed that the court had not ruled the policy unlawful or completely barred the individuals involved from being deported – instead banning their departures “for different time periods”.

She also criticised what she described as the court’s “opaque” decision making and maintained that the Home Office would press ahead with the Rwanda scheme.

The ruling sparked calls from some Tory MPs for the UK to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg court.

Downing Street has not ruled out withdrawing from the convention, with a spokesman saying that the government was “keeping all options on the table”.