The European Convention on Human Rights has "damaged" British troops and "undermined" UK military operations, according to Michael Fallon.

The defence secretary said the ECHR's extension to the battlefield has seen more "vexatious" legal claims against Armed Forces personnel and the government plans to make troops exempt from the laws to stop the "abuse".

"So I can announce that in future conflicts we intend to derogate from the Convention," he told the Conservative conference in Birmingham.

"That would protect our Armed Forces from many of the industrial scale claims we have seen post Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Now this isn't about putting our Armed Forces above the criminal law or the Geneva Conventions. Serious claims will be investigated – but spurious claims will be stopped. And our Armed Forces will be able to do their job, fighting the enemy, not the lawyers."

Fallon also stressed that he is committed to boosting the diversity of Britain's armed forces, challenging the service chiefs to get a "at least 10%" of new recruits from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background by 2020.

"This isn't about tokenism; it's about talent," he said. On Brexit, Fallon promised to continue to block plans to create an EU army, while vowing to "lead" in NATO.

"We will continue to have the biggest defence budget in Europe – meeting the 2% NATO spending target," he said. "And we will lead in NATO – the cornerstone of our defence – putting troops onto its eastern border next year. But we will go on blocking an EU Army, which would simply undermine NATO."

Fallon also mocked Labour, after Shadow Defence Secretary Clive Lewis committed the party to NATO's 2% GDP target and promised not to scrap the Trident nuclear weapons system.

"While we are getting on with the Successor programme, they can't even agree on a successor to Jeremy Corbyn. Instead, they've just re-elected a Leader who wants to scrap our nuclear weapons, leave NATO, and talk to terrorists," Fallon said.

"Let me tell you waving a white flag won't keep us safe. Labour would risk our defence for dogma – that's why they cannot be trusted with Britain's security."

Lewis hit back by claiming Fallon's speech was "smokescreen". "The reality is [the Conservatives' ] devastating cuts since 2010 have weakened and demoralised our Armed Forces, leaving them poorly-equipped, over-stretched, under-paid and too often living in squalid conditions.

"The Tory obsession with cost-cutting means they are not even using British steel to build our ships and vehicles.

"They have systematically undermined our industrial communities, ripping up Labour's Defence Industrial Strategy and spending billions overseas, instead of investing in British jobs and British steel."