Joint Committee on Human Rights press notice no. 1

Session 2006-07, 23 November 2006

JOINT COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS ADOPTS NEW SYSTEM FOR SCRUTINY OF HUMAN RIGHTS IMPLICATIONS OF BILLS

CALL FOR EVIDENCE

SCRUTINY OF BILLS AND DRAFT BILLS

The Joint Committee on Human Rights will continue its practice of scrutinising primary legislation introduced into either House of Parliament for its compatibility with the Convention rights as defined in the Human Rights Act 1998, as well as for its compatibility with other international human rights instruments to which the UK is a party. It will seek to focus its scrutiny on the most significant human rights issues raised by Bills to enable it to report earlier in a Bill's passage through Parliament.

The Committee would welcome submissions from outside organisations and individuals in relation to the human rights compatibility of individual bills. Those intending to submit views should take note of the points set out below.

This Session the Committee is adopting new, more systematic methods of scrutiny so as to publish reports consistently in good time to inform consideration of selected bills as they pass through Parliament. This new approach to scrutiny is set out in paragraphs 18-51 of the Committee's Twenty-third Report of Session 2005-06 "The Committee's Future Working Practices" (HL Paper 239, HC 1575) www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200506/jtselect/jtrights/239/239.pdf.

The main points are:

- continued scrutiny of all Government bills, private bills and draft bills, but no comprehensive scrutiny of private Members' bills;

- a new focus on the most significant human rights issues, according to a new and higher threshold of significance;

- a new sifting process to determine which bills raise significant human rights issues, in accordance with published criteria for deciding which Bills raise such issues (see paragraphs 27-29 of the Report on Future Working Practices);

- timely publication of reports on Bills which cross the threshold of significance in human rights terms, in order to inform Parliamentary debate.

The Committee also intends later to use the sifting system for pre-legislative documents (e.g. Green and White Papers) and post-legislative documents (e.g. statutory instruments, codes of practice, guidance issued under primary legislation).

General advice on making submissions on bills and draft bills

Those intending to submit views should note that the Committee's role is restricted to examining the human rights implications of legislation. It has no remit to examine politically controversial topics which do not engage human rights issues. Nor does the Committee have any power to amend Bills. Submissions on such matters may be better directed to any Committee which may be examining wider policy questions on a Bill or draft Bill, or, in the case of proposed amendments to a Bill, to members of Public Bill Committees when they are established.

In certain cases legislation which interferes with human rights may be considered justifiable under the European Convention on Human Rights or other international instruments if the interference is proportionate to the need to achieve other countervailing benefits. In such cases the Committee is able to consider such matters in its analysis of the human rights compatibility of legislation. It is particularly interested in receiving evidence about the impact of a proposed measure on human rights, whether the measure will achieve the benefits claimed for it, and whether the aim of the measure can be achieved in any other way which is less restrictive of the rights affected. It is also interested in whether a measure aimed at enhancing human rights goes far enough to secure the rights concerned.

In order to inform parliamentary debate, the Committee aims to report as early as possible in a Bill's passage through Parliament. The Committee will therefore conduct its work on each Bill as swiftly as possible. This means that the timetable for considering outside input is very tight. Under the new scrutiny arrangements the Committee will list, on the "legislative scrutiny" part of the Committee's webpages, those Bills ( and later other documents) which after initial sift the Committee has decided merit further scrutiny and, if possible, the human rights issues raised by the Bills which the Committee considers significant. The Committee will need to receive comments within two weeks of their appearance on our webpages in order to take account of them in the Committee's subsequent reports. In any case of doubt, those wishing to submit comments are advised to contact the Committee Assistant (020 7219 4263) before preparing a submission to ensure the Committee will be able to take their views into account. Every effort will be made to take into account all comments received, but it may not always be possible in the time available.

Submissions should be made by Word document e-mailed to [email protected] In the subject field, the e-mail should be marked "Bill scrutiny : ". The e-mail should make clear the organisation or individual making the submission, with a full postal address. Submissions become the property of the Committee and may be printed, placed on the Internet or circulated by the Committee at any stage. The producers of submissions may also publish them elsewhere provided it is made clear they that they were prepared for the Committee. Evidence published other than under the authority of the Committee does not attract parliamentary privilege.

Where organisations or individuals have prepared more general documents on a Bill, e.g. a parliamentary briefing, these may also be sent to the Committee for its information, but the Committee prefers to receive submissions directed to the human rights issues it is pursuing.

Further information on the Joint Committee is available on its website at http://www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/hrhome.htm.

THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE ARE:

Mr Andrew Dismore MP (Labour, Hendon) (Chairman)
Lord Bowness (Conservative)
Mr Douglas Carswell MP (Conservative, Harwich)
Lord Campbell of Alloway (Conservative)
Mary Creagh MP (Labour, Wakefield)
Lord Judd (Labour)
Nia Griffith MP (Labour, Llanelli)
Lord Lester of Herne Hill (Liberal Democrat)
Dr Evan Harris MP (Liberal Democrat, Oxford West&Abingdon)
Lord Plant of Highfield (Labour)
Mr Richard Shepherd MP (Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills)
Baroness Stern (Cross-Bencher)

Clerks of the Committee: Mr Nick Walker (House of Commons) 020 7219 2797 and Mr Bill Sinton (House of Lords) 020 7219 5358

ENQUIRIES: 020 7219 2797/2467 FAX: 020 7219 8393 E-MAIL: [email protected]

HOMEPAGE: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/joint_committee_on_human_rights.cfm