20 July 2005
JCHR ANNOUNCES IT WILL SCRUTINISE HUMAN RIGHTS IMPLICATIONS OF BILLS AND DRAFT BILLS - CALL FOR EVIDENCE
SCRUTINY OF BILLS AND DRAFT BILLS
The Committee will continue the practice adopted by its predecessor Committees in the last two Parliaments 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.
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.
In the case of a number of Bills introduced or proposed to be introduced in this Session, the JCHR in the last Session reported its substantive views on similar or identical Bills which were then before Parliament. These Bills are:
Identity Cards Bill;
Racial and Religious Hatred Bill (provisions contained in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill of Session 2004-05);
Consumer Credit Bill;
National Lottery Bill;
Road Safety Bill;
Criminal Defence Service Bill;
HBOS Group Reorganisation Bill;
Liverpool City Council (Prohibition of Smoking in Places of Work) Bill;
London Local Authorities (Prohibition of Smoking in Places of Work) Bill.
The current Committee will not necessarily arrive at the same conclusions in relation to these Bills as its predecessor. Nevertheless, it only seeks further evidence on the human rights compatibility of these Bills in relation to differences between them and the versions of the Bills reported on by its predecessor Committee, or in cases where other external developments, for example in domestic or European Court of Human Rights caselaw, throw fresh light on the previous Committee's conclusions.
In respect of other Bills, the Committee expects the following, some of which are not yet published and the titles of which are not therefore confirmed, to present the most significant human rights issues:
Counter-Terrorism Bill (draft);
Mental Health Bill;
Armed Forces Bill;
Children and Adoption Bill;
Coroner Reform Bill (draft);
Corporate Manslaughter Bill;
Electoral Administration Bill;
Health Improvement and Protection Bill;
Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill;
Judicial Pensions Bill;
Legal Services Bill (draft);
Management of Offenders Bill;
NHS Redress Bill;
Northern Ireland Counter-terrorism Bill;
Northern Ireland Elections Bill;
Violent Crime Reduction Bill;
Welfare Reform (Incapacity Benefit) Bill.
The Committee welcomes submissions on the human rights implications of these or indeed any other Bills introduced during this parliamentary Session.
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 issues 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 Standing Committees when they are established. However, 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 therefore conducts its work on each Bill as swiftly as possible. This means that the timetable for considering outside input is very tight. For Bills which have already been published, the texts of which are available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/pabills.htm , it would be helpful to receive any comments by
15 September 2005. In general, it is helpful for the Committee to receive comments within two weeks of the first publication of a Bill (two months in the case of a draft Bill). Comments may also be submitted at later stages of a Bill's progress, for example when amendments with significant human rights implications are tabled or are made to a Bill. In any cases of doubt, those wishing to submit comments are advised to contact the Committee Assistant (020 7219 4263) in advance of preparing a submission to ensure that the Committee will be able to take their views into account. Comments should focus on the human rights implications of a Bill, bearing in mind the Committee's function. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 published by the Committee. The producers of submissions may also publish them elsewhere as long as it is made clear that they were prepared for the Committee.
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.
Reports and press notices from the previous Parliament are available at our website: http://www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/hrhome.htm