JCHR Press Notice 07-08 No 15


Report Published: 11am Friday 1 February 2008


Not enough done to use human rights to improve public services

In its first ever Annual Report published today, Friday 1st February 2008, the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights says the Government has done “nowhere near enough” to use the Human Rights Act to improve the delivery of public services and has allowed a catalogue of myths to build up around the true purpose and use of the Act in the UK. The Committee is disappointed that Government has quietly shelved a campaign launched by the former Department for Constitutional Affairs to tackle “far-fetched stories” about the Act. The Committee says Ministers must stop misleading the public by blaming the Human Rights Act for judicial or other decisions with which they disagree or which embarrass them.

The Human Rights Act is frequently derided in the tabloid press as a “charter for terrorists, criminal, and migrants” and not enough has been done to promote and enforce the human rights of, for example, adults with learning disabilities, older people in care settings, or the victims of human trafficking: areas that the Committee has looked at in the last year. The Committee says a good start towards using the Human Rights Act properly to ensure that universal rights are upheld and improve services would be to implement fully the recommendations in the Committee’s report on the “The Human Rights of Older People in Healthcare”, published last August.

The Committee says government has followed the media in saying that the Human Rights Act had been responsible for the tragic death of Naomi Bryant because it had required her killer to be released.  Careful Committee inquiry established that there was no evidence that Naomi Bryant had been killed as a result of officials misinterpreting the Human Rights Act.  Despite this clear finding, both the Government and the media have continued to repeat the unfounded assertion that the Human Rights Act caused the death of an innocent woman. Other popular myths have been allowed to flourish, such as the Human Rights Act being responsible for the provision of a takeaway meal to a prisoner making a rooftop protest, or the provision of pornography to a serial killer in prison.

Andrew Dismore, Chair of the Committee, said: “All public authorities, and all politicians, have a duty to act responsibly in relation to the protection of our universal human rights. The Human Rights Act has been used as a convenient scapegoat for unpopular decisions, when they’re nothing to do with human rights or the Act.

“The Human Rights Act is a tool, to uphold rights and improve services for everyone, and it should be actively used and promoted that way. A good start would be to implement fully the recommendations of my Committee’s recent reports and begin properly to uphold human rights to improve the lot of people using services in this country.”

The Annual Report provides on overview of the Committee’s work and working practices in the 2007, its relations with Government and future work plans. /ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. For all media inquiries and bids please contact Jessica Bridges-Palmer 020 7219 0724

2. The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) publishes its Sixth Report of Session 2007-08, The Work of the Committee in 2007 and the State of Human Rights in the UK, on Friday 1 February 2008 at 11.00a.m. as House of Lords Paper HL 38 and House of Commons Paper HC 270.

The reports will be available from The Stationery Office (tel: 0870 600 5522), Parliamentary Hotline Lo-call 0845 7 023474, Email: book.orders@tso.co.uk, Internet: http://www.tso.co.uk/bookshop, TSO shops, The Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, London SW1A 2JX (tel 020 7219 3890) and through good booksellers.  They will also be on the Committee's website at the address below on the day of publication.