A. The Process of Scrutiny by the Committee
1. At our second meeting, on 5 February 2001, we
agreed to consider the human rights implications of the Criminal
Justice and Police Bill, which had already begun its Committee
Stage in the House of Commons. Our objectives were threefold.
First, we interpreted our terms of reference as including a power
to examine the impact of legislation and draft legislation on
human rights in the United Kingdom. In order to find the working
practices which were likely to be most effective for the future,
we decided to concentrate initially on a single piece of legislation
as a case study. The Criminal Justice and Police Bill touches
on sensitive issues of human rights, including freedom of expression,
freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom of movement,
and data protection. It seemed to offer scope for developing and
testing techniques for scrutiny. Secondly, the human rights implications
appeared to be sufficiently important and varied to justify us
in devoting a significant part of our time to the Bill, in the
hope that the fruits of that labour could assist each House. Thirdly,
the Bill seemed to provide a good vehicle for exploring ways of
approaching amendments introduced to Bills during their passage
through either House, which would not be covered by the statement
made under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 to the
effect that, in the Minister's opinion, the Bill as introduced
was compatible with Convention rights. We faced severe time constraints.
The Committee was not established until January 2001, and met
for the first time on 31 January. We are still in the process
of developing effective methods of working. The Bill is long and
complex, and its quick progress through the House of Commons has
left little time for us to examine it. The procedure which we
have adopted in relation to this Bill has been somewhat hurried,
and we do not regard either the procedure or the form of this
Report as necessarily providing a template for our future activities.
None the less, we offer this Report on the human rights implications
of the Bill in the hope that it will aid parliamentary scrutiny.
For convenience, we include in Annex 1 the main provisions of
international human rights treaties to which we refer, and in
Annex 2 a brief explanation of some key principles, including
legal certainty, necessity, proportionality, and aspects of the
right to a fair trial.
2. With the Committee's approval, the Chairman wrote
to the Home Secretary on 14 February 2001 asking for replies to
thirteen questions about the human rights implications of various
parts of the Bill, and for information about representations received
by the Home Office relating to the Bill's human rights implications.
was prompt, thorough, and informative, dealing in considerable
depth with each question. It should stand as a model for departmental
responses to our inquiries in relation to Bills. We record our
appreciation of the work of the Ministers and officials who produced
the Memorandum at the same time as piloting this complex Bill
through its Commons Committee Stage.
3. In the light of the Home Secretary's response,
we decided to take up a number of matters with the Minister of
State at the Home Office (Mr Charles Clarke MP), in person. We
are grateful to the Minister and his team for accepting an invitation
to give oral evidence to the Committee on 5 March 2001, at the
first public meeting which the Committee held, and for the Minister's
helpful and constructive answers to our questions.
We were glad to note the careful and serious way in which the
Minister and his officials approached the process, which seems
to us to indicate the importance which the Home Office attaches
to human rights standards.
4. In view of the short time before the Bill's Report
Stage in the House of Commons, which was due to take place on
14 March 2001, we decided to make an initial Report
making available to each House the evidence which had been given
to us, and to take time for reflection before offering our own
opinion of the human rights implications of the Bill. In the meantime,
we received further written evidence from the Minister
in relation to matters raised at our meeting on 5 March. We now
offer our considered views.
1 The Memorandum from the Home Secretary (hereafter
'Home Office Memorandum') is reproduced as an appendix to the
Committee's First Special Report, Criminal Justice and Police
Bill, HL Paper 42, HC 296 of 2000-01 (hereafter 'First Special
Report') at pp. 1-13. Back
The transcript of the oral evidence is printed in the First Special
Report, pp. 52-65. Back
The First Special Report (see n. 1, above). Back
The further evidence (hereafter 'Home Office Supplementary Memorandum)
is printed at pp. 66-72 of the First Special Report. Back