Joint Committee on Human Rights |
HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY IMPLEMENTATION
Memorandum by the Lord Chancellor's
1. Following the General Election responsibility
for domestic human rights policy, including work on the Human
Rights Act, passed from the Home Secretary to the Lord Chancellor.
Michael Wills MP has responsibility, under the Lord Chancellor,
for this subject. Staff and other resources committed by the Home
Office to these functions (mainly the Home Office Human Rights
Unit) are now under the Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD), as
is the associated legal co-ordination function (previously with
the Cabinet Office).
2. The work of the Home Office Human Rights Unit
until the transfer is described in the Memorandum which the then
Home Secretary provided to the Committee in March 2001.
3. The main aims and priorities for the implementation
of the Human Rights Act are similar to those pursued by the Home
Office. They are to:
- ensure that public authorities, within and outside
Whitehall, have the information and guidance they need, and to
- help promote and develop a culture of rights
4. The Human Rights Division also assists Ministers
in relation to the UK's domestic position under various international
human rights instruments. This topic is the subject of a separate
request for a Memorandum (Paul Evans' letter of 7 November to
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, now transferred to the Lord
Chancellor's Department). This will be dealt with shortly.
5. An overview of the services currently supplied
by the Human Rights Division is at annex A.
6. Achievement of the Government's priorities
for its policy on human rights is, of course, not a matter just
for the Human Rights Division, or for the LCD alone: the Government
has repeatedly made it clear that all Departments must play their
part in 'mainstreaming' human rights and delivering appropriate
awareness on the ground and in the services they deliver. This
general policy was set out in the Home Office Memorandum referred
to in paragraph 2 above and is being carried forward, for example,
in the last circular letter to Permanent Secretaries about the
Human Rights Act (copy at annex B). It is important to
bear in mind that whilst LCD seeks to prompt and, where appropriate,
co-ordinate human rights activity, it does not, and could not,
direct other departments regarding the policies for which their
Ministers are responsible.
- Considerable effort is devoted
to ensuring satisfactory co-ordination of human rights interests
across Government. At the Ministerial level, a special Cabinet
Committee (CRP(EC)) remains in place to underpin cross-departmental
co-ordination of human rights issues and the implementation of
the Human Rights Act. Its membership and terms of reference are
at annex C.
8. The arrangements for co-ordinating legal work
on human rights have been revised following the changes in the
machinery of government. A team of three lawyers in the LCD works
on this, in partnership with the Human Rights Division. The Human
Rights Division and the team of lawyers have networks of contact
points in each Department which they use to collect, co-ordinate
and disseminate information as necessary.
9. The purposes of co-ordination are to:
- help Departments resolve Convention issues, either
in litigation or elsewhere
- to ensure that issues of wide importance are
- ensure a consistent approach across Government,
- share information so that lawyers across Government
are aware of developments that might affect their work.
10. Lawyers in the Treasury Solicitors' department
deal with litigation, particularly where the Treasury Solicitor
is acting. And FCO legal advisers remain the UK's agents for Strasbourg
litigation and are departments' principal consultants on Strasbourg
11. We have asked all Departments to be alert
to the interests of other departments in dealing with human rights
issues. They are to inform LCD about "hot cases", significant
changes to procedure and legislation, and pending legislation.
This information is compiled for circulation to Ministers and
officials. Though Departments are encouraged to liaise in any
event, the internal guidance makes it clear that LCD should always
- when proposed legislation or litigation on existing
legislation raises an important, unusual or cross-departmental
human rights point, or a point on the construction of the Human
Rights Act itself
- when it is proposed to depart from agreed legal
positions on the Human Rights Act as advised in special guidance
circulated by LCD
- when assistance is required in agreeing a position
that requires interdepartmental agreement
- in advance of a significant court judgement on
a human rights issue
- in developing options for dealing with a declaration
- where it is proposed to consult the Law Officers
- any notification made under section 5 of the
Human Rights Act (where the notification is made to someone other
than the Treasury Solicitor).
- Where departments have generated or commissioned
legal advice on a human rights issue that might usefully be shared
with colleagues, the presumption is that the advice should be
shared. LCD assists by circulating either the advice or a summary.
- The information circulated by LCD includes:
- a periodic index of Law Officers' and FCO advice
on human rights. The latter is sent to devolved administrations
as well as to Whitehall departments.
- judgements and other material of general interest
from Strasbourg (again this goes to devolved administrations and
to Whitehall departments)
- miscellaneous points of guidance and information,
counsel's opinions and internal legal advice, consideration of
human rights issues outside government, for example in the Joint
Committee on Human Rights
- notifications of possible declarations under
section 5 of the Human Rights Act. These are served on the person
named in the list published under section 17 of the Crown Proceedings
Act 1947 (normally, but not always, the Treasury Solicitor). Depending
on the subject-matter, a lead department will be identified, and
the papers will be circulated to that and other interested departments.
14. Meetings are held regularly and ad hoc. Regular
meetings with Treasury Solicitors focus on civil rather than criminal
matters, but include a round-up of recent criminal issues. There
is a separate criminal issues group and "fast track"
group chaired by the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers. The
second meets more fortnightly to identify cases which might be
"fast tracked". The meetings cover litigation and policy
items that need to be discussed collectively (leaving other business,
and the exchange of information, to be done on paper).
Central training and education
15. Consistent with the 'mainstreaming' approach
it remains for each Department and public authority to assess
its own training needs and secure the appropriate training at
all levels, including specialist legal training and 'awareness
raising'. However the LCD provides training materials and speakers,
on invitation, at a range of Departmental events, seminars and
conferences, as well as organising and providing a continuing
series of regional 'roadshows' about the Human Rights Act and
its implications. The roadshows offer a review of key cases; a
talk on the meaning and practical implications of the human rights
culture; and practical exercises. No charge is made for any such
training or materials.
16. The Civil Service College provides a range
of dedicated training on the Act for administrators and lawyers,
as well as integrating human rights issues into its main training
programme. In particular it provides a two-day course on the Human
Rights Act which it has run 15 times since May 1999. LCD has contributed
to the design and content of courses, and provides speakers for
them. In addition, the College has provided tailored in-house
training for a range of Departments and public authorities including
Cabinet Office, Ministry of Defence, Department of Trade and Industry,
Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Financial Services Agency,
Department of Health, Department for Education and Skills, Department
for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Intervention
Board, War Pensions Agency, the Radiocommunications Agency and
the Isle of Man Government.
17. The LCD has a small team of seven people
devoted exclusively to human rights, including one person working
full-time on the Helpdesk. This team is the Human Rights Division.
They are supported by a legal team which is equivalent to at least
two full-time legal advisers. The Division has currently two additional
staff, acting as researchers, who are students employed on a temporary
basis. One of these is a French post-graduate specialist in international
law who has developed expertise in the work of the United Nations
Human Rights Committee.
18. The delegated budget for the Division in
this financial year is around £370,000 excluding publicity.
Although it is not possible at this stage to say if additional
resources will be made available for the next financial year,
no reduction is planned. In addition to the £370,000, about
£30,000 has been spent this year on printing, storage and
distribution of guidance material. A further £100,000 has
been given to assist culture building projects, namely distribution
of a human rights edition of the Young Citizenship Passport (with
the Citizenship Foundation); and to help develop an important
new project in schools and youth organisations across the UK to
promote a culture based on the Human Rights Act (a summary of
the pilot project for this is at annex D).
19. As Human Rights is mainstreamed throughout
Government Departments, human rights issues are increasingly integral
to daily work. Accordingly, it is difficult to separate out work
and resources as devoted specifically to "Human Rights".
It is not possible, for example, to identify how much of the budget
on Legal Aid is devoted specifically to human rights cases, since
cases raise human rights along with a broad range of other issues.
Departments have reported that though training resources and legal
advice are expended on human rights it is not possible to identify
Inputs and outcomes
- Please see paragraph 18 above and the summary
overview at annex A. Over the last six months over 20,000
copies of guidance have been issued, 3,000 telephone enquiries
have been answered, and there have been around 132,000 'hits'
on the website. The Division and the associated LCD legal team
remain a focal point for knowledge and good practice on human
rights; is making significant contributions to a range of training
events, not least through its own 'roadshow' events outside London.
As mentioned in paragraph 18, the Division is also sponsoring
a major culture-building, UK-wide youth project work on the Human
Rights Act (see annex D).
- A significant proportion of LCD's effort is taken
up liasing with other Government Departments about specific proposals
or cases involving the Human Rights Act. Most of these arise as
a result of the guidance on referrals mentioned in paragraph 11
above, though we may become involved of our own initiative (perhaps
following media or other reports). Such work often entails Ministerial
Future programme of work
22. At least three more regional 'roadshow' events
about the Human Rights Act will take placed before Easter and
the Division will continue to supply speakers to other Departments
training and awareness events. These will increasingly focus on
the meaning, social utility and practical implications of the
culture at which the Act is aimed. We also plan to establish regular
but informal Ministerial meetings with the major Non-Governmental
Organisations operating in the human rights area and to involve
them more in our training events. The Unit is currently revising
the guidance for Whitehall Departments about the Act to take account
of experience since the Act's introduction and this should be
available by the end of February.
The popular Study Guide to the Act is also being completely updated
to include more useful information for members of the public.
This work is being done in close co-operation with the Bar Council
and should be completed by Easter. Work will also continue on
the youth awards scheme referred in paragraph 18 above.
23. The Human Rights Division's work on the UK's
reporting obligation under international human rights treaties
and associated departmental effort is the subject of a separate
Lord Chancellor's Department
1 This will include an important change to the guidance
about Ministerial statements under section 19 of the Human Rights