Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
THURSDAY 21 MARCH 2002
40. Do you get top level support on that when
you call together these 26 people? Do you have senior Ministers
or Cabinet Ministers who occasionally put a boot in if they think
they are not sufficiently adopted?
(Mr Wills) I will ask Mark to give you a few words
about how those contacts work, if I may. Certainly I have felt
wholly supported by my Ministerial colleagues in anything I have
ever raised with them. May Mark say a few words about how this
relationship with contact points in the departments works?
(Mr de Pulford) I am not sure there is a great deal
I can add to what the Minister has said. The contacts are largely
of an informal nature in relation to the specific subjects. We
are not in a position to, as it were, police Whitehall with regard
to human rights, that is not our role. It is our role certainly
to promote human rights and we do that through the general guidance
and we follow up in specific areas as we are asked to and as we
see fit. I could not claim that it is a comprehensive activity
nor, indeed, that there is a duty upon those in other departments
necessarily to seek our advice on matters or every matter where
a Convention right is engaged, that would be a different activity
to the one that is currently undertaken.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: That makes total sense.
41. Do you feel that you are getting the support
that you need? Is there any enthusiasm for this in Whitehall?
(Mr de Pulford) Is the question addressed to me?
42. I was following on from what Mr de Pulford
said, he is perfectly at liberty to reply to it if he wishes.
(Mr de Pulford) We are all civil servants and we serve
the ministers in the Departments. I am sorry to give a formal
reply but I think I need to do that because you are asking about
commitment and I do not think that it is for individual civil
servants to express a view.
(Mr Wills) On a political level inevitably some ministers
take a stronger personal interest than others. Some are highly
positive, some are more neutral. I would not say that any are
actively antagonistic in my experience.
43. The ones who are neutral are put into gear,
(Mr Wills) That is our job.
44. Can I follow that up with a very specific
question in relation to the memorandum you wrote. A lot of this
is about expectation and I think some of the worry here is that
the Human Rights Act has been around for some years and where
there is a challenge because the DRC bring it, it does not happen
because there is another review going on. Your memorandum is written
to raise expectations and I refer to the memorandum by the Lord
Chancellor's Department which was supplied to us on this question.
In paragraph eight it very much talks about the arrangements for
co-ordinating work on human rights that have been revised following
the changes in the machinery, it goes on to talk about a team
of lawyers and the networks of contact points in each Department
which they use to collect, co-ordinate and disseminate information
as necessary. It goes on to talk about the purposes of co-ordination
and so on. I read that and I actually thought that there is obviously
quite a sophisticated network going on, there is collection going
on, there is dissemination going on but we have just heard from
Mr de Pulford that in practicethis is not a criticism,
it is just about getting to where we are really atsome
people would say this is very good window dressing but the point
is there is not much co-ordination, there are not regular meetings
of the 26 contact points. In fact, if I was to ask you when was
the last time that you actually asked for collection of information,
co-ordination of information, or indeed when did you last disseminate
information, not police it but disseminate information through
the networks, when did that last happen?
(Mr Wills) It is a continuing process.
45. Give me an example of when it last happened
as part of the process?
(Mr Wills) I will ask Mark to give you the last meeting
that he had on this particular thing. Obviously I am not aware
of all the contacts that he has all the time and that is what
his unit does, so I will give him that question, if I may, in
just a moment. You are right to draw attention to the fact that
up until now this has been an informal and ad hoc procedure.
46. It does not say that in your memorandum.
(Mr Wills) But, if I may just finish, we have recognised
that we need to do more and that is why we are now setting up
a more regular set of meetings, as I have said earlier, on a quarterly
basis with all the 26 contact points together to add a more formal
structure to what has been going on informally to do all those
things that you describe. In terms of the last time that this
happened, if I may I will ask Mark because he will be able to
tell you as a fact when the last contact was.
(Mr de Pulford) With your permission. It might help
if I just clarify that there are, in fact, two species of co-ordination
that we are undertaking here. There is the co-ordination that
my unit in particular undertakes with the human rights contact
points, with policy administrators and other Departments, and
there is legal co-ordination which my colleague, and effectively
legal adviser, Richard Heaton, undertakes which is more systematic
in the sense that it has had ongoingand I do not know whether
it is permissible for me to suggest that Richard gives details
about thisfor a considerable time regular meetings with
lawyers about specific Convention points. Perhaps it would be
possible to add to that. As far as my own unit's contact with
the champions, if I can call them that, in other departments I
am not able to say to you today precisely when the last e-mail,
as it were, the last set of information, communication, was but
I would say if it was not in the last week it would have been
in the week before. There is fairly frequent contact but not regular
meetings with all the contacts at once, which is what we are now
setting up in response to consideration of the first six months
or so of the LCD experience.
Chairman: It may be that following this meeting
there may be something you could write to us about on this which
might transpire when you go back to the office.
Lord Campbell of Alloway
47. A short point which is an irenic contribution
for the sake of the record. The point taken about altering the
structure of the legislation and removing the safeguard in the
first statute and leaving it out in the second Bill because they
are human rights considerations was certainly argued by me in
the House, and the Minister agreed that he would go back and take
advice as to what he would do about it because he saw the point
that a judge would say "well, if you have got one statute
and it is taken out of the other it alters the effect, it looks
as if it is express". The Minister took the point and at
once said "I will take advice for the next stage of the Bill".
I wanted to be clear on that.
(Mr Wills) Also we think this is a very good point
that we need to address and we will be writing as soon as we have
co-ordinated with the Leader of the House of Commons.
48. Thank you very much.
(Mr Wills) Can I just say, of course we are happy
to write as you suggest, Chair, and perhaps it would be helpful
if we give you a list, perhaps over the last month, of more detail,
as much as we can give you, say over the last month to address
Shaun Woodward's point about this.
49. Perhaps a snapshot.
(Mr Wills) Would that be acceptable?
Chairman : Yes.
50. May I ask you two questions rolled into
one. Given the fact that we have had a history of building up
an institutional structure in government which is rather secretive
and not sensitive to human rights, you must come across all kinds
of difficulties and resistance from other departments every time
you talk of implementing human rights. I wonder if you have considered
producing a report or alerting government to the kind of resistance
you come across from other departments every time you alert them
to the importance of human rights? You have been talking about
creating a culture of human rights in our schools amongst young
people, adults and so on. What kind of promotional literature
have you produced and who have you consulted in order to do that?
(Mr Wills) We have produced quite a wide range of
promotional literature. I can give you some of the figures in
a moment. Just to go back to your first question about the resistance.
I can only speak personally here. I have not encountered resistance.
I think we would view in our Department that certainly this is
something not to be resisted, it is the law, it must not be resisted
but actually not to be tolerated or to be gone through as a bureaucratic
exercise but something to be welcomed and pushed forward. Now
obviously some people are more enthusiastically engaged with that
process than others. I am not sure a report on those who are less
enthusiastic would necessarily encourage them to be more enthusiastic.
I think we have to make the case.
51. Since we are trying to change the culture,
and it is an old culture, you come across all kinds of difficulties.
One would like to know at some point what kind of difficulties
you have encountered? How do you overcome them and how good practices
in one department can be encouraged in other departments?
(Mr Wills) Well I think we do want to push this, we
would rather go down that latter route rather than the former
route, in other words we would like to promote good practice.
It is one of the advantages of bringing all the 26 contact points
together. We have made considerable progress, as I mentioned earlier,
with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons and I think that is
an important step forward and that is the kind of example of good
practice that we will show others. If the Prison Service can do
it there is no reason why other people cannot take a similarly
admirable approach in our view towards implementation. In terms
of pushing the wider message out to people outside the Westminster
and Whitehall machine, we run a help desk which gets several hundredI
will give you figures in a moment I have them somewhere in my
packand we run a distribution centre also which I think
from memory pushes out something like 3,000 pieces of material
every month. We are being as active as we can. Obviously our ability
to produce material is somewhat constrained by our budget inevitably.
What we are doing in schools is a very important exercise for
us at the moment. We hope that it will be successful and be a
pathway to others but it is a very important pilot initiative
52. There is a lot in Annex A of your memorandum.
In paragraph 11 of your memorandum to us, Minister, you say you
". . . have asked all Departments to be alert to the interests
of other Departments in dealing with human rights issues".
They are ". . . to inform the LCD about `hot cases', significant
changes to procedure and legislation, and pending legislation."
Given that Whitehall runs on a pecking order, could you tell us
whether the LCD is able to punch above its weight in getting this
information and getting them to jump to attention and to follow
through policy issues involved? Have you had any answers and what
(Mr Wills) If I may say, your description characterises
a somewhat adversarial process which we would always try to avoid
and look at it more co-operatively. Certainly I do not think anyone
would think the Lord Chancellor does not punch at least at his
weight, if not above it. Certainly we feel that human rights has
a doughty champion in the Lord Chancellor. He is the person who
punches, as it were.
53. Do you have the answer to the question?
Have you had the response that you asked for in paragraph 11?
(Mr Wills) Sorry, you will have to remind me.
54. In your memorandum you talked about Departments
being very alert.
(Mr Wills) I am sorry. Can you bear with me.
55. Paragraph 1 of your own submission to us.
(Mr Wills) Yes.
56. You said you ". . . 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".
(Mr Wills) Sorry, I think I am looking at the wrong
memorandum, the one which is about resources. I recognise the
words, I am just trying to find them.
57. We can certainly give you a copy. I just
wondered what had happened in relation to what you said and did
in those two sentences of your own submission?
(Mr Wills) You mean are we being informed about "hot
58. Are they taking notice and are you getting
(Mr Wills) Yes, we are. If you would like the details
of the most recent information and so on, I will, if I may, hand
over to Richard. This is the information about hot cases. Sorry,
I just want to be sure we are at one.
59. Can I be illustrative. Can I ask then what
the LCD is doing in relation to the declaration of incompatibility
in Matthews v Ministry of Defence case as an example, would
that be helpful?
(Mr Heaton) I can answer that particular point to
say that case is under appeal so there is not very much I can
say about it. Would it be helpful, Chair, with your permission,
if I speak a little bit more about my job because I think there
has been a bit of confusion about legal co-ordination and LCD's
work in that. I do not want to detain you but it might be helpful.