3. Letter to the Chairman from Lord McCarthy,
Baroness Turner of Camden and |
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton on the Employment
We write concerning the Employment Bill 2002 and
the work of your Joint Human Rights Committee, especially your
We write respectfully to ask whether your Committee
will reopen its consideration of the Bill and the circumstances
surrounding its passage through Parliament, before its Report
stage in the House of Lords.
You may have seen our concern about the compatibility
of the Bill with the Human Rights Act and, specifically, Article
6 of the Convention, which was expressed at columns CWH 321 ff.
and CWH 353 ff. of the House of Lords Official Report on 25 March
2002 by two of us. In the same Report you will have seen the Government's
You will, I am sure, understand our continuing concern
about Clauses 31 and 33 and the circumstances in which the Government
persuaded the Committee to give its approval in its Twelfth Report,
in the light of the letter sent to you by the Secretary of State
on 14 February.
As we made clear at Second Reading on 26 February
in the House of Lords, the House of Commons were not able to consider
either the validity of the statistics quoted or the misinterpretations
of them on which the Government based its policies before both
the Houses and your Committee. For example, we refer to the Secretary
of State's letter of 14 February and its reliance on these misinterpretations.
The research results (in the SET and the "Awareness"
studies of 1998) were not of course published until just days
before House of Lords Second Reading on 26 February 2002.
We have repeatedly questioned these results and,
especially, the Government's interpretation of them, but received
no further explanation or answers. The Government case on the
compatibility of the Bill with Article 6, which they based on
these statistics, must surely now be questionable in the light
of its subsequent declaration that they are of "little significance
in policy making terms" (Lord McIntosh 26 February, column
1404). Lord McIntosh's reply in Committee added nothing to the
Government's case (25 March columns 358-9).
We also wish to mention that no Minister appears
to have mentioned to Parliament the specific matters on Clause
33 which you asked to be drawn to the attention of each House
in your Twelfth Report, paragraphs 24 and 25.
Nor has the attention of either House been drawn
to the problems surrounding Clause 31(4) which are raised by paragraph
16 of your Report. The same is true of Clause 26 and paragraph
32 of your Report on the lack of clarity in the Bill and the regulations
which are to be made on the right of a tribunal to determine cases
without a hearing.
Nor did the Minister, Mr Johnson, in his speech of
12 February, the last occasion on which the Bill was considered
by the House of Commons, make any mention of issues raised by
your Committee at a time when he was engaged in revising Clause
33 in the light of the searching questions from your Committee
to his Department in the letter of 24 January, and of the letter
in reply from the Secretary of State sent to your Committee on
14 February. It is difficult to think that the nature of that
reply was not known to him on the 12th., as Minister in charge
of the Bill. All of these matters are of course clearly set out
in the Appendices to your 12th Report.
We hope that your Committee can give further attention
to the Bill, and press the Government to introduce amendments
adequate to fulfill its obligations without any uncertainty in
respect of human rights, in the light of the above considerations.
11 April 2002