Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

3. Letter to the Chairman from Lord McCarthy, Baroness Turner of Camden and

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton on the Employment Bill

We write concerning the Employment Bill 2002 and the work of your Joint Human Rights Committee, especially your 12th Report.

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 response.

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

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 21 June 2002