Joint Committee On Human Rights Twenty-First Report

5. Letter from Chairman to Lord Avebury re: the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill

Thank you for your letter of 28 June on the subject of the compatibility of this Bill with human rights. The answers to your questions are as follows.

1. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has not seen, and has not sought to see, the advice or assessment on the basis of which the promoters of the Bill certified, in accordance with Standing Orders, that they considered it to be compatible with Convention rights within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998.

2. The Committee received advice on the human rights compatibility of this Bill (as it does in relation to all Bills) from its Legal Adviser, Professor David Feldman.

3. You have suggested that the Bill might be incompatible with two Convention rights. The first is the right to free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature, under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereafter ECHR). The second is the right to be free of discrimination in arrangements to secure the enjoyment of other Convention rights, under Article 14 of the ECHR. As you observe, the Committee took the view that the Bill raised no significant human rights issues. The Committee does not publish the content of the legal advice which it receives from its Legal Adviser, but I can say that there was no doubt in the Committee's mind that no Convention right was engaged by the Bill. I would draw your attention to the following points, which may help to explain the Committee's conclusion on the Bill as reported to each House in the Committee's Fourteenth Report of 2001-02.

4. Local councils are not 'legislatures' within the meaning of Article 3 of the Protocol No. 1, which requires a body to have powers under the constitution going beyond merely making regulations and by-laws: see, e.g., the admissibility decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Cherepkov v. Russia, App. No. 51501/99, decision of 25 January 2000; see also, mutatis mutandis, the judgments of the Court in Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v. Belgium, Series A, No. 113, judgment of 2 March 1987, at § 53, and Matthews v. United Kingdom, judgment of 18 February 1999, at § 40. The provisions of the above Bill would therefore seem not to engage the right under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1.

5. Because the provisions of the Bill do not appear to be within the ambit of the right under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, differences in treatment under the Bill would not appear to engage the right to be free of discrimination in the enjoyment of Convention rights, under Article 14 of the ECHR.

17 July 2002

previous page contents

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 26 July 2002