16. Memorandum from Professor
Rebecca MM Wallace, Head of School and Kenneth Dale-Risk, Lecturer,
School of Law, Napier University, Edinburgh
A Human Rights Commission would fulfil to a
varying degree all five functions set out in Question 1. Functions
identified (b)-(e) would all contribute to (a) which must be the
overarching aimviz the fostering of a human rights culture.
The Commission would require to be an independent
advisory body whose functions would be complementary to the Committee.
The role of the Commission would involve scrutiny of proposed
legislation and advice as to its compliance with human rights
instruments. The Commission would have to be accountable to but
independent of Westminster.
See answer to Question 1 above. The optimum
way to create a human rights culture involves public education
and the development of expertise in human rights. The aforementioned
should be the everyday priorities for the Commission. However
it is important that the Commission have the competence to investigate
alleged violations and take "test" cases in appropriate
circumstances. The emphasis on education and "test"
cases to avoid an over litigious culture developing.
There needs to be Regional Human Rights Commissions
to take account of different legal systems and the consequences
of devolution. The authors of this submission have submitted a
response to the Scottish Executive Consultation Paper, a copy
of which is attached. The United Kingdom Parliament has retained
competence to legislate for the United Kingdom in certain designated
areas thus it is suggested that there requires to be a United
Kingdom body which will act in advisory capacity. Such a body
would liase with the Regional Bodies.
As indicated in the response to question 4,
it is the authors' view that there require to be individual Commissions
for each of the nations in the United Kingdom, but in addition,
a body for the whole United Kingdom. In addition to acting in
an advisory capacity to the UK Parliament, the UK body would act
in a co-ordinating role, in order to ensure that the regional
bodies act consistently, and to promote a human rights culture
throughout the country.
See answer to question 12 in the authors' response
to the Scottish Executive consultation paper. It is the authors'
view that the functions currently performed by existing equality
Commissions are to a large extent discrete from those it is envisaged
would be performed by Human Rights Commissions. It is important,
therefore that the existing bodies continue in operation. It is
not clear why there should be problems created by the co-existence
of Human Rights and Equality Commissions. Co-operation between
the various Commissions can ensure that any problem which arises
is dealt with by the appropriate body.
The members of the Commission must be appointed
in a manner which ensures that they have the requisite level of
expertise in the area of human rights, while additionally obtaining
representation of different sectors of society. Funding for the
Commission will come from the public purse. It must be accountable
to Parliament, possibly through the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Regional Commissions must be funded by and answerable to the Parliamentary
bodies created by the process of devolution.
A small number of executive members supported
by a permanent research staff would be required for a United Kingdom
commission. The regional bodies will require a similar level of
staffing. See response to Question L of the Scottish Consultation.
The Commission must have the powers necessary
to conduct test cases. It must therefore have the power to conduct
legal proceedings, to assist other parties to conduct proceedings
and to heighten awareness of human rights issues. It must also
have a research function and have the ability to issue Codes of
Practice to ensure that good human rights practice is observed
in all sectors of society.
5 July 2001