Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

65.  Memorandum from the Office of the Rail Regulator

  1.  Thank you for your letter of 21 March 2002 about the Committee's role in the development of a human rights culture among public authorities. I believe the way you are proposing to advance the aims of the Commission duly recognise the need to gather information on how existing bodies are already performing the role of inspecting, auditing or monitoring the performance of public authorities.

  2.  You are aware that I am concerned principally with the regulation of Railtrack's stewardship of the national rail network. In this respect, Railtrack is not a public authority but a limited company, albeit currently in railway administration. However, I understand that while you consider that Railtrack is not a public authority when conducting private business with the train operating companies, you are inclined to think that it is a limited purpose public authority for the purpose of section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. You also say that when it is securing a safe rail network, it is discharging a statutory duty and may be bound by the positive obligations arising under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

  3.  Until now, we have not used human rights as one of our assessment criteria and nor have we offered advice on human rights matters to Railtrack when performing our regulatory function. Nevertheless, while we do not make explicit reference to human rights in our regulatory work, it is something we do consider. For example, we might have to demonstrate that we have considered the human rights implications in considering the revoking of an access or licensing exemption, or imposing tougher licence conditions. Indeed, insofar as I may properly do so, I should always wish to consider the implications for individuals or groups if my regulatory actions were either imposing burdens on people or constraining, legitimately, their freedom of action.

  4.  Your letter is a timely reminder as to how we should proceed in the future. We shall be reviewing our processes in regard to the inclusion of human rights, particularly in terms of our licensing conditions and in the application of the Competition Act 1998.

2 May 2002

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