Joint Committee On Human Rights Fifth Report

Part 8 of the Bill: Security of the Nuclear Industry

25. In our Second Report, we took the view that the provisions relating to the security of the nuclear industry raised no human rights issues which needed to be drawn to the attention of either House. Since then, we have considered what is now clause 80(1) of the Bill (formerly clause 79(1)), which makes it an offence, punishable with a maximum sentence of imprisonment for seven years and an unlimited fine, to disclose—

   ... any information or thing the disclosure of which might prejudice the security of any nuclear site or of any nuclear material—

(a) with the intention of prejudicing that security; or

(b) being reckless as to whether the disclosure might prejudice that security.

There is no exception or defence for disclosures made in the public interest, for example to alert people to the existence of a danger to public health from the escape or negligent handling of nuclear material. The offence engages two rights under the ECHR: the right of the person making a disclosure to impart information under Article 10(1), and the right of people in an affected area to receive information about threats to their health as an aspect of the right to respect for private life under Article 8.[41] The absolute nature of the offence, with no exception for public interest disclosures, gives rise to a risk that an interference with those rights will be regarded as disproportionate to its legitimate aim, and so incompatible with the rights.

26. During the Committee Stage in the House of Commons, amendments were proposed which would have delimited the scope of the offence and introduced a public interest exception. Those amendments would have helped to ensure that these provisions would operate in a manner compatible with the Convention rights under Articles 8 and 10. There was little time for discussion of the amendments, which were not approved.[42] We draw the attention of each House to the risk that the offence under clause 80 could operate in such a way as to violate Convention rights under Articles 8 and 10.

41  In relation to the right to information about matters affective health under Article 8, see Guerra v. Italy (1998) 26 E.H.R.R. 357, Eur. Ct. H.R; L. C. B. v. United Kingdom (1998) 27 E.H.R.R. 212, Eur. Ct. H.R. Back

42   HC Deb., 26 November 2001, cc 737-738 Back

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