The Joint Committee on Human Rights examines every Bill presented to Parliament. With Government Bills its starting point is the statement made by the Minister under section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 in respect of its compliance with Convention rights as defined in that Act. However, we also have regard to the provisions of other international human rights instruments which bind the UK.
This Report, in our series of regular progress reports on our scrutiny of Bills, considers the human rights implications of a number of Bills which we have recently examined. We are reporting separately on two of these: the Criminal Justice Bill in the form in which it has been introduced to the House of Lords, and the Anti-social Behaviour Bill. In this report we draw the attention of each House to human rights issues in connection with the Fire Services Bill, the Sexual Offences Bill and the Licensing Bill.
In relation to the Fire Services Bill:
We conclude that the Bill gives rise to a significant risk of a violation of Article 6 of the European Social Charter and of Article 8 of ILO Convention No. 151, because its terms would permit a Minister to interfere in a dispute where there is no public emergency and collective negotiations have not been tried and failed to produce a satisfactory settlement. (Paragraph 1.6)
In relation to the Sexual Offences Bill:
We conclude that clause 6, imposing liability on children under 13 for all sexual touching whether or not there is consent and whether or not it can properly be regarded as indecent, would not be proportionate to a legitimate aim so as to be justifiable under ECHR Article 8.2; and that in other respects, the Bill is unlikely to give rise to a significant risk of a threat to human rights. (Paragraph 2.20)
In relation to the Licensing Bill:
We consider that there is a significant risk that the proposed system of exemptions from the licensing requirements and from the applicable fees might:
give rise to an incompatibility with the right to be free of discrimination in respect of the enjoyment of the right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief under ECHR Articles 9 and 14; and
call in question the existence of a pressing social need for the restriction on freedom of expression through a licensing regime for public entertainment, which might therefore violate the right to freedom of expression under ECHR Article 10. (Paragraph 3.4 )
We conclude that the Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections and Periods of Suspension) Act 2003, European Union (Accessions) Bill, and the Finance Bill are unlikely to give rise to any significant risk of incompatibility with Convention rights.
In relation to private Members' Bills, we report that in our view the Traveller Law Reform Bill would enhance protection of the rights of travellers, and the Local Communities Sustainability Bill, the Regulation of Child Care Providers Bill, the Community Prosecution Lawyers Bill, the Company Directors (Health & Safety) Bill, the Food Justice Strategies Bill, the Needle Stick Injury Bill, the Road & Street Works (Notice and Compensation) Bill and the Taxation (Information) Bill do not give rise to any significant risk of incompatibility with Convention rights.