Joint Committee On Human Rights Fifteenth Report


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, examines the human rights implications of a number of Bills. It gives further consideration to two Government Bills: the Licensing Bill (now the Licensing Act 2003), in the light of a letter received from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport responding to our comments in our Twelfth Report; and the Anti-social Behaviour Bill, in the light of amendments made on Report in the House of Commons.

We also note that the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, the Food Colourings and Additives Bill, the Pensioner Trustees and Final Payments Bill, the Telecommunications Masts (Railways) Bill and the Road Safety Bill give rise to no significant risk of incompatibility with Convention rights.

The Report also examines the human rights implications of Draft Bills which have been published for consultation on civil contingencies and mental incapacity.

In relation to the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill

We conclude that the new Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Bill could give rise to a risk of incompatibility with Convention rights in relation to clause 59 (power for senior police officers to impose conditions on 'public assemblies' consisting of two or more people) and clause 61 (power for police officers to direct trespassers to leave land in certain circumstances).

In relation to the Draft Civil Contingencies Bill

In our view, the provisions of Part 1 are likely to enable public authorities to act more effectively to protect the human rights of people in their areas in an emergency. We do not consider that they give rise to a significant threat of a violation of human rights.

In relation to Part 2, we strongly disapprove of any attempt to extend the range of instruments which have to be treated as primary legislation so as to make them exempt from the need to comply with Convention rights. It provides a way of allowing the executive to legislate, before seeking parliamentary approval, in ways which are known or believed to be incompatible with Convention rights, while denying victims of violations the right to obtain an effective remedy from a court or tribunal. In our view, regardless of the context, the effect of this legislative technique is objectionable on human rights grounds.

We conclude that the provisions of Part 2 of the Draft Bill would, if enacted, give rise to a significant risk that regulations could be made which would violate, or authorise a violation of, Convention rights, without any judicial remedy being available for a victim of the violation. As the Bill makes no provision for any other effective remedy before a national authority, it would also be likely to lead to a violation of the right to an effective remedy before a national authority for any violation of a Convention right, under ECHR Article 13 (which does not form part of national law, but binds the United Kingdom in international law and is enforceable before the European Court of Human Rights).

In relation to the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill

We note that its provisions engage a wide range of rights, including the right to respect for private life, the right to property, and the right to be free of degrading treatment. In our view, however, the safeguards built into the Draft Bill are sufficient to ensure that there is no significant risk of the implementation of the Draft Bill leading to an incompatibility with any of them.

In relation to the Licensing Act 2003

We accept that places of public religious worship play an important part in the development and performance of secular as well as religious music and other artistic activities of considerable cultural value. It is arguable whether these considerations mark those places out sufficiently from other artistic and musical venues to justify, in an objective and rational way, the different treatment afforded to them in relation to entertainment licensing. However, the Human Rights Act 1998 preserves the power of Parliament to legislate as it sees fit. Parliament has now concluded its consideration of the Bill, which has received the Royal Assent.

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Prepared 21 July 2003