Joint Committee On Human Rights Seventeenth Report

Appendix 7: Medical Practitioners and Dentists (Professional Negligence Insurance) Bill

Letter from the Chair to Dr Desmond Turner MP

As part of its function to consider human rights in the United Kingdom, the Joint Committee on Human Rights examines all bills introduced to either House with a view to reporting to each House on their compatibility with Convention rights under the Human Rights Act 1998, and with other rights which arise in international law under human rights instruments by which the United Kingdom is bound. The Committee is currently considering the human rights implications of the Medical Practitioners and Dentists (Professional Negligence Insurance) Bill, which you introduced to the House of Commons.

As you know, the Bill would make it a condition of registration to practice medicine or dentistry that the practitioner should hold approved indemnity insurance cover. The Bill as drafted has certain lacunae. For example, it does not currently define 'approved indemnity cover', or mention professional negligence insurance except in the long and short titles. It would also engage the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the ECHR.

While the requirement seems intrinsically likely to be justifiable under that Article, the Committee is concerned that the drafting could prevent the Bill from meeting the demands of the principle of legal certainty which forms an essential part of any justification for an interference with a right under the ECHR.

In the light of this, the Committee is considering whether to draw the attention of each House to the human rights implications of the Bill. The Committee understands the difficulties which the sponsors of private members' bills, with limited resources, often face in responding to questions from the Committee about the human rights implications of their bills. Nevertheless, without suggesting that you are under any obligation to respond to its concerns, the Committee would of course give full weight to any representations which you might wish to put before it.

The Committee is likely to be deciding on 17 November 2003 whether, and if so how, to report to each House on the Bill, and so would be unable to take account of representations received after 14 November 2003.

5 November 2003

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