Joint Committee On Human Rights Third Report


44. This Bill carries a statement of compatibility made by the Rt. Hon. John Prescott MP under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Bill is published with Explanatory Notes. Although the Bill engages the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions under P1/1 and the right to a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of civil rights and obligations under ECHR Article 6.1, the Explanatory Notes do not usefully explain its human rights implications.[37] Once again, we draw to the attention of each House the fact, as noted in paragraph 3 above in relation to the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, we consider that the Lord Chancellor's Department's guidance on the human rights information to be included in Explanatory Notes to Bills represents good practice.

45. The Bill is intended to speed up the planning system.[38] Its provisions seem to us to engage Convention rights in two respects.

46. First, the power proposed in clause 43 for the Secretary of State to call in 'major infrastructure projects', i.e. applications for planning permission in relation to developments which the Secretary of State thinks are of national or regional importance, would affect the right of those whose property is affected to assert their interests in relation to the application. It is now well established that determining planning applications involves the determination of a civil right for the purpose of ECHR Article 6.1, and that accordingly a determination is required after a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. In R. (Alconbury Developments and others) v. Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions,[39] the House of Lords decided that a decision by a Secretary of State after an inquiry by a planning inspector did not satisfy that requirement. However, their Lordships went on to hold that the inquiry, followed by a decision-making procedure in the Department which was as fair as it could be made, and then the availability of judicial review of the legality (although not the planning merits) of the decision, together constituted a fair hearing in which the final stage (judicial review) cured the absence of an independent and impartial tribunal at the earlier stages. In the light of that decision, which seems to be in accordance with the bulk of the decisions on these matters by the European Court of Human Rights, we take the view that the regime contemplated by clause 43 of the Bill, if properly and fairly operated, would not be likely to present a substantial risk of incompatibility with rights under ECHR Article 6.1.

47. Secondly, clauses 74 to 77 of the Bill would amend the provisions of the Land Compensation Act 1973 for compensating people whose land is compulsorily acquired. Compensation for compulsory acquisition is required by P1/1. As the Explanatory Notes explain, the effect of the provisions would be to enhance the level of compensation in order to provide an incentive for people with interests in land to co-operate with the planning and acquisition process, thus speeding up decision-making.[40] That being so, the provisions do not seem to us to be objectionable in terms of P1/1.

48. We therefore take the view that the provisions of the Bill itself (as distinct from the Explanatory Notes) do not give rise to a significant risk of violating Convention rights.

37   See Bill 12-EN, para. 115 Back

38   ibid., para. 4 Back

39   [2001] UKHL 23, [2001] 2 WLR 1389, HL Back

40   Bill 12-EN, para. 90 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 31 January 2003