Joint Committee On Human Rights Third Report

4. Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Minister for Rural Affairs, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


The Committee has carried out an initial examination of the Hunting Bill, and has formed the provisional opinion that, subject to the matter mentioned below, the Bill is compatible with relevant human rights obligations. The Committee would, however, be grateful for your comments on the following point.

The Committee's one reservation relates to contracts already entered into, performance of which would be made unlawful were the Bill to be enacted and come into force. The economic benefit of such a contract, already binding on the parties to it, is a possession for the purposes of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the ECHR ('P1/1'). The legislation would entirely deprive the economic beneficiary of the benefit of the contract. This goes beyond a mere control or regulation of ownership. In relation to the earlier Hunting Bill, introduced to Parliament in 2001, the Government accepted that P1/1 generally requires compensation for a deprivation of property, but considered that, even in relation to the benefit of existing, legally binding contracts, the legislation would only amount to a control of property rather than a deprivation of it.[55]

In the light of these considerations, the Committee wishes to know whether the Government still holds to the view which was expressed in 2001. If it does, the Committee seeks further amplification of the Government's position on compatibility in the light of the distinction which might be drawn between two different kinds of possessions—

   (i) the land over which hunting takes place and the dogs, etc., used when hunting; and

(ii) the economic benefit accruing from contracts already entered into for hunting.

The Bill would, in the Committee's provisional view, be likely to deprive people of possessions of type (ii). Deprivation of possessions without compensation requires particularly strong justification under P1/1. However, it should be noted that the Committee's concern relates only to contracts already entered into for hunting in the future.

If the Government still holds the view it took in 2001 on this point, the Committee seeks an explanation of why the Government considers that the legislation would not amount to a deprivation of property of type (ii) above.

The Committee would also be grateful for a description of any representations you have received in connection with this Bill in relation to human rights issues, and to what specific points those representations were directed.

The Committee would be grateful for a reply by 31st January at the latest.

21 January 2003

55   Memorandum from the Home Office printed in Joint Committee on Human Rights, Third Special Report of 2000-01, Scrutiny of Bills, HL Paper 73, HC 448, Appendix 2, p. xi, paras. 28-29 and p. xii, para. 42 Back

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