Joint Committee On Human Rights Fourth Report

Conclusions and Recommendations

61. In relation to the Bills considered here, we report

On the Licensing Bill

  • in relation to the procedure for considering applications for premises licences, that the Government should give an undertaking to each House that the regulations to be made under clause 17 will require applicants to advertise their applications in a manner adequate to allow all interested parties to know of the application, to understand it, and to make timely representations. If this is done, in our view the regime for applying for licences would not give rise to a significant risk of leading to the grant of licences incompatibly with rights under ECHR Article 8. However, we note that the use of amplified recordings through electronic sound amplification systems would not in itself be a licensable activity under the Bill, and we therefore have doubts about the capacity of licensing regime to protect people in the neighbourhood against interference with their rights under ECHR Article 8 from such sources (paragraph 11 above);

  • in relation to the blanket criminalisation of unlicensed public entertainments by up to two performers, that in our view clause 134 of the Bill could operate in a disproportionate way, and would therefore give rise to a significant risk of incompatibility with people's right to freedom of expression under ECHR Article 10 (paragraph 18 above);

  • that we welcome clause 138(1), replacing the old offence of allowing violent, quarrelsome or riotous conduct with a provision meeting the test of legal certainty (paragraph 20 above);

  • that in other respects we consider the Bill to give rise to no significant risk of incompatibility with Convention rights.

On the Courts Bill

  • in relation to clause 37 (on the position of JPs appointed in breach of section 3 of the Act of Settlement 1700), we consider that retrospectively validating otherwise unlawful acts, both under statute and by the common law doctrine of de facto authority, gives rise to a threat to the principle of legal certainty and a risk of incompatibility with the right to a hearing by a tribunal established by law under ECHR Article 6.1 (paragraph 34 above);

  • in relation to clause 83 (extending the time allowed to the prosecution to apply for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal or the House of Lords), in order to forestall arguments about equality of arms under ECHR Article 6.1 we consider that it would be appropriate either to allow 28 days to the defence as of right, or to allow the Court of Appeal or House of Lords to extend the time allowed to the prosecution beyond 14 days, up to a maximum of 28 days (paragraph 36 above).

On the Communications Bill

  • in relation to the statement made under section 19(1)(b) of the Human Rights Act 1998 in respect of section 309 of the Bill (political advertising via broadcast media) we accept as legitimate the Government's reasons for introducing the Bill to Parliament when not satisfied that it would be compatible with Convention rights (paragraph 41 above);

  • in relation to the adequacy of protection for the privilege against self-incrimination and legal professional privilege, we reiterate our view that, normally, it is not safe to rely on courts or administrators to read protections into the legislation by applying the duty to act compatibly and to read and give effect to legislation in a compatible manner under sections 6 and 3 respectively of the Human Rights Act 1998 (paragraph 44 above);

  • in relation to procedural protection for Convention rights in the application of penalties and other sanctions to broadcasters, we draw attention to our view that the Department's argument against including explicit safeguards in the legislation is somewhat speculative. We are not satisfied that the Bill as drafted gives adequate guidance to OFCOM to ensure that adequate safeguards for Convention rights will be put in place (paragraph 48 above);

  • in relation to clause 324 of the Bill (power for a Minister to direct a broadcaster to carry announcements etc.), we consider that it should be possible to include in the Bill some limitation to circumstances in which the Government is satisfied that an announcement is critical to public well-being. As it stands, the unrestricted discretion seems inconsistent with the principle of legal certainty which provides an important foundation for human rights (paragraph 50).

On the Hereford Markets Bill

  • having considered the Government's opinion on the assessment of human rights implications by the promoters of the Bill, we remain of the view that the Bill is unlikely to give rise to a significant risk of incompatibility with Convention rights (paragraph 58 above).

On the Nottingham City Council Bill

  • we consider that the suggestion of the promoters and their agents to amend clause 14(7) of the Bill would avoid any significant risk of incompatibility with rights under ECHR Article 8 if the clause were extended to cover excluded material and special procedure material as defined in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (paragraph 60 above).

In other respects, we consider that these Bills, and the other Bills considered in this Report, do not raise issues of human rights requiring to be drawn to the attention of either House at this time.

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 10 February 2003