Joint Committee on Human Rights Written Evidence

6.  Memorandum from the Children's Rights Alliance for England


  The Children's Rights Alliance for England ("CRAE") is an alliance of over 380 voluntary and statutory organisations committed to the full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ("CRC").

  Our mission is to transform the lives and status of childreni in England by lobbying for laws and policies to be fully compliant with children's human rights, monitoring Government action on implementing the CRC and other human rights instruments, and disseminating children's rights information to the public.

  Our response to this inquiry focuses on the crucial importance of a British Bill of Rights which addresses children's distinct need for rights protection by incorporating the CRC.


  We very much welcomed the 2002-03 examination by the Joint Committee on Human Rights ("JCHR") of the Concluding Observations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in October 2002 on the UK Government's 1999 periodic report.

  We submitted written and oral evidence to that inquiry, and welcomed your expression of support for incorporation of the Convention into UK law in your Tenth Report of that session. Your comments followed the UN Committee's recommendation in its 2002 Concluding Observations for full incorporation of the CRC into UK law. ii

  Responding to comments made by the then Minister for Children and Young People that the Government was "not looking to incorporate the Convention or, indeed, individual elements of it" and that it "is really framed, virtually all of it, in very aspirational language and not in the sort of language that seems easy to put into primary legislation ...", iii the JCHR stated:

    "... We do not accept that the goal of incorporation of the Convention into UK law is unrealisable. We believe the Government should be careful not to dismiss all the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as purely `aspirational' and ... we firmly believe that children will be better protected by incorporation of at least some of the rights, principles and provisions of the Convention into UK law.

    In view of the general importance of this issue, we intend to examine further the possibilities for incorporation of the CRC and other unincorporated human rights instruments. We believe that the assent of Parliament to these rights and principles, which could be secured by incorporation, would be a positive step towards enlarging and reinforcing the `culture of respect for human rights' which we wish to see in the UK, as well as enhancing their democratic legitimacy".iv

  We welcomed the above comments, including your commitment to examine incorporation further. The Government's response indicated a willingness to consider the merits of incorporation:

    "... we look forward to seeing practical suggestions for how this might be achieved".v

  Less than six months after the JCHR's report, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Primary Care and Public Health issued a report on children's policy that advocated full incorporation of the CRC. This group of MPs and Peers argued that incorporation "would provide a means for children, young people and their advocates to challenge any failures to consider their needs or respect their rights within the British courts".vi

  We would also draw your attention to the UN Committee's "general measures general comment",vii quoted in response to question 2(f) below, in which practical suggestions for the full incorporation of the CRC are set out. It seems highly likely that the UN Committee will make similar recommendations to the UK Government following its forthcoming examination in autumn 2008.

  We believe incorporation of the CRC is long overdue, and that a British Bill of Rights that enhances current UK rights protection would create an ideal opportunity for incorporation of the CRC in order to address the distinct needs of children. We urge the JCHR to develop its position in this light.

  We would welcome the opportunity to expand upon our submissions in oral evidence, as we did in the JCHR's earlier inquiry into the CRC.


(a) Do you think there should be a British Bill of Rights? Please explain the reasons for your view?

  The development of a British Bill of Rights presents a unique and very welcome opportunity for increasing the protection of children's fundamental rights and freedoms by incorporating them into UK law in the strongest possible way—entrenched, so that they cannot be undone by future governments, and enforceable by UK courts.

  It is 16 years since the CRC was ratified by the UK. However, there is a continuing and unacceptable failure by the UK Government to uphold the rights and freedoms contained within it, and to withdraw the reservations it has made in relation to child immigrants and children in detention. Despite an increasing political commitment to children, there is continuing resistance to a rights-based approach. Courts are not making sufficient use of the CRC in their decision-making, and many children, parents and professionals are unaware of the Convention's existence.

  We are deeply concerned about current media and political hostility to UK human rights legislation, particularly as it relates to children. Within the human rights community itself, concerns have been raised by some that the Human Rights Act 1998 ("HRA") has not had enough time to bed down, and that efforts should be focused on championing the HRA before embarking on a discussion about a Bill of Rights which may be dominated by media and political pressure to weaken the protection currently provided by the HRA. We understand these concerns but believe the opportunity should be seized to strengthen the human rights of everyone living in Britain, especially children.

  Concerns about the potential dilution of existing justiciable human rights are to some extent borne out by the Government's proposal, in its recent Green Paper The Governance of Britain for a "Bill of Rights and Duties" and its focus on citizenship. The Government proposes, for example, that young people may be required to undergo "citizenship ceremonies" upon reaching 18 years, implying that under 18 year olds are not citizens.

  We are fundamentally opposed to this proposal and seek a British Bill of Rights giving rights protection that is not contingent on compliance with responsibilities, and is available to all from birth, regardless of immigration status.

  The process of creating a British Bill of Rights presents the opportunity for a wide-ranging, well-informed and positive public debate on human rights.

(b) What would be the purpose of a British Bill of Rights?

  The creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates the CRC is crucial to provide adequate protection to children's rights in the UK. While the CRC has important influence, the UK's 11 million children currently have no mechanism to enforce their rights under this treaty. Many of those rights go beyond protection provided by the HRA and at common law which, in any event, are not entrenched rights and are of limited effect (the Courts do not presently have the power to strike down incompatible legislation).

  Incorporating the CRC into a British Bill of Rights would give children entrenched, inalienable and enforceable rights, with the potential to effect real change for the better. As with other British residents, these rights would belong to the child, rather than be reliant upon their circumstances or the setting they are in. Children are especially vulnerable to their rights being dependent upon their circumstances rather than belonging to them, be they at home, school, looked after by the state or in custody or immigration detention. For example, children have full legal protection from corporal punishment in school, in care and in health settings but not in the family home and, since the recent changes to secure training centre rules, viii not in all custodial settings. The right to participate is embedded in health, social care and local government legislation but not in education. Children in care have rights in relation to family contact that children detained in custody do not. A Bill of Rights would make children's rights portable—travelling with them at all times.

(c) What would a British Bill of Rights add to the protection for human rights already provided by the Human Rights Act?

  The HRA provides some protection to children's rights as its provisions apply to children and adults equally. However, it fails to address many of children's distinctive needs. Further, it does not adequately protect individuals" social, economic or cultural rights.

  As well as providing "mainstream" protection for the rights of children together with adults (as in the HRA), a British Bill of Rights must provide distinct protection for children's rights by incorporating the CRC. To the extent that the Convention's provisions overlap with those of the HRA, ix children's rights should be "levelled up" in the Bill of Rights, to provide the maximum protection.

  The CRC confirms that children are people with an equal right to that of adults to express their views and be heard. Lacking the right to vote, children merit special attention to their right to participate in other ways in the democratic process.x Increasing weight has been given by the UK Government to children's right to participate in decision-making on matters that affect them, through Every Child Matters and other initiatives, as well as through legislation. A British Bill of Rights incorporating the CRC would elevate children's right to participate in decision-making as being central to our national values.

  Children's vulnerability and crucial stage of development also mean that they need distinct rights protection, which is why they have their own human rights treaty. The CRC grants children a comprehensive set of economic, social, cultural and civil and political rights. Adopted by the UN in November 1989, many of the rights in the CRC are transposed from other human rights instruments but the treaty was tailor-made for children and introduces distinctive human rights necessary to ensure for the world's two billion children a childhood characterised by dignity, respect and maximum fulfillment.

  The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has selected four articles in the CRC as general principles: article 2, which guarantees all children all the rights in the treaty without discrimination; article 3, which requires that children's best interests be a primary consideration in all actions concerning them; article 6, the child's right to life and maximum development; and article 12, children's right to express their views and have these views given due weight in all matters affecting them, having regard to their age and maturity. In all, there are more than 40 substantive rights in the Convention, which the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has grouped together (stressing the rights are indivisible) as general measures of implementation, definition of the child, general principles, civil rights and freedoms, basic health and welfare, education, culture and leisure and special measures of protection.

  The potential is also there for a positive shift in the public's understanding of rights culture as it relates to children, although the method of introduction of the Bill of Rights, and education about its effect, would be crucial to ensuring this.


(a) If there were to be a British Bill of Rights, what rights and freedoms should it contain?

  A British Bill of Rights should build on the HRA by incorporating the CRC and its Optional Protocols in full, as well as all other treaties the UK has ratified (see below). xi To the extent that the Convention's provisions overlap with those of the HRA, protection for children's rights should be "levelled up" in the Bill of Rights to provide maximum protection (see above and Appendix 1). Further, the organic development of human rights means that, for example, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which opened for signature in March 2007, is in many respects a superior treaty for disabled children than the CRC. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, with its concluding observations, general comments and discussion days, has extensively developed the interpretation of most aspects of children's rights in the CRC and this must be reflected in the British Bill of Rights. Some rights in UK legislation, such as protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation are not explicit in the CRC (though article 2 provides this protection in its reference to "other status").

  There is a strong case for many (if not most) of the CRC rights and freedoms, once incorporated, to become non-derogable rights. This would mean, in practice, that these rights would be much more difficult for Parliament to amend, and they would be subject to even greater protection during any public consultation. Similar arguments can be made for other groups in society who experience high levels of rights violations, for example disabled people.

(b) Should it include any rights currently recognized as common law rights and freedoms, and if so which?

  With the above provisos, the CRC contains the most comprehensive set of children's rights and we consider it to be the best source of content for children's rights and freedoms in a British Bill of Rights.

(c) Should it include any rights and freedoms currently contained only in legislation, such as rights not to be discriminated against, of data protection and freedom of information, and if so which?

  We want all of children's rights and freedoms in the CRC to be incorporated in a British Bill of Rights. This would include, and improve for children, the three examples of domestic legislation cited by the JCHR.

(d) Should it include social and economic rights, such as health and education, and if so which?

  The inclusion of social and economic rights in a British Bill of Rights is essential for the creation of a more equal and just society. The incorporation of the CRC will provide the UK's children with enforceable socio-economic rights relating to matters such as their health and welfare, social security and standard of living. Children are at a unique and crucial stage of development and particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of inequality.

  The ways in which inequality manifests itself for children in the UK today are too many and wide-ranging to cover adequately in this paper. By way of example:

    —  Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions in March 2007 show that in 2005-06 3.8 million children in the UK lived in poverty. xii

    —  A consultation paper published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2006 estimates that there are between 350,000 and 410,000 families with dependent children in England living in overcrowded conditions. xiii High rates of overcrowding persist among lone parent families. xiv

    —  The Local Government Association has reported that local councils and charities are picking up the pieces of families refused help from the Social Fund in order to avoid children going into care as a result of destitution. xv One hundred children in England started to be looked after in the year ending 31 March 2006 because of poverty: this is unacceptable in a rich country like ours. xvi

    —  Health inequalities are growing. In a Parliamentary answer (October 2006), Health Minister Caroline Flint MP explained that the gap in life expectancy for babies under one year had increased by 6% between families on lower incomes ("routine and manual" groups) and average income families between the periods 1997-99 and 2002-04. xvii

    —  A British Medical Association report shows that children from poorer families are at risk of developing mental health problems and that mental health disorders are on the increase for children and young people. xviii

  We seek an open, national debate on the inclusion of socio-economic rights in a British Bill of Rights, and believe that this could be of particular benefit to children. Indeed, we think this would greatly assist the End Child Poverty campaign, which has cross-party support.

  While concerns are sometimes raised as to the justiciability of socio-economic rights, and their impact on Parliamentary sovereignty in public spending decisions, many modern national human rights instruments have incorporated socio-economic rights, including nine CEE states (Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine).

(e) Should it include rights and freedoms currently contained in international treaties but not yet part of our law, and if so which?

  We want all of the international treaties and Optional Protocols that the UK has ratified to be incorporated into the British Bill of Rights.

  The incorporation of the CRC is critical for children. Already ratified by the UK together with most countries in the world, the CRC presents the most universally recognised standards for children's rights. Article 4 of the Convention requires the UK to "undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation" of the Convention.

  While the Government's recent Green Paper The Governance of Britain acknowledges the crucial importance of the ECHR and HRA, it fails to mention any other international treaty, including the CRC. However, the Government has previously indicated its willingness to consider incorporation of the Convention (see above) and it may find it easier to include so-called "aspirational" language in a Bill of Rights than in a conventional Act of Parliament.

  The JCHR has previously recommended incorporation of "at least some" of the CRC into domestic law, and we urge the Committee to develop its position in line with the UN Committee's repeated recommendations for full incorporation, as well as those of the APPG for Primary Care and Public Health (see above).


  The general principles of the CRC as well as other distinct rights for children could be expressed within the Bill of Rights in a dedicated children's section. Alternatively, the Convention could be incorporated by a single provision making reference to it (the approach adopted by Norway when it amended its Human Rights Act). A further possibility would be for both these methods to be used together—this is our current preference. The "incorporation plus" method reflects the approach being advocated by children's rights organisations for Northern Ireland's Bill of Rights. As described above, the incorporation process must accommodate the developing nature of human rights and, in relation to the CRC, the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child's "jurisprudence".

  South Africa is a good example of a Bill of Rights that protects children generally but also specifically: article 28 of its Bill of Rights grants children additional rights relating to name and nationality, family life and alternative care, adequate standard of living and health and social care, protection from maltreatment and exploitation, juvenile justice and armed conflict. Significantly, it requires that the child's best interests be accorded paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.


  The CRC can and should be used in judicial decision making to a greater degree than presently occurs. However, it will always be of limited effect until it is incorporated into our domestic law.

  The Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted by the League of Nations in 1924. This set out for the first time adult obligations towards children: its preamble urged, "mankind owes to the child the best that it has to give". Nearly 80 years later, Gordon Brown, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced:

    "Our country's future lies with the hopes, dreams and potential of our children".xix

  The CRC is the second most widely ratified international treatyxx and the most far-reaching and comprehensive of all human rights treaties. Just after the UN voted to adopt the Convention in 1989 the then head of UNICEF said at a press conference in New York:

    "For children, [the CRC] is the Magna Carta. To get one common doctrine is a near miracle in its own right | It creates a new international norm".xxi

  Some years later, Nelson Mandela described the Convention as:

    "that luminous living document that enshrines the rights of every child without exception to a life of dignity and self-fulfillment".xxii

  At the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children, in May 2002, member states emphasised the centrality of human rights and the CRC in particular in transforming children's lives. The "World Fit for Children" outcomes document declared:

    "We reaffirm our obligation to take action to promote and protect the rights of each child ... We are determined to respect the dignity and to secure the well-being of all children. We acknowledge that the Convention on the Rights of the Child... and its Optional Protocols contain a compehensive set of international legal standards for the protection and well-being of children. We also recognise the importance of other international instruments relevant for children".xxiii

  John Denham MP, then Minister for Young People, in his speech to the UN General Assembly explained:

    "The way to ensure children's well-being is to take full account of their rights".xxiv

  The CRC is not enforceable in its own right though it can—and should—inform judicial decision-making. There are some very good examples of UK courts applying the CRC, for example in Mabon and Mabon, which concerned the rights of three brothers to have separate representation in proceedings relating to their parents' separation and who the boys should live with. Lord Justice Thorpe considered the obligations under article 8 of the ECHR and article 12 of the CRC. He ruled that the boys should have separate representation, emphasizing that:

    "Unless we in this jurisdiction are to fall out of step with similar societies as they safeguard Article 12 [of the CRC] rights, we must, in the case of articulate teenagers, accept that the right to freedom of expression and participation outweighs the paternalistic judgment of welfare".xxv

  The House of Lords applied many aspects of the CRC when considering a case relating to the prohibition of corporal punishment in private schools. Corporal punishment was outlawed in state schools in 1987 but it was not until 1998 that it was prohibited in private schools.

  In the Williamson case, a group of Christian head teachers, teachers and parents of four independent schools argued that the corporal punishment of children is central to their religious beliefs and to prohibit this in private schools is to violate their right to practise their religion under article 9 of the ECHR. The law lords found the ban on corporal punishment to be legitimate and proportionate. Citing the obligations of articles 3, 37, 19 and 28, Baroness Hale of Richmond used the CRC as her framework. She explained:.

    "... the state has a positive obligation to protect children from inhuman or degrading punishment which violates their rights under article 3 [of the ECHR]. But prohibiting only such punishment as would violate their rights under article 3 (or possibly article 8) would bring difficult problems of definition, demarcation and enforcement. It would not meet the authoritative international view of what the CRC requires".xxvi.

  In the Axon case, a mother of five children claimed that Department of Health guidance for doctors and other health professionals on advice and treatment to young people under 16 on contraception, sexual and reproductive health was unlawful. Mr Justice Silber referred to articles 12, 16 and 18 of the CRC and stated:

    "It is appropriate to bear in mind that the ECHR attaches great value to the rights of children ... Furthermore the ratification by the United Kingdom of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNC) in November 1989 was significant as showing a desire to give children greater rights. The ECHR and the UNC show why the duty of confidence owed by a medical professional to a competent young person is a high one, and which therefore should not be overridden except for a very powerful reason. In my view, although family factors are significant and cogent, they should not override the duty of confidentiality owed to the child".xxvii

  Clearly, when the courts apply the CRC there can be significant gains for affected children. Yet, too few cases concerning children make use of the CRC, despite the very strong ECHR Chamber judgement in the Sahin case:

    "The human rights of children and the standards to which all governments must aspire in realising these rights for all children are set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child".xxviii

  If the CRC largely remains locked out of the courtroom, children themselves are not far behind. Of almost 430 HRA cases analysed by the Human Rights Research Project at Doughty Street Chambers, children initiated less than 20. xxix This by no means reflects a positive picture of children's human rights in Britain today. UNICEF reported this year that the UK ranks overall bottom of 21 industrialised countries for children's well In 2002, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child examined the UK and made more than 80 recommendations for improvements in law, policy and practice. xxxi

  The UN Committee criticised the lack of UK Government engagement with even the concept of children's rights and urged a national implementation plan for the CRC, together with the creation of an independent human rights institution for children, compatible with the Paris Principles, in each of the four jurisdictions of the UK.

  In some areas of policy, the UN Committee's observations were justifiably harsh—in relation to the very high level of child poverty and inequalities in education and health, lack of legal protection from violence in the home, the treatment of children in trouble with the law and the discriminatory treatment of asylum-seekers and Roma and Gypsy Traveller children.

  The UN Committee welcomed the HRA whilst stressing the broader obligations of the CRC. Since 2002, other human rights bodies—the Committee against Torture, the European Social Rights Committee, the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner and the JCHR itself—have criticised the UK's children's human rights record. Government policy is not the only target: the practices of public authorities have also been put under the spotlight.

  The Audit Commission found that 58% of public bodies had "not adopted a strategy for human rights" and had "no clear corporate approach" and concluded, "in many local authorities the Act has not left the desk of the lawyers". It reported that 73% of the health trusts surveyed were "not taking any action".xxxii

  Introducing his first annual report, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, Children's Commissioner for England, said, "It is incredible that in one of the world's richest economies children and young people continue to live in poverty, suffer abuse and be denied their human rights".xxxiii CRAE, in its preparations for the next UK examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, has identified at least 40 examples of outright breaches of the CRC. xxxiv

  An opinion poll carried out for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission found overwhelming support for "special rights for children"xxxv in that country's emerging Bill of Rights, and similar support can be anticipated across the rest of Britain.

(f) Should it include rights and freedoms contained in other countries" bills of rights and if so which?

  It is clear from international comparisons that any obstacles to the incorporation of the CRC in the UK can be overcome.

  In November 2003, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published guidance on what states must do to ensure the full implementation of the CRC (its "general measures general comment"). Paragraphs 18 to 23 explore the different legislative measures that can be taken to realise children's human rights, from the specific inclusion of children and/or children's rights in national constitutions to amendments to sectoral laws relating to juvenile justice, education, health and so on. On incorporation the Committee says:.

    "The Committee welcomes the incorporation of the Convention into domestic law, which is the traditional approach to the implementation of international human rights instruments in some but not all States. Incorporation should mean that the provisions of the Convention can be directly invoked before the courts and applied by national authorities and that the Convention will prevail where there is a conflict with domestic legislation or common practice. Incorporation by itself does not avoid the need to ensure that all relevant domestic law, including any local or customary law, is brought into compliance with the Convention. In case of any conflict in legislation, predominance should always be given to the Convention, in the light of article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Where a State delegates powers to legislate to federated regional or territorial governments, it must also require these subsidiary governments to legislate within the framework of the Convention and to ensure effective implementation".xxxvi

  A study carried out by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centrexxxvii examined the status of the CRC in 29 countriesxxxviii and reported that:

    "... the CRC has been incorporated directly into the national law of most of the countries whose legislation was reviewed| Many of the new constitutions adopted by countries in Central and Eastern Europe over the last 15 years contain relatively generous provisions concerning the rights of the child. In contrast, only two of the Western European countries covered by this study [Belgium and Iceland] have amended their constitutions to enhance the rights of the child| All of the countries have made substantial changes in their legislation to better protect the rights of children".xxxix

  Further useful international comparative research and analysis was reported in another Innocenti study, Laying the Foundation for Children's Rights: An independent study of some key legal and institutional aspects of the impact of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. xl

(g) Should it include responsibilities as well as rights and freedoms, and if so, what sorts?

  CRAE recognises the important role the state has in encouraging positive behaviour. However, we are deeply concerned at the erosion of civil liberties and welfare rights which has occurred in the UK over the last 10 years, particularly under the auspices of tackling terrorism and anti-social behaviour. We strongly oppose the erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms as a response to these challenges.

  We believe that respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals continue to be crucial to the long-term well-being of UK society as a whole. This is particularly important for children, who are at a crucial stage of development and potential, and for whom it is essential to understand that they have innate rights that do not have to be "earned".xli Linking rights to responsibilities is especially dangerous for children, because it exposes them to disproportionately harmful penalties and does not recognise their particular needs. For example, benefit reduction and the eviction of families where an individual has behaved in an anti-social way and not accepted support will inevitably have a serious and disproportionately harmful impact on any children in that family, as the JCHR has pointed out. xlii The recent announcement by the Secretary of State for Children that ASBOs are a sign of policy failure in relation to children is a prime example of the (unintended) consequences of the rights and responsibilities discourse being played out in some of our most deprived communities. xliii To avoid harm to children (and others who are vulnerable) responsibilities would have to be so tightly qualified in any Bill of Rights to make them meaningless.

  Helping to create and sustain a socially responsible society is a vital task of any government but, in this context, we would oppose any linking between individual rights and responsibilities, particularly any move to make rights contingent upon individuals' compliance with duties or obligations. We believe this would be seriously detrimental to UK society and would disproportionately harm children and other vulnerable people.


(a) What should be the relationship between a British Bill of Rights and the Human Rights Act?

  The rights and freedoms protected by the HRA should be afforded the same status as those covered by the British Bill of Rights. The best solution may be to incorporate them all within one instrument, "levelling up" rights protection.

(b) What should be the relationship between a British Bill of Rights and the ECHR/other international human rights treaties?

  The British Bill of Rights should draw on relevant international human rights treaties for its content—including the CRC. There should be a commitment to review and "evolve" the Bill in recognition of the organic nature of human rights. We note there have been 27 amendments to the Irish constitution since 1939, the most recent, in June 2004, to accord citizenship rights to children of non-nationals. A further amendment to entrench some other CRC rights is now being considered, following the commitment given by the Irish Children's Minister after the 2006 state party examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Ombudsman for Children in Ireland has criticised the proposals as being "a restricted application of the principles of the CRC to the position of children in the Constitution. They do not appear to meet the specific recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child set out in its Concluding Observations on Ireland's Second Report issued in September 2006".xliv

(c) Are there any other relevant issues not covered by the above questions?

  The Prime Minister has urged widespread public consultation on a Bill of Rights, xlv and children must be part of this. Article 42 of the CRC requires the state to widely disseminate information about children's rights to the public, including children and parents, and professionals. Clearly, if this is to be an informed debate, public consultation must be coupled with measures to raise awareness of the UK's existing human rights obligations. We welcome the work of the Ministry of Justice in tackling misinformation about the HRA but urge much stronger, consistent and cross-Government activity to tackle the smear tactics of our largely human rights hostile media.

  As in Northern Ireland, debates about protecting children's rights must extend to implementation and enforceability, inviting creative solutions to deal with the particular challenges faced by children in claiming and defending their rights. In this respect alone, children's own views and reflections could lead us towards a truly progressive Bill of Rights.


  The Courts must have at least the same powers in relation to the Bill of Rights as they hold in relation to the HRA. However, particularly given recent threats by the opposition to abolish the HRA, we believe it is crucial that the Bill of Rights has a more entrenched status.

  We recognise the need to choose a model that fits the UK, and this will clearly depend to a large extent on the outcome of current proposals for constitutional reform.

  As part of the consultation on constitutional reforms, we therefore seek an open, well-informed national debate as to the appropriate model for the British Bill of Rights. This should include consideration of a US-style system, xlvi under which the Courts would have the ultimate power to interpret legislation and would be entitled to strike down laws which were incompatible with the Bill of Rights, and comparison with systems such as that in Canada where the "not-withstanding" clause allows Parliamentary sovereignty and judicial supremacy to co-exist. The aim must be to obtain consensus on a model that would allow the British Bill of Rights to be a meaningful and powerful instrument for positive change for all, especially for the most vulnerable.


  i We use the CRC definition of children—any person below the age of 18 years.

  ii Para. 9, Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: United Kingdom, October 2002.

  iii Evidence given to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Tenth Report, 2002-03, Question 51.

  iv Joint Committee on Human Rights, Tenth Report, 2002-03, paras. 22-23.

  v Joint Committee on Human Rights (November 2003) Government's Response to the Committee's Tenth Report of Session 2002-03 on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  vi All Party Parliamentary Group for Primary Care and Public Health (November 2003) Do we need a more conventional nanny? Report of an inquiry into effective cross-departmental policy on children's issues.

  vii Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment No 5 (2003) General Measures of Implementation of The Convention on the Rights of the Child (Arts 4, 42 And 44, Para 6).

  viii The Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007 (SI 2007/1709) permit restraint to be used for the purposes of good order and discipline. Nose, rib and thumb "distraction" techniques have been approved for use in these centres—these methods involve the infliction of severe pain on children.

  ix See Appendix 1 for a list of overlapping provisions.

  x CRAE is a founder member of the Votes at 16 campaign and strongly believes the franchise should be extended to 16 and 17 year-olds. This has wide-ranging support and was a key recommendation of the Power Inquiry chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy and reporting in February 2006.

  xi See Appendix 2 for a summary of the CRC's provisions.

  xii Department for Work and Pensions (2007) Households below average income.

  xiii Department for Communities and Local Government (2006) Tackling overcrowding in England: A discussion paper.

  xiv Ibid.

  xv Local Government Association (January 2006) The Social Fund and local government.

  xvi Children looked after by local authorities, year ending 31 March 2006. Table 10 children looked after by category of need.

  xvii Written answer to Parliamentary question, 25 October 2006: Column 1962W.

  xviii British Medical Association (2006) Child and adolescent mental health—a guide for healthcare professionals.

  xix Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Children And Young People's Unit conference at the Design Centre, Islington, 15 November 2001.

  xx There are now 192 States Parties to the CRC. The CRC is surpassed by only the Geneva (1949) Conventions, which achieved universality in August 2006.

  xxi "Assembly adopts new Convention ... for the children of the world...—international Convention on the Rights of the Child', UN Chronicle, March 1990.

  xxii Statement by Nelson Mandela on Building a Global Partnership for Children Johannesburg, 6 May 2000.

  xxiii A World Fit for Children, adopted by the UN General Assembly at the twenty-seventh special session, 10 May 2002.

  xxiv Statement by John Denham MP, Minister for children and young people to the United Nations General Assembly special session on children, New York, 10 May 2002.

  xxv [2005] EWCA CIV 634.

  xxvi [2005] UKHL 15.

  xxvii [2006] EWHC 37 (Administrative).

  xxviii Extract from Sahin v Germany, Chamber judgment of the ECtHR, 8 July 2003.

  xxix O'Brien, C and Arkinstall, J (2002) Human Rights Act Project Database of Cases under the Human Rights Act 1998:

  xxx UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2007) Child well-being in rich countries. A comprehensive assessment of the lives and well-being of children and adolescents in the economically advanced nations.

  xxxi Committee on The Rights of the Child Thirty-first session Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, 4 October 2002.

  xxxii Audit Commission (2003) Human rights: improving public service delivery.


  xxxiv Independent on Sunday "What happened to childhood? How we are failing the young", 10 June 2007

  xxxv Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (October 2001) A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Summary of opinion poll findings.

  xxxvi Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment No 5 (2003) General Measures of Implementation of The Convention on the Rights of the Child (Arts 4, 42 And 44, Para. 6).

  xxxvii The General Measures of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Process in Europe and Central Asia (UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2006).

  xxxviii Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the Former Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and the UK.

  xxxix The General Measures of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Process in Europe and Central Asia (UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2006).

  xl UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2005.

  xli See: How the Bill of Rights can best protect and promote the rights of children and young people in Northern Ireland: Learning from international law and the experience of other jurisdictions (Dr Ursula Kilkelly, November 2005), para 10.

  xlii JCHR (January 2007) Legislative Scrutiny: First Progress Report. Second Report of Session 2006-07 Report, together with formal minutes and appendices.

  xliii Ed Balls quoted in Daily Mirror article "Asbos are a failure" 27 July 2007.

  xliv Ombudsman for Children (March 2007) Report to the Oireachtas on the Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2007.

  xlv House of Commons debate on Constitutional Reform, Hansard, 3 July 2007: Column 815.

  xlvi This would involve the new UK Supreme Court which is due to start work in October 2009.

30 August 2007

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