The Work of the Committee in 2007-08 - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Letter from the Chair to the Committee to the Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP, Home Secretary, dated 11 November 2008

  Thank you for giving evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on 28 October. As I mentioned at the end of the meeting, there were a number of questions which we did not reach for which we would like to seek written replies. In addition, we have some questions arising from your oral evidence. I would be grateful if you could provide us with answers to the questions set out below by Monday 1 December.

Counter-terrorism policy: framework for derogation from the ECHR

  We had a lengthy exchange with you about our proposal that the Government might seek to provide a more detailed legislative framework for derogating from the ECHR in the event of a terrorist atrocity which amounted to a threat to the life of the nation (Qq16-38). We encourage you to respond to our detailed proposals when you reply to our 30th Report of the current session—a reply is due in early December. In particular, you should note my comments in questions 32 and 36. Derogation has not been put forward as an alternative to the 42 days proposal: it is intended to deal with the "three 911s" threat previously mentioned by Tony McNulty MP. We of course recognise that the Human Rights Act already provides a mechanism for derogation. Our proposal is intended to provide greater parliamentary and judicial oversight of any derogation in this area. We look forward to studying your detailed response and may wish to correspond further on this matter.

Deportations with assurances

  We would be grateful if you could inform us of how many terrorist suspects you have been unable to deport in recent years because of the prohibition on torture under Article 3 of the ECHR (Qq66-7).

Applications to European Court by Tamils

  We discussed the applications made to the European Court by Tamils seeking to resist deportation from the UK (Qq97-102). You offered to update the Committee on the latest position in respect of Tamil applicants to the Court and the invocation of Rule 39, on interim measures. We would be grateful if your response to this letter could deal with this matter.

  In addition, has the Government been involved in any further discussions with the Court Registry about the significant number of Rule 39 requests made by those seeking asylum in the UK?

Reservations to UN treaties

  You offered to write to the Committee to explain what steps are being taking to implement the Government's welcome decision to remove its reservation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Q103).

  I would be grateful if you could also set out the Home Office's stance on reservations to the UN Disability Convention (Q104). Anne McGuire MP, the then Minister for Disabled People, stated in a letter to us of 24 September that the Home Office was considering a reservation to the Convention in respect of immigration and nationality matters. We are hearing oral evidence from the current Minister on ratification of the Convention on 18 November and will wish to press him on this issue. It would be helpful to receive your department's view on this matter, particularly in view of the withdrawal of the reservation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  It would also be helpful if you could deal in writing with our question about the reservation in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Q105).

Human trafficking

  In his recent letter to the Committee, Alan Campbell MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, said that he was unable to provide an exact date for the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Human Trafficking because "the plans for implementation still lie before Parliament in the form of an Explanatory Memorandum". The explanatory memorandum does not indicate when the Government intends to ratify the Convention. Are you yet in a position to indicate precisely when you intend to ratify the Convention? If not, can you explain why you are unable to give a date?

  Mr Campbell's letter noted that the Pentameter 2 police operated had found 172 victims, including 12 children. Of the adults recovered, only 37 "initially accepted supported accommodation". No information was gathered about most of the victims because "despite having the support arrangements in place, a significantly high number of victims were unwilling to engage". It would seem, therefore, that only a minority of trafficking victims picked up during Pentameter 2 were accepted into supported accommodation: most simply disappeared. What lessons have you drawn from this? Will you review the decision to require trafficking victims to co-operate with the authorities before they receive support?

  Maria Eagle MP told the Commons on 21 October that there are just 35 supported accommodation places for trafficking victims at the moment (c162). How many places do you think there should be, nationwide, and when will they exist?

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