The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)


18 NOVEMBER 2008

  Q60  John Austin: So we are out on our own on this one?

  Jonathan Shaw: It would appear so, yes.

  Q61  Chairman: So none of our NATO partners who have ratified already has any concerns that somehow ratifying the Convention is going to mean that the people going over the top are going to be in wheelchairs or cannot see where they are going. They do not have that problem. France and Germany are about to ratify without reservations. Austria, Hungary and Spain have already ratified. They do not have this problem. They have got perfectly efficient armed services. Why do we? Do you seriously think that ratifying the Convention without this reservation will force the Army to put disabled people in the front line?

  Jonathan Shaw: Germany and France are obviously countries with a considerable amount of armed forces personnel and they have not ratified, Chairman.

  Q62  Chairman: But they are managing that without reservation.

  Jonathan Shaw: What I think is the view of Government and that is how we arrive at these positions. I can give you some outline of some of the detail that has caused departments of devolved administrations to want to enter into reservations, but obviously the detail of that will be published with the explanatory memorandum.

  Q63  John Austin: Apparently the MoD is arguing a consistent line with the exception of the current DDA.

  Jonathan Shaw: Yes, sir.

  Q64  John Austin: Is it not time to revisit the DDA exception?

  Jonathan Shaw: I do not doubt that in the course of the Equalities Bill these issues will arise and members will want to discuss this matter in both Houses.

  Q65  Chairman: You have referred a few times now to the devolved administrations. Have the devolved administrations specifically requested any reservations themselves that you were not previously thinking about doing?

  Jonathan Shaw: I am advised, Chairman, that they concur with England on education.

  Q66  Chairman: That is not what I asked you.

  Jonathan Shaw: Is it not?

  Q67  Chairman: No.

  Jonathan Shaw: Oh, dear.

  Q68  Chairman: I asked you not whether you agree with what the devolved administrations have done but whether they have asked for any that you were not proposing in the first place?

  Jonathan Shaw: On the Army, obviously not. In terms of social security, obviously, that is UK-wide, but clearly education is devolved and the Home Office also is UK-wide. Are there other areas?

  Ms Viinikka: There have been discussions about a couple of areas where there was a particular concern but I think those areas have been resolved. There were specific requests.

  Q69  Chairman: So they made specific requests and you have dealt with them?

  Ms Viinikka: Yes.

  Q70  Chairman: So when we are talking about devolved administrations that is now pretty irrelevant? You have talked several times now about devolved administrations. Effectively, that is now an irrelevance to taking the discussion forward, apart from the issue of education that you have just mentioned?

  Jonathan Shaw: In terms of we have undertaken that work. Clearly, cultural services is a matter that is devolved, and independent living, particularly in areas of social care, is an area that is devolved in one, two, three administrations, so in four administrations perhaps that have different service provision, different service delivery, we have managed to iron all of that out.

  Q71  Chairman: Which I am pleased to hear about, but in practice now the devolved administrations are no longer an issue as far as ratification is concerned except for the issue of education?

  Jonathan Shaw: Except for special schools, that is right.

  Q72  Lord Bowness: Minister, can I turn to the optional protocol? As I understand it, this gives individuals the right to seek redress directly to the UN and we have been told in the past that the Government was considering its position with regard to this in the light of the ongoing review by the Ministry of Justice on a similar protocol relating to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women..

  Jonathan Shaw: Yes.

  Q73  Lord Bowness: It would be interesting to know where you were getting with that and also whether the Government is concerned about there being a flood of direct applications when I equally understand that it is the Government's view that UK legislation is very largely compliant with the Convention.

  Jonathan Shaw: No, I do not think there will be a flood because we have confidence in our domestic legislation and you will be familiar with the fact that obviously that would have to be exhausted before a complaint was lodged with the UN Committee. You are right to highlight the review that has been going on with the CEDAW optional protocol, but we are, I can say to the Committee, in the procedural processes of seeking the views of other government departments on this and when that process is complete we will be able to announce whether we are going to sign up to the optional protocol or not. Traditionally we have not done that. The CEDAW optional protocol was a chance to have a look and find out whether indeed we did receive this flood that you refer to but we should be confident that our domestic legislation provides for an appropriate level of complaint representation, et cetera. As I say, we will be in a position in the not too distant future to be able to advise whether we will be signing up to the optional protocol. I am not saying no, sir.

  Q74  Lord Bowness: No, I understood that. It may not have been traditional to sign up to optional protocols but this is the first time the European Community was going to ratify, and again we are advised that their proposals for ratification include the optional protocol. You said to an earlier question that we would not delay our ratification pending the European Community's ratification, but where are we going to be if we ratify with the reservation and then the European Community ratify without? Has somebody given some thought to the general legal position that will then flow?

  Jonathan Shaw: We are content that if we decide to sign we will sign and we can do that.

  Q75  Lord Bowness: Forgive me, Minister. The position is that you have said we will not wait for the European Community to ratify. That is fine. It is not certain but possible from what you have said if tradition is followed that we will ratify with a reservation regarding the protocol. Your assistant is frowning at me as if I have got it all wrong so perhaps she will tell me why.

  Jonathan Shaw: I am sure she is not frowning at you in that way.

  Q76  Lord Bowness: I really do not mind because occasionally I do get it wrong, but if we ratify with a reservation, not waiting for the European Community, and the European Community then ratifies without a reservation, have we given thought to where we stand?

  Jonathan Shaw: I believe we have.

  Q77  Lord Bowness: What have we decided?

  Ms Viinikka: I am sorry. I was confused. This is on the optional protocol.

  Jonathan Shaw: You have confused the lawyer as well, my Lord.

  Ms Viinikka: Yes. This is if we ratify the Convention without ratifying the optional protocol?

  Q78  Lord Bowness: Correct.

  Ms Viinikka: We have certainly given some thought to that situation. That would be a situation we would have to discuss carefully with our European partners, but we are hoping, from what the Minister just announced—

  Jonathan Shaw: That sounds a bit flaky. Do you want to clarify it, Mr Timm?

  Mr Timm: The straight answer to your question, as I understand it, is that if we do not ratify the optional protocol and the European Community does an individual in the UK might be able to make a complaint to the Committee about European legislation which in reality is a complaint about UK legislation because we have perhaps implemented a European directive, say, so it would be a back door to the treaty monitoring body.

  Q79  Chairman: But only on EU competence?

  Mr Timm: Only on areas of EU competence, yes, and, as the Minister alluded to earlier, in terms of the proposals from the European Commission for ratifying both the Convention and the optional protocol, discussions on those are starting very soon, this week in fact, at official level and that is one of the issues we will be talking to the Commission and European partners about, how do they see the position if some Member States do not ratify the protocol.

previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 4 January 2009