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

Memorandum submitted by the United Nations Convention Campaign Coalition

  I am writing to you on behalf of the UNCCC following your meeting on 18 November. We had 10 member organisations observing at the Committee. We were heartened by the strong support given by your committee for consulting disabled people and their representative organisations; and your effective questioning of the Minister for Disabled People around the excessive secrecy; the strong support given to the urgent need to ratify without reservation the UN Convention ion the Rights of People with Disabilities. We would like to make the following points.

  Equality 2025 was mentioned several times by the Minister to demonstrate that the Government is consulting disabled peoples organisations on the Convention. Equality 2025 is a group of individuals appointed by the Government to advise them on disabled issues and to act as a conduit. They are not a representative organisation. Equality 2025 has had to struggle quite hard to be allowed to provide any advice on this issue. The Government has only held one meeting with representative disabled peoples organisations since adoption on 30 March 2007. This was on 4 December 2007 and despite numerous requests for further meetings none has been called. In its Statement on the Purpose of Equality 2025 para. 2.2 it says "The network will not replace any existing government consultation mechanisms nor be used by government instead of consultation".

  Transparency. Our 27 disability organisations share your Committee's concerns about lack of transparency on this issue and urge you to publish a report of your deliberations And the evidence you have received to inform other members of Parliament. This will also aid the Government to become more accountable in the procedures they are using to ratify this Treaty. As we understand it the Minister only has to lay his proposal before Parliament for 21 days. Therefore we fully endorse your call for draft proposals to be published by the Minister before this occurs.

  Dependent Territories. We believe that the Convention should be ratified for UK Overseas Dependent Territories and Crown Dependencies as well. It is not clear why this is not being pursued by the Government.

  Reservations. We were pleased to hear that reservations on independent living and sign language interpretation appear to have been dropped. However, as we have no substantive wording or reasoning for this withdrawal, neither we nor your Committee have any way of knowing if this may come back into the frame at a later date.

  UNCCC was concerned to hear that new reservations had emerged since Ann McGuire's letter to you of 24 September.

  Benefits and guardianship. We are concerned that the DWP are raising objections which could be accommodated within the existing safeguarding system on appointees which still has to be reviewed by a supervisor in DWP. Article 12(4) is clear that it does not require disproportionate measures as safeguards. The DWP should surely change its procedures to accommodate the need for a proportionate independent review in accordance with Article 12.4 rather than raising a reservation.

  Article 18 Immigration and Public Health. We agree with members of your committee the Government already has powers to quarantine people and planes etc if there is evidence of infectious disease. And this would be allowed under the terms of the Convention as a non-arbitrary deprivation of mobility or nationality.

  We have serious concerns that this reservation may be a smoke screen for reject disabled asylum seekers and immigrants because they have an impairment. Jacqui Smith told your Committee on 27 October as Home Secretary that she knew of no plans for a reservation. Where has this suggestion come from?

  Ministry of Defence. The exemption from the DDA is out of date and out of step with Equality and Human Rights. The MoD has said it only wants this reservation on recruitment, yet the Minister said the main reason was for tactical deployment. There is no need for this reservation. There are already grounds for occupational categories and competencies in the DDA. We were told that the European Commission had also got this reservation as an option. What the Minister neglected to tell you was it was British Government representatives who insisted on this-as we are reliably informed by the European Disability Forum. Incidentally the British Dyslexia Association found that 60% of Special Forces were dyslexic and had to provide the MOD with advice on reasonable adjustments.

  Education Article 24. We still see no need for the reservation/ interpretive declaration the Government are suggesting. The progressive realisation clause which will allow for the range of provision under the current state system to slowly evolve inclusive capacity. We cannot however accept that separate special schools can be seen as inclusive provision. This makes the concept of inclusive education meaningless.

  We were particularly concerned to hear that the Minister said that one of the reasons for including special schools was to meet the needs of certain disabled children. The Government in the 2001 SEN Disability Act specifically got rid of this as a reason to send children to special schools against parental wishes. The other argument seemed to be about parental choice. We do not believe that human rights can be limited on the basis of parental choice. The state has to provide a quality education not a choice. This concept also contradicts the principles of the Convention and the contents of Article 7 which gives increasing weight to the views of the child with their evolving capacity.

  We are not convinced that the Devolved Administrations are in agreement with the proposed reservation to Article 24. In particular, we greatly doubt that the Minister for Education in Northern Ireland concurs with any proposed reservation/ interpretive declaration to a UN Human Rights Treaty.

  Optional Protocol. We agree that individuals should have the right to go to the Committee if they have exhausted judicial procedures. It cannot support the development of Human Rights if people in the UK have this right in areas of European Competency and not in others.

  Lastly we share your amazement that 41 Countries have ratified with four reservations and the UK on their own are contemplating four reservations. We would want to point out that other signatories of the Treaty are very likely to challenge the UK Government if they go ahead on this basis.

  The position of the Campaign remains that the Convention should be ratified without reservations, including reservations disguised as interpretive declarations.

Richard Rieser

Chair of the United Nations Convention Campaign Coalition

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