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

Memorandum submitted by Leonard Cheshire Disability


  Leonard Cheshire Disability ( exists to change attitudes to disability and to serve disabled people around the world. It has been supporting disabled people for 60 years and is active in 52 countries. The charity directly supports over 21,000 disabled people in the UK.

  Campaigning for the civil and human rights of disabled people is also a key activity for us. Our breadth of experience, knowledge and constituency of disabled people gives us a unique platform from which to engage in public debate and to campaign on the social policy and civil rights issues that have an impact on disabled people.

  As such, we have been following developments on the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) very closely. LCD is part of the UN Convention Campaign Coalition, an alliance of 29 disability organisations, the aim of which is to ensure that the UK ratifies the CRPD without reservations.

  We welcome this opportunity to give evidence on this issue to the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

  Our main points are the following:

    1. Leonard Cheshire Disability commends the UK government on its commitment to disabled people's human rights, as evidenced by its signature of the CRPD.

    2. We staunchly support ratification without reservations.

    3. We believe that the European Community's confirmation process does not constitute a barrier to the UK's ratification.

    4. Regarding compatibility issues, we are concerned about the recent Malcolm judgement.

    5. We support UK accession to the Optional Protocol.

1.  Leonard Cheshire Disability commends the government on its commitment to disabled people's human rights, as evidenced by its signature of the CRPD

  The Convention is a vitally important document. It is the international community's response to the long history of discrimination, exclusion and dehumanisation of disabled persons. The CRPD ensures that the world's 650 million disabled persons enjoy the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. It covers the many areas where they have been discriminated against, including access to justice, participation in political and public life, education, employment, health, habilitation and rehabilitation as well as freedom of movement.

  The Convention is the first human rights treaty of the 21st century. The UK was one of the states which recognised the need for a disability-specific human rights treaty, and played a leading role in its negotiation. The CRPD was adopted by the United Nations in December 2006, and the UK indicated its strong commitment to ratification by signing it at the first opportunity on 30 March 2007.

  Leonard Cheshire Disability commends the government on its commitment to disabled people's rights, and now strongly supports completing the process by ratifying the Convention, thus giving legal force to its provisions in the UK.

2.  We staunchly support ratification without reservations by the UK government

  As a disability charity, we naturally support the ratification of the CRPD at the earliest possible opportunity; but the UK should not ratify any international treaty until it is in a position to ensure that it can implement its provisions and comply with its obligations. Ratification will ensure that the UK does not miss again the chance to participate in the election of members of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the monitoring body of the CRPD.

  However, our main objective is that the Convention is ratified without reservations or interpretative declarations. We hope that giving the government enough time to ensure that British legislation, policies, practices and procedures comply with the Convention will convince it that there is no need to reserve, especially in view of article 4.2 that allows for the progressive realisation of economic, social and cultural rights.

  Our main reasons for taking this position are the following:

    (a) As a matter of equality, the UK must guarantee exactly the same rights to disabled citizens as to non-disabled ones.

    (b) It is also a matter of international standards; the UK cannot guarantee anything less than what 136 countries worldwide have signed up to.

    (c) Indivisibility and interdependence of human rights mean that the full realisation of one set of rights depends on the realisation of the others; reserving thus jeopardises the realisation of the government's commitment to equality by 2025 and of its human rights agenda for all British citizens.

    (d) Reservations would send the wrong signal that the UK anticipates that there will be violations of rights in those areas where it has reservations.

    (e) Withdrawing reservations is a lengthy process.

    (f) The elaboration of the Convention was unique in the degree of involvement of disabled persons; reserving on the areas that they identified as requiring to be addressed indicates disregard for the expertise of disabled people.

  We are aware—and concerned—that the government is considering reservations to the following articles:

    (a) Article 27.1: reservation in respect of service in the armed forces. While the MoD already complies with legislation in terms of retaining employees who acquire an impairment or condition in the course of their service, it wants to reserve on recruiting disabled people. We believe this is unnecessary, as there is no legal requirement in the Convention to hire personnel unable to do the job they are recruited for; the obligation is to ensure a non-discriminatory and accessible working environment when it is reasonable to do so.

    (b) Article 24: reservation in respect of inclusive schooling in the community, and interpretative declaration to the effect that the UK general education system includes both mainstream and special schools. Inclusion is a general principle and a fundamental freedom, and should be aimed at in all areas of life, including education. Leonard Cheshire Disability favours ratification without reservations, but would agree with an interpretative declaration including a deadline for realising inclusive education, such as the one put forward by Equality 2025 and the Council for Disabled Children[40].

    (c) Article 18: reservation and interpretative declaration to retain full flexibility in changing immigration rules. This sends the wrong signal that the government intends to introduce legislation that could violate disabled people's human rights. This is particularly unfortunate when the government has just dropped similar reservations to the UNCRC. We also believe that introducing an interpretative declaration stating that disabled persons shall not be given more rights than non-disabled persons in respect of liberty of movement, freedom to choose their residence and nationality is unnecessary as the Convention does not stipulate any such treatment.

    (d) Outstanding issues in respect of article 12.4 and article 30.4: We hope that remaining outstanding issues can be resolved without reservations or interpretative declarations; in particular, we call on the UK government to sign up to full equality concerning the exercise of legal capacity by disabled people (article 12.4) and interpretative measures (article 30.4), especially as BSL has been recognised as a language in its own right.

3.  We believe that the European Community's confirmation process does not constitute a barrier to the UK's ratification

  Leonard Cheshire Disability agrees that the process of conclusion of the Convention by the European Community must be carefully examined, in particular the three following aspects: competence delimitation; overlap of member state and EU monitoring and reporting processes; possible conclusion of the optional protocol.

  However, completing this scrutiny is not a prerequisite for ratification by the UK. Indeed, Hungary, Slovenia and Spain ratified the CRPD before the Commission proposal for EC conclusion[41] was published; Austria did so shortly afterwards. The scrutiny process must be completed before the UK can support the Commission proposal for conclusion by the European Community, but the adoption procedure effectively grants the UK a right of veto in the Council. This system will ensure that competence conflicts (including over potential reservations or interpretative declarations by EU member states) will not arise.

  We therefore believe that issues of EC competence do not create any barriers to ratification by the UK.

4.  Regarding compatibility issues, we are concerned about the recent Malcolm judgement

  We are very concerned by the recent Malcolm judgement by the House of Lords, which significantly narrowed the scope of protection offered against discrimination on the grounds of disability in respect of access to goods and services. We suspect that it might conflict with the government's duty to end all forms of discrimination under article 4 of the Convention and urge the government to address this issue at the earliest possible opportunity.

5.  We support UK accession to the Optional Protocol

  Leonard Cheshire Disability supports the ratification of the Optional Protocol giving disabled persons the right to individual petition to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities once they have exhausted national remedies.

  We believe that an enforcement mechanism would give more substance to the rights enshrined in the Convention. Moreover, ratifying the optional protocol could help the ministry of justice in its review of the UK's position on individual petition.

31 October 2008

40   "The UK government is committed to developing an inclusive education system where mainstream primary and secondary schools and staff will have the capacity to effectively educate the full range of disabled children. Currently the general education system must be taken to mean mainstream and special schools with some children whose needs are met by specialist provision being educated some way from their home. We aim through improving capacity that by 2025 all will be able to have their needs met in local mainstream provision." Back

41   COM(2008) 530 final/2 Back

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