Letter from the Chair of the Committee
to Alan Campbell MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home
Office, dated 8 December 2009
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is considering
the human rights implications of the sale and use of special devices
which are being marketed as a deterrent against anti-social behaviour
by young people ("mosquito devices").
Children's rights have been a consistent focus of
our work. Our first Report in our programme of scrutinising the
UK's implementation of the main international human rights treaties
was on the UNCRC in 2003
and on the Bill which became the Children Act 2004We
have also published Reports on the case for a Children's Rights
Commissioner for England in 2003.
Since then, we have frequently reported on children's issues in
the context of our routine scrutiny of Government Bills, including
five Bills in the current session.
In our most recent Report on Children's Rights we raised many
different types of discrimination against children, including
the unfair treatment of children and young people in public spaces,
particularly in shops, public transport and where "mosquito"
devices are in use to disperse crowds.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recently highlighted
the general intolerance and negative public attitudes towards
children which can often be the underlying cause of further infringement
of their rights, in particular the right to freedom of movement
and peaceful assembly.
Related to this, it recommended that the Government should reconsider
the use of mosquito devices.
The UK is a signatory of the UNCRC which imposes
a positive duty on the state to guarantee the basic rights under
this Convention, including the right to a standard of living adequate
for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social
development; rights to healthcare, freedom of expression, and
play, as well as the right to life to be protected from abuse.
The JCHR is concerned that the deployment of mosquito devices,
which only affect children and are indiscriminate in the children
they affect, is in potential violation of internationally agreed
human rights standards and requests clarification of the Government's
position on their use.
We are aware the John Austin MP has previously been
in correspondence with you on this issue and we have seen your
response to him dated 20 October 2009. We also note your Written
Answer to Mr Austin's Parliamentary Question of 15 October 2009,
in which you stated that the Home Office does not have any plans
to take further action on this matter.
We should be grateful if you could provide a memorandum
setting out the Government's position on the sale, use, human
rights and health implications of the deployment of mosquito devices.
the Government accept that mosquito devices have a disproportionate
effect on children and young people?
so, what is the justification for any discriminatory impact?
you consider that the use of mosquito devices is a proportionate
response to anti-social behaviour? If so, please explain how,
including you explanation of how the use of an indiscriminate
device can be proportionate.
discussions, if any, has the Home Office had with other Government
Departments and/or the police regarding the use of mosquito devices?
the Home Office propose to review their use at any point?
you provide us with a copy of the advice that you have given to
practitioners as well as a copy of the Health and Safety Executive's
assessment of the health risk posed by the use of mosquito devices?
I am copying this letter to the Secretary of State
for Health, given that we have asked about health implications.
2 Tenth Report of Session 2002-03, The UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child, HL Paper 117, HC 81. Back
Nineteenth Report of Session 2003-04, Children Bill, HL
Paper 161, HC 537. Back
Ninth Report of Session 2002-03, The Case for a Children's
Commissioner for England, HL Paper 96, HC 666. Back
See e.g., Ninth Report of Session 2008-09, Legislative Scrutiny:
Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, HL Paper 62, HC
375 at paras 1.8-1.16; Tenth Report of Session 2008-09, Legislative
Scrutiny: Policing and Crime Bill, HL Paper 68, HC 395 at
paras 1.62-1.66; Fourteenth Report of Session 2008-09, Legislative
Scrutiny: Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill,
HL Paper 78, HC 414 at paras 2.1-2.51; Fifteenth Report of Session
2007-08, Legislative Scrutiny: Children and Young Persons Bill,
HL Paper 81, HC 440 at paras 1.1-1.50. Back
Twenty-fifth Report of Session 2008-09, Children's Rights,
HL Paper 157, HC 318, p 17. Back
Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of Reports
Submitted by State Parties under Article 44 of the Convention,
Concluding Observations, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland, 3 October 2008, CRC/C/GBR/CO/4., para 24. Back