Human Rights: Outstanding Obligations and Commitments

Dec 15, 2010 | Uncategorized

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    Whether they will list:(a) their outstanding human rights obligations, such as judgments of the European Court of Human Rights which await implementation; 
    (b) their outstanding commitments to legislate on human rights; and

    (c) those manifesto commitments on human rights which are still outstanding; 
    and, in respect of each, why it is still outstanding, and when and how appropriate measures will be introduced.[HL748]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: There are 28 cases outstanding where the Court has found a violation and where the execution of the judgment is being supervised by the Committee of Ministers. They are A; Bowman; Cable, Hood and Others; Chahal; Gaskin; Gordon; Halford; Johnson, Denson and Poole; Johnson S; Lustig Prean and Beckett; Matthews; McLeod; John Murray; Perks and Others; Saunders; Scarth; Smith and Ford; Smith and Grady; Steel and Others; T and V; and Tinnelly and McElduff. In several of these cases the necessary payments have been made and remedial measures, where appropriate, have been taken; they await merely the closing resolution of the committee. In others, the measures are in the process of implementation or under consideration. To list the situation for each judgment would be too detailed for the Official Report and provide only a snapshot of a constantly changing situation. I shall write to the noble Lord with further details.
Since the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998, the only outstanding legislative commitment is to amend three rules of family law to allow the United Kingdom to ratify the 7 Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights; and there are no outstanding manifesto commitments on human rights.
Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What time and priority have been given by the Home Secretary, the Lord Chancellor and the Law Officers since May 1997 to those wishing to meet them to discuss human rights issues, including implementation of outstanding judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the Government’s approach to human rights litigation; and what requests for such meetings have been made and are still to be dealt with.[HL749]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government place great emphasis on human rights and to discussing human rights issues with interested parties. Information on the number of requests for meetings, on requests still to be dealt with, and on time given to such meetings, and an assessment of priority given to such meetings, could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    How and through whom they conduct overall supervision of human rights matters so as to ensure that their European Convention on Human Rights obligations are implemented, whether in the case of outstanding judgments of the European Court of Human Rights or in anticipation of findings of incompatibility and likely adverse court judgments.[HL750]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: For implementation of judgments of the European Court, the agent (one of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Legal Advisers) communicates the judgment and explains its requirements to the lead department. It is for that department to pay any sums awarded by the Court and formulate any general measures which may be required, including proposals for legislation, but the agent ensures that the proposals would give proper effect to the judgment.
The Cabinet Office helps to co-ordinate issues which affect more than one department, working through a committee of officials from the key departments, which meets regularly. It is envisaged that consideration and implementation of decisions of domestic courts under the Human Rights Act 1998 will be co-ordinated in this way. The Home Office is also involved in making recommendations about preparations for implementation of the Act and passing on good practice to departments.
It is, however, the responsibility of each department to ensure that its proposals, legislation, procedures and practices are compatible with the Convention and the Human Rights Act 1998. This involves a continuous review of legislation and procedures for Convention points. Making compatibility a matter for the centre could dilute our efforts to mainstream human rights awareness throughout Whitehall.

Government Use of Private Sector Lawyers

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What use they have made of private sector lawyers since May 1997 (or for the part of that period for which figures are available) for assistance in (a) drafting legislation, and (b) litigation; on what basis such lawyers are remunerated; and whether such remuneration is set at a rate below what would be regarded by the courts as reasonable for solicitors undertaking publicly funded civil legal aid work.[HL746]

The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): (a) The Government’s primary legislation is mainly drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. Exceptions are the consolidation and law reform Bills drafted by the Law Commission and the work on rewriting tax legislation being done by the Inland Revenue’s Tax Law Rewrite project. In these cases, the drafting is done by Counsel on secondment from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. The legislation for Scotland relating to reserved matters (including such elements of consolidation and law reform Bills for the Scottish Law Commission) is drafted by Counsel on secondment from the Office of the Scottish Parliamentary Counsel in Edinburgh. Some Government Bills extending only to Northern Ireland are drafted by the Office of the Legislative Counsel in Belfast by arrangement with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.
Since May 1997, a total of four private sector lawyers have been employed at various times to assist with the drafting of legislation being prepared by the OPC or by the Inland Revenue Rewrite project. All four had acquired the necessary skills when they were members of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, before moving into private practice. Their remuneration has varied depending on the amount and difficulty of the work they were contracted to do, but generally speaking has been commensurate with the cost to Government of similar work being done by Parliamentary Counsel. Meaningful comparisons between the remuneration of drafting and for civil legal aid work are not possible because of their different natures.
Some departments employ private sector lawyers from time to time to draft secondary legislation. However, no central records are kept of the volume of work involved, of the number of private sector lawyers who have been employed nor of their remuneration. This information could only be assembled at disproportionate cost.
(b) Litigation for the Government is handled, almost entirely, by Treasury Solicitor or, where departments supply their own legal services, by the in-house litigation teams within those departments. For geographical or other reasons, however, private sector lawyers frequently become involved in government litigation (including public inquiries) as agents. Generally speaking, solicitors from the private sector instructed in this way as agents are remunerated in a manner broadly comparable to the manner in which they would be remunerated for private client work. Rates will vary accordingly to the location and type of litigation work involved. No statistics are available as to the number of litigation cases in which private sector lawyers have been instructed or of the fees paid, and it would not be practicable to provide such information without examining many thousands of individual files.

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