Joint Committee On Human Rights Third Special Report


APPENDIX 1

Letter from the Chairman of the Committee to the Home Secretary

HUNTING BILL

  The Joint Committee on Human Rights will shortly be deciding whether or not it is necessary to consider the above Bill in detail. To assist with its decision, the Committee would be grateful for your comments on the following points raised by its Legal Adviser. Our starting-point is of course the statement made under s19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998; but I should make it clear that the Committee's remit extends to human rights in a broad sense, not just the Convention rights under the Act.

  Whilst the Committee does not, as a general rule, intend to express any view on the underlying policy issues, its consideration of the Bill will be greatly assisted by an understanding of the factors which have led you to make a statement of compatibility under section 19 of the Human Rights Act, and more particularly, to conclude that any curtailment of rights under the Convention which the Bill may entail is justified by reference to the wider public policy considerations set out in the Convention.

  The issues which have been raised relate to option 2 (regulation by a statutory Hunting Authority of hunting with dogs) and option 3 (a ban on hunting with dogs).

OPTION 2: REGULATION BY THE HUNTING AUTHORITY

  1.  The implications for the right to property and possessions of people wishing to hunt on their own land. The right to use one's land for hunting is normally an incident of ownership of the property, quiet enjoyment of which is protected by Article 1 of Protocol No 1 to the ECHR. If the Hunting Authority were to deny or withdraw a licence to hunt on someone's own land, it would be an interference with a right which would count as a "possession" for the purposes of the Article. Deprivation of a possession can be justified in the "public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law". The general principles of international law include a principle that fair compensation should be given when someone is deprived of the enjoyment of possessions. It is established[3] that the subsequent provisions of Article 1 allowing the state to "control the use of property in accordance with the general interest" has to be read subject to those general provisions.

  There is at present nothing in the Bill which relates to the payment of compensation to those whose enjoyment of property is interfered with. The absence of compensation for people who are no longer able to continue to hunt on their land as a result of a decision of the Hunting Authority might give rise to an incompatibility with Article 1 of Protocol No 1.

  (a)  Please would you inform the Committee of your reasons for being satisfied that Option 2 is compatible with ECHR Article of Protocol No 1 notwithstanding the absence of provision to pay compensation for interference with people's enjoyment of their property.

  2.  The implications for the right to property and possessions of people wishing to hunt on other people's land under contractual arrangements with them. Where one person has a contractual licence permitting hunting on another person's land, the right under the contract would seem to be a possession for the purposes of ECHR Article 1 of Protocol No 1. The Bill makes no provision for compensating for loss of such a right under Option 2.

  (b)  Please would you inform the Committee of your reasons for concluding that Option 2 is compatible with Article 1 of Protocol No 1, in the light of the absence of any provision for compensation for loss of a contractual right to hunt on another person's land.

  3.  Powers of Inspection. Schedule 2, paragraph 36 provides a power of inspection for the Hunting Authority. The exercise of the power of inspection is entirely unregulated by the statute. There is, for example, no limitation to premises other than dwellings, and no restriction as to the times at which, and circumstances in which, inspections may take place. The powers are capable of interfering with the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence under Article 8.1 of the ECHR. The Bill gives a very wide discretion to the Hunting Authority to make "such arrangements as they think appropriate". The absence from the Bill of clear limits to the power of inspection seems to give rise to a significant risk that the exercise of the power will violate Article 8. There appears to be a significant risk that neither the scope of the power of inspection, nor the criteria for exercising it, nor the permitted manner of its exercise, will be sufficiently clear, accessible and controlled by law to meet the requirement that an interference with rights under Article 8.1 should be "in accordance with the law" as that term has been interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.

  (c)  Please would you inform the Committee of your reasons for being satisfied that the power of inspection would be compatible with ECHR Article 8, in the absence of more detail in the Bill about the extent of, and conditions for the exercise of, the powers of inspection of the Hunting Authority.

OPTION 3: PROHIBITION OF HUNTING

  4.  Economic and property implications of losing the freedom to hunt. In view of the absence from the Bill of provisions for compensating those who lose income or land value as a result of losing the right to hunt, either generally or on their own land, and who suffer an interference with their freedom to enjoy their own land for hunting non-commercially, there is a risk of incompatibility with rights under ECHR Article 1 of Protocol No 1.

  (d)  Please would you inform the Committee of your reasons for being satisfied that a ban on hunting would meet the requirements of Article 1 of Protocol No 1, particularly in relation to (i) compensation and (ii) maintaining a fair balance between the interests of the landowner and the general or public interest. In relation to (ii), it would be helpful to know the factual or other considerations which were relevant, and particularly which may point to a greater interest in prohibiting hunting in the UK than in other European countries which take a different approach.

  5.  Right to respect for private life. It is possible that an interference with freedom to hunt may engage the right to respect for private life under ECHR Article 8.1.

  (e)  Please would you (i) inform the Committee whether you consider that Article 8.1 is engaged, and, (ii) if it is engaged, inform the Committee of the factual or other considerations which you consider to be relevant to the ability of a ban to meet the requirements of Article 8.2, particularly which may point to a greater interest in prohibiting hunting in the UK than in other European countries which take a different approach.

  Finally, the Committee would like to know, please, what representations you have received in connection with this Bill in relation to human rights issues, and to what specific points those representations were directed.

14 February 2001


3   See for example Chassagnou v France, European Court of Human Rights, Judgment of 29 April 1999, 29 EHRR 615. Back


 
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