Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence




1. Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt MP,

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry


Employment Bill

The Committee is considering whether to report to each House on the above Bill. It has carried out an initial examination of this Bill, and has formed the provisional opinion that the Bill is compatible with relevant human rights obligations. The Committee would, however, be grateful for your comments on the following point raised by its Legal Adviser. Our starting-point is of course the statement made under s.19(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.

Part 9 (clauses 227-238 and Schedules 14 and 15) provides for the circumstances in which it would and would not be lawful to disclose information obtained in the performance of the functions of the OFT, Competition Service, Competition Commission, etc. There are exceptions from the general duty of non-disclosure (clauses 229-235), and these give rise to issues about the protection of rights to privacy-related rights under ECHR Article 8(1) in respect of the information. Bodies with discretion to make disclosures would be public authorities within the meaning of section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Disclosures would therefore be lawful only if made in a manner compatible with Convention rights. Generally, it is likely that this would adequately safeguard Convention rights. However, it is not clear that the recipient would also be bound by the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998, particularly when the disclosure is made to an overseas body (clauses 233-234). The Committee would like to know what the criteria are which would be applied when deciding whether or not to make overseas disclosures, so that it can satisfy itself that the person or body to whom the disclosure would be made would be able to provide appropriate guarantees of confidentiality and other protections for human rights.

Finally, please can you inform the Committee of any representations you have received in connection with this Bill in relation to human rights issues, and to what specific points those representations were directed.

30 April 2002


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