Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

53.  Memorandum from Mr David Sparks

  I wish to comment on the consideration to establish a Human Rights Commission in the UK. My background is nine years as a Community Relations Officer, 13 years as a Principal Race Equality Officer with a local authority, four years as a JP and five years as a member of the Employment Tribunal. My comments are as follows:


  In addition to all those mentioned in your paper dated 5 April 2001, there are public bodies such as the Prison Service, Police and Customs and Excise where a Commission could help develop a culture of human rights. Such public bodies at present often fall short on human rights.


  The Committee should oversee the work of a Commission. A Commission should provide regular reports to the Committee on its work and its findings.


  First, priority should be to take cases of breaches of the Human Rights Act to court. Second, it should have a role of investigating and monitoring public bodies in regard to their responsibility to ensure good practice in respect of human rights. Third, it should have an education role for the public in general and in helping public bodies to enshrine human rights in all their functions.


  There should be a UK body with territorial responsibility.


  An exchange of information but separate responsibilities.


    (a)  A Commission should co-exist with the CRE, EOP, and DRC. It is vital that those Equality Commissions continue to specialise on race, sex, and disability discrimination. An amalgamation into one HR Commission would lead to racial minorities, women and people with disabilities competing for priority for their interests within a HR Commission with all the political fallout that such a situation would attract. Their roles should not overlap. A human rights violation concerning race, sex, or disability discrimination should be directed to the appropriate Commission, where considerable experience in dealing with a specific type of discrimination has been built up over several years.

    (b)  Race, sex and disability discrimination should be excluded from a HR Commission and remain the remit of the Equality Commissions.


  No comment.


  No comment.


  The powers should be similar to those under sections 54 to 66 of the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act.

  The composition of the members of the Committee and staff of a Commission should broadly reflect the population in terms of its proportion of men, women, ethnic minorities, age and so on.

15 June 2001

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