Joint Committee On Human Rights Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 277 - 279)




  277. Professor Hall, I think you would probably be the first to acknowledge that our previous witnesses are a hard act to follow.

  (Professor Hall) I would certainly acknowledge that.

  278. Is it right that you are President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Professor of Community Paediatrics, University of Sheffield, and the Honorary Consultant Pediatrician, Community Health Sheffield?

  A. That is right.

  Chairman: Thank you. You know that we have been looking generally at whether there should be a human rights Commissioner for specific things like children's rights and we have been taking evidence. We will have to go to vote. If you can wait, we will try to be back in ten minutes.

  The Committee suspended from 17.28 to 17.38 for a division in the House.


  279. If we can resume. I have no doubt that my other colleagues will be back from the division lobby at some stage. We sometimes come across or have been told of situations where people are somewhat defensive about the Human Rights Act and down at institutional level they do what is considered necessary in order to fulfil the provisions of the Act itself rather than developing a human rights culture. Could you tell us whether it is your understanding that within the Health Service there is the attitude that there ought to be a human rights culture to inform clinical decision-making or whether it is just how people comply with the law?

  A. I think the concern about the legalistic implications of the Human Rights Act mainly affects the way institutions are run in terms of their employment practices and how they treat their staff and those sorts of things, but that is common to all institutions. In my own experience, which is obviously mainly to do with children, I think it is beginning to have an impact in a much more positive, proactive way. For some people the whole concept of human rights is a bit of a turn-off still. Certainly in some of the comments I overhear in various quarters, including in the corridor outside before this session began, there is a fair degree of scepticism about it. But we have enough political radicalism in this country and it tends to attract people of that persuasion. There is a great deal of pressure within our own organisations to take note of the Human Rights Act and of course the Human Rights Convention both in this country and in our dealings with overseas colleagues. It is growing. It is a similar situation in the United States. We have a joint working group with the American Academy of Paediatrics on the implementation and implications of the UN Convention. Would you like some examples of the sorts of things that we have been looking at?

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