130. In a state that aspires to democracy, human
rights can only be fully realized if they are taken as seriously
in the law-making processes of the executive and the legislature
as they are in the adjudicative work of the courts and tribunals.
Under section 19 of the Human Rights Act, every Government Bill
is required, on publication, to be prefaced by a statement from
the responsible Minister as to whether, in his or her opinion,
the provisions of the Bill are compatible with Convention rights.
131. At the beginning of this Parliament, this Committee
reaffirmed the decision of our predecessors to make scrutiny of
proposed legislation for compliance with Convention rights, and
other human rights standards, a priority. In the last Session
we reported on all Bills presented to Parliament.
In addition we produced reports on a number of draft Bills.
132. On the whole, we consider that this work is
best done within Parliament, and we hope that it is work which
is done adequately, for the most part, by ourselves. We do
not think it necessary to duplicate the work of this Committee
by imposing a duty on a commission to conduct parallel scrutiny
of legislation. However, we do believe that the value of this
process can be enhanced by our ability to take into account as
wide a range of opinion on proposed legislation as is possible.
We consider that any commission should certainly have the freedom
to make submissions on proposed legislation to us, and we hope
that a relationship between this Committee and any commission
would develop which would encourage it to do so. We detect a developing
attention within Government given to the nuances of what is meant
by a Minister deciding to make a section 19 statement on a Bill,
and an increased awareness in Parliament of this process. If a
human rights commission were to produce a similar effect in wider
areas of the policy and practice of public authorities, its effect
would be to reduce the challenges to Government in the courts,
not to increase them.
133. On draft legislation, we would expect the commission
to have the right to contribute to any consultation process on
either draft Bills or other policy documents such as White and
Green Papers, and that government departments would see it as
their duty formally to invite submissions from the commission
on these matters. This is again an area we see as offering opportunities
for fruitful collaboration between this Committee and any commission.