Timetable for ratification: next
40. The Minister told us that the Government
intends to press ahead with ratification of the Convention as
soon as possible and set a date of Spring 2009, with such reservations
as the Government considers necessary.
41. The European Commission has now published
its proposals for ratification of the Convention.
The former Minister explained that:
"The Government will need to consider the implications
of the Commission's proposals for UK ratification, and in particular,
will want to consider whether the Commission's competence claims
have any specific implications for the package of any domestic
reservations and interpretative declarations."
42. A number of submissions, including by Scope
and the EHRC, told us that waiting for European Community (EC)
ratification to be complete was unnecessary, not least because
the UK would be involved closely in the terms of the EC ratification
and other States had not seen any problem with early ratification
before the Community. The Minister for Disabled People confirmed
that the United Kingdom would not wait for the ratification of
the Convention by the EC.
43. There was general support in the evidence
which we received for ratification of the Convention by the UK
as soon as possible. Disappointment was expressed that there
had been any delay on progress towards ratification and that the
UK had not been among the first group of states to ratify,
including because this detracted from the enthusiastic support
that the UK had expressed for the treaty and the message it sent
to disabled people.
Others expressed the view that the UK had a positive reputation
for treating people with disabilities well and that the Government's
reluctance to ratify sent a message to other states that there
were problems inherent in the Convention.
44. We are extremely disappointed that the
Minister has failed to meet the Government's original goal of
ratification by the end of 2008. We are particularly concerned
that this failure means that the United Kingdom has not been involved
in the establishment of the monitoring mechanisms for the Convention
from the outset. We welcome the Minister's acknowledgement that
the United Kingdom need not wait for ratification by the European
Community before proceeding to ratify.
45. Mixed views were expressed over whether ratification
should go ahead with reservations or interpretative declarations.
A number of witnesses argued that if the Government could not
be persuaded to ratify without reservation, ratification should
go ahead in any event and as soon as possible. Others were reluctant
to support ratification with any reservations or interpretative
declarations. The EHRC has told us that:
"Whilst the Commission's Disability Committee
is opposed to reservations and interpretative declarations, it
does not favour opposing indefinitely ratification on these grounds
and wishes to see ratification at the earliest opportunity."
46. In contrast, the UN Convention Campaign Coalition
is campaigning to ensure that the UK only ratifies the Convention
without reservations. It explained:
"By ratifying the Convention on the Rights of
Disabled People with reservations the UK government would be declaring
its willingness to accept less than the agreed international standard
for the protection of the individual rights of disabled people
in the UK."
47. The Coalition went on to explain its view
that ratification with the reservations currently envisaged would
be incompatible with the spirit of the Convention, would fail
to recognise the concept of progressive realisation (explained
in paragraph 73 below) and would not be compatible with the Government's
policy intention to achieve equality for people with disabilities
by 2025. It stressed that reservations, once in place, could take
decades to remove.
48. We recommend that the Minister publish
the current text of each of the reservations and interpretative
declarations being considered by the Government without delay
to allow full consultation to take place with disabled people
and their organisations. The publication of these drafts and the
reasons for the Government's concerns before the proposals for
ratification are laid before Parliament should not unnecessarily
delay progress towards ratification. Even allowing for a 4-6 week
period for consultation, the Minister's target of Spring 2009
should be achievable. The Government has discovered, since May
2008, that a number of interpretative declarations or reservations
are not needed. A further period of open scrutiny may persuade
the Government that its position on the remaining proposals for
reservations, developed in isolation, has been unduly cautious.
49. We share the view of the EHRC that ratification
of the Convention ought to take place as soon as possible. Significant
delay by the United Kingdom will undermine its standing in the
international community, may reduce its ability to participate
in the further development of the monitoring mechanisms for the
treaty and may undo some of the positive and encouraging developments
in the Government's perception as a leader in the campaign for
policies and laws which enable disabled people to live independent
and equal lives. However, we consider that the number of reservations
currently being considered by the Government may send a negative
impression to the other State Parties to the Convention and to
disabled people in the United Kingdom.
50. Whilst we welcome the new goal set by
the Minister of ratification by Spring 2009, we would be extremely
disappointed if ratification were to proceed without any further
opportunity for consultation and scrutiny by disabled people and