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To ask Her Majesty's Government how many life Peers have been appointed, broken down by party, since the last new appointment of a life Peer following a nomination by the Leader of the Liberal Democrat party. [HL428]
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): The last new appointment of a life Peer following nomination by the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party was announced on 13 September 2007. On this date two new Liberal Democrat life Peers were announced and two new Conservative life Peers were announced.
In addition, it was announced on 14 January 2009 that Mervyn Davies CBE would become a life Peer (www.number10.gov.uk/Page18003).
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Home Office does not hold this information. While there is a team within the Metropolitan Police dealing with, among other things, applications for demonstrations within the designated area around Parliament, I understand that the Metropolitan Police are unlikely to be able to quantify the information requested.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in considering legislation for any rights in addition to those in the Human Rights Act 1998, they will introduce a general limitation provision applicable to all new rights, where justified, rather than specific limitations to each new right. [HL462]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): Further to my Answer published on 12 January on human rights Questions tabled by the noble Lord (Official Report, cols. WA105-08). I am now in a position to respond substantively to these Questions. Each Question is referred to by means of the House of Lords number.
As my noble friend and predecessor as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, said in his Written Statement of 29 September1 responding to earlier Questions for Written Answer asked by the noble Lord, Lord Laird in this area, the Government keep many areas of policy under close review. Although, at this time, there may be no specific proposals in relation to areas cited in the Questions, continuous assessment of the effectiveness of policy in these areas is often being undertaken. In the absence of such proposals now, it should not be inferred that the Government may not bring forward new proposals in future.
My ministerial colleagues in the Ministry of Justice are leading work on the framework of rights and responsibilities in the United Kingdom, in the context of which many of these areas will be considered. In addition, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission recently published its recommendations for a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights. in which context many of these issues will also be considered. Given that both projects are ongoing, I cannot at this time state definitely that any area would he included in or excluded from either of these projects.
Therefore, where this Answer does not specifically address a part of a Question, it indicates that the Government have no specific plans at this time to take the action, but does not necessarily rule out action in relation to that area in the future either in legislation specific to that area, or through the ongoing work on rights and responsibilities. In relation to Questions which may relate to matters that are devolved in Scotland or Northern Ireland, or transferred in Wales, I have responded only in so far as the issue is the responsibility of the Government at Westminster.
Question HL321 is about distinguishing the status of different rights based on their origin. The rights currently contained in the Human Rights Act 1998 are all derived from a single source, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and represent all of the substantive rights by which the United Kingdom is bound under that convention. Were any other rightwhether drawn from other treaties to which the United Kingdom is or is not party, or from other sourcesto be given legislative force in the United Kingdom, its status would depend entirely on the form of that legislative expression. If any further rights were to be added to the Human Rights Act, save in the circumstances that the United Kingdom ratify further additional protocols to the ECHR, the framework of the Act would require substantive amendment.
Question HL322 concerns the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU). The charter records existing rights that already bind EU institutions and by which EU member states, including the United Kingdom, are already bound when implementing EU law. The charter sets out these rights in one place for the first time. At present, the charter is an important political declaration but has no formal legal status in the EU, nor therefore, in the United Kingdom. The entry into force of the Lisbon treaty would make the charter legally binding on EU institutions and the member states when implementing EU law, but it would not change the underlying rights restated in the charter: it merely sets them out in a more accessible form. So the courts would be able to rely on the rights in the charter, but the content of those rights would not be changed. The United Kingdoms protocol puts this matter beyond doubt by stressing that the charter does not create any greater rights than already apply in EU law and does not extend the powers of any courtEuropean or domesticto strike down the United Kingdom's laws.
In relation to Question HL323, Article 6(2) of the EU Treaty, to which the European Court of Justice (ECJ) gives effect, already requires the Union to respect the fundamental rights guaranteed by the ECHR. In practice, the ECJ already interprets the rights contained in the ECHR and reflected in the charter consistently with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Article 52(3) of the charter clearly states that in so far as the charter contains rights guaranteed by the convention, the meaning and scope of those rights shall be the same as those laid down by the ECHR. Accession of the EU to the ECHR would ensure that the ECJ is formally bound by the case law of the ECtHR. Accession would therefore guarantee the primacy of the ECtHR in setting human rights standards in Europe.
Question HL324 is about the implementation of the judgment of the ECtHR in the Article 2 procedure cases led by Jordan v United Kingdom2. The Government have put together a very detailed package of measures to implement the findings of the Strasbourg Court in the six Northern Ireland cases (the McKerr group3).Many steps have already been taken in response to the judgments. The Committee of Ministers has made clear in its public assessments that the United Kingdom has now met many of the requirements of the judgments. We are continuing to work with the Committee of
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Question HL325 related to the deportation or removal of foreign terrorists or terrorist suspects. In the case of Saadi v Italy4, the ECtHR confirmed its earlier judgment in Chahal v United Kingdom5 that Article 3 is absolute and non-derogable and that the risk posed by the individual could not be balanced against any Article 3 risk in a deportation case. As a signatory to the ECHR, the UK is bound by the case law of the ECtHR.
The prohibition on slavery and forced labour under Article 4 of the ECHR, to which Question HL326 refers, is absolute, allowing of no exceptions or qualifications. It therefore already covers trafficking. The Government have recently ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. This will further strengthen our support to victims of human trafficking for those identified as victims by the competent authorities, who will use a national referral mechanism to refer victims to appropriate support services.
In response to Question HL349, the United Kingdom has not ratified the Fourth Protocol to the ECHR. There are continuing concerns over Articles 2 and 3 of that protocol, which could be taken, respectively, to confer rights in relation to passports and a right of abode on categories of British nationals who do not currently have that right. In the absence of any change in the arrangements for issuing British passports and the relevant provisions of our immigration legislation, it is not possible to ratify the Protocol. Given that protocols may not be ratified in part, the Government have no plans either to ratify Article 1 of the Protocol nor to incorporate it into the Human Rights Act, as the framework of the Act permits incorporation only of those substantive rights by which the United Kingdom is bound under the ECHR. Nevertheless, there exists no provision in the law of England and Wales that directly permits the imprisonment of a person for a failure to fulfil contractual obligations or pay a private debt. Any such deprivation of liberty would therefore lack a lawful basis and constitute a breach of Article 5 of the ECHR.
In relation to Question HL350, the Government indicated in their public consultation paper on the Review of PACE6 published in August 2008 that they intended to maintain the existing structure for the codes of practice. This was in response to significant support across the criminal justice system, particularly by the judiciary, for the continuation of the codes in their existing format. Similarly, in relation to Question HL351, the Government do not intend to change the age of criminal responsibility, for the reasons set out by Lord Hunt in his previous response7. Lord Hunt also set out in that response the Government's position on the youth justice system8.
In relation to trial by jury and the admission of evidence, as covered in Question HL352, I refer the noble Lord again to Lord Hunt's previous response9, which also covered the rights of witnesses10 . The Government have no plans at this time to institute a
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Question HL354 is about extensions to the right to marry to include a right to divorce or a right to enter a civil partnership. The right to marry under Article 12 of the ECHR, as incorporated in the Human Rights Act, includes neither of these elements; the Government have no plans at this time to seek amendment of Article 12. Our domestic law sets out the circumstances in which a couple may enter into marriage or a civil partnership, and the means by which a marriage or a civil partnership may be terminated; the Government have no plans at this time to change these provisions.
Question HL393 relates to a range of electoral issues. The right to free and fair elections is set out in Article 3 of the First Protocol to the ECHR. The ECtHR gives states a broad margin of appreciation in the means by which they give effect to this right, provided the core objective of the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature is achieved.
Question HL394 relates to education levels. Pupils learn about issues relating to equality, social justice and human rights as part of the citizenship curriculum at each key stage. Citizenship education encourages pupils to challenge injustice, inequalities and discrimination. Pupils in primary schools learn the difference between right and wrong, what is fair and unfair, and to understand how to respect the rights of others. They develop a sense of social justice and moral responsibility. Through the statutory citizenship curriculum, all secondary school pupils learn about human rights, responsibilities and freedoms. They consider how democracy, justice, diversity, toleration, respect and freedom are valued by people with different beliefs, backgrounds and traditions within a changing democratic society. They also explore different kinds of rights and obligations and how these affect both individuals and communities.
Question HL396 is about the Fourth Protocol to the ECHR, which I have addressed in response to his Question HL349 above. In the same Question about the applicability of the free movement of persons, services and capital in the European Community (EC) to internal as well as cross-border situations. People who reside in a member state under the EC free movement of persons provisions generally have a right to reside anywhere within that member state. These provisions do not, however, apply to the movement of a member state's own nationals within that state. In general, case law has established that the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services do not apply to situations that are wholly internal to a
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In relation to education and the provision of public services in minority languages, as in Question HL429, I refer the noble Lord to Lord Hunts previous response on this point13. Although the United Kingdom is a party to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Government have no plans to incorporate that charter into domestic law.
Response to Question HL431, is that the right to access information held by public authorities already exists under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 1998, amongst others. In relation to administrative action, judicial review already allows individuals and groups to challenge the lawfulness of decisions made by public bodies; grounds for review include that the decision maker has acted ultra vires, that the decision-making procedure was unfair, or that the decision was unreasonable. As a matter of good practice, public bodies often provide reasons for their decisions, and for those dissatisfied with decisions to challenge them by means of internal review or complaint mechanisms, and/or by access to ombudsman schemes.
The noble Lords next block of Questions relate to various aspects of social and economic rights, all of which were addressed in some detail by Lord Hunt in his previous response. In relation to Question HL432 on healthcare, I refer the noble Lord to the earlier response to Question HL352014. Reproductive healthcare was also specifically addressed in relation to Question HL346415. Standards of living, as raised in Question HL433, were previously addressed in the response to Question HL351916, and housing and accommodation, as raised in Question HL434, were covered in the response to Question HL352117.
In Question HL434, the noble Lord also specifically asks whether a person can be evicted without an order of a court. The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 provides that where premises have been let as a dwelling, the tenant or licensee who is still living in the property cannot lawfully be evicted without a possession order from the court. There are certain exceptions: for example, where accommodation is shared with the landlord, holiday lets, and licences or tenancies granted as a temporary expedient to trespassers. It is usually a criminal offence to harass or evict a residential occupier, or to enter the property against their wishes while they are in it.
Question HL458, about the right to work, was extensively covered in the previous response to Question HL355318 and the trade union aspects thereof were also addressed in response to Question HL349119. The protection of the environment, as raised in Question HL459, was covered in the response to Question HL352220, and the situation in relation to social security (Question HL460) was previously set out in response to Question HL355421. The rights of the child (Question HL461), including specifically recruitment into the Armed Forces, were covered in the response to Question HL366522. The principle of best interest was also discussed in response to Questions HL348823 and HL361924.
Question HL462 is about limitations on rights. The nature of different rights often requires differences in the qualifications and limitations upon those rights, as illustrated in the subtle differences between the qualifications and limitations upon Articles 8 to 11 of the ECHR. If any other rights are given legislative force, the form of their legislative expression would be considered at that time.
Finally, in answer to Question HL463, and further to Lord Hunts previous response to Question HL366725, the Government have no plans to repeal Sections 15 and 17 of the Human Rights Act; doing so would not remove the United Kingdoms reservation to the First Protocol to the ECHR, but would remove the obligation to review that reservation periodically and report to Parliament. The need for reservations to new international obligations is considered at the time that the United Kingdom signs and ratifies any such obligation; the Government will not prevent this important consideration taking place in future.
To ask Her Majesty's Government why the UK Border Agency has not replied to the application by Mrs SA, acknowledged on 8 March 2007, for the restrictions on her leave to remain in the United Kingdom to be lifted following the expiry of two years as the spouse of a British citizen. [HL442]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): I regret to inform you that any information contained in applications to the Home Office is treated as being confidential and is not normally disclosed to third parties. This is, of course, unless they are authorised representatives of the applicant. I hope that you will understand that this is not a question of secrecy for its own sake, but simply a matter of protecting the privacy of the individual.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We have encouraged both the EU and Commonwealth to deploy election observer missions, but the final decision rests with those organisations. Our high commission in Malawi intends to observe polling on 19 May in different parts of the country, and will co-ordinate activities with other international observers.
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