5. Letter from Chairman to Lord Avebury
re: the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill
Thank you for your letter of 28 June on the subject
of the compatibility of this Bill with human rights. The answers
to your questions are as follows.
1. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has not seen,
and has not sought to see, the advice or assessment on the basis
of which the promoters of the Bill certified, in accordance with
Standing Orders, that they considered it to be compatible with
Convention rights within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998.
2. The Committee received advice on the human rights
compatibility of this Bill (as it does in relation to all Bills)
from its Legal Adviser, Professor David Feldman.
3. You have suggested that the Bill might be incompatible
with two Convention rights. The first is the right to free elections
at reasonable intervals by secret ballot under conditions which
will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in
the choice of the legislature, under Article 3 of Protocol No.
1 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights
and Fundamental Freedoms (hereafter ECHR). The second is the right
to be free of discrimination in arrangements to secure the enjoyment
of other Convention rights, under Article 14 of the ECHR. As you
observe, the Committee took the view that the Bill raised no significant
human rights issues. The Committee does not publish the content
of the legal advice which it receives from its Legal Adviser,
but I can say that there was no doubt in the Committee's mind
that no Convention right was engaged by the Bill. I would draw
your attention to the following points, which may help to explain
the Committee's conclusion on the Bill as reported to each House
in the Committee's Fourteenth Report of 2001-02.
4. Local councils are not 'legislatures' within the
meaning of Article 3 of the Protocol No. 1, which requires a body
to have powers under the constitution going beyond merely making
regulations and by-laws: see, e.g., the admissibility decision
of the European Court of Human Rights in Cherepkov v. Russia,
App. No. 51501/99, decision of 25 January 2000; see also, mutatis
mutandis, the judgments of the Court in Mathieu-Mohin and
Clerfayt v. Belgium, Series A, No. 113, judgment of
2 March 1987, at § 53, and Matthews v. United Kingdom,
judgment of 18 February 1999, at § 40. The provisions of
the above Bill would therefore seem not to engage the right under
Article 3 of Protocol No. 1.
5. Because the provisions of the Bill do not appear
to be within the ambit of the right under Article 1 of Protocol
No. 1, differences in treatment under the Bill would not appear
to engage the right to be free of discrimination in the enjoyment
of Convention rights, under Article 14 of the ECHR.
17 July 2002