Examination of Witness (Questions 277
MONDAY 10 JUNE 2002
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
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?