APPENDICES TO THE REPORT
1. Letter from the Lord
Chancellor, Rt Hon The Lord Irvine of Lairg,
to the Chairman
You will recall that we undertook to look at our
guidance on statements of compatibility section 19 of the Human
Rights Act, to see if it would be possible to be more forthcoming
about the human rights issues which Ministers believe have been
raised by a Bill.
I am pleased to be able to enclose revised guidance
on section 19 statements which is being circulated to Departments.
This was announced to the House on 18 December by means of a written
A statement about compatibility is, of course, only
a starting point and it will not replace the need for scrutiny
and debate. But I hope it will be a step forward which will help
us identify at the early stages of a Bill what are the priorities
in human rights terms.
26 December 2001
To replace paragraph 39 of the Human Rights Act Guidance
for Departments (second edition):
(1) The Government has undertaken to provide,
in the Explanatory Notes, specific information on the human rights
aspects of Government Bills. The purpose of the undertaking is
to assist Parliament, both in debates on Bills and through the
Joint Committee on Human Rights.
(2) The Explanatory Notes should therefore not
only record the fact that a section 19 statement has been made,
but also briefly draw attention to the main Convention issues
in the Bill.
(3) The Notes should describe, in general terms,
the most significant Convention issues thought to arise on the
Bill, together with the Minister's conclusions on compatibility.
In some cases, it may be sufficient simply to state that an issue
has been considered, and that a particular conclusion has been
reached: for example, the Notes might record the Minister's conclusion
that a provision should not be regarded, for the purpose of Article
6, as imposing a criminal charge. In other cases, Departments
may refer to the policy justification for what is proposed, which
will be central to any assessment of whether, for example, a possible
interference with an Article 8(1) right is justified under Article
8(2). Departments are not expected to list every human rights
point which could be taken on the Bill, or to cite case-law supporting
the Minister's conclusion on compatibility. Legal advice should
not be disclosed.
(4) For many Bills, this information will most
conveniently be contained in a single passage in the introductory
section of the Notes. For longer Bills, or for those covering
several different subjects, a series of passages at the beginning
at each part of the Notes may be more suitable. If the Notes contain
factual information or policy analysis relevant to the human rights
issues being discussed, the passage on compatibility might usefully
(5) When a compatibility issue is raised in debate,
Parliament will continue to expect a detailed response, going
beyond what is said in the Notes. In accordance with established
practice, Ministers will wish to be as forthcoming as they can
in meeting that expectation whilst abstaining from disclosing
legal advice. In this way Parliament will be able to take the
Convention rights into account as an integral part of normal debate.