'The government promised in its manifesto a commitment to 'bring rights home'. The new committee is part of the government's plans
which saw the enactment of the Human Rights Act last month and the immediate implementation of section 19 of the Act. This is a significant step in carrying-out our commitment.'
In reply to a parliamentary question from Fiona Mactaggart (Slough), asking the president of the council what progress the government has made in establishing a committee of both Houses on human rights, Mrs Beckett said:
Welcoming the new committee the home secretary Jack Straw said:
'I warmly welcome the setting up of this joint committee.
'The Human Rights Act is the most significant statement of human rights in the UK since the 1689 Bill of Rights. It will strengthen representative and democratic government.
'The committee's work will provide parliament with a central role in the scrutiny of the Act and the issues surrounding it. This scrutiny will be extremely valuable in the development of the human rights culture.
'Its work will complement that of the task force, chaired by Lord Williams of Mostyn, which I appointed in October to advise on implementation.'
1. The terms of reference have not been finalised but they would enable the joint committee to look at:
- general issues of human rights in the UK
- remedial orders following a court ruling that a statute was incompatible with the ECHR
- draft legislation in cases of doubt about compatibility with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR)
- whether there is a need for a Human Rights Commission
- the operating of the Human Rights Act
Other select committees will continue to have an interest in related areas such as human rights overseas (foreign affairs committee).
2. The joint committee will probably be set up before next summer's recess, to give time for it to develop its working methods before the Act comes fully into force.
3. The exact composition of the joint committee is yet to be decided but will probably be between 12 and 16 members, divided equally between the two houses, with the government having no more than half the members. The chairmanship remains to be decided.
4. There are currently several joint committees in operation - routine ones on statutory instruments and consolidated bills and an ad hoc one on parliamentary privilege.