Further to my statement of 3 February 2009, I am pleased to announce that yesterday the United Kingdom Ambassador to the United Nations, Sir John Sawers, signed the optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on behalf of the United Kingdom, and in doing so we joined over 80 other UN member states who have so far signed.
The decision to sign this optional protocol was reached in the light of our work towards ratification of the convention itself. We are now close to starting the parliamentary procedures required for ratification, and I hope to be able to make a separate announcement on that soon.
Signature of the optional protocol is an important step and underlines the messages in the convention about respect for the human rights of disabled people. We will now be working towards ratification of the optional protocol as soon as is practicable.
As my 3 February statement indicated, the optional protocol builds on the convention by establishing two additional procedures in respect of implementation and monitoring of the convention itself.
The first is a procedural avenue that, subject to meeting conditions set out in the optional protocol, will enable individuals or groups of individuals to bring petitions to the UN Committee that has been established to monitor implementation of the Disability Convention if they believe that their rights under that convention have been breached. The second is an inquiry procedure giving the Committee authority to undertake inquiries when reliable information is received into allegations of grave or systematic violations of convention rights.