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Joint Committee on Human Rights

Volume 558: debated on Tuesday 5 February 2013

I have not met the Joint Committee on Human Rights since I became Secretary of State for Justice. I was due to attend an evidence session before the Joint Committee on the Government’s human rights policy on 18 December 2012, but the meeting was postponed and will now take place on 12 February 2013.

I look forward to the Secretary of State’s visit. When we were debating the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, before he took over as Secretary of State, his Department gave a commitment to review legal aid, particularly in relation to immigration and asylum, a year later. The Committee is now addressing that issue in relation to unaccompanied minors. Will he look at the evidence being given, address that issue before he comes to meet the Committee and see whether we ought not to amend the legal aid arrangements so that vulnerable people with immigration or asylum issues get the proper legal support and advice they need?

I am very happy to give that commitment and to look at that issue before the evidence session, and I look forward to discussing these issues with my right hon. Friend and his colleagues.

It seems that the Government’s process on reviewing human rights legislation is, to put it kindly, somewhat slow, at a time when the practical implications are more urgent than ever, not least in relation to gay marriage, which we will debate later. Will the Secretary of State speed up the process, as everyone wants to see that?

As my hon. Friend knows, I feel strongly that we need to make changes to the human rights framework. Unfortunately, it is my belief that there is not a majority in this House for such changes, and it will therefore fall to a future majority Conservative Government to deliver them.