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Human Rights

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 12 February 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Bach on 28 January (WA 58), whether there is a gap between the protection given by the general right to equality without discrimination by article 26 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the protection given in United Kingdom human rights and discrimination law; and, if so, what is the nature of that gap; and [HL1140]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Bach on 28 January (WA 58), whether they have had regard to the way in which the United Nations Human Rights Committee has handled individual applications under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and, if so, what is their assessment of the substantive benefits to those who have had recourse to that mechanism. [HL1142]

Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) differs from UK human rights and discrimination law both in nature and in scope. However in the Government's view this does not mean that in practice there is any gap in protection. In light of the protections in domestic law that I outlined in my previous Answer (col. WA 58, 28 January 2009), the mechanisms that already exist in international law for regular periodic examination of the UK’s compliance with the ICCPR, and the findings of the review of our experience of individual petition under the Optional Protocol to the Convention for the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women—CEDAW (col. 11WS, 4 December 2008), the Government do not consider there is sufficient evidence that additional practical benefit would be provided by accepting the right of individual petition in respect of complaints under the ICCPR.

The Government do not consider it necessary to undertake a further evaluation in respect of the handling of individual petitions by the UN Human Rights Committee because of the nature of the UN monitoring committee processes (that they cannot, for example, give legal rulings) and because of the conclusions of the review on the CEDAW experiment.