Disabilities minister Jonathan Shaw has said that the government will delay the ratification of a United Nations disability rights charter until next year.
Ministers had previously indicated that the UK would ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the end of 2008. But due to ongoing concerns from various government departments over its implementation, Shaw admitted that ratification would have to be pushed back.
Addressing parliament’s joint committee on human rights, he said: “My ambition is that we ratify in the spring of 2009. I’d like to make very clear both my personal commitment to the convention and confirm that whilst it is not achievable this year, it does remain the government’s intention to ratify.”
Shaw added that he understood that disabled people and disability organisations would be disappointed by the announcement.
Although the UK was one of the first countries to sign up to convention its full adoption has been delayed by the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Home Office and the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Each department has lodged a “reservation” that would allow the government to opt-out of specific aspects of the convention.
Earlier this month, a coalition of disability groups, including Scope, handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street with 50,000 signatories calling for the convention to be taken on in full.
Following Shaw’s admission, Scope chair Dr Alice Maynard said: “We can only assume that the government will now be using the additional time to remove these reservations.
“This treaty is of huge political and symbolic importance for disabled people and will help strengthen our rights in all areas of our lives, from education to family life.”
The convention has been called an ‘historic’ international agreement to end discrimination against disabled people. When ratified it will allow a UK citizen to make a direct appeal to the UN over a disability rights issue once the legal process in this country has been fully exhausted.