The government is committed to making the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child “a reality in the UK”, a minister said last night.
Children’s minister Baroness Delyth Morgan told a meeting in the House of Lords that the government was “no longer afraid” for the convention “to be the basis of all policies”.
But she gave no clear answer on whether the government would enshrine the treaty in domestic law 17 years after ratifying it. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended this step in its third periodic report of the UK’s compliance with the convention, published in October.
Morgan was addressing the all-party parliamentary group for children in a meeting also addressed by the UK’s four children’s commissioners.
Treaty signed in full
Children’s commissioner for England Al Aynsley-Green welcomed the removal this year of the government’s remaining convention reservations, under which it had opted-out of provisions for children in custody and asylum-seeking children.
But he told the meeting that he regretted the fact that the principles of the UNCRC were not reflected in all aspects of legislation, which remained a “fundamental issue”.
“By signing the convention, it’s not an option to apply it, but an obligation to apply it.”
Stark contrast to Sweden
The UK’s approach was “in stark contrast” to Sweden, he said, where there was a government office whose sole task was to ensure all legislation complied with the convention.
Meanwhile, Welsh commissioner Keith Towler challenged the government’s record on youth justice, echoing the UN’s concerns about high numbers of young people in custody.
He urged professionals to remember that children in conflict with the law were “children first and offenders second”.
Aynsley-Green said he looked forward to the independent review on the use of restraint in juvenile secure settings – an example of “cruel and degrading treatment” – due to be published next week.
The UK government and devolved administrations are expected to formally respond to the UN committee’s concluding observations in the next six months.
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