Human rights duty omission under fire

Concerns that a government white paper on the Commission for
Equality and Human Rights does not introduce a duty on the public
sector to promote human rights have been raised by MPs and

Imposing a public sector duty to promote human rights would have
been an effective way of “advancing a culture of respect for human
rights and of ensuring greater focus by public authorities”, says
the parliamentary joint committee on human rights in its second
report on the commission.

But while the white paper introduces public sector duties to
promote equality of opportunity for disabled people, between the
sexes and different ethnic groups, it does not deal with human

The committee believes the body should be given a general duty to
“help secure the protection of human rights” as well as its aim to
promote understanding of human rights.

In response to the committee’s first report last month, the
government said it was not persuaded that statutory duties going
beyond those in the Human Rights Act were needed.

The white paper says the commission will be able to initiate
general inquiries and that as a last resort will be able to apply
to the secretary of state to compel third parties to provide

But the committee said for the commission to rely on ministerial
sanction is “wholly inappropriate” as it claims human rights
inquiries will “almost always” be into the activities of state

– Reports from

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