Commission responds to the Joint Committee on Human Rights Report on its work

Our response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights report

15 March 2010

Much of this report is largely historic but it is pleasing that the JCHR recognises the huge task we faced of merging the legacy commissions and accepts that in recent months the Commission has begun to find its voice on the vital issues of human rights such as privacy implications of security measures and the alleged government complicity with torture.

Many of the concerns raised about governance and management have long since been addressed by our Board and by our Director General; many of the criticisms are no longer relevant.

The report also recognises that the critical evidence of former commissioners is strongly contested by remaining commissioners who presented a very different account of the workings of the Commission. Disappointingly, the Committee ignores evidence presented to it on our work in many areas of policy, for example the performance of the police; and because it principally considers events of more than a year ago, it does not take into account how the new Board has responded to the challenges of governance in a complex, start-up NDPB.

Very significant changes have been made to the organisation and the Commission now has a strong new board, working positively.

Although we have much to do on our human rights mandate, we already have a firm body of work which has delivered significant benefits to many. The Committee acknowledges the importance of our landmark human rights Inquiry, and accepts its findings. In addition, we have intervened in a series of legal cases that have won new rights for millions of the most vulnerable people in our society, including carers, people in care homes, people in custody and military personnel.

We have campaigned to protect the human rights of people living in privately-run care homes. Our work helped to secure recognition in the 2008 Health and Social Care Act that such organisations should be considered to be public authorities under the Human Rights Act.

Recently we have been vocal in raising human rights concerns about the use of body scanners at airports and have also called for an independent review into allegations of torture of Britons abroad. There are also strong human rights components to our inquiry into disability related harassment. Most recently we staged a major debate in which the principal spokespeople for all the political parties outlined their proposals for the Human Rights Act and potential Bill of Rights.

The Commission fully intends to increase and extend its activities in the area of human rights and looks forward to working with the JCHR in doing so.

Ends

For more information contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 02031170255, out of hours 07767272818.

Notes to editors

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.