The Joint Committee on Human Rights

The UK Joint Committee on Human Rights (“the Committee”) is a permanent committee consisting of six members of each House appointed by the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It was established at the end of the 1997-2001 Parliament and met for the first time on 31 January 2001. 

The Joint Committee on Human Rights consists of twelve members, appointed from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, to examine matters relating to human rights within the United Kingdom, as well as scrutinising every Government Bill for its compatibility with human rights.

The HRA was designed to preserve Parliaments ultimate sovereignty over human rights. Under the HRA, courts cannot strike down primary legislation that is incompatible with the HRA. Instead, if a court cannot construe the primary legislation in such as way as to make it compatible with the HRA, the court can make a Declaration of Incompatibility. Parliament is then left with the ultimate responsibility of deciding how to remedy the situation. In light of the Parliament's sovereignty over human rights, it was felt that the creation of a joint committee focusing on human rights naturally followed. 

If either a UK court or the European Court of Human Rights indicates that a law is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, a Minister can fix this by issuing a remedial order if s/he has compelling reasons. National law (the Human Rights Act) lays out the rules for how this is to be done and how Parliament is to scrutinise the process. Remedial orders can be made through an urgent or non-urgent route. The Joint Committee on Human rights also has a key role to play, since it must review all proposed, draft, and final remedial orders. 

As something it is allowed, but not required to do, the Committee has made it a priority to examine primary legislation introduced into Parliament for its compatibility with Convention Rights as defined in the Human Rights Act and other international human rights treaties which the UK has signed. The Committee aims to provide advice on the human rights compatibility of proposed legislation in a timely manner so that Parliament can take the advice into account when debating the legislation. The Committee reviews compatibility not only with the European Convention but also with other international human rights treaties to which the UK is a party, even if provisions of these other treaties may not be tried directly in UK courts. The Committee determines whether a legislative provision presents a ìsignificant riskî or a ìriskî of incompatibility with Convention rights, or, if no risk is present, whether it raises human rights concerns.