The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) published its legislative scrutiny Report on the Welfare Reform Bill on 12 December 2011 .
The Government’s principal objective in this Bill is to support people to move into and progress in work, while still supporting those in greatest need. The committee commends this objective, which is consistent with many international human rights instruments which recognise the right to work and the right to an adequate standard of living, and therefore welcomes the Bill as a potentially human rights enhancing measure. However, it has a number of concerns about its compatibility with the requirements of human rights law.
The committee regrets the fact that the Government has not provided Parliament with a full human rights memorandum which includes a detailed analysis of the Bill’s compatibility with the UK’s obligations under relevant international human rights treaties. Providing such information to Parliament strengthens the principle of subsidiarity: laws passed after detailed parliamentary scrutiny of their human rights compatibility are more likely to withstand subsequent judicial scrutiny.
The committee calls on the Government to improve its capacity to conduct equality impact assessments. It reiterates its previous recommendation that, where the Government’s view on compatibility relies on safeguards to be provided in secondary legislation, draft Regulations should be published together with the Bill. It also calls upon the Government better to monitor the post-legislative impact of the measures in the Bill.
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