Economic and Social





23 July 2009

Original: ENGLISH



Forty-second session

Geneva, 4-22 May 2009




Comments by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Dependent Territories on the concluding observations


On behalf of the delegation of the United Kingdom, I wish to thank the Committee for its concluding observations, published on 22 May 2009. We have now had time to consider and reflect on the findings of the Committee.

The United Kingdom welcomes the Committee’s comments in relation to the positive developments in the United Kingdom’s implementation of the provisions of the Covenant.

In relation to its substantive recommendations, however, we were concerned at a number of inaccuracies in the text of the concluding observations and surprised at the inclusion of certain recommendations on issues which the Committee did not raise during the examination.

The Committee notes in paragraph 10 of its concluding observations “the draft Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, which includes economic, social and cultural rights which are justiciable and calls for its enactment without delay”. For clarification, there is no draft legislative Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland as such. On 10 December 2008 the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) submitted its statutory advice on a potential Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland to the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. This includes advice on the content of such a Bill of Rights. The Government of the United Kingdom is considering the advice of the NIHRC and will announce its plans for consultation in due course.

In paragraph 13 , the Committee states that it “regrets the statement made by the State party’s delegation that economic, social and cultural rights are mere principles and values”. The delegation of the United Kingdom does not recollect making such a statement. As recorded in the Committee’s press release: “The Government [of the United Kingdom] does not dispute that economic, social and cultural rights are as important and indivisible from civil and political rights. However, this does not mean that all human rights require identical approaches…” We are aware of the Committee’s continuing concerns over the legal status of the Covenant in United Kingdom law. We reiterate our position that the United Kingdom regards itself as legally bound to comply with the Covenant. However, how to ensure compliance with the Covenant is a matter for each State, as confirmed by general comment No. 9. There is no provision in the Covenant obligating its comprehensive incorporation or requiring it to be accorded any specific type of status in national law. We consider that the United Kingdom’s method of implementation ensures the fulfilment of the obligations under the Covenant.

The United Kingdom considers the Committee’s description in paragraph 30 of the situation relating to those Roma/Gypsies and Irish Travellers affected by the construction of the Olympic Games site to be an unfair reflection of the reality. As stated in the replies to the list of issues (E/C.12/GBR/Q/5/Add.1, paras. 198-206) , there were two Gypsy/Traveller sites affected by the Olympic development (one in Hackney and one in Newham) and they, along with many other homes and businesses, were relocated to enable the Olympic Games development to proceed. However, they were relocated to alternative sites elsewhere, including a new, purpose-built, site. As drafted, paragraph 30 of the concluding observations is misleading, because it suggests that the residents were left homeless, which was not the case.

The United Kingdom considers that the recommendation in paragraph 35 conflates a number of issues in a potentially unhelpful and even misleading way. The point about access by mental health patients was only raised in relation to Northern Ireland during the review, yet paragraph 35 applies it also to Scotland. The delegation of the United Kingdom is not aware of this being a significant issue in Scotland, nor did it feature in the submissions to the Committee by the Scottish non-governmental organizations (including the Scottish Association for Mental Health) and the Scottish Human Rights Commission. More importantly, it is incorrect to say that suicide rates in Scotland are increasing. As stated in the examination, there has in fact been a decrease in population suicide rates in Scotland in recent years. The age-sex-standardized rate of suicide was 17.4 per 100,000 in 2000/2001/2002 but 15.9 per 100,000 in 2005/2006/200 7 , which is a fall of 13 per cent.

Finally, the delegation of the United Kingdom is surprised that, in paragraph 36 , the Committee has made recommendations about the provision of English-language courses, the inclusion of children from ethnic minorities in classes for children with learning difficulties, and the need to adopt measures to reduce the achievement gap in terms of school performance between “British pupils and pupils belonging to ethnic, religious or national minorities” (the United Kingdom notes that, of course, most of those in the latter categories are themselves British). The examination concentrated on reducing school dropout rates for these groups, not the issues in the concluding observations, on which we would have welcomed the opportunity to provide details, had we been asked.

I hope that the Committee will take the above points into consideration. As the review process continues, we hope to ensure a constructive and progressive dialogue between the Committee and the Government of the United Kingdom in relation to the implementation of the Covenant in the United Kingdom.

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