Further updates on the BOR process: the NIAC report
Following on from Cian’s earlier blog on the response of the DUP to the NIO’s Consultation Paper on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, it is worth noting that 24 March saw the Westminster Northern Ireland Affairs Committee release ‘A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland: An Interim Statement‘.
Given the political make-up of that Committee, many of those in favour of a NIBOR regarded the NIAC’s decision to carry out such an inquiry as an effort on the part of political actors unhappy with the NIHRC’s advice to have ‘another bite at the cherry’. Arguably, the limited and poor quality consultation document produced by the NIO in response to the NIHRC’s advice rendered this unnecessary. (For a discussion of some of the criticisms made of the NIO document, see here)
Whatever its reasons, the Committee itself does not make an explicit recommendation either in favour or against a NIBOR. Rather it states:
When we launched this inquiry early in 2009, it was our intention to comment on the proposals made by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and on the Government’s response to them in the expectation that legislation might be forthcoming within the lifetime of the present Parliament. As no such legislation will now emerge, we believe it would be improper of us to bind a future Northern Ireland Affairs Committee to a particular position. Therefore, we have chosen in this Report to publish the evidence that we have received from organisations and individuals in Northern Ireland and to suggest to our successor Committee that it may wish to consider future proposals on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland as part of its work programme.
A wide range of actors gave evidence to the Committee and this evidence is reproduced fully in the Interim Statement. The Statement thus provides a valuable insight into the varied perspectives of the numerous stakeholders involved in the BOR process and debates.
The Committee concludes by saying:
… in order that a new Parliament may be as fully informed as possible, we join the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in urging all those who have the best interests of Northern Ireland at heart to study what is proposed for a future Bill of Rights and to give the Northern Ireland Office their views, whether in favour of or in opposition to a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights.
It is to be hoped that all interested parties will have done so, albeit that serious doubts remain about the willingness of either the current Labour government or any future Conservative government to adopt a proactive or holistic approach to HR protection in any future NIBOR.