Joint Committee on Human Rights

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41.11The Joint Committee on Human Rights was first appointed in January 2001.1 The committee has a maximum of six members appointed by each House: the quorum is two members from each House.2 It has power to appoint specialist advisers and to adjourn from place to place.3

Its terms of reference are to consider:

  1. matters relating to human rights in the United Kingdom (but excluding consideration of individual cases); and
  2. proposals for remedial orders, draft remedial orders and remedial orders made and laid under the Human Rights Act 1998, s 10 and sch 2; and in respect of draft remedial orders and remedial orders, whether the special attention of the House should be drawn to them on any of the grounds specified in Standing Order No 151 of the House of Commons and Standing Order No 74 of the House of Lords.4

Remedial orders, and the role of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in their consideration by Parliament, are described at paras 31.39–31.41.

Under part (a) of its terms of reference, the committee assesses the extent to which bills raise human rights issues, and conducts detailed scrutiny of those it considers raise significant ones. It reports whether, in its opinion, any provisions of a bill are likely to raise questions of compatibility with ‘Convention rights’ within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998, s 1. It also considers questions of compatibility with international human rights instruments to which the United Kingdom is a signatory, and draws the attention of each House to any concerns it has in regular reports. On occasion, items of subordinate legislation which are primary legislation within the meaning of the 1998 Act (for example, commencement orders and statutory instruments that repeal primary legislation) are also considered by the committee. In undertaking this legislative scrutiny, the committee is assisted by permanent legal advisers.

Within the broad terms of its orders of reference, the committee also undertakes inquiries similar to those of other select committees of either House on general matters of public policy. It has reported, for example, on the case for establishing a human rights commission in Great Britain, human rights and business, and the human rights implications of EU exit, as well as on the United Kingdom's compliance with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and with international human rights obligations. In this respect, it is different from other joint committees established permanently, which have narrow terms of reference, or the ad hoc joint committees which report only on the specific matter referred to them by the two Houses.


  1. 1. See CJ (2000–01) 61, 70.
  2. 2. The original quorum for taking evidence was reduced in November 2001 to two from each House (HL Deb (2001–02) 628, cc 1135–36; HC Deb (2001–02) 374, cc 1021–30); the quorum was reduced to two from each House for all purposes in October 2003 (HC Deb (2002–03) 411, c 230; HL Deb (2002–03) 653, c 1725).
  3. 3. The committee was originally empowered only ‘to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom, and to institutions of the Council of Europe outside the United Kingdom no more than four times in any calendar year’. This was changed to a general power to adjourn from place to place in January 2002 (HL Deb (2001–02) 630, c 1575; HC Deb (2001–02) 377, c 515).
  4. 4. See SO No 152B [HC].