HC Deb 23 February 1971 vol 812 cc309-11
Q3. Mr. Peter Archer

asked the Prime Minister which Minister is responsible for answering Questions relating to the implementation in domestic law of international human rights obligations.

The Prime Minister

Where the Question concerns international human rights obligations in general, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs would normally answer. Where it relates to obligations in a particular field, the Minister responsible for that field would reply.

Mr. Archer

Is it not a curious arrangement, even for the present Government, to make the Foreign Secretary answerable for domestic legislation? Do we not require some machinery for supervising proposed legislation for conformity with human rights, for example, the Industrial Relations Bill, particularly as we are not entitled to discuss all the Clauses in the House?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. It has been the custom under all Administrations for the Foreign Office, which is responsible for the negotiation and observance of treaties, to have these general responsibilities for human rights. If there is a particular aspect, such as an International Labour Office regulation, naturally the Department of Employment is primarily concerned. I know that the hon. Member has suggested the setting up of an inter-departmental committee, but co-ordination among Departments about legislation of this kind is sufficiently close to deal with these matters, and to create a further piece of inter-Departmental machinery would be clumsy and expensive.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Commission has found that there is a prima facie case against this country over the Kenya-Asians, and is not this an exceedingly serious matter for the good name of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "And for Kenya."] Would he take steps to see that the Home Secretary deals with this matter in the Immigration Bill which I believe is to be presented to the House today?

The Prime Minister

As the matter is sub judice, it would be better for me not to comment and, obviously, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary cannot take account of any view expressed by the Commission until it has reached its conclusions.

Mr. Harold Wilson

While the right hon. Gentleman is undoubtedly right in saying that the Foreign Secretary must be the Minister responsible for the conduct of these matters in international negotiations, would he say whether when he met Major Chichester-Clark recently he drew the attention of the Northern Ireland Government yet again to the fact that we have international responsibility for human rights matters? Did he get an assurance from the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland that at the earliest moment the Northern Ireland Government will proceed to remove all the aspects of the Special Powers Acts which are in conflict with our international obligations?

The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has given that assurance publicly, and that assurance remains firm.

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