HC Deb 29 June 2000 vol 352 cc1040-1
30. Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth)

What training has been given to Government lawyers to prepare for the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998. [127061]

The Solicitor-General

A busy programme of training and guidance has already been provided to Government lawyers on the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act 1998. The training takes the form of conferences, training events, departmental in-house seminars, and attendance by Government lawyers at external training events. An updated version of "Judge over your Shoulder", an information booklet aimed at non-lawyers, is available on the Treasury Solicitor's website.

In addition, Departments are supported by three cross-cutting committees. Two of them consider the human rights aspects of civil and criminal proceedings, and the third, a Cabinet Office committee, considers human rights issues on which a collective view is required.

Mr. Jenkins

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Will he give the House an assurance that the Government lawyers will be ready on the implementation day of the Human Rights Act 1998, which is only weeks away?

The Solicitor-General

There is an extensive training programme, as I explained. There is also a training programme for the Crown Prosecution Service, jointly with the police. Some 3,000 lawyers and others have to be trained in the CPS, and I am confident that the training will be completed by the end of July.

Mr. Edward Gamier (Harborough)

I have no doubt that Government lawyers are well trained for the implementation of the Human Rights Act 1998; my concern is that Ministers are not. I asked the Home Secretary last Monday what training Ministers were receiving to bring them up to date with their own legislation, and he was not able to answer the question. Perhaps the Solicitor-General can answer it on his behalf. What has he done, and what has the Attorney-General done, to make sure that Ministers know even the slightest bit about their own legislation?

The Solicitor-General

I certainly would not say that Ministers are all-knowing, but they know a great deal about the Human Rights Act. They are conscious that it is one of the most important steps that the Government have taken. As always, the Opposition are turning wine into water. As I have said on previous occasions, the Act is a significant development in persuading the country that a rights culture is important.

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