HC Deb 08 May 2001 vol 368 c15
34. Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

If she will make a statement on the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 on rural magistrates courts. [159323]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Jane Kennedy)

Data provided by the magistrates courts committees in the period October to December last year show that there has been no significant impact so far on the operation of the magistrates courts as a result of the Human Rights Act.

Mr. Paterson

What an absurd reply! Five years ago, £350,000 was spent modernising the old school buildings in Oswestry. The court now faces a bill of £197,450 to make it compliant with the Human Rights Act. Every time I ask the Minister where the money should come from, she says that it is down to the magistrates courts committee. That is rubbish. The cost is being forced on local magistrates by central Government. Will she explain why the Government will not stump up the money?

Jane Kennedy

Many smaller or remote magistrates courts lack suitable facilities. The standard of accommodation and facilities provided in a court is only one of a number of factors that magistrates courts committees consider. The Human Rights Act has had very little bearing on those considerations. Setting aside the hon. Gentleman's pre-election hysteria, the answer to his question is simple and straightforward: the prophets of doom who predicted that the implementation of the Human Rights Act would bring chaos to the courts have been proved wrong. That is due to two years of careful preparation by the Government and the courts. The smooth incorporation of the European convention on human rights into United Kingdom law in the form of the Human Rights Act 1998 has been a major achievement of the Government and it is one of which I am very proud.