CRPD is “hard law” – UK Parliament

2 March 2012, Budapest (Hungary) and London (UK). The UK’s reputation as a country which empowers people with disabilities is “in jeopardy” following an in-depth Parliamentary inquiry. This week, the UK Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights published its report on implementation of the right to live in the community in the UK, as set out in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Dr Hywel Francis MP, the Chair of the Committee, said that, “[t]he Government is unable to demonstrate that sufficient regard has been paid to the Convention in the development of policy with direct relevance to the lives of disabled people”.


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The hard-hitting report covers a broad range of issues, and makes several targeted recommendations. The report is critical of the Minister for Disabled People who told the Committee that the CRPD was “soft law”. The Committee criticised this as “indicative of an approach to the treaty which regards the rights it protects as being of less normative force than those contained in other human rights instruments.” (para. 23) The Committee’s view is that the CRPD is hard law, not soft law.


“This finding is of international importance”, said Oliver Lewis, MDAC Executive Director, “Our experience is that many governments are of the view that the CRPD is nothing more than a policy nicety, rather than a treaty which sets out legal obligations which governments must fulfil.”

The Committee found that although the Government consults people with disabilities, it should, “involve disabled people in the development of policy, rather than simply consult them, and to ensure that timescales and methods are used which enable a full range of disabled people and their representative organisations to be involved.” (para. 121) These are points which MDAC also made in its 2011 “Building the Architecture for Change: Guidelines on Article 33 of the CRPD”, which is available in several languages. 

In an opinion piece for The Guardian newspaper, Baroness Jane Campbell – herself a person with disabilities and a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights – raised the temperature by claiming that “[t]he UK’s international reputation in public policy and legislation which places more power in the hands of disabled people to assume control over their own lives, and to be included in all areas of life, is clearly in jeopardy.”

The Parliamentary report has been welcomed by a range of organisations, including the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission. For more analysis, see policy analyst Neil Crowther’s blog.  Click here for the easy-to-read version.

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