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Scrutiny Committee on Welfare Reform Welcomed

27 Nov 2012

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has welcomed the Assembly’s decision to establish a separate Committee on the Welfare Reform Bill to examine its conformity with Equality and Human Rights. The Committee meets in public session today.
Chief Commissioner Professor Michael O’Flaherty stated:
‘The Human Rights Commission welcomes the establishment of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Welfare Reform. This is in line with the Westminster process where the Joint Committee on Human Rights examined welfare reform for England & Wales. The Commission itself had previously advised the Assembly to consider such an option in order to provide further scrutiny of the human rights impact of the Bill for Northern Ireland.
Whilst we appreciate that the aim of the Bill is to assist people into work’ we have concerns that the full impact on human rights are unknown as the Bill leaves so much to secondary legislation. It is vital that law’ which has such potential to change life in Northern Ireland for so many people’ is thoroughly considered. Northern Ireland faces a unique set of challenges and we are pleased that this Ad Hoc- Committee has been created. We now look forward to engaging with it.’
Further information
For further information please contact Claire Martin on (028) 9024 3987.
Notes to editors
1. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (‘the Commission’) pursuant to Section 69 (4) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 advises the Assembly whether a Bill is compatible with human rights.
2. The Ad Hoc Committee on Conformity with Equality Requirements’ Welfare Reform Bill will meet in public session today at 2.45pm.
3. On 20 November 2012 the N.I Assembly agreed: ‘That’ as provided for in Standing Orders 53(1) and 60(1)’ this Assembly establishes an Ad Hoc Committee to consider and report on whether the provisions of the Welfare Reform Bill are in conformity with the requirements for equality and observance of human rights.’
4. The Commission in its submission to the Social Development Committee advised: ‘Recalling the human rights concerns raised by the JCHR’ the Commission refers the Committee to section 35 of the Standing Orders’ which makes provision for the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee to consider and report on whether the draft Bill is in conformity with the requirements of human rights law.’
5. View the Commission’s full submission on the Welfare Reform Bill here.

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