Practical Effects of the Act

September 2000

83.30 Compatibility of existing legislation

The Act requires that all legislation - Acts of Parliament, regulations, rules and orders - so far as is possible, be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights. Every effort must be made to interpret legislation in accordance with those rights. Where there are two possible interpretations of a provision - one which is compatible with the Convention rights and one which is not - the one which is compatible must be adopted. The fact that a court may have interpreted legislation in a certain way before does not mean that, after the coming into force of the Act, it will continue to interpret the provision in that same way. Nor can that earlier interpretation be relied upon by a public authority.

Notes: [s3]

83.31 Compatibility of new legislation

All new Bills passing through Parliament must carry a statement from a Minister that its provisions are compatible with the Convention rights. If he cannot make such a statement, he must say so and ask Parliament to proceed with the Bill, which is then likely to be examined by the Human Rights Committee.

Notes: [s19]

83.32 Compatibility of acts by public authorities

The Act makes it unlawful for a public authority to act (or fail to act) in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right. Staff in public authorities should ensure that respect for human rights is at the core of their day to day work and that they act in a way which positively reinforces the principles of the Act. If a public authority’s existing procedures are not compatible, it will need to implement new policies and procedures which are consistent with Convention rights. All aspects of the public authority’s activities are covered, including:

  • Drafting rules and regulations

  • Internal staff and personnel issues

  • Administrative procedures

  • Decision making

  • Policy implementation

  • Interaction with members of the public

Notes: [s6]

83.33 Coming into force

Section 18 (appointment of judges from the UK to the European Court of Human Rights), section 20 (powers of Ministers to make orders under the Act) and section 21(5) (substitution of other sentences for the death penalty) all came into force when the Act received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998. Section 19 (the duty of Ministers to produce a statement of compatibility in relation to new Acts) came into force on 24 November 1998. The rest of the Act will come into force on 2 October 2000.


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