Human rights law hits delays

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THE INCORPORATION of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law is facing serious delays because neither Whitehall nor the courts are ready to cope with the change.

Even though the Human Rights Act became law last November, it has emerged that ministers are warning that it may not come into force before 2001. The Act will give judges the power to declare that domestic legislation doesn't comply with the convention and can oblige the Government to amend the Act concerned. The public will also be able to seek judicial review of Whitehall departments, quangos and local authorities on a range of subjects.

A pounds 4.5m programme has been drawn up by the Home Office to train 35,000 judges, magistrates and court legal advisers on the changes.

However, there are worries that neither the judiciary nor public bodies will be ready in time and that without full training courts could become "gridlocked" by cases brought by people claiming their rights have been infringed.

In a parliamentary answer on the issue, Lord Williams of Mostyn, a Home Office minister, said: "We have not yet reached a final view on when to bring the Human Rights Act into full effect. We will do so as soon as we can."

A senior Home Office official said that 2000 remained the target date for the incorporation of the Act, but "we cannot guarantee that".