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UK government criticised for delaying equal rights treaty for disabled

The government has requested extending its deadline in ratifying a UN treaty which will aim to guarantee equal treatment for disabled people in education, employment and every other area of life.

The UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities was supposed to be adopted into British Law by the end of 2008.  The delay has come about because ministers have been working on a series of opt-outs to the treaty.

The delay has received fierce criticism particularly as the UK originally was among the first of 137 countries that had signed the convention.The opt-outs are thought to be over potential clauses relating to immigration, education and the armed forces.

A report by Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Human Rights strongly criticises the government for the delay and the "unacceptable" failure to adequately consult disabled people over the proposed opt-outs.

In response to the report, also expressing their concern, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has written to the Secretaries of State for four government departments, asking them to explain and justify the large number of reservations they are requesting from the treaty.

In the letter, Baroness Jane Campbell, a Commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, writes:

'"I know that you will understand why any perceived resistance to openness and consultation on the matter of ratifying the Convention would risk damaging the Government's reputation in the area of disability rights where it should otherwise be extremely proud of its achievements."

In a statement the government has said it hopes to complete ratification by the spring. It also says the work is complex and it has to ensure the convention can be implemented into British law.

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Asif Yusuf
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