Junior minister suggests world ‘realities’ mean government attacks on rights are likely to continue

Any cherished hope that the government could embrace the opportunity of doing something positive for disabled people seems misplaced.

This came to light when a justice minister effectively dismissed calls for government action. That is, action to do more to protect the social and economic rights of disabled people and others.


Dr Phillip Lee.

The hard truth was revealed by a junior justice minister Dr Phillip Lee, whose responsibilities include human rights. He spoke at the launch of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report on Britain’s progress in implementing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

He said that “the realities of the world” – including population growth, an ageing society, and mass migration – and “finite resources” meant the government could not afford to meet the report’s call for action on the rights laid out in the covenant.

That means NO action on:

·        rights to work, including safe and healthy working conditions;

·        social security and an adequate standard of living;

·        the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health;

·        education and cultural life.

Although the ICESCR was ratified by the UK in 1976, the EHRC report says the “overall picture” with its implementation in the UK “remains deeply concerning”.  It goes on to say that the government has “failed to show why its tax, policy and legal reforms since 2010 were necessary and fair, and how they align with human rights standards”.

It also says: “Social security reforms made by successive UK Governments since 2010 have had a particularly disproportionate, cumulative impact on disabled people, resulting in a regression of their rights to independent living and to an adequate standard of living and social protection.”

Rights ‘recognised’

Disability News Service (DNS) reports that Lee said he recognised the rights laid out in the covenant and said the EHRC report provided a “timely” and “useful summary” of the commission’s views on the government’s progress in its implementation. He added that it highlighted “some key issues and certainly gives us some pause for thought”.

The clear indication that no action would be taken was when he said he wanted to “talk from the heart”.

According to DNS, he said it was “all very well talking about social and economic rights” but the world was changing “at an ever increasingly-fast pace”. This, he said, includes population growth, developments in artificial intelligence, an ageing population, and migration.

He added: “It’s all very well talking about rights… but the corresponding thing is responsibility, duty, duty to others, duty to each other, duty within the community, responsibility within communities, responsibility of our country and the world.

“Although I congratulate you on your work and recognize it’s well-motivated, I have to deal with realities of the world.”


Virginia Bras-Gomes.

Virginia Bras-Gomes, chair of the UN committee on economic, social and cultural rights (UNCESCR), later told DNS that there was a “growing concern” among her committee that progress in realising those rights had “come to a standstill”.

The UK government appears to “know what the difficulties are” – including migration and an ageing population – she said, but added: “What I don’t see happening in many countries, including the UK, is that not everything is being done to use the resources the country has to deal with the difficulties.”

She said: “There is a growing defiance on the part of developed countries to say, ‘look at all the difficulties we face, we cannot go beyond what we have done already’.”

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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