Mr. Archer : I wish that were true. I wish that it were possible to draw a line between present and past and to say that the hand of the past will never be heavy on the present. Some examples have been given in this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) said in an intervention that the very fact that many Catholics have found it difficult to find work in engineering has created a cultural tradition in which they do not consider obtaining engineering qualifications. There are all sorts of ways in which the past sits heavily on the present.
Mr. Michael J. Martin : In the west of Scotland from where I come, there are descendants of Irish Eiremen and Irish Ulstermen. There are heavy engineering industries in the west of Scotland, too--in particular, the aircraft industry in which I worked. Catholics find no difficulty in adapting to those jobs in the west of Scotland, so why is
Column 229Ulster different? If the argument is about Protestant and Catholic schools, the fact is that denominational schools also exist in the west of Scotland.
Mr. Archer : My hon. Friend is right. There is nothing about somebody's theological opinions that reflects on their ability to carry out engineering work. However, the very fact that these problems have existed in the past leads to their perpetuation in the present.
If we simply provide that there shall be no future discrimination, then, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North said, we may prevent those who wish to take affirmative action from taking it. That is a real danger, as the Bill is drafted. I am certain that the Government neither intended nor planned that, but they should be very careful that it does not turn out to be one of the by-products of the legislation.
The first part of the Bill imposes a duty on the commission and, through the commission, on employers to promote equality of opportunity. Clause 20 defines equality of opportunity in terms of individual applicants. One has to give equal opportunity to each individual applicant. Anyone who takes special measures to improve the competitive position of Catholics may find that he is in breach of those earlier provisions.
Affirmative action is discussed in the White Paper--I think that it is discussed rather better there than it is addressed in the Bill--and affirmative action is dealt with in the earlier part of the Bill. It is written, by clause 1, into duties under the 1976 Act, but we do not hear much more about it in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North has already read out the definition in clause 53. How does that square with the duty to provide equality of opportunity for individuals?
The White Paper contained a different definition. It referred to "special measures taken to promote a more representative distribution of employment in the workforce."
When the Minister replies to the debate, I hope that he will say why the Government have changed that definition, which would have made it clear that special measures were not intended to fall foul of the duty to afford equality of opportunity. It would have been better still if the Government had spelt out in the Bill, at least as examples, some of the steps that they were talking about. Of course we all understand the need for common sense and a sense of justice to individuals ; otherwise, we alienate the majority and cause a digging in of heels. We make it harder for those who are trying to make progress. I would not recommend a quota system. I would not suggest that employers should give preference to a Catholic who is unsuitable for a job over a Protestant who is clearly the best applicant, although, if I were pressed, I would opt for the American tie-breaker : when two applicants have equal qualifications, preference should be given to the one who has been penalised in the past.
There are all kinds of affirmative action that would not be offensive to anybody, such as extending and formalising the recruiting and advertising procedures, establishing goals and providing outreach training schemes. The Fair Employment Agency said in its reaction to the Bill--nobody pretends that the FEA has any political axe to grind--that it regrets that affirmative action was not spelt
Column 230out, as it is in the sex discrimination and the racial discrimination legislation. Then it would have been clear that that kind of action was not unlawful.
I remember the arguments that we had over the MacBride principles. They are written on my heart. The Secretary of State, if I may remind him, said at that time precisely what my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North is saying now : that the MacBride principles would fall foul of the equal opportunities legislation. The Government said that the MacBride principles recommended reverse discrimination--even a quota system. Those who have taken the trouble to read them will recollect that they did no such thing ; but they did recommend affirmative action.
It was said then that to adopt those principles would entail a breach of existing legislation, because they would discriminate against Protestants. The American courts gave fairly short shrift to that argument, but the question was raised by those who wished to discredit the principles. They argued their case in the context of the existing legislation about equal opportunities.
The MacBride principles became emotively charged for two reasons. First, as the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) reminded us, there were those who were prepared to see them used to discourage American investment in Northern Ireland. I know that Sean MacBride never intended that they should have that effect. What most effectively discouraged American investment in Northern Ireland was the very discrimination which they were intended to remedy, but, I take the point made by the hon. Member for Foyle, that nobody wants to discredit what is already happening in Northern Ireland ; we do not want to discourage overseas investment.
The second reason was that the principles were associated with Sean MacBride. I understand that those who knew him in the 1920s remember him as a participant in the violence that, unhappily, affected the whole of Ireland at that time. I knew him as a man whose life was dedicated to the cause of human rights, as the tireless chairman of Amnesty International, where I knew him best, and as a committed worker for peace. I should be out of order if I embarked on a further vindication of Sean MacBride, but I understand why the MacBride principles evoked some of the problems and why they were not considered objectively. But there were those who fastened upon those matters because they did not want progress to be made.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North is anxious that those who do not want to see progress made will fasten on precisely those problems. I hope that that controversy will not be reopened by the Bill. It will be bad enough if it provides an excuse for those who want an excuse not to take affirmative action, and it will be a tragedy if it deters those who genuinely want to address the problem--and there are many such people. I ask the Secretary of State to avoid that risk and to look again at the Bill, while there is still time, to ensure that the omission of those clarifying words does not defeat the very purpose of the Bill.
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : Earlier in the debate, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said that he did not believe that the Bill had anything to do with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I refer the
Column 231House to the answer given by the Under- Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney), who said :
"Many programmes and measures have been introduced of value to all the people of Northern Ireland, including the minority, since the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. Among the items which have benefited from discussion through the Conference are the establishment of an independent commission for police complaints, the repeal of the Flags and Emblems Act, new legislation aimed at full equality of opportunity in employment".--[ Official Report, 12 January 1989 ; Vol. 144, c. 979.]
So the Government have put it on record that the Bill flows from the Anglo- Irish Agreement. It ill behoves the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North to deny that, although he may not believe in the truthfulness of the Government and may justify his comments because of that.
For many years a great deal of attention has been focused in Northern Ireland on the question of fair employment. We have heard it implied in the House tonight that if we had full employment in Northern Ireland, or at least if the Roman Catholics felt that they had their quota of employment, the troubles would cease.
I was late coming to the House because I was attending the funeral of one of my constituents who was murdered in Strabane the other day. Does the House really believe that if the man who lobbed the bomb into the police vehicle had been given a job he would not have taken such action? Does the House really believe that the gangs who gathered and stoned the police, the ambulance and those who hastened to bring help to the dying man would not have done so if they had had their quota of employment? If the House believes that, it fails to realise what lies behind the Republican violence in Northern Ireland. The House should face up to that.
The very people who killed the police officer and who jeered at those who went to help as the man bled to death, also bomb factories and places of employment and repulse efforts by the Government to bring employment to their areas. The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) told me that the Republicans blew up an employment centre in Londonderry and then, when an election was being held, they used the tin that had been put round the wrecked site for posters saying "Vote for Sinn Fein".
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : Once again, the hon. Gentleman generalises and implies that the struggle for fair employment is to give fair employment to a group of gunmen and bombers. We are discussing fair employment for the people of Northern Ireland across the sectarian divide. When the hon. Gentleman, rightly, uses emotive examples, he is conveying a different impression. I shall vote against the Bill because it does not go far enough towards what I want, but the hon. Gentleman is trying to make us adopt an emotive approach like his.
Rev. Ian Paisley : If the hon. Gentleman had been in the House earlier and had heard what was said, he would agree that the impression was given that if these people had jobs they would not be shooting, killing, maiming and bombing. That is what was said and I was dealing with that point. I too shall be voting against the Bill, for wholly different reasons, as will my colleagues.
There are those who have tried to give the impression during the debate that there is a terrible situation in Northern Ireland in which Protestants are engaged in wholesale discrimination in employment against Roman
Column 232Catholics and that Roman Catholics do not stand a chance of being employed. The hon. Member for Foyle, who unfortunately is not in his place at the moment, mentioned his own area and made some remarks about it. If one quotes anything in the House from one section of the community, it is ridiculed by another section and vice versa. I shall quote from the Fair Employment Agency's own report. The Fair Employment Agency was set up to look at employment figures in Northern Ireland. It issued a report in October 1980 on its investigations at the Department of Health and Social Security. It dealt with 21,000 personnel-- and what did it find? It found that the largest part of that particular section belonged to what was known as the amalgamated general service grades. It found when it examined that section that 54 per cent. were Roman Catholics. Most people know that the overall population figures are about 60 per cent. Protestant and 40 per cent. Roman Catholic.
Although the figures that I have quoted are in an FEA report, they are often forgotten. I could give other figures. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive, for example, has 3,500 non-manual staff. The Fair Employment Agency was pushed by many hon. Members to look into the employment question there because it had been said that Roman Catholics were not being employed by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. The report said that in clerical grades the numbers from each community were very similar up to the age of 30. In that age group, there were 343 Protestants and 348 Catholics, so over half of the people under 30 years of age in clerical grades were Roman Catholics.
Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East) : I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman's speech. It is interesting that the examples he has quoted from the FEA report involve public sector employers. I notice that the figures for prosecutions under the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976 show that 55 per cent. of prosecutions for unlawful discrimination have been in the public sector. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the answer is to have a far smaller public sector in Northern Ireland and that the privatisation programme would be a strong step in that direction?
Rev. Ian Paisley : The hon. Gentleman should wait to hear the rest of the statistics. His argument will not stand up to them, and he should try to find out what Northern Ireland is about. One does not find out from the FEA report who was discriminated against, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that a member of my church who was discriminated against by Michelin of Ballymena received the largest amount of money yet paid out in connection with deliberate discrimination. We need to find out the number of Protestants discriminated against, and I shall come to that.
There was an investigation into the Southern health and social services board. In the district of Newry and Mourne 57 per cent. of all nursing staff were Roman Catholic. The FEA found that nursing accounts for the largest proportion and greatest number of Roman Catholic staff in the board's employment. It said :
"57 per cent. of all nursing staff were assessed by the agency as Roman Catholics."
Page 43 of the report said :
"The representation of Roman Catholics within the job category of nursing is higher than would be expected given the
Column 233ratios of Protestants and Roman Catholics within the local areas and higher than their representation in the other job categories of the Southern Health and Social Services Board. The proportion of applicants for nursing posts who were Roman Catholic was also higher than their share of the locally resident population."
That was what the FEA found in the public sector.
Now let us consider the private sector. The hon. Member for Foyle talked about the problems that he had in his district. Pushed by the Unionist representatives of Londonderry, the FEA conducted a study of employment in Londonderry. It looked at private firms, and concluded :
"Companies located on the City side employ few Protestants and even in the case of one large company on the Waterside, the level of Protestants is substantially lower than the population as a whole." The City side, across the river, is predominantly Roman Catholic. There used to be a number of Protestants there, but they have been driven across the river, and the Waterside is now predominantly Protestant.
The study investigated six private firms. Lee Apparel (United Kingdom) Ltd., Londonderry, employed no Protestants at all. The FEA searched but failed to find one Protestant employed by Essex International, Londonderry. The three remaining firms were in the Waterside, which is largely Protestant. One was found to have a work force with 37.6 per cent. Protestant employees. The second had 33 per cent. and the third had fewer than 20 per cent. Those are not my figures. They are the figures of the Fair Employment Agency. I might add that no Unionist has any faith in the Fair Employment Agency, but these are its figures, nevertheless.
I find it very strange that Mr. Cooper, the head of that agency, has to be pushed hard before he will look into complaints from Unionist representatives. It takes him a long time to move on our complaints, although he is happy to move on other matters. The FEA's finding was that in Londonderry, where, according to various Republican civil rights groups, Roman Catholics could not secure employment, they had in fact so many of the jobs that in the Roman Catholic areas of the city no Protestants were found in the survey and even in the Protestant areas of the city Roman Catholics had the overwhelming majority of jobs.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : Do not those figures show that what we need in areas where Protestants are discriminated against in employment is effective fair employment legislation--with which we could have been presented today, but which is not properly contained in the Bill?
Rev. Ian Paisley : I believe that the answer--some people disagree-- is that we need jobs in Northern Ireland. The more jobs there are, the less of a problem there will be. What is more, we should involve ourselves in a drive to get those jobs, as when we have a super-abundance of jobs people will not argue.
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) that certain sections of the community follow particular occupations. For instance, tiling and slating have always been predominantly controlled by Roman Catholics in the city of Belfast, who have always worked at that trade. No one argues about that. In the shipyards, a system used to operate whereby four people did the riveting-- father, brother, uncle and
Column 234son. In the early 1920s there were serious problems in the shipyards which left a dark shadow. These are matters of history, but the way to solve the problem is to get more jobs into Northern Ireland.
I represent the whole of Northern Ireland elsewhere and I represent many Roman Catholics in my own area. I have to had to fight battles for them in this regard. A Roman Catholic nurse in my constituency was discriminated against, and I had terrible trouble in persuading a Northern Ireland Minister to do anything for me when I pleaded with him about the case. I should make it perfectly clear that I am not talking about the present Secretary of State or his team. It happened to be a Labour Minister, who is a noble Lord, with whom I had trouble. I believe that people should be appointed on their merit. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West that it is difficult to know what to do if two people have the same qualifications. The employer must consider them with regard to the respective percentages that there may be in his work force. In areas where employment quotas have risen, however, we find that instead of tailing off, they are inclined to continue to rise, until Protestants feel that they will be pushed out. That is a great problem. People receive letters through the post asking, "Do you come from a predominantly Protestant area?" I saw such a letter the other day. One of the big firms in Northern Ireland is now asking, "Do you come from a predominantly Roman Catholic area?"
Let us consider the banks. The Allied Irish bank has connections in the South of Ireland. The FEA investigated all five banks--the Allied Irish bank, the Bank of Ireland, the Northern bank, the Ulster bank and the TSB. It found that there was a wide disparity in the figures--only 16 per cent. Roman Catholic at the Northern bank but 72 per cent. Roman Catholic at the Allied Irish bank. Apparently the two banks with many branches in the Irish Republic have a majority of Roman Catholics while the three banks with their main branches in Northern Ireland have a majority of Protestants. The FEA stated : "All figures provided to the Agency show that in every bank the opportunities for Roman Catholics have been improving in the last 15 years."
That is a summary of what the FEA said about this matter. I feel that the severe position of firms in Northern Ireland in regard to the idea that employers have to monitor the religion of all their people is serious business for employers. I receive many representations from employers. We were told by the Minister that the CBI agreed with the Bill, but after he had spoken members of the CBI spoke on radio saying that they agreed with nothing of the sort and were very concerned about compulsory monitoring and so are the employers and employees. Mention has been made today of the safety of all the details about the religion of employees in Northern Ireland. People in Northern Ireland are afraid for their safety and they do not like other people to know the details of their lives. All those problems arise in regard to the legislation. If we had more employment and better employment prospects in Northern Ireland, we would not be debating this business.
I accompanied the hon. Member for Foyle on a trip to the United States of America in an attempt to persuade people to invest in Northern Ireland. It did not matter where they invested whether it be Strabane or Londonderry, the east or the west, we were both pushing for investment in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman
Column 235was very fair to us when it came to creating employment in Belfast. I bear witness to that, and I expect that he would respond by saying that I pushed just as hard as he did in regard to other places. I will continue to do so because an employed people is a happy and contented people and we need more employment in Northern Ireland. 8.2 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down) : The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has produced selective statistics which nevertheless demonstrate the great necessity for the Bill. In spite of those quotations, it is quite clear that he will vote against the Bill.
We are considering a Bill which, in its content and its extent, must appear unusual in this last part of the 20th century. I am sure that not only in north America, but in Europe, parliaments will be wondering why, after 68 years of the administration of Northern Ireland, only tonight have we produced substantive legislation to correct an ingrained injustice in the community. For many years, successive Governments hid behind the excuse that it was the problem of the then Stormont regime, but that cannot apply to the past 16 years. One of the most disappointing features of the past 16 years of direct rule was the failure meaningfully to tackle fair employment. In that period there has been no real change by persuasion or by gentle coaxing of the main employers in Northern Ireland, and gross injustices continue to be perpetrated on the religious minority in Northern Ireland.
Tonight, I was able to quote an independent assessment as late as 1987 showing that the rate of Catholic male unemployment was 2.5 times as high as Protestant, yet that statistic was queried, as were all the statistics given tonight. However, an independent body, the Policy Studies Institute, gave us that very evidence.
I listened carefully to all the hon. Members who have spoken tonight. It seems that there is a reluctance to admit that there is a problem of job discrimination in Northern Ireland, or to confront that problem. It seems that we are pussyfooting around, to use a North of Ireland expression. The statistics quoted for and against the Bill make it clear that an imbalance is caused by religious discrimination. It must naturally follow that we should do something about it. I and my party hope that the legislation that we are considering will be that something.
It is generally assumed that bigotry in Northern Ireland is the sole cause of job discrimination and that the narrow-minded small employers in Northern Ireland are doing all the damage. But that is not the case. The annual report of the Fair Employment Agency shows, surprisingly, that the blue chip companies with headquarters here in London have made a major contribution to the imbalance of employment opportunities in Northern Ireland. I am referring to the banks, the building societies and the insurance institutions which are making a great contribution to the imbalance of employment in Northern Ireland, in addition to the ingrained and endemic bigotry that exists in Northern Ireland.
The problem must be seen in perspective. As has been said, the engineering industry and the electricity supply industry in Northern Ireland have caused and are causing a great imbalance in employment. Tonight, some attempts were made to excuse or justify that on the basis of a predilection towards educational courses which prevent
Column 236the minority from participating and seeking employment in those sectors. The reality is that, when parents bring up a child knowing that certain sectors of employment are cut off from their family, they have very little option but to advise that boy or girl to go in a direction where there is a possible opening at the end of their secondary or tertiary education.
Over the years, and particularly since 1976, we have clear evidence that persuasion and gentle encouragement have come to naught. That was the method in the 1976 Act and has had little or no effect. We must now have positive, strong legislation with the severest penalties for those who flagrantly transgress the most basic human right--the right to work. As we have heard tonight, we are debating an issue which goes deep into the communities of Northern Ireland and reveals many of the prejudices and biases that exist there. The Bill may be our last chance to create a meaningful piece of legislation to redress the problem. Hopefully, as with the voting franchise and the housing discrimination measures, perhaps the Bill, properly amended, will consign this problem to history, but it will do so only with substantial amendments.
There is an anomaly in tonight's debate on outlawing discrimination in employment, because legislation already exists which should have accomplished that. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 referred to and dealt with that problem. The Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 and the much- mentioned Fair Employment Act 1976 made discrimination on grounds of political or religious belief illegal. However, despite that legislation, nothing has changed materially over the years. The continuous household survey of July 1985, which confirmed the 1971 and 1981 census figures, instigated SACHR to commission a major study by the independent body to which I have referred, the Policy Studies Institute. Its impeccable statistical technology gives
incontrovertible evidence of the continued existence of discrimination in employment in Northern Ireland.
There have been many attempts tonight to explain away the difference between Catholic and Protestant employment. I use those words as a kind of shorthand ; I am well aware of the various differences. We have heard about different labour markets and class differences. We have heard about differences in education, attitudes to work, age distribution and family size. Then there is, in the "in phrase", the so-called "chill factor"--the unwillingness of one community to travel to work in an area where another community predominates. We have heard of the dominance of the Protestant community in security-related occupations, and there is the underlying black economy.
We have heard all those arguments and excuses many times before. The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights said that all those factors had been taken into consideration. Its final conclusion was :
"While all the listed factors"--
the ones that I have mentioned--
"are related to unemployment, a man's religion is consistently shown to be a major determinant in his chance of being employed." I do not need statistics to enable me to understand what is happening and has happened in Northern Ireland. I live there and I have experienced the consequences of the contents of the reports that have been put before us. But anyone with an interest in fair employment who has studied annually the output of the Fair Employment
Column 237Agency cannot come to any conclusion but that there is an endemic problem that must be addressed with some determination. I should like to think that the Bill, in its final form--I emphasise that--will be the vehicle by which that problem can be addressed.
Ms. Abbott : Fairness in employment is a difficult issue. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that all the legislation in the world is of no avail without a genuine political will? Is the hon. Gentleman confident that this legislation is not mere window dressing to appease American opinion? What makes him confident that there is a real political will to deal with the inequality of opportunity?
Mr. McGrady : I shall deal with that in some detail. We must legislate to enable equality to be achieved. The Bill does not go far enough. There are many positive factors in the Bill that we welcome. For example, we welcome the annual monitoring of the religious composition of a work force which will enable an overview of the employment position to be obtained. That in itself will provide a ready tool for investigation if necessary.
We also welcome the expansion of the Fair Employment Agency--the commission, as it will be known--with its enhanced resources of money and manpower. We also welcome the substantial fines that can be imposed on employers and the withholding of grants and contracts from those found to have contravened the Act. We welcome the prohibition of indirect discrimination. That was a major gap in the 1976 legislation. We welcome the obligation on employers to carry out a three-yearly review of their employment practices.
However, that is as far as the Bill goes. We must examine whether the Bill in its present form will have the impact that the Secretary of State hopes. If the Bill cannot be amended in Committee, it will be difficult to accept it as a meaningful and earnest endeavour. I listened attentively to the Secretary of State on affirmative action. He listed a series of possibilities, the major one being the code of conduct. I find it strange that we are discussing the Second Reading of a Bill whose heart appears to be missing. We are debating a Bill which contains a considerable vacuum.
Affirmative action is the central issue, yet it has been consigned to a vague and imprecise definition at the end of the Bill. That will not merit great support or understanding among the people whom we represent. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) referred to the protection required for employers engaged in outreach and training programmes based on religious connotation. Our amendment, which was not selected, refers to specific religious training. That would be appropriate for any work force, but it should have read "religious-specific training".
There are glaring weaknesses over grants and contracts. Withdrawal will be used against employers, but the whole matter is discretionary. There is nothing mandatory about it. In practice, all kinds of pressure will be brought to bear on those charged with implementing the Act. The measures should be mandatory, not permissive. Even more surprising, in view of the 1976 legislation, the individual complainant is at a disadvantage. The Fair Employment Commission will be unable to take individual complaints unless there is a matter of policy. At present, the Fair
Column 238Employment Agency will investigate an individual complaint and, as it were, run with it to its successful or unsuccessful conclusion. In addition, the individual is being put into an adversarial environment before a tribunal. Let us be practical : an individual complaining about discrimination, either because he has not been given a job or is not getting promotion, or whatever, will be reluctant to take that courageous step against his employer. Under this legislation, he will face a variety of barristers and experts, which is not the case at the moment. Even if he wins, the maximum compensation will be £8,500. If he is not entitled to legal aid, he will have to judge whether it is worth his while to proceed, despite any injustice he may have suffered.
The targets and goals that were so much a feature of the White Paper appear nowhere in the Bill. I attempted to intervene when the Secretary of State talked about monitoring applications. The figure used will apply only to work forces of 250 and over. A sizeable proportion of the work force in Northern Ireland is employed by companies with fewer than 250 employees. Therefore, an enormous number of employers--I do not have statistics to show whether they comprise the majority of employers--will be able to excuse themselves from monitoring applications of their work force every three years. There are also imprecise definitions of "indirect discrimination" and the way in which that concept will be perceived when the Bill has completed its passage through Parliament.
We are concerned about the charges of discrimination that will be excepted from investigation, in view of the Secretary of State's intervention under section 42. While I do not want to bandy words with him on this issue now, my personal experience causes me concern lest section 42 has been misapplied. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North gave an example. The Secretary of State is aware of a sub judice case involving a large employer which is obviously a serious matter.
Whatever mechanism is found, there must be some appeal procedure. At the end of the day it must be possible for an individual or company to say, "I have been found guilty without trial of being a national security risk. What is this all about? May I make a submission on my own behalf?"
We are greatly concerned about the whole area of orders and regulations. They are too numerous for me to deal with in detail now. A plethora of instruments will be left to the Department of Economic Development, including the code of practice. It is wrong that all the matters which those instruments cover should be left to a period following debate in this House. They should be before us at least in draft form.
Hon. Members have spoken of the neutrality, as we call it, of the workplace. That issue was raised substantively in the White Paper, but it seems to have disappeared. Neutrality of the workplace is an essential factor in creating conditions by which equality of opportunity can be implemented. For example, in the marching season in Northern Ireland the workplace is where neutrality must exist, for it is the place where the two communities can be harnessed--where they can work together and not oppose each other. Just like the home, the workplace is a vital area for community relations.
I have given a long list of grave deficiencies in the Bill. I could go on with my shopping list, but I will not do so now. We have before us an opportunity--one might say
Column 239almost a last opportunity--to do something finally about discrimination in Northern Ireland. It will not be a meaningful measure unless it is considerably amended. Indeed, if it is not amended, it will be a sign--perhaps unintentionally--of a lack of interest on the part of the Government to listen to constructive criticism and heed well-argued reasons change. It will also question the good faith of the Government in wanting to solve the problem once and for all. I hope that in Committee the Government will respond to these criticisms and make the major changes in the Bill.
There is an essential requirement on the Government outside the Bill, and many hon. Members have referred to it. The whole issue of training for industry needs urgent consideration by the Government. They must also consider the location of training schools, for their present locations leave much to be desired. While we want inward investment into Northern Ireland, hopefully from abroad, we should remember that a great factor in discrimination terms in recent years has been the location of industry.
I must tell the Minister that at this time public bodies under his jurisdiction are guilty of discriminating in the location of industry. That happens on a daily basis, when officers of the Industrial Development Board and the Local Enterprise Development Unit misdirect firms away from areas, presumably for political reasons--and for "political reasons" one can read "religious reasons". If the Minister wants evidence of that, I will be pleased to give it to him privately. It is important that the location of new industries or the expansion of existing ones takes place on a fair basis ; otherwise, the problem of discrimination will not be resolved. My party hopes that, when replying, the Minister will comment on the points I have made. In particular, will he assure us that, in Committee, the Bill will be amended to take account of many of the shortcomings to which I have referred? If that does not happen, the Bill will be useless for the purpose for which it is intended and will be rejected by the disadvantaged people in the North as a meaningless exercise.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. Less than an hour remains before the Front Bench speakers will be hoping to catch my eye to wind up. Many hon. Members still wish to speak, so I hope that those who are called, out of consideration for others, will be brief.
Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne) : When the Secretary of State moved the Second Reading, he said that he was in favour of equality of opportunity in employment. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said precisely the same. My hon. Friend the Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) made the same point, and it was also made by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth). That shows that we have in all parts of the House a commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity in employment in Northern Ireland. There, one may think, the unanimity ceases, because despite that unanimous commitment to a single purpose, it is clear that the Opposition parties will vote against the Second Reading tonight.
I remember how, 13 or more years ago, the House voted for a Bill, introduced by the then Labour Government, which is now the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North and I voted in favour of the Second Reading and Third Reading of that Bill. We meet this evening to debate the Second Reading of this measure because of a perceived failure of the 1976 Act, which was passed through the House with the support of the Conservative party for the then Labour Government.
We may mark the words of the White Paper which preceded the Bill, because in order to establish the extent to which the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976 was successful, the Government set up their review in 1985. This is what we read in the White Paper : "the Government's statistical review revealed that the differential employment experience of the two communities was enduring, despite these extensive statutory provisions and the solid work of the Agency".
The agency, of course, under the Bill, is to be replaced, possibly in deference to the European Community, by a commission. The question which we are entitled to ask ourselves is whether my right hon. Friend believes that the 1976 Act has made matters better or worse. Has the equality of opportunity which all parts of the House desire been assisted or hindered by the 1976 Act? If the answer is that things are really no better in 1989 than they were in 1976, one may wonder why the House is being asked to replace, in effect, the 1976 Act, with further legislation if the existing legislation has not had the desired effect.
I had considerable sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South when he said that, in a sense, the whole of life is about discrimination. It would be possible to argue that, in selecting the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North as the shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the leader of the Labour party was discriminating against all other candidates for the job. I am making an assertion that, in a sense, the whole of life is about discrimination.
The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott), who has been diligent in her attendance as usual, might assert that there is unlawful, improper or unwise discrimination by the electorate, or the "selectorate" in this country because of the small number of women who are Members of this place. It is certainly an act of discrimination because, if the kind of parity which is envisaged in this Bill had been applied to women, and for all I know the number of Roman Catholics in this place, then it would be possible to argue that discrimination is proceeding all the time.
Ms. Abbott : I simply make the point that there seems to be a semantic problem here. The hon. Gentleman, with an uncharacteristic lack of precision in the use of language, is confusing the notion of individual personal judgment with the notion of discrimination, which to my mind, and certainly in recent political discourse, involves large groups of people as a whole being substantially and provably economically disadvantaged.
The hon. Gentleman cannot equate my personal choice to wear a pink jumper as opposed to a blue one in the House this evening with substantial economic disadvantage among tens of thousands and sometimes millions of people. If the hon. Gentleman is advancing a serious
Column 241argument, which I believe he is, he will do us the service of not confusing personal judgment and taste with massive economic discrimination and the political consequences which follow.
Mr. Gow : I shall not follow the hon. Lady, although I am glad that I gave way to her. The point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South that, where there is inequality of opportunity--I repeat that I wish to see equality of opportunity--the belief that such inequality can best be removed by an Act of Parliament is not proven. There are large areas of employment in Northern Ireland where there is inequality of opportunity, but it is not caused by the lack of legislative provision.
I will give just two illustrations. It is possibly a matter of regret to other hon. Members in the Chamber that there is a massive inequality of religious belief among those who are currently employed as soldiers in the Ulster Defence Regiment and those who are employed as policemen in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. But I assert that it is not the absence of legislation that has led to that differential. Indeed, I believe that there is a danger that the Bill will make matters worse.
Here we are proposing to set up a Fair Employment Commission and a fair employment tribunal. We are involving the Department of Economic Development and talking about the involvement of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. We are proposing to spend another £900,000 a year and we shall take on a total of 34 additional employees. I do not know whether those employees are going to work in Massey avenue. I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who will reply to the debate, to determine how many of those additional 34 employees will be taken on by the commission or the tribunal in Northern Ireland and how we shall determine the correct proportion of Roman Catholics and Protestants, or Jews or atheists among those employees.
Can we legislate for this matter? How can we define in any meaningful sense a travel-to-work area? When we have had the annual monitoring returns from the public and private sector, how will we say that an employer in a particular area should have fewer Protestants and more Roman Catholics? It is self-evident from my right hon. Friend's speech that, even if the Bill achieves its most benign effect, we shall not see an overall diminution in the number of people who are unemployed. We may be able to spin it out rather differently so that in some parts of Northern Ireland there will be more Protestants in work and more Roman Catholics out of work. The most benign result may be that in some other parts of the kingdom more Roman Catholics are in work.
What we really should be addressing our minds to is how we can get more jobs in Northern Ireland. Of course, we are debating the Bill because the survey showed that, pro rata, more Roman Catholics than Protestants were without a job. So that is the issue to which we should be addressing our minds.
You will have gathered, Mr. Deputy Speaker, my serious reservations about the ability of legislation to improve perceived discrimination. I repeat my opening words : I am in favour of equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland. [Hon. Members :-- "How will you do it?"] I voted in favour of what was then the 1975 Bill. I will vote in favour of this Bill tonight, because, despite my serious