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Clause 44

Procedure in case of default by Crown bodies

Amendments made : No. 57, in page 32, line 21, after 31' insert 35'.

No. 58, in page 32, line 22, at end insert--

and, accordingly, sections 32(3), 33 and 40 do not apply in relation to such a public authority.'.-- [Mr. Viggers.]

Clause 45

Interpretation of Part II

Mr. Viggers : I beg to move, amendment No. 59, in page 33, line 18, at end insert--

(1A) The Department may by order amend the definition of "employee" in subsection (1) above by substituting for the number of hours for the time being specified in paragraph (a) such other number as is specified in the order.'.

Madam Deputy Speaker : With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 67 and 68.

Mr. Viggers : The amendment empowers the Department to vary the number of hours in the definition of "employee" by order exercisable by statutory rule subject to affirmative resolution procedure in the Northern Ireland assembly and, thus, to negative resolution at Westminster during direct rule. This is in response to an undertaking I gave in Committee and I hope that the House will support it.

Ms. Mowlam : I should like to put on record the fact that we are pleased that the Government have met the request that we made in Committee. This is a particular problem in relation to part-time workers, the majority of whom are women. We are pleased that the Minister listened to our arguments.

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Mr. McGrady : I should like to thank the Minister for making the provision capable of revision. It is vital to a substantial number of employees in Northern Ireland, such as home helps in the Health Service, hospital cleaners and part-time farmers. A considerable amount of the employment in Northern Ireland is short term. I hope that there will be careful monitoring by the Department of the requisite number of hours--16. I hope that that will be revised if it is found that many people who may be subject to discrimination are outside the scope of the Act simply because they work only 12 or 15 hours. I hope that the Minister will undertake to bring about a speedy revision if it is found to be necessary.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 47

Meaning of "discrimination"

Mr. McNamara : I beg to move amendment No. 83, in page 35, line 11, leave out requirement or condition' and insert

requirement, condition, policy or practice'.

This matter arose in Committee and it is important and technical. Our arguments can be found by hon. Members if they look at the appropriate point in the Committee proceedings.

The purpose of the amendment is to tighten the provision dealing with indirect discrimination to deal with the problems thrown up by recent developments in case law in anti-discrimination legislation. At present, a complainant can prove a case of indirect discrimination only if he can show that the barrier that has prevented him from securing the post in question is a "requirement or condition". That could be interpreted by the courts in such a way as to include "policy or practice", thus rendering the amendment superfluous. However, case law suggests that the courts interpret such provisions in a narrow way. Two well known cases--Meer and Pereira--have been dealt with in the Court of Appeal. In both cases a narrow interpretation has been applied by which, in order to show indirect discrimination, the complainant must show that the behaviour of the employer against whom he is complaining constitutes an absolute bar to the complainant's employment. Anything less is not indirect discrimination.

In practice, that means that an employer could decide to exercise a preference in favour of people who are not residents of west Belfast, east Belfast or Magherafelt. As long as the preference was not an absolute ban on the employment of people from those places, it would be legal. The amendment would ensure that such preferences were included in the definition of indirect discrimination.

A further point must be made which was not made in Committee. When the Court of Appeal was discussing the Meer case it made its decision on the understanding that legislative change would be forthcoming. The case was partially argued on the basis of forthcoming legislative change and the court stated that the case required Parliament to act.

The Government's main objection to the amendment is that it would change the definition of indirect discrimination and, therefore, has obvious implications for Britain's sex and race legislation. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the Government have promised to introduce an amendment which, while not changing the

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definition of indirect discrimination, will assist the Fair Employment Commission in dealing with employers who adopt dubious practices which fall short of indirect discrimination.

The full argument on that case is contained in paragraphs 623 and 624-- pages 57 and 58--of SACHR's report. I will not weary the House by quoting that extensively. However, the case law is well argued and can be seen. I would be happy to introduce it into the debate if I felt that it would command the attention of my hon. Friends and other hon. Members.

It will be nonsense if we have a phrase in the code of practice saying that certain practices must not be used in terms of employment when seeking to engage new workers which, if challenged before an industrial tribunal, would have to be upheld on the basis of Court of Appeal decisions. That is not what the Government or the Opposition want. Therefore, I hope that the Government will consider the matter carefully. It would be terrible if, as was once said by one of my hon. Friends, the barrel of honey was ruined for a penn'orth of tar.

Mr. Viggers : I will not rehearse the arguments that have been the subject of discussion and correspondence between the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and myself. I understand the point he makes. We are contemplating the possibility of introducing an amendment which would operate on the following lines. It would place a duty on the commission to follow proceedings of all individual cases before the tribunal. It would give the commission the discretion to form an opinion, following its analysis of an individual case, that the respondent might fail to afford equality of opportunity. It would give the commission a discretionary power to inform the respondent concerned of its opinion that he should take action to promote equality of opportunity and provide, as with clause 13, that any person so informed may give a written and voluntary undertaking to the commission to take the appropriate action. This proposal, which responds to suggestions by the Opposition, is still being considered and it is a very technical matter. It seems to have the merit of placing the key function of recommending action in the area of equality of opportunity on the commission rather than running the risk of compromising the tribunal's appellate role in pattern and practice cases by placing it on the tribunal. Moreover, the result is the same in that the employer is placed on notice that in the opinion of the commission certain action is necessary to promote equality, irrespective of the outcome of the individual's discrimination case.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that this matter is being considered and that we will take full account of the points that he has just made. We shall seek to bring forward some words which will take account of this fact if we are able to meet the points in the other place.

Mr. McNamara : I am obliged to the Government. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 48

Complaints of unlawful discrimination

Mr. Viggers : I beg to move amendment No. 89, in page 38, line 13, leave out from exceed' to end of line 15 and insert £30,000'.

Madam Deputy Speaker : With this it will be convenient to consider Government amendments Nos. 90 and 91.

Mr. Viggers : There has been concern that the limit of £8,925 on compensation payable by the tribunal in individual cases of religious discrimination is too restrictive and a flaw in the Bill. By way of response to these concerns, the Government's amendment increases the limit that the tribunal can order from £8,925 to £30,000. As hon. Members will be aware, the new Fair Employment Tribunal is modelled closely on the existing industrial tribunal structure and, as such, it attracted the maximum level of fine for discrimination available under the industrial tribunal mechanism--£8,925. However, it was pointed out in Committee that such a figure, particularly since it represented a maximum level of compensation, could well deter individuals from bringing cases of discrimination given the unique sensitivities which attach to the issue of religious discrimination in Northern Ireland.

We therefore considered uprating the £8,925 limit to a level equivalent to that already set in the Bill for failure to comply with orders of the tribunal. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) for putting this idea forward. I am pleased to say that I accept the rationale of the amendment. The other two amendments provide for the Department by order to change the figure of £30,000 to take account of a change in the value of money.

Mr. William Ross : We seem to be increasing the sum in the amendment while leaving aside the sums in article 37 of the Industrial Relations Order 1976. I am not clear about whether those sums will be increased by a like amount.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made : No. 90, in page 38, line 46, at end insert-- (9) If it appears to the Department that there has been a change in the value of money since the relevant date, it may by order substitute for the sum for the time being specified in subsection (4) such other sum as appears to it to be justified by the change. (10) In subsection (9) "the relevant date" means--

(a) in relation to the first order under that subsection, the commencement of section 48 of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989, and

(b) in relation to each subsequent order, the last occasion when the sum specified in subsection (4) was altered.

(11) A statutory rule containing an order under subsection (9) shall be subject to negative resolution ; and section 41(6) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 (meaning of "subject to negative resolution" shall apply as if the power to make the order were conferred by a Measure of the Northern Ireland Assembly.'. No. 60, in page 39, line 47, leave out subsection (4).

No. 61, in page 40, line 9, leave out subsection (1) and insert--

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(1) Where a prospective complainant requests the Commission in writing for advice in relation to prospective proceedings under this Part, the Commission shall give him such advice unless it considers that the request is frivolous.'

No. 62, in page 40, line 32, leave out and'.

No. 63, in page 40, line 38, at end insert


(e) any other form of assistance which the Commission may consider appropriate.'.-- [Mr. Viggers.]

Clause 51

Provision of training

Amendment made : No. 64, in page 42, leave out lines 9 to 11.-- [Mr. Viggers.]

Clause 52

Measures to encourage applications etc. from under-represented community

Amendment made : No. 65, in page 42, line 26, leave out (within the meaning of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989)'.-- [Mr. Viggers.]

Clause 54

Regulations and orders

Amendments made : No. 66, in page 42, line 39, after 9(10),' insert 17(5A),'.

No. 67, in page 42, line 39, leave out or 39(3)' and insert 39(3) or 45(1A)'.

No. 68, in page 42, line 42, leave out from regulations' to has' in line 43 and insert

under section 23(8) or 28 of this Act or order under section 45(1A) of this Act shall be made unless a draft of the regulations or order'.

No. 69, in page 43, line 2 after section' insert 17(5A),'.-- [Mr. Viggers.]

Schedule 2

Minor and consequential amendments

Amendments made : No. 70, in page 45, line 40 at end insert or section 2 of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989'. No. 71, in page 47, line 47 leave out

section 12(2) to (5) and sections' and insert sections 12(3),'. No. 91, in page 48, line 10, leave out from subsection (2)' to and' in line 11 and insert

for "an order under section" there is substituted "regulations under section 28 or an order under section 26(9) or".'.

No. 72, in page 48, line 13 at end insert--

(za) after the definition of "advertisement" there is inserted " affirmative action' has the meaning given by section 55 of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 ;",'.

No. 92, in page 49, line 7, at end insert--

29. In Article 38(2) of that Order for "court" there is substituted "the Fair Employment Tribunal for Northern Ireland".'.-- [Mr. Viggers.]

Order for Third Reading read.

Mr. Viggers : I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Fair employment is a matter of concern to every individual in Northern Ireland, irrespective of religious affiliation or political opinion. It follows that legislation must be fair to all. It must be objective, balanced and capable of impartial application. We believe that our Bill

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meets these criteria. It maintains the centrality of the merit principle at the point of selection, it ensures the freedom of employers to choose the best man or women for the job, it prohibits reverse discrimination and the operation of quotas in employment. At the same time, the reality is that employment opportunities in the Province must be made available more equitably between the two communities. That is fully justifiable. [Interruption.] We need more jobs and the Government are working hard to attract more. It is also justifiable on social, economic and political grounds. Denial of equal opportunity in employment deprives individuals not just of one opportunity but of many. Jobs and their remuneration confer status, social mobility and self-esteem. The lack of opportunity to compete for them on an equal basis with others has very damaging repercussions on every individual so deprived. It is personally frustrating, but, worse than that, it wastes talents and abilities that could otherwise be usefully and constructively deployed, not only to the benefit of the individual, but to that of society in general. Therefore, equality in employment opportunity has a strong social justification.

It can also be justified, and just as powerfully, in economic terms. We have often stressed that the promotion of equality of opportunity should be seen, and is best and most effectively delivered, as an integral part of good personnel practice. Employers want freedom of choice to select the best man or woman for the job. It follows that it is in their interests to ensure the widest possible pool of competing applicants. Sound employment procedures are fully consistent with that basic economic objective. They complement systematic and qualitative selection techniques, while leaving the employer free to exercise choice on the basis of ability, aptitude and potential for the job in question.

Politically, it is self-evident that a more equitable distribution of economic opportunities between both communities in the Province will contribute to a greater degree of social cohesion and stability. That, in turn, will help to promote higher levels of mutual respect and appreciation between both communities without any compromise of traditional identities. Strategically, the promotion of equality of opportunity is complementary to the range of broader initiatives that the Government are already undertaking in the community relations field.

These principles are all reflected in the philosophy underlying the Bill. They are, of course, optimistic principles, and we make no apology for that. The Bill offers hope and expectation, but it is also realistic. It recognises that, for that hope and expectation to be fulfilled, both tough legislative provisions and effective implementation are necessary. The Bill is certainly strong. Its compulsory monitoring and review, criminal penalties, and economic sanctions all testify to that.

Our new legislation must now be effectively implemented. That is the next challenge, and good progress is already being made with the help of employers and trade unions.

Voluntary monitoring is gathering considerable momentum within Northern Ireland, with more than 420 private sector companies taking advantage of the Government's fair employment support scheme. Given that scheme's importance in the promotion of monitoring practices throughout the private sector and the response of employers to it, I am pleased to inform the House that the Government propose to extend it for a further year.

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In the public sector, voluntary monitoring is now already under way, or being prepared for introduction, across a broad spectrum of undertakings including the Civil Service, the court service, the Housing Executive and health and education boards. I am encouraged by the fact that employers' organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry, Engineering Employers Federation and Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and trade unions co- operated with the Government in educational initiatives. The Confederation of British Industry has, in addition, organised seminars for its own members, and the Engineering Employers Federation and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions recently published a joint declaration of protection for the important engineering sector.

Those are all encouraging and commendable developments. The Government recognise that their continued momentum depends to a considerable extent on the commission and employers working closely and co-operatively together. It also recognises that the commission will wish to operate to the very highest standards of professionalism, impartiality and objectivity ; and to do so in a clear and consistent manner. Employers should also feel able to turn to the commission for confidential advice and guidance without the need for formal investigation or scrutiny.

Accordingly, the Government expect the commission not only to draw up and publish its own rules of procedure but consult employers' organisations and other interested parties in doing so.

In our White Paper we committed ourselves to progressive evaluation and formal review. I have already said that I will consult at regular six- monthly intervals with the chairman of the Fair Employment Commission and that the formal review will be undertaken by the central community relations unit. In doing so, it will take the broadest possible approach. Clarification was sought on that point in Committee. I am pleased to provide it. I consider it essential that the unit's views should be closely informed by interested parties outside Government and particularly by those bodies who contributed so constructively and influentially to the framing of the legislation. Accordingly, in reviewing this legislation the unit will seek observations from outside bodies such as the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, employers' organisations, trade unions, the Equal Opportunities Commission and, of course, the Fair Employment Commission.

As already indicated in Committee, the outcome of the unit's report will be published so that all interested parties are fully informed of the consequential action proposed. That is important, because there is no doubt that in preparing for the new legislation the Government have been greatly assisted by the voluntary initiatives of individual employers, employers' organisations and trade unions. Our thinking has been constructively influenced by the various submissions on fair employment matters received over the last few years not only from such bodies but from the Fair Employment Agency and the Equal Opportunities Commission, various Churches and other interest groups and the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, in its very influential report.

Mr. Ashdown : Will the Minister allow me to intervene?

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Mr. Viggers : Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but those matters were debated at length in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman will have another opportunity to raise further points. The Government are grateful for the enterprise and initiative of all concerned, and they look forward to sustained co-operation between such bodies and the Fair Employment Commission in helping to ensure the effective implementation of the legislation.

The post of chief executive in the commission will shortly be advertised, and in preparation for the transition from agency to commission a group representative of Government and the agency has been set up to make all the necessary plans and arrangements for the transition. Appointments have already been announced of those designated to assume the key roles of chairman of the Fair Employment Commission and of president of the Fair Employment Tribunal. Work is also going forward on the subordinate legislation that will be consequent on the passage of this Bill, and work is also in hand on preparation of the draft code of practice on which there will be subsequent consultation with all interested parties.

Mr. William Ross rose --

Mr. Viggers : The hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) had the opportunity on Report to make a number of contributions, and I am sure that he will have another opportunity to speak during this debate. It will be more approprate to deal with further points at the end of my remarks.

I assure the House that, having anticipated the passage of this legislation, the Government are gearing themselves to ensure that the measures are in place and fully effective as soon as possible. I pay tribute to my fellow members of the Standing Committee and to our Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Sir G. Shaw). I also express my appreciation for the constructive and positive suggestions made by the official Opposition and by other parties during consideration of the Bill, whether in Committee or on Report. I am sure that the Bill that I now urge the House to approve is sharper and more effective as a result of our deliberations. That is important, given the strong commitment of all parties in the House to the principle of fair employment and its effective implementation in Northern Ireland. I invite the House to approve the Bill.

8.54 pm

Mr. McNamara : Northern Ireland occupies an unusual position in the United Kingdom, both in terms of its constitutional status and of its attitude to Northern Ireland business within this House. One of the assumptions that has permeated thinking on Northern Ireland is that the normal cut and thrust between Government and Opposition should not apply, summed up in the term bipartisanship.

Underlying that assumption is the belief that it is the Opposition's duty loyally and uncritically to support the Government in their Northern Ireland policies. That view confuses two things. No one should neglect to recognise the difficulties and personal sacrifices involved on the part of those right hon. and hon. Members who serve and have served in Northern Ireland. Ministers are entitled to sympathy and understanding on that score. But to proceed from that view to the argument that the best interests of

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Northern Ireland are served by an uncritical approach on the part of the Opposition is a serious error of logic. Even if the Government and Opposition did not have substantial differences about Northern Ireland's long-term future, an uncritical approach would still be inappropriate.

Our experience of progress with the Bill confirms my long-held belief that a constructive and critical perspective on the part of the Opposition is the best policy. The Bill was substantially amended in Committee and on Report, and is now a better Bill than it was when first laid before the House at the end of last year. Given today's undertakings, it will be far better still when it returns from another place. I am certain that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland agree that the Bill has benefited from the long, arduous and tortuous discussions in Committee. I pay tribute to the Under- Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who was the only person who sat in his place for the whole of the Committee's proceedings. That was a considerable physical feat, apart from the fact that he had to suffer all of us. We commend him for it.

It is the duty of a responsible Opposition not to keep their views to themselves but to present them as forcefully and as cogently as possible. The improvements made since Second Reading reflect very favourably on the ability of the Secretary of State and the Minister to listen to reason as expressed by right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House. I may say en passant that that quality is in short supply among the other members of the Government. However, the Department's sensible attitude shows the importance that we all attach to the role of human rights, particularly in Northern Ireland, and the need to ensure that the Bill is as proper and correct as it can be.

What is more important about that give and take on both sides is that it helps to demonstrate the validity of reason as a political weapon in the context of Northern Ireland--and that makes a valuable contribution to taking the guns out of Northern Ireland politics. The normal exchange of political ideas is of much greater benefit than an artificial unanimity within the House.

Let us briefly examine the progress that has been made. The Bill has been amended in several important respects. Goals and timetables have been added and provision has been made to change the definition of "employee" by empowering the Government to lower the 16-hour limit by Order in Council. The unacceptable provisions relating to compensation for individuals deemed to be victims of discrimination have been altered to permit more realistic payments. The arrangements concerning monitoring have been amended to make the process less amenable to sabotage. Amendments have been introduced to permit advertising calculated to encourage applications from members of under-represented groups and to improve the administration of the enforcement mechanisms, and to some extent the conflict between affirmative action and discrimination has been tackled.

We have also had assurances today that the Government will be taking action to deal with the weaknesses of the definition of indirect discrimination and some of the conflicts between the Bill and sex discrimination and European legislation. I also understand that employers will be permitted to take unemployment into account and that the Government consider exclusive recruitment from the job market to be lawful.

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I also welcome the Government's decision, in correspondence to me, to introduce procedures to ensure that information supplied to the Department from the commission will be governed by strict rules as to the use to which such information is put. We all welcome today's decision to extend the voluntary monitoring system for another year. I should have liked it to be extended indefinitely as it is an important inducement to employers. The Minister's statement today about the role, work and methods of dealing with the central community relations unit is also important. In short, most of the points which the Secretary of State claimed were mischievous on Second Reading have become orthodoxy on Third Reading.

Until tonight, the matter of affirmative action still had to be satisfactorily resolved. We discussed the issue earlier this evening and there is no point in going into detail now, but the action that the Government intend to take in that regard will remove many of our remaining fears about the effect of the legislation. It is not a question of the Government's integrity or desire ; it is a question of the Bill's competence to meet the Government's intentions and desires. The proposals that the Government are thinking of implementing will be extremely important if they are carried through. Therefore, the conflict between clause 51 and the European Community equal treatment directive will also be eliminated.

However, we still have reservations about the Bill. The issue of clause 42 must be tackled. We have discussed some of its difficulties, but the essential element is the unacceptability of including a provision which violates individuals' rights in an arbitrary way, particularly in legislation which is designed to secure and extend human rights.

We do not believe that the Government have adopted the correct approach to contract compliance. By making it difficult to exclude from Government contracts employers who practise discrimination the Government are putting out the wrong signal. Although I appreciate what the Minister said earlier, we would not have fashioned the Bill in that way. However, we welcome the points that the Minister has made and we do not doubt the Government's commitment to equal opportunity.

I regret that the Government have refused to respond to the challenge of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights report on fair employment, which called upon the Government to set their own goal and timetable for the elimination of the differential rate of Catholic and Protestant unemployment. I understand the difficulty, but, as we had to point out, and as the Government eventually had to accept, goals and timetables are not in themselves affirmative action but are a way of measuring affirmative action. As the Government are such an important employer, it would have been a fine thing, and let us hope that it happens in areas where the Government have considerable influence.

That leads me to the question of political will, which is another wider problem. Northern Ireland desperately needs more employment as well as fair employment. To attract inward investment--a subject close to the hearts of the Secretary of State and of the Minister and on which they have worked very hard ; we support them in their endeavours--it is necessary to convince North American investors that equality of opportunity is being provided. In some ways we do not like the American concern, although we understand it, but it would be foolish not to realise that it exists. Investors have the right, if not the duty, to ensure

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that their money is employed only or socially acceptable purposes in a socially acceptable environment. Ethical investment is not a purely American phenomenon, as has been shown by its growth in Britain. It is real and should be encouraged. Therefore, I hope that North American friends of Northern Ireland, when looking at this legislation, will turn their attention to its implementation, to seek and encourage investment in firms in which there is investment possibility and fair employment and that the Government have methods of monitoring it and enforcing it with fair remedies which now appear to have real potential as a result of the Bill.

To rectify the historical patterns of inequality which have so disfigured the Province, effective equality of opportunity must be provided in Northern Ireland. That is necessary to assist in the process of establishing a genuinely democratic system in Northern Ireland. The Government must realise that the essential passage of the Bill to the statute book is not the end of the matter ; it is a means to an important end. If we were to take that misguided attitude, the effort put into the Bill by the Government and the Opposition would be wasted.

The Government should not leave the matter solely in the hands of the bodies set up by the Bill. They must openly and persistently demonstrate their commitment to equality of opportunity. The Bill now provides a strong, potential legal foundation for an equality of opportunity policy. Much building work remains to be done. We have to monitor the implementation of the policy, for example. The Government must ensure that their own house is in order, given the limited applicability of the Bill to the public sector. They must ensure that their industrial policy, especially with respect to the location of employment, takes on board the concept of equality of opportunity. I hope that the Government are aware of the necessity of following through the legislation if their own noble objectives, which they have laid down for themselves today and in the Bill, are to be achieved.

This is not the Bill that a Labour Government would have introduced. It is not even the Bill we were considering introducing under Standing Order No. 58, if the Government had not amended the Bill. We would have been prepared to introduce a Bill that would have been based more strongly and more specifically on the report of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights and on the reasonable proposals of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

As I have said before, we still have reservations. We continue to hope that some of the defects will be rectified, as we have been promised this evening. Nevertheless, we have been given some idea of the way in which the Government intend to proceed. They have given us firm undertakings about what will happen in the other place, and we have made considerable progress since Second Reading. The Bill is now potentially strong and workable, which was not the case in January. In those circumstances, if the Bill is challenged on Third Reading, I will recommend to my right hon. and hon. Friends that they should in confidence go with the Government into the Lobby tonight.

9.7 pm

Mr. Peter Robinson : The final words of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) have come as no surprise to hon. Members, especially

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those of us who served in Committee. It comes as no surprise that the Labour party are toeing the Government's line this evening. There were two incidents in Committee that persuaded many of us that the Labour party was simply putting up a front and was not intending seriously to challenge the Government on any of their measures. I can recall that, on the second day in Committee, Labour Members, sticking their chests out, tabled an amendment which would have required the Fair Employment Tribunal to be statutorily fair and impartial, and to deal with its business according to a set time schedule.

However, the Minister had only to utter the weakest of assurances and the stiff opposition of the Labour party melted away. Labour Members sought to withdraw their amendment, which would have required the tribunal, by law, to act fairly and impartially and which provided that it could be taken to a judicial review if it did not act in that manner. When I refused Labour Members the right to withdraw their amendment, I watched the sorry spectacle of Labour Members voting against their own amendment--so much for the Labour party's opposition in Committee. As we have seen in this stage of the Bill, that party's opposition to the Bill has disappeared entirely. The second event that I can recall most closely was when I tabled an amendment in Committee. In passing, I should add that I believe the measure to be so flawed and defective that no amendment would make it a satisfactory piece of legislation. Moreover, having listened to the debates in Committee, I was eventually persuaded to table one amendment which was--

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