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Amendment made : No. 23, in page 18, line 34, leave out 34' and insert 35'.-- [Mr. Viggers.]
Amendments made : No. 24, in page 19, line 20, leave out in respect of that year'.
No. 25, in page 19, line 28, leave out 34' and insert 35'. No. 26, in page 19, line 33, leave out
in respect of any year'.
No. 73, in page 19, line 37, leave out from offence' to end of line 42 and insert--
(4A) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (4) above-- (
(a) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, and
(b) if the failure to submit the monitoring return continues after conviction, is liable on a second or subsequent summary conviction to a fine not
Column 1185exceeding one tenth of level 5 on the standard scale for each day on which the failure continues.'.-- [Mr. Viggers.]
made after consultation with the Commission'.
Mr. Viggers : These four amendments all relate to different aspects of monitoring. In brief, amendment No. 27 fulfils a Committee stage undertaking to require the Department to consult the commission before making the monitoring regulations. Amendment No. 28 reflects a technical difference in the period of time to which monitoring returns dealing with employees and applicants relate. Amendment No. 29 allows the regulations flexibility to provide for different modes of monitoring classifications for different categories of employees. Amendment No. 30 provides that regulations may contain a requirement for an employer to use methods of monitoring other than the indirect "schools" question or the direct question.
It is appropriate to give a few words of explanation on this group of amendments, especially amendment No. 30 which makes specific provision for an employer, when compiling a monitoring return, to use such sources of information as will enable him to compile a return with the greatest degree of accuracy. As drafted, clause 28 makes no reference as to how monitoring is to be conducted, or the sources which should be used. As was explained in the Department's "Guide to Effective Practice", and confirmed in the fair employment White Paper, the Government's preferred method was for employers to use an indirect method of obtaining information about a person's community background for purposes of monitoring. The advantages of using information about the schools attended by each employee were put forward in that connection. I need not rehearse again the benefits of this method in terms of making available to an employer a broad source of objective and verifiable information, but the Government's confidence in this method is undiminished.
Nonetheless, it was also recognised that an employer might wish to use a direct approach to establishing community background, or might wish to have recourse to any other method which appeared appropriate and justifiable in the circumstances. The important consideration was to produce a monitoring return in whose accuracy he could have a high degree of confidence. For that reason, the Bill specified the objective of monitoring, but not the methodology to be used. Concerns were expressed in Committee, however, that the Bill did not make specific provision in this regard. To set the matter beyond doubt, therefore, we are bringing forward amendment No. 30 which does three things. It creates two classes of method--principal and residuary. It provides for a certain relationship between them, that is that the employer shall first use one of the two principal methods, and, if that does not lead to a determination, may use either the other principal method or a residuary
Column 1186method ; and it gives, as it were, a worked example of how the regulations may set out principal and residuary methods. The amendment thus meets the point made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) that it is essential for an employer to be able to use a back-up method to supplement the classifications arrived at by the principal method.
This is an important point and one on which I am happy to meet the Opposition's concerns. In the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland, factual information such as home address, membership of clubs or societies, the name and occupation of any referee used in connection with an application for employment and even sporting pursuits may all provide very strong inferential evidence as to the community background of an individual. Amendment No. 30 makes specific provision for such information- -now referred to as "the residuary method"--to be taken into account in the compiling of monitoring returns. This is a complicated matter, but I hope that I have set the scene for the discussion of the amendment.
The Opposition have raised some concern about the draft of the amendment tabled on residuary monitoring. In brief, their concern is that it is not clear from the wording whether an employer who obtains misleading information from his work force about the extent to which they are Catholics or Protestants through the use of the direct question will be able to fall back on the residuary methodology to provide a more accurate monitoring return. In fact, the amendment does not allow for this. While the residuary method may be used where the work force provide a response to the direct question which suggests that they are "Christian", "Moslem" or "Other", this is not possible where they falsely declare themselves to be either Protestant or Catholic. In the former case, the information provided does not allow the employer to make an adequate determination and he may therefore fall back on either the indirect question or a residuary method to fulfil his obligation to make a monitoring return. In the latter case, however, he can only make assumptions about the accuracy of the attribution of "Catholic" or "Protestant" thrown up by the responses from the work force and he does have a "determination" as required by the legislation. It would be extremely difficult to provide in the Bill for the exercise of judgment by the employer as to when he might utilise the residuary method in such circumstances.
We do, therefore, recognise that the Opposition have a point and we believe that it might be addressed by providing for the commission to investigate dubious returns and to substitute their assessment for the return if the doubt is confirmed. The code of practice, moreover, might encourage employers who have doubts about the accuracy of their returns to bring these to the attention of the Commission. This is a difficult issue and we are conscious of the need to ensure that monitoring returns are as accurate as possible. Therefore, consideration is being given to the matter and, if appropriate, an amendment will be brought forward in the other place.
Mr. McNamara : I am obliged to the Minister for the amendment and for his comments on residual monitoring, which was a matter of concern to us. As I understand it, it was originally hoped that the regulations would deal with the monitoring, but it was always possible that the regulations would be ruled ultra vires. Therefore, I am
Column 1187extremely grateful to the Minister that we can put this matter behind us as we now have adequate monitoring provisions. We will also have suitable methods to ensure that there can be no dubiety about the returns made.
Until amendments were tabled, the original system placed an intolerable burden on the employer. An employer was compelled to make a return, but he might have done so knowing that it was false, but to make a false return also carried a penalty. Therefore, he was in a Catch 22 situation. I believe that we have now properly sought to protect the position of the employer in such cases, and that is important.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) moved an amendment to ensure that the commission was also concerned about the nature and the draft of the regulations, and we supported that amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for South Down may wish to make his own contribution, but I want to say that I am obliged to the Government for what they have done.
Mr. William Ross : The hon. Gentleman keeps on referring to his "hon. Friend the Member for South Down". It would be relevant to our discussions if the hon. Gentleman told us whether he considers the hon. Member for South Down his hon. Friend on religious grounds, Irish nationalist grounds, or Socialist grounds.
Mr. McNamara : I would hope on all three grounds. I also welcome him as my hon. Friend on the ground of being humankind. I would like to think that all people are my friends and my brothers and sisters. I was merely illustrating that my hon. Friend the Member for South Down moved an amendment with which I agreed. On occasions the Government have moved amendments with which I agreed, but other than being brothers in kind I certainly do not believe that they are members of the Socialist International and, therefore, my brothers. There were occasions this afternoon, however, when the Secretary of State was answering questions on the Anglo-Irish Agreement and I thought that I had almost recruited the right hon. Gentleman to that group.
Mr. Ashdown : The Minister will be aware that we expressed on Second Reading some concern about monitoring. I am delighted that the Government have taken account of those concerns and, in what is clearly a thoughtful conclusion to those deliberations, have produced something with which it would be difficult to disagree.
The Minister has said that he believes that the system proposed in amendment No. 30 will be accurate and fair, but it is also important to make it flexible. There is no doubt that other developments will take place in Northern Ireland and with, I hope, the development of integrated schools, the school attended by the prospective employee will not necessarily be a guide to his or her religious background. It is commendable that the Government have done much to encourage the development of such schools,
Column 1188but as that system grows apace, judging people's religious background on the basis of the school attended may no longer be appropriate.
I hope that the Government will keep a close eye on the monitoring so that they will be able to fine-tune it to respond to the new developments which we hope to see. How will such monitoring affect those who come from the growing number of integrated schools in Northern Ireland?
Mr. William Ross : The working people of Northern Ireland have described this system to me as the most offensive demand that has ever been put on them by an employer. If the Ministers of the Northern Ireland Office or the would-be Ministers on the Opposition Front Bench do not believe me, they should talk to the ordinary worker on the factory floor or any other employee in Northern Ireland and ask them what they think about the snooping into their private religious lives. Those workers will tell them that they consider it extremely offensive, as each and every Member of this House would so consider it if they were in a similar position. The Government appear more than willing to ignore the workers' feelings.
We are now being told that if an employer cannot easily find out to which religious grouping--it is either Roman Catholic or "Other"--an employee belongs, he must then make careful private inquiries as to what church he attends or what he attended as a child or was baptised in. Presumably employers will not be allowed to inquire whether the individual is still a practising member of the faith. In Great Britain, church-going is not as popular as it once was. Church attendance and the level of commitment to any Christian church in Northern Ireland vary enormously from area to area. I suspect that that intensity of commitment is not equal in any religious denomination.
There are many people in Northern Ireland, as elsewhere, who grow up and leave their church to become agnostics or atheists, non-believers, or become members of other religions, pagan religions, but for all their life they will be labelled nice and neatly Protestant or Roman Catholic. That label will be attached to them whether or not they still adhere to that religion, whether or not they practise that religion and whether or not they change their religion. It is very offensive to me and, as I have already said, it is very offensive to most of the work force of whatever religion in Northern Ireland.
There is a demand which runs like a river right through this legislation that the perception of the religious grouping to which an individual belongs shall be the label that is attached to that individual. I want merely to say to the House--not that it will do any good--that that label is permanent and is not necessarily accurate. In this as in so many other matters, the reality may be different from the public perception.
It is easy where I live, in a mixed rural community, for me to identify the religious denomination to which many people belong. I do not have to ask. I know where they live, and I know their fathers, their grandfathers and their children. Some of those people have names which make them look as if they should be Irish Roman Catholics but they turn out to be Anglican Catholics. They have names which might well indicate, since they are English, Scottish or Welsh names, that they should belong to one of the many Protestant denominations. But they do not because their forefathers come to Ireland-- [Interruption.] Would
Column 1189my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev William McCrea) agree with me that one would hardly believe that someone with the name Adams was the leader of the Provisional IRA? The same, of course, is true of McGuinness. Morrison is clearly a Northern Irish name.
Mr. Ross : Yes, and no doubt there are Ashdowns there yet--and I hope they have better politics than the right hon. Member for Yeovil. This is a nasty, double-sided piece of legislation. If the right hon. Gentleman does not understand that, he has forgotten far too much about Northern Ireland and should go back to his roots and make some inquiries of those who still live there.
We are about to move fully and firmly into the process of head-counting by perception of religious denomination, of enforcing an arrangement on the basis of some unknown criteria as to what the work force distribution between those religions should be in every place of employment in Northern Ireland. We shall be labelling people with a religion which they may have deserted or may no longer practise. We shall be labelling people by politics, which they may have changed. We talk here of community, not religion, but the reality is that we are talking about the religious adherence, or the perception of the religious adherence, of each worker.
One of the methods to be used to try to determine the religion is based on sporting affiliations. I find that strange because I know that the Gaelic Athletic Association, for instance, labels soccer a foreign game. I do not think that opinion is widely shared among the community which normally plays GAA games, where one sees many young Roman Catholics play soccer. It is probably the favourite sporting recreation in Northern Ireland, as it is elsewhere in these islands.
Mr. Ross . I think their behaviour in international matches on that side of the water is of a standard which many football clubs over here could aim for but which few of them achieve.
Sport is supposed to be a healing function, something that draws a community together into one great, happy group. Here we are proposing to find out that somebody plays soccer so he is a Prod from the Shankill or he would not play soccer.
Mr. Ross : He could very well be ; they have a very successful team in Londonderry at the moment. He could even be from South Armagh ; he could be from any place in Northern Ireland, and he could be of any religion or of none.
I fail to see how any sane person or group of persons could be so misled as to present this legislation as being healing or helpful. It is exactly the opposite, and the fact that the Government have chosen to introduce it only illustrates how vast is the canyon between their perception and the reality of life in Northern Ireland.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) asked whether the monitoring arrangements would be
Column 1190flexible. Detailed arrangements for monitoring will be made by regulations and will be capable of amendment in the light of experience.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about integrated schools. Integrated schools are not classified as either Catholic or Protestant in the guide. If, as he suggests and indicates that he hopes--as I do--there are larger numbers of integrated schools in the future, account will be taken of that and it will have a significant effect on the monitoring in due course.
Mr. Beggs : One factor that has never been stressed and made absolutely clear is the degree of integration that has already taken place in voluntary grammar schools. Many pupils in voluntary grammar schools throughout the country could be mislabelled. That must be made clear and corrected, if possible.
The hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) criticised the monitoring regime very well, but it is not difficult to criticise arrangements such as those we put forward because it is not easy to create a formula that is conducive to an improvement in the relationships between Protestants and Roman Catholics as far as job opportunities in Northern Ireland are concerned. But I have the opportunity of moving around Northern Ireland a great deal and talking to a large number of employers and employee representatives and, although there are many who are apprehensive and concerned about our proposals, the best employers regard the proposals in the Bill as totally containable within good personnel practice. They see no difficulty in implementing the monitoring regime. Many of them have done so already and they can live with it. I congratulate them and am sure that many will follow them.
Rev. Ian Paisley : We are dealing with a matter of great seriousness --the investigation of a person's religious beliefs and the attempt to put a person into a particular category. There has been a degree of deception already by employers in producing a document with at the head of it, "as approved by the Fair Employment Agency" and in the demand in that document that one fills in one's religion. The Minister knows that under European law no Government have any right to say that a person must tell them his religion, so we have in this amendment a way round that. The way to breach it is to try to find a way to assess a person's religion.
The Minister put out a booklet which was widely circulated and in which Roman Catholic schools appeared as Protestant state schools. What would happen if an employer looked at that booklet and said, "He belongs to that school, he must be a Protestant," but the pupil was a Roman Catholic? There are Roman Catholic schools within the state system. That booklet is still being used by employers in Northern Ireland.
The leader of the Democrats had better know that it will be a long time before the vast majority of children have been educated in integrated schools. The Roman Catholic Church has its own view on that, as it is entitled to do. It wants its children to be brought up in that faith. My view is different. I believe that if the Government were acting properly, they would say that it was all right for anyone to run his own school, but he must pay for it, and
Column 1191that the one state school would be an integrated one, at which anyone was welcome. Of course, there are divisions about that in Northern Ireland. This Government, or any Government, would not have the guts to take such a decision, and, therefore, we must leave that issue.
We are entering a different realm--not involving schooling--in which someone is to snoop around to find out what a man does after he goes home and has his supper, what club he goes to and in what recreation he engages. Who is going to do that? Will employers have to employ a sort of private detective to ascertain the religion of their employees? In Northern Ireland, nothing will lead to friction on the work floor more quickly than such a policy, which would not be tolerated on this side of the water. If such legislation were being introduced on this side of the water, what uproar we would have from both sides of the House. However, hon. Members are now saying that the employer must go further.
What about the employer who does his very best, carries out all his duties, but, at the end, is deceived? An employer might put down a number of workers as Protestant when they were Roman Catholic, or as Roman Catholic when they were Protestant. What happens then? Will he be liable for that? That is the question that the Minister should answer tonight. If the employer gets it wrong, having done everything to get it right, will he be penalised? That is an important point, which, in all fairness the Minister should answer. It is difficult to distinguish by names.
What are the quotas for people who do not term themselves Roman Catholic or Protestant? Are they to be left out in the cold? Where do they fit in to this scheme of employment if they are outside the Protestant or Roman Catholic grouping? The Minister must tell us how the difficulties are to be counteracted.
Mr. William Ross : The hon. Gentleman is skirting around the edge of another problem involving the wide diversity of opinion that exists in the Protestant community. How does the hon. Gentleman feel about being lumped in with the Feakle clergy, and as being within the same large Protestant group?
If the Government get it wrong by giving out literature which says that Protestant schools are Roman Catholic and that Roman Catholic schools are Protestant, what will happen to the poor employer who goes by those guidelines? The Government will wash their hands clean and take it out on the employer. Those matters are relatively unimportant to the Minister, who merely wipes his hands and gives us a brief answer. However, we will have to reap the results of the legislation.
Mr. Beggs : There is very real concern in work places in Northern Ireland that, for the first time, sectarianism has been directly introduced in the workplace. The Minister could testify to the excellent working relationships in industry and commerce that have existed during the 20 years of troubles in Northern Ireland. He could testify to the fact that irrespective of their religion, or from which part of the Province they travel to work, people have got on amicably ; goods have been delivered on time and there have been good relations all round.
Regrettably, there is now a danger that, with such close monitoring, individuals will start head counting and
Column 1192looking closely at promotions and how they are taking place. The irony is that, because of the legislation, one Minister will be seen to be guilty of introducing sectarianism, while his colleague endeavours to promote daily the expansion and further development of integrated education.
For the sake of all employers in Northern Ireland, I hope that the Minister will recognise that both the Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland and the Retail Consortium, representing many employers in Northern Ireland, are not opposed to the fair employment legislation or the Bill's overall objective. However, they have concerns about monitoring. The Retail Consortium has said that it wants the Fair Employment Commission, which is to be established by the Bill, to play a constructive and understanding role in co-operating with, and assisting, employers to meet their monitoring obligations. It also states :
"Moreover, it must produce guidelines that are fair not only to job applicants, but also fair to employers. The agency should, therefore, seek to achieve a balance between the circumstances of the job applicant and the needs of the reasonable fair-minded employer. The benefits enjoyed through an enterprise economy are too valuable to be risked by unclear or unreasonable obligations upon employers, and if this was to happen it would be all the community in Northern Ireland that would suffer."
I hope that the Minister will be able to say that further consideration has been given to representations made by the CBI in Northern Ireland which wants the Bill to make it the commission's duty to monitor the labour market as a whole, not simply employers. Can the Minister say what steps will be taken by the commission to give employers confidence by ensuring that its own employees act professionally at all times, the leaking of confidential information will be prevented and, when investigations are carried out, there will not be unusually long delays in publishing their results because they have simply failed to prove that there was no discrimination against Roman Catholics?
I know that, for example, at the GEC factory in Larne, many inquiries have been carried out by the Fair Employment Agency. People have been waiting for months and months for the outcome of the report. The results will probably be too good to publish. They will probably show that there is no discrimination in my area either, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea).
Will the Minister persuade the Government to extend the scope and life of the fair employment support scheme and reduce the burden on business of the fair employment legislation? It would show the commitment of Northern Ireland employers if the Minister could say how many Northern Ireland companies have registered for the scheme, and are likely to be assisted with the costs of the first round of monitoring of returns and employers' reviews, as required by the Bill.
Rev. William McCrea : Some hon. Members are sitting here rather smugly. That is probably why they have not much to say about the Bill : they are not much concerned about what will be seen in Northern Ireland as legitimised sectarianism. This is a serious departure from the British concept of democracy--worthy of Soviet Russia rather than the Government of the United Kingdom. It is proposed that our employers should play the role of Mr. Snoopy--or Miss Snoopy.
Column 1193In the town where I live, which is shared between my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross), is a school known as the Rainey Endowed school, which has had an excellent education record for many years. A couple of years ago the Roman Catholic Church decided that its children should no longer be educated at a school which, although it was not described as an integrated school, was integrated in reality : Roman Catholics and Protestants worked side by side, and came out with an education second to none. Many went on to Oxford or Cambridge, and indeed further, carrying the flag of Magherafelt across the world. Despite the decision of the Roman Catholic Church, a number of Catholic parents decided not to take their children away ; but the Minister's document will call the Rainey Endowed a Protestant school, and anyone who writes on the form that he went there will be regarded as Protestant. That is what the statistics will say : the Government have legitimised something that is not true.
My child goes to that school, and I know that a number of Roman Catholics have decided that Protestants and Catholics can be educated together without animosity. But, according to the Minister, when a pupil of that school comes to seek employment and is asked what school he attends, the Minister's document will tell the employer that he is a Protestant, because he has written on the form that he went to the Rainey Endowed school. That is not only misleading but completely untrue--and the stamp of approval has been put on that untruth by the Department of Economic Development in the Northern Ireland Office.
Other children at the school have Pakistani or Indian backgrounds, but according to the Minister's document they belong to the Protestant community because they attend a Protestant school--not a school where everyone is welcome and a number of faiths are represented, along with those who desire to belong to no faith. Can a person not decide for himself whether he wants to belong to a faith? Can someone brought up in a Church of Ireland home and sent to a certain type of school not decide, when he is of an age to find a job, that he does not want to belong to the Protestant faith? Have such people no rights? They may have no desire to be connected with a particular religious persuasion. The legislation is a complete denial of people's right to make decisions for themselves.
Mr. William Ross : Would not my hon. Friend be wiser to concentrate on the Model school in Londonderry, which is a primary school? I fear that the Minister will try to get out of the case that my hon. Friend is making by pointing out its reference to secondary rather than primary schools. The Model school is a primary school whose religious make-up is about 50:50.
Rev. William McCrea : That is an excellent example of what the Minister and his Department will call a Protestant state school, although 50 per cent. of those who attend it are Roman Catholic. They have a right to attend. The state schools are not Protestant schools ; they are open to everyone to gain an education with no religious tag attached.
Column 1194The form will also ask what sport the applicant plays. What the Department is really trying to find out is which foot he kicks with. Depending on what sport he plays, he is a right footer or a left footer.
Ministers will give a smug answer to many of the harsh realities that I have uttered, but I hope that much of what has been done to the community in Northern Ireland will come home when the ethnic communities on this side of the water wake up to what legislation can do for them. Perhaps neither the Government nor the Opposition Front Bench will be white then. Chickens will come home to roost ; and no one will enjoy it more than the people who have suffered at the hands of those who are trying to force sectarianism on the people of Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) knows the truth about workplaces in Northern Ireland. So does the Minister : he said that he had been talking to employers. Will he tell us whether they agree that Protestant and Roman Catholic work side by side to achieve a quality of production that many firms on this side of the water long for?
Question put, That the amendment be made :--
The House divided : Ayes 103, Noes 4.
Division No. 218] [8.19 pm
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Beith, A. J.
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon John
Davis, David (Boothferry)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Fishburn, John Dudley
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Maude, Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Pike, Peter L.
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Waddington, Rt Hon David
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)