Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 49)



  40.  It might be helpful also if you gave an indication as to what the recurrent cost, this extra £0.5 million on the private sector, is going to be on. That is of course in addition to the one-off costs which they are going to have in any case in terms of setting up.
  (Mr Ingram)  I am happy to provide you with that information.

  41.  My next question follows on from the series of questions Mr Barnes was asking you about affirmative action. The Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland has raised concerns in the past about the recruitment of the unemployed being indirectly discriminatory against women where the definition of "unemployed" refers to those registering for work. How do you envisage this issue being dealt with?
  (Mr Ingram)  The definition of "unemployed", so far as the Order is concerned, applies to anyone who is not working, it is not claimants or registered as unemployed, so that hopefully takes into account the whole sweep of the unemployed category, those people who primarily are housewives who stay at home, and I do not like using that type of sexist language, but that is the type of way in which it is best explained because there are many women who once were in employment and are not registered and are not claimants, but are keen to get back into work, so, so far as the legislation is concerned, it takes them into account.

  42.  And you think in that regard that the prior concern of the Equal Opportunities Commission has in fact been resolved?
  (Mr Ingram)  I would hope so——

  43.  In fact Mr O'Doherty has nodded, so I am quite happy to take that as an answer.
  (Mr Ingram)  Well, is he working behind my back?

Mr McWalter

  44.  He is your Lord Cranborne!
  (Mr Ingram)  That would allow me to sack him, which I do not want to do! I was going to say that clearly if there are still concerns by the EOC that they feel we have not resolved this, then it is a matter which then has to be taken on board because our objectives are the same in this, to try and ensure that there is no one debarred from getting back into gainful employment if they so wish.


  45.  My last question really is a sui generis question. It arises out of the Order, but it is quite separate from everything else that we have been discussing. In Article 29(2) of the draft Order, you appear to have taken an approach which provides that private land or property transactions will not be subject to the prohibition on discrimination where there is no use of an estate agent or public advertisement of a sale or letting. Could you explain the thinking behind this?
  (Mr Ingram)  The thinking behind it is that where someone is involved in the public sale of land, then they are entering into that type of wider contract and, therefore, they have got to operate within the framework of legislation. However, if someone is selling land on to a relative or a neighbour, selling on to a relative which is a private relationship, then it is excluded and it is for that reason that we felt we could not intrude into that type of relationship because land could pass between members of the family which is something which goes on a lot obviously in rural communities, and we just felt that it would be inappropriate to intrude into that area. However, where the land is advertised for sale, then clearly it comes into the ambit of the legislation.

  46.  What percentage of land sales in Northern Ireland come into the two categories you have created?
  (Mr Ingram)  I have no idea, but we will try to find out an answer to that point for you.

Mr McWalter:  The slip, in a way, about neighbours was interesting because you then focused on families. Clearly there is a prospect here of continued ghettoisation where people effectively have a quiet, off-the-record deal governing land and property transactions in order to ensure that there is in fact discrimination in the apportionment of such goods, including, for instance, land for employment purposes as well, so I do think that at the very minimum I would ask that, following our Chairman's questions, you revisit this as well at some stage and see whether maybe the Order needs to embrace those matters as well.


  47.  I am going to revisit the question rather more quickly than Mr McWalter is inviting you to do so. Why do you feel the need to include this exception in Northern Ireland when there is no similar exception in the other anti-discrimination legislation?
  (Mr Ingram)  Because of the nature of the community which is there, I would suggest. It is one of those areas that again, as you know, Mr Chairman, is very much an area of small farmers and parcels of land can be moved around on that basis. I think it reflects the reality. It is one where, although we do not have the figures, you have asked for specific figures on the values between specific types of sales, and I do not have the figures off the top of my head, so I do not know the scale of the problem immediately, but these type of transfers do go on and we have taken them into account. I do not know if I have explained that to your satisfaction. If you feel you want to pursue it further, then we can perhaps give you a more detailed explanation in writing.

  48.  Well, I have got one final question and your answer to that may resolve the matter anyway. Have you taken advice on whether this exception conforms to the United Kingdom international human rights obligations?
  (Mr Ingram)  My understanding of that would be yes and we will come back to you formally on that. I do not think the Government would ignore appropriate pieces of legislation and if we have acted in a particular way which does not comply with that, then there would be a good reason for us so doing. I do not have an answer for you at this point, so we will come back to you again in writing on that.

  49.  Thank you very much indeed. I know I speak on behalf of the whole Committee when I reiterate our appreciation at the manner in which the Government responded to our concerns last week about taking this evidence today. We have done our best to contribute to the common weal by arranging that your evidence will be available in typescript in advance of the Committee sitting tomorrow afternoon. Whether you will regard that as unrelievedly good news, I cannot tell, but it seemed to be the least we could do given the efforts that you have made yourself. Thank you very much indeed, Minister, and I say that on behalf of the whole Committee.
  (Mr Ingram)  Thank you very much and obviously if you do need any additional information and we are in a position to give it to you, we will do so.


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