Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER 1998
O'DOHERTY and MR
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
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
(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?
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
(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
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.