Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Qustions 360 - 379)



Mr Beggs

  360.  Thank you, Chairman. Good afternoon. Could I ask you to focus your thoughts on affirmative action and reverse discrimination. In your submission, at 5(g) you mention the important distinction between (unlawful) reverse discrimination and (lawful) affirmative action and imply that some employers engage in unlawful reverse discrimination because of outside pressure resulting from monitoring and the publication of monitoring returns. Can you give us some examples of this? What evidence is this argument based on and how prevalent do you consider the occurrence?
  (Mr Crozier)  I am not with you. Can you give me your paragraph reference again please.

  361.  Paragraph 5(g), which focuses attention on the important distinction between unlawful reverse discrimination and lawful affirmative action.
  (Mr Crozier)  That comment reflects largely anecdotal comments we have had from some employers in terms of the effects of monitoring and the publication of monitoring. Again let me make clear, we are not suggesting that either of those two things should not take place, but there is a difficulty in the minds of some people in distinguishing between reverse discrimination and affirmative action. Reverse discrimination involves treating somebody less favourably on the grounds of religious belief and therefore is unlawful in terms of the legislation. Affirmative action involves taking action within one's employment practices which makes it possible for people to apply for posts on the basis of equality of opportunity. But that concept allied with the concept of monitoring, which is clearly putting numbers on the make-up of a workforce, sometimes can be confusing for employers. I think we are really just pointing out the need for increasing dissemination on the difference between the two and creating some sort of understanding of how the two concepts should work; we are not arguing against affirmative action.

  362.  Thank you. The spokesperson for the CBI gave conflicting evidence. In her evidence to the Committee she said that the CBI had no evidence that the changes in Catholic participation in employment are a result of unlawful reverse discrimination.
  (Mr Crozier)  I think our answer to that would be the same if you are asking for evidence of cases where unlawful discrimination has taken place. We are reflecting a concern amongst employers and a feeling of pressure they are tending to interpret in terms of an expectation that they should adjust their numbers, as it were, and I think one of the concerns that we have is to make sure that they understand they are not being expected to do that. I think there is more work to be done, not specifically by ourselves although we obviously could help with that, but primarily by the Fair Employment Commission or Equality Commission, when it comes into being, to make clear what is intended and create a better understanding. My own view, based on I acknowledge largely subjective and anecdotal experience, is there is quite wide misunderstanding on what affirmative action is intended to be which is made more difficult by the term often seen in terms of monitoring of workforces and the publishing of results.

Mr Beggs:  Again anecdotally, Chairman, I would have to say that I agree there should be more research carried out in this area because there is a perception that employers feel it safer if there is a slightest doubt to appoint Roman Catholics because there is less likely to be litigation coming from the Protestant community. Thank you.

Chairman:  Mr Hunter?

Mr Hunter

  363.  Mr Crozier, Mr Savage, can I ask you to focus attention on paragraphs 6 to 9 of your submission. You there urge us when reviewing legislation to take into account the IoD's concerns that the regulatory burden on business created by fair employment legislation should be minimal. In particular, can I draw your attention to your paragraph 8 and you there express the point that if real progress is to be made, adequate regard must also be given to employers to run competitive, wealth-creating businesses rather than creating administrative and regulatory burdens which impede such activity. Instinctively I warm very much to what you say and agree greatly. On the previous page of your evidence, just to draw out some comments, you spoke about the real cost of litigation and the little effective means you have of recovering the costs of frivolous complaints, the hidden cost of the implied discouragement of head hunting and cold calling, where presumably the mere fact of being monitored will consume management time and therefore cost money. In some other areas of regulation, for instance the Working Time Directive and minimum wage, people have tried to calculate exactly or approximately what the cost might be either in money terms or job terms. Could you begin to estimate the cost burden of the fair employment legislation?
  (Mr Savage)  I think it is difficult to draw a comparison between fair employment legislation and the likes of the new Working Time Directive, where you can adequately identify the cost per hour on an employer for working time. It is very, very difficult to do that in terms of fair employment. One company may have one member of staff; another company may not. It is very, very difficult to say or give from an IoD point of view an adequate amount for the cost of legislation.

  364.  I appreciate that. That is self-evident. Do I therefore conclude you have not gone to member companies from time to time and said, "Can you give us an estimate of what it has cost you?" You have not conducted a rudimentary trawl of some companies?
  (Mr Savage)  Really, in the feedback we have had from companies that we talked about, they have difficulty in identifying what it would cost on an individual company basis.
  (Mr Crozier)  We do not have that information in terms of quantifying costs. To get it one would need to do some sort of specialised study in order to acquire it. I do not think we are getting reliable, quantifiable information from our members which could enable us to put a figure on that.

  365.  Do you think it would be desirable to try to get that?
  (Mr Crozier)  I think it might well be. Can I just add to that, we accept that there is a cost of fair employment legislation and we accept that that is a necessary element of establishing a fair system in Northern Ireland as a whole. We are simply saying please keep these things in perspective.

  366.  You pursue that a little bit more when you suggest there should be an amalgamated Commission combining the fair employment, equal opportunities, race relations and disability agencies. In your submission, you express the belief this could or should lead to a reduction in the cost on businesses. Can I act the devil's advocate here and question that. The same information will still be required from companies, the same monitoring will have to go ahead. Where do you see a cost reduction on businesses?
  (Mr Crozier)  I think that if we can create some means whereby we could encourage people to be sure that, when they were making a complaint under fair employment legislation, they had reasonable grounds for believing that they were making a fair point on fair employment grounds. Consideration might be given, for example, to employers being able to recover some of their costs where it is established that somebody was making a complaint which he or she did not really consider was based on fair employment issues but based on some other kinds of consideration unless, of course, Parliament were to decide it was right to extend the scope of legislation.

  367.  That does not quite marry with your paragraph 12 where, if I understand correctly, you are saying it is the monitoring and reporting paperwork that should be reduced as a result of amalgamation so companies can produce one sort of data. The point I was trying to put to you was that in fact the same volume of data would be required whether there was an amalgamated Commission or four.
  (Mr Crozier)  At the moment all four bodies call for information of different kinds. Will they go on doing so under four different directorates under the amalgamated body or could they call, for example, for some kind of combined return which would save paperwork? I think one of the difficulties about contemplating the new single Commission of a sort that has four directorates with four different kinds of legislative framework operating, albeit under the same legislative hat, is that all the procedures carry on as before and all the advantages that could be achieved through some kind of amalgamation may not be achieved.


  368.  I suspect my question is going to follow on fairly closely to the question Mr Hunter just raised. In your suggested redraft of the legislation in each area, would you prefer equivalent duties under new race, gender and disability legislation to those that are currently required under the Fair Employment Act?
  (Mr Crozier)  I think that is a very hard question to answer without looking very closely again at the different procedures that operate under the different pieces. Fair employment legislation was at its inception designed to be particularly tough and hard hitting. It is much tougher than, for example, legislation dealing with disability in some respects, it is certainly different from legislation dealing with gender, and the effect of that would be generally to raise the standard of toughness, if I can put it that way, so that there was fair employment legislation and I would find it very difficult to give a categoric response to that. I think that requires a more considered view than I would be able to give now. We would hope that, when the new situation is being considered, some consideration is given to rationalising, where possible, the way the law bites on these different kinds of situations and procedures that are followed. All these pieces of legislation came from different origins and were designed for different purposes and use different systems. The Equality Commission as such is not going to deal with that. It is simply going to be a single body over four different sets of legislation. There surely must be some scope for rationalising. Whether you adopt one model and make all the others follow that one or whether you create a completely new model is something that is worth considering which might involve changes in all four areas of legislation.

  369.  My question was intended to be helpful to the position which you have been developing because unless you do change the patterns of legislation you are potentially setting the new Commission a very difficult task.
  (Mr Crozier)  Exactly.

  370.  Given the plethora of different requirements which are currently imposed.
  (Mr Crozier)  I think many of us would feel in proposing a single Commission but without proposing a thorough look at the legislation, that the job is not complete, as it were, and that a further look does need to be happening at these situations. Indeed, if one takes it further, one might have to consider whether or not this might not be a role entrusted to the Human Rights Commission rather than a new Equality Commission but that is water under the bridge which is not now helpful to enter.

  371.  It may be that if you were going to gloss in any way the answer you just gave to my earlier question, if you wanted to add anything in a sense in response to my supplementary, please do not hesitate to do so, in other words, along the lines that you were addressing in your most recent answer. I realise it may be an unfair question under the clear blue sky.
  (Mr Crozier)  I have not quite got the question, I am sorry.

  372.  I was asking you whether you wanted to see a consistency of legislation to make the Commission's task easier. I was to some extent following up on your exchange with Mr Hunter and you gave a very clear answer to that and I myself in my supplementary question alluded to the fact there was going to be a dilemma for the new Commission if they were seeking with a plethora of different requirements to be operating across the whole face.
  (Mr Crozier)  I do not think we have a collective view on that amongst all our members. My personal view would be that we ought to be looking at rationalising the entire structures, but there is obviously considerable sensitivity about that because different parts of the interest area would take different views as to the importance of their concerns and how they are to be treated and I think one needs to be careful before one comes up with sweeping generalisations about that.

  373.  I have one other supplementary that goes back to an earlier set of exchanges. It is on the recovery of costs of employers. Am I not right in thinking it is the case that there is already provision whereby costs can be awarded against a claim where the case has been held by the tribunal to be frivolous or vexatious?
  (Mr Savage)  That is not the case. Employers cannot recover costs at a tribunal regardless of whether they have won or lost or regardless of whether or not the Commission has backed the case of a complainant.

Chairman:  It might be we would want to ask a further supplementary. Thank you very much indeed for the answer. Have any colleagues other supplementaries to ask arising out of the exchanges that have already occurred? Mr McCabe?

Mr McCabe

  374.  Thank you, Chairman. I wanted to clarify one point. It was this question about the cost of the regulatory burden. I appreciate that different people may instinctively assume this to be the case. Would I be right to understand that, as far as your evidence is concerned, you have absolutely no evidence that could indicate that this regulation poses a significant cost to your members?
  (Mr Savage)  We have our own evidence of having to do our own monitoring and evaluation and the kinds of procedures we have to through when recruiting, selecting or dismissing. Our concern is that we do not want to appear over-anecdotal or to come up with a particular cost without giving it due consideration. Even after due consideration I do not think we can put it down to a particular amount of money per company.

Mr McCabe:  Thank you.

Mr McGrady:  Could I have a supplementary?

Chairman:  Mr McGrady, I would never deny you!

Mr McGrady

  375.  That is very generous of you! Going back to the question I asked you about paragraph 5(j) and these various cases which were supported by the agencies. I think that is a direct quotation from your written word. Do you agree that that means that individual or other cases taken to the Fair Employment Commission are assessed for frivolity before the agency decides to aid the case in any way? In other words, there is a full preliminary examination undertaken by the Fair Employment Agency before it agrees to assist in any way? So in a sense you are not really accusing the individual of frivolity but, much more importantly and much more seriously, the agency of frivolity?
  (Mr Savage)  I think the difficulty in a situation like that is once its gets to a tribunal, and the complainant is under oath, evidence may come out under cross-examination which would not have been fully explained or asked at the pre-assessment by the Fair Employment Commission. I think that could be one possibility.

Chairman:  Do any other colleagues have any other questions to ask? Then let me thank you warmly. I appreciate the moment which we asked you to come and give evidence was a function of our timetable and the fact we were going to be here for a couple of days and that can create a situation where it is not always easy for witnesses to fit in with our timetable. We are very appreciative that you were able to do so and thank you very much for the evidence you have given.


Examination of Witness

MR DERMOT NESBITT, a former member of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, was examined.



  376.  Mr Nesbitt, welcome. I think you know the circumstances in which we have asked you to give evidence, indeed, you may have volunteered to do so, but it arises out of your minority report. We will endeavour to make our questions to you follow a logical order, but the consequence of that is the questions may come from unexpected parts of the horseshoe. If at any stage you want to gloss subsequently anything you said in an answer, either at the time orally or subsequently in writing, please feel free to do so. Equally, if we have supplementary questions we want to ask later in writing, we will not hesitate. Is there anything you want to say to us before we started asking questions?
  (Mr Nesbitt)  Thank you, first of all, Chairman, for seeing me. I was not sure whether you were going to deal with detailed questions on my dissenting note. I think "minority report" might be too strong a phrase. In fact, the Committee did not like the words "minority report" and they viewed it to be a dissenting note. Anyway I have some summary sheets, two in number, that I could circulate and speak to in a briefer fashion rather than take a detailed look.[1] Primarily the thrust of what I had in my dissenting note was one of questioning the differential being used as a benchmark to judge whether there is fair employment. The very key and very narrow point I am focusing on is the differential as a measurement or as an indicator or as a benchmark, and therefore I have derived two summary sheets which with your permission I could circulate and speak to from which questions can come.

  377.  We have paid you the compliment of preparing ourselves on the basis of what I will continue to refer to as a "minority report". I agree it is not a marked differentiation from a dissentient note. On the other hand, if you want to circulate your notes please do so because they may well prompt other questions.
  (Mr Nesbitt)  If I may circulate them now.

  378.  Would the Committee Assistant very kindly give everybody a copy. As I asked whether there was anything you did want to say before we asked you questions, it would be discourteous of me to withdraw the invitation as soon as you have indicated there is something you would like to say, but bear in mind that we will in fact have questions we have derived from your minority note, to use a hybrid, which we will ask hereafter and it may well be that your own note prompts some supplementaries.
  (Mr Nesbitt)  Thank you. Shall I commence then?

Chairman:  Let's just complete the process of handing these round and then please do.

Mr Donaldson:  Chairman, maybe when we have done that, Mr Nesbitt could set in context the significance of these two notes so that we are aware of that.


  379.  I think that is a very good idea. Mr Nesbitt?
  (Mr Nesbitt)  Thank you, Chairman. I shall put them in context. I was not sure whether I had to make a presentation or whether questions would be asked, so we have both come in prepared in that sense. Maybe we can each then take it in turn. The first point I wish to make is one of a general nature that this whole aspect is indeed a very, very sensitive issue against the background of the continued problems that we have had in Northern Ireland and the aspect of unemployment and employment and whether or not it is fair or unfair is indeed a very sensitive issue. Indeed, it is an issue that keeps coming up more often than not with politicians pointing up on the one hand that this is an indication of discrimination, it must be eliminated, or on the other hand—— Indeed, as a member of the Human Rights Commission I found it, to say the least, sensitive. On one occasion I was told I was not qualified to make such comments. However, I do stress the party I represent both in the Assembly and in various other fora has indicated through the party leader that it does wish to see a Minister for Equality. We do realise there must be demonstrable indications that equality does actually take place for there to be confidence within the community, so I couch my comments and my answers to any questions you have in that very positive aspect, that the party I represent does wish to see a Minister for Equality and does wish it to be demonstrably clear that there is indeed equality in Northern Ireland. The main thrust of what I had to say in my dissenting note was that SACHR and subsequently, as I will indicate, Government and the agencies of Government have not exactly represented completely and fairly the position re unemployment/employment and that in actual fact it is of two-fold detriment to Northern Ireland. The Catholic community will feel aggrieved because they feel somehow there is still discrimination and still inequality. Equally, the Protestant community will feel aggrieved because it will feel, as one hears, that somehow Government does not seem to recognise the volume of the employment proportions in reality. So what Government has been doing to a large extent I believe is detrimental to both the Catholic and Protestant community in that it is better to reflect the truth of the matter. "Partnership for Equality" was the document produced by the Government. It was their White Paper in March 1998 and basically the tenets of that document were viewed as true from the Government's perspective. It indicated that, since direct rule, it was important to eliminate discrimination. It also indicated that differential, the key thing I indicated at the outset I was focusing on, between Catholic and Protestant was that which had the main driving force for the legislation. The Government also indicated in 1989 it was the toughest legislation in the European Union. It indicated in 1991—and these are Government statements not mine—that Targeting Social Need was introduced and that was expected to get rid of the differential. In 1993 Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment (PAFT) was introduced. The Government comments that in the 1990s there was still this differential between Catholic and Protestant and now we have got, as Government said, "a fresh impetus to employment equality—and I quote—"to tackle discrimination". In fact, the Government's first statement used the words "to combat discrimination". The CBI (Northern Ireland) response to the consultative paper on the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland pointed up not aspects of whether or not there was discrimination, but aspects of the words being used by Government. It said, "There is some unease with the use of the word `combating' which is felt to be too confrontational and negative. "Similarly, the expression of `full potential' sounds somewhat threatening." That is the CBI's submission to the Government and that was dated 26 February 1999. So that is the background of my position, that Government still views the differential as highly significant as a benchmark or measure, but others have made comment on it. Against that background I refer you to this statistical paper. The Government in actual fact has admitted and I quote—this is why I put it in—"The causes of the differential and the reasons for its persistence are complicated." It says: "The statistical mechanisms which generate this ratio are complex." My task at 4.22 on a Monday afternoon is to simplify what is indeed a complex statistical matter of differentials and whether or not a differential is an indicator of fair employment or otherwise. With that in mind like a health warning on the complexity of its nature, I would ask you to look at the paper entitled "Participation Rates". These figures under the heading "participation rates" come from the various Fair Employment Commission's reports. The first column "available for work" actually means those who are either in work or seeking work. The economically active is a way it can also be phrased. For example, it does not include housewives who are not seeking work, if I can use that gender-free statement or gender-neutral statement. It does not include students. It does not include retired people. In other words, it is the group of people in the total population that are either actively in work or are seeking work and that is known or can be phrased as those who are available for work. Then the column "actually in work" is the proportion of those available for work who are actually in work from the Catholic community. Taking 1996, which is the year I wrote my dissenting note, what that row indicates is that, for all those who were available for work in Northern Ireland, 40 per cent comprised the Catholic community. Then of all those actually in work 38.1 per cent were Catholic. So there was a discrepancy of 1.9 per cent between the proportion of Catholics actually available for work and the proportion of Catholics actually in work. There are the latest figures for 1998—42, 39.1 and 2.9. So you get a flavour. There is what it was in 1990, as indicated again by the Fair Employment Commission. I have said 35 to 38, because the actual phraseology used by the Fair Employment Commission report number one was that they anticipated a Catholic availability of between 35 and 38, stating that it was close to the top of that range. What you see is that the difference between those available and those actually in work while it has varied is substantially of a ratio of 2:1 or a difference of two percentage points. That is going across. If you go down one of the columns of "actually in work", you find that the Catholic proportion in 1990 has moved from 34.9 to 39.1. In other words, it has moved about 4 points. Now the point I make there is, and I referred to this in my dissenting note, is that Anthony Murphy who produced statistical analysis for the Fair Employment Commission which was unpublished but accepted by Bob Cooper as valid, that you would expect if a labour market is working sufficiently accurately to move by about two or three percentage points over a five-year period so all indications are that the employment practices, the recruitment practices, are indeed fair, but the question we have to ask ourselves is why is there still a difference? Why is there still a differential? It is largely found in the column to the extreme left where those available for work has moved up from 35-38 up to 42. That is a key element. As regards the unemployment differential aspect, I would rather leave that with you for you to look at or if you have any questions that you wish to ask me, but I will very briefly indicate what that is: they are actually very simplified numbers to try and convey a complex issue. As you see in the first one (a) I am assuming unemployment is about eight per cent and assuming the Catholic availability for work is 42 per cent which is what it is at the moment and in work 40 per cent. If you work through that assuming a total of 100 with 42 Catholics of the total 100 available for work and 58 Protestants, you get a differential of 2.3. The second point (b) is interesting. If you find that the actual proportion that is in work equals the proportion available for work you actually have no differential because I have assumed there Catholic availability and the actual proportion in work is 42 per cent. You have no differential. So you see if you go back now to participation rates, and this is the interesting point to note, if you take for example 1990, if you had assumed those available for work is 38 per cent from the Catholic community, by 1996 the actual proportion in work is also 38 per cent. In other words, by 1996 there would be no differential because the actual proportion in work would have matched the availability. Unfortunately, the proportion of Catholics available for work is constantly increasing. That is a statistical reality. The only analysis I can give to that is that at the moment the proportion of Catholics in primary school is about 50 per cent so that 42 has to go up to 50. So we are trying to catch and chase a moving target and all the time the differential remains. Even if you have fair employment, you still have more seeking work because of the increasing amount of Catholics coming onto the work market and therefore the benchmark being used by Government which is a differential is not a valid benchmark to use with respect to fair employment. If you can see the thrust of my argument. If you just see (c) very briefly, I am almost finished on the statistics. The Committee Clerk said we would be about an hour and I have only been 15 minutes so I am nearly finished my part. If you look at (c) this gives an interesting aspect as well. If the Catholic availability for work, which is presently about 42 per cent, moved up to 44, as it is likely to do because 50 per cent of those in schools are Catholic, and the actual of 39 at the moment moved up to 42, in other words the actual amount in work moved from 39 to 42, but if those available for work (trying to project three or four years ahead) moved up from 42 to 44 you would keep the differential. You are chasing a moving target. The 40 moves up to 42 but the 42 available moves up to 44. You are chasing a moving target. Therefore, this is why the differential has been so persistent. It is also why the differential is not a fair benchmark to judge whether or not there is fair employment. The last one relates to something again that is hidden in the statistics but I leave it with you and you can come back to me on it. As you said Chairman, you may wish to write to me for further clarification. Let's suppose for the moment that unemployment is ten per cent and I make these bold figures to try and demonstrate a simple point because quite often, the bolder the figures, the easier the point is demonstrated. There you have got 200 available for work and if unemployment is ten per cent you have got 20 unemployed so there are actually 180 in work. Let's keep the proportion of Catholics at 40 per cent, so there are 80 Catholics available and 120 Protestants available. If you keep the same proportion of 66 to 114, 14 per cent unemployed are Catholics and 6 per cent unemployed are Protestants. There is the percentage, there is the differential—3.5. If you actually reduce that to 5 per cent, in other words, as you see by my little asterisk, fair allocation would indicate that since you are giving ten jobs and 70 per cent of the unemployed as Catholics, they should get 70 per cent of the jobs because that would be fairness. If you gave 70 per cent of the new jobs to Catholics because 70 per cent of the unemployment is in the Catholic population you would give Catholics seven jobs and Protestants three. That would bring the unemployed down to seven and three. It keeps the percentages different, 8.7 is down and 2.5 is down, but the differential is still the same because what you are doing is reducing the numerator and denominator in the same places. This is where the Northern Ireland Economic Council published a document supporting my position where they said very clearly that if you target the unemployed you can actually reduce the percentage points because, as you see, 17.5 down to 8.5 is a 9 per cent reduction and 5 down to 2.5 is a 2.5 per cent reduction, so you have reduced the differences but you have not done anything to the differential, it is still 2.5. That is the point the Northern Ireland Economic Council made in its report in February of this year. That is all about statistics. All I want to say in summary to that is that the differential is the difference between two unemployment figures. That differential has been constant and is likely to remain constant because you have got a large proportion of those available for work from the Catholic community still to come on the work market. It is only 42 per cent and it is likely to go up to 50 per cent and that has nothing to do with fair employment, it is a different thing altogether. Fair employment and the unemployment differential are two different dynamics based on two different parameters, but the problem is that Government uses one as a benchmark of the other which is statistically wrong. A final point and then I am almost finished; it is not numerical, but is to give you an indication of the importance placed on the employment differential. Many people have placed a lot of importance on it. Ines McCormick, Regional Secretary for Unison, the trade union representative from Northern Ireland states in her response to Government: "Expenditure should therefore be reordered to help reduce such discrimination and the associated unemployment differentials and unequal pay results." Paul Magill—and why do I mention Paul Magill—if it is the same Paul Magill, he was used as the draftsman for the SACHR report and wrote in Scope, which is a magazine for the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, quite an important grouping within the Northern Ireland community, and he was writing about the new Targeting Social Needs (TSN) and he said in September 1998: "The Equality White Paper states that by the year 2011 there should be evidence of a substantial reduction in the male and female unemployment differential. We should expect the differential to have been eliminated within half that time." There is no way it will be eliminated through fair employment because you are chasing a moving target all the time. I come to the last quote and I give you the whole of it but I am only referring to a little of it, and that is the Chairman's report from Sir Robert Cooper, March 1999. I will make reference to this for a few minutes and then I am finished, Chairman. If you take the Chairman's Forward, second paragraph, and also keep that statistical part in front of you, let's read what Bob Cooper has said in the second paragraph because I conclude from what he has said that it is rather meaningless. This is the head of the Fair Employment Commission and he has made this statement. He clearly does not understand the statistics or else he would not have written the report. "There has been a significant and heartening improvement in Roman Catholic participation in the overall monitored workforce since the first annual return was published for the year 1990. The figure for total Catholic participation in the workforce in 1990 was 34.9"—you see that in my participation rates—"It now stands at 39.1." You see that there as well. He says there has been a significant and heartening improvement from 34 up to 29. If you go to the last part of that paragraph he says: "These figures mark substantial progress showing Catholic participation rising from a position in 1990 well below what would be expected"—I do not know how it is below what would be expected when the difference between that and those available for work is the same as it ever was—"to the present situation where the figures have moved significantly closer to the percentage of Catholics actually available for work." Significantly closer, yet it is 2.9 closer to those available and in 1990 it was 3.1. He says: "The figure for Catholic availability is estimated to be about 42 per cent"—there it is in my participation rates—"and participation in the workforce of 39 per cent is therefore still some way short of this." That is an incomprehensible paragraph because what he has said is 34.9 to 39.1 is a significant movement and change, yet you will see that 34.9 is 3.1 off 35-38 and 39.1 is 2.9 off 42, so I do not see how it is a significant movement towards closing this differential. It is not and it has not closed this differential at all. You can ask Sir Robert Cooper or ask any statistician you like but that paragraph there is an incomprehensible paragraph given the statistics. The statistics I use are his not mine. I just gave you an interpretation of the statistics. I would be delighted to know what he actually means by that. A benign view might be that that is a carefully crafted statement to reflect what Government is actually doing, not what is reality because what Government is doing is saying we have made much progress but we have still got some way to go because that is what it is actually saying. I do not see where the progress is made. Of course, we have had fair employment through 34.9 to 39.1 but the differential is still there. Thank you, Chairman.

1   These documents consisted of the Chairman's Foreward from the Ninth Annual Monitoring Report dated March 1999 and published by the Fair Employment Commission and figures on participation Rates for the Catholic Community with illustrative computations of the unemployment differential-these figures can be found at Appendix 3 pp 167-168. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 30 July 1999