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Mr. Simon Hughes: We welcome clause 2, to which the Minister has introduced further amendments today. We have argued for it in the House of Lords and in Committee. We are very keen to have this new development in race relations legislation which will oblige authorities to do two things. They will have to have regard--the Minister has suggested a change of words, but keeping the same principle--to the need to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination. It is not a matter of waiting for the court case but of dealing with matters in advance and being proactive.
Secondly, authorities will have to promote equality of opportunity and good relations. Those are good things, and it is good that these provisions are in the Bill. The amendments proposed by the Minister are also welcome; they seem to be entirely consistent.
The comments of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) included two fair points, to which the Minister may be planning to respond. First, the hon. Gentleman asked the Minister to amplify in what way the Government would expect, and people should expect, the legislation to be enacted. Secondly, he alluded to the report sponsored by the Runnymede Trust, the "Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain". I was going to say a word about it on Third Reading, but it seems logical to do so now.
It would be helpful if the Government indicated how they will respond to the list of proposals in the report. I was away on the day it was released, but I realised that the content of the report got hijacked by, clouded by and coloured by the proposal on what we call the country and getting rid of the word "Britain". That was not a key proposal, as I understand it, but just one of the things in the report.
There are none the less a significant number of proposals in the report, including a list of points for immediate action. I only have the report's summary here, but I know that the Government have many of the items, both general and specific, on their agenda. I refer to introducing a single equality act, setting up a human rights commission and legislating to prohibit direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of religion or belief--all matters to which the Government have at some time said they are committed.
I hope that the Minister will respond in general terms to the request about how the Government propose to respond to the report. I hope that once the initial wave of comment has died down, there will be a positive and considered response to each proposal. The report appears
Mr. Tipping: I am grateful for the general support from the hon. Members for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) and for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). The point of difference between them was the difference in emphasis and concentration on the Runnymede Trust's report which has been published fairly recently and has led to some controversy.
The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey was right to say that the focus had been on one section of the report--the notion of Britishness. The Home Secretary has made his position on that clear. He has also made his position, and that of the Government, clear on the Runnymede Trust's report. We welcome the report; it contains many recommendations that can be built on. There are also recommendations that go against the grain of what the Government are doing. Suffice it to say that we generally welcome the report, are working on its propositions and intend to come forward with proposals to take the debate further.
The hon. Member for Aylesbury made two important points. He said that this was a very important subject, and indeed it is. The duty to promote is the key to the Bill, so it is important to get these provisions right. Secondly, he talked strongly and positively about local authorities, and I agree with him on that. Politicians are not very good at praising success; neither are Governments, of whichever colour. Local authorities, as has already been said, are very successful. We need to use our regulatory framework; bodies such as Ofsted and the Audit Commission, instead of always identifying weakness, should identify and promote success. Successful local authorities should be used as vehicles to drive change forward.
As the hon. Gentleman said, many local authorities have a good deal of which to be proud. There have been occasional mishaps when local authorities may have been over-zealous in their approach. However, concentrating on the best and on bringing everyone up to the standard of the best is the right approach.
I was asked directly how the Government intend to proceed. As I said earlier, we are using as our model the Northern Ireland Act 1998. The phrasing is almost the same. The hon. Gentleman, who takes an interest in these matters, knows that in Northern Ireland we are consulting on how to do this. Public authorities do not come in one shape or size. There are different degrees of public authority. The hon. Gentleman talked earlier of vicars in the Church of England pursuing a public role. That public role is only a small proportion of their work. It is important that we consult and that we are proportionate in our approach and do not bring forward a set of measures that will not work for organisations of different size and complexity.
The hon. Gentleman asked me directly what we would be looking at and looking for. He used local authorities as his example, so perhaps I can too. It is important that local authorities introduce policies that meet the needs of the entire community, so it is important to consult the entire community about how best to do that. In a social services department, areas in which policy will need to
It is also important for local authorities to follow this approach in relation to their employment policies. Some do, very satisfactorily, but some do not. If public authorities claim to be equal opportunities employers, as many do, but do not appear to deliver when one considers their work force, it is important that local authorities consult all the community and have policies that are acceptable to all the community on the way in which staff are advertised for and recruited. They should ensure that if people from any ethnic background are not represented and there appear to be handicaps in the way of that happening, they should introduce policies to resolve the matter.
The hon. Member for Aylesbury said that he enjoyed working with me. I enjoy working with him, and I have enjoyed doing so on this Bill. These amendments are about ensuring that we set up mechanisms for public authorities, including local authorities, to have in place policies that meet the needs of the black and Asian community and to measure them.
In closing, let me simply say that the range of measures on which consultation will take place depends on the size and complexity of the public authority. As I said earlier, the Home Office is very clear that this is not a "one approach fits all" method. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.
'(b) may make different provision for different purposes.'.
'section 74 so far as it applies'
'sections 71(6) and 74 so far as they apply'.
I shall deal with the latter, more substantive matter first. I note that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is nodding. I think that he can take pride in this matter, which he pursued in Committee. We gave an undertaking to reflect on it, and I hope that we have met his needs to a large extent. The Government propose to extend the protection against discrimination in relation to appointments that is provided under section 76 of the Race Relations Act 1976, as amended under the Bill. It should cover discrimination not only in the arrangements for determining who should be appointed, but in the terms and conditions of the appointment, in the termination of the appointment or in subjecting the appointee to any other detriment.
Thus, overall, it will be unlawful for a Minister or Department to discriminate in relation to the terms of the appointment; the way the appointee is afforded access to opportunities for promotion, transfer, training or any other benefits, facilities or services; the refusal or omission to afford access to such things; the termination of the appointment; or subjecting the appointee to any other detriment. Discrimination against appointees and potential appointees will be unlawful in those circumstances where it is unlawful against employees under section 4(2) of the Race Relations Act, thereby improving the protection afforded to appointees by our race discrimination legislation.
Some drafting improvements have also been made to those provisions. The position for negative recommendations and refusals, including deliberate omissions, is now set out separately, making it clearer that they are covered by the provisions, as are positive recommendations and approvals.
The drafting for the extension of the Act to appointments, dignities and honours made on the recommendation or approval of Ministers or Departments has been brought more into line with the drafting of the existing provision in section 76(2) of the Act for appointments made by Ministers or Departments. The effect is to clarify the application of the provision, making it clear that a Minister or Department, in making recommendations or approvals, should do nothing that would be unlawful under the Act--as though the appointee were an employee, and the Crown the employer. It has been made clear that the sanctions provided under sections 53(2) to 53(4) are the only sanctions on the appointments, conferments and other acts covered by section 76.
The opportunity has been taken to introduce provisions to ensure that not only the recommendations and approvals of Ministers and Departments in relation to life peerages but those of bodies set up by Ministers for that purpose are covered by the provisions. The Committee spent some time considering this complex matter and we