Philip Davies : Does the hon. Gentleman accept that it sticks in the throat of some Conservative Members when the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends say that there should be no exceptions in measures such as this? His party made a clear exception when it excluded one sex from shortlists for parliamentary seats. It strikes some of us that the Labour party is very keen to allow exceptions from gender discrimination provisions in the selection of candidates, but does not want to allow anyone else any exceptions.
Dr. Turner: The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the Labour party's practice in regard to all-women shortlists is a measure of positive discrimination. It is not discrimination against men. We still have far more men than women in the parliamentary Labour party, and our ideal is equal numbers. I am sorry, but I do not buy that objection.
Ms Dawn Butler (Brent, South) (Lab): Is it not a well-known fact that the public would like Parliament to be more representative of society as a whole? Surely the Labour party is to be congratulated on trying to ensure, through all-women shortlists, that we have more equality on this side of the House.
I see no justification for any significant exemptions under part 3. I hope the Minister will assure us that, if there are any, they will be extremely limited. There is a risk that if we allow too many, protection against discrimination will be undermined.
The Bill performs a useful function. We have seen a sea change, a cultural change, since the war, especially in regard to sexual orientation. It has been refreshing to see, over the past year or so, a similar change on the green Benches oppositeat least on the front four; I cannot speak for the back row. Legislation has gone hand in hand with the change in public attitudes over the past 50 years, but it is important to underpin this cultural change with legislation.
I welcome the Government's acceptance of the need to legislate in respect of sexual orientation. I reiterate the three main areas of concern: the provisions in part 3 should be as firm as those in part 2; exceptions under part 3 should be minimal; and the provisions should be implemented on the same date. Equality should be consistent throughout the Bill.
Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): I wish to confine my remarks to a small number of issues relating to the Bill. The first is cost, to which several hon. Members alluded. I am concerned that, despite the fact that this measure should have been cost-effective, the overall cost will be about 42 per cent. greater than the combined cost of the three existing organisations.
I caution Ministers about the escalating costs of non-departmental public bodies, from which we in Northern Ireland suffer to a mega-degree. Only last week, I uncovered the fact that last year the total cost of all the non-departmental public bodies in Northern Ireland was more than £2 billion. That is one issue to which the Minister responded when she indicated the extent of the increase.
I want to dwell on part 2, which deals with religion and belief. I ask the Minister to clarify the matter beyond any doubt. Let us take the example a small bed and breakfast or guest house run by a husband and wife, the name of which clearly indicates that it is a Christian establishmentfor example, the Bethany Christian guest house. I know of many such establishments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north of England. A confirmed, avowed homosexual activist might deliberately want to book a night there in order to be refused accommodation and take the case to court. What would be the position of such a guest house? We are talking about not a Marriott or Hilton but a small, family-run establishment with a Christian ethos.
Let us suppose that someone arrives at a guest house and sees either a New Testament on the desk or a small text above the check-in area that says, "This is God's house"a clear sign that it is a Christian establishment. Under the Bill, who would be pursued? Would it be the person who makes the booking in the knowledge that the establishment is of a particular religious disposition, or would it be the husband and wife who have firmly held religious views that they believe preclude them from offering accommodation to someone who is deliberately trying to ensure that they fall foul of the legislation? I would be pleased if the Minister explained exactly what would happen in such a circumstance, because I have read in the press of at least two similar examples.
Emily Thornberry (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab):
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a proper Christian will understand that one can be gay and be
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Christian as well? If someone is to close their doors to a gay couple coming to their bed and breakfast, should not the answer simply be that they should be prosecuted, as we should not discriminate against people on the basis of their sexuality?
Mr. Campbell: I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention, but I indicated in my analogy that the person may arrive at the establishment and see a New Testament on the desk, and the person working there may be reading the part of the New Testament that precludes some of the activities to which she alludes. That is the person's view and they are entitled to hold it, but do they thereby fall foul of the legislation?
Mr. Khan : Is not there a difference between having an attitude and a view and practising that by one's behaviour? Is not this a classic example of a Bill that will lead to legislation that outlaws behaviour? I hope that, over time, it may change attitudes, but even if it does not the impact will be that people will not be treated differently because of their sexual orientation or religion.
Mr. Campbell: I think that the hon. Gentleman has to think the situation through. Let us say that the position is as I have outlineda couple who are Christian have a sincerely held view about sexual orientation, particularly about homosexuals. Are they to be told, courtesy of the Bill, that they cannot run their guest house and hold those views, which would preclude them from giving a room to persons who are openly homosexual and who appear to want to make the booking in order that they fall foul of the legislation?
Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman think that someone who has a sincerely held view of repugnance towards people who are gay should be allowed to flout existing Northern Ireland employment legislation preventing discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation? Does he support that legislation? Would he support people who wished to flout the law in Northern Ireland?
Mr. Campbell: The short answer is that I do support the law in Northern Ireland, but deliberately flouting the law takes us into a different realm. I am still unclear as to who would be more likely to fall foul of this legislation.
Mr. Swayne: The answer to my hon. Friend's question is that the Bill does nothing in that respect but gives the Minister the power to make regulations, which we would be denied the opportunity of discussing in a debate such as this. The Bill attempts to deal with one difficulty by properly drawing a distinction in respect of a lodgersomeone living in your own house, sleeping in your own bed between your sheetsbut does not make the same distinction in respect of bed and breakfasts.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab):
The hon. Gentleman mentioned sincerely held beliefs. The whole House respects
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sincerely held beliefs. Does he accept that, in the recent past, people sincerely believed that black people were inferior and based their beliefs on biblical text, but this House says that it is wrong to discriminate on grounds of race? However sincerely people believe that homosexuality is repugnant, the House, through the Bill, is saying that it is wrong to discriminate on grounds of sexuality.