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Dr. Evan Harris: We have had several excellent debates within one debate, but I shall refer only to the issue that the Minister has just raised. I said at the outset that, in the face of three warnings from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, he must persuade those of us who support the amendment that there is a principled justification for treating non-religious beliefs differently from religion. That is the test. The Minister
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said that there were two planks to his argument: that the amendment was not necessary, which is not a principled justification but one based on practice, and that it was not desirable, which was at least entering into the discussions of principle.

In fact, even the practical argument does not apply, because the Minister based it on the fact that there was not a shadow of doubt that non-religious organisations concerned could be charitable. I accept that entirely. The fact that some are charities suggests that they can be charitable. However, it is not a question of whether they can ever be charities; it is a question of whether they can be charities as easily, or according to the same tests, as organisations for the advancement of religious belief. That has not been found to be the case in practical terms.

Let me now deal with the Minister’s argument about the commission’s wish to have discussions with non-religious organisations in parallel with its discussions with religious organisations. That is a practical matter. It is a welcome practical matter, and I do not want to sound churlish. It is about time that it happened, so it is welcome. However, the fact that the discussions will be in parallel with the discussions with religious organisations prompts me to ask why they are not being dealt with under the same heading.

Edward Miliband: A humanist representative was invited to the first consultation with religious organisations as part of the consideration of the public benefit test, but I thought that there should be separate discussions with the humanist organisations, given that they felt so aggrieved.

Dr. Harris: The Minister accepts that separate discussions are necessary because he proposes to deal with them separately, under different headings. That is, in fact, my point. In a sense, the concession actually confirms that the treatment of non-religious organisations is different—and, I would argue, unequal and unfair.

I asked the Minister to come up with a principled justification. Coming to his aid, the hon. Member for High Peak (Tom Levitt) said that it was difficult to define belief; but as it is just as difficult to define religion, so any arguments about definition apply to religious beliefs as much as to non-religious beliefs. Just because a god is involved—or even if not—it does not solve the problem. The argument that the hon. Gentleman used as a principled justification for making humanist societies do something different is that they can do something different. But that is not a justification for making them do something different.

The final argument was that it is okay to have equal treatment in discrimination law, but not in this respect. The Human Rights Act 1998 applies to public bodies so that they cannot discriminate in employment, in the disbursement of public funds or the treatment of an organisation—and the Charity Commission is clearly a public body. If a public body discriminated in employment, the victim would have two arguments, one based on the Act and the right to freedom of belief, and another based on employment legislation. The latter does not rely on the Act, but is free-standing under the EU directive and the employment
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regulations. The fact that employees in the private sector have an extra protection against freedom from discrimination on the basis of race and, now, religion is not an argument that public authorities should be allowed to discriminate disproportionately without justification. That is not an effective argument against the risk of incompatibility that the Joint Committee set out. If the Charity Commission, as a public body performing the public function of deciding which organisations are charitable, discriminates without justification against someone on the basis of their religion or belief—in the words of the Human Rights Act 1998—it will be liable under a claim on that basis.

The Government have said nothing to justify the statement on the Bill that it complies with the human rights legislation. The Minister said that there would have to be a separate consultation because the process would be different. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) argued that the distinction was necessary because rational belief systems would more easily pass a public benefit test and, therefore, that non-rational belief systems, such as religious ones—he said that non-judgmentally—would require a light-touch public benefit test. That would be discriminatory, in a sense, and there would therefore be a good case under the Human Rights Act 1998 for discrimination. Just because someone has a rational point of view, they should not be made to pass an extra test. The fact that the harbour charity in his constituency took two years to gain charitable status is to be regretted, but it is not the right comparator for the point that I made.

The difficulty for those of us who support the amendment—the Minister will note that some Labour Members do—is that the Government have not come up with a principled justification for treating non-religious organisations differently from religious ones, despite three warnings from the Joint Committee that they need to address the issue. I accept the spirit in which the Minister made his remarks, but the only concession that he has made confirms that the process will be different. In a sense, that is the last thing that we wanted to hear. With that in mind, it is my intention to test the opinion of the House on the issue, because the Government will need to be able to show that they have taken that view. I apologise for detaining the House on the matter, but it is a key point of principle.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not, of course, complain at all about your, quite rightly, calling for the Doors to be locked, but I ask your advice. When the two major parties are voting together and there are long queues up the Stairs and through the Doors with no way of getting to the Lobby in time, could the House authorities look at ways of expediting the entrance of Members to enable them to get to the Division Lobby in time?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): This is not a new problem; the situation has arisen before. I understand the point that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made, which will no doubt be taken
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into consideration by the appropriate authorities. With respect, the answer may be for Members to leave their offices a little earlier.

The House having divided: Ayes 59, Noes 444.

The House divided: Ayes 59, Noes 444.
Division No. 326]
[3.54 pm


Alexander, Danny
Baker, Norman
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Brake, Tom
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brooke, Annette
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Challen, Colin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Davey, Mr. Edward
Foster, Mr. Don
George, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra
Goldsworthy, Julia
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harvey, Nick
Heath, Mr. David
Hemming, John
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Lamb, Norman
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
McDonnell, John
Moore, Mr. Michael
Mulholland, Greg
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Pugh, Dr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rowen, Paul
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert
Stunell, Andrew
Swinson, Jo
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Dr. Evan Harris and
Kelvin Hopkins

Afriyie, Adam
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Allen, Mr. Graham
Amess, Mr. David
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baldry, Tony
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Bell, Sir Stuart
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Berry, Roger
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brennan, Kevin
Brokenshire, James
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browning, Angela
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burt, Alistair
Butler, Ms Dawn
Butterfill, Sir John
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard

Cairns, David
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Caton, Mr. Martin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Conway, Derek
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curry, rh Mr. David
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dobbin, Jim
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Griffith, Nia
Grogan, Mr. John
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Hanson, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Mr. Tom
Hayes, Mr. John
Healey, John
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hendry, Charles
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Herbert, Nick
Hermon, Lady
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey

Hope, Phil
Horam, Mr. John
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Glenda
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Mr. David
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Key, Robert
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lammy, Mr. David
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lepper, David
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Loughton, Tim
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Main, Anne
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Maples, Mr. John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCrea, Dr. William
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Mercer, Patrick
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reed, Mr. Andy

Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Scott, Mr. Lee
Seabeck, Alison
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Sheridan, Jim
Simmonds, Mark
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, David
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Tami, Mark
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Ussher, Kitty
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Vaz, rh Keith
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Ian Cawsey and
Steve McCabe
Question accordingly negatived.
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Amendments made: No. 2, in page 2, line 22, at end insert

No. 3, in page 2, line 34, leave out ‘sport which involves physical skill and exertion; and’ and insert

No. 4, in page 2, line 37, at end insert ‘; and

25 Oct 2006 : Column 1582

Clause 3

The “public benefit” test

Mr. Andrew Turner: I beg to move amendment No. 126, in page 3, line 22, after ‘not’, insert

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 1, in page 3, line 23, at end insert—

‘(2A) In determining whether that requirement is satisfied in relation to any such purpose, consideration must be given to the effect of placing any undue restriction on obtaining that benefit.’.

Mr. Turner: I begin by apologising to Members who expected my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) to speak to the amendment. I am sure that if she catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, she will have the opportunity to speak, but I acknowledge that many Members would have preferred her to do so now.

There are two purposes only to the amendment, and both encompass the removal from the Bill of the presumption that the advancement of religion is a charitable activity. The first purpose, raised by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, is to question whether the Charity Commission is willing or able to apply the right public benefit test to religions. The second is to ask whether it is possible for certain religions to pass that test.

In Committee, we discussed three different activities in the same debate: education, the relief of poverty and the advancement of religion. Under the Bill, each of those activities loses the presumption of public benefit. It was accepted that the public benefit test varies from group to group. Despite the fact that all those activities have enjoyed the presumption of public benefit, some charities have none the less had to demonstrate public benefit, so public benefit tests vary from group to group. This debate will give us the opportunity to concentrate solely on religion.

In Committee, I said:

On Second Reading, however, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that

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