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Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for allowing me to intervene. I am worried about one small point. I agree that all of us should be against unfair discrimination. However, the Bill seems to provide a reverse unfairness for ordinary people. Let us be fair to the employer who has to pay the wages and consider an employer who has two applicants for the job one of whom appears an obvious homosexual. It may not be that factor which makes the employer choose the other man. However, would it not then be possible for anyone to say--my noble friend Lady Miller made the point--"I have been discriminated against because of my sexual orientation"? Would the measure not give someone the advantage of using that weapon? That is what worries me.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, the same situation arises in any discrimination case, whether on grounds of sexual orientation or any other discrimination. If anyone feels that he has been discriminated against unfairly, I seek to provide some remedy that he can apply. If there is a hearing, it may be decided that that was not the case. But at least the individual concerned who feels that he has been discriminated against unfairly has some form of remedy and some way in which to proceed. That is what the Bill is about. It can apply, irrespective of sexual orientation, in a discrimination case on other grounds. It is no different. Under the Bill, the individual would have some remedy, whereas at present if the ground is sexual orientation there is no way in which the grievance can be adequately explored.

I turn to what the Minister said. I am glad to learn that the Government are considering the repeal of Section 28 which was of such concern to many people in Stonewall, and many who feel they have been discriminated against. I am glad to learn also that there will be a free vote on the whole issue of the Armed Forces. My understanding is that the Bill clearly does not cover the Armed Forces. As I said earlier, it would mean, I think, that there would need to be amendments to other legislation. If that were intended to be included in this Bill, it would have to be stated in terms, and it is not so stated. So far as I am aware, the Bill does not cover the Armed Forces.

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I believe that a number of issues raised by the Minister could be dealt with through amendments to the Bill. The noble Baroness addressed the issue of family and family units. One respects the Government's views, and other views expressed. I am glad to learn also that the Equal Opportunities Commission, of which I was a member for some eight years, is now having seriously considered by the Government the changes for which it has pressed for a long while to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. However, I still believe that that does not cover all the issues that we wish to be addressed in the Bill.

I understand that the Bill does not cover pensions and that special legislation is required. That is because the original equality legislation did not cover pensions and in the Bill, we seek to apply those provisions. I would be in favour of survivors' benefits being extended to same sex partners, but that is not part of the Bill. I understand that the matter requires detailed consideration.

This is a simple Bill designed to give, in the main, employment protection--other protection is provided--to people who have a sexual orientation as described in the Bill. A number of noble Lords who have spoken believe that there may be other repercussions. That is not what the Bill provides. The issue of children was adequately dealt with by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, when she spoke on behalf of the Opposition Front Bench. It is the view of those who support the Bill. I commend it to the House.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, I apologise to the House and to the Leader of the House for my oversight and I thank him for his kind words. I am 87 and I forget things. One day he will be 87 and no doubt he will forget things, too. I offer sincere apologies to the House for failing to observe the rules. I naturally accept the advice and respect the leadership which the Leader of the House gives us so nobly.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Fireworks Bill

3.56 p.m.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Monkswell.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Elton) in the Chair.]

Clause 2 [Power to make regulations about fireworks]:

[Amendments Nos. 6 to 8 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

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On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Renton: The clause contains wide powers to make regulations. The Select Committee on delegated powers and deregulation, in paragraph 9 of its report of 22nd April, described it as a "disturbingly" wide power. It therefore considered that your Lordships,

    "may wish to seek a ministerial undertaking to reassure the House that this wide power would, in practice, be used narrowly".

I hope that the Minister who is representing the Government will be able to give such an undertaking. It is vital that the Government should do so.

Finally, Clause 2(3) requires the Secretary of State to consult various organisations, only one of which is specified. Can the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, tell us what other organisations he has in mind which should be consulted?

Lord Monkswell: The noble Lord will find that during the first day in Committee and at times today various ministerial undertakings will be given by the Government in respect of the way in which they will implement and deal with the Bill when it becomes an Act. I hope that the noble Lord will accept my understanding of what will evolve today.

With regard to the noble Lord's second point as regards the organisations which will be consulted when it comes to making regulations, it is fair to say that organisations representing firework manufactures, firework sellers, those reflecting the interests of the users of fireworks and, indeed, those representing safety interests--and I have in mind in particular the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents--will be included. However, I am sure that he will appreciate that it would not be sensible to put on the face of the Bill a list of all such organisations. Indeed, that would vary over time as new organisations develop and others fall by the wayside. The broad categories of the organisations that I have mentioned would be the ones that we envisage will be consulted about this legislation.

Lord Renton: I am much obliged. However, as regards the Government being asked specifically for an undertaking, that is an issue which will need to be considered when Clause 2 stand part is discussed because that is how it arises. Indeed, the Select Committee referred to Clause 2. Therefore, we should have that undertaking. I have with me the Hansard report of the first day of Committee but, after reading it, I cannot determine whether such an undertaking was given.

Lord Haskel: Owing to the disturbance that took place when the noble Lord first started to speak, I was unable to hear clearly the particular undertaking that he has in mind. We gave a number of undertakings on Second Reading. I believe that the requests for certain undertakings made by the Select Committee have been responded to. However, I am not sure about the specific undertaking to which the noble Lord referred. We can certainly look into the matter and give that undertaking in writing or indeed during the next stage of the Bill.

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Lord Renton: I can answer the noble Lord's query as to where this matter originally arose. It is mentioned in paragraph 9 of the Select Committee's report.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Prohibition of supply etc. to young persons]:

[Amendment No. 9 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Renton: As regards Clause 3, I believe that we should look again at subsection (2), which says:

    "Fireworks regulations may include provision prohibiting the purchase or possession of fireworks, or fireworks of a description specified in the regulations, by persons who are below an age so specified".

That provision was put into the Bill by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, but I wonder whether he or the Government have any particular age in mind. Indeed, that is a most important point.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Before my noble friend responds, perhaps, I may, with the deepest respect, point out to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that during the Committee stage, we proceed by means of amendment or by notice given that a clause should or should not stand part of the Bill. It is very difficult for those who are putting forward legislation to anticipate points which have not been made in the form of an amendment and to know to what they should reply. Of course, the noble Lord is strictly in order in raising a question on any clause in the Bill; indeed, I do not deny that. However, Committee stages survive because matters are notified in advance.

Lord Renton: With deep respect--and I speak from 19 years' experience in this Chamber--my understanding of the discussion on a clause stand part during the Committee stage of a Bill enables any noble Lord in any part of the Committee to ask the promoter of the Bill, or indeed, the Government, if it is a government Bill, what a particular part of the clause means, what its results might be and whether they will consider any further matter in relation to it. That is in addition to the discussion of any amendments tabled.

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