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Baroness Young: I wonder whether the noble Lord intends his amendment to apply to two areas. I refer to the Armed Services and to the whole of the education service. A number of people, particularly in education, would be concerned if the provisions of the amendment applied to schools, given that that might affect very

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small children and children up to the compulsory school leaving age. It would be helpful to have this point clarified and to hear the Government's view on both matters.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: I am very well aware that in comparison with measures to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sex, race and disability, there is a gap in the protection that we offer some individuals. The Government deplores discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the treatment which some gay men and lesbians experience.

That said, we do not believe that this Bill is the appropriate vehicle for this large new topic. It would be a radical step away from the intentions which we set out and on which we consulted in the Fairness at Work White Paper, and would clearly require extensive consultations in its own right. As has been said, the amendment raises substantial issues in several areas which require careful consultation, particularly with regard to the Armed Services and education.

We shall want to consider the issue further in the context of wider European developments. I have already referred to new Article 13 in the Amsterdam Treaty. Now that the new treaty is in force, the Commission is able to bring forward recommendations and we expect it to take a positive interest in doing so. It may address the problems which concern the noble Lords, Lord Razzall and Lord Meston, the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, and the Government, although clearly we cannot commit ourselves at this stage to accepting each and every measure that the Commission may propose.

As noble Lords are aware, the Equal Opportunities Commission formally presented to the Government last November its recommendations following a review of sex equality legislation. Those included a proposal that there should be specific legal protection for lesbians and gay men. The Government, particularly the Department for Education and Employment which leads on the policy, are carefully considering this and the EOC's other recommendations. We strive to achieve joined-up government, but that is no reason to have a confusion of responsibilities with regard to which department leads on such legislation.

We are also considering the suggestion from the Better Regulation Task Force of a non-statutory code of practice. The task force is generally in favour of making current legislation work better. It also points out the importance of evaluating a code of practice before taking any further steps.

I have shown that it is too early to be clear whether a legislative measure would be the appropriate way to proceed. However, I reassure the Committee that we want to be sure that in removing injustice, we are doing so thoughtfully and in full knowledge of the impact of the legislation. That would require full consultation with many relevant parties such as industry, the forces and the Churches.

For that reason, I regret that the Government cannot support the new clause. I hope that those proposing the amendment are reassured of our commitment to act in

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this area. Our differences are over the means rather than the objectives. I trust that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Earl Ferrers: I am glad that the Minister said that there were problems with this amendment. I do not think that he need regret too much the fact that he is unable to accept it. I am glad that he referred to education, following the comment made by my noble friend Lady Young. Perhaps I may declare an interest as a Fellow of Winchester College, which is a single-sex school. If someone applied to be a master there and the headmaster was obliged not to refuse that applicant on the ground that he was a homosexual, the position would be intolerable. Although it may be perfectly reasonable to protect those of different sexual orientations, it is essential to protect young people, particularly at school. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will not forget that matter when he considers this in greater detail.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: I hope that I made it clear that before we proceed on this, we shall consider carefully all the important issues which the amendment raises.

Lord Razzall: I think that there has been some misunderstanding on the part of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Earl in relation to the purpose of this new clause. In moving the amendment, it was never my intention (or that of my supporters) to suggest that the issues raised by the noble Baroness and the noble Earl were not matters on which the Government should consult extensively before bringing forward legislation in the form of the regulations provided for by my amendment. There was no doubt at all about the fact that that must take place. The issues raised by the noble Baroness and the noble Earl are clearly complex and need to be subject to consultation.

If, following the passage of this comprehensive Bill, it is thought necessary, rather than relying simply on voluntary codes of practice, to introduce regulations to deal with these complex issues, the Government should take the necessary powers. However, on the basis of the progress that I think we have made in discussion with the Minister, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment at this stage--

Earl Ferrers: Before the amendment is withdrawn, the noble Lord said that these are complex issues; but some of them are absolutely straightforward and simple.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 p.m.

Lord Razzall moved Amendment No. 273:

After Clause 13, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations for the purpose of prohibiting, in relation to any employment matter, discrimination by an employer against another person on grounds specified in the regulations.

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(2) In subsection (1) "employment matter" includes--
(a) the offer or refusal of employment;
(b) the termination of employment;
(c) terms and conditions of employment;
(d) the provision of training or skills development opportunities;
(e) promotion and career progression.
(3) Regulations under subsection (1) may--
(a) specify the types of action, or failure to take action, which are to be taken to constitute discrimination for the purpose of this section;
(b) confer jurisdiction (including exclusive jurisdiction) on employment tribunals and on the Employment Appeal Tribunal in relation to cases brought under this section;
(c) provide for penalties to be imposed or, as the case may be, compensation to be awarded in respect of offences committed under paragraph (a) above.
(4) No regulations shall be made under this section unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.")

The noble Lord said: This is the third and final amendment we are proposing from these Benches, very much along the lines of the other two amendments. I do not want to delay the Committee. I make one very simple point on the case as to why we believe legislative power should be taken by the Government at this stage. I have set out the two examples of age discrimination and sexual orientation.

I say in reply to the Government's likely response that I would anticipate that were legislation in any of these areas to be brought before the Committee for approval as primary legislation, there would be one short clause to say that the Government should take power to legislate in the following areas in accordance with Schedule 1. Schedule 1 would set out a resolution of the kind I am suggesting here. I doubt whether those who argue that primary legislation would need to be brought back to the House would actually get any primary legislation different from the clause I am suggesting here. On that basis, I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: I shall be brief. The amendment urges the Government to take a power to prohibit discrimination on the basis of whatever grounds the Secretary of State may specify in regulations. It is puzzling to have such a broad and unfocused power proposed, particularly when the Government have been criticised for taking much more specific powers where we were clear about what they would be used for.

As noble Lords will know, discrimination in employment--this is to repeat a point--is largely a matter for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. However, the DTI has responsibility for some aspects; for example, discrimination on the grounds of trade union membership or non-membership. If noble Lords have in mind further specific situations where there is clear evidence that individuals are suffering unjustified discrimination in employment, the Government of course would be happy to consider them. We would not wish to have such sweeping powers as are proposed in the amendment.

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If there are specific problems of discrimination, for example, on grounds of age, sexual orientation or protection for whistle-blowers, we should debate them, discuss the policy options and then decide whether to act and, if so, how. Legislation is not the only option, as we have shown on age discrimination, but it may be appropriate, as on whistle-blowers. However, it would be wrong to take powers without having the slightest idea about how they might be used. I do not think that would be a good precedent; I hope therefore that the amendment will be withdrawn.

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