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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I am not in favour of the amendment. I wish to give my reasons. The amendment implies that it wants to provide all these good things, but the phrase "promoting the elimination of" worries me. I feel that it may be an attempt to reverse Section 28 of the Local Government Act by the back-door. We should need to debate that issue.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, remarked that the Government want the authority to be exemplary. I should like the authority to be exemplary, but it does not need the passage in the amendment incorporated into the Bill in order for it to be so. Adequate laws already cover these issues. When I was a member of the Greater London Council, we made special traffic arrangements and measures so that people could have easy access to a mosque on a Friday in the same way as we ensured access to a church for Christians on a Sunday. There was no discrimination. But the amendment might produce a similar situation to one which developed in the Greater London Council. In terms of gender, we were encouraged to wear badges. Almost half the individuals walked around wearing a badge saying "I'm gay" or "I'm a lesbian". What did that have to do with governing London? It was unnecessary for that to be part of the scene, yet it became a fairly predominant attitude. I thought that it was damaging to local government.
I apologise that I was not in my seat for the introduction of the amendment. However, I heard the debate from the monitor. Although the amendment reads well and involves a principle with which we all agree, I do not believe that its inclusion would improve the Bill. I therefore oppose the amendment.
However, being somewhat of an age myself, I do not remember any legislation which places people above the age of 90 in the same position as those who are still assumed to have the vigour of life at the age of 60--although they do not always.
Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: I was pleased to join with the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Dholakia, on this amendment. It is an issue on which I feel strongly. I have tremendous admiration for the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, and the immense knowledge she has in local government. However, we wish to have something positive on the face of the Bill. As I am sure the Minister remembers, there was firm reference to the issue in the White Paper. It is somewhat of a puzzle that that was not continued into the Bill.
There are those who say, as my noble friend Lord Renton hinted, that there is sufficient legislation and we should not continue to highlight the issue. I cannot agree. It is no bad thing for us to be thoroughly aware that the provision is in the Bill and that the mayor should have to consider it.
As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, pointed out, 36 per cent of Londoners will be ethnic by the year 2001. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, I had the privilege of serving on the Greater London Council. We are only too aware of that 36 per cent. If one lives in the centre of the City and moves in only a small area, one might not be aware of it. They are the people for whom the mayor will be responsible. They are the people whom the mayor will be expected to help. And let us remember that they are minorities.
Many of these minorities can well take care of themselves, and are impressive at doing so. As a young man, I travelled to Romford as a Greater London councillor. The whole of the East End was Jewish. One could not miss it from the moment one came out of the City. The Jews ran the whole area, and very competently. If one travels there now, the Bangladeshis, Indians and Asians are running the area equally competently. Each generation which comes into this City, from the Huguenots onwards, makes it the great city that it is.
I totally support the noble Lord, Lord Harris, because I want to see such a provision in the Bill. When we tabled it, we realised that the amendment would not go into the Bill. But we hoped that the Minister would state from the Dispatch Box today that what we seek to achieve will be in the Bill in one form or another, because it is worth saying.
I should like to add a simple message on the point of discrimination. If one is totally silent and just expects history to take care of itself, it will take considerably longer. If people have the courage to stand up and say that we have to help people who are black, Asian, or gay, perhaps people will discuss those matters and the advance will be a little quicker. If that was a reason in itself, I suggest to the Minister that it would be worth including such a provision in the Bill.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: The noble Lord, Lord Renton, has no need to worry about age discrimination. With the exception of my mother, he is the youngest 90 year-old I have ever come across, and more capable and able than many 60, 50 and 40 year-olds.
Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: I should like to point out that I played tennis against the noble Lord, Lord Renton, quite recently, and I lost 6:4, 6:4. I mention it now because the noble Lord was very kind not to mention it himself, and I have a horrible feeling that the noble Baroness is about to mention it.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: I was not going to mention that, but although the noble Lord lost to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, at tennis, I can say without any doubt that he would beat my mother at tennis, but he would certainly lose to her at bridge!
We on these Benches are fully behind the spirit of the Bill. We note what my noble friend Lord Renton and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, said about the fact that there is much existing legislation on this subject. However, we believe that we should support the amendment and we do so fully.
London's ethnic and social diversity is one of its strengths. That is one of the reasons why many of us have chosen to live in London. It is a place that is so mixed that you can find people of all kinds and it does not have what is sometimes an oppressive homogeneity of population. Personally, I like the diversity that one finds in London. The amendment would strengthen London and its society, which is already resilient. If such a duty were to be imposed on the authority, it would underpin the benefit to London society of this kind of diversity.
There is also an economic benefit to London's diverse society. Many firms are attracted to locate in London because they can find staff with the language skills and international understanding which is good for their businesses. We attract tourists from all over the world because they feel comfortable in London, which could be due to the diversity of our population.
London is perhaps the most appropriate place to introduce such legislation. I, too, would think it somewhat odd that duties are imposed on the Northern Ireland and Welsh Assemblies and yet not on the London authority. Of all places, London could profit
I agree with noble Lords who say that although the Race Relations Act, the laws on sex equality and the laws against disability discrimination will apply, they impose only a minimum requirement and do not impose the kind of duty that the amendment proposes.
It will be a good thing not just for people who fall into one of the categories enumerated in the amendment, but also for Londoners of all descriptions if we can underpin London's social and ethnic diversity by appropriate legislation which I am sure will be used widely and sensibly. In the past, gesture politics may have been used in excess, but I am sure that these provisions would mean a substantive underpinning of equality, which would benefit Londoners of all descriptions.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: I omitted to make one point. I took very careful note of what my noble friend Lord Renton said, but although we support the amendment, we advise the Committee that anti- discrimination laws, if taken to excess, can sometimes become discriminatory in themselves.
Baroness Hamwee: I was pleased to be able to add my name to the amendment which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. It is not necessary to repeat the many valid points that have already been made in the debate, but I should like to make one point, possibly anticipating what the Minister may say.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, spoke of the opportunity for the new authority. I would go further than that and say that it has a responsibility to promote the elimination of unjustifiable discrimination and to do so without being patronising. That is not necessarily an easy task.
I have talked a good deal about the style of the new authority and the way it should go about its business. We have already indicated that 25 will be an insufficient number of members for the assembly because, among other reasons, it will not reflect the diversity of London. Nevertheless, it will be the responsibility of those 25 members and the mayor to take forward this entire issue.
One might have hoped that the authority's powers and responsibilities to promote social development would cover the elimination of discrimination. That responsibility should cover it, but not everybody will make that connection without a fairly clear pointer. That is why the amendment is important.
The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, stated that the authority would do the right things anyway. In that case, let us give it the mechanism to do so. She said that these issues are covered by existing legislation. However, that legislation does not cover all the ground of the amendment and some of it is now quite out of date and inadequate. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's answer on to how this may or may not fit in with the promotion of social development.
The noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, mentioned the East End. A few years ago I was very struck by some research which showed the wealth of the City and the poverty of people living in the Spitalfields area, no more than a mile away. In particular, it illustrated the problems suffered there by the Bangladeshi community. There was a high level of unemployment cheek by jowl with the almost obscene wealth of the City. That was a vivid example and one I hope I never lose from my mind.
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