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The noble Lord, Lord Cope, said that he was still to be convinced, but he seems to take a lot of convincing either way. In Committee, he was not convinced by the Government's answers in the other direction, stating:
I had hoped that they would join with us in seeing this as an important area of policy development. It is worth reminding your Lordships that for 18 years we had no legislation or commitment from the Conservative government towards improving the quality and nature of race relations. We went through some traumatic times on race relations matters. I well remember the impact of the Scarman Report and the many things it revealed to us about ourselves. Surely, that was a golden opportunity for the Conservative government to consider their position and improve and strengthen race relations. They did not and consistently failed to do so.
We have now brought forward legislation which addresses many serious issues rightly raised in the context of the Macpherson Report and the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence. This is an historic opportunity and we need to grasp it. In the changes that we have announced that we shall bring forward in another place we have demonstrated that we have done exactly that.
Perhaps I may comment on the remarks of the right reverend Prelate and his concerns about stop and search in order to clarify the Government's position. We always believed that what we had in terms of the draft Bill, and what was contained in earlier legislation, dealt directly with the effects of what in most circumstances might be perceived as direct discrimination emanating from certain police operations and actions. We believe that to be the case. What we have announced today does not change the situation. We remain convinced that stop and search is a highly valid, effective method of police intervention to prevent criminality in all forms. That remains the case and we fully support it. What we have announced today changes nothing in regard to the way in which the police work. Fears have been whipped up by others inside and outside this Chamber and they are wrong to address the issue in that way.
Perhaps at the outset of my announcement I was not as generous in my thanks as I might have been. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, should be greatly thanked for his work on the Bill in this Chamber and behind the scenes. During our exchanges I learnt a great deal. I am not a lawyer--I do not have the benefit of a legal training--but I have appreciated the issues that have been raised, almost in the sense of a tutorial, and I have benefited greatly.
I also want to pay tribute to Members on the Labour Benches who made their views clear to me. They described them most candidly in your Lordships' House and raised important points privately. We have benefited from their wisdom and advice and that should not be underestimated. I pay particular tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, who speaks from a rich experience, as I said on Second Reading. Her contributions have been very telling.
I hope that today in the further consideration of other issues and amendments we can move forward in a spirit of good will. It is an area of public policy making that requires that. We want fundamentally to change the way in which race relations work and are affected by legislation and there are important gains to be made here. None of us can afford to tolerate racism in any form, shape or manner. This legislation will help to empower people and authorities in tackling that and it will provide a positive platform on which we in government, the public service generally and those committed to improving the quality of race relations work in future. For those reasons, I am happy to have made the announcement today.
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 3 to 7, 11 and 13. We have had several full debates on the issue, so perhaps I may summarise them and suggest a practical solution.
The amendments are designed to replace Schedule 1, which gives a list of public authorities that would be subject to the extended Race Relations Act and to the duty that will be included when the Bill is amended in another place, with a substituted list giving the generic definition contained in Amendment No. 11. That amendment contains a general definition of "public authority" and comes from Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. It provides that:
The schedule in the Bill is broader and does not leave scope for such loopholes to be filled by ministerial discretion. However, a significant problem remains about the schedule. What happens when a privatised body is exercising public functions, which is not in the schedule even as presently drafted? The problem is that there is then a gap between the Human Rights Act, which forbids discrimination in relation to convention rights, broadly defines "public authority" and would cover a privatised body exercising public functions, and the Race Relations Act. That Act is a specific implementation of the Human Rights Act in the race discrimination sphere.
The amendments present your Lordships with an either/or choice; either have a specific list in the schedule or have a generic definition. The advantage of the Government's action arises in relation to a public duty, because when another place incorporates that duty into the Bill it will want to link it with defined public authorities. That is a very good reason for having a scheduled list.
On the other hand, in my view one also needs to have a catch-all, general definition which covers the privatised public authorities. In other words, I believe that one needs the schedule which these amendments would leave out, but one also needs the generic definition which Amendment No. 11 would put in. I thought about that only relatively recently. I confess that I had been prompted to do so by a little bird in the Home Office, if not one who speaks on behalf of the Government today. Therefore, the Government must not be bound by it, but the idea came as a result of my discussions. I believe that the answer to the problem may lie in keeping the scheduled list, but adding Amendment No. 11. One cannot do that with the amendments as they stand because they present the House with an either/or choice. I hope that I have sufficiently explained the issues. I beg to move.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, has answered one of the questions that concerned me at Committee; that is, what was the practical difference between the two ways of defining the public authorities to whom the Bill is to apply. The practical difference appears to lie in privatised bodies exercising a public function. Clearly, it is right that through this legislation a privatised body which exercises public functions should not be placed in a different position from a public body which exercises the same functions. I believe that that is what lies behind it.
However, the solution now being offered by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, seems to me, if I may say so, a typical Home Office solution. It did not surprise me that he had been inspired to make that decision through conversation; that is, if we are not quite sure which is the best definition, let us have the belt and
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