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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, can the Minister respond in further detail to the question raised by my noble friend with regard to the use of mobile telephones while driving? It is very troubling to see people using mobile telephones while driving at high speeds on the motorway. Do the Government have any intention to legislate in this area?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I think that we have all experienced people using their mobile telephones in what appear to be dangerous situations. I have been overtaken both on the outside and on the inside by drivers carrying mobile phones. It is an offence to drive dangerously and using a hand-held mobile telephone is dangerous. However, it does not follow necessarily that it should be a specific and separate offence to drive while using a hand-held mobile telephone, although that may become necessary if we cannot persuade drivers not to do it. I remind the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that after the wearing of seat belts was made compulsory, it took very many years for the belts actually to be used. We still think that, for the present and until we are convinced otherwise, the existing legislation covers this point.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, does my noble friend agree with the concern expressed by the Select Committee in the other place about the 11 per cent decline in the number of traffic police over the past four years? Can he reassure the House that the Government intend to ask police forces to make traffic policing a priority in the national policing plan?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can certainly confirm that traffic policing is a part of the general aims and objectives of police forces and is therefore a priority. I am not quite sure what are the numbers of traffic police. The work of traffic police is often integrated with crime prevention and crime discovery activities, which seems sensible. It is often difficult to tell whether a policeman is acting only as a traffic policeman. In any case, it is the use of technology which is very much helping in the reduction of traffic accidents.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, have the figures been split between cars and motor-bikes? The Minister concentrated on cars, but have there been more motor-bike deaths and accidents recently? My experience is that motor-bike riders swish through the lumps and bumps in the road, whereas cars have to pull up and go slower.

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the figures I gave related to motor vehicles, including motor-bikes. It is certainly true that motor-bikes are much more dangerous for the drivers than passenger cars.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I hope that—

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, we really must go on to the next Question. I gave way to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, because she kept importuning me.


3.1 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they recognise Sikhs as a distinct ethnic group.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): My Lords, we do, in accordance with the Law Lords' judgment of 1983 in the case of Mandla v Dowell Lee, which established that Sikhs are an ethnic group for the purposes of the Race Relations Act. If memory serves me right, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, in his former life, appeared for the successful appellant.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that the Sikh community in this country is so disappointed with the Government's general stance over the operation of the Race Relations Act that it is lobbying Parliament today to ask the Minister to reconsider current policy to catch up with the needs of today, and to accept that public authorities must monitor Sikhs separately for racial monitoring purposes? This is to ensure that the estimated 700,000 strong British Sikh community is given proper protection, especially following the events of September 11th, from discrimination in the operation of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act. Will the Government now consider issuing guidance so that all public authorities, not only some, are left in no doubt that they must take action on this matter?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I was aware of the lobby and its views. I look forward to discussing this issue in more detail with representatives of the Sikh community when I meet with them at the end of this month. In short, the representations made did not persuade the Office for National Statistics, which consulted the CRE on this issue, that it was necessary to include Sikhs as a separate category in the 1991 or 2001 censuses. But, of course, Sikhs would have been able to put "Sikh" on the census form under the "other" category, if they so wished. They will also be identified as a religious group, which was included in the 2001 census for this purpose.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, while accepting that the Mandla judgment identified Sikhs as a distinct ethnic

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group, it also created a number of anomalies in that other groups have been excluded from the definition. What do the Government have in mind to ensure that such groups, particularly those with religious beliefs, are included in future equality legislation?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, both in my role and more widely across Government we are well aware of the sensitivity of this issue and of the importance in a multiracial and multi-ethnic society of properly reflecting the diversity that exists. Therefore, I am certain that before the next census—if it proceeds in the form of previous censuses—there will be the most careful consultation on this issue. We shall also seek proper consultation on the other circumstances in which it will arise in the future.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the advice being given by the CRE to public authorities on how they should conduct ethnic monitoring in connection with their obligations to produce statements of race equality, requests them to use the ethnic categories contained in the census? Therefore public authorities will not have particular regard to the special needs of the Sikhs, or indeed of any other minority community which is not named in the census. Does the Minister agree that the advice being given by the CRE should be revived to take into consideration the diversity of ethnic groups in our society?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, the code of practice gives the advice signalled by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury—that is, that it is sensible to make it possible to compare local data with the census data. That is common sense because, without those comparisons, many other issues are difficult in policy terms. On the other hand, the code of practice also states that it is open for a local authority or police force to disaggregate, if they so wish, within a particular category to allow the finer grain detail in their monitoring that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, advances. The code of practice, therefore, permits exactly what the noble Lord proposes.

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, there is a significant Sikh community in Huddersfield, which is in my diocese, and a large Muslim community. There is also a quite significant Christian Asian community. In terms of the Question, can the Minister define where he sees an "Asian Christian" community.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, shooting from the hip, I would have thought that a Christian Asian would have indicated "British Asian" under the question about ethnic origin in the census; and, under the question about religious affiliation, would have written "Christian".

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, given the historic commitment of the Sikh people to this country, is it not time that we had a turban in this House?

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Lord Filkin: My Lords, that is an interesting and important question, which I am sure will be noted. I agree that Sikhs have made a great contribution to Britain. They are a proud race who fought the British in India and fought with the British in the last two wars. They have made many significant contributions to the social and economic life of this country.

National Insurance Contributions Bill

3.7 p.m.

Read a third time, and passed.

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No. 2) Bill

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

On Question, Bill read a second time; Committee negatived.

Education Bill

3.8 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [Purpose and interpretation of Chapter 1]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland) moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 2, line 1, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Baroness said: These are minor technical amendments which we should have included with our previous amendments to the clause. I apologise to the House for that omission.

The current definition of "children" is expressed to refer to subsection (1) only. Now that we have introduced references to "children" in Clause 1(2) and Clause 2(5) we need to ensure that the definition applies to the whole chapter. The amendments achieve that. I beg to move.

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