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Lord Addington: I thank the noble Baroness for her response. I feel a momentary empathy with the Government Front Bench when a divergence of views comes around. The noble Baroness has just had occasion to look behind her.
It is a fact that there is very little disagreement between us. Indeed, when I said that I was probing to find a way forward here, it is the right path. Everyone agrees that the work should be done. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, disagrees slightly in that he thinks that the family is the prime unit. I would say that the main job of the family is to allow young people to participate in the discussion. Also, if the family is dysfunctional and provides only a biased viewpoint or, indeed, endorses discrimination, someone has to put the case for the other side. We must talk directly to children on a level which they can both understand and relate to.
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If I heard the noble Baroness aright, she said that this work should be done and the powers are in place to do it, but that it is for the commissiononce it has been set upto decide how it will deliver.
Lord Addington: Once again, to be inches apart can lead to big arguments. However, with the assurance that this is on the agenda and should be dealt with, I thank the Minister and look forward to monitoring how it is done and what emerges as best practice. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: The intention of this amendment, tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Gibson of Market Rasen, is to ensure that trade unions and employers' organisations are represented on the new commission. As I am sure everyone realises, work plays a major role in most people's lives. People are concerned about access to suitable work, their prospects when they have it and their treatment at work by both managers and fellow employees. I agree with the Government when they tell us that work is the way out of poverty. In many cases, unions are there at work to represent employees' interests.
This was acknowledged by previous governments when the present, soon to be former, commissions were established. I was myself a nominee by the TUC General Council on the Equal Opportunities Commission. Employers' representatives are also present by nomination. Of course access to services is important and is dealt with elsewhere in the Bill, but work is of such overwhelming importance in the lives of most people that it is essential that organisations with a knowledge of what it is all about are represented on the new commission and should be there as a matter of right rather than at the discretion of the Secretary of State.
Certainly, once the commission really gets going, much casework is bound to concern rights at work. I have been approached by the TUC, which is concerned about the failure of the present Bill to mention any possibility of it being represented. I look forward to a sympathetic response and I beg to move.
Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: My name is attached to this amendment and I should like to add a brief word to what my noble friend has said. I, too,
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represented the TUC for nine years on the Equal Opportunities Commission, on which the CBI was also represented. So I hope that consideration will be given to the question of representation of both the TUC and the CBI. There is no doubt that the new body will consider industrial relations and employment issues. I believe that it would be advantageous to continue with the current position of ensuring representation of both employers and employees on the new body.
I want to stress that the relationship with the Equal Opportunities Commission was not an adversarial one. On many occasions both sides of industry were able to give examples of what happened in employment by drawing on their direct knowledge of the workplace. I know that the commission believed that the combined knowledge of the two sides of the coin brought an added impetus to its work. My noble friend may say that the provision is implicit in the Bill, but I want to ensure that it is made explicit, as is currently the case in Ireland. I hope that she will consider the amendment.
Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I support the amendment. My noble friend has made a case for the nomination of commissioners. I understand that to mean people being nominated for selection, but the amendment has been moved in rather stronger terms. However, it is a modest amendment.
The reason for nominating such people is that we have had a special experience in regard to discrimination and equality at work. Employment is a very tender relationship. Although some might think that it has become complicated, in fact this may be an area where the law has enjoyed some successnot only in statutes, which are voluminous enough, but also in judicial case law in the understanding of concepts of discriminationboth direct and indirect. I cite also the experience of the European Union. That has come to bodies which have on them representatives of both employers and employees mainly through the CBI and the TUC. They draw on the roots of their special relationships and from the particular experiences they can bring to this tender area.
Clause 15 states that codes of practice are to be dealt with by the new body. That is natural enough, but codes of practice, or what people sometimes refer to as "soft law" provisions, are very important indeed in this area. If those codes are to be amended in areas where we have experience of discrimination, such as in sex discrimination and race relations, it would be a great advantage to the new commission to fit in with the experience of those who have seen what happens in the area of employment.
The new commission will not arrive with a blank sheet of paper; it will arrive into a society which has a great deal of experience of discrimination and equality in the area of employment. I hope that the Minister will at least welcome the notion that those who have such experience and who are expert in the area should,
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on all of these bodiesjudicial, administrative and many othersbe considered, at least, for nomination to the new commission.
"In appointing Commissioners the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of their together having experience and knowledge relating to the matters in respect of which the Commission has functions including, in particular".
So it does not relate only to this area. The experience and knowledge that some people have is often more useful than that of someone simply nominated from an organisation. I know that the CBI does not welcome the idea. The way in which the Bill is written will cover the appointment of such people if the Secretary of State considers it necessary.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon. My memory is that we did not include this in either the Sex Discrimination or Race Relations Acts, even though there were and are commissioners with a great deal of experience of employment, both from trade unions and employers. I agree entirely that this is not a necessary matter. Obviously when a code of practice that affects employment is being drawn up there will be consultation with employers and trade unions, which will play a key role.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: We are all agreed on the broad principle that the commissioners should reflect experience and expertise in these areas. I think everyone is quite comfortable with that. My noble friends bring a wealth of personal experience and knowledge of the long and proud history of the trade union movement in this area. We want the commission to make good use of that expertise and experience. Indeed, it will need to if it is to succeed in its mission.
Equally, I have absolutely no doubt that if the commission is to be successful a deep understanding of the day-to-day pressures experienced by businessand especially by small and medium sized businesses which often have a limited capacity to understand, assimilate and implement the lawwill also be critical.
Indeed, we shall not be able to identify effective ways of engaging with people unless we take innovative approaches based on the knowledge and experience provided by those who have expertise in the trade union movement and in business. That is why we have provided in paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 1, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred, a requirement to,
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the noble Lord, Lord Lester, as we have discussed already in our debates, that this is about not fettering the way in which the commission needs to be set up and the expertise and experience that needs to be brought forward. The Secretary of State will need to ensure that trade union and business interests are properly reflected in the commissioner appointments. That is well understood within the basis of what I have already said about the Bill.
Inevitably, of course, the amendment would cause some technical difficulties. However, my noble friend has indicated that she is probingcertainly at this pointto see what the Government's response will be.
My noble friend will know, too, that I have already indicated that I will try to avoid lists of any kind, for the reasons that I have given. If we were to insert a reference to trade unions and/or business into the Bill, it is highly likely that a number of other people would feel equally that they had some contribution to makeindeed, they would have merit in so doingand we would inevitably end up with a list. We should avoid that at all costs if we possibly can.
So, within the context of understanding entirely the concern of my noble friends to ensure that we use the experience and expertise of the trade union movement and recognise its contribution and the contribution of business, we would expect that to be taken into account by the Secretary of State. It is an integral part of the way in which we have set up the legislation. I hope that on that basis my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
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