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Baroness Turner of Camden: I thank my noble friend for her response. I am not really surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, did not agree with the amendment, although I am rather surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, took the line that he did. I know very well that he had experience of the EOC when it had a great deal of representation from trade unions. He was, of course, actively involved in a number of important employment cases, so I am rather surprised that he took that line.
However, I am glad that my noble friend has given an assurance that trade union and business interests will be respected. I know she understands that trade unions have a great deal of experience to offer in this area. This experience should be utilised by the new commission and used on behalf of people with experience of the kind of casework that is likely to arise.
I am sorry that it has not been found possible to include something in the Bill. I shall consider carefully what my noble friend has said today. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 19 is a probing amendment for Amendment No. 20, which seeks to ensure that decision-making committees specialising in gender and race relations will be established by the commission and shall include persons with knowledge of these areas.
In the Second Reading debate I indicated that I had not originally been in favour of an overarching commission responsible for all kinds of discrimination. This was based on my experience as an EOC member. But I realise that since I was a member attitudes have tended to change and there now seems a general consensus on the idea of an all-embracing CEHR.
Nevertheless, both the EOC and the CRE did a great deal of very good work. In so doing, they built up a formidable amount of expertise in their own particular areas of operation. I see from a briefing that I have from the Mayor of London that he seems to agree with me. He states in his briefing:
He also pointed out that Part 5 of Schedule 1 establishes a disability committee. Of course, the amendments we debated earlier todayparticularly Amendment No. 55sought to deal with other equality strands in a rather more complicated way than is suggested in my amendment, which attempts to deal with the criticism and to build on the experience which is already available from the former commissions.
Of course it does not go as far as the mayor's briefing. It reflects what was outlined in Amendment No. 55 but does not spell out in detail any requirements with regard to establishment. It indicates ways in which the work already done on gender and race might be utilised and built upon for the future.
My noble friend will undoubtedly say that the commission will obviously have the right to establish such committees as it thinks it ought to have in order to do its work, but the work that has already been done on gender and race is so important that it should be written onto the face of the Bill so that the commission starts off with a requirement to make use of that experience, and to do so by way of the establishment of these committees. I beg to move.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My noble friend will not be at all surprised by what I have to say in broad terms. I hope that some of the points I make will be relevant to why this debate has arisen. Paragraph 12(1) of Schedule 1 makes sure that we give the commission the freedom and flexibility to determine its own structures. I have talked about the three themes of the dayindependence, freedom of action and lists. This
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proposal comes under freedom of action as it would enable the commission to determine for itself what it wants to do.
It is very important, if we are to make this body effective, to give it operational ability to choose how it will determine its work to some degree, which includes setting up appropriate committees. We cannot predict what the challenges and priorities of the new commission might be for the future. It might choose to do a specific piece of work and, as a result, establish a committee to bring together particular experience or expertise.
The commission will no doubt want to create committees for specific purposes. I do not think that we can legislate for committees which do not have a clearly defined or specific purpose. That would be the effect of Amendment No. 19, although I accept that it is a paving amendment.
I am very concerned that we avoid silo management in the Bill where at all possible. One of the great value-added benefits of a new single commission is the ability to bring a new and inclusive approach to promoting equality across the different areas. So establishing a statutory race or gender committee at this point, with delegated functions, in advance of that full debate about what needs to happen would, in my view, run counter to the goal of maximising the benefit of bringing the commissions together. In fact, one could argue that there is little point if we simply recreate within the structures exactly the same processes or organisational structures that we have now.
I think the proposal stems from a genuine concern at the heart of setting up the new commission, which is that we do not dilute the work or the critical nature of the issues, particularly, as my noble friend has indicated, on race and gender. Of those two, the issues on race equality are particularly pertinent.
As I said at Second Reading, race equality must be at the heart of planning the new commission, particularly in that period before the work of the Commission for Racial Equality fully transfers to the new commission. We want the CEHR and the Commission for Racial Equality to work together very closely to make sure that this is done effectively.
I hope that as we design and develop the new commission and as it takes its place in 2007, the fears that I understand noble Lords and others have that the issues are not diluted will be fully addressed. I make a commitment to ensuring that my colleagues who will be responsible for this understand and undertake to do that. I think that will go quite some way to addressing what lies behind the needs of noble Lords who want to see the representation of particular committees in this way.
The three commissions have been trailblazers and we must not under any circumstances lose the work they have done in their own distinct areas. It is very important that we capture it and move it forward. If we fail to do that, we will hamper the new commission.
If the commission decides that it wishes to have its own committee on race or gender issues, it can already do so under the Bill. On the basis that we should not
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restrict what the commission does nor second-guess its desire to set up committees appropriate to the work it plans to undertake, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Turner of Camden: I thank my noble friend for that very helpful response. I understand that there is a need to have some flexibility, and we do not know what issues may arise in the future which may require the establishment of internal committees. The commission will have the opportunity, if it wishes, to establish suitable committees once the CEHR is properly established.
I also welcome my noble friend's assurance that it is not the intention to dilute the issues of gender and race and that the commissions will have to work very closely together in the transitional period to ensure that the experience that has been gained is not lost. I also welcome my noble friend's personal commitment to that end. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"The power under section 18
(a) shall be treated by virtue of this paragraph as having been delegated by the Commission to the Scotland Committee in so far as it concerns the making of grants for the purpose of exercising any of the powers treated as delegated to the Scotland Committee in accordance with paragraphs 21 and 22, and
(b) to that extent shall not be exercisable by the Commission."
The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 25, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 26, 31, 32 and 38. I greatly welcome the devolution provided in the Bill to the Scotland and Wales committees and hope that these amendments will give Scotland and Wales even more devolution.
The commission can choose to delegate any of its functions to any decision-making committee as set out in paragraph 15 of Schedule 1, and this includes the Scotland and Wales committees. However, the Bill specifies delegation of certain powers to the Scotland and Wales committees, and these delegations cannot be reversed by the commission. However, in the Bill, only some of the promotional powers are delegated to the Scotland and Wales committees.
Paragraph 21 of Schedule 1, which refers to Scotland, and paragraph 29, which refers to Wales, delegate the powers under Clause 14 to publish information, undertake research, provide education and training and give advice or guidance. The power to subcontract such work to other people or organisations is included in the delegation. However, the power under Clause 18 to award grants to other organisations to do or assist in
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any of the delegated functions is at present excluded from the delegation to the Scotland and Wales committees.
The CEHR will probably rely heavily on co-operation and joint working with others. It is very likely that the commission will want to provide grant aid to voluntary organisations to assist with its promotional work under Clause 14. Most of the voluntary sector in Wales and Scotland is separate and independent. It is inconsistent to delegate to the Wales and Scotland committees the power to subcontract delegated Clause 14 work to such other organisations but not to delegate the powers to give grants to carry out delegated Clause 14 work.
Amendments Nos. 25 and 31 delegate grant-giving powers under Clause 18 to Scotland and Wales committees but only in so far as the grant-giving is for the purpose of carrying out the other powers already delegated to the committees. Thus the amendments would not affect the power of the commission at GB level to control grants for any purpose that is not already delegated to the Scotland and Wales committees under the Bill.
The powers under Clause 21 include monitoring kinds of crime affecting certain communities, prevention and reduction of crime affecting certain communities and activities designed to involve members of communities. These powers are intended to support the commission's duty under Clause 11 to encourage understanding and good practice in relations between communities and to work towards the elimination of prejudice, hatred and hostility against communities.
"Communities" in Clause 11 means "equality communities"that is, communities of people defined by their age, gender, transsexual status, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. The powers in Clause 21(2)(a) and (b) to monitor crime and take action designed to prevent and reduce crime will be used to address types of crime affecting specific equality communitiesfor example, racist, sectarian, Islamophobic and homophobic hate crimes such as assault, vandalism and harassment. The power to arrange community activities which Clause 21(2)(c) gives to the commission will support its duty to encourage good inter-community relations.
The nature of crime which affects communities, in particular hate crime, varies in different parts of the UK. The same is true for the other problems affecting community relations. It is vital, therefore, that the commission's powers are exercised with a full understanding of the nature of the different problems in Scotland and Wales.
The commission will usually be exercising the Clause 21 powers in co-operation with other bodies; for example, the police, local authorities and voluntary sector bodies. The public bodies concerned are devolved in Scotland and Wales and operate under a different statutory framework. They have different statutory equality obligations under the Scottish Parliament's pubic sector legislation and under the Government of Wales Act. Most voluntary organisations in Scotland and Wales are separate, and the umbrella organisations for the voluntary sector are specific to Scotland and Wales.
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In Scotland, the criminal justice system, criminal law and criminal procedure are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Executive. They are all very different in Scotland. Race hate crime, in particular, and other hate crime law, which is of particular relevance to Clause 21, are very different in Scotland from that in the rest of Britain. The prosecution and courts systems operate in a very different way from the rest of Britain, and the police are separate and devolved. Although criminal law in Wales is not devolved to the Welsh Assembly, Welsh police and local authorities will be key partners of the commission in addressing hate crime, both through the criminal justice measures and other means such as ASBOs. For all these reasons, the powers under Clause 21(2)(a) and (b) to monitor, prevent and reduce crimes should be delegated to the Scotland and Wales Committees, since those committees, rather than the commission at British level, would have the required expertise on criminal law, criminal justice and the nature of crime affecting communities in Scotland and Wales, as well as links with other agencies.
The "communities" powers, which are sometimes referred to as "good relations" powers, are new for most strands. The powers do not relate to employment or provision of services, but to the way people live together. They are designed to reduce hate crime and conflict between different groups based on their identity and to promote harmonious communities. These are promotional powers rather than enforcement powers. The other promotional powers are being delegated to the Wales and Scotland Committees.
The communities to whom they apply are likely to be different in England, Wales and Scotland. In England, much of the focus is likely to be on places where there are very large, impoverished and disenfranchised ethnic communities, where problems manifest themselves perhaps through excessive violence on the streets, major police interventions, and a lot of media and political attention. The problems in Wales may be different; for example, rural racism or homophobia, where numbers are small. They may involve victimisation, isolation, social exclusion and may not attract media and political attention in the same way.
There may be a danger of these issues, as they manifest themselves in Wales and Scotland, being overlooked if priority decisions in relation to the "communities" powers are not delegated. I hope the Minister understands that explanation. I am trying to describe all the differences between England, Wales and Scotland. We are not just mirror images of each other. That is the point that I am trying to make.
I turn to Amendment No. 38, which calls for full-time posts. At present, the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission each has a commissioner for Scotland and a commissioner for Wales. Although these are not full-time posts, all six commissioners devote a great deal of time to their commission. The Bill proposes that the Commission for Equality and Human Rights will have a single Scotland commissioner and a single
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Wales commissioner. This is one of the areas of greatest concern for stakeholders in Scotland and Wales. I asked the Minister a question about it at Second Reading and she answered that she believed that the commission would decide that.
There is a real fear that the Wales and the Scotland commissioners will simply be overloaded with work in setting up the new bodies if they were just part-time appointments involving perhaps two or three days a month. The roles are so important that the Scottish and Welsh commissioners should be full-time appointments. Even then, the two commissioners will rely heavily on the other members of their countries' committees. I hope that the Minister will take note of this. The commissioners should be able to devote at least 200 working days to the commission.
I move the amendments in a spirit of devolution. We recognise that the Government have given us devolution in Scotland and Wales, as well as in this Bill, but, as usual, we would like a little bit more. The amendments are seeking this in the best interests of the Welsh and Scottish people. I beg to move.
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