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22 Clause 45, page 28, line 6, leave out "to refuse" and insert "refusing"
23 Clause 47, page 28, line 36, leave out "46(1), (2) and (5)" and insert "46"
24 page 29, line 11, leave out "(5)" and insert "(3)"
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 22 to 24. These amendments are all minor and technical. Amendment No. 22 corrects the grammar of the part of Clause 45 that deals with exceptions for providers of specialist services. It has no other purpose or effect.
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Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 change Clause 47 to reflect numbering changes in Clause 46, which, as your Lordships will remember, followed the removal of provisions relating to harassment from that clause. Amendments Nos. 26 to 29 remove remaining references to harassment from Clause 51, which deals with public authorities. Those changes are consequent on the removal by your Lordships' House of the harassment provisions from Part 2.
Amendment No. 30 changes the definition of discrimination in Regulation 3 of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 to make it clear that religious discrimination in the area of employment and vocational training is unlawful, even when committed against a person who is of the same religion as the discriminator. That is the intention and, we believe, the effect of the regulation as it stands, but the amendment is there to resolve any doubt about the matter. We made a similar amendment in your Lordships' House to what is now Clause 45. Having considered the case made in Committee in the other place that that leaves an apparent inconsistency between the Bill as amended by the Government in this House and the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations, we have concluded that a similar clarification to the regulations would be helpful.
As I said, these are all necessary, minor amendments and I commend them to your Lordships' House.
Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 22 to 24.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
25 Clause 49, page 30, line 11, leave out "48(1)" and insert "48(1)(a), (b) and (c)(i) and (ii)"
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 25.
I will not go into the need for exceptions for education in the Bill, as that is well trodden ground and most people agree that the exceptions are needed to a certain extent, especially for faith schools, the operation of which the Bill is in no way intended to undermine. We have included exceptions protecting faith schools from provisions specific to educational establishments to maintain the status quo of the right of faith schools to operate as such. However, it was argued in Committee in the other place that, as it stood, the exemption would make it lawful for faith schools to exclude an existing pupil and/or subject an existing pupil to any other detriment on grounds of religion or belief, and that that goes further than is required to protect faith schools. We therefore agreed to consider the matter further.
These are complex areas and we gave the matter much consideration, consulting both the Church of England and the Catholic Church. On the matter of exclusion, we concluded that it would not be right for a faith school to exclude one of its existing pupils purely on the ground of religion or belief. Furthermore, that would be contrary to school
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guidance on exclusions, which stipulates that behaviour must be the only consideration. We therefore propose to remove that exemption.
On the matter of other detriment, we tried to identify any actions constituting direct or indirect discrimination, falling within that term, that faith schools might wish to take and would be justified in taking, and which would not be adequately protected against by other exceptions to the legislation. But we drew a blank. In the absence of any firm examples of possible justifiable other detriments, we therefore propose also to remove that exclusion.
I want to make one thing very clear. Nothing about the amendment is intended to suggest that we believe that faith schools are likely in practice to discriminate against children of other or no faith. In the absence until now of legislation in this area, I am unaware of any evidence to the contrary. The amendment simply recognises that the exceptions to discrimination legislation must be tightly drawn. The exemptions for faith schools have been the subject of much consideration and debate, not to mention a whole raft of amendments in your Lordships' House and another place. We have tried to listen very carefully. We have considered views from all sides of the debate and we believe that we have now got the balance right between the protection of pupils and the protection of schools. However, the Bill contains regulatory powers to alter, to add or to remove any education exemptions. We think that these powers are critical, because if, in practice, there is evidence that the exemptions for schools are not working as we intend them to do, the necessary changes can be made following full consultation with all key stakeholders.
Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 25.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, we on these Benches greatly welcome Amendment No. 25. As the Minister has clearly explained, it reduces the breadth of the exceptions for faith schools to the duty of non-discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in Part 2 of the Bill. That was in response to criticism made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, on which I serve, and by my colleague Dr Evan Harris MP in the other place. I am sure that the Joint Committee will be particularly gratified by this.
This is not unimportant. The amendment restricts the faith schools' exception in Clause 49, so that the exception to the duty not to discriminate does not permit religious discrimination in exclusions or allow discrimination in subjecting pupils to any other detriment. The Minister in the other place, Meg Munn MP, commented:
"we are happy to make it clear that the exception is intended to be limited only to those areas which are essential in order to enable faith schools to continue to operate as such".
That is very important, since I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will not want introduced into Great Britain or into England and Wales the segregated system of education that has led
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to so much trouble in Northern Ireland. Indeed, a case in which I was involved illustrates the problem; even in a place such as Mauritius, the Privy Council had to strike down on religious discrimination in access to faith schools.
The Government have also undertaken, as I read the record, to provide non-statutory guidance to schools, making it clear that the exceptions under the Bill do not override the rights of non-discrimination under the Human Rights Act. We in the Joint Committee on Human Rights and on these Benches, I am sure, welcome the amendment and the undertaking to provide guidance on the non-discrimination obligations of schools under the Human Rights Act. We trust that the guidance will be produced before Part 2 of the Bill comes into force; it will be helpful if the Minister could give some indication that that is so. Having said that, we very much welcome the amendment.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, in the absence of any information to the contrary, I confirm that the guidance will be available before Part 2 comes into operation. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
26 Clause 51, page 32, leave out line 47
27 page 33, leave out line 11
28 page 33, leave out line 14
29 page 33, line 17, leave out "(but this exception does not have effect in relation to harassment)"
30 Clause 76, page 44, line 21, at end insert
"(2) For regulation 3(1)(a) of the Regulations substitute
"(a) on the grounds of the religion or belief of B or of any other person except A (whether or not it is also A's religion or belief) A treats B less favourably than he treats or would treat other persons;".
(3) Omit regulation 3(2) of the Regulations."
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 26 to 30, to which I have spoken with Amendment No. 22.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
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