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What exactly is intended to be excluded by that I am not certain, because I think that, if this were a duty at all, it would probably be a public law duty. However, the object of that clause seems to be to prevent the learned friends of my noble friend Lord Tebbit from getting a paid holiday. Whatever the reason, it seems to me to require clarity, because unless the clause contains enforcement procedures, it will not justify the expectations that were raised of it at the outset. What the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said about outcome and opportunity and the work of the late Lord Young of Dartington falls to be taken into account in this connection, because I rather think that, in seeking to eliminate the socio-economic disadvantage, you need freedom of opportunity and freedom of outcome.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord agrees with me that not only does Part 1 create no enforceable private right or a right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of wealth or social class, but that the public duty can be satisfied by any public authority simply by showing that it has due regard to the desirability of, and takes account of, guidance. In other words, is not this a duty writ in water that cannot be enforceable unless the local authority takes leave of its senses and simply disregards the duty altogether?

Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My view, for what it is worth, is that, as presently drafted, it would be very difficult indeed to make this an operative sanction in a particular case unless it were ignored altogether. I wonder whether that is desirable. I am not sure what Clause 3 is intended to get at, because some people think that a private enforcement of a public law duty is some kind of private law, whereas others take a different view. That is why lawyers spend so much time arguing one way or the other. It is very important that whatever is being addressed is clear. As far as I am concerned, this is not at all clear at present.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: This has been an absolutely fascinating discussion. Listening to people's histories, I have ranged between fury and misunderstanding. Having listened to this legal interchange, the question now is whether the clause stays in or comes out. That surely must be for the Government to decide.

I am increasingly of the view that some change is needed. Yes, it should be aspirational-I think we all agree with that-but I am also attracted by what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, because the drive towards equality of outcome must be at the back of all our minds. That is what we want to achieve. We know, for example, that you have only to consider the millions of times that we have debated the many Bills about prison and prison reform that have gone through your Lordships' House to understand how many of those in prison have been economically disadvantaged to an appalling extent and that we have failed entirely to deal with their problems at an early stage.

It is important that at this stage, not least when the economic situation is so appalling, to encourage all public authorities to do their duty by not cutting back on the things that they have already planned and

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ensuring that a proper proportion of resources goes towards this vital area of achieving equality of opportunity in one way or another.

I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, appears slightly to have changed his mind. His initial response was most off-putting, because I had thought that the clause was clear-it was aspirational and it was encouraging that those who command so much of our public spending had moved in the right direction. I have always had the greatest respect for the noble Lord throughout all our debates on anything to do with equality, equality of opportunity between men and women, and in all other areas. I hope-please-that the Government will look again at whether there can be changes. On the whole, I want to keep this clause, but it should make more sense.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I was sorry to hear the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, suggest that the clause was "writ in water" if it was not legally enforceable by some individual. It followed, I suppose, my noble friend Lord Morris of Handsworth, who said that he was disappointed that there was a lack of legal enforceability in this clause. Of course, they are absolutely right, but that is by no means unprecedented. It has been a common situation and the clause, if it is useful, should not be removed simply because it is not enforceable by an individual in a court of law.

In the several parts of Clause 1, a number of institutions are mentioned, particularly local authorities, which are democratically responsible through councillors to the general public. The local press will or may be interested on behalf of the public in whether a local authority that is listed follows the instructions of Parliament-I call them instructions deliberately to be strong about this matter-that may not be legally enforceable by individual court actions but are intended to mean something. Doubts have been expressed as to the precise meaning of this clause with reference to socio-economic inequalities. There have been interesting aspects to the debate on that issue. However, the clause is completely supported by precedent.

I recall that, years ago when various industries were taken into public ownership, Clause 1 would invariably say something like this-I will quote from the Bill establishing the Central Electricity Generating Board:

"The CEGB's principal duty is to develop and maintain an efficient, co-ordinated and economical supply of electricity".

Almost all these Acts had a clause of that kind, which was meant to be an aspiration and a target, not something that was legally enforceable by criminal or civil action. The clause was sometimes referred to by lawyers-it is not a bad phrase just because it comes from a lawyer-as "a duty of imperfect obligation". It indicates to the bodies themselves-in this case they are listed in the clause-and to the people to whom they are responsible, that the clause means something.

5.30 pm

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Does the noble Lord agree that the problem is that, unlike in those other statutes, the target duty here is so vague that it can be satisfied by box ticking? It is not so much that an individual would be unable to enforce it but that a

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judicial review would have nothing to latch on to. Therefore, this is entirely aspirational. It is none the worse for that, but we are not talking about a legally enforceable duty, unless a public authority took leave of its senses.

Lord Borrie: I agree that it is not legally enforceable, in either civil or criminal law, and I am sure that the noble Lord's advice would be that any attempt at judicial review would not work.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I spoke about this aspect of the Bill at Second Reading. I conceded then-as other lawyers have done today-the difficulty of enforceability. However, sometimes the purpose of legislation is more than the ability to take something to court. Sometimes it can contain statements of ambition that express our values. That is why I said that this was vital and expressed disappointment that the noble Lord, Lord Lester-a great and good friend, who, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, said, has been a great inspiration as a lawyer speaking on equality over all these years-would, along with others on the Liberal Democrat Benches, vote against this. That was what was said at the time. I am glad that a shift has taken place, perhaps as a result of holidays in Ireland. I am glad that the Irish have had this impact, because we are talking about having in legislation a statement of what we want the good society to be like. That is why I am happy to hear that the Liberal Democrat Benches will not oppose this, because it isolates the Conservative Benches. I say to the Conservatives: do you really want to be isolated on this issue, which is a statement about the kind of society that we want to live in and that, in particular, we want to see our children living in? That is what this is about.

Lord Ouseley: My Lords, it is more than 100 minutes since the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, invited the Minister to explain what the clause is about, what it will lead to and how it will work, as opposed to what it is not about. We heard of the many things that it is not about. We also heard that it will not do much harm. If it will not do much harm, what good will it do? That is what we want to know-how it will work and how the public authorities will address the wonderful aspiration that no one would disagree with and that we all share.

I will leave aside the consequences of non-enforcement, which are important. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Lester, will be aware, it is more than 30 years since the phrase "race equality" appeared as an exhortation in Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976. In many ways, that section is phrased like this clause. It took a long time to determine exactly what it meant. Today, in 2010, many local authorities make "appropriate arrangements" by saying, in effect, "We have considered this and our appropriate arrangements are to do little or nothing because that is what we consider to be appropriate". It is quite right that we should consider what this means for us. We all want a society in which we are working towards reducing and, if possible, eliminating inequalities, whatever they are. One cannot dismiss the fact that looking at outcomes is important.

Many speakers today have said that this is a land full of opportunity. Regardless of whether it is full of

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opportunity or has considerable opportunity, and whether that is for all, no one can deny that opportunity is there. Many opportunities have been placed before many people, but there is still a huge and widening gap between those who have and those who have not-those who are rich and those who are not. That reflects the failure of government to deal with the issue of socio-economic disadvantage over the past 12 years. Now they have stuck this in the Bill without the explanations that we need of what it means, how it will work and how we will get the result.

It is fine to talk about outcomes-I have no problem with that-but we cannot get to outcomes without opportunities. Here I am reflecting what other people have said: the two must go hand in hand. We can have the aspirations that we have and we can create more opportunities as we need to, but we must address outcomes as well and we must be able to measure those outcomes. The way that we get there is the process that we go through and that process is about the values in our society, the principles and the people who make the daily decisions and how they do that.

My experience of being involved in organisations where decisions are made every day that impact on people's lives is that when people do not apply the principles and values that are linked to the aspirations, decisions are made when the opportunities are there but the outcomes remain the same. That is why it is important that we hear from the Minister about what the clause means and how it will work. That will determine where I stand in supporting either the clause or the amendment. I acknowledge, accept and support exhortation built on aspiration-it is something that I want to see in the Bill. However, it is purposeless without a clear explanation of what it means and how it will work and make a difference. If it will do no harm and make no difference, it is not worthy of inclusion and is, as the noble Lord, Lord Lester, says, something written in water.

Lord Elton: When the noble Baroness comes to answer, will she give great weight to the question asked by my noble and learned friend? I will rephrase it and ask: why have the Government decided to tackle the symptoms and not the disease?

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I did not intend to intervene, given the length of time that we have spent discussing this. However, I will make the point that this extremely important Bill is about the ways in which socio-economic disadvantage affects different groups in different ways. There are many detailed policies in the Bill. Therefore, after the noble Baroness has summed up, we should move on to consider all the detailed policies that my noble friend Lord Lester has done so much, over so many years, to champion. I hope that we will move speedily through, so that the Bill will come into effect and make a difference to all the groups of people who are addressed by the overarching aspiration about socio-economic disadvantage. That is what the Bill is all about.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): This has been an extraordinary discussion and a very good one. It is clear that most

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of us agree that there is a problem to be addressed. We are against sin and we are against socio-economic disadvantage.

The clause in question is of great value. This is not about window dressing or vacuous promises. It is about strategic decisions. I take issue with the noble and learned Lord about that, because I think that important things need to be decided strategically by local authorities and other authorities to which the Bill applies. Strategic decisions are of importance here and those strategic decisions will ultimately change people's lives, thus benefiting individuals, their families and their communities. It is about strategic decision-making that will lead to practical impacts on the lives of those individuals. My noble friend Lady Gould is right to say that it is not a panacea but a material step forward.

Of course, I recognise that this clause does not go as far as my noble friend Lord Morris of Handsworth would want. It is not a revolutionary tool-I accept that. We should not oversell the clause but nor should we lose sight of its importance. It is, as my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws said, about values and the good society towards which we are all striving. Will it simply result in another box-ticking exercise or yet another action plan? No, it will not. Currently there is no legal requirement for the public sector to address entrenched poverty and disadvantage. We are confident that this duty will change behaviours, as it will force all the relevant public authorities to think about this issue and to try to tailor their policies to improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged.

Is this clause, which we have heard much talk about, writ in water? I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Borrie for giving his views and for his statement about the duty of imperfect obligation. We believe that this duty will have a significant effect on the way in which public services are planned and delivered. We are working with the Audit Commission and the other public sector inspectorates to develop suitable monitoring mechanisms for the duty, utilising data that in many cases they already collect. The public will hold these bodies to account through the ballot box and through third sector groups, such as residents' groups and so on. Ultimately, of course, judicial review is available to challenge decisions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, asked for specific examples of how this new duty will have an impact-that is, how it will affect the way in which public authorities act. The first example that I would cite-it is one with which I am sure the right honourable Leader of the Opposition, Mr Cameron, would agree-relates to healthcare. Health authorities might allocate additional funding to areas with the worst health opportunities and outcomes. Mr Cameron mentioned that on Monday. It is precisely what this duty is there to address.

Various examples are cited in the guide published on Friday. I apologise to noble Lords that it was published rather late, but I am pleased that it was made available before the Committee stage. There are interesting examples in the guide and I shall cite just one, which is about people getting to hospital:

"The Braunstone Bus and the Wythenshawe Local Link are examples of services which address social inclusion in deprived neighbourhoods. Both enable trips to local hospitals which would

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otherwise be costly and time consuming. Forty-two per cent of those surveyed on the Braunstone Bus and 23 percent of those using the Wythenshawe Local Link said they would not be able to access healthcare without the bus".

Perhaps that should be a matter of best practice throughout the country, but the fact is that it is not best practice and therefore people have to be encouraged to act in a different way. That is precisely what this new duty is all about.

I hope that noble Lords will forgive me as I look through my papers-I have made so many notes to myself.

5.45 pm

The noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, also asked what the duty is about. I draw noble Lords' attention to a very useful summary on page 19 of the guide:

"The duty is about public bodies: focusing on key strategic decisions; drawing on the available evidence, and being able to demonstrate this has been taken into account; considering how they can better target their policies and resources to help those who are most disadvantaged; balancing the desirability of that aim against other objectives; working closely with their key partners to deliver change where possible; working within existing resource allocations and budgets"-

that is a very important point-

This is not about new money; it is about making better use of the resources that are already available. The summary continues:

"The duty is not about: creating a new equalities strand or protected characteristic; creating new justiciable rights for individuals; addressing discrimination against individuals on account of socio-economic factors; superseding all other strategic priorities; creating burdensome new monitoring or reporting processes; directly affecting or determining operational decisions or everyday decisions; or requiring public bodies to use their resources to remove unequal outcomes in every case where they are identified".

This is about public bodies working with their key partners to deliver change. It is about drawing on the available evidence and focusing on key strategic decisions, considering how better to target policies and resources to help those who are most disadvantaged. It is also about better, more effective spending, not about more spending.

Some noble Lords-the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, for example-have not had an opportunity to read the guide, which would answer many of the questions that have been asked. The guide explains in detail what we mean by socio-economic disadvantage, inequalities of outcome and decisions of a strategic nature and so on. It outlines the core principles that the public bodies will need to follow to demonstrate that they have given due regard to this issue when taking their strategic decisions.

Before I address the amendments, perhaps I may go back a little to the raison d'ĂȘtre for this clause. Research shows that socio-economic disadvantage has a huge detrimental impact on people's life chances from early childhood through to later life. I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Meacher and Lady Greengross, for their references to the Marmot commission, which provides a very strong evidence base. I am also grateful to my noble friends Lord Graham of Edmonton and Lady Whitaker for their further evidence and for the views expressed by my noble friend Lord McIntosh.

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We believe that it is vital that public authorities prioritise tackling the persistent inequalities associated with entrenched poverty and disadvantage. We have been doing this over the past 12 years but there is much more to be done. Many parts of the public sector do this to some extent, but the new duty will not cut across existing arrangements. On the contrary, it will support those arrangements, promote and increase good practice and put that work on a statutory footing. The measure is necessary-

Lord Tebbit: The noble Baroness has just said that this is what the Government have been doing for the past 12 years. Let us accept that that is so. In that case, why has it all got worse? Why is there now less social mobility than there was 12 years ago?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I fundamentally disagree with the noble Lord. I think that many things in our society-many societal problems-have improved under this Government.

Without this duty, we will never fully tackle the underlying causes of many of the inequalities addressed elsewhere in the Bill. It is true that for each of the equality strands, unique factors need to be addressed to secure the rights of people in those categories and to promote their well-being. However, inequality does not come only from age, gender, disability, sexual orientation or race. At the root of many of those singular inequalities is a much broader one-persistent poverty, or what we refer to as socio-economic disadvantage. To examine the roots and causes of those inequalities, the Government set up the National Equality Panel in 2008, chaired by Professor John Hills. The panel has examined how factors such as who you are, your family background and where you live shape outcomes on how much you earn and how long you live. It also examined how those disadvantages link to the discrimination and disadvantages faced by particular groups, such as ethnic minorities and women.

One clear theme that has emerged from the work of the panel is how socio-economic disadvantage in childhood translates into lifelong disadvantage. Children from poorer backgrounds are less well prepared when they start school; they do less well at school; they then go into poorer jobs and the gap between them and their better-off peers continues to widen during their lives; and so the cycle continues. It is that cycle of disadvantage that the socio-economic duty can help address. When the NEP reports at the end of January, I am confident that it will provide a robust analysis and the evidence base for further action.

The duty will ensure that we go beyond simply tackling discrimination against particular groups. It will ensure that key public bodies take a proactive, strategic approach to addressing the underlying socio-economic factors. That is why many third-sector organisations that campaign on single group issues, such as the Runnymede Trust, Race on the Agenda and the Child Poverty Action Group, support this duty. Many organisations that have day-to-day contact with the people who would benefit from this duty support these clauses. The organisation 11 Million, led by the Children's Commissioner for England, Professor Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, supports the Bill and has

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said that it could helpfully focus attention on the structural causes or aggravators of socio-economic inequality, and on the capacity of central and local government and service providers to alleviate and prevent them. Oxfam supports it. Equanomics UK, which campaigns on race equality issues, welcomed it, noting that it signalled an attempt to reach the root causes of inequality. Social mobility is derailed without economic mobility, and diversity cannot be valued until people recognise the value and economic contribution of BME and poor communities.

Lord Elton: The body that the Minister was quoting said that the Bill would lead organisations to tackle the root causes of socio-economic inequality, but that is exactly what it does not do. It says that they will tackle the results of this. My question, prompted by my noble and learned friend, was why does the Bill not go straight to the problem of socio-economic disadvantage, and then all the rest will fall away?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I was not ignoring the noble Lord's question, which I shall come to shortly. We believe that it is important to address both the issues, which is precisely what we are doing, but in different ways.

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