|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
A particular focus is placed on the definition of the protective category of age. In golf clubs, there can be at least four distinct groups: the juniors, who are under 18, pay little in terms of subscription and are exempted under the scope of the Bill; those in tertiary education or who are just starting their careers-people aged between 18 and about 30-are estimated to have financial constraints, and so clubs can offer them up to a 70 per cent reduction in their subscription; those between the ages of 28 and 65 are in the group to which the full subscription applies; and those who have long membership-a similar point was made by my noble friend Lord Elton-and are over the age of 65 gain huge reductions, often of 50 per cent or more. The unusual thing about those in the latter group in a golf club is not that they will benefit less than others but that nowadays they obtain far more use of the course and its facilities because they have time. It would be easy for those in the middle group to feel that they are being discriminated against because there is such a big concession to those in the older group and they have less chance to benefit. This is an accepted part of golf club culture and my amendment would leave it clearly in the hands of the clubs to take whatever measures on pricing they prefer.
Can the Minister clarify whether the powers in the Bill as it stands will allow this situation to continue freely, or will the implementation of the Bill constitute some kind of regulation of these differentials? The situation would have been clearer if the Government had felt able to accept Amendment 57ZA to Clause 29, moved by my noble friend Lady Warsi on the second day in Committee, which sought to allow that a differential in the provision of services was permitted if,
The Government felt that this was unnecessary and so my amendment seeks to clarify the situation.
For golf clubs, this still leaves the issue contained in the other half of my noble friend's amendment-the ability to allow some differentiation for the characteristic of sex. In sports involving strength as well as skill, such as athletics and tennis-lo and behold, the Olympics will be here in another year and a half-there is not only the question of having separate changing rooms but it is felt proper to have designated times or separate competitions for women and men. It must be clear that there is no provision in the Bill for some brave young blade to insist that he is going to compete in the ladies' section, or that equality means that no separate provision can be made for a ladies' day at a golf club. The pace of progress around a golf course is different on a ladies' day than it is on any occasion reserved for gentlemen and, given the chance, this provides a benefit for each in turn. Members would regard it as detrimental if the provisions of the Bill were to interfere in these arrangements. I beg to move.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I do not want to hold up the debate by explaining why I am against this amendment; suffice to say the background to this is set out extremely clearly on page 90 of the Explanatory Notes. When we were legislating on race discrimination, in the prehistoric times of the 1970s, we ruled out colour bars in clubs, including golf clubs. At that stage we did not deal with sex discrimination and for the
27 Jan 2010 : Column 1455
"A private members' golf club, which has members of both sexes, requires its female members to play only on certain days while allowing male members to play at all times".
This is an example of direct discrimination. The amendment would drive a coach and horses through Clause 101 and we would oppose it.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: I think the noble Lord, Lord Lester, has demonstrated why my noble friend the Duke of Montrose was quite right to raise these issues. There is widespread misunderstanding. I very much hope that the Minister can throw some light on this and reassure my noble friend.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: We have debated the different approaches that can be made by groups of particular ages, Saga for example, and it would be very helpful if the Minister could explain these differences.
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I am very happy to reassure the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, and explain what is meant by this clause. This Bill will not prevent private clubs from setting differential membership rates as long as each category of membership is open to all regardless of their protected characteristics. Clubs will still be able to offer different types of membership at different prices or on different terms, such as peak or off-peak, playing membership of a golf club, or full and associate membership. Indeed, age-based concessions and benefits are an important means of ensuring that all people can participate more fully in society, in the economy and in clubs which play such an important part of many people's lives, as long as they will be permitted to continue when the provisions prohibiting age discrimination by clubs are brought into force in 2012, along with the services provisions relating to age. This will allow us to ensure that appropriate exceptions are in place to allow age-based concessions to continue. Those regulations will do precisely that. I hope the noble Duke will accept that.
The issue of women was also raised. I would like to reassure noble Lords that Clause 193 of the Bill provides an exemption which allows men and women to be treated differently in any sport or game, or other activity of a competitive nature where the physical strength, stamina or physique of the average woman puts her at a disadvantage compared to the average man. This exception will be maintained.
Clause 101 simply requires that private clubs apply the same terms and conditions for membership equally to people regardless of their protected characteristics. This would mean, for example, that men and women who are charged the same price for each category of membership to a golf club will have the same access to club facilities, such as the bar.
Private clubs hold an important place in our society and we do not think it is right for them to treat some of their members or associates as second-class citizens.
27 Jan 2010 : Column 1456
In the past, we encouraged private clubs to address the issue of discrimination, particularly against women, voluntarily, but people continue to complain that they are experiencing discrimination. For example, some female members of golf clubs state that they are still not able to vote as full members of the club, they are only able to play on certain days and their access to certain facilities, such as the club bar, is restricted. I attended a golf club annual dinner not long ago with my brother-in-law and some of the women members explained that they were very proud that their club no longer did those things. It made the club a much healthier place to be. We believe that such restrictions are unacceptable and that is why we decided to legislate.
I hope that my explanations about how freedoms are already protected within the provision will reassure the noble Duke and that he will withdraw his amendment.
Baroness Byford: I apologise to the Committee for being late and arriving after my noble friend had already started. The question is not so much about women and men having equal rights. This applies to golf clubs much more than tennis clubs. There are certain days and certain times within the day that are set aside for ladies or men. I want to make sure that that is not jeopardised in this section of the Bill.
Baroness Thornton: I think that the explanation that I gave about the competitive nature of sport and the recognition of the different strength and stamina required covers the point about ladies' days. The point is to ensure that nobody is being discriminated against in terms of their participation.
Lord Hunt of Wirral:Would the Minister please revisit that point because I am not sure that she has dealt with it as fully as she might? It may be that we shall return to it at a later stage, but it would be helpful if the Minister could clarify the position for us.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Is this the right position? The Sex Discrimination Act always contained an exception whereby women or men on average in a particular sport were not equal in their abilities. That leads to discrimination against me when I try to play golf because women are allowed to have a golf tee about 100 yards nearer the hole than me, even though any woman I know can drive further than I can. That discrimination is allowed under the Bill on the assumption that women, poor things, are not able to drive as far as me. It is completely wrong but that is the assumption. It means that you are then allowed to have all these separate ladies' days, gentlemen's days and so forth. Of course, as women advance, they become equally as good as men and one day the difference will disappear, but meanwhile we work on the assumption that men are better, physically, at golf than women and therefore differences of treatment are still permitted. I think that that is the basic assumption.
Baroness Thornton: I think that that is right, but women are just more elegant at it. I think that I was correct in saying that so long as there is also a men's day, there is no reason why there should not be a ladies' day.
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I thank the Minister for stating so clearly the answers to some of my questions. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Lester, for recounting so much of the history of golf to us and the battles that have been fought. They may not be entirely won at the present time. My amendment did not in any way presuppose that there would be any discrimination against anyone: it was to do with the application of equal opportunities for all at all stages-that those who requested different treatment might be allowed to do so at a different price. In the light of all that we have heard, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
108KA: After Clause 105, insert the following new Clause-
"Information about diversity in range of candidates etc.
(1) This section applies to an association which is a registered political party.
(2) If the party had candidates at a relevant election, the party must, in accordance with regulations made by a Minister of the Crown, publish information relating to protected characteristics of persons who come within a description prescribed in the regulations in accordance with subsection (3).
(3) One or more of the following descriptions may be prescribed for the purposes of subsection (2)-
(a) successful applicants for nomination as a candidate at the relevant election;
(b) unsuccessful applicants for nomination as a candidate at that election;
(c) candidates elected at that election;
(d) candidates who are not elected at that election.
(4) The duty imposed by subsection (2) applies only in so far as it is possible to publish information in a manner that ensures that no person to whom the information relates can be identified from that information.
(5) The following elections are relevant elections-
(a) Parliamentary Elections;
(b) elections to the European Parliament;
(c) elections to the Scottish Parliament;
(d) elections to the National Assembly for Wales.
(6) This section does not apply to the following protected characteristics-
(a) marriage and civil partnership;
(b) pregnancy and maternity.
(7) The regulations may provide that the information to be published-
(a) must (subject to subsection (6)) relate to all protected characteristics or only to such as are prescribed;
(b) must include a statement, in respect of each protected characteristic to which the information relates, of the proportion that the number of persons asked to give the information to the party bears to the number of persons who provided it.
(8) Regulations under this section may prescribe-
(a) descriptions of information;
(b) descriptions of political party to which the duty is to apply;
(c) the time at which information is to be published;
(d) the form and manner in which information is to be published;
(e) the period for which information is to be published.
(9) Provision by virtue of subsection (8)(b) may, in particular, provide that the duty imposed by subsection (2) does not apply to a party which had candidates in fewer constituencies in the election concerned than a prescribed number.
(10) Regulations under this section-
(a) may provide that the duty imposed by subsection (2) applies only to such relevant elections as are prescribed;
(b) may provide that a by-election or other election to fill a vacancy is not to be treated as relevant election or is to be so treated only to a prescribed extent;
(c) may amend this section so as to provide for the duty imposed by subsection (2) to apply in the case of additional descriptions of election.
(11) Nothing in this section authorises a political party to require a person to provide information to it."
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I shall speak also to government Amendment 108Q, government Amendment 134A, government Amendment 135B, and government Amendment 136ZE.
The aim of Amendment 108KA is to increase public accountability and act as an incentive for political parties to identify and remove barriers which cause or contribute to the under-representation of certain groups in the political life of this country. It will require registered political parties to publish information on the diversity of their candidate selections at particular elections, in accordance with regulations made under the power contained in this provision. The amendment responds to a recommendation by the Speaker's Conference, which over the past year has considered the issue of underrepresentation in the other place. It is intended to encourage broader representation and increased involvement of all groups in the democratic process.
It also responds to an amendment tabled on Report in the other place and supported by honourable Members from all three main parties. In their evidence to the Speaker's Conference, the leaders of all three main political parties expressed their openness to the principle of publishing diversity data in relation to candidate selections. This is an important indication of their commitment to the promotion of fairer representation in Parliament and to the gathering and publication of information about candidates and potential candidates as a means of achieving this.
The Solicitor-General wrote to the vice-chairman of the Speaker's Conference, copied to Liberal and Conservative party leaders, on the Equality Bill in advance of tabling this amendment. Ministers are writing to the leaders of the main parties, and also to the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, seeking further views and reassuring them that political parties will be fully involved as the scope and detail of the regulations to be made under this provision are developed.
Amendment 108KA applies to registered political parties. It and the regulations made under it will require those that field candidates at relevant elections, which may include parliamentary elections and elections to the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales, to publish certain information about the protected characteristics of their candidates and prospective candidates. The regulations will specify the protected characteristics on which parties must publish information. These may include age, disability, gender reassignment, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or belief. Those are all the protected characteristics covered in Clause 4, with the exception of marriage, civil partnership and pregnancy.
Nothing in this provision will require or oblige political parties to require individuals to disclose any personal information that they do not wish to, nor does it require parties to publish personal information about individuals from which they can be identified. It is important to stress that point. The regulations will set out which elections are relevant elections for the purposes of this provision. They will also establish who is required to publish the information. For example, it may be that only those parties which field candidates for a certain number of seats will be required to do so. They will set out when and for how long the information is to be published, and the form and manner in which it must be published. For example, that might be on the internet with the data broken down in particular ways.
Amendment 135B ensures that the regulations will be subject to affirmative procedure and that the Government will consult about the detail of what they require before laying them before Parliament. We are particularly keen to involve the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Electoral Commission and the parties themselves in ensuring that the scope of the requirements are both proportionate and effective. We want them to result in the collection and publication of meaningful and useful data that will help people identify more clearly where the gaps are and what barriers some individuals may face throughout the selection process.
Amendment 108Q prevents requirements imposed under Amendment 108KA from being enforced through the courts. Instead, the Equality and Human Rights Commission will ensure compliance under its existing powers. Amendment 136ZE amends Schedule 26 to establish this.
There is clear statistical evidence that women and people from minority-ethnic communities are underrepresented as Members of Parliament and of other elected institutions. There is also likely to be underrepresentation of disabled, lesbian, gay and transgender people, but we do not know that because the information is not available. There is a strong argument that increasing participation by all groups in civic and political life will lead to a stronger and more cohesive society, and to the strengthening of our democracy. We see transparency and openness by political parties in relation to their candidates as an important way of achieving that aim.
Amendment 134A amends Schedule 24 to insert a reference to Amendment 108KA. Schedule 24 lists all the exceptions to the harmonisation provisions in
27 Jan 2010 : Column 1460
Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, in his evidence session to the Speaker's Conference, my right honourable friend David Cameron accepted the principle of reporting candidate data and explained that our determination to make progress on the diversity of our candidates means that we monitor closely their gender, ethnicity and any declared disability. However, my right honourable friend made it explicit that we do not ask our candidates about their sexual orientation.
When I was vice-chair of the Conservative Party with special responsibility for candidates, I had a number of highly emotional discussions with candidates on whether they should disclose their sexual orientation. Often, their own families did not know, which caused real anguish. I know that the new clause makes it clear that no individual is required to provide information and that the data will be anonymised. That is fine for large categories such as gender and ethnicity, but the more one goes down the list of required data, one sees the numbers becoming smaller. Our fear, particularly with gender reassignment and sexual orientation, is that some candidates may not wish to disclose it, leaving a small number of candidates who are happy to answer. I can well imagine the media and certain other people then going out to find who those candidates may be. Something that is designed to help might have a negative outcome.
I understand that many companies collect these data. However, that is for internal use, whereas these data will be in the public domain. We are also concerned about asking such direct and sensitive questions. My right honourable friend Theresa May had a useful meeting this week with Ben Summerskill at Stonewall, who said that considerable work has been done to ensure that questions are asked sensitively. I would welcome assurance from the Minister that the regulations will respect these personal issues, call for sensitivity and, above all, preserve privacy.
I have two questions. Why was it decided to make only marriage and civil partnerships and pregnancy and maternity protected characteristics? Will new subsection (5)(a) apply to candidates for parliamentary elections in Northern Ireland?
While we agree in principle with the amendments, we think that the collection of data is useless unless there is a culture and ethos to promote diversity. My own party has been innovative and determined in this area. Whatever the outcome of the next general election, we hope that our efforts will be there for all to see.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|