§ .—(1) In exercising their functions, it shall be the duty of
- (a) the Greater London Authority (whether acting by the Mayor, the Assembly or the Mayor and Assembly jointly),
- (b) the Metropolitan Police Authority, and
- (c) the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, to comply with the requirement in subsection (2) below.
§ (2) The requirement is to have regard to the need—
- (a) to promote equality of opportunity for all persons irrespective of their race, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation or religion;
- (b) to eliminate unlawful discrimination. And
- (c) to promote good relations between persons of different racial groups, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.
§ (3) This section is without prejudice to section (Equality of opportunity) above and is subject to any provision made by or under any enactment.")
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 499 to which the Commons have disagreed, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 499A in lieu thereof.
The government amendment agreed in the Commons amends only in minor ways the amendment carried in this House. It was an amendment proposed from the Liberal Democrat Benches by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. As I explained a t that stage, the intent of the new clause was accepted by the Government. I am grateful to all noble Lords who participated in that debate for the improvement to this Bill which this new clause represents.
Even as amended in the Commons the new clause continues to make it a duty not only of the GLA but also of the Metropolitan Police Authority and the fire authority to exercise their functions with due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity for all persons irrespective of their race, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation or religion. Those authorities must also have regard to the need to eliminate all forms of 1264 unlawful discrimination and to promote good relations between persons of different racial groups. I believe that co-operation in this House and acceptance of the principle in the Commons have improved this Bill significantly, to the benefit of significant sections and communities within London.
The Government's amendment restores the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976, which we believe should remain on the face of the Bill, and also removes the word "secure" from subsection (1) of the amendment passed in this House. That is because we do not believe that in all circumstances it will be possible for those authorities to secure equality of opportunity for all in the strict sense of the word. If this remains on the face of the Bill they would be vulnerable to subsequent legal challenge. We do not think that would be sensible. While retaining, therefore, the principles of the amendment adopted within this House, we wish to amend it in the way I have mentioned.
I note that the noble Baroness has tabled an amendment to this amendment. With the leave of the House, I shall respond to that when she has spoken.
Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 499 to which the Commons have disagreed, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 499A in lieu thereof. —(Lord Whitty.)
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Hamwee moved, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 499A, Amendment No. 499B:
499B Line 9, in subsection (2), after ("have") insert ("due").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a small but important amendment to the Commons amendment. We very much welcome the inclusion of an anti-discrimination clause. Perhaps the rubric in the margin should say that. We welcome that clause to the Bill. It is important that the matters which are experienced as leading to discrimination should be spelt out in the way they are articulated in the duty to promote equality of opportunity, eliminate unlawful discrimination and promote good relations.
§ However, my amendment incorporates a question. Why have the Government chosen to leave out the word "due" where the authority is required to have regard to the need: in other words, not to have "due regard" to the need set out in subsection (2).
§ The Government's own amendment introduced at Report stage used that kind of terminology. There is due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people. Section 120 of the Government of Wales Act, Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act and Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act and all statutes of 1998 use that terminology.
§ When the Minister responsible for conducting the Bill through the House introduced this amendment in another place, he said that it would make it a duty of 1265 the GLA, the Metropolitan Police Authority and the fire authority to exercise their functions with due regard to these needs. When questioned on the matter he said that leaving out the word "due" would not change the impact of the legislation, but would simply reduce the number of words in the Bill by one, which must a good thing. Of all the explanations that have come from another place as regards this Bill, that must be the weakest.
§ I hope that I am not seeing a problem where there is not one. I hope that the Minister can give us an assurance that leaving out the word "due" will make no difference at all to what the provision means. I would far rather see it in the Bill, but I understand that there are problems of timetabling. We do not want to threaten the Bill as a whole. It is important that those who interpret the Bill have the toughest assurances to which they can refer in Hansard that "having regard" means the same as having "due regard" in the legislation to which I have referred. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, I welcome the replacement amendment. The previous amendment said that "due regard" had to be taken to the need to promote and secure equality of opportunity. I have made the point more than once that one cannot secure equality of opportunity. Now the requirement is to have regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity. That is a correct statement of that which is possible. It is an improvement.
As regards the noble Baroness's amendment, I do not agree that two words are necessarily as good as one. If "due regard" and "regard" mean the same thing, then "regard" is correct. It will be interesting to hear whether the Minister considers that "due regard" is exactly the same thing.
§ Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare
My Lords, I also welcome the new clause. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, has entered the Chamber and that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, is also present. I thank the Minister. We began this battle some months ago. I thank him at this late stage for the fact that the matter has returned to this House in this form. On behalf of the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Harris, I thank the Minister for the clause being inserted into the Bill.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, I wish to make a very simple point. In our eyes there is a difference between "regard" and "due regard". The latter means the right weight of attention when balanced against the other points to which one has to give attention when taking a decision. That is what "due regard" means. One can consider a point and dismiss it, but if one is giving it "due regard" and the weight it really needs, it has to be kept in mind all the time. That is the difference.
§ Lord Harris of Haringey
My Lords, this appears to be the opportunity to welcome the fact that this matter has returned to us in an improved form. I am deeply 1266 grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Archer, for saying that on my behalf. What has taken place is extremely important. There is agreement on all sides of the House and from the Commons that there should be written on the face of the Bill some extremely important requirements as regards the new authority. That is valuable and will be important, given the nature of London and its communities.
I am a little worried that in this debate the Liberal Democrats are demonstrating their kinship to the medieval philosophers about how many angels can dance on the point of a pin. I hope that in his reply the Minister will make it quite clear that "having regard" has exactly the same force as "having due regard". We do not need undue prolixity. The important point is that written on to the face of the Bill are now clear expectations as regards equality of opportunity, combating discrimination and promoting harmonious race relations. That is a bonus and it is also extremely important for the people of London.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, surely the word "due" is otiose in this connection. Perhaps an opinion from the noble Lord behind me will be of value.
§ Lord Whitty
My Lords, I hesitate to request detailed legal opinion. However, I can assure the noble Baroness that my legal advice is to the effect that it is not necessary to use the word "due" in the clause. The authorities must have regard to the needs to provide equality of opportunity and therefore they must have regard to that need in the provisions of the Bill. Although at first sight I can understand the noble Baroness pursuing the matter, my legal advice is absolutely clear that it is unnecessary. That was reflected in the attitude taken in another place by my honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning who is the same gentleman to whom the noble Baroness referred.
I am grateful for the expressions of support from the noble Lord, Lord Archer, my noble friend Lord Harris and other noble Lords. The new clause is an improvement to the Bill. It has attracted cross-party support in this House and in another place. We do not need the additional wording. I believe that all our objectives are the same. Therefore, I ask the noble Baroness not to pursue her amendment, but to adopt the Commons amendment.
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, I hope that I made it clear that we very much welcome the inclusion of these provisions. We do not want to deal with the number of angels on the head of a pin, but we want to make sure that the consensus developed across the House sticks in the form of a clause which has as much weight as all your Lordships expected it to have when the matter was discussed at various stages during the course of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said that it is a self-evidently otiose term. If that is so, then it is self-evidently otiose, no doubt, in the three statutes to which I have referred which were produced under the aegis of the same Government.
1267 We have pushed the point because we are concerned that there should be no doubt about the impact of this clause. I will not take the matter further. I hope that those interpreting the clause will find the reassurance that I should like to see in the Minister's words. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment No. 499B, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 499A, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ 3.45 p.m.