§ 6A Line 25, at end of inserted section 71(4) insert ("and the persons in respect of which the order is to be made").
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, I beg to move, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 6, Amendment No. 6A. I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 6B.
These amendments make two small suggestions to further improve the Bill. They concern the power of the Secretary of State to impose on the authorities to whom the Bill applies duties that he considers appropriate. The first amendment suggests that, before making an order, he should consult not only the commission—as is required under the terms of the Bill—but also the authority in respect of whom the order is to be made. That may be a government department, a local authority, a group of local authorities and so forth.
The second amendment proposes that, when the Secretary of State lays down duties of this kind, which can be important and sweeping in their nature—the Home Office has already indicated as much when discussing how these powers are to be used—they should be made subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in Parliament rather than the negative procedure, which is currently provided for in the Bill.
Moved, That Amendment No. 6A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 6, be agreed to.—(Lord Cope of Berkeley.)
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, makes an interesting suggestion. It would go some way towards satisfying this side of the House if the Minister would indicate whether the person affected by the order will be consulted and whether discussions will be held with that individual before an order is issued. We believe that it would be right for adequate consultation to take place with the person to whom it applies.
It will also be important, as a prerequisite of the process, effectively to ensure, before an order is made, appropriate proportionate and adequate discussion, so that part of the process in terms of consultation would go a long way in terms of implementing the order when it is issued.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for tabling the amendment.
Amendment No. 6A to Commons Amendment No. 6 would require the Secretary of State, when considering making an order under subsection (2) of Section 71 to impose specific duties to promote race equality, to consult those persons to whom those specific duties would apply.
Noble Lords will recall the commitment that I gave to this House on Report regarding the duty to promote race equality. I explained that the Government were 1196 already committed, in their equality statement of 30th November 1999, to placing the promotion of equality by public authorities on a statutory footing.
I said that we would,reinforce that commitment by bringing forward a government amendment … to enshrine the principle on the face of the Bill as a positive duty, leaving room for consultation on how exactly the duty will operate in practice and how it will be enforced"".— [Official Report, 27/1/00; col. 1673.]I emphasised the importance of these two issues to the Government.
Given that commitment to the House, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, would expect me to be able to say that I see merit in his proposed amendment—and I do. It would require the Government to consult, as we have made clear we wish to do.
However, given that that is the Government's clear intention and, in particular, the late stage at which we now find ourselves with the Bill, sadly, the Government cannot accept this amendment despite its merits. I hope that the House will accept the Government's firm assurances that we will proceed as we have always said we would, in public consultation. With that, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, will feel able to withdraw his amendment. We are with the noble Lord in the spirit of the amendment. Because we are at such a late stage with the Bill, we do not feel that we can take that extra step at this point, but we are fully committed to the consultation that the amendment anticipates.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, given what the Minister has said about the spirit of my Amendment No. 6A, I shall not press it further. I am not sure that I can take the silence in relation to Amendment No. 6B to indicate consent—perhaps not. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment No. 6A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 6, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 6B not moved.]