Qualifying Bodies

Part of Clause 12 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th July 1976.

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Photo of Mr Norman Tebbit Mr Norman Tebbit , Waltham Forest Chingford 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

I am grateful for the assistance I am getting from the lawyers. I have never had so much assistance from lawyers before, and it is free. That must be an almost unique experience. I am driven to the conclusion, however, that there is probably some evidence which would, as the Bill puts it, "tend to show" that the Home Secretary was not being entirely honest with us. He was perhaps, as someone suggested, passing a fast ball now and again.

2.30 a.m.

The right hon. Gentleman tried to get out of it with three defences. The first was that of precedent, but I think I have dealt with my reasons for believing that that defence was pretty poor. Secondly, he had the defence that it applied only to cases in which there was a history of discrimination, and I have also dealt with that matter. But a third defence has been raised. It is that we should rely upon the sound, good sense, decency and balance of these professional bodies—it is implied that we are talking of professional bodies—which would be instructed under the Bill to consider these matters before they admitted somebody to membership.

I do not think that the Home Secretary can quite get away with that either, because there is an interesting aspect to this part of the Bill. The wording here is Where an authority or body is required by law to satisfy itself as to his"— that is, the applicant's— good character before conferring on a person an authorisation or qualification which is needed for, or facilitates, his engagement in any profession or trade". Let us turn our attention to the undoubted trade of driving a taxi. Let us consider the London taxi driver. Before one can become a London taxicab driver, one has to have a certificate or licence. One has to be a member of the club, whatever it is called. That certificate or licence is issued by the Metropolitan Police. Who is the authority over the Metropolitan Police? It is the Home Secretary, the very man who is not sure whether his legislation refers to an isolated act or to a history of such acts.