Qualifying Bodies

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Nigel Lawson Mr Nigel Lawson , Blaby 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

I am glad that the hon. Lady is following my speech with such interest. There are two points I should like to put to the Home Secretary. Under subsection (2), regard must be had to evidence tending to show whether a suspected person, or any of his employees or agents, past or present, has practised unlawful discrimination. An employer may have made certain that while in his employment his employees did not practise unlawful discrimination. But what happens when the employees subsequently leave that employment and then practise unlawful discrimination? They practise it as former employees, and the employer will therefore be held to be guilty for something that happened long after he had any control over those employees or agents. That seems wholly contrary to natural justice. The point could be met by a relatively small amendment, but that amendment has not been forthcoming from the Government, even at this late stage. That is an alarming state of affairs.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) spoke about the possibility of the authority or body concerned—and the Home Secretary seemed to imply that it need not be just a professional body—being the Home Secretary himself or the Home Office. I was concerned about immigration and naturalisation. It seems perfectly conceivable that under subsection (2) the authority or body may be the Home Office. It has to satisfy itself that a person is of good character before it grants him naturalisation. It will not grant it to a notoriously bad character.

According to the Bill, authorisation or qualification also includes recognition, registration, enrolment, approval and certification". Naturalisation certainly involves approval, and British nationality may be gained by registration. This takes us back to the earlier amendment about what is needed and what facilitates. British nationality can be a qualification which is needed for certain employments. For example, one has to be a British national if one wishes to work in the security services.

The Home Secretary may be required, before granting anybody British nationality by naturalisation, to satisfy himself that at no time in the past has that person ever practised a single act of unlawful discrimination—we have established that it does not have to be a long history—In the carrying out of or in connection with his business and trade and that no former employee or agent of that person has ever practised such an act. Is the Home Secretary satisfied that this interpretation is possible? I am not a lawyer, but it seems to be a possibility. If it is, does the right hon. Gentleman think it right, proper or workable?

Workability and enforceability lie at the heart of a great deal of the Bill. One of our reasons for doubt, which is shared by many Labour Members in regard to industrial relations, is that such legislation, even if it were right—and I do not believe that it is right in any sense —is unenforceable. Passing such legislation brings the law into contempt and disrepute.