Equality Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 9th November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Morgan Lord Morgan Labour 3:15 pm, 9th November 2005

My Lords, I support the amendment and I have three reasons for doing so. First, the Children's Commissioner for England does not have a specific remit on human rights, as he or she should. They are circumscribed in their powers, which rest on the Secretary of State, and in their philosophy because human rights are not brought in. We found some difficulties in this area when we discussed the hitting of children and the so-called "reasonable chastisement" provisions, which have been condemned on human rights grounds by international bodies, particularly in Europe, and against which there was no redress. I would like to improve the situation for children who are born and reared in England.

Secondly, I would like to safeguard the situation for children who have been born and raised in Wales. Under the Children Act, anomalously, the Children's Commissioner for England can interfere in the work of the Children's Commissioner for Wales. I find it in another context constitutionally bizarre that the Government who have introduced devolution should nevertheless reintroduce the well known tradition, "For Wales, see England". That seems a little out of date. It also means that the role, philosophy and independence of judgment of the Children's Commissioner for Wales—who has a human rights remit, as have the Children's Commissioners for Scotland and for Northern Ireland—may be compromised. Writing children formally into the Bill in human rights terms, which is already done in so many countries across the globe, would strengthen it.

The final point is that, apart from the practicalities, it is the right thing to do. Surely human rights apply to everybody. We would rear up in protest if human rights were curtailed on the grounds of race or religion, so we should do so on the grounds of age, in terms of people being either too young or, for that matter, too old. We should have equality of treatment and fulfil those aspects of the Bill, especially towards children, who are currently gravely neglected in this area.