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 Alli Lord Alli Labour 3:15 pm, 9th November 2005

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 3, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 4, 10, 41, and 45. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that I have satisfied her ambition before she has, because parliamentary counsel are very happy with my amendments.

I am sure that noble Lords will recall that on Report on 19 October, I moved an amendment asking the Government to look again at the possibility of extending the protections proposed for religious groups against discrimination in goods, facilities and services to the lesbian and gay community. I was truly grateful for the support I received, not just from those who spoke but from colleagues on these Benches. The Government have always maintained that it would be impossible to do the necessary consultations and establish the need for those protections during the passage of the Bill. This amendment, which is supported by my noble friend Lord Smith of Finsbury and the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, allows the Secretary of State to make a regulation to correct this mischief on the face of the Bill while giving sufficient time for consultation.

I do not intend to make a long speech. The Government have been most generous, and I hope that we have found a way to satisfy them as well as thousands of gay men and lesbians who will benefit from these provisions when they are eventually enacted. In anticipation of a favourable response from the Front Bench, like a Hollywood actor at one of those Hollywood ceremonies, I would like to say a few thank yous, and I may possibly shed a tear. I would like to thank my agent, Stonewall, for all its help in drafting and moving this amendment. I would definitely like to thank noble Lords on the Back Benches for their continued strong support for gay and lesbian rights. I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Smith of Finsbury who, less than half an hour after he delivered his maiden speech, stood up to speak in support of these amendments. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, who has seen this through with diligence and patience. My noble friend Lady Turner of Camden has always been in her place, not only during these debates, but during every piece of equality legislation that I have witnessed in this House. Of course, I will save the final thank you for my colleagues on the Front Bench until I have heard what they have to say.

It has been a real thrill and a privilege to be part of this mini drama. I beg to move.