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 The Bishop of Newcastle The Bishop of Newcastle Bishop 3:15 pm, 9th November 2005

My Lords, I too welcome the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and its extension into the areas of goods, services, facilities and premises. I am pleased that these amendments have been tabled today. I have one concern, which is not about the objective of the amendments but about the method being used. It is about the interface between the right not to be discriminated against on the one hand and the right to freedom of religion on the other. That interface can be a complex and sensitive matter. So there needs to be a careful balancing exercise. That is perhaps best achieved by having a careful period of parliamentary scrutiny.

Therefore, I wonder whether legislating by this means of simply being subject to affirmative resolution on a take it or leave it basis provides the opportunity for the kind of scrutiny which I think would be helpful. I do not question the objective of these amendments; I simply ask about the means by which we seek to achieve it. If the amendment is successful, as I hope it is, perhaps the Government will agree to engage in early discussions with the Churches and other faith communities on how their interests can be reflected in the provisions.