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 Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour 3:15 pm, 9th November 2005

My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, I, too, am concerned about the detail that will presumably be brought in by affirmative order. It is not absolutely clear whether an affirmative order will be involved. I hope the Minister will confirm whether affirmative or negative procedure will be used.

I believe that everybody is agreed on the principle of equality; nevertheless, the details could be very worrying indeed. It is a question not only of religion but of the operation of the regulations and laws which will come about. The law of unintended consequences could very well come into play in this field.

For example, these laws will—I am seeking information here—presumably apply to people providing a couple of rooms for bed and breakfast. If I am wrong, perhaps I could be corrected. It may very well be that the person providing bed and breakfast has religious objections to people living as lesbians or homosexuals. In that case, she will presumably be criminalised if she refuses to give them a room overnight. I would like to know about that, for example, because we are talking about ordinary people now, not great hotel chains or other, larger, establishments. These are some of the problems that I can foresee.

The problem with proceeding now on the basis of this amendment—which will undoubtedly go through—is that when regulations come to us by affirmative or negative order, we can discuss them but we cannot amend them. We cannot add or subtract; all we can do is agree or disagree. In a matter as sensitive as this, we perhaps ought to consider whether there is another way of dealing with this problem. It is probably too late now, and I apologise for coming late to this matter. I had not wanted to intervene, but now that I have seen the amendments, I can see that there are some difficulties. I do hope that, because I have raised these difficulties, I will not be discriminated against on the basis that I might be, although I am not, homophobic.