Equality Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 9th November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Alli Lord Alli Labour 4:00 pm, 9th November 2005

My Lords, first I thank the Minister for her kind words, and reiterate how pleased we are that the Government could accept these amendments. Subject to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, I would like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for her contribution—not just today but, in brief, on 19 October. She made her support perfectly clear then.

In a sense, the arguments put forward today give all the justification one needs for this amendment to go through. Prejudice lives on. The argument for equality goes something like this. "We all want equality; it's a great thing. But, you know, if we're a religious organisation, we should still be allowed to discriminate against gay people". That has always been unacceptable to me. The quicker it changes, the better. I understand that there are deeply held faiths, and problems. I hope that during the consultation period, those come through and are discussed. But be in no doubt; the view held, I suspect, by the vast majority of noble Lords on this side, and in my party, remains that equality is not negotiable. It is an absolute.

I hope the Minister can pass on my thanks to her right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for his personal intervention, and the way in which he has handled this matter. I want to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, who has been at the Dispatch Box more than once to listen to our arguments with her usual courtesy and frankness. I also want to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, who, throughout the Bill—not just on these amendments—has listened and acted. That is an important role to play. I sense that the debate is finished.