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 Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 4:00 pm, 9th November 2005

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lester, for his amendments to the government amendment. He and I have discussed them on a couple of occasions and he knows that I cannot accept his amendments today. It is not only the list issue—and I regret having set myself up in that regard. The list in paragraph (a) of the government amendment intends to reflect the body of Community law associated with Article 13 of the Treaty of Rome. National origin, nationality and citizenship are not included in the concepts in Article 13 and thus are not included in the body of the amendments. We cannot consider them at the moment, because, as the noble Lord knows from when he tabled his amendments, I have not been able to explore and get cross-government agreement. That is why I cannot move on that at this point. I have, however, asked my officials to continue to work with the noble Lord on these matters, and they are delighted to do so. They will talk to the noble Lord, and I expect us to make progress as the Bill moves into another place. The points are well made by the noble Lord—I am just not in a position to get the agreements I would need.

I sympathise entirely with the intention behind Amendment No. 8. It appears from the government amendment that we have given undue attention to equality of opportunity between men and women at the expense of other groups. That was not our intention. We consider that the reference in the amendment I have proposed to discrimination on the grounds of sex, racial origin or ethnic origin and other factors implies equal equality of opportunity for the groups concerned. Our intention in making explicit mention of equality of opportunity for men and women is to ensure that equal pay issues were clearly included within the body of relevant Community law. I accept the point, but I cannot accept the drafting. If the noble Lord will permit me, I will take this away, and the Government will propose at a later date some alternative drafting that gives effect to the intention he is seeking. On the basis that we will certainly look at Amendment No. 8 and that we will continue to work with the noble Lord on the other two amendments, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment today.