Equality Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 9th November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 5:30 pm, 9th November 2005

My Lords, I thoroughly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Lester, said. It is interesting that Clause 52 of the Bill says:

"It is unlawful for a public authority exercising a function to do any act which constitutes discrimination or harassment".

Then there are one or two exceptions, one of which, in subsection (4)(d), is,

"the making of an instrument by a Minister of the Crown under an enactment".

It seems very odd, if the Government are content with the definitions of discrimination or harassment as being in respect of conduct which is undesirable, that it should be perfectly all right for a Minister of the Crown acting under an enactment to do just that. That seems a contradictory stance.

Needless to say, that is not my main difficulty—my main difficulty is the extreme vagueness of the provision. The Bill talks about "violating" a person's "dignity". What does that mean? I find it very difficult to see precise boundaries for that—but that is just one example. The whole clause is of that character, and as far as I am concerned the only thing to do is to omit the clause and leave it to be reviewed by the commission, which is engaged in a comparable activity.