Equality Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 9th November 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management) 6:15 pm, 9th November 2005

My Lords, I regret to say that I have to resist this amendment in the same way that we resisted it on Report. I said we would continue to consider the matter and we have looked into it with some care. On balance, we do not feel that it is right to reproduce the arrangements in the Race Relations Act 1976, to which the noble Lord referred.

The exception that is now provided for immigration at Clause 52 is relatively narrow in comparison with that which is provided in Section 19D of the Race Relations Act 1976. The exception to the Race Relations Act potentially affects a large number of nationalities and a great many people: it may apply wherever there are objective grounds for believing that it is reasonable to subject people of different nationalities to different treatment for the purposes of immigration control. Such treatment must be authorised by a Minister and those authorisations are reported on by the Independent Race Monitor. A dozen or so are in force. In this case, a relatively small number of authorisations may affect a great many individual cases spanning a large number of nationalities.

The situation in the case of the exception provided in Part 2 of this Bill is different. The discretion to discriminate on grounds of public good is likely to be exercised with regard to individuals rather than groups, and is unlikely to be an everyday occurrence. A remedy for failure to exercise this power correctly is available either through appeal—if the conditions for appeal are satisfied—or through judicial review.

To the extent that the exception allows a determination that a particular religion is not to be treated in the same way as other religions—because it encourages children to renounce contact with their families, for example—leading to a refusal to grant recognition for the purpose of admission as a religious worker, then it is in any case not analogous with the power to authorise discrimination in respect of nationality.

I know that the way in which this suggestion was proposed is that it would be a relatively easy thing to do, that it would not take much time and that it would be an add-on, which could be easily accommodated. That view was carefully explored with those primarily responsible for discharging this matter. The view that was taken, for the reasons that I have just given, was that it was neither possible nor appropriate for us to accept the proposal because it would be far too burdensome. For those reasons, and for those that I have already given, I must resist Amendment No. 29.