Lords Amendment35: Clause 56, page 54, line 40, leave out paragraph (a)
Commons disagreement and reason
The Commons disagree to Lords Amendment No. 35 for the following Reason-
35A: Because it is appropriate for section 3 of the Equality Act 2006 to be repealed.
Lords insistence and reason
The Lords insist on their Amendment No. 35 for the following Reason-
35B: Because repealing section 3 would undermine the EHRC's duty to promote social change through its human rights and equality duties; compromise its independence as an accredited national human rights body; and prevent it from complying with its monitoring requirements in that capacity and as Britain's national equality body.
Lords Amendment36: Page 55, line 8, leave out subsection (6)
Commons disagreement and reason
The Commons disagree to Lords Amendment No. 36 for the following Reason-
36A: Because it is more appropriate for the Commission for Equality and Human Rights to monitor progress by reference to its duties under sections 8 and 9 of the Equality Act 2006.
Lords insistence and reason
The Lords insist on their Amendment No. 36 for the following Reason-
36B: Because monitoring progress by reference to the EHRC's duties under sections 8 and 9, rather than section 3, would prevent the Commission from complying with the monitoring requirements relating to equality and human rights bodies, and would jeopardise the EHRC's accredited status.
Commons insistence, non-insistence and consequential amendments
The Commons insist on their disagreement to Lords Amendment No. 36, do not insist on their disagreement to Lords Amendment No. 35 and propose the following consequential Amendments to the Bill-
36C: Page 54, line 41, leave out "10" and insert "10(1) and (4) to (8)"
36D: Page 55, line 4, leave out from "subsections" to end of line 5 and insert "make further amendments to the Equality Act 2006."
36E: Page 55, line 17, leave out subsection (10)
Moved by Baroness Stowell of Beeston
That this House do not insist on its insistence on Lords Amendment 36 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 36C to 36E.
My Lords, I will also speak to Motion B. We return to discussion of the equality provisions of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. The House debated these issues on Monday and strong views were expressed, on which the Government have reflected very carefully. On Monday, as on other occasions, the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, spoke eloquently and with passion about the importance of the commission's general duty. I very much respect the knowledge that she and others contributed during the passage of the Bill.
The Government want the commission to be a strong equality and human rights body: our national expert whose opinion is respected and valued. This is what our legislative proposals, alongside our non-legislative work, are intended to achieve. We recognise that the general duty is important to many people as a symbolic statement of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's overarching purpose. After the debate and Division in the House on Monday, the Government reflected further and decided to no longer press for its removal from the Equality Act 2006. However, as I argued on Monday, the general duty has a practical effect, as Section 12 of the Equality Act 2006 requires the commission to monitor and report on society's progress against the aims set out in the general duty. We continue to believe that the commission will be more effective if the monitoring and reporting that it is required to do focuses clearly on its core equality, diversity and human rights duties.
The Motion we are considering today enables the commission's general duty at Section 3 to remain in the Equality Act 2006. It also proposes that the commission should monitor progress against the duties specified in Sections 8 and 9 of the Equality Act 2006 -equality, diversity and human rights-the very areas where the commission can make a difference in society as our national equality body and national human rights institution. I should make clear that the commission will continue to be required to monitor and report every five years on changes in society in areas that it is uniquely placed to influence and change: in other words, those specified in Sections 8 and 9.
I come now to some technical amendments and beg the patience of noble Lords. Retaining the general duty at Section 3 also requires a consequential amendment to ensure that the word "groups" in the general duty is defined effectively. Amendment 36C, agreed by the other place, reinserts the parts of Section 10 that define "groups" for the purposes of the Act. Amendments 36D and 36E are technical and consequential amendments.
These proposals, which were fully supported yesterday in the other place, address the concerns raised during debates in this House. They build on the good progress already made. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is now well placed to go from strength to strength. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am greatly relieved and so appreciative that the Government have listened and conceded to the opinions of this House on the importance of the general duty. I and countless others who fought for and benefited from the Equality and Human Rights Commission slept a lot more happily last night in the knowledge that the body will continue to give overarching direction on equality and human rights in Britain in all its manifestations.
I am also reassured that the EHRC will continue independently to monitor and report on equality and human rights nationally, as required by EU law and the Paris principles. Such monitoring will not deflect its focus but will enhance its ability to protect and promote equality and human rights in an ever-changing world. The journey of this amendment has been a tough one, but I for one have learnt once again how collegiately and intelligently this House can shine. My thanks go to all those who took part, and of course to the Government for their generous concession.
I briefly follow the noble Baroness, first in thanking my noble friend the Minister for responding as she did to that very powerful vote on Monday, which was not the first powerful vote on this subject. Most of all, I hope and believe that I speak for everyone in this House in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, on her tenacity, her courage and her articulate presentation of a case that has been both powerful and moving. She has not only proved herself to be an invaluable Member of your Lordships' House, but she has enabled us to demonstrate how important this House can be on issues that are not necessarily enormous in the general scheme of things but that are terribly important.
The Bill will be all the better for the acceptance of the amendment introduced by the noble Baroness, and for the response given by my noble friend the Minister. This is a happy note on which to end these particular deliberations, and we really are all very much in the debt of the two noble Baronesses, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell.
My Lords, this is a good day for equality. I think we have heard enough from all around the House to explain where this has come from. We are all in considerable debt to the exemplary work done by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell. We think tremendously of her for doing it, particularly when we reflect that in taking on that task she had no greater foe than the noble Lord, Lord Lester, who has somewhat iconic status in your Lordships' House as the guardian of all things to do with equality. He was against her. She saw no enemy, and saw him off. As a result, we are where we are today. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has said, this is a good day for the House of Lords. Your Lordships' House has done well to ensure that its will has prevailed, and we are all the better for that.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, for her support and her generous remarks. I echo my noble friend Lord Cormack's tribute to her, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his support this evening for the Government's Motion. I am glad we are able to conclude the debate on the Equality and Human Rights Commission united in our aims for a fair and equal society. I beg to move.
Motion A agreed.
Moved by Baroness Stowell of Beeston
"Equality Act 2010: caste discrimination
(1) The Equality Act 2010 is amended as follows.
(2) After section 9(1)(c) (race) insert-
Commons disagreement and reason
The Commons disagree to Lords Amendment No. 37 for the following Reason-
37A: Because it is inappropriate to provide for caste to be an aspect of race for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 without further consultation.
Lords insistence and reason
The Lords insist on their Amendment No. 37 for the following Reason-
37B: Because it is appropriate to provide for caste to be an aspect of race for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.
Commons insistence and amendments in lieu
The Commons insist on their disagreement to Lords Amendment No. 37 but propose the following Amendments to the Bill in lieu of the Lords Amendment-
37C: Page 73, line 2, at end insert-
"Equality Act 2010: caste as an aspect of race
(1) Section 9(5) of the Equality Act 2010 is amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (4).
(2) Omit "may by order".
(3) In paragraph (a) (power to provide for caste to be an aspect of race) at the beginning insert "must by order".
(4) In paragraph (b) (power to provide for exceptions to apply or not to apply to caste) at the beginning insert "may by order".
(5) A Minister of the Crown-
(a) may carry out a review of the effect of section 9(5) of the Equality Act 2010 (and orders made under it) and whether it remains appropriate, and
(b) must publish a report on the outcome of any such review.
(6) The power under subsection (5)(a) may not be exercised before the end of the period of 5 years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed (but may be exercised on more than one occasion after that).
(7) If a Minister of the Crown considers it appropriate in the light of the outcome of a review under subsection (5), the Minister may by order repeal or otherwise amend section 9(5) of the Equality Act 2010.
(8) The power to make an order under subsection (7) includes power to make incidental, supplementary, consequential, transitional or saving provision, including doing so by amending an Act or subordinate legislation (within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978).
(9) An order under subsection (7) must be made by statutory instrument.
(10) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (7) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament."
37D: Page 76, line 2, at end insert-
"( ) section (Equality Act 2010: caste as an aspect of race) extends only to England and Wales and Scotland;"
37E: Page 76, line 8, at end insert-
"( ) section (Equality Act 2010: caste as an aspect of race);"
37F: Title, line 7, after "directors;" insert "to amend section 9(5) of the Equality Act 2010;"
Moved by Baroness Stowell of Beeston
That this House do not insist on its insistence on Lords Amendment 37 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 37C to 37F in lieu.
My Lords, this House has debated caste and caste discrimination at each stage of this Bill since Grand Committee. I pay particular tribute to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and my noble friends Lord Avebury and Lord Deben, for their important, impassioned and at times moving contributions to these debates. I also acknowledge many other noble Lords who spoke in heartfelt and well informed ways, many for but some against the different amendments relating to caste discrimination being incorporated into the Equality Act 2010.
Earlier this week we considered this issue again in some detail, and this House repeated its view that caste should be directly included in the Equality Act 2010 as an aspect of race. The Government have always said that we are against any form of caste prejudice or discrimination. What has been at issue is how best to tackle any such prejudice and discrimination that may occur.
We have listened carefully to what this House has said, and we acknowledge the strength of opinion that has been expressed. While I need to record that we remain unconvinced that the evidence shows that legislation is the right way to resolve problems associated with caste prejudice or discrimination, we none the less accept the need to resolve this matter. We have therefore made the commitment, after full and extensive consultation, to legislate. Noble Lords will recognise that this is the essential difference compared with our earlier proposals.
The amendment that was last debated in this House would have seen caste directly become an aspect of race for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. Instead, we propose an alternative form, which was originally proposed as an amendment in this House in Grand Committee. Under this amendment in lieu, what is currently a discretionary power in the Equality Act to add caste to the list of race characteristics will become a duty on the Secretary of State. This amendment still gives effect to the need to legislate, while giving us greater flexibility to pick up the key issue of public consultation, which I believe the House recognises to be necessary and useful.
There are important issues on which we need to consult widely. The first concerns the definition of caste in the Act and any associated exceptions. Second is the issue of non-legislative concerns, some of which were highlighted by the Opposition in the other place and raised in this House, for example the guidance needed by business or by courts and tribunals, or the vexed question of caste identification and monitoring. Finally, there are wider issues to do with caste, such as gathering the right evidence that may be needed for the eventual statutory reviews, to which I shall come in more detail in a moment.
The secondary legislative approach, which the Government are proposing today and which I think was supported by a number of speakers, gives us better assurance that we get the legislation right, as well as greater flexibility on its timing. I should add that we intend to continue with our Talk for a Change education programme in relevant communities, which we continue to see as having an important role in effecting cultural change over time. We also wish to involve and work closely with the Equality and Human Rights Commission on broader issues of caste and caste-related discrimination.
Noble Lords will also see that there is a further element in the Motion. We have provided for the possibility of a review of the exercise of the caste power and any order made under it. This safeguard is in response to the various concerns raised by parliamentarians of all parties, here and in the other place. It looks beyond any immediate need for caste legislation, and concerns the importance of ensuring that legislation does not inadvertently embed in British society the concept of caste, together with those aspects of it that are inappropriate to the modern world.
We see no place for caste in today's Britain, and we want caste distinctions to disappear over time. This power gives us the opportunity to review the ongoing need for such legislation to remain, together with a means for its removal should it no longer be considered appropriate. As I have already said this evening, the Government have listened carefully. We are committing to legislate after we have carried out the consultation which this House has recognised to be necessary, before we exercise the power to make caste an aspect of race in the Equality Act 2010. We are also putting in place the option to review that legislation after it has been enacted. I trust that noble Lords will accept these proposals, one of which mirrors an earlier proposal put forward in this House. The other picks up on a suggestion put forward by the Opposition, among others. I beg to move.
My Lords, I would like to express our deep appreciation to the Government for listening to the concerns of communities that are most affected by caste discrimination, and thank the Minister in particular for the seriousness with which she has taken this issue and the commitment that she has given it. As she said, the vital change has taken place. The word "may" has been changed to the word "must". This will be part of primary legislation. There is agreement all around the House and in the other place that a period of consultation is necessary, both with those who are firmly in favour of the legislation and those who are against. There is absolutely no disagreement on that, and it is inevitable that there should be a period of time before the Act comes into force. Together with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I will seek a meeting with the Minister in the other place to talk with her about this consultation, in particular to get some sort of feel of the timescale before the Bill is enacted. I reiterate the thanks of the communities most affected by caste discrimination for the way in which the Government have listened seriously and responded to their concerns.
I shall add a 15-second contribution to what the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, has already said about our gratitude to the Minister, who, as he said, has listened carefully to the representations that have been made. I only wish that she could have seen the joy that the announcement caused among the communities, which was displayed in a demonstration in Parliament Square yesterday afternoon. Hundreds of people were there, welcoming the change of attitude by the Government and saying that this was a moment of tremendous excitement and joy among all the Dalit communities.
I am not so sure about Talk for a Change, because I think that it is probably a waste of money. However, this is not the moment to cavil about the detail but only to welcome the principle that this matter will be dealt with by legislation. I am most grateful to my noble friend and to the Government as a whole for their change of mind, declared at this last moment.
My Lords, we are extremely pleased that the Government have now accepted the need to legislate for legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of caste. Everyone agrees that caste has absolutely no place in our society and that, if there is even one case of such discrimination, proper action must be taken and there must be proper access to redress.
I also join the thanks for the exemplary work done by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who have taken the main burden of negotiations and discussions about the right way forward. We have arrived at a very elegant solution by changing the legislation to require the duty on the Government to make progress, therefore bridging the not very large but seemingly unbridgeable points that seemed to divide us on this issue. Eventually, with good sense on all sides, they have been removed, and we are very grateful to the Government for that. This is now again a good day for equality, and we will all celebrate this as we go forward.
I thank my noble friend Lady Thornton, who cannot be here this evening, for the considerable work that she took on when she came into this area. She used me as a bit of a listening board from time to time, and I felt that sometimes I had been at some of the meetings, where some rather inelegant things were said that do not bear repeating in your Lordships' House, because noble Lords would be shocked. We got through it, we are here today and we should celebrate where we are and wish the Government well in their onward work, which will all be very useful.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for welcoming the Government's Motion this evening. I share with him his tribute to his noble friend Lady Thornton. As much as I am always pleased to see the noble Lord, I am none the less disappointed that the noble Baroness could not be here this evening. I shall make sure that I convey that to her directly outside the Chamber.
I am very grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for his generous remarks and for those of my noble friend Lord Avebury. I note the noble and right reverent Lord's request for a meeting with my right honourable friend in the other place. I am sure she would want me to agree to that meeting without hesitation, because it would clearly be welcome to hear further from noble Lords before we start on the consultation process.
I am grateful to all noble Lords for the remarks that they have made this evening. Like the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, I am pleased that we have been able to find a way through that addresses all the concerns that have been made and that will ensure that we find a way through that satisfies those who have been suffering and that does not perpetuate something that we do not want to see as part of our society.
Motion B agreed.