Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Equality Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:39 am on 9th June 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 10:39 am, 9th June 2009

I want to probe a slightly different aspect. I am fairly relaxed in those cases where there is a genuine occupational requirement for the Churches to be able to exercise their right to choose. What I am not clear about, which is the start of my question, is whether the Bill narrows the law.

Under the existing regulations, it is already the case that being of a particular religion or belief can be a genuine occupational requirement of the job. It is already the case in existing law, to pick up Ms Malik’s  point, that the requirement has to be proportionately applied. We seem to be arguing about whether the exact wording in the Bill around

“promoting or explaining the doctrines of the religion” sufficiently captures those who are not doing so, such as those involved in pastoral work.

Looking at one of the examples given by the Catholic bishops, I would not think that a residential caretaker post was an instance in which being a practising Catholic ought to be an occupational requirement of the job, just because of contact with members of the Church. My reading of the Bill so far suggests that it does not actually—certainly not significantly—narrow the existing law, because the existing law says that it has to be a genuine occupational requirement of the job. What I am looking for is why you think it does.

The youth worker role, from what you have said about it involving the teaching of the religion and its nature, seems to me to fall within the exemption in the Bill. I am not clear what other roles you are talking about that would be excluded.