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Equality Bill

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

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Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office 10:39 am, 9th June 2009

As the Minister taking the Bill forward, it is my strong view that there is no narrowing in the definition. I would be pleased to follow the question that Mark Harper put to you, to try to get a clearer answer. Perhaps it is best expressed by saying that it is possible to have an exception. We are talking about licensing discrimination, and consequently you will all accept that that exception must be as narrow as possible. The explanatory notes best encapsulate that by stating that employment for purposes of an organised religion can exclude people if

“appointing a person who meets the requirement in question”

—presumably that is adherence to a faith—

“is a proportionate way of complying with the doctrines of the religion.”

That is the definition, which I do not think narrows down what went before. Perhaps you could help me. I assume that nobody wants a disproportionate way of complying with the doctrines of the religion. Why would you want more licence than merely that which is sufficient to comply with those doctrines? That is a two-pronged question.