Clause 56

Part of Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 23 June 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office 10:45, 23 June 2009

Let me explain the protection—I thank the hon. Lady for the amendments to facilitate that. Amendment 244 is to include authorities “in the GLA family” within the meaning of “local authority” for the purposes of protection under clause 55. The amendment would even include the members of those authorities in the definition of a “local authority”, so they would be prohibited from discriminating against themselves—but never mind, I appreciate that the amendment is probing.

Members of those bodies may be protected under clauses 46 to 48, in respect of the appointment and conditions of office if they are personal or public office holders, or under clause 36 if the relationship amounts to employment. However, clause 55 aims at elected members while they undertake official business. It harmonises the existing law, providing a limited exception to the exclusion of elected offices from protection under discrimination law, recognising the importance of prohibiting discrimination and enabling reasonable adjustments in the carrying out of official business by local authority members.

We have put a power in clause 56(3) whereby bodies that exercise functions conferred on local authorities may be added to the list, recognising the fact that many members of local authorities are subsequently appointed to other, quasi-local authority bodies to discharge some of the functions of the local authority. Ensuring that such members are protected from discrimination, victimisation and harassment in the carrying out of  official business in respect of those bodies as well is right, because they operate effectively as an extension of the local authorities, the functions of which they are discharging. It is better to do that by secondary legislation, rather than in the Bill, for greater flexibility, given that local authorities change and the situation is dynamic. We shall consider what bodies should be included by means of the power, and we shall look at the ones referred to by the hon. Lady at that time.