Clause 187

Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 2 July 2009.

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Charities: supplementary

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Shadow Science Minister

I beg to move amendment 308, in clause 187, page 134, leave out line 6.

This amendment is to probe the reason for subsection (2), particularly in what way it relates to subsection (4) of Clause 186.

This amendment was tabled with a statement that it was a probing amendment, and an explanation why. I wish, since this is purely a constructive probing exercise, to ask not just whether this situation is the way that it has always been, but why it is that subsection 187(2) says that clause 186

“does not apply to race, so far as relating to colour ”

when subsection 186(4) says that if

“a charitable instrument enables the provision of benefits to persons of a class defined by reference to colour, it has effect for all purposes as if it enabled the provision of such benefits—

(a) to persons of the class which results if the reference to colour is ignored, or

(b) if the original class is defined by reference only to colour, to persons generally.”

The fundamental problem is that I am unable to determine the meaning of subsection 186(4). I accept that that is my shortcoming, but it might be shared by others. I thought that the best way to raise the issue was by asking what subsection 187(2) does, because it is not obvious what it means, either to me or to others whom I have asked, including legally minded people. I would be grateful, therefore, for an explanation.

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office

Amendment 308 would remove section 187(2), which prevents charities that provide benefits only to people of particular colour from relying on the exemption in subsections (1) and (2) of clause 186. The effect of the amendment would be that such a charity could seek to show that the restriction of benefits  was proportionate in achieving a legitimate aim. There is never any justification for discriminating between people who have different colours, and subsection 186(4) replicates that effect. The law has not changed since 1976, and it is a pity if it has not been understood during all that time. When a charitable instrument defines beneficiaries by reference to colour, the provision takes effect as if the reference to colour were completely disregarded. Therefore, there is no problem here.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Shadow Science Minister

I think that perhaps I understand the provision now. When the Minister is in the mood, she is good at explaining a situation, and I am grateful to her. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 187 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put (Standing Order No. 88).

Adjourned till this day at One o’clock.