Clause 192

Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 2 July 2009.

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Crown application

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Conservative, Daventry

Briefly, the clause relates to Crown immunity. I simply wanted to invite the Solicitor-General to take note of certain concerns. While there has been a welcome practice in recent years under different Governments of gradually extending the range of the application of the law and minimising the amount of Crown immunity or exceptions, some areas remain. In the Bill, they include bits that were in the clauses debated, such as security services. I think there are good reasons for doing that.

All I would like is for Ministers, individually and collectively, not to stand pat on what is excepted for ever, if it ceased to be appropriate to except it. Moreover, I would like them to encourage their colleagues who administer those services with necessary exceptions, to, wherever possible, act in a way that is consistent and congruent with the Bill, notwithstanding their exceptional status. That should apply to, for example, the employment rights of people in the security services, as the Minister knows. I would comment on its—possibly negatively, in relation to the Conservative Government of the day—being a matter of great controversy in relation to GCHQ. I am just saying that as far as possible—that is for Ministers to judge, and we must leave some judgments for them—we should have things in the open. Where we cannot, and there are good reasons for that, the Government, as the employer and otherwise, should, if humanly possible, act within the spirit of the legislation, even if they are exempted by statute.

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

The hon. Gentleman makes a fine point. In so far as I am concerned, that is how the Government will proceed, and I hope that the rest of the Government will agree.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 192 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 193 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 25 agreed to.

Clause 194 ordered to stand part of the Bill.