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Mrs. Laing: I accept the hon. Gentleman's wager.

Roger Berry: Double it.

Rob Marris: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Epping Forest, but I will not go for double or quits, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Roger Berry) urges—I am sure that you would not allow me to, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Khan: Even if the costs were as large as Her Majesty's official Opposition suggest, does my hon. Friend agree that the commission could be considered as a loss-leader because of the benefit that we will gain? On a cost-benefit analysis, using the widest possible talent in our community—whether we are considering employment or people being served in a bar—is worthy of a reasonable cost.

Rob Marris: I entirely agree and touched on that matter earlier when I made an intervention on the hon. Member for Epping Forest. She chose not to answer my question about how much she would be prepared to pay for anti-discrimination legislation, so I hope that she
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will answer now. It is a pity that she remains in a sedentary position and will not follow on from the point   that my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) made.

Mrs. Laing: I did answer the question. My answer was precisely that the amount was the £48 million that it is at present, plus the corresponding amount for adding three new strands, minus the amount that could be saved due to economies of scale. That was my answer, and the amount comes to less than £96 million.

Rob Marris: That reply is rather interesting and revealing. If I go into a retailer and ask the price of a television, I do not expect to be told, "We calculate it by taking account of rent, lighting costs and VAT," because I expect to be told the price. However, I understand that the hon. Lady cannot give a price.

Mrs. Laing: It is not possible to put an exact price on defending and promoting equality, which is a matter of principle to which we are all absolutely committed.

Rob Marris: I am now slightly more confused because I thought that the hon. Lady was putting a price on that earlier when she said that she thought that the cost would be more than £96 million—more than twice the £48 million. I take the point that she was not saying that that cost would not be justified.

I suggested earlier to the hon. Lady that there was a contradiction because she and her party appeared to be sitting on the fence on amendment No. 9, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz). I asked her whether she would support a race committee given that neither she nor her hon. Friends had tabled an amendment to remove the provisions in schedule 1 on the disability committee. She responded that I was urging her to do something that she had not the power to do, but that she hoped to be in ministerial office soon—I thought that that was rather optimistic of her. Forgive me if I misunderstand the procedures of the House after nearly five years here, but I thought that any hon. Member could table an amendment on Report. The hon. Lady chose—quite properly, I must say—not to table an amendment to remove the provisions on the disability committee, but she was incorrect to suggest that it was not in her power to table such an amendment.

I am rather attracted to amendment No. 16, which refers to the make-up of the commission. There is a contradiction between providing for a disability committee in the Bill and not providing for a race committee. I am entirely happy that the Bill provides for a specified commissioner with a disability in paragraph 1(3)(a) of schedule 1, but it is a contradiction that the Bill does not provide for commissioners representing the other five strands. The Bill contains contradictions.

I understand that there are different ways of approaching things. Judge Rosalie Abella said powerfully about a similar situation in Canada in the 1980s that equality sometimes means treating people the same and sometimes means treating people differently. That is one of the touchstones by which I live when I   consider discrimination measures. Equality is not mechanical. The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip
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Davies) is no longer in the Chamber. My hon. Friend the   Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) was very restrained when she heard from him the arguments that she knows viscerally from her experience as a black woman in our society—I know of them one removed after talking to people—and we had 20 or 30 years ago. The hon. Gentleman certainly looks less than 40. Where have some Conservative Members been for the past 20 years? I salute the Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen for at least getting up to about the end of 20th century with this stuff and welcome the fact that several Conservative Members have struggled into the 21st century, but some Conservative Back Benchers really have a pretty antediluvian approach to the matter. We should not have to go through such arguments again and again in the Chamber and elsewhere and it is sad that we must do so.

From my hon. Friend the Minister I seek assurances regarding the staff, and in particular an explanation of the contradictions between the treatment of disability and the treatment of race. That is not to say that the other four strands are unimportant, I hasten to add, but disability is mentioned at least twice in the Bill—in relation to a commissioner with a disability and a disability committee. In race, we are dealing with an incredibly important strand to me, the Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton, South-West, which was previously represented by that notorious racist Powell. Such matters are extremely important in my constituency. There is a contradiction in relation to a race committee and I beg the Minister to explain that contradiction. If she does not, amendment No. 9 and those that flow from it will be extremely attractive to me.

8 pm

Meg Munn: I thank hon. Members, in particular my hon. Friends, for raising some important issues relating to the new commission. We all share a concern to ensure that the new commission is able to operate efficiently, effectively, fairly and with the confidence of the many communities who will look to it for leadership and support.

Amendment No. 43 would dilute the commission's requirement to have regard to the importance of exercising its clause 10 duties for groups defined by race, religion or belief. We have made it clear throughout the debates on the Bill here and in the other place that there will be no diminution in the powers and responsibilities that the new commission will inherit from its predecessor bodies. That has been a fundamental principle as we progress towards establishing the new commission.

An important part of the new body's success will be its ability to do as much as, and more than, our existing arrangements. Alone among the existing equality commissions the Commission for Racial Equality has a duty to promote good relations between people of different racial groups. In addition, in 2000 we amended the Race Relations Act 1976 to require public bodies to have regard for the need to promote good relations between racial groups. The new commission will have to carry forward the historical legacy of the CRE and work with public bodies to help them to comply with the race equality duty.
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Hon. Members will know that the Commission for Racial Equality has, since its inception, supported a strong network of local race equality councils and other organisations delivering local race equality work. Many of us are familiar with their work and the important role that they play in our constituencies, particularly among those who have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment because of their race or religion. I met recently with the chair of the British Federation of Race Equality Councils; the federation is concerned to ensure that the councils' work is able to continue and I look forward to continuing our discussions to ensure that that is the case.

For those reasons, we have required the commission to have particular regard to its duties in clause 10 and the importance of exercising them in relation to groups defined by race, religion or belief. That is an important guarantee to the CRE, the race equality councils and others who do local race equality work, and to black and minority ethnic communities in this country. I believe that we have found the right balance between acknowledging the historical legacy of the commission's good relations work and the need to ensure that the concerns of all its interest groups are heard and addressed.

Mrs. Laing: I accept the Minister's explanation which, combined with the impassioned speeches made by some Labour Back Benchers, has led me to decide not to pursue amendment No. 43.

Meg Munn: I thank the hon. Lady.

Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John   McDonnell), are designed to protect the position of those who work for the existing commissions. We are aware that a transition of the type in prospect always gives rise to concerns and uncertainty among staff and we are committed to a well managed, open and transparent transition process in which staff are fully consulted.

I can reassure my hon. Friend by confirming that it is our intention that the full protection of TUPE will apply to all staff of the existing three commissions. I also assure him that it is not our intention to transfer any staff to the new commission without the full protection of TUPE. We are working closely with employee representatives and senior management of the existing commissions to develop the most effective way forward in that and related matters. We have established a union forum to act as a consultative mechanism on the commission for equality and human rights between the   commissions and recognised trade unions, with Government participation.

The provisions of clause 39(5) will, in effect, safeguard the existing terms and conditions of those staff who transfer into the new commission and ensure that their period of employment continues with the new commission without being counted as a break in service for either employment or pension rights. I hope that that answers my hon. Friend's specific question. TUPE applies to all contractual terms and conditions and includes an existing right to a redundancy payment. In addition to that statutory protection, it is Government policy to ensure that staff who transfer from one public sector organisation to another are no worse off as a result of that transfer.
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TUPE protection will also apply to staff transferring under a transfer scheme whenever they join the CEHR, whether that is before the new commission becomes operational—our target date is October 2007—or when the CRE folds in 2009, or any time in between. The amendment is therefore unnecessary.

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