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Lord Whitty: My Lords, Section 29 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 already provides protection to visitors on access to all public events, whether organised by trade unions or professional associations, as with other public events. However, that Act does not extend to private events. It is for the organisations concerned
Lord Razzall: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer, but does he accept that the Equal Opportunities Commission is calling for an overall review of the operation of the sex discrimination legislation? Does he also accept that the Answer he has given does not go far enough? Surely, a registered trade union has responsibilities that go further than those of a members' club? He will accept that members' clubs are entitled to discriminate on sexual grounds against any of their members or members' guests. Bearing in mind the publicity being generated by the World Cup, will the Minister address the particular issue of whether it was right for the Professional Footballers Association to discriminate on grounds of sex against a guest who happened to be the only woman who was a registered FIFA football agent? Does the Minister agree that the Minister should provide legislative protection for her?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord eventually got round to explaining to other noble Lords what his Question was really about. The Government's view of this event is quite clear. My honourable friend the Minister for Sport refused to attend this event in view of the attitude adopted by the Professional Footballers Association. The noble Lord is correct that the EOC is looking at the operation of the Sex Discrimination Act, and the Government will take seriously any recommendations in this as in other areas. But trade unions and professional associations are required in relation to membership, access to benefits etc. to operate on an equal access basis. However, dealing with private events is a complex matter and one in which the sex discrimination legislation has so far not intruded. Serious issues would have to be dealt with before legislation could be drafted to attack that.
Lord McCarthy: My Lords, can my noble friend go a little further? Surely, the Government support the EOC in its desire to have a simple statement of the limits of sex discrimination legislation. The Government are committed under the fairness at work proposals to do something about maternity benefits, parental leave and so on. Does my noble friend agree that this is a unique opportunity for the Government in the coming legislation to do what the EOC asks for and set out in clear terms the overall limits of sex equality legislation in this country? Can my noble friend go a little further in that regard?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am sure that we all want simplicity in this area. As I have said, we shall take seriously the EOC's proposals on the working of the Sex Discrimination Act. Clarity in drafting legislation in relation to private events is not easily achievable. That is what is raised by this issue. The Government's general attitude is clear: we deplore any such discrimination.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, made clear the occasion. It is the only one in recent years to my knowledge, and relates to the Professional Footballers Association and the exclusion of this lady.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, does the Minister agree that as it is now 23 years since the Sex Discrimination Act was introduced, it is about time that it was reviewed? It is important that the Government take action in this matter rather than wait for the EOC. In the meantime, will he actively discourage Members of your Lordships' House from attending functions at which women are actively discriminated against?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am prepared to discourage any noble Lord or noble Baroness from attending any function at which members of either sex are excluded merely on the grounds of their sex. Noble Lords may have other events in mind, but I shall not go too far down that road. I am sure that the noble Lord will accept that it is sensible to consider the EOC's recommendations in the round before we start legislating. It is time that we reviewed the workings of the Act, and we should do so in this respect and others.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, with regard to the EOC, which deals with matters relating to equality between the sexes, will my noble friend tell us how many men and how many women constitute the EOC itself? If there is not now equality will he ensure that there is?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I understand that those consultations are well under way. Will the noble Lord confirm that representatives of the Czech, Hungarian and Polish Governments, who are not yet members of NATO, are being consulted and taking part in the consultations? Given that NATO is the key to British defence strategy, does he think it desirable that this House and the other place should be informed and consulted as consultations proceed rather than being presented with a fait accompli next April?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister have said that before any ratification of enlargement both Houses will have an opportunity to discuss the issues. Of course your Lordships had a debate last Friday on the nature of NATO in relation to enlargement. We shall no doubt have further such debates.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the sovereignty of UN members is protected under the UN Charter. The UN Charter also includes the commitment to observe certain basic principles of human rights. On occasions, intervention is required within the boundaries of member states of the UN.
Lord Kennet: My Lords, will my noble friend bear in mind that the US Senate, in giving its assent to American ratification of the expansion of NATO, made it a condition that the new strategic concept should be brought before the US Senate twice during the course of its re-negotiation; that is, before any text is adopted? Will he consider whether that might conceivably be a precedent for our Parliament? If not, in what way can we be content to be less democratic in this matter than the US?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I have already indicated that this House and this Parliament will have an opportunity to discuss these matters. As the debate on Friday initiated by my noble friend Lord Kennet indicated, the US Senate was putting different conditions on the various developments within NATO. That is a matter primarily for the US. It is important to remember that if cost is its main concern, its share in proportion to GDP is less compared with that of the other allies. In no sense do we intend to be any less democratic when considering these issues than our allies.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Government's position on nuclear disarmament has been made clear by my noble friend Lady Symons on many occasions in answer to my noble friend Lord Jenkins. We are committed to early discussions on multilateral nuclear disarmament. NATO's role in that is clearly a significant element. However, nuclear weapons are not NATO weapons; they are the weapons of the US, France, Britain and the other nuclear powers.
Lord Chesham: My Lords, bearing in mind the terms of the Question, which was about progress in formulating NATO'S new strategic concept before its adoption, is that not different from ratification? Can we have an assurance that there will be consultation during this period and not purely ratification after it has happened?
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