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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to return to the debate on this amendment and I agree with the intention of noble Lords to remove unnecessary words from the face of any Bill going through your Lordships' House. My noble friend Lady Blackstone undertook to consider the amendment to see whether it might be accommodated. We have now had the opportunity to do that and the advice we have received has satisfied us that the words "decide to" are necessary.

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The issue revolves around the distinction which is drawn between the two situations described in Clause 3(1) and (2). The first is where the commission decides to mount an investigation and the second is where it is directed to do so by the Secretary of State. I am advised that the inclusion of the words "decide to" in Clause 3(1) relates to the first of those circumstances and is necessary in order to draw the distinction between the two situations.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, can the Minister say why it is necessary to draw the distinction?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we are at the Report stage. I merely invite the noble Baroness to agree to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I really believe that this is absurd. Clause 3(1) empowers the commission to conduct an investigation if it so decides. Subsection (2) places on the commission a duty to conduct an investigation if it is directed to do so by the Secretary of State. The distinction, if there has to be one, is drawn by the use of the words "may" and "shall". According to the first line of subsection (1), the commission is free to conduct an investigation and the words "decide to" are entirely otiose in that sense. Subsection (2) provides that:


    "The Commission shall conduct a formal investigation if directed to do so by the Secretary of State".

I believe that this is an occasion on which the Minister should be brave and face down the advice that has been proffered. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who has given advice based on that given some years ago by my noble friend Lord Renton when his committee advised Parliament on the preparation of legislation. If the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment, I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

6.28 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 48; Not-Contents, 99.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Annaly, L.
Ashbourne, L.
Biffen, L.
Blatch, B.
Brentford, V.
Burnham, L. [Teller.]
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
Colwyn, L.
Cowdrey of Tonbridge, L.
Craigavon, V.
Cross, V.
Dacre of Glanton, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
Feldman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Glanusk, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Glentoran, L.
Hanningfield, L.
Harrowby, E.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Leigh, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Manton, L.
Marlesford, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Morris, L.
Northesk, E.
Norton, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Rankeillour, L.
Renton, L.
Rix, L.
Seccombe, B.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Sudeley, L.
Swinfen, L. [Teller.]
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wharton, B.
Wise, L.
Wynford, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alderdice, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dholakia, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennet, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lockwood, B.
Longford, E.
Lovell-Davis, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
McNally, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Newby, L.
Nicol, B.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Razzall, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Russell, E.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thornton, B.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

11 Mar 1999 : Column 400

6.36 p.m.

Clause 4 [Non-discrimination notices]:

The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Simon): My Lords, I must advise your Lordships that if Amendment No. 8 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 inclusive.

11 Mar 1999 : Column 401

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 8:


Page 2, line 43, leave out from beginning to ("provisions") in line 2 on page 3 and insert ("The notice may include").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 8 to 12 are grouped together. These are very important amendments. The amendments standing in my name are Amendments Nos. 8 and 12.

Your Lordships may be relieved to know that I shall not go over the ground of the arguments used in Committee. The arguments were put by many noble Lords and those used by the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, in particular were extremely persuasive.

We are seeking to put much more detail concerning non-discrimination notices on the face of the Bill. A great deal is known about the kind of content and provision that one would want in secondary legislation. The view is held by many noble Lords that it is so important that it is not just desirable but extremely helpful to have that detail on the face of the Bill.

My amendments retain a right for the Secretary of State to resort to secondary legislation. To ensure clarification and certainty and to provide practical assistance for those who must carry out that very difficult area of work--producing non-discrimination notices--there is a powerful argument for putting more on the face of the Bill rather than using secondary legislation as a vehicle for that. I beg to move.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to return to the debate on defining the scope of non-discrimination notices on the face of the Bill.

As noble Lords will know, the idea of extending the scope of non-discrimination notices and making provision for them to deal with necessary changes to practices and procedures originates from the reviews of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality and from them establishing legislation.

The Disability Rights Task Force considered the issue and was keen to ensure that the non-discrimination notice stage of a formal investigation process should be made as effective as possible. But it recognised the potential concerns in relation to the EOC and CRE proposals. Those concerns were that the proposals may allow the commission to impose a particular way of addressing an issue which will lead to discrimination when there may be other ways in which to address such issues other than those prescribed. There was concern too that a very high level of understanding as to the way businesses operate will be required to define exactly what may be practical in a particular situation.

Given the timing of the EOC and the CRE reviews, we made provision on the face of the Bill for regulation-making power allowing the Secretary of State to define the scope of non-discrimination notices and related mechanisms. In Clause 4(4) there are broad examples of how it might be used. These examples were not intended to be a coherent set of procedures. In allowing for regulation-making power we recognised that the devil is, as always, in the detail. In order to ensure that the commission's powers were clearly

11 Mar 1999 : Column 402

understood we would need to use the power to define more closely both the scope and the mechanisms for non-discrimination notices when bringing the regulations into effect. We believe a regulation-making power to be the right way forward as it would allow a degree of flexibility. I believe that my noble friend Lord Ashley of Stoke wishes to speak to the amendments.


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