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Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, when the amendment was considered in Committee, there was all-party support for the principle of placing a responsibility for promoting equal opportunities and tackling discrimination at the heart of the Greater London Authority. I think that is the critical issue. I have listened very carefully to the remarks which have just been made and I understand very clearly the points that are being made. I still think that this is a very
Having said that, I do think that there should be an expectation on the mayor to report on a regular basis on the way in which this responsibility has been carried forward. Certainly in the legislation on the Welsh Assembly--I refer to the Government of Wales Act--there was a similar requirement on the Welsh Assembly to promote equality. There was also a requirement that the Assembly should publish a report after each financial year containing a statement of the arrangements made which had had effect during that financial year and--this is perhaps most important--an assessment of how effective those arrangements had been in promoting equality of opportunity. Essentially, such a system would require the new authority--if such provisions were applied in those terms to the Greater London Authority--to audit its own progress on this matter.
I listened very carefully to my noble friend the Minister's explanation that, in practice, the mayor will be accountable to the assembly and will be required to report on many matters during the course of the year. I think that is a valid point. I anticipate that assembly members will want to make sure that all such matters are addressed properly in those reports. None the less, it might be helpful to have the requirement to have an over-arching report bringing together all the different strands of policy in terms of equality of opportunity and the work which had been done.
This amendment might have been drafted in a slightly more precise way, but I am none the less extremely pleased to see it in this form. I believe that we have made considerable progress. Something is now to be written on the face of the Bill. I think that is helpful.
I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will want to take away the points which have been made in this discussion. It may well be that in the ensuing discussion and, indeed, in the debates that we shall no doubt have during the run-up to the elections for the new authority and the election of the mayor, there will be considerable emphasis on these issues and we shall find that the new mayor and the new assembly spend a great deal of time focusing on how they are going to deliver what is contained in this proposed new clause in terms of equality of opportunity for the people of London.
Let us be quite clear. Given the nature of London's population it is far more important to get this right in London than it has been in other parts of the country. I do not decry its importance in other parts of the country. However, given the nature of London's population, it will be a critical responsibility for the mayor and assembly.
I welcome the measure. I hope that it is a duty that is embraced enthusiastically by the mayor and all members of the assembly when elected next May to ensure that the new authority has the opportunity to make a real difference in these areas for the benefit of the people of London.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, we are not dealing with specific anti-discrimination legislation. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, in this Bill we should not go too much into the details under these circumstances. Once one strays beyond race, sex and other easily ascertainable factors, spelling things out in detail can become extremely difficult.
The advantages of the wording in the proposed amendment are that it covers many areas which would be difficult to specify such as age, financial status and other matters which might reasonably be taken into account by the mayor in ensuring that the policies he or she puts forward are of benefit to all Londoners equally, and that all Londoners have the same opportunities as far as reasonably possible. That would not be the case if we limit the provision to individual categories which are well covered by existing legislation. If they are not, the existing legislation should be amended.
I support the suggestion from the Labour Back Benches that there should be a reporting requirement. These issues are best enforced in that way. If they have to be reported on, the mayor and assembly have to pay attention to them. That ensures that the new clause is not a dead letter.
Lord Sheppard of Didgemere: My Lords, I declare, not an interest in the subject, but a passion. Like many noble Lords, I am only here because of actions by many previous generations. To that extent, I feel passionately about the subject. However, putting passion to one side, perhaps I may speak as a businessman.
The clause is mainstream good business for London. Let us take two examples. The cultural diversity of London is a major strength. At times there is great hysteria in the media and elsewhere--some justified, some not--but it is of immense strength if one is dealing with inward investment and business start-up. The huge blend of people from many different groups--they may include Italians and perhaps Scots--makes London a successful business mix. We must build on and encourage that cultural diversity.
If we are to be globally competitive, we cannot have an unskilled underclass. Apart from the fact that we might have a social revolution, we would have extremely bad economics. We cannot afford not to level up in terms of education and skills, and therefore living standards and so on. My only surprise is that the issue arises only at this stage of the Bill. I should have thought it would be the first provision drafted rather than the last.
However, I wish to ask the Minister about the wording. The Government have picked up the wording of one of the amendments brought forward previously. I have been unable to find the context in Hansard. The provision states:
When we legislate it has to be capable of being tested in the courts. I picture a judge trying to decide whether something that the authority has done provides equal opportunity for all. That phrase is guff. I believe I said so at Committee stage. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, explained the remit of the Commission for Racial Equality. He said that it was absolutely precise. I wonder whether the Government have got it right or whether they have just taken notice of whoever moved the amendment and included the phraseology. I suspect that it will not stand up to scrutiny.
Lord Tope: My Lords, when my noble friend Lord Dholakia began his speech he welcomed this amendment. Perhaps I may reiterate that we are pleased that the Government have recognised the concern which the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said was expressed from all Benches at a previous stage of the Bill. I believe that the Government have recognised that fact and I say so without qualification.
Quite serious concerns have been expressed tonight by my noble friend Lord Dholakia. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, did not refer to everything. He specifically used the same criteria as those contained in the EU treaty which are race, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation and religion. They are specifics laid down in the treaty, which will become incumbent upon us.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, rightly drew attention to the requirements upon the Welsh Assembly for an annual report. Others have said that that is a useful requirement. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, said rightly that the assembly members are doing the job that they are supposed to do and that they will pick up that point in any event. That applies to a great deal in this Bill.
I welcome this important step forward by the Government. I suggest that the phrase could do better" is appropriate. I echo the offer made by my noble friend that we shall be very happy to discuss with Ministers and others how best the clause can be improved to meet the objectives that I believe all Members of this House share. I do not believe that there is a difference between us as to what we are trying
In response I hope that the Minister will accept the offer in the spirit in which it is meant and that perhaps at Third Reading the Government will produce an amendment that can achieve the objectives to which a number of speakers have alluded tonight.
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