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Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 279:


Page 110, line 14, at end insert--
(“( ) A day for the entry into force of Part VI of this Act in Northern Ireland shall not be appointed until an assessment has been carried out under section 75 and Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.").

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1275

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Bill extends to Northern Ireland and the provision so extending it would be followed by my amendment, if passed. It provides that the provisions in Part VI of the Bill will not come into force in Northern Ireland until an assessment has been carried out under Section 75 and Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

The amendment is designed to cope with the different situation in Northern Ireland arising from the 1998 Act. Section 75 provides that:


    “A public authority shall, in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland, have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group",

and so forth. Public authority is defined in subsection (3) as:


    “any department, corporation or body listed in Schedule 2 to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 and designated for the purposes of this section by order made by the Secretary of State".

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, as I understand it, has consulted the United Kingdom departments to establish whether they have any objection to being designated under Section 75. The reply from the Home Secretary is still awaited, so we do not know whether the arrangements to be made under Part VI of the Bill will be subject to scrutiny under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act. If they are, Schedule 9 to the Act states that,


    “The public authority to which this sub-paragraph applies shall submit a scheme to the Commission"--

that is, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland,


    “and that scheme shall state in particular the authority's arrangements for assessing compliance with its duties under Section 75, and for consulting on matters to which the duty under that section is likely to be relevant, and for assessing and consulting on the likely impact of policies adopted or proposed to be adopted by the authority on the promotion of equality of opportunity".

Therefore, what I am saying in this amendment is that the provisions for support under Part VI of the Bill will not come into effect until that assessment, mentioned in paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act, has been carried out in relation to the Home Secretary.

It would be useful if the Minister could tell us what the situation is regarding the views of the Home Secretary in respect of designation because the time does not allow for much further delay. I say that because the provisions of Section 75 are for it to come into force in Northern Ireland on 1st January 2000. Therefore the decision has to be made and the assessment be under way by the end of this year. Time is therefore very short for the arrangements to be put in place for the assessment to be conducted.

I believe that noble Lords would agree that it is reasonable, if the Secretary of State is going to be subject to arrangements under Section 75, that those should have been completed before that part of the Act comes into force in Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for decoupling his

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amendment so that we can spend just a few moments longer giving it fair and reasonable consideration. The amendment suggests that we should not bring the new arrangements into play in Northern Ireland until an equal opportunities assessment has been carried out. That opens up the rather bizarre prospect of a different timescale for the implementation of Part VI in Northern Ireland.

Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 imposes certain statutory obligations on public authorities carrying out functions relating to Northern Ireland. They must have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity in terms of a number of categories, including racial groups. Without prejudice to that obligation, they must also have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group. Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act sets out a framework for implementing those obligations.

In particular, it requires public authorities to submit equality schemes to the new Equality Commission for Northern Ireland within six months of the schedule coming into operation. Those equality schemes will include the public authority's arrangement for assessing and consulting on the likely impact of policies on the promotion of equality of opportunity.

The Equality Commission, as the noble Lord is aware, took up its duties on 1st October, but the statutory obligation under Section 75 will not take effect until 1st January 2000. The Act lays out a system for complaints about the implementation of equality schemes to be considered by the Equality Commission.

The noble Lord's amendment does not indicate who should carry out an impact assessment of Part VI of the Bill. It is not clear whether that would be required from Northern Ireland public authorities, such as the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Department of Health and Social Services for Northern Ireland, or whether the Home Office would be required to carry it out.

There is provision in the Northern Ireland Act for Section 75 to apply to UK departments but only if they have been designated by order. No final decisions have yet been made as to which departments will be so designated. In the light of that and the practical concerns and considerations which I have put forward in this short discussion, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, it is rather extraordinary that the Minister cannot tell us whether the Home Office will be subject to the provisions of Section 75. That is a vital piece of information to which your Lordships are entitled. If the Home Office agrees to be designated--and I cannot see any reason why it should not--then ultimately it would have to conduct the impact assessment mentioned in the amendment. That is shorthand for the assessment mentioned in paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 9, as I mentioned in my introductory remarks.

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1277

We need to know whether, in implementing the arrangements for support in Northern Ireland, they will be subject to an assessment of the kind that is required in that schedule. If we do not know that, it creates all sorts of difficulties for those who are concerned with racial equality in Northern Ireland. However, I can see that the Minister is not going to reply this evening. Perhaps he did not fully understand the way in which this will affect the question of racial equality in Northern Ireland and how Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act is to be implemented.

Having given the Minister an explanation of the amendment, I shall leave him with time to reflect on the matter and perhaps we can return to it on Third Reading. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 13 [Consequential Amendments]:

[Amendment No. 280 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 281 to 288:


Page 143, line 16, at end insert--
(“The Firearms Act 1968 (c. 27)
. The Firearms Act 1968 is amended as follows.
. In Schedule 1 (offences for which there is an additional penalty if committed when in possession of a firearm), after paragraph 5B insert--
“5C. An offence under paragraph 4 of Schedule 10 to the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (assaulting a detainee custody officer)."
. In Schedule 2 (which lists corresponding Scottish offences), after paragraph 13A insert--
“13B. An offence under paragraph 4 of Schedule 10 to the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (assaulting a detainee custody officer)." ").
Page 144, line 19, at end insert--
(“ . In section 11(1) (entry to the United Kingdom), at the end insert “or by Part III of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999".").
Page 144, leave out lines 23 and 24 and insert--
(“.--(1) Section 27 (offences by persons connected with ships or aircraft) is amended as follows.
(2) In paragraph (a)(ii), after “Schedule 2 or 3" insert “or under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999".
(3) In paragraph (b)(iii)--
(a) after “arrangements for" insert “or in connection with"; and
(b) at the end insert “or under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999; or").
Page 144, line 27, at end insert--
(“ .--(1) Section 32 (proof of documents) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (2)--
(a) for “this Act" substitute “the Immigration Acts"; and
(b) after second “by him" insert “or on his behalf".
(3) In subsection (3), for “proceedings under Part II of this Act" substitute “other proceedings under the Immigration Acts".

20 Oct 1999 : Column 1278


(4) In subsection (4)--
(a) for first “this Act" substitute “the Immigration Acts"; and
(b) for “proceedings under Part II of this Act" substitute “other proceedings under the Immigration Acts".
(5) After subsection (4) insert--
“(5) “Immigration Acts" has the same meaning as in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999."
(6) The amendments made by sub-paragraphs (2)(a) and (5) apply whenever the document in question was made or issued.").
Page 144, line 30, after (“determined") insert (“--
( ) in relation to an appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, in accordance with section 7A of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997;
( ) in any other case,").
Page 145, line 2, at end insert (“; or
(c) whether there are medical grounds on which that leave should be cancelled.").
Page 145, line 2, at end insert--
(“( ) He may also be examined by an immigration officer for the purpose of determining whether it would be conducive to the public good for that leave to be cancelled.").
Page 145, line 18, after (“Act") insert (“and Part IV of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999").

On Question, amendments agreed to.


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