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Lord Borrie: A number of most interesting points have been raised. I gladly welcome all the contributions that have been made. I particularly welcome the willingness of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, to look further at provisions in the Bill to see whether old people's clubs, youth clubs and the like would be exempt from anti-discrimination laws.

In that respect, I noted that my noble friend the Minister said that the Government were in favour of anti-discrimination laws in relation to race, religious affiliation and sex as applied to clubs. However, she did not refer to—

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Will the noble Lord give way? The Minister referred to race, sex and disability.

Lord Borrie: I thank the noble Lord for assisting on that point. I note that she did not refer to the other matters of age, sexual orientation and so forth referred to in the Bill. Subject to that, I welcome the noble Lord's remarks about looking again at the comprehensive logic of his Bill, as to where the anti-discrimination laws should apply in relation to clubs, and where there should be exemptions—as he has provided for in relation to single-sex clubs, single ethnic or national group clubs and single religious group clubs. Beyond that, I say to both the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester that it is important to make a distinction between what one considers to be unfair as well as morally and ethically wrong and where the law should intervene. I say, as anybody would in this House—and, one hopes, in most places elsewhere—that one dislikes and is against the application, in private members' clubs or elsewhere, of discrimination on grounds of sex or race and, most obviously, colour, as indicated in the Race Relations Act 1976. Subject to that, it is important to know where to draw the line.

The noble Lord, Lord Lester, referred to several areas of private activity which are already covered by the law, and I do not want to alter that. He gave the

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examples of private partnerships, private lettings, trade union branches and educational provision by private schools. These are all facilities available to the public, so far as they can afford private schools. Trade union branches can never be regarded as merely private clubs because they have such an important impact on employment opportunities.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way again. It is not right to say that a barrister's set of chambers, which might have only 10 barristers, is included in the Bill because they provide facilities for the public. The Sex Discrimination and Race Relations Acts quite rightly forbid my chambers from discriminating against pupils, would-be pupils, tenants or members of staff. We are a tiny organisation; we are private in every sense of the word—we are like an extended family—but we are covered by the law.

Lord Borrie: The noble Lord's chambers are not purely a social club. Their function is most important to the public, and they deal with pupils and clients. Such organisations are quite different from social clubs, on which I have concentrated in talking about my desire for them to be excluded from discrimination laws. I said that as a matter of principle, because I believe that in their social lives, people should be free to associate, or not, with other people on whatever grounds they choose. Even there—and I say this especially to my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester—I am not sure where the line should be drawn. If we were to take a political consensus in the country now, it would be clearer than in the 1970s; a colour bar would be regarded as so objectionable that I see no particular reason why the law should not apply even in relation to private clubs, whether they have more or fewer than 25 members. That is my answer to my noble friend. One does not need to put the clock back.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: Is not the point about the application of the Race Relations Act to private members' clubs in the 1970s that it anticipated and assisted a change in mood? As the noble Lord, Lord Lester, said, the practice, particularly in working men's clubs, of applying a colour bar was so outrageous that the law needed changing. With this Bill and this issue, we are saying that it is the duty of legislators to anticipate enlightened changes in approach. In a few years' time people will see sex discrimination as being as outrageous as the application of a colour bar was in the 1970s.

Lord Borrie: Quite simply, whereas I see every objection to a colour bar or racial discrimination in a private member's club or in a more public place, I do not see the same objection—and I should be surprised if my noble friend did—to the desire of certain men in working men's clubs to drink with other men and to exclude women from that bar. We should not legislate to change people's behaviour in that regard. As legislators, we must have high regard for legislation.

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To introduce it simply because we want people's behaviour to change is not necessarily justified. It might have been justified in 1976 for the reasons that have been mentioned. However, it would not be justified today to extend that further. That is why I have tabled the amendment for discussion.

However, I want to read what has been said in Hansard and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clauses 7 to 37 agreed to.

Clause 38 [The Equality Commission]:

Lord Ashley of Stoke moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 29, line 36, at end insert—

"(10) Any order made by virtue of subsection (8) shall provide for the functions specified in subsection (8)(b) to be exercisable by the Commission through a disability rights committee of the Equality Commission."

The noble Lord said: The amendment is coupled with Amendment No. 9. I am proposing these amendments together with the noble Lord, Lord Rix, who regrets that he is unable to be here today, and with the support of the Disability Rights Commission. I intend to speak briefly, because there are many amendments to be dealt with and this is not the occasion for long speeches.

The structure that I am proposing is vital to the future of any single body that the Government may create. Although my noble friend the Minister has kindly come along to explain the Government's point of view rather than to participate actively in the debate, I should like her and the rest of the Government to know that our comments on this Bill are markers for the Government. We are confident that they will be taken into account and carefully considered. We would like to see them in legislative form. There has been a great deal of discussion about the possible creation of a single body—not necessarily a single equality body, but something similar. The Government are not yet committed to that, but if it comes about, we are anxious that the structure should be right, so that there is no obfuscation, no confusion and no diminution of the rights of the various organisations that currently represent various people, including disabled people.

I appreciate the willingness of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, to do all he can to assist disabled people and to help those of us who take a particular interest in the subject. The Committee may recall that on Second Reading I mentioned the need for a federal structure as the best and most efficient method of organisation for any new equality body. The Disability Rights Commission has consulted 1,000 disability groups and individuals and held seminars. They wanted a federal structure. The commission also said that research on foreign single equality bodies showed that in some cases disability was not taken centrally into account and that the strand-specific structures are best.

Such a federal structure would consist of an umbrella body focusing on the cross-cutting issues of shared concern with, crucially, specialist units

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linked to appointed committees that would have responsibility for individual strands. My amendments would provide for a disability rights committee with executive powers and a disability commissioner, who would be chair of the committee. Ideally, the chairman would be disabled.

The representatives of each group to be covered by the new body would be able to determine the policies that affected them, while contributing to wider cross-strand and general equality policies. These arrangements should help all the strands but have particular importance for disabled people who for many years have fought to ensure that their experience feeds directly into policymaking, resulting in their greater representation in all aspects of public life and the structure of the Disability Rights Commission.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, will look favourably on these amendments, which I commend to the House. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Wilkins: I strongly support the amendments, which would ensure that the expertise of commissioners with specific knowledge of disabilities would not be jeopardised or lost in a future equality commission. They would ensure that disabled people continued to have the ability to create and take forward policies specific to the needs of disabled people.

Lord Addington: I would hope that my noble friend could incorporate this approach into the Bill, for the simple reason that disabled people tend to be better than others at empathising with other types of disability and knowing about the changes that need to be made. Unfortunately, experience tells me that we need people in those positions who know what it is like to be unable to do something regarded as normal. The Bill would be improved, if not by these particular measures, then by something very like them.

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