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(1) Nothing in this Part shall make it unlawful for a charity to require members, or persons wishing to become members, to make a statement which asserts or implies membership or acceptance of a religion or belief.
(2) Subsection (1) shall apply to the imposition of a requirement by a charity only if
(a) the charity, or an organisation of which the charity is part, first imposed a requirement of the kind specified in subsection (1) before 18th May 2005, and
(b) the charity or organisation has not ceased since that date to impose a requirement of that kind."
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, noble Lords will remember that we had a considerable debate in Committee about the need to ensure that the Scout and Guide associations were protected in this Bill. I expressed my complete agreement with that intention, and undertook to discuss the matter with the Scout and Guide associations. That has been done.
It has also been our intention that the associations should be protected through Clauses 59 and 60 of the Bill, but, in discussion with the Scout and Guide associations, it became clear that, because of the particular nature of their foundation situation, the practice of requiring members to say the Promise could possibly be threatened by the Bill. We have accepted that this is the case, although, following those discussions, we do not consider that in other respects their activities are adequately protected by the Bill. We will be ready to review the situation in the Discrimination Law Review or the single Equality Bill, should difficulties arise at a later date.
The specific effect of this amendment is to allow the Scouts and Guides to continue requiring their members to say the Promise. This requirement is a necessity if the associations are to remain members of the international movements they represent. In most circumstances, a charity that wished to restrict its membership would do so by ensuring that a charitable instrument adequately reflected its intentions, and it would then be covered by Clause 60. In this case, however, because the establishment of the Scouts and Guides was made by Royal Charter, we felt an additional exemption was justified. This will equally protect any other charities that may exist that are in similar circumstances.
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Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, it is always gratifying to see a sensible argument succeed. The Government have been persuaded by the case made by my noble friends Lady Miller and Lady Wilcox in Committee, and give us hope that other sensible arguments may yet prevail, such as those I advanced earlier in our proceedings today.
At the risk of seeming ungrateful, however, I must draw attention to the anomaly of including a cut-off point in the amendment. I know the Government will say that this is to prevent abuse of the protections, but what it says is that requiring a statement of faith is really an old-fashioned thing to do. It suggests that it was all right in the past, but is not something we should tolerate in the future.
Any new charity that wishes to establish a religious oath without itself being religious will be excluded from this clause. If the Girl Guides and Scouts are held to be such a good thing and have such a wholesome influence on young peopleand surely we are all agreed that they are; I am an ex-Guide myselfwhy can we not have another organisation like them today? Call them something else. Maybe a new group wishes to set itself up to benefit a specific region, or indeed an ethnic minority. Does it base itself on the Girl Guides model"I promise on my honour to do my duty by God and my Queen, to help other people at all times and to obey the Guide Law"? That would be illegal. More thought is required on this issue. I hope the Minister will take this amendment away and give thought to whether the cut-off point is necessary.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am not altogether happy about this amendment. I mentioned the Beaver Scouts before. I suppose I was once a Scout and a Cub, but I cannot remember any more. I think I was, somewhere in north London. Anyhow, I am unhappy.
I suppose the Scouts are a charity, but if they make a statement saying you have to be Christian, and then they muck about in the way I suggested happened in the case where an atheist was told he could not look after young people unless he pretended to be a Christian, that is an example of the kind of abuse this could lead to. It would probably end up in litigation.
I understand why this provision is there, but I would not like it to apply to new organisations in our multi-religious, multi-faith world. I can see all kinds of examples in the non-Christian area. I am certainly not opposing the amendment, but I am glad that how it works in practice will be considered as part of the discrimination law review. I have my doubts.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, that demonstrates why we have probably got it right: the
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noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, is not entirely happy, which shows that the Government's approach is balanced.
I am reassured that we have probably got it right because, to my left, in the form of my noble friend Lady Ashton of Upholland, sits the ambassador for Guides. I should declare her interest, just in case people think that my will has been suborned.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in brief, the purpose of the amendments is to ensure that the qualification requirement for solicitors to be eligible for appointment as a special advocate in a race, sex, disability or religion or belief discrimination case is broadly equivalent for solicitors practising in Scotland, England and Wales.
The national security provisions in the Bill concern hearings about discrimination matters that may be heard in the county courts in England and Wales and in the sheriff court in Scotland. All Scottish solicitors have rights of audience in the sheriff court, and it is therefore unnecessary to limit appointments by the Advocate General under the provisions to solicitors who have rights of audience in the High Court or Court of Session in Scotland.
We are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, who is not present tonight, and to the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, who brought the need to make the amendments to our attention by tabling similar amendments to those included in this group in Committee.
Finally, the amendments also make some minor technical changes to ensure that the provisions relating to procedures for appointing special advocates in discrimination cases are consistent across all the Acts in which they appear. I beg to move.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, my noble friends Lady Carnegy of Lour and the Duke of Montrose are sorry that they are not here this evening. They left me a little note asking me to express their sincere thanks to the Minister for her co-operation in the matter.
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