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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord is so touchy about these things. I base my assumptions on what he has said on Second Reading, in Committee, on Report and now at Third Reading. I should indeed welcome it if the noble Lord had a change of heart. Perhaps he will make that clear to the House.
If an assertion of nationality is not backed up by a specified document, how could it be reasonable to make an employer liable? Employers would have to take assertions of nationality at face value if that was the case.
The amendment tabled by the noble Earl refers to British subjects rather than British citizens. I assume that his intention was to refer to British citizens. For while there are still some people with the status of
Earl Russell: My Lords, I had intended to refer to those who are British subjects and British citizens. But the words "British subject" have a long and honourable history and I am not ashamed to use them.
I appreciate that the noble Earl is concerned that people from the ethnic minority communities will be unduly affected by Clause 8. As I have made clear before, employers will need to treat all new employees in the same way. I have made equally clear that this legislation is positively not a licence to discriminate. Employers will need to check all new employees--if they choose to check any--if they are to comply with the Race Relations Act.
We do not think that there will be the sort of problems which the noble Earl clearly envisages based on cases which have been brought to his notice. When employers have guidance about Clause 8 we believe that they will be able to implement it fairly and without undue difficulty. The proposed new offences are not necessary and would not be helpful--and their drafting is defective.
I repeat once more that there is an inconsistency because noble Lords wish to use the very same type of measure to make racketeering an offence abroad but refuse doggedly to make it an offence in this country. That is an inconsistency that this House should not accept.
She imputes to us opinions which she has asserted. She assumes that our motives would be what they would be were we to agree with her opinions. I must explain this to the noble Baroness because it is important that she should get it right. She says that she has brought forward in this Bill two practical measures to deal with racketeering. She therefore thinks that we support racketeers because we do not support her measures. Were we to believe that she had put forward practical measures to deal with racketeers, of course we would support her. We believe that the noble Baroness has done no such thing.
We believe that the noble Baroness has introduced measures which will enormously increase racial discrimination and which will catch only the honest men while being evaded by the racketeers. The noble Baroness must have read the report by the Glidewell panel that national insurance cards are on sale for £500 each in Southall. Racketeers will have no difficulty with this clause.
In general the noble Baroness must avoid making that mistake. She must assume that we have the motives which are appropriate to people holding our opinions and not to people holding hers. To do otherwise is the mistake of a bad politician.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I have become increasingly fascinated by this debate as it has developed. If the noble Earl is tempted to take the opinion of the House, he owes to the rest of us an explanation of what seems to me to be a very confusing procedure and how it will work. The debate should then be widened from one between himself and my noble friend on the Front Bench.
On these Benches, we think that this procedure is mistaken but that, if it is mistaken, it must be even-handed. We believe that the proposal imposes a mistaken pressure on employers which encourages them to do something which in our view is illegal and should not be done. I accept that that is not the noble Baroness's view and we do not impute that intention to her. But we believe that the clause puts a great deal of pressure on employers not to employ black British. We do not share the Minister's confidence in the ability of employers to recognise such provisions as exceptional leave to remain. Indeed, there is ample evidence to the contrary.
If I may so put it, if you have to play on a pitch which is unfit for play, we believe that that pitch should be the same for both sides. The pressure on employers not to employ black people--and that is what the clause amounts to--should be equalled by a pressure on them to employ black British people against whom they are not allowed to discriminate by law. We do not think that the scales should exist; but, if they do, we believe they should be equal. I hope that the noble Lord finds that that explanation makes sense, whether or not it is acceptable. If he does not, I should be grateful if he would intervene again because I would like us to understand each other.
Lord Elton: My Lords, my difficulty is that, as I understand it, the noble Earl's speech is about protecting employees, whereas the effect of the amendment would be to protect those who are protected by subsection (2) of the clause which, as I read it, means employers not employees.
Yes, on looking again at the clause, I now see what I have done. I thought that subsection (2) said that employers were protected in employing people who had those documents. My object was to deal with employers who refused to employ people who produced some of the legal documents. I believe that that is an exceptional intention but I accept that the amendment is defective.
However, employers have constantly refused to employ people who produced legal qualifying documents. Indeed, on Report I gave an example of a case, to which the Minister responded, where someone produced a German passport. Refusal of exceptional leave to remain is perfectly common. I tried to produce a draft amendment in order to prevent employers from refusing to accept perfectly good qualifying documents. I grant that I have done so in a hurry. As I said, I believe that the drafting is defective. I give way to the noble Baroness.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am much obliged. I believe that there is also some confusion about the way in which the noble Earl introduced the amendment. As I understand it--and the noble Earl can correct me if I am wrong--he is suggesting making a criminal of an employer who does not recruit to his company a person who does in fact produce the requisite documentation. Under the Bill, which the noble Earl has criticised so vigorously throughout--as, indeed, have other noble Lords opposite--we do not even make a criminal of an employer who secures one of the authorised documents, even if that document subsequently turns out not to be in order. We would regard such an offence to be that of the person who submitted and proffered the documentation. Am I right in my understanding of the noble Earl's amendment?
Earl Russell: Yes, my Lords; I believe that we are getting closer to an understanding now. There is a problem with employers declaring people ineligible who have produced perfectly good qualifying documents, but clearly I am not addressing that in the right way. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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