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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I wish to ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor one simple question. The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has many state schools. The local authorities run them and they work in partnership. The Church always insists that the head teachers of those schools should be Roman Catholics on the ground that the ethos of the school makes it a good school. Whether the children who attend are Roman Catholics, they wish to have a Roman Catholic head.
If the local authority accedes to that request--and as far as I know they all do--might the local authority, the Roman Catholic Church, or both, find themselves in the courts in Scotland? Likewise, it is likely that the two Moslem schools which Mr. Blunkett has recently set up in England will want Moslem head teachers. If they insist on that, and if the local authority accedes, might they find themselves in court in England?
Lord Henley: My Lords, perhaps as the debate is closing I might say a word or two from these Benches. I do not believe that these amendments or others on a similar basis are party political. However, I, too, accept that they are political, and political in the extreme.
This is the third time we have debated these issues. They first appeared at the beginning of the day with the amendment to Amendment No. 1 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel. We heard something similar when we debated Scotland, although we ranged wider than Scotland, when my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon moved his amendments. We then heard the Government's position and--dare I say it?--its weakness on that case. That weakness was again heard in arguments in relation to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. My noble friend Lady Blatch made the point that the Government's arguments in relation to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man were the arguments that could be used to defend the Churches' position. I do not accept the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, before we broke for dinner some three hours ago.
At this hour I do not wish to run through the points that have been made most clearly and cogently by my noble friend Lady Young and others. However, I wish to pick up one or two issues, particularly those in relation to time.
The second point is that, as all noble Lords will appreciate, it is now rather late and we have many more amendments with which to deal. I do not know what my noble friend intends to do with this amendment. That is obviously a matter for her. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway must also decide what he wishes to do in relation to his amendment. I have amendments tabled in my name, as do my noble friends on the Front Bench, which require a considerable amount of time for debate and we should wish to pursue those matters at a reasonable hour in due course. We certainly hope that after this amendment, the Government will consider providing an extra day for our deliberations on the Bill. If that is the case, even if my noble friend does not press Amendment No. 23, she may wish to deal at that time with amendments to the schedule or she may wish to return to the matter on Third Reading.
My third and last point is to deal with a matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. He spoke for the Liberal Benches but at times one felt he was almost answering for the Government. In response to the points raised by my noble friend Lady Blatch, the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, made the extraordinary suggestion that the convention provides no employment rights whatever. I found that very peculiar in the extreme.
Let us take the example given by my noble friend Lady Blatch of a religious school which feels strongly about homosexuality and does not wish to employ practising homosexuals to teach young people. Let us suppose that it employs Mr. X who is not, at the time of the commencement of that employment, a homosexual. However, he becomes a homosexual and the school then decides to dismiss Mr. X from employment of that school. As far as I understand it, Mr. X would be the first to run to the courts to try to say that his human rights had been breached. My guess is that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, would be acting for him in the courts, and not long after, we should be hearing from the noble Lord, Lord Lester, about what had transpired in the courts.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I have taken on some fairly crazy cases in my time but even I would not dream of advising such a person that he had the slightest chance of success, for the good reason that the convention does not give any right to employment without discrimination. That is one of the defects of the convention but it happens to be the case. If the noble Lord looks at the schedule, he will see that there is a guarantee of non-discrimination only in the enjoyment of other convention rights and there are no other convention rights which deal with employment.
Lord Rochester: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he accept that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, did not say that he was speaking for the Liberal Democrat Benches? He was careful to say that he was speaking only for himself.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I apologise. In all sincerity, I distinctly remember that the noble Lord said exactly that. Similarly, I was not speaking for these Benches but speaking for myself. However, I am sure that most of my noble friends behind me will support much of what I said.
Earl Russell: My Lords, before my noble kinsman sits down, will he also remember that we on these Benches were in favour of the incorporation of the European Convention something like 40 years before the party opposite were?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, we recognise that these amendments raise important issues regarding the effect of the Bill on Churches, charities and religious schools. Mindful of the position of the hands of the Clock, I shall try to respond to the main concerns that have been expressed, but obviously not to every single one of them.
If she will forgive me, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, began with something of a litany of complaints. For what it is worth, the Bill and the White Paper were actually published on the same day. There is a very powerful case that these issues are so well known that there was no need for a White Paper. However, I find it very difficult to see how it can be a matter of complaint that a Bill is accompanied by an explanatory White Paper.
It is true that we did not consult the Churches about being regarded as a public authority or, indeed, any of the many other organisations which will be affected by the Bill. I have to confess that it did not occur to anyone in government that the Churches would have any particular difficulty in playing their proper part in the enforcement of human rights in Britain. I therefore make no secret at all of the fact that, when this subject was raised in Committee, I was surprised by the suggestion that Churches and religious bodies should wish to be exempted from a Bill designed to enable people to assert
However, the concerns of the Churches have now been further explained, both in your Lordships' House and by representatives of the Churches, to representatives of the Home Office at a meeting before Christmas; a meeting which I believe gave satisfaction to the Churches. We now understand better the particular anxieties which the Churches, and bodies linked with them, have about the possible impact of the Bill. Therefore, taking the most important examples, I shall try to explain why I think that the concerns are overstated and why it would be wrong to exempt the Churches from the Bill to the extent that it will apply to them at all. I appeal to the Churches to rally to the Bill as eagerly on their own behalf as they have consistently done to incorporation of the European Convention in general.
We have made every effort to understand the Churches' concerns properly. Ultimately, it appears to us that they reduce to a number of discrete points. Perhaps I may deal, first, with the question of schools and charities. There is a very proper concern on the part of the Churches that they should continue to be able to select for key posts in schools people whose beliefs and manner of life are appropriate to the basic ethos of the school and, if necessary, to dispense with the services of employees who subsequently fall short of providing, shall we say, appropriate role models. No doubt the same applies to a number of charities.
I doubt whether there is any Member of your Lordships' House who would want to stand in the way of the Churches, and others, in that regard. It is certainly not what the Government intend or envisage in the Bill, but the question of law is whether the Bill would have that effect. The answer is emphatically, "no". The convention rights which are listed in Schedule l do not include a right to be appointed to any particular post. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, is absolutely correct to say that the convention rights have nothing whatever to do with employment rights. It is of the first importance to appreciate that Article 14 only prohibits discrimination in the convention of employment rights. There are no employment rights enshrined in the convention.
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