Schedule 1

Part of Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:00 am ar 16 Mehefin 2009.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office 11:00, 16 Mehefin 2009

As with all conditions, the question of whether depression is likely to recur must be a question of fact, and medical evidence will help the determination of that. Obviously, it is likely that such matters will be determined as a question of fact long before they get to court, but there is a limit on what one can do in statute to clarify every possible situation that might arise. I think that the provision is clear, and if the diagnosis is not, that is outwith what can be captured within discrimination legislation. We cannot set down a list of criteria that can be used to determine whether depression is likely to recur. That would be outwith our expertise.

All we can do, which seems a very adequate measure and I think that it works, is set out a fair definition based on, “Is it likely to recur?” The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon equates that with the balance of probabilities and all sorts of things that it is not equated with in any way or case. It is an ordinary question: is it likely to recur?

The hon. Member for Forest of Dean gave an example—I hope that I am not misquoting him—that there is a 70 per cent. chance of depression recurring within five  years if it is not a situational depression. Should evidence suggest that someone has depression that is likely to recur, that person will be well protected. When it is not possible to say whether it is likely to recur, we are in a hinterland that can only be determined by evidence of earlier recurrences or by medical opinion. At that point, we are outside the territory of the provision.

The definition of “long-term” is important and we must distinguish it from people who have a short-term problem or who have a disability as correctly termed. Making an exception for the condition covered by the amendment would probably be unfair on people who have conditions that are subject to the same problems of definition. The hon. Gentleman has adequately probed the issue raised by the disability charities, and probing is what they sought. He has done that job and can now withdraw the amendment to let us go forward.