Clause 26

Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 1:15 pm ar 18 Mehefin 2009.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Application of this Part

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I beg to move amendment 10, in clause 26, page 19, line 3, leave out paragraph (a).

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 196, in clause 26, page 19, line 3, at end insert

‘, so far as relating to any goods or services which are not provided by or on behalf of a public authority’.

Amendment 156, in clause 26, page 19, line 4, leave out paragraph (b).

This amendment extends protection against discrimination in the provisions of goods and services because a person is married or in a civil partnership.

Amendment 197, in clause 26, page 19, line 4, at end insert—

‘(c) sex, except for any goods or services which are provided by or on behalf of a public authority.’.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair this afternoon, Lady Winterton. I will speak to amendment 10 and my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare will hope to catch your eye to speak to amendments 196 and 197.

Amendment 10 is probing. One of the organisations that support the age discrimination legislation applying in whole to those under 18 got very excited and fulsomely supported my amendment. However, it will be disappointed when it finds out that the amendment is intended to probe and to provoke a discussion on the appropriate scope of the Bill and why the Government have taken such decisions.

For the benefit of those who do not have the clause in front of them, it is intended to amend age discrimination provisions and states:

“(1) This Part does not apply to the protected characteristic of—

(a)age, so far as relating to persons who have not attained the age of 18;”.

The amendment would remove that age restriction. I want to make the point to the Minister that a number of outside organisations have highlighted the fact that discrimination against young people takes place. I expect that we will discuss that in more detail when we consider some of the other age discrimination parts of the Bill. Young people may experience discrimination on the basis of their age. With older people, there is what we could call—for the purpose of the debate—good discrimination and bad discrimination. We say that young people should and should not do a wide range of things, and we put age limits on when they can and cannot do certain things, based on protecting them.

Providers of other services might also make judgments, aside from those statutory rules, to set age limits that they feel are appropriate, based on the enjoyment of services for other customers. For example, some restaurants and all sorts of other providers have age limits that are not necessarily to do with alcohol supply, but with the age of children in that environment, such as insisting that parents accompany their children.

I understand the sense of some of the issues raised. Some young people are perfectly capable of doing certain things at one age, whereas others of the same age might not be. The difficulty is in setting an objective test, or way of putting that into legislation. That may be why the Government have decided to exclude those under 18 from this part of the Bill. The amendment’s purpose is to test that and enable the Minister to set out the Government’s thinking in more detail, so that it is on the record and we can probe it to see whether any of the examples given by those organisations hold water.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Minister (Children, Schools and Families), Liberal Democrat Spokeperson (Children, Schools and Families) 1:30, 18 Mehefin 2009

I rise to support amendment 10. I, too, want to probe the Minister’s thinking about the exclusion of under 18s from the protection of the Bill. The commission wishes us to probe the Minister’s thinking. It strongly supports the amendment, because it believes that the clause would introduce discrimination to under-18s. It says that the amendment would bring that age group within the full scope of the proposed public sector equality duty set out in clause 143. I share the concerns of some of the organisations that have contacted me.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

May I make it clear that the provision will not exclude young people from the protection of the Bill? It relates just to services and public functions.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Minister (Children, Schools and Families), Liberal Democrat Spokeperson (Children, Schools and Families)

I thank the hon. Gentleman. I am talking about goods and services. He used the example of a restaurant, where people want to be quiet and do not want children running around. Surely, the issue is how a child behaves; the point is that there should be no noise or running around. The clause should not provide a blanket exception for children if we want an inclusive society in which they play a full part. I am sure that many Members have been to continental Europe, where children play more of an integral part in society and behave perfectly well when taken out with adults to restaurants. I want to explore the Minister’s thinking on how we are targeting an age group, as opposed to the behaviour of the individual.

On goods and services, indirect discrimination might be experienced by a child. I do not know how many members of the Committee have been into the ladies in Parliament.

Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone Shadow Minister (Children, Schools and Families), Liberal Democrat Spokeperson (Children, Schools and Families)

I do not know what is in the gents, but the ladies have adult-size hand dryers and child-size hand dryers. That is very good practice, as such thinking incorporates children in the provision of goods and services. That should rightly apply to a range of public services.

One can go on endlessly thinking of instances, but I shall not hold the Committee up too long with my examples, as they are not exceedingly brilliant. Should a car hire firm offer to provide car seats for children, not just because that is good business, but because it is the law? Obviously, that is good practice and good business, but there is an issue about provision, including in the private sector. Restaurants or instructions are probably the most common examples. Should we think about how to write the instructions on the use of a fire extinguisher, so that a child could use it? Although such things are not necessarily common occurrences, they can involve the provision of public services.

I understand the concerns about cumbersome exemptions, but my understanding is that the Australian Age Discrimination Act outlaws age discrimination in a range of areas beyond employment. That Act is able to set out the differences without them becoming cumbersome and burdensome. Young Equals—I am sure that we have all received one of its briefings—is convinced that those concerns can be overcome by robust legislation. I, too, will be interested to hear the Minister’s response about how we might improve our inclusion of children into society and the protections in respect of goods and services under this part of the Bill.

Clause 26(1)(b) will remove the exclusion of married and civil partners from the goods and services provisions. Our amendment 156 would put that protection right back. I want to explore whether the Minister really has no evidence whatsoever, even on the hypothetical example of a gay bar or club excluding those who are members of a civil partnership because it does not want to admit couples. The amendment is intended to probe the Minister’s thinking, to find out why the Government have removed those two technical characteristics from the provision of goods and services.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Lady Winterton.

I shall speak to amendments 196 and 197, which I hope are complementary to amendment 10, which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean. These amendments serve to round out an earlier stage of the debates that we had on Tuesday, when I asked the Minister for reassurance about whether targeted promotional and marketing activities that involve companies aiming their goods or services at particular groups of people would remain legal, as they always have been. The Minister was able to give some fairly solid and comprehensive reassurances that that was perfectly feasible, providing things were done in a positive rather than a derogatory way.

This pair of amendments seeks to probe the Government’s thinking not on market targeting, but on market access. In our debate last Tuesday, we talked about companies such as Club 18-30, which seeks to  provide holidays to people of a particular age range, or Saga, which seeks to provide holidays to people at the other end of the age range. We clarified that it was perfectly appropriate to target promotional materials at people in the appropriate age range without fear of legal problems.

The follow-up, perhaps slightly harder, question concerns Club 18-30 targeting its promotional materials at people who are 18 to 30, then getting an application from someone who is 50 to go on one of its holidays. Can the company turn down that person on the basis of age? Equally, if Saga gets an application to go on one of its holidays from someone who is 30, is it appropriate—legal—for the company to turn it down?

This does not just apply to the travel industry. The insurance market has been much discussed. A number of organisations have made submissions saying that evidence shows that it is harder to get some kinds of insurance if one is older. Interestingly, Saga has come up with some additional evidence that, although not all insurance companies provide insurance to people who are at the top end of the age range, there are a number of companies, including Saga, that do. According to Saga’s research at least, in well over 90 per cent. of cases, people who had been initially turned down by their normal insurer—presumably because of age—were able to find insurance elsewhere. Therefore, although the individual insurer that they were using might have been unwilling to allow access to their products, or was willing to allow them access only at a much higher price, they were not completely shut out of the insurance market.

The question that we are asking in amendments 196 and 197 is what the Government’s thinking is on where to draw the line. That is important because the Government are seeking in later clauses—I will not try your patience with them at the moment, Lady Winterton, as we will deal with them later—to acknowledge that there are examples of “good discrimination” and “bad discrimination”, to use the terms already used by my hon. Friend. In other words, the Government are seeking to take powers to allow Ministers to declare things to be legal. That causes a great deal of anxiety. Many companies are concerned that their goods and services may be deemed to be illegal until the Minister gets round to declaring them to be okay.

The purpose of the amendments is to take the legal threshold back a step or two to something that—I hope that the Committee will agree—is just anything provided on the basis of public service; surely, that should be provided universally. I also ask the Minister to build up from that foundation and share with us the Government’s thinking on what is an acceptable set of principles to distinguish between good and bad differentiation on the grounds of age and sex.

In the previous debates on market targeting, we mentioned insurance companies such as Sheilas’ Wheels, which aims to provide insurance to women. If Sheilas’ Wheels refused to give me insurance because I am male, would that be illegal? What is the Government’s thinking about the underlying principles? Other examples were mentioned. Today, I can think of gay clubs that might want to exclude heterosexual people. One might think of gyms that operate women-only classes or sessions. There are lots of examples all round.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Llafur, Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Some gay clubs have a big problem with drunk, heterosexual women who insist on gaining entry.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I could make many comments, all of which would be wrong. I will therefore not make them. The hon. Lady illustrates the point very well. It is important for us to explore the matter. I hope that the Government can illustrate some of the principles that they seek to apply.

The Conservative party would like to make a couple of points to get the debate under way. It is clear that there are examples of characteristics that, although they may closely track age, could be a legitimate ground for differentiation. In some cases, insurance is a good example, because the risk for drivers’ insurance correlates quite closely with age. Incidentally, it does not just rise inexorably with age. It tends to start off very high for people who have just got their driving licence in their late teens. It then drops, and when we are all getting on a bit, it starts to rise towards the higher age range.

Interestingly, insurance companies that specialise in the area point out that, although the risk per mile travelled may go up as the miles travelled by people who are in the 70s, 80s and 90s tend to fall steadily, the combined risk may still be comparatively low. But that is a clear example of a goods or service where it may be perfectly legitimate to differentiate on the basis of age, as there is a genuine and evidenced example of changing risk—insurance is, by definition, all about risk. We need to have a view on that and understand it. Equally, I am sure that Sheilas’ Wheels and others would argue that women drivers have different risk profiles from men. That is the basis of a lot of its business and allows it to carve out a profitable one.

It is vital to get such matters on the record, if we can, which is why I am inviting the Solicitor-General to expand on them. The wording of our two amendments is less important than giving such an opportunity to the hon. and learned Lady. The amendments would merely take the basic level of law back to that of providing public services. All members of the Committee accept that, by and large, public services should be provided to everyone. It is hard to think of one that should not be provided to elderly people, but only to young people. For example, we want medical care provided across all age groups. That is a convenient peg, a starting point or a foundation stone on which I invite the hon. and learned Lady to construct her tower of ideas and principles with which I hope we can reassure several companies.

The danger of saying that certain issues will become illegal unless and until the Solicitor-General decides that they are not and uses some of the powers in later parts of the Bill, is that enormous uncertainty will be created in the minds of investors, management, staff and potential customers of many of the companies whose businesses could be affected. Depending on the hon. and learned Lady’s response, additional amendments might be tabled later in our proceedings.

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office 1:45, 18 Mehefin 2009

Let me consider first the age discrimination element in respect of children under amendments 10 and 196. Amendment 10 would extend the ban on age discrimination by those providing services  and public functions to include children under the age of 18. It would, therefore, generally require service providers and those exercising public functions to treat children of different ages in the same way as each other and in the same way as adults. Different treatment could only avoid being unlawful discrimination if it was covered by an exception or if it was objectively justified as a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim.

Amendment 196 is more narrow. The scope of the ban would extend to children only in respect of goods and services provided by, and on behalf of, public bodies. Overall, the purpose of the Bill is to provide protection against discrimination and ensure equal opportunities. Children will be protected extensively, and it is important to make it clear that they will be protected against discrimination on the grounds of race, disability, sex, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment, and against harassment because of disability, race and sex.

The Government have clearly put a lot of effort into considering whether they should extend age discrimination, particularly in services and public functions, to the under-18s. We concluded that there are better ways in which to tackle problems that children and young people face. Children’s organisations have presented a lot of examples of services in which the needs of particular children or groups of children do not always seem to be recognised or prioritised. For example, they say that young carers might be overlooked, when their needs are being considered, or young people’s access to public space not given enough weight in planning decisions. There are also a lot of anecdotal examples of children not being treated well.

We take such problems very seriously, but we do not consider that age discrimination legislation is the best way to deal with them. Discrimination law is not an appropriate way to resolve priorities of resource allocation or better ways of using the resources in children’s services.

Although no one has asked me to, I should like to take the opportunity to pay particular attention to children who are carers. Clause 26(1)(a)—this seems almost like an exception, but it is how the Bill works and it is a good thing—has the effect that children who are carers will benefit from the association protection by reference to the person for whom they are caring. When an under-18 is caring for a disabled person, he or she will be equally entitled to protection in respect of access to, and supply of, goods, facilities and services on account of association with that disabled person, as any adult carer. A child who is caring for an older person will also be protected from discrimination by association with that older person, despite the child not coming within the age discrimination ban. That is an important point, and will reassure the carer community. Whether or not they had already thought about the problem, I am sure that they would have done so in due course. I hope that that is clear.

Returning to the generality of younger people, we feel that extending age discrimination to children as children could have negative consequences. The analogy made by the hon. Member for Forest of Dean about age discrimination at the top end, makes that point. Broadly speaking, no age discrimination should be allowed at the top end. However, there will be a need for an exception, so that pensioners in Redcar can continue to have cheap fish and chips from private providers, for  example, or so that they can continue to have their equivalent of the freedom pass from public service providers. I am sure that there will be exceptions in due course of the kind that the hon. Gentleman mentioned in relation to insurance. Sometimes, there will be an actuarial justification for an increase in premium or whatever. We will have a body of outlawed discrimination with some exceptions.

With children, it works the other way round. Nobody would see any need to distinguish between the way they treat a 72-year-old and a 77-year-old, but they would want to treat a two-year-old and a seven-year-old quite differently. They would not want to have to objectively justify that treatment on each occasion because it was unlawful age discrimination. Obviously there would be differences. If one was providing play for those two age groups, there would be differences in levels of supervision, kinds of play, educational inputs, health protection and so on.

In a sense, the emphasis goes the other way with young people. There are more exceptions, rather than a core of age discrimination legislation that one is able to point to in order to say that something should be banned. Justifiable different age-based treatment of children is widespread, and is fundamental to the provision of services to meet children’s needs at all ages. It would be fabulously complex to try to provide exceptions in the law to ensure that all that kind of treatment was exempted with clarity, and the provisions of those exceptions would be very important.

One can defend the different treatment of children of different ages on the grounds that it is objectively justified. That is fine, but it is a long process to have to go through, and the fear is that it would be massively complex, with the negative possibilities that I have mentioned. Certainly in the private sector, having to go through that entire process would be likely to have a chilling effect on the provision of services for children.

Such a law could also undermine the equality duty, which we will come to in due course. As everyone knows, public bodies will consider and address the age-specific needs of young people under that duty. A playground for toddlers, an adventure playground for older children or a reserved area for teenagers to congregate in, could all be part of a plan to meet the needs of young people under the equality duty. The concern that such things might have to be justified against a challenge by those who fall above the age limit for the toddler park or below the age limit for the teenage place, might discourage authorities from providing such facilities. We do not want them to be discouraged; we want them to be actively encouraged and that is what the public sector duty is about. If the measure is applied only to public bodies, clearly it would not have the same chilling effect on the private sector. Amendment 196 is narrower, but we still do not think that it would be an effective way to improve children’s lives. We still fear that public provision might be chilled.

We do not believe such a proposal to be the way forward, although we do not slight children or treat them as less valuable than adults. The Bill has an important contribution to make to the quality of children’s lives and it generally protects children from discrimination in the same way as adults. The new equality duty will support a better understanding of the services that are needed by children of all ages. That sets out as best I can why the Government decided against the amendment.

I turn now to amendment 156, which concerns extending protection from discrimination to marriage and civil partnerships with regard to the provision of services and the exercise of public functions. The same argument—that there is no evidence that such protection is needed—applies. I have already said several times that there is not much evidence that any protection is needed on the grounds of marriage or civil partnership. Although there is still some residual discrimination to be challenged in the employment field, we found no evidence of it anywhere else. We shall outlaw only what we need to, and no more.

Amendment 197 is clearly not intended at face value, because it would limit the application of part 3 of the Bill—on services provided by, or on behalf of, public authorities—in so far as it relates to sex. Private sector organisations would therefore be free to discriminate against women, men, or whatever, which has been unlawful since 1975—talk about regression. I know that the amendment has been put forward to test the points that the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare has raised and that it will not be pressed.

Amendment 197 is a probing amendment to draw out debate on how the Bill deals with services that are justifiably delivered on a restricted basis to people who have a particular protected characteristic. The starting point must be that limiting access to particular goods or services on the basis of a protected characteristic—for example, sex—is, as a general rule, unlawful. However, there are situations in which businesses and public sector organisations might legitimately wish to restrict access to a service to people of a particular sex, and the Bill provides for that in a number of ways. First, only women, or only men, might need the service. For instance, it is obviously not discriminatory for the NHS to provide cervical cancer screening to women. That is expressly provided for in paragraph 24 of schedule 3.

It is also acceptable for a service provider to continue to provide a service in such a way that is commonly used only by people with a particular characteristic. That is addressed in paragraph 27 of schedule 3. For example, men usually use barbers, while women usually use hairdressers, although I think that is rather an old-fashioned example. Unisex salons are increasingly common—it says “unisex saloons” on my note, which is an encouraging thought for a drink later on. Barbers are not required to offer female hairdressing services. However, if a woman were to ask for a grade 2 haircut, which I assume is very short, the barber could not refuse to do that for her, unless there was some reason, or it was impractical to do so.

Secondly, a business can apply a restriction which adversely impacts on those of a particular sex and so is potentially indirectly discriminatory, but which can objectively be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. For instance, if a baby group met only during the daytime, on a weekday, fathers, who have limited paternity leave and who, statistically, are more likely to be working full time, would be likely to find it more difficult to go to that group with their children. That would put them at a disadvantage compared with mothers. However, such a practice could be justified for various reasons, including demand, need, staffing and costs. Accordingly, the limited access for men, so long as it was justified objectively, would not amount to indirect discrimination.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

The Minister is giving a full explanation. Can I test her with another example, to ascertain whether I have understood the provision correctly? I keep on referring to Saga, because they have been active in providing examples for us. From what I understand so far, if a Saga holiday was being advertised and a 30-year-old applied to go on it, under the Minister’s first example, Saga would not be able to say, “No, you can’t come.” However, under her second example, it might be able to say, “No, you can’t come because we operate a system where all the booze is free and there is an open bar policy on our holiday.” That statement would be based on a set of assumptions, based on evidence that people in the older age range tend to drink much less than those in the younger age range, and that would materially impact on the costs of providing the holiday. Is that the sort of example that she feels would fall within the rules that she has just laid out?

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office 2:00, 18 Mehefin 2009

That is a weird example. If the hon. Gentleman has the brochure for holidays where the booze is all free, we will distribute it among participants in the Committee. I know what he means: if there is some justifiable reason why the whole costing process, the availability of accommodation or, in some cases, the fact that Saga sometimes has clergy going along, is worked out on the basis of an age group, it might be justified. Rather than picking on examples and defining how I think they will play out, it is better to allow the imminent consultation to deal with that.

None the less, let me clarify as best I can, at the hon. Gentleman’s invitation, the other ways in which it is possible to have single-sex services perfectly legitimately. Privacy and decency, or biological differences, might justify single-sex services or facilities. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 specified services such as refuges for victims of domestic violence: generally, women would want to go to a refuge that was women-only if they were escaping from a violent man; men, because there are male victims of domestic violence, would probably want to go to some special provision. But one can see the point of that.

Another example is referral centres for victims of sexual assault—again, such people tend to want to be in their own gender company. Other such services are: health care treatments that affect one sex, such as treatments for ovarian cancer or prostate cancer; the probation service; women offender reduction plans; and projects that provide support for fathers. Since services funded for parents of both sexes are taken up significantly more by mothers than fathers, specific services for fathers could be provided to meet that need.

The exemptions in part 6 of schedule 3, about separate and single-sex services, set out circumstances in which either separate services for the sexes, or single-sex services, can be lawfully provided. In every case, the limited provision of such a service must be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Therefore, such services should meet a legitimate need, and they could be open to challenge if they do not.

Finally, the restriction could be aimed at enabling those of a particular sex to overcome a particular disadvantage, or to rectify their disproportionately low involvement in a particular activity. We will discuss that  later when we come to part 11 of the Bill, but I refer to the positive action provisions. An adult education class about car maintenance that was limited to women—I do not think up these examples—might be lawful, although I would not go on it. Furthermore—this is the weaker example, I think—it would be entirely lawful under positive action provisions to launch a cookery class limited to men, perhaps because there is a disproportionate presence of women in cookery. I am not sure that that is a good example, but I think the hon. Member for Forest of Dean can see the point. I guess that the car maintenance example is the best.

If participation in an activity is disproportionately low, a provider can target a specific group to raise its participation. We will consider that in more detail under part 11 of the Bill, but it is appropriate to mention now as one of a list of ways in which single-sex and single-strand services can be supplied. One can make similar points about restricting services on the basis of other characteristics. For example, a local sports club that did not have many disabled members might want to have an open day aimed exclusively at disabled people.

The other strands have specific exceptions as well. The consultation about age is important in crystallising as best we can—consensually, we hope, among service providers and age campaigners—all the possible exceptions that are likely to be necessary regarding the prohibition of age discrimination in the provision of goods and services under clause 190.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

The Solicitor-General is being very helpful. In her closing remarks, will she make some comment about the Government’s expected timetable for developing the principles for the age-related discrimination exceptions? She has elaborated an impressive, carefully-thought-through and fairly sophisticated set of exceptions for many of the other strands of discrimination—those that have been around for some time—but we are much further back in the process on age, as I think she was saying. It is important that companies making hitherto legitimate business-based decisions and distinctions based on age know that they will not have to reconstruct their business models completely at an early point. It would be to the advantage of everyone, particularly the companies and their customers, if the Government clarified those principles at an early stage, ideally before Report or, in any event, soon thereafter. That would reduce the level of commercial uncertainty and uncertainty for the staff and customers of those firms.

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point and we will be consulting on that. Let me find the timetable so that I can explain as clearly as possible. The consultation document is almost complete, so it will be published soon—this week or next week, I hope. The consultation will continue until the end of September. We are looking to bring regulations to this House in 2010 and are aiming to enact the law in 2012. The consultation process will iron out those problems because many business suppliers and the age charities will be involved.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I thank the Solicitor-General for that clarification. For the record, may I make sure that I heard her correctly—that regulations to define the  exceptions required to continue trading will be brought in before Royal Assent, so that companies trading on the basis of age do not subsequently discover that their practices are technically illegal?

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office

We do not have to bring everything in on Royal Assent or immediately afterwards. We could make sure that the timing is correct so that we do not put anyone at a disadvantage. We will be consulting on regulations in 2010, so the consultation as a whole—what is in, what is out, what is a legitimate example and what is not—starts now and continues until September. We will consult on regulations when we have crystallised where they should be. This is a new area—the hon. Gentleman has made that point clearly—and it is a complex area. It is easy to get things wrong and to disadvantage the people we mean to help. We will consult on the regulations again in 2010 and aim to bring in the law in 2012. We will have it all complete before anybody can be put at a disadvantage by being, as the hon. Gentleman put it, technically unlawful.

We are discussing everything other than health and social care. The NHS and the social care sector have their own process in place; a pilot is already under way in the south-west to see how the NHS will cope, how much the proposal will cost, and how it will work with age discrimination law. That is running parallel to the passage of the Bill and we hope to have a report on that by October this year. It should point the way forward for the NHS. That is not what the hon. Gentleman refers to, but I should make it clear that there is a different process in place.

We will definitely consult on whether the holidays targeted at a particular age group by Saga should be allowed to continue under an exception. The provisions in part 3 are intended to ensure that, as the hon. Gentleman said, people receive fair and unbiased treatment when they buy goods and services.

I am sorry for giving such a lengthy response. Age discrimination, children and the question of how the provisions relate to the supply of goods and services are key areas. I hope that Conservative Members are satisfied, and that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful for the explanations given by the Solicitor-General. Amendment 10, which I spoke to, was essentially a probing amendment. She has clearly laid out the Government’s thinking, which is broadly similar to our own, but it is good to get on record why the provisions in part 3 exclude those under the age of 18. She gave a comprehensive reply to the amendments to which my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare spoke, making clear the details of the consultation and the fact that the relevant part of the Bill will not be brought into force before the regulations making clear the exceptions are in place. Given those assurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: 60, in clause 26, page 19, line 8, leave out subsection (3).—(The Solicitor-General.)

This amendment is consequential on amendment 90.

Clause 26, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.