Clause 29

Part of Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 18 Mehefin 2009.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Shadow Science Minister 2:15, 18 Mehefin 2009

I note that subsection (4) states:

“A public function is a function that is a function of a public nature for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998.”

I may not have caught up with what is going on, but if that is not an opportunity to probe the question of the definition of

“a function of a public nature for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998”,

I do not know what is. It seems to be an open invitation.

I shall not repeat most of what I have already said. Let me give the Committee time to find page 21—the explanatory note does not go into the matter in great detail, but it is a real issue. When is

“a function of a public nature for the purposes of the Human Rights Act” is a question that has tied up our courts, to an extent the Government and certainly the Joint Committee on Human Rights for a long time. There is a solution in respect of health care, which has been recognised and accepted after a great deal of struggle—not least on the part of  the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), who struggled long and hard to find a vehicle to solve that. The matter should be clarified in other areas as well.

For example, there is the question of academies, a delivery of education that their sponsors have argued is not covered by the definition of a public authority, or is differentially covered, depending on what the academies are doing. That is but one example, given the variety of ways in which public services are now delivered—in fact, through private and voluntary organisations in ways that were probably not even considered when the Human Rights Act 1998 was drafted. The issue is substantive and it would be of real benefit for the Government to set out whether they think that where we are with the YL case is where we want to be in equality legislation—at least in so far as they are willing to make the distinction between public and non-public functions in equality law, which I accept is not as great as the number of occasions on which I should like to make that distinction.

I have made my point and I look forward to the response. I hope it will be now, but if elsewhere, I am happy to be directed to another part of the building.