Schedule 12

Part of Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 7:45 pm ar 23 Mehefin 2009.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Shadow Science Minister 7:45, 23 Mehefin 2009

In schedule 12, there is a provision on page 202 that I would like to draw to the attention of the Committee. I believe that there has been a serious omission in relation to the provision of further education. Previous legislation was always very clear that the words “only in so far as it was necessary” existed in the equivalent of paragraph 5(1)(b) of schedule 12 to this Bill. After the words “it does so” in paragraph 5(1)(b) of schedule 12, the words “in so far as it was necessary” would have been included, before the words

“to preserve the institution’s religious ethos”.

In brief, therefore, the absence of those words—“in so far as it was necessary”—seems to amount to a widening of the exemption here and it is not clear whether that was ever presaged in any consultation and it is also not clear what the original intention of paragraph 5(1)(b) of schedule 12 was. I think that the statutory instrument concerned was No. 437, which provided regulation 21b in the old formulation, and was disapplied,

“in so far as it is necessary for an institution to give preference in its admissions to persons of a particular religion or belief in order to preserve that institution’s religious ethos.”

I understood that to mean that there must be a necessary causal link between preferential admissions and preservation of ethos. The words from SI No. 437 are just not there now in schedule 12 and therefore there is a significant reduction in protection for people who may now be discriminated against.

I could give background information about Roman Catholic colleges, but I do not think that I need to as I think that I have made my point. I have made it to give the Minister an opportunity to say whether she thinks that there has been a lessening of the protection and, if so, what the justification for that is. If she does not think that the protection will be lessened, I would be grateful if she could clarify why not, given the significant change between the version of the provision in the schedule and the one in previous regulation.