Clause 123

Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 1:15 pm ar 25 Mehefin 2009.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Time limits

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

Again, I hope to be brief. My question is simple. The clause makes it clear that if someone wishes to bring a claim for breach of an equality clause or rule, they must normally do so within six months of the end of their employment contract. Members of the armed forces have an additional three months in which to bring a claim, as they must first make a complaint under service complaints procedures. Is there any scope for that time limit to be changed if the service complaints procedure takes more than three months? The next clause, which is supplementary to this, allows that to happen for cases defined as non-standard.

I am sure that in the example of the armed forces, the delay would not be deliberate, but if the service complaints procedure took a long time—if, for example, witnesses or other people needed to participate in the process were on active duty on the front line—that might disadvantage the complainant. Will the tribunal or somebody else have the power either to extend the time limit or to decide that the case is non-standard under clause 124, so that the individual will not be disadvantaged and an unreasonable burden to accelerate the process will not be placed on the armed forces? That might not be possible or might affect the operational effectiveness of the armed forces.

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

I will check whether that mechanism is available, but I suspect that one would put the application in to the tribunal anyway and agree not to action it to protect the time limit while the complaints process was under way. That often happens anyway in court cases where a time limit must be met: one does not take any further steps, but just fulfils the time limit. However, I will see in a moment whether I can get a better answer to the hon. Gentleman’s precise questions.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 123 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 124 to 129 ordered to stand part of the Bill.