HC Deb 09 July 1968 vol 768 cc441-3

1. In investigating any matter under this Schedule the Board—

  1. (a) shall make such inquiries as they think necessary with regard thereto;
  2. (b) shall determine whether any person appears to them to have done any act which is unlawful by virtue of any provision of Part I of this Act;
  3. (c) shall use their best endeavours by communication with the persons concerned to secure, where appropriate, a satisfactory written assurance against any repetition of the act determined to be unlawful or the doing of further acts of a similar kind by the person by whom it was done.

2. If on investigating any matter the Board determine that an act appears to have been done which is unlawful by virtue of any provision of Part I of this Act and they are unable to secure such an assurance, as aforesaid, or it appears to them that any such assurance has not been complied with, they shall decide whether or not to bring proceedings under section 18 or 19 of this Act.

3. Where the Board determine under paragraph 1 of this Schedule that an act which is unlawful by virtue of any provisions of Part I of this Act appears to have been done by any person, or make any decision under paragraph 2 of this Schedule in relation to that person, they shall give him written notification thereof.—[Mr. Scott.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Nicholas Scott (Paddington, South)

I beg to move, That the Schedule be read a Second time.

The essence of the new Schedule is to replace the cumbersome procedure in Schedule 3 for dealing with cases where no complaint has been made. The machinery both in Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 is extremely cumbersome. There may be some excuse for it where a specific complaint has been made. There is no excuse for it where no such complaint has been made.

One of the main advantages of this new Schedule is that it would replace four pages by half a page of procedure. The voluntary machinery which is included in Schedule 2 and repeated in Schedule 3 is being set up specifically to deal with complaints. I do not see that it is necessarily appropriate to deal with a more general state of affairs where no complaint has been made.

Schedule 3 in any case is, to a large extent, a repetition of Schedule 2, with some very loosely drafted provisions such as that the voluntary machinery shall keep in touch with those who appear to be concerned with the complaint rather than having to tell any specific people of any decision which is reached. Where the Board comes to a conclusion that there is a matter which merits its investigation but on which no complaint has been made, it should be able to follow up its own initiative to determine whether any act has been done which is unlawful and use its best endeavours to achieve a settlement. The whole initiative in these circumstances should rest with the Board.

Mr. Ennals

The hon. Gentleman's intentions are worthy but I cannot accept the new Schedule. It is true that Schedule 3 is complicated, but the present draft is necessary in order to spell out the arrangements properly and to try to produce a simplification can often lead to difficulties in these circumstances. One of the effects would be to exclude conciliation committees and the voluntary machinery in employment cases from investigating suspected cases of discrimination, and I think that this would be unacceptable.

An undertaking has already been given to allow industry's own machinery the first opportunity to settle employment cases and we must abide by that. As for conciliation committees, where the voluntary machinery is involved the Bill already allows the Board to decide whether to investigate a suspected case itself or refer it to a conciliation committee. There seems no reason to preclude investigation by a conciliation committee. This would be an undesirable result of the hon. Gentleman's proposal and I regret that I cannot accept it.

Question put and negatived.

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