HC Deb 09 July 1968 vol 768 cc407-9
Mr. Rose

I beg to move Amendment No. 70, in page 6, line 35, after 'treated', insert 'prima facie'.

The purpose of this Amendment is dealt with in its essentials by the following Amendment standing in the name of the Home Secretary. For at least the second time tonight I find myself having tabled an Amendment in virtually the the same terms as the Government. While I make no apology for that, in view of the Government proposal in this matter, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendent, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Ennals

I beg to move Amendment No. 71, in line 42, at end insert: (3) In proceedings brought under section 18 or 19 of this Act against any person in respect of an act alleged to have been done by an employee of his it shall be a defence for that person to prove that he took such steps as were reasonably practicable to prevent the employee from doing in the course of his employment acts of the same description as that act. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) for having withdrawn the previous Amendment.

As he explained, this Amendment deals with the same subject. In Committee the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) expressed concern about the implications of subsection (2). He argued—and, like hon. Members generally, I agreed—that it was wrong that an employer who had taken all reasonable steps to prevent acts of discrimination by his employees should be held responsible for any acts of discrimination that might be carried out by his employees. I undertook to look at the matter between that stage and Report. After further consideration, we have decided that there is a case for making the defence of "all reasonable steps" available to an employer, and the Amendment gives clear effect to that decision.

Sir D. Renton

Although an important Amendment, I can deal with it merely by thanking the hon. Gentleman and stressing that it means that the vicarious liability under the Bill will not be absolute and that there will be available the defence to which the hon. Gentleman referred. This is an important improvement in the Bill.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I, too, welcome the Amendment, which goes a long way towards meeting the points made in Committee, particularly from the point of view of the C.B.I.

Does the Minister consider that the phrase "reasonably practicable" would be sufficient if, for example, an employer had made it clear, through notices placed in his workshops, to his employees that he was wholly opposed to racial discrimination and wished to subscribe in full to the purposes of the Bill?

If a long-distance lorry driver employed by a firm engages at the end of a 100-mile journey—assuming that he will be allowed to travel 100 miles under the Transport Bill—in an act which could be regarded as discriminatory, would his employer be protected if he had made it clear to that driver that while in his employ he must not discriminate?

1.0 a.m.

Mr. Ennals

It would be first for the Board and later for a court to decide. A reasonable step for the employer to take would be to put up a notice making quite clear that he was against any form of discrimination. If an issue had arisen, he could do as was done in a recent case in Ontario where a circular was sent out to all sections of a factory making known that the firm was against discrimination.

Amendment agreed to.

Forward to