§ Mr. John Fraser
I beg to move Amendment No. 52, in page 26, line 9, leave out 'section 6' and insert 'Parts II to IV'.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
I do not have the proposals of the Government as to the grouping of amendments. It would be useful if we could be given advance notice of the amendments which the Government wish to group together.
§ Mr. Fraser
Both these amendments are technical. Amendment No. 52 removes a technical fault. The amendment removes the risk that actions which would normally fall within Clause 6 might, when Clause 6 only is disapplied, 1572 become unlawful by some other provision of the Bill rather than becoming clearly lawful.
§ Amendment No. 53 removes an anomaly in subsection 3(a) of Clause 43. The amendment makes the relevant test the likely future area of employment rather than the physical location of the training.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 53, in page 27, line 3, leave out from 'persons' to 'which' in line 4 and insert
'who are of the sex in question, and who appear likely to take up that work in that area, access to facilities for training'.—[Mr. John Fraser.]
§ Mr. Alison
I beg to move Amendment No. 54, in page 27, line 30, at end insert—'(6) References in the foregoing subsections to the absence of persons of one particular sex, or their presence only in small numbers, shall not be taken as an inference that the absence of an exact balance, or an approximate balance, in the numbers of the different sexes, constitutes evidence of discrimination as specified in Part I of this Act'.This is an exploratory amendment. One of the views that the public hold about the Bill is that it seeks to redress the balance in employment opportunities and the actual employment of women. It is thought that it will produce the result that in many industries and sectors of employment there will be a much greater number of women employed and that they will represent a much higher proportion of the total work force than is at present the case. However, the Government have not at any point in the Bill taken a position that indicates whether or not it is desirable that there should be a rough balance between the sexes in any given sector.
The purpose of the amendment is to give the Minister an opportunity to make plain the Government's attitude towards achieving a rough balance, and to explain why it has not been felt necessary to spell out any clear formula somewhere in the Bill of the implications of the concept of a balance of the sexes in certain employment opportunities, the Government having been at pains to note the fact that in some situations relatively small numbers are involved. That is matter that is taken into account in the Bill.
1573 But should there not be some reference to the fact that a balance is an ideal to be aimed at? If such a balance is not held by the Government to be an ideal to be aimed at, should there not be a rough balance of the sexes in certain kinds of employment? It should be made clear that the Equal Opportunities Commission, for example, is not expected to regard an absence of anything approaching a balance of employment between the sexes in particular sectors of industry as constituting prima facie evidence that something has gone wrong. I hope that the Minister can comment briefly on this matter.
§ Mr. John Fraser
The Government have made it clear that the Bill is not intended to lead to an imposition of quotas. We considered the arguments about a balance of the sexes being achieved. Such a balance can operate in favour of and against women. We decided against having any balance clause in the Bill. The Bill is intended in the main to allow people to proceed on their merits and free from discrimination. We think that that is the right approach.
In Clause 43 we contemplate a possibility where there is an area of employment where women have by tradition always been excluded or in which they have not naturally come forward. The employer cannot discriminate or give preferential treatment in terms of recruitment. Pre-recruitment training, for example, might enable women the better to fight for an area of employment where traditionally in the past they have not been involved.
In presenting a case to the tribunal or the courts a woman may support her case by pointing to evidence that no woman has ever been employed in the work in question. I emphasise that that of itself will not be sufficient to demonstrate her own rejection on the ground of sex. I give an assurance that Clause 43 does not carry the implication which the amendment suggests. With that assurance, I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.