HC Deb 16 February 1976 vol 905 cc989-1070

Order for Second Reading read.

5.49 p.m.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Stanley Orme)

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

The purpose of the Bill is to promote equality of opportunity in employments and occupations in Northern Ireland between persons of differing religious beliefs and to work for the elimination of discrimination which is made unlawful by the Bill.

The principal objective of the Bill is essentially a moral one, that of ensuring that a person's opportunity to obtain employment and its benefits is determined, not by reference to the section of the Northern Ireland community from which he or she comes but according to his or her merit. This Bill should help to resolve some of the widespread feelings of grievance based on a sense of injustice which contributes to the divisions in Northern Ireland society today. As I will show later, these grievances come both from the minority and the majority community.

However, the Bill has an important economic as well as a moral significance. A year ago, when there was a high level of economic activity, there co-existed labour shortages in East and North Belfast and high unemployment in West Belfast. Firms with labour shortages found that their recruitment practices and employment patterns did not provide them with access to the main group of unemployed.

It is unlikely that many people in Northern Ireland doubt that religious discrimination in employment is practised in Northern Ireland to some degree. Even fewer would deny that belief in its practice on a wide scale is widespread and deep seated. Since such a belief can have very damaging consequences, the establishment of the facts is in itself an important and worthwhile objective which the Bill will help to achieve. The Bill makes religious and political discrimination unlawful and it provides machinery whereby remedies may be secured.

The Government therefore believe that this Bill is essential and it is basically concerned with actions, not attitudes. Although it is not the primary aim of the legislation to influence attitudes we hope that controlling actions may ultimately have this effect. It is important to remember that this Bill arises out of a Committee consisting of both sides of industry in Northern Ireland, chaired by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), then Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, the Report being called "The Working Party on Discrimination in the Private Sector of Employment (in Northern Ireland)".

I pay tribute to the hon. Member and also to the hon. Member for South-end, West (Mr. Channon) who took the chair on the formation of the Committee. But while Ministers chaired the Committee, it consisted of representatives of the community in Northern Ireland, covering both sides of industry—the CBI, the Chamber of Commerce and the trade unions. It was they who formulated the policy, not the two hon. Members to whom I referred, or myself.

Mr. McCusker (Armagh)

What did the union representatives on the Committee say about their overtures in the past to end the so-called discrimination which existed in areas where they represented workers, and what did representatives of management, from the CBI, admit about the discrimination which they practised?

Mr. Orme

The hon. Member will know from the Report that those questions were examined in some depth. It is because discrimination existed and it was necessary to eradicate it that the Committee sat for such a considerable time, consulting every organisation in Northern Ireland and, nationally, the TUC and the CBI, and receiving both oral and written submissions.

The Bill, with one important exception, to which I will refer later, is based on the working party's Report. So the pressure for this legislation came from Northern Ireland industry, from the men and women involved.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

The Minister must surely be aware that allegations of discrimination have been made throughout the United Kingdom. Why does the Bill not apply throughout the United Kingdom instead of just to Northern Ireland?

Mr. Orme

I know that there are problems in different parts of the United Kingdom, but with his knowledge of Northern Ireland, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the special considerations there. Other Acts, such as the Race Relations Act and the Sex Discrimination Act, do apply in Great Britain.

The one significant change made by the Government is that, following representations from the trade unions, the public sector is also included as well as the private sector. Some people argue that this whole issue could be dealt with by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration but, of course, as the House well knows, he can deal only with a limited part of the public sector and would not touch what is a crucial factor, the private sector of employment within Northern Ireland, and can act only in respect of individual complaints formally made to him.

Some might ask whether legislation will eradicate religious discrimination in Northern Ireland. The answer to that, as the House knows and the working party recognised, is that, in itself, this will not have that effect but the important factor, as has been shown by the Race Relations Act and now the Sex Discrimination Act, is that it will be an important base from which to tackle the problem.

The working party quoted from the first Annual Report to the Race Relations Board why it was necessary to have antidiscrimination legislation, in the following terms:

  1. "(a) A law is an unequivocal declaration of public policy.
  2. (b) A law gives support to those who do not wish to discriminate but who feel compelled to do so by social pressures.
  3. (c) A law gives protection and redress to minority groups.
  4. (d) A law thus provides for the peaceful and orderly adjustment of grievances and the release of tensions.
  5. (e) A law reduces prejudice by discouraging the behaviour in which prejudice finds expression."
That shows the importance of a legal backcloth here.

The fact that anti-social actions are the product of an underlying attitude is no argument for the law not dealing with them where it is necessary to provide protection for the public. It is as necessary and appropriate for the law to obtain and provide remedies for actions harmful to individuals and society as a whole, which are the expression of religious or inter-communal prejudice, as it is for the law to counter other forms of harmful behaviour with which it deals daily.

While we want this Act to operate on a basis of co-operation and by means of persuasion and conciliation it is important that compulsory powers be available in the end. Both voluntary and compulsory approaches have a substantial rôle to play.

The House may be interested in the representations which I have received both inside and outside the House on this issue over the last 18 months or so affecting both communities. I will give one or two examples.

Mr. Glen Barr, a prominent member of the community in Northern Ireland, alleged victimisation of Protestants at the Grundig plant on 22nd November last year. The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) drew my attention to inquiries about a nurse who was allegedly forced to resign by pressures at the same firm. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) and others had a meeting with the Secretary of State on 2nd February this year about reports that certain areas of employment in Londonderry are dominated by Roman Catholics. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) raised with me in a Parliamentary Question the balance of the work force at Harland and Wolff.

There are many other examples I could cite which have been put to me by leading representatives alleging that discrimination has taken place in industrial disputes on one side or the other.

Ernest Baird alleged that preference was given to Roman Catholics by the Northern Ireland Office on 6th February 1976. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) knows of this. He was recently quoted on television dealing with alleged discrimination in the Northern Ireland Office. The way to deal with these accusations is to have an independent assessment. The Agency we are to set up will be able to look at this matter independently and ascertain the facts.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the allegations made about the balance of personnel in the Northern Ireland Office. Is it contended that the Northern Ireland Office and various other Government Departments and agencies should be subject to inquiry by the Agency?

Mr. Orme

Yes. This is one of the reasons why the Government have extended the Agency's jurisdiction to the public sector. It will cover the whole of the public sector.

I would like to emphasise at this point that Her Majesty's Government would not contemplate the introduction by the Fair Employment Agency of quotas as a means of remedying past inequalities or for any other purpose. The working party was opposed to any form of quotas, or reverse discrimination, and we are in complete agreement with its view. The use of quotas would in any event involve acts of unlawful discrimination.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

There is a point I would like to raise which might help the right hon. Gentleman to elucidate the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). Is it in contemplation that, if there were a complaint—for instance, about the composition of the employees of the Northern Ireland Office—the inquiries would result in a publication of the breakdown, by religion, of the persons there employed?

Mr. Orme

We would report to the House. It is not our intention that these figures would be published. It is the intention of the Bill to overcome this problem by having the Agency investigate the matter. In the final analysis the report would have to be made to the House.

Mr. Powell

But the Agency would publish the figures?

Mr. Orme

In certain circumstances.

I now turn to the contents of the Bill. Part I deals with the establishment of the Fair Employment Agency for Northern Ireland which will have the duties of promoting equality of oppor- tunity in employments and occupations, working for the elimination of discrimination made unlawful by the Bill, reviewing employment patterns and investigating employment practices to identify the existence or otherwise of equality of opportunity, receiving and investigating complaints of unlawful discrimination and achieving remedies for the complainant where it finds a complaint to be well founded.

Clauses 1 and 2 and Schedule 1 are concerned with the functions and operation of the Agency which, in addition to the promotion of equality of opportunity and working for the elimination of unlawful discrimination, include activities of an educational nature, including research and publicity. We attach much importance to this facet of the Agency's functions since this will support and complement its other activities. The members of the Agency will be appointed by the head of the Department of Manpower Services in Northern Ireland. I would like to repeat the undertaking that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State gave in another place, that the Department of Manpower Services will normally consult with representatives of employers and employees in making these appointments.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

Clause 1 states that the members of the Agency shall be appointed by the head of the Department of Manpower Services. Bearing in mind the schedule to the Northern Ireland Act 1974, does this mean that the members will be appointed by the civil servant who is the head of the Department or by the Minister?

Mr. Orme

By the Minister.

Part II, that is Clauses 3 to 15, and Schedules 2 to 5 are concerned with the promotion and provision of equality of opportunity. The concept of equality of opportunity is the corner stone of this Bill. Broadly it means the opportunity for persons of different religious beliefs, including those without any religious belief, to engage in employments and occupations on an equal basis, after making due allowance for any material difference in their suitability for the employment in question. We attach the greatest importance to a positive approach and believe that one of the prime tasks of the Agency will be to encourage employers to adopt employment practices which provide equality of opportunity.

Clause 5 requires the Department of Manpower Services to prepare and publish a guide to good manpower policy and practice. This guide will contain recommendations as to policies and practices which, if adopted, will help promote equality of opportunity. Here I repeat another assurance given by my hon. Friend in another place, that representatives of employers and employees will be consulted by the Department in preparing the guide in addition to those authorities which the Bill requires it to consult.

This positive approach is demonstrated again in Clauses 6 to 10 and Schedule 3 which deal with the Declaration of Principle and Intent. We hope that most, if not all, employers and vocational organisations will sign this voluntary declaration of commitment to the principle of full equality of employment opportunity and the rejection of discrimination. By signing the Declaration employers will be entitled publicly to call themselves equal opportunity employers.

The remaining clauses of Part II, that is Clauses 11 to 15, with Schedules 4 and 5 relate to the function of the Agency to ascertain the existence or otherwise of equality of opportunity and, where this opportunity is absent, to achieve changes in employment practices to secure it. The Agency will be able to investigate the employment practices of any employer or vocational organisation which includes organisations of workers or employees to discover whether equality of opportunity is being provided by an individual employer or in an area of employment. It will also be possible for the Agency to investigate bodies which confer qualifications, persons with a statutory function of selecting others for employment by a third person, providers of training services and employment agencies.

In cases where the Agency finds that equality of opportunity does not exist, it is required to attempt to secure the provision of equality of opportunity first by conciliation. Failing this it may issue directions requiring the cessation or modification of offending practices.

Provision is made for the setting up of a Fair Employment Appeals Board for hearing appeals against directions. If there is no appeal or the appeal fails, the Agency will be able to obtain an order from the court for their enforcement.

I turn now to Part III——

Mr. Powell

This is a convenient point at which to intervene again since the right hon. Gentleman is moving now to Part III. It is in Part II, as he has said, that the declaration of commitment occurs. The right hon. Gentleman made it clear that it is part of the duty of the Agency to police, as it were, the fulfilment of the Declaration of Principle and Intent. The point I would be grateful to have cleared up relates to the Declaration. As Schedule 3 shows, it forswears not only discrimination on the grounds of religious belief but that which takes place on the grounds of political opinion. The point I wish the right hon. Gentleman to clarify is whether the duties in Part II in relation to that Declaration of the Agency cover discrimination on grounds of political opinion.

Mr. Orme

We had to try to deal with the difficult point of identifying political discrimination and religious discrimination—because in many cases in Northern Ireland they are synonymous. Part III specifically mentions the political aspect, whereas Parts I and II do not. We shall have to discuss this matter in some detail. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to await the Committee stage, or perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will be able to reply to the question later. One cannot give a simple answer, because this is a crucial point. It was one of the difficulties in drafting the Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman has put his finger on it. We think that it can be overcome because of what happens in Northern Ireland. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for raising the matter.

I now turn to Part III which, with Schedule 5, relates to unlawful discrimination. The Bill makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the grounds, and only on the grounds, of religious belief and political opinion and also by way of victimisation as regards the recruitment of new employees or his treatment of existing employees. Part III of the Bill also deals with discrimination against contract workers, by vocational organisations, employment agencies and persons providing training and in the granting of authorities or other qualifications which facilitate the carrying on of employments or occupations.

Clause 24, with Schedule 5, requires the Agency to investigate complaints of discrimination made by individuals. Investigation and any subsequent consequential action, both conciliatory and through the courts, is undertaken by the Agency on behalf of the complainant.

The procedure following the completion of an investigation of a complaint is dealt with in Clauses 25 to 32.

When the Agency finds that unlawful discrimination has been committed, it must try to secure a settlement and in appropriate cases obtain an undertaking to abide by such a settlement. Should the Agency fail to obtain a voluntary settlement, it may issue a recommendation for action to be taken by the respondent in order to remedy the unlawful matter. An appeal to the county court against the finding of the Agency may be made by either the complainant or the respondent. Finally, should a recommendation or an undertaking not be complied with, the Agency may apply to the county court for a remedy for the unlawful action. This may take the form of damages or an injunction against repeating the action or both.

Part IV of the Bill deals with other unlawful acts. Clause 33 makes it unlawful to publish an advertisement which could reasonably be understood to indicate an intention to do an act which is unlawful under the Bill. Clause 36 enables the Agency to apply to the county court for an order restraining publishers from continuing or repeating unlawful advertisements.

Clauses 34 and 35 deal with aiding or inducing others to discriminate; and with liability for employees' and agents' acts.

Part V of the Bill specifies a number of exceptions. They include employment as a clergyman, cases where a person's religious belief or political opinion is a genuine occupational qualification for a particular job—I am looking at some hon. Member opposite now—and employment in a private household. Also exempted are acts done incompliance with existing legislation; for the purpose of safeguarding national security or of protecting public safety or public order; and in order to comply with the provisions of charitable instruments.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Do the right hon. Gentleman's comments include security businesses? I am referring, not to the wider field of security but to individual security for which there is a Government subsidy.

Mr. Orme

No. The phrase in the Bill is "national security". A firm which employed security guards would have to comply with the Bill.

In order to keep the work load which we expect to fall upon the Agency within reasonable limits, initially we intend to except small firms employing 25 or fewer people for the first two years after the Bill comes into force and firms employing 10 or fewer for a further third year. I would like to repeat the undertaking that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State gave in another place that small firms, while excepted from the Bill, will be able to seek the assistance and advice of the Agency in planning how to meet the requirements of the Bill when their exemption ends.

Hon. Members will recognise, as did the working party, that because of the basis on which education is organised in Northern Ireland it is desirable that teachers in schools should be excepted from the Bill for the time being. The Bill makes provision both for the keeping of this exception under review by the Agency and for providing my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State with the necessary powers to remove or limit it by means of an order subject to approval in draft by both Houses of Parliament.

Mr. Kilfedder

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why teachers are excepted from the Bill? They teach young people and belong to both sections of the community.

Mr. Orme

That is another matter which hon. Members will probably wish to discuss in some depth in Committee. The Government seriously considered it, but having consulted both communities, we concluded that there was genuine difficulty about getting an agreement or an acceptance. Although we have not exempted other people in school employment, teachers are exempted. However, the matter can be considered. We were asked by the Northern Ireland Commission dealing with the question of human rights to keep the matter under review. The Commission has looked at this point, but the hon. Member will appreciate that it is an extremely difficult one.

All employment in education other than that of teachers in schools will, of course, come fully within the scope of the Bill from the outset.

Part VI of the Bill deals with a number of miscellaneous matters of which the most important are those contained in Clauses 50 to 54, under which Government Departments and public bodies will be made subject to investigation by the Agency and to the remedies for unlawful discrimination in the same way as private employers, subject, of course, to safeguards about the disclosure of information by the Crown. Should the Agency consider that the employment practices of a Government Department or public body should be modified, it will make a report to the Government Department concerned and such a report must be laid before Parliament. That answers the point raised by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). He asked whether the facts would be made known if Government bodies were examined. A report would have to be made to Parliament. The Bill will apply in its full rigour to local authorities.

The remainder of Part VI deals with general and supplemental matters and includes the interpretation clause. Clause 59 enables different parts of the Bill to be brought into operation at different times.

As the House will see, the Bill establishes an independent body, the Fair Employment Agency for Northern Ireland, with the duties of promoting equality of opportunity in employments and occupations, and of working for the elimination of discrimination made unlawful by the Bill.

It will be seen from the terms of the Bill that the Government, as the working party did, reject the implementation of quotas as a means of remedying past inequalities or for any other purpose. This would not work and is not desired within Northern Ireland itself. But the Bill lays a basis for creating a framework and removing some of the suspicion and actions which have been practised in employment within Northern Ireland.

The Government and the van Straubenzee Report examined how discrimination is dealt with in other countries. In some places a quota system has been introduced in an attempt to redress the balance in employment and to defeat discrimination in other sectors of society. We completely reject that system. My experience as a Minister has been that quotas will not resolve the problem in Northern Ireland. A two-thirds to one-third system is not the answer. The only answer is for the two communities to come together and to accept that this is their only way forward.

If some people claim that this matter is greatly exaggerated, they have nothing to fear from the implementation of this Bill, for it provides what is needed—a fair-minded and independent body which can deal with these facts in the interests of Northern Ireland as a whole.

The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, in its first Annual Report, attached great importance to this Bill and said that "early implementation is vital". Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, in its "Better Life For All" campaign, has highlighted the right to live free from violence, sectarianism, intimidation, and discrimination, a right which will be enhanced by this Bill.

As I stated earlier, the economic factor is a vital one. Northern Ireland faces critical times on the economic front. Its 1.5 million people, with the problems the Province faces, cannot afford a sectarian division in industry, as they cannot afford a sectarian division in the political field.

6.22 p.m.

Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)

I congratulate the Minister of State on the way he moved the Second Reading. The Bill is essential and important and we welcome its objectives for a number of reasons, though I wish to discuss the intended methods of implementation. We shall have an important and possibly rather long Committee stage.

There will be sincere differences about the way the Bill's provisions should be carried out. I am glad to join the Minister in acknowledging the contribution of the working party, particularly of my hon. Friends the Members for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and for Southend, West (Mr. Channon). The Minister of State has said that the Bill provides an important base from which to work, and that is the right way to look at it. I agree that there is a need for a law as a declaration of public policy on discrimination.

There are quite a number of difficult matters I wish to raise before the Committee stage. As Lord Donaldson said on Second Reading in another place, it would be foolish to expect the Bill on its own to provide equality of opportunity or stop unlawful discrimination in Northern Ireland.

I should like to explain some of our reservations but I agree that the Bill may help to change attitudes, though I understand that it is primarily concerned with action. This is the point made by the van Straubenzee Working Party and the reason why the Bill has been under consideration for some time. In the present context of violence in Northern Ireland, it is necessary to provide as much assurance as possible to people against discrimination in both public and private employment. It is useful to have a guide to manpower policy and practice.

The Conservative Party has been in touch with the CBI and the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, both of which accept the need for this legislation but have some fear about its ultimate effect in some regards.

In Committee we ought to look very carefully at the powers given to the Agency and consider them in some detail in our discussions on Clauses 6 to 12. These powers represent a considerably wider range of authority for the Agency than any similar body has under the Race Relations or Sex Discrimination Acts or, in particular, the Government's new White Paper on race relations which I have just been reading. I have noticed a shift in opinion since the time of the Race Relations Act away from giving the Board power to litigate and investigate each complaint. The powers of litigation and investigation will not be carried out by the new Race Relations Commission whose establishment is recommended in the White Paper. It will carry out what is described as a more strategic rôle.

The process of investigating individual complaints has become cumbersome and protracted under the Race Relations Act, which is why the Government have apparently decided to shift in the direction of permitting individuals to have access to legal redress through industrial tribunals and county courts. I wonder whether this system should be considered in relation to the powers of the Agency to be set up under the Bill, and I should like the Minister to comment on this in replying to the debate.

There is a conflict in definitions between Clause 3 and Clause 16. Under Clause 3(1), equality of opportunity is defined as: equality of opportunity between persons of different religious beliefs. Due allowance is made under Clause 3(2) for any material difference in their suitability in relation to persons seeking employment. Under Clause 16, discrimination means: discrimination on the ground of religious belief or political opinion. Lord Donaldson was asked about this difference during the Report stage in another place on 26th June. He said that the definition of discrimination was based on the van Straubenzee Report. That is quite correct, but under Clause 6 employers' organisations have to make a declaration of commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity. There could be considerable confusion, especially because of the qualification in Clause 3(2): due allowance being made for any material difference in their suitability". We have two definitions of equality of opportunity an d discrimination. It appears that this sensible qualification due allowance being made for any material difference in their suitability does not apply under Clause 16. This is a Committee point, but it is a matter of some substance and Lord Donaldson did not give a very clear answer to it in another place.

Mr. Orme

It was the opinion of the van Straubenzee Report, which the Government accept, that we ought to include political opinions because there are instances—one can think of many in Northern Ireland—when a person could say that he was not discriminating against another on religious grounds but then carried out discrimination purely because of a person's political views. Because of the structure of society in Northern Ireland, that would be identical to straight religious discrimination. These definition problems are extremely complicated, but the Government feel it is absolutely crucial that we should cover both religious and political discrimination. We can go into this matter in detail in Committee and discuss why the Government have reached this conclusion.

Mr. Neave

I see that the Government want to cover both religious and political discrimination and I agree that it is the point which was raised just now by another hon. Member in a slightly different form. My difficulty is that Clause 16 does not include the reference to "material difference in…suitability" of a person who seeks employment. That has to be further investigated in Committee.

Clause 5, which I welcome, is a guide to manpower policy and practice. An assurance was given in another place and by the Minister of State that there would be consultation with both sides of industry. I do not see why consultation should be only with the Standing Advisory Committee on Human Rights. I hope that in Committee a specific amendment will be considered to include consultation with both sides of industry.

Clauses 11 to 15 are in a rather controversial area because of the question of quotas which was raised in another place. In talks with various organisations interested in the Bill, we came across considerable fear that quotas could be introduced by the back door. There have been assurances about this, but Lord Donaldson refused to accept an amendment expressing specific prohibition of quotas. I am not sure in present circumstances in Northern Ireland that it would not be better to write in a specific prohibition of quotas. The van Straubenzee Report considered that quotas would not reconcile the communities or do any good, and I do not think that anyone believes that they would.

Clauses 16 and 17 raise several points, one of which I will mention. Nowhere does the Bill state that it is unlawful for an employee or group of employees to discriminate. Nothing makes it unlawful for them to down tools on account of the religious or political views of an individual employee. It is true that Clause 34 prohibits incitement, and apparently both employer and employee could be liable under Clauses 34 and 35, but it is noticeable that employees who discriminate in the sense of refusing to work with an individual on account of his religious or political views are not covered by Clauses 16 and 17.

The question which has been asked many times about the Bill is "What is a 'pattern of discrimination' and how is it to be assessed?" How can the Agency investigate the religious beliefs of a particular group of employees? That will be one of the practical difficulties. For example, Clause 12(2)(a) involves a decision by an employer, but what happens if an employee decides not to disclose his religion as permitted under the Bill? According to Paragraph 8(3) of Schedule 5, a person shall not be compelled to disclose any information about his religious belief for the purposes of investigation. How is a pattern of discrimination to be assessed if it is not possible to investigate the religious belief of particular employees because they refuse to disclose it?

Mr. Orme

An individual has the right not to answer, and he cannot be penalised for so doing. The Agency will still be able to investigate. Unfortunately, everyone seems to know the religion of the people who are working at various firms. That is constantly made known to me, and there are means of ascertaining it, but a person cannot be forced to disclose that information.

Mr. Neave

The right hon. Gentleman is really agreeing with me. It places the employer in the difficulty that, although he can ask a person what is his religion, he cannot compel that person to disclose it. We are in difficulty in assessing the "pattern of discrimination" if an individual decides not to disclose his religion.

We should also like to know how the pattern is to be assessed. Is it to be assessed by reference to the entire factory or to a department? These problems are not insuperable but we shall want to raise them in Committee. We have in mind that subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 16 go very wide in the matter of victimisation by an employer.

I welcome the Bill and its objectives. It will require much good will and sense on the part of all concerned in the realities of life in Northern Ireland. We hope that it will prevent some actions that might further aggravate those harsh realities. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that our object must be to remove suspicion, but we shall have a large number of points to raise in Committee.

6.37 p.m.

Mr. McCusker (Armagh)

I do not accept the Minister's view that there is a widespread belief in Northern Ireland that religious discrimination exists or that there is a widespread practice of religious discrimination. I do not deny that there are individual instances of discrimination, as probably there are in every society for different reasons.

I find it extremely hard to understand how both sides of industry can come to Stormont Castle, lay out their dirty linen and tell the Minister that we were guilty of massive, systematic and gross religious discrimination which we have done nothing about all these years. My opinion, which I expressed then, is that if those who expressed that view were so convinced of their wrong-doings they should have done something to rectify it. The individual Protestant or Catholic worker cannot be guilty of discrimination. An individual employer or representatives of the employees could have made their case if they felt as strongly about it as the Report suggests.

The Minister cited the problem of the employer in one area looking for employees and not being able to get them when in an adjoining area there were thousands of unemployed. The reason why those people are not employed in that factory is not that the employer is discriminating against them, as the Minister well knows. I have been employed in industry, I have offered employment in industry in Northern Ireland and I have a wide range of contacts with industrialists and others. My experience is that what the Minister suggests does not exist on anything like the scale he mentioned. I should hate to think that anyone in the House believed that ICI, Courtaulds, Enkalon, Monsanto, or Du Pont—I could go on listing firms ad infinitum—had been or would be guilty of the malpractices which he suggested.

I believe that almost everyone in Northern Ireland would support the stated objective of the Bill: to promote equality of opportunity in employment in Northern Ireland between people of different religious beliefs". As I have said, however, I seriously dispute the suggestion that equality of opportunity does not exist already. If any hon. Member on this side of the House wishes to convince me otherwise, he had better have the evidence because I shall be hard to convince. Professor Richard Rose, whom I quoted in an earlier debate, when he examined discrimination even in "petty-sectarian" councils, could find no evidence of discrimination in employment. But he was not listened to when the bogus civil rights organisations and others produced their statistics.

The Report on which the Bill is based was produced during what I consider to be the "sack-cloth and ashes" period of Northern Ireland, when this House destroyed our Parliament and threw our country into a state of turmoil, and people who were genuinely and sincerely trying to find a way out of what had happened were perhaps prepared to accept guilt for anything and never examined just what they were admitting to or what they or others were supposed to be guilty of.

I put questions to people connected with Lord Feather's Commission. I said "You are an employer. Did you practise religious discrimination?" The reply was "No". I asked "Do you think your associates practised religious discrimination?" Again the answer was "No". They I asked "Why, then, do you support the Bill?" The reply was "Sure, we have to do something." That is the attitude we see in the Chamber tonight—"We have to do something."

Mr. Orme

The hon. Gentleman refers to the Commission on Human Rights. I have spoken to the representatives of the CBI and they are in favour of the principle of the Bill, although they may have Committee points which they wish to put. The trade unions are in favour of the principle of the Bill, though they, too, may have Committee points to put. Why are these organisations pressing for the Bill?

Mr. McCusker

I have tried to determine that by questioning and probing. One feels that sometimes, unfortunately, these people are as out of touch with reality as are politicians in this House. I know examples of individual companies and organisations where an examination of the ratios of religious beliefs would indicate a bias on one side or the other. Those organisations are not confined to East and West Belfast. They are to be found elsewhere in Northern Ireland. As the right hon. Gentleman himself has said, it does not apply simply to one religious grouping.

The factors bringing that situation about are not necessarily the result of religious discrimination but include, for example, the breakdown of law and order in parts of Northern Ireland, the location of the works, the composition of the local population and the availability of particular skills. None of these factors will be influenced by the Bill. That is why I object to it.

If anyone thinks that I am painting too rosy a picture, I refer him to the tragic events in the Shankill Road last week. Who in this House would have believed, after the years of murder, hate and destruction in West Belfast, that Catholic and Protestant workers would still be travelling in company transport up the Shankill Road every morning to work? That is just one example of the cooperation and good working conditions which have continued to exist in many factories in Northern Ireland during the last seven years. I say that because it is my own experience, backed up by all the available evidence I have obtained. In the desert of terrorism, murder and arson, the work-place in Northern Ireland has been almost the last place of sanity. It has been almost the one place where people could behave normally.

I object strongly to the Bill because it will introduce an element which could well destroy that situation. Frequently it has been encouraging to see Catholic and Protestant work-people brushing out the factory or shop after bombing or arson and putting out the notice "Business as usual".

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) earlier today reminded us that the IRA burned down a factory in his constituency this weekend. The work force of 130 was exactly fifty-fifty in religious denomination. That is something that I am sure the Minister of State welcomes. But the introduction of a Bill like this will, in such a situation, lead only perhaps to suspicion, distrust and mistrust. That in turn will undermine what I considered to be almost the only area of sanity left in our country.

The Bill sets up an Agency which will have the power to force employers to keep a register of the religious affiliations of their employees. How are employers to find out what those affiliations are? It seems that, whether they examine birth certificates or church records or interview spouses, they will find the evidence and there will be lists, and every employer in Northern Ireland will keep a register of the religious affiliations of his employees.

Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I have no experience of employment in Ulster but I have experience of it in the West of Scotland. On such a matter of identity, there is no difficulty. I was a personnel manager in the Clyde Valley, and I could have told the hon. Gentleman at the time, with perhaps an error of less than 1 per cent., the denominational identity of every person in that labour force. It is not difficult. In the West of Scotland people are acutely aware of these matters.

Mr. McCusker

I am not disputing that. It might be difficult, but it will be done. I am disputing the necessity for it. I worked for two years in the personnel department of a large industrial establishment in Craigavon, and 25 people were employed in my department. When the sectarian violence broke out in 1970 in Lurgan, a girl came to me in the office and said "I am glad that you are a Catholic—that means there are two of us anyway". So I, who am accused also of Protestant bigotry, was firmly thought by that girl to be a Catholic. I had employed Catholics in that establishment as well as Protestants. If anyone had come to me then and told me to keep a register of my employees recording their religious convictions so that I could keep a correct religious balance, I would have chased him away.

Mr. Litterick

I believe, from what the hon. Gentleman has said, that he takes the point I made about identity being easy. Such knowledge is available to those who make the employment decisions. Notwithstanding the fact that people in a given work-place may not be aware of the denominational identities of their colleagues, someone in the personnel department, for example, will be fully aware of the situation and will be able to exercise control in order to achieve whatever the objective is—a balance or an imbalance. The fact remains, so it seems to me, that the information is readily available.

Mr. McCusker

I do not dispute that, as I said earlier. But in Northern Ireland we have had an industrial relations record twice as good as any in Great Britain in a period when the sectarian conflict might have been expected to exacerbate industrial relations problems, with a member of one religious persuasion arguing with someone belonging to the other about problems in their street and with that argument flowing over into the quality of their work, the co-operation they got and so on. We have not had that. Industrial relations have been extremely good.

We now have a Bill which will introduce an element of suspicion and which will create in the work force divisions which so far have not existed. The proposed Agency is empowered to investigate discrimination. It will come to me as an employer of 50 or 60 people. I presume that it will suggest to me its fears that I am practising religious discrimination. It will ask me to produce a register or it will produce a register of the religious affiliations of my employees. Then it will go through it with me and say "The prima facie evidence seems to be that you are guilty of discriminating." Does it end there? No. It has to make certain recommendations about affirmative action, not about quotas but about remedying the situation. What does that mean?

Let us suppose that I advertise for more employees. I am careful that there is nothing in my advertisement to discriminate against anyone applying. I have yet to see a discriminating advertisement in Northern Ireland. I know that in 1959 Terence O'Neill advertised for a Protestant to keep house for him, but apart from that I have not seen any advertisement by a large or medium employer of labour showing any discrimination.

Mr. Orme

This is really a Committee point, but the hon. Gentleman knows that anyone wishing to attract one section of the community puts an advertisement in either the Irish News or the Protestant Telegraph which will be seen by a certain section of the community. Under this Bill, such an advertisement would not only have to be non-discriminatory but would also have to be displayed on a basis by which both sides of the community could have access.

Mr. McCusker

I hope that the Government are now prepared to subsidise employers to ensure that they advertise widely enough. I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's point. I know that the Government and public bodies advertise across the board in various papers. Last week in the Irish News one page was filled completely with public appointments. Another page was filled completely with comments about Mr. Stagg, exhortations to the IRA to continue its violence and calls to the people designed eventually to lead to the situation which developed in Northern Ireland over the weekend. I could not help asking myself whether that public money was being properly spent.

Mr. Orme

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will also refer to the full-page advertisement put in by the Government giving the facts about Mr. Stagg so that they could be clearly understood in Northern Ireland—an advertisement, I may say, which was widely welcomed throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. McCusker

I do not know what relevance that has to my comments.

Mr. Orme

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Mr. Stagg.

Mr. McCusker

I was querying whether an employer could ultimately afford to advertise in every paper and whether all employers would feel it necessary to advertise in a paper which, on the admission even of the Republican clubs, now allows its columns to be used for very dubious purposes.

Anyway, let us say that I advertise in every paper in Northern Ireland and that I am looking to try to remedy the balance. I do not get any Catholics applying——

Mr. Orme


Mr. McCusker

I do not know why. I am advertising for employees. I will argue that if those same Catholics were the men who alleged that I was guilty of discrimination they would be more keen to apply so that they had grounds for their argument. But I do not get any applicants. Even if I have signed the declaration and want a change, I do not get applicants. What do I do? There is not very much that I can do. The result is that I cannot get a reasonable balance.

Supposing that I suddenly find myself confronted with the problem, which is relatively easy, that all the Protestants seem to be better qualified than the Catholic applicants. I would not search my conscience. I would employ the Protestants. It would not do anything to remedy the situation, but I would employ people on merit.

But what if I am looking to take positive action and I find myself with two groups both with equal qualifications? I am faced with an order from the Agency saying that I have to take positive and affirmative action to change the situation. Then I employ the Catholics. I have to make a positive decision to employ those persons which is influenced substantially by an order served upon me to the effect that it would be in my best interests to remedy the situation among my employees which has been discovered by the Agency.

That will start rumours and suspicion among my work force. Before long, we shall have all the problems which for so long we have tried to keep out of industry in Northern Ireland. The Minister can deny till the cows come home that there will not be quotas to allay fears. But when there are 60,000 unemployed, when it is know that the Agency man has been round and when it is known in the factory that the balance is not what every perfectionist would like, people will begin to wonder whether it is their turn next. Take the case of a man whose absenteeism has been a little suspect, whose timekeeping has not been all that it might be or whose productivity is not up to scratch. He is brought in for a disciplinary hearing and he is told "We cannot put up with this any longer". His immediate cry will be "This is discrimination. You want me out so that you can bring in a Prod"—or "Taig", as the case may be.

The Minister is fooling himself if he does not think that that will be the result of the Bill. My colleagues and I were elected on a manifesto which said in so many words that we believed in equal opportunities for all and special privileges for none. That applies to employment as well as to politics.

Mr. Orme

I am interested to hear that. Only this morning I looked at the manifesto of the UUUC on this very point. The hon. Gentleman's party subscribed to a Bill of Rights. This is an issue of some discussion and debate in this country. If we had a Bill of Rights, the present Bill would be one part of it. Apparently, the hon. Gentleman and his Friends intend to divide the House on the basis that they are opposed in principle to the Bill whereas on paper they are supposed to be in favour of what the Bill stands for.

Mr. McCusker

We are opposed to anything which draws conclusions from purely statistical information and tries to remedy an almost abstract situation. We would support easier access to the courts where there was an individual case of discrimination to be met. We would advocate an extension of the office of the Commissioner of Complaints in order to bring it down to the grass roots level. Let us give him an office in every employment exchange in Northern Ireland so that the individual who feels aggrieved and discriminated against, instead of signing on and then going away to mumble into his beer, can go next door and lodge his complaint.

Let us deal with this issue on the basis of individual complaints. Unfortunately, the Bill is concerned not with rectifying individual grievances but with arbitrary interference in the working conditions of the people of Northern Ireland. It is setting up a body which will find the justification for its interference as it goes along. It will be required to produce statistical information which will indicate that a work force is not balanced as some people would have it, and that is all the justification that is required.

Unfortunately, the Government have introduced in the Bill a provision which is difficult to understand. I had to dig fairly hard to find it. It is in Clause 57(3) and it introduces the concept of unintentional discrimination. It is upon that that the Bill is based. It is a pity that the Government included it in the Bill; it is that any reference to failure to provide equality of opportunity includes a reference to unintentional failure. It means that if an employer did not discriminate but it could be shown from his work force that there appeared to be discrimination, he would be guilty of that offence and would pay the price accordingly.

We would support any measure to deal with the problem on a proper basis. But we have never run away from unpopular decisions and we have never been afraid to disagree with fashionable propositions. It is because we believe the Bill to be dangerously wrong for Northern Ireland that we shall oppose it in the Lobby, and we hone that we shall have the support of other sensible hon. Members.

7.2 p.m.

Mr. John Watkinson (Gloucestershire, West)

I listened to the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) with interest, because he seemed to indicate that the Bill was unnecessary and untimely in the Northern Ireland context. He seemed almost to suggest that there was no religious discrimination at present in Belfast. Perhaps I may declare an interest in that my family comes from Belfast. It is a Protestant family from the Ravenhill Road area. I spent a good deal of my boyhood in Belfast during the summer vacations.

A great deal of my time in Belfast was spent in the company of my grandfather. He was a pillar of the church. He went to Mountpottinger church all his life and he was regarded by his fellows as a man of outstanding Christian virtue. But my grandfather was a member of Carson's army, drilled in the hills outside Belfast, and believed in Protestant domination in Northern Ireland and in the continuation of that domination. I know from my experience that there were certainly areas of that town in which only Protestants could expect to be given employment.

The hon. Member for Armagh asked for examples. I understand that Harland and Wolff is a stronghold of Protestant- ism in Belfast. Perhaps he wants another example. I think that in 1969 Fermanagh County Council employed 360 personnel in its administrative offices. Of that number more than 330 were Protestant, the rest being Catholics. Of course, the hon. Member for Armagh could say that there were no suitable Catholic applicants for the jobs and that the 330 Protestants were superior to all the Catholics who applied, but I find that difficult to believe.

Mr. McCusker

Will the hon. Gentleman give the source of his information about Fermanagh County Council? I can produce evidence to contradict what he has said. Does he not accept my point that there are examples of unbalanced work forces where the lack of balance has been created by factors other than the malignant desire to discriminate?

Mr. Watkinson

I concede that other factors may be involved. Unfortunately, I do not have the statistics with me about Fermanagh and so I cannot give the hon. Member the precise source. The facts were in a book, and I shall let the hon. Member have it afterwards to give him a chance to refute the point. From my limited experience of Northern Ireland, I can definitely say that there is discrimination on religious grounds.

The Bill is a modest step in the right direction. The law has a certain rôle to play in these matters in so far as it can be declaratory. It serves to declare what we in this Parliament see as the obligations of the people of this country towards employment in Northern Ireland.

I have tried to ask myself why people such as my grandfather and the rest of my family believed in the need to preserve Protestant control in Northern Ireland. I believe that there are two factors behind this which the English find difficult to understood. During the angry exchanges which took place this afternoon, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) made a valid point about the English not understanding Northern Ireland. I think he is absolutely right in saying that if the events which occurred in Northern Ireland over the past few days had taken place in this country there would be debates, questions and uproar in the House. I think that the hon. Member possibly misinterpreted the response from this side of the House in so far as we regarded what he said as an unwarranted attack upon the Secretary of State. However, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Irish problem by the English.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I did not offer criticism of the Secretary of State having to come to England. I offered criticism of his office telling us that he was in Northern Ireland when he was not.

Mr. Watkinson

I do not want to get involved in that. I was saying that the British fail to understand the Northern Ireland problem. One of the key elements of that problem is the religious element, which the Bill attempts to deal with. There is, in my experience, a religious commitment in that part of the country which is totally alien to the rest of the United Kingdom. It can be said that England is not a religious country in the sense that Northern Ireland is. I remember as a boy in Northern Ireland that the only thing one heard on a Sunday was the sound of feet as the people walked to church. One would never experience that in this country.

We do not understand the religious significance of the Northern Ireland situation. It is linked with another factor which is not comprehended over here—the land factor. A great deal of the problems of Northern Ireland and the Protestant response to those problems is linked to the possession and security of land.

The border is the issue in elections, and people such as my grandfather, who was a railwayman, consistently voted for the Unionist Party—a Conservative-dominated party at the time—totally against their class interests. That is not understood in the Labour movement in this country and it is difficult to explain or to understand. For decades working people have voted not in terms of class interests but on surface religious grounds. That is linked to the question which is fundamental to any peoples, the defence of their homeland. It is basic, and has informed the politics in Northern Ireland for generations and caused people like my grandfather to support Unionists year in and year out.

Thus the religious issue is not fully comprehended in this country, nor is the question of land and the preservation of the State. In this country people have not had to face this issue for centuries. The people of Northern Ireland may feel that the legislation has little or nothing to do with their problems. There is a conflict between what the people in Northern Ireland see as defending their interests and the typically English response to that—a compromise and a measure such as this. I see that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) nods his head, but hon. Members must understand that if they wish to remain part of the United Kingdom they must expect hon. Members to respond in the historical context of the House and find solutions within the parameters of our experiences here.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)

I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend in full flow. I have been carefully listening to his analysis, as in large part we have a common inheritance. My hon. Friend has talked about the Bill as a compromise. The committee which drew up the Report that was the foundador of the Bill was chaired in a distinguished manner by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), but much that came out of it was the brainchild of Irish trade unionists and employers.

Mr. Watkinson

I am pleased my hon. Friend made that point, and I shall try to come to it shortly. I was going to talk in the wider context about the compromise that we in the House wish to see in Northern Ireland, namely, the compromise or coalition solution, because that is the only way in which the British people would face the problems which the Northern Irish are now facing. It is difficult, as the right hon. Member for Down, South and the hon. Member for Antrim, North said when they talked about wanting interdependence within the United Kingdom.

I say to hon. Members that they will have to accept legislation coming from this Chamber which is contrary to their basic interests. They will have to decide ultimately what they mean by loyalty to the Crown, because in the end it is the House which will decide. Our decisions will be taken within the context of our history and we shall be pushing compromise solutions on to them. That is a problem which they must face.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) for pointing out that the Bill has the support of the Northern Ireland trade unionists. I regard this as a hope, perhaps a realisation of the need to come to terms with the problem and to produce some form of compromise.

I listened with interest to the proposals made by the hon. Member for Armagh. He pointed out the difficulties that might arise under the Bill, including the employment problems. If the right hon. Member for Down, South speaks, he will be able to point out the illogicalities of the Bill. The fundamental flaw and danger in bringing forward such legislation is that we might make the law into an ass—and I speak as a lawyer. We are introducing legislation that we cannot enforce. That concerns me as a lawyer. But I think that the law has a role to play and that we have a responsibility and an obligation forcibly to declare certain beliefs and principles. I appreciate that exceptions may be found, that the legislation might be riddled with confusion and that it may have little direct effect upon the situation in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Orme

I am sure my hon. Friend will agree, as I said when moving the Second Reading, that the Bill will not eradicate discrimination but that, like the Race Relations Act and the Sex Discrimination Act, it will act as a backcloth. The Race Relations Act is important, not because it enforces the law but because the vast majority of people want to carry out the law. That is the basis for this Bill.

Mr. Watkinson

My right hon. Friend expresses my feelings on the Bill more cogently than I. We must be prepared to stand up and be counted, and I hope the Bill will have the effects which my right hon. Friend has spelt out to the House.

7.19 p.m.

Mr. William van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

I have a deep commitment to the Bill which I will spell out briefly. As kind references have been made to me—and I am obliged to the Minister of State for what he said—it is important to state clearly that the Report which is the foundation of much of the Bill is essentially the work of men and women resident in, owing a loyalty to and having a deep obligation towards that part of the United Kingdom to which the Bill refers.

Reference has rightly been made to the part played by what I shall describe as the Northern Ireland TUC—I purposely describe that organisation wrongly for the sake of clarity—and to the Northern Ireland CBI and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Trade. But a powerful part was also played by Northern Ireland civil servants who have just as much a loyalty and commitment to Northern Ireland as the others. They would not wish me to name names, but some of those most direcly concerned properly appear by name, giving up their customary anonymity. There was only one Englishman—although he had a Dutch background, which made it slightly more acceptable—and he was in the chair. [Interruption.] Fortunately, I did not get here in 1688. My family were wise enough to see whether the revolution worked and waited until 1745 in order to suppress the Scots. However, that is another matter entirely.

The serious point is that this was, is and remains a work by Northern Irish men and women deeply committed to Northern Ireland and with a very great knowledge of the work force and the practices of the Province, working, as the Minister has said, over a considerable period. As an aside, I should like to say that in the midst of the difficulties, changes and problems of Northern Ireland, I still do not think that we in this House in particular have ever allowed sufficiently for the balance and stability which has been given to public administration by the Northern Ireland Civil Service. That is why I was so anxious to mention them.

In many ways I thought that the speech to which we listened—I listened in great sadness—from the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) gives us the clue, in part, as to why we actually have a problem in Northern Ireland. The House will recall that with great eloquence—and I have no doubt, total sincerity—the hon. Member has argued passionately that there really is no problem of the kind of which we are talking and which makes the Bill necessary. Let me seek to deal with that argument.

Let the hon. Member first just cast his eye down Appendix 1 of the Report and look at the range of persons who gave evidence in this delicate and difficult matter. Let him look at those who are starred and of whom it is recorded that they were "interviewed at length". So indeed they were. I well remember it. I remember long discussions. Let the hon. Member look at the breadth of view represented by those witnesses. No one for one moment—I am sure that the hon. Member would not—could say of us that we drew our evidence from one particular source or were unreasonably biased in one particular direction. We listened, examined and interrogated at very considerable length—so, in a matter as delicate as this, we should—right across the divide of Northern Ireland.

As a result of that, and as a result of the expertise of employers, trade unionists and chambers of commerce, and of the expertise of Government servants of distinction, too, we were able to say what we said. It is important to remember what we said in paragraph 11. Let us remember what we did say, rather than what some people assert, apparently, in the course of this argument. We said: It is right to record however that, notwithstanding such differences of opinion as there may be on the questions of extent and origin, we found general acceptance of the validity of the basic assumption underlying our terms of reference that religious discrimination exists to some degree as a fact of life in employment in Northern Ireland today. Further, we found widespread agreement in principle that where it exists it ought to be dealt with in the interests of social justice and human dignity, and of the social stability which's a prerequisite of economic expansion in Northern Ireland.

Mr. McCusker

First, I did not deny that religious discrimination probably exists to some degree in Northern Ireland. What was quoted to us was that there was a widespread belief—I think they were the words—that religious discrimination was practised in Northern Ireland. The suggestion was that religious discrimination was practised in a widespread fashion there. Is the hon. Gentleman really suggesting that this list of bodies and individuals actually submitted to him their belief that widespread discrimination was practised in Northern Ireland?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am saying that the distinguished persons who gave evidence, either verbally—particularly those who gave it verbally—or, to an extent, in written form, enabled us to come to the conclusion to which I have just drawn the attention of the House.

Mr. McCusker

It is different.

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, it was not different at all. I am standing by every word in the Report. I am not saying that in every place of employment in Northern Ireland the working party found that there was discrimination, for such would quite clearly not be a proper deduction to be made. However, I am saying that from many of these sources there was an understanding and an acceptance that religious discrimination exists to some degree as a fact of life in employment, and that there was a widespread agreement in principle that where it exists it ought to be dealt with. I think that it is on the second aspect that the hon. Gentleman and I part company, because, in my view at least, he would have some reservations about the methods to be used in the Bill.

However, as one who was present I can only say that I recall vividly receiving evidence and representations to this effect from people of very different political and religious beliefs in Northern Ireland, and when that can happen I believe that at the minimum this House should take account of it and, preferably, should act.

Secondly, I must simply say that I do not remember any more unpleasant facet of what in many respects was for me a fascinating period of just under one and a half years in Northern Ireland—small compared with the time that the Minister of State has done there, I know—than being conscious of those appointments outside the Civil Service which were not the concern directly of Ministers—public appointments of one sort or another largely stemming from the changes in local government, and the unquestioned fact that in the past there had been a very considerable measure of discrimination against those of one particular belief or other.

Frankly, if I had had a deep background in Ulster—while absolutely nothing excuses the violence, intimidation and horror of the IRA—I should examine my own conscience with very considerable care to see whether some of the practices of which I had been guilty in the past had not at least contributed something to the atmosphere and background of the Province today.

The hon. Member for Armagh, feeling that he had a trump card, said, "Why did these trade unionists and these employers suddenly come forward at this time?" As nearly as I can remember his words, he said, "They could have done something about it in the past." But that is precisely the point. So many of those who gave evidence to us said that more was necessary and that greater strength and greater backing were necessary to the decent people, the overwhelming mass there—let us always remember it—of all groups. We sometimes get a view of Northern Ireland from over here that it is totally and entirely peopled by thugs and blackguards. The vast majority are decent working people who mean no harm whatever to their neighbours, but they need the support of the law.

I must concede that over the years—it happened before I chaired this working party—I have become a convert to the principle that there is a place for the law in the matter of equal opportunity and of discrimination. However, I believe that our own experience in Great Britain where race is concerned, and the experience of other countries, some of which is dealt with at least in summary in the Report, shows that it is necessary to have a declaration of public policy which takes the form of the public law. I believe that it gives support for those who have no wish to discriminate but by social circumstances, intimidation and the rest find themselves with no alternative but to do so. I think that it gives protection and redress to minority groups.

Let it be said again, as the Minister of State said so clearly, that "minority groups" in this context does not always mean Catholic minority groups. That is one of the realities of employment in Northern Ireland. Such a declaration can give peaceful and orderly redress for grievances. It discourages, although it does not eliminate—we know that from race relations legislation in Great Britain—behaviour in which prejudice finds expression. It is necessary that, as far as this House can devise it, the machinery to be set up in this Bill, and so on, should be as widely acceptable as we can make it.

To that end I draw the attention of the House to the substantial provisions in the Bill—and here it draws extensively again on the Report—for conciliation. I confess that I had something to do with influencing opinion here because, as a lawyer, like the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson), I have always felt that the principal weakness of our Industrial Relations Act was that it brought the lawyers into play much too quickly.

I shall not talk about that Act now. I should not be in order if I were to do so, and I do not wish to disturb the peaceful waters as they lap towards the Minister of State, but I identify that as what I have always regarded as a particular weakness of the Act, namely, that the lawyers came into play much too quickly. I was always anxious, and I had no difficulty in persuading my colleagues, that in any legislation arising out of the Report, lawyers should not be brought into play too soon.

This is a delicate matter about which men and women feel intensely. This is going to the very root of some of their deepest fears, very often, and prejudices in some cases. I hope, therefore, that the House will notice the many steps which the Agency is being empowered to take. It may seek to secure a settlement, it may obtain written undertakings, and it may thereafter, if those undertakings are not complied with, make further attempts at conciliation. The Agency is being given power to revoke or modify notices that have been served on both parties in the light of subsequent discussions and conciliation procedures, and only finally do we find the matter before the county court, and in my judgment that is as it should be in relationships as delicate as this.

I now propose to say something about the exemptions in Clause 37, with particular reference to the exemption of full employment as a teacher in a school, a matter which the Minister of State reminded us refers only to a teacher in a school. There is far more cross-fertilisation between Catholic and State schools in Northern Ireland in terms of caretaking and things of that kind than one might suppose.

I am as conscious as anyone could be of the potentially divisive nature of the organisation of much of education in Northern Ireland at the present time, but I believe that the Government are right not to push too fast and too hard at this delicate matter. I notice the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) laughing. Let him remember that there are as many anxieties in what I call "Protestant schools" and among Protestant parents as ever there are among Catholic schools and parents, and it is a mistake to seek to convey to the House by that sort of laughter that the Government are dragging their feet at the behest of the Catholic Church.

Mr. Powell


Mr. van Straubenzee

That is how one can take it. The right hon. Gentleman can make his own speech in his own time. The Government are right to proceed with care.

I remember making a careful examination of the Dutch experience. They seem to provide an admirable example of a people who, albeit under great external pressure, now have a carefully balanced system. Many Dutch people tell me that they brought this about through major changes in their educational system.

Great changes are already taking place in Northern Ireland. It is enormously encouraging, surely, that teachers, for example, in Northern Ireland are in some degree being trained together regardless of the school to which they will go, and that all the authorities are accepting the qualifications of those who come out of the common training progromme.

It is true that there are grave constraints of geography—the hon. Member for Armagh was extremely fair on this matter—in both education and employment. If, by order under the Bill, the Government were to say that any teacher could apply for a teaching post at a school in the heart of the Ardoyne, the reality of the situation is that only Catholic teachers would apply. That does not necessarily mean discrimination on the part of their potential employers. It is the reality of the geographical situation in that part of Belfast, and the same thing could be found in hard areas the other way.

When we move into the industrial and commercial fields, in order to determine whether discrimination has been practised it would hardly be sensible or wise for the House to set up an Agency which had no regard whatever to that kind of consideration. When we move, as I hope we shall in due course by affirmative Order, to bring sections or groups of school teachers within the ambit of the legislation, it will be right to have that kind of consideration in mind.

The Report was concerned only with the private sector, and that should be made clear, but it had the unfortunate result that when dealing with educational matters we brought within our ambit only voluntary schools, although we had discussions that went wider than that. I had understood that there was widespread agreement with the proposition that one could be exempt from the provisions of a Bill such as this only where religion is a bona fide professional qualification for the post in question. However, subsequent discussions by the Government have led them to a different conclusion. For reasons which I have outlined I believe that, in practical terms, their decision is right, but I very much hope that, quietly and carefully, with the aid of this Agency, we shall be able to make some progress in bringing young people together in schools.

In a destructive world—and in Northern Ireland terms we live in a very destructive world—it is surely to be welcomed that here is something constructive. Here is something that has been done in Northern Ireland. Here is something that is the work of both Catholics and Protestants, as well I know. Here is something that has brought trade unions, employers, Chamber of Commerce representatives and public servants together. Here is something which, in an immensely delicate and difficult matter, they have been able to agree.

I have only recently been back to Northern Ireland for the first time since I left in 1974. I was grateful for the opportunity given to me because I was able again to talk to what I hope I may call my old friends in these three bodies to satisfy myself that they were in principle as keen as they ever were that this legislation should proceed. I have it in writing from all of them that all three bodies, quite rightly, have Committee points which they would like us to consider at the right moment.

There is a further consideration which has been brought out before but which bears repetition. When I left in 1974, as the Minister of State has commented, we had a reasonably rosy economic situation in Northern Ireland. I had feared that my friends on both sides of industry might well say to me "The situation today is so difficult for us and we are so fearful of the future "—and economically they were very anxious—"that this is no time for a Bill of this kind. You should drop it and leave it alone." But I got exactly the counter-argument. That argument was that at a time of recession, that of all times was the time to make the best use possible of the labour force and that one should remove the barriers and inhibitions from the fullest use of the work force.

Having got that constructive argument and having got something which has brought men and women of good will together from both sides of the divide, it comes to this House, and the political representatives, or at any rate the larger number of them, of Northern Ireland, decide, so we hear tonight, that they are going to vote against it. They will go down in history as the political pygmies of Northern Ireland, men who will not recognise and cannot take their opportunities. As a Back Bench Conservative, with no kind of responsibility—[An HON. MEMBER: "Thank God."] The hon. Member may well say "Thank God". I think the Almighty may have had something to do with it. If, when the time comes at the end of this debate, we actually see Members of the Conservative Party—perhaps leading Members of it—voting in favour, and one of the groups of the coalition voting against it, it will show the gulf which has opened up between that group of the UUU and the Tory Party to which they have allegedly some kind of constitutional allegiance.

For my own part, I welcome the Bill. I believe we are right to proceed with it. I very much hope that if a vote is called, those who think like I do will assert their view in the Lobby. I believe that though it can doubtless be improved in Committee, it must be right for Northern Ireland that we proceed with a constructive and hopeful measure like this.

7.43 p.m.

Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I shall speak briefly and even with apologies as one who has never lived in Northern Ireland and has never been in significant contact with Northern Ireland.

It seems to me difficult to do other than welcome the Bill. On one level it can be seen as a declaration of belief in motherhood, personal hygiene and home baking, and nothing more radical than that. What is lamentable is that it is regarded in some parts of Northern Ireland as a radical measure or, in another sense, as in some way a form of insult to those who dominate Ulster politics.

It is perhaps one of the sadder features of the twentieth century that we have discovered in our institutions and in our societies here and everywhere, particularly in the developed world, a capacity to be hideously unfair to our fellow men on a number of spurious bases. We discovered that it was necessary to tell ourselves that it was not nice to discriminate against human beings because their skins were not white. It was scandalous that we had to tell ourselves this. It was perhaps even more frightening that many people were scandalised to be told that it was not nice to discriminate against people because their skins were not white.

By the same token, it is not nice to discriminate against people because of their religious commitments. I notice that Opposition Members do not disagree with that principle. Bearing in mind that the Bill is a really modest little affair, I suggest that they are doing themselves a great deal of damage by being seen to oppose what is, as has already been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson), a declaratory piece of legislation. It is not designed to have ferocious teeth to compel people to abandon their prejudices by force, by mobilising the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and police and the court system against them. At the very most, somebody may get his wrists slapped if he does not behave according to the rules. Clearly, what the Government intend is that people shall be held up to public view in order to invite public disapproval if they are seen and are proved to have been discriminating against people in the matter of employment purely and simply on the basis of their religious affiliations.

This seems a wholly unexceptionable piece of legislation. I think it is lamentable that a Member from Ulster should attempt at this late date to convince this House that there is no discrimination in Ulster. That was pathetic. I doubt whether there is a person in the United Kingdom who would believe such a statement. It does the hon. Members cause no good at all to say that there is discrimination, to challenge every factual statement about discrimination with an attempted rebuttal and then to question whoever makes such a statement as being dishonest or informed by hideously motivated people. It does not serve the interests of the people of Ulster in any way to do this.

The principle is one which would surely receive universal acceptance everywhere in the world, although we have all noticed the great difficulties which people encounter when they attempt to apply those principles. It involves us in thinking about ourselves as individuals in our relationships to other individuals, and how we define other people and define ourselves in relation to other people.

I spent my earliest years in a divided community in the West of Scotland, where young people learned at a very tender age to hate other young people on the basis, as it happened, of their religious character or supposed religious character. I am very familiar with that kind of psychology. It took me many years to shake it off. It is a force in one's upbringing which deforms the mind and makes it impossible to think rationally about one's relationship with the rest of humanity. It obliges one to cart that piece of intellectual—if it can be graced with that term—luggage which gets in the way of civilised relationships with other people.

However, mercifully, I was obliged with my parents to emigrate from that wretched environment many years ago and I have, I hope, recovered from the virus of sectarian infection. But, as one who has had it, I am in a reasonably good position to look at it with some authority. As people—I mean this with respect; I do not wish to provoke anybody—who have lived nowhere else, and this is the truth of most of the Members from Ulster, they have greater difficulty in seeing this. They have been immersed in it all their lives. I sympathise with them truly, but I think they should allow other Members the possibility of seeing an aspect of the truth of Ulster which they themselves are unable to see clearly.

Mr. Kilfedder

The hon. Gentleman is saying that Ulster Members are perhaps provincial. For many years I gave free legal advice at an advice centre here in London. In fact, the same advice centre was attended by the present Solicitor-General. There I saw terrible cases of what are termed working-class people being oppressed, of coloured people being oppressed. Within a few miles of this House there are coloured people who are prevented from getting jobs. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that we ought to have this legislation extended to all of Great Britain so that those coloured people get jobs? Would the trade unions support him?

Mr. Litterick

I am a little puzzled by that intervention. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I would not dream at any time of using so condescending a word as "provincial" in this context. What is more, we already have on the statute book legislation which, we hope at least, will help to deal with that problem.

Mr. Kilfedder

In fact, it does not There are many whom it does not help

Mr. Litterick

It may not deal with the problem in practice, but we are trying. That is why I give my support to the present Bill, and I thought that I was doing it in a modest way since it is only a modest measure. It will not change everything. It is simply a bit of public pressure from our legislative assembly, hoping to persuade people of the truth of the principle that it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation, and offering a little encouragement to those in society who would actively work to dispel discrimination of that sort.

The Bill is needed. It is, as I say, a matter for sadness that such legislation and such encouragement is needed in certain parts of this country where only a minority of the population would have the courage to stand up and say that it is wrong to discriminate on that basis. But the Bill offers them a form of support, however mild.

I can understand why the Government thought better—if they ever had the first thought—of using the Bill within the education system, and here I am very much in agreement, I think, with what was said by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). Given my own background, I am all too familiar with the fact that one gets infected with this hideous rubbish at a very early age. One goes to a Protestant school or to a Catholic school. I vividly remember that one of our fringe activities was to go down the road and knock hell out of the kids in the Catholic school, or they would come up the road and do battle with us. It was the way in which we defined enmity, so to say—how we defined our enemies—and, of course, we learned all sorts of other anti-social things as well.

Whatever may be said about the habits of a community, the fact of life is that in certain parts of the country people are separated as children. They learn it without anyone actually saying it to them, but they are told that they are different and they therefore ought to go a cerain school and be taught only by one sort of teacher. The other schools may be good schools, the teachers may be well trained and the children may never have it pointed out to them during their 10 years at school that they ought to despise those of the other denomination. But that makes no difference. The fact is that one is declared to be different by being put in a different kind of school, and that is reinforced by the nature and habits of the community.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I know that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the House in any way, and we must have this absolutely clear. There are no Protestant schools in Northern Ireland. There is the State system of education and a Roman Catholic system of education. I go along with the hon. Gentleman in saying that I should like to see integrated education under the State system.

Mr. Litterick

I am grateful for that intervention. I hope that I had not said anything factually wrong. I simply know that there are two sets of schools—as, indeed, there are in this country, one might almost say. But the facts of different institutions existing in the same place have the effect of defining in children's minds the fact of difference.

As we know, children find their own rationalisations of that difference. It is essential to the child that, having had established in his mind that he is different, he must establish also in his mind, for his own benefit that he is better, and he will seek to prove it. For children, there is a simply way of proving that one is better—to go and knock hell out of the other guy, and the more he does that the more likely he is to arrive at adolescence with a firm conviction that, if he does not prove he is better by knocking hell out of the other guy, the other guy will knock hell out of him if he does not watch out. And that leads to all the other peculiar and neurotic behaviour of the adult in a sectarian situation. I make no apology for using the word "neurotic" in this circumstance.

I am very familiar with the behaviour of sectarianised communities in the matter of employment. I worked for several years in a community which was divided in approximately the same proportions as Northern Ireland appears now to be divided along sectarian lines. There were no rules, there was no external committee to tell me how many "Prods" and how many Catholics I should employ. But, by heaven, there were rules all right. If I stepped out of line as the man in that situation who controlled employment, somebody would come to see me. It would either be somebody from within the industrial organisation in which I was employed or it would be somebody from the external community. Their communications system worked extremely well. They knew as much as I did about the sectarian composition of the labour force, and, by heaven, they were not hesitant in seeking to bring their own pressures to bear.

I learned quickly that one had to be seen to be even-handed. Since I was someone involved in neither community, it was a matter of survival for me, since it so happened that the employer was a foreigner, an American, who did not give a damn whether the people who churned out his profits were Catholic or Protestant, so long as the profits were there. All he wanted me to do was to keep his workers quiet, and I discovered that one way to keep them quiet was to make sure that I did not offend their sense of propriety in the matter of who got the jobs and who did not.

That brings me to the question of the use of an external institution, in effect, depriving an employer of his freedom in whom to hire. An employer will always discriminate among the people whom he could potentially hire. He ought to if he is a competent and professionally skilled employer. He owes an obligation to the organisation which he is trying to run to do so.

But there are other bases of discrimination. The Bills is not designed to deprive an employer of his freedom to discriminate between a potentially efficient and a potentially inefficient would-be employee. It is designed merely to eliminate from his consideration these other matters which the Bill now says ought to be matters of public consideration, and that in turn will affect the way in which, historically, we have always run industry. Industry has always been run on a unitary basis—on a unitary authoritarian basis, if one cares to put it like that—with the ultimate source of authority in an industrial organisation lying in either the proprietor or the appointed agents of the proprietor.

This Bill, in a small way—there are other pieces of legislation with which we are all familiar—challenges that basic assumption and offers, in my view, good reason for saying to employers "There are certain things which you may no longer do and attempt to justify for your own reasons or in terms of your own advantage. There are certain criteria which must be brought to bear in the public interest".

It seems to me that this raises the question whether the government of industry should continue to be the secret affair which it always has been, or whether it should become a more open and, in a word, more democratic affair. As a democrat, I seek to bring about an extension of democracy beyond the confines of such institutions as this into the places where people work and have their being.

I see the Bill, however modest, as making one short step along that road, and it seems to me that it is a road along which we should all gladly travel.

7.59 p.m.

Mr. Paul Channon (Southend, West)

I intervene briefly because I was respon- sible for setting up the working party and I have, therefore, followed with great interest both its work and the conclusions to which it came. I was present at only very few of the early meetings, and all the credit, if credit it be—and I believe it to be credit—for the results of the working party must go to my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and the working party itself.

For a few months I had responsibilities in Northern Ireland. In contrast to what was said by the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), I found that there were continual complaints of alleged discrimination from many people in both sections of the community. There were complaints from hon. Members and from many sections of the community. I do not think that the hon. Member for Armagh would deny that.

The overwhelming pressure for the establishment of the working party came from both the trade union movement and the employers' organisations in Northern Ireland. It was not a bright idea foisted upon an unwilling group of people by wicked British intervention. The establishment of the working party was actively pressed on us during our period in office in Northern Ireland by the trade unions and employers' organisations united.

We must all agree that it is a remarkable achievement that the working party should have managed to produce a unanimous Report on such a delicate and difficult problem. Agreement was reached between people from both sides of industry, between people of different political views and different religious persuasions. I believe that prima facie the Report deserves the serious consideration that it is now receiving.

I do not think that anyone in the House, no matter how optimistic he or she may be, believes that the problems of Northern Ireland will be solved merely by the adoption of this measure. We must ask ourselves whether the introduction of this measure, should it become an Act, will make the situation in Northern Ireland better, or whether, as the hon. Member for Armagh suggested, it will make it worse. If the hon. Gentleman is right in his analysis, and if its introduction will make the situation worse, the House should think carefully before deciding whether to give it a Second Reading. It is often difficult for English Members to judge how much weight to put upon the evidence placed before the House from a Northern Ireland Member. Many English Members do not have the first-hand experience of the hon. Member for Armagh.

It cannot be ignored that in 1972 both the employers and the trade unions wanted the working party to be established. In 1976 the trade unions have repeated to me that the Bill should go forward. The employers also wish it to go forward. I do not think it can be seriously contended that many of those most closely connected with industrial problems in Northern Ireland wish a measure of this sort to be introduced. I still believe that it is right that something along these lines should be introduced.

When a measure such as this is introduced it is easy to pick holes in it. It must have been an extraordinarily difficult Bill to draft. No doubt there are many aspects that will need to be changed in Committee.

I think that the hon. Member for Armagh was right to stress how the industrial situation in Northern Ireland has been remarkably stable under the extra-ordinarily difficult problems that have prevailed over the past few years. It is astonishing how people have managed to put up with the appalling dangers of travelling to work and the other terrible inconveniences and troubles that they have had to face. It is remarkable that production in Northern Ireland has been so little affected and that relations within factories have been so good. The greatest credit goes to managers and trade unions.

As in 1972, a great many people in Northern Ireland still believe that religious discrimination exists. We have to face the evidence that was emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham and what is implicit in paragraph 11 of the Report. To some degree religious discrimination exists as a fact of life in employment in Northern Ireland. I do not think that can be seriously disputed. The question that any Government must ask themselves is whether the situation can possibly be changed. It is pointless for the House to argue about the extent of religious discrimination or about what has taken place in the past.

What happened in the past has happened, and there is no point in our trying to apportion blame or to judge the extent of religious discrimination. As has been pointed out, religious discrimination exists in both sections of the community.

I believe that there were strong pressures in Northern Ireland for action to be taken to try to make a modest start in tackling the problem. The working party was established, and in paragraph 24 some possible attempts to deal with the problem are outlined. Should there have been voluntary arrangements or should we have proceeded to introduce compulsory measures such as those which the Government have decided to bring forward? It must have been an extra-ordinarily difficult decision to make.

It was a remarkable achievement for such a widely divergent working party to come to a unanimous conclusion. The only tentative conclusion which I reached has been endorsed by the working party—namely, that it would have been totally wrong to have any system of quotas. The working party rightly ruled out that possibility. It decided that conciliation should be the keynote in any system that was adopted. It rightly took that as the basis of its Report.

There will be problems in the implementation of this measure as it will not fulfil everything that we should like to see of it. However, in spite of the many difficulties that will arise, there is a necessity for legislation of this sort to be introduced. We have the support of both sides of industry in Northern Ireland. That support has been expressed throughout the years, not merely for a few short months. The House should make the attempt to enact this measure and to give Northern Ireland the opportunity to adopt a system which may go some way towards resolving some of its difficult problems. I shall vote for the Second Reading if there is to be a Division. I very much hope that it will not be necessary for a vote to take place.

I echo what has been said about the work of the civil servants in Northern Ireland. They have had difficult problems to face in the past few years. I and many other people respect the judgment and support given by those who have had to deal with such difficult and delicate matters.

I believe that the Bill should be given a Second Reading not because it provides a panacea for all the problems of discrimination in Northern Ireland but because it is an attempt that must be made. It is an attempt that on balance will do more good than harm. It is an attempt that is widely desired by those most deeply concerned with Northern Ireland's problems. That desire is felt on both sides of industry. On those grounds I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading.

8.10 p.m.

Mr. Robert J. Bradford (Belfast, South)

We on this side of the House, particularly on this Bench, listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson). We were impressed by his analysis of the situation in Northern Ireland but were rather saddened that he did not take a little more time to state that the real problem in Ulster is that there is no attempt to provide us with parity with the rest of the Kingdom in this kind of legislation or that one of the best ways to remove the tendency there to become alarmed at certain movements by the minority in some industries is to integrate us fully into the Kingdom, thereby exposing us, as we should be happy to be exposed, to legislation about discrimination in employment in respect of the whole Kingdom.

Hon. Members should not be alarmed if we do not place too much importance on the comments and analysis submitted by some of the bodies detailed in the Report which gave rise to the Bill. In one of its booklets, before it made any recommendations about discrimination in employment, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions gave a political and historical analysis which included this remarkable statement: Self-interested politicians can usurp the resources of loyalty which are called for in the face of such threats and can divert the electorate from the policies of peace and social development. If a common enemy does not exist, such politicians find it easy to invent one. It went on to say that there was …an obsession with an illusory enemy. Is there anything illusory about the enemy which has caused such havoc in the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) and Londonderry (Mr. Ross) or which has ravished industry in Northern Ireland? When such a body, purporting to represent grass roots feeling among union members, makes such statements, we should be wise to pause before accepting all that it says about the history of politics or discrimination in Northern Ireland.

If one had decided deliberately to discourage future investment in Northern Ireland and to undermine the present determination of established industries to survive, if one wanted generally to disrupt the Northern Ireland economy, one could do no better than to pass this Bill. It was conceived in a period of confused attitudes in the Northern Ireland Office, a period which gave rise to the 1973 Northern Ireland Constitution (Amendment) Act, which shares some of the basic absurdities of the Bill in terms of preconceived ideas and jaudiced objectives.

It is clear from the propensity of the then Government for getting everything wrong in Northern Ireland that all the wrong questions were asked about discrimination and thus unhelpful answers received. But one hopes that, when we begin to appreciate the serious ramifications of the Bill, the House will seek another means to safeguard the equal opportunities in employment which prevail in Northern Ireland.

I would take this opportunity to answer some of the criticism of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker). He said not that there were not general evidences of discrimination but that systematic discrimination, particularly in the public sector, could not be proved. No doubt he will be able 'o quote his sources, unlike some of those who have taken part in the debate, with a note of authority but without backing up their statements.

The Bill will place employers in an invidious position, in which they cannot win. Any selection means that discriminatory judgments are made. While the Bill seeks to apply itself to unlawful discrimination, in fact discrimination in a perfectly normal assessment of suitability will be open to appeal. We cannot expect an angelic objectivity from pressurised employees contending for a diminishing number of posts, so we shall find far more discontent and disruption than if straight-forward appointments were made by personnel departments. Whichever way an employer decides to move, he will often be subject to the most protracted and costly pressures to justify his selection.

Although there is no legislation to this effect, the spirit of the Bill already operates, I understand, in the public sector. I should like to give an example of the kind of problem that employers will face, which can be taken from the experience of public sector industry in Northern Ireland. Three people, two of them Protestants and the other a Roman Catholic, applied for the same job. Not without great difficulty, a panel of three interviewers is decided upon. Then there was the interview, after which, obviously, the two unsuccessful applicants for promotion appealed. Then the appellants were interviewed in turn. Then the panel consulted. Then the panel met the appellants to try to avoid a formal appeal. That was followed by the formal appeal, after which there was an interview with the appeal panel. Then the chairman of the appeal panel interviewed the two people concerned. After all that, there is now an an insistence on the case going to arbitration.

I catalogue those meetings and incidents merely to show the great difficulty confronting that personnel officer. It was a case of Hobson's choice: whichever way he turned, he would be challenged and labelled with the dreadful word "discrimination". I say in passing that this job involved an increase of £10 per annum.

I come to the question of cost. The first cost is to the taxpayer. Many of the people involved on the original selection panel and those involved on the panel of appeal were in the £6,000-a-year-plus bracket. Bearing in mind all of the time involved in this protracted business of appeal and selection and so on, we can easily assess what kind of costs will mount up if this Bill is passed. We can imagine the elborate perpheral activities of this Agency if it ever gets off the ground—the conferences which it will arrange and conduct, the necessary and expedient research, the disseminating of information. Are we being told that all of this will not increase the pressure on the taxpayer? I doubt whether that will be the case.

Let me deal with the cost to the employer. An employer is anxious to keep the system in motion. He wishes to make a new appointment as quickly as possible. More often than not there will be this protracted and costly system of appeal which will mean that the employer will not be able to make the necessary appointments which will help his organisation retain the degree of necessary efficiency upon which his profits are built.

The Bill will be costly to the employer and also to the employee. Clause 3(2) speaks of "due allowance" being made when considering people for an appointment. What if the "due allowance" was the availability of money or was purported to be such? It is not impossible for one person to receive an appointment in a salaried position because he is prepared to accept less money than another worker. Within this Bill there is the awful prospect of setting worker against worker.

Clause 11 deals with the question of the availability of labour and skills. These considerations are enough in themselves to impose a legitimate discriminatory process without resorting to religious or political affiliations. Within certain industries there will be a preponderance of one section of the community. This is because it is a traditional trend. It has nothing to do with inequality of opportunity. It has everything to do with personal choice, albeit a personal choice influenced by the abundance or lack of wealth in a home, a choice influenced by encouragement to pursue further education and training or the lack of such encouragement.

Are we to understand that the Government want to condition either section of the community to feel that it is being discriminated against unless it has adequate representation in every major industry or trade in Northern Ireland? If so, they should be honest enough to state that. They should not campaign under the banner of human rights and freedom, because their objective is entirely the opposite. It is to condition, to limit, to control, so as to slake some kind of thirst for a distorted notion of morality.

Clause 16 contains the alarming phrase "political opinion." There must not be discrimination because of political opinion. It is correct to say that the level of violence in Northern Ireland—and sometimes we are led to believe that it is an acceptable level—inhibits the development of industry and the Northern Ireland economy. It is said that people will not wish to expand if violence cannot be curbed and eradicated. Can anyone think of a more absurd possibility than that an industry or firm should be told "You must employ people of a particular political persuasion" when members of that political persuasion are to be seen on television or heard on radio saying that more factories will be destroyed, more people will be killed, that there will be more destruction if there is no concession by the British Government?

What kind of reaction would we expect if Maire Drumm or Seamus Loughran were to apply for positions in a fertiliser factory or an explosives factory? If they were the only two people applying for the job and there was a preponderance of the majority community, the employer would have an impossible task. Yet we are to place such people, such firms, who have contributed so much to the economy of Northern Ireland, in that invidious position because of an indecent haste to push through ill-formed legislation. I ask the House to think long and carefully before giving consent to the further progress of this Bill.

8.27 p.m.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

The Title of this Bill is simple. Its contents are not. I wholeheartedly endorse the first part of the Title which speaks of: promoting equality of opportunity in employment and occupations in Northern Ireland between people of different religious beliefs". That is certainly a worthy goal. I do not think any hon. Member should accuse me or any other hon. Member who represents the majority in Northern Ireland in this House of wishing to do otherwise.

We want to see an end to discrimination. Such an intention would be included in any Bill of Rights which was outlined in the UUUC manifesto and by means of which an aggrieved person could seek his or her remedy in the courts or else seek a remedy through the enlarged powers of the Ombudsman. However, the bill goes further than that and endorses the charge against the people of Northern Ireland of wholesale discrimination. The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) made the same charge, although eventually he quoted what the Report said, that discrimination exists to some degree in Northern Ireland. Only "some degree". No one would dispute that. But there is a greater degree of good will between people of different religions in the Province than is realised by hon. Members.

The Bill has grave defects and it is likely to worsen relations between workers in Northern Ireland. I say to the hon. Member for Wokingham that the Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies fight for what is termed in the House and in Great Britain as the working class. If there is a distinction between ourselves and the Conservative Party, it is that. We seek social justice for all people, and we shall continue to do so, despite the admonitions of the hon. Member.

The Industrial Relations Act, passed by this House, contained grave defects. I am afraid that this Bill repeats the same mistakes. Hon. Members who support the Bill imply that they would support anything to help people in the United Kingdom. Yet I have heard no hon. Member opposite pledge himself to introduce legislation to get rid of the terrible handicaps imposed on coloured people in this City and in other cities throughout Great Britain which prevent them from getting a job and a reasonable home. Hon. Members opposite speak loudly about conditions in Northern Ireland but turn a blind eye to the rampant discrimination which exists in this part of the United Kingdom.

This will not be the first time that this House has enacted legislation which contains grave defects. A curiosity of legislation for Ireland which has emanated from this House over the years, indeed over the centuries, is that, although the expression "religious beliefs" is often used, it has never been defined; and it is certainly not defined in this Bill. Plainly the Civil Service, which is responsible for administering much of this legislation, must have a fairly satisfactory working definition.

Those of us who took part in the debates on the Northern Ireland Constitution Bill in 1973 know something of the difficulty. That Bill re-enacted in a modified form Sections 5 and 8 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Section 5 debarred the enactment of legislation which favoured any religion. Section 8 debarred administrative action which favoured any religion. It is under these provisions in the 1973 Act that a university scholarship cannot be awarded to a student who proposes to follow a divinity course with a denominational content. Because of those provisions, public money cannot be given to a youth club or community association whose rules of membership or aims would tend to advance the cause of a particular religion.

Those very useful provisions were discarded by the Republic of Eire with social and educational consequences which are obvious to people with experience of that country. However, Northern Ireland never abandoned these important provisions, and that should be recognised by hon. Members opposite. As a result, no enactment of the former Stormont Parliament mentioned religious beliefs and only the Education Acts of 1923 and 1947 ever mentioned a particular denomination. We had to wait for direct rule before legislation and administrative decisions began consciously and deliberately to take account of religion and religious beliefs.

The Bill makes provision for a Fair Employment Agency. We have been assured by the Government spokesman in another place that it will be composed of intelligent men and women and that it will always act sensibly. I wish that I could share the Government's confidence that it will act sensibly, but I do not.

The method by which people are chosen to be members of so-called independent bodies, such as the proposed Agency, makes for an interesting study. If there is any defence for the method used in compiling the list, it can be found only in the science of psychiatry. The hundreds of names suggested by Ministers, civil servants, employers and trade union officials—people they have met, played golf with or had a drink with—are all on a computer at Stormont. All the usual details are on the record—age, sex, marital status, education, known interests and hobbies. The most import- ant detail in the eyes of those responsible for compiling this list is religion. Every man and woman has the letters "RC" for Roman Catholic or "P" for Protestant inscribed opposite the surname. Agnostics are not left out. They have the letters "AP" or "ARC" acording to whether they are agnostic Protestants or agnostic Roman Catholics!

The members of the Agency will be chosen by computer—not at random or by judgment and therefore fairly—but on the basis of religious persuasion.

The Bill expressly excludes teachers. The Minister of State said there were too many difficulties about including them, though he promised that we could discuss the matter in Committee. Even if we discuss it, I think we shall not get teachers included, and this is to be regretted. Where the Bill might have done some good, it has run away from the problem.

The education system in Northern Ireland up to grammar school level is sectarian. The law provides for controlled schools, which are non-denominational, and for voluntary maintained schools, which are largely Roman Catholic.

Hon. Members may not realise that the writ of the Ombudsman does not include complaints from teachers and other staff or applicants for jobs in voluntary schools. They have to suffer indignities in private. They have no right of redress by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Complaints. Teachers and other staff in the State, or controlled, schools have this right. These are schools largely attended by Protestants.

It should be recognised that we in Northern Ireland want to end religious discrimination in education. That is the measure the Government should be putting forward proudly, rather than this paltry Bill with its high-falutin' title. If we end religious discrimination, so that young boys and girls of different religions can go to school together and get to know each other and grow up together, that will bring discrimination to an end.

Experience with the various local government staff commissions, set up a few years ago to supervise fair employment procedures in the public sector, does not inspire confidence in the future of the Agency. Elaborate or time-consuming procedures now exist everywhere in the public sector in Northern Ireland. The aim of ensuring fairness of treatment is good, but the cost in man-hours and administrative expense is astronomic. At the end of the day it is doubtful whether the aim is achieved. Of the 19 clerical appointments made by the Western Education Board in December 1975, only three were Protestants. Yet the procedure no doubt was followed carefully.

I am not saying that the Bill is unnecessary. I am saying that it is inadequate. It is not the way to tackle discrimination. The Agency will create discord where there is none at the moment, and where it seeks to enforce its views by legal sanction it will introduce industrial conflict and run the grave risk of permanently damaging harmonious industrial relations in the Province.

The House knows what followed from the passing of the industrial relations legislation. The actions of the Fair Employment Agency could reproduce in Northern Ireland the same reaction which that legislation produced in Great Britain, with employees in confrontation with employers, and employers puzzled to know what to do for the best for their business—indeed for the survival of their business. The fundamental reasons are the same. The only kind of action which the Agency can take will make criminals of either employees or employers who have done no more than to act in accordance with what they think is in the best interests of their business.

I see no hope of improving the Bill in Committee, except perhaps for deleting Part II which establishes the Fair Employment Agency. All the safeguards could be included in a Bill of Rights. Lord Feather and his colleagues are sitting on a Committee which is considering a Declaration of Human Rights in Northern Ireland. That would be the friendly way to solve the problem.

The real difficulty about the Bill is that the Government have made the mistake of introducing a complicated measure to deal with what they regard as a "very simple subject". I am using the words which were used in another place by the Under-Secretary of State when he introduced the Bill in May 1975. It is not a simple subject. In Committee hon. Members on both sides of the House will realist that the Bill has grave defects and disadvantages. If I genuinely thought that the Bill would promote equality of opportunity in employment and occupation I would support it, but it will do nothing of the kind. Ordinary, decent men and women will gain nothing from the Fair Employment Agency, which will become the stamping-ground for the professional agitator and the trouble maker. We have handed enough hostages to fortune without creating more.

Few in Northern Ireland were convinced by the arguments of the working party. Do the Government imagine for one moment that the Swatragh Co-operative Society would employ a Protestant even under legal sanction, that the Essex Engineering Company, Tyrone Crystal, Limavady Hosiery or Hughes Bakery would employ a Protestant, except perhaps for the statutory one or two to show that there was no discrimination? Of course not, because to do so would create disharmony among the other employees of those companies, and that would bring the work to a stop. The only certain result of this legislation, if it goes through, is that many small firms will simply not take on extra staff if they are forced to take someone they do not want or who may create by his presence endless troubles in the firm.

For downright silliness, the van Straubenzee Committee would be hard to beat. Its members were isolated in the main from the mainspring of life in Northern Ireland. Nothing better illustrates the absurdity of its discussions than the highflown language in the Declaration of Principle and Intent contained in Schedule 3. It says: I/We…bearing in mind the vital importance to industry of a fair and equitable society, affirm and declare without reservation by my/our commitment to the principle of full equality in all aspects of employment opportunity, and utterly reject discrimination on the ground of religious belief or political opinion. It goes on and on in the same sort of language—a strange compound of Cathleen Li Houlihan and the Easter Week declaration of the Republicans.

If this piece of legislation is fastened around the throats of the people of Northern Ireland, we shall endure it as we have endured seven years of bombs and bullets and Government ineptitude.

8.46 p.m.

Mr. John Dunlop (Mid-Ulster)

I may be hopelessly out of order in doing so, Mr. Speaker, but I hope that you will allow me to say what a pleasure it is to me to be called for the first time by your good self, and on behalf of my colleagues I wish you a happy tenure of the Chair. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

I was much intrigued by the catalogue of religious descriptions given by my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder). I was irresistibly drawn to a story concerning the famous Shankill Road in Belfast. Some hon. Members on the Front Benches will know what I mean when I say "up the Shankill". A Jew was coming down the Shankill Road one day unaware of the tense situation in Northern Ireland. Halfway down, he was accosted by an enthusiastic fellow who would call himself a Loyalist or Protestant. The Jew received a shove on the shoulder and was asked "Are you a Protestant or a Catholic?" He replied "I am neither—I am a Jew". The other fellow then said "That is all right, but are you a Protestant Jew or a Catholic Jew?"

Of course, that highlights the situation. To be more serious, however, I have become progressively fed up with these expressions of Protestant and Catholic views, not only in this place but in the news media in Northern Ireland and, indeed, throughout the United Kingdom. Time and again in pronouncements from the Government in connection with Northern Ireland we have heard mentioned in the first sentences the religious beliefs of both perpetrators and victims of various outrages. That is a scandal, and the practice should be abolished both from this House and from the news media.

One always notes, however, that when such outrages occur here, on the mainland, the first thing we are told is "It is the action of the IRA, the enemy of the people. The victims are British people." That is as it should be in Northern Ireland. The victims of these outrages are first and foremost British citizens, and they deserve the protection of the British Government and the British people. I want to see the doing away with the senseless application which is given to all the pronouncements that we hear and, even more so, those in the Bill.

To illustrate what I mean, I wish to highlight the case of two young boys which has come to my notice. The Bill applies to training establishments set up by the Government throughout Northern Ireland. It is a very laudable action, and there are many of those establishments. The case I have in mind comes under the heading of discrimination by way of victimisation and failure to provide equality of opportunity, to say nothing of subjecting persons to any other detriment. This is a case which I have put before the Minister of State who is in charge of manpower services in Northern Ireland.

The case concerns two young boys from the town of Strabane, which is up on the border of County Donegal. Their names are Bresland and Crawford. They graduated out of the local secondary school. They expressed the desire to attend a training college to learn a craft which would fit them for life and give them jobs when their school time was finished. They were sent to the training centre in the city of Londonderry. There, they were subjected to all kinds of pressure, intimidation and even physical violence. They stuck it as long as they could. One day they came home showing visible evidence of the treatment to which they had been subjected, and their parents decided that they were not going back.

Representations were made to me. I contacted the headmaster of the school. Mr. J. K. Thompson. He said that this was all true and that he was greatly concerned about these two young boys. The upshot was that they had to be sent away to Ballymena in the county of Antrim which necessitated their staying in and paying for digs. The fact that they come from working-class families who are in what might be called the lower income groups makes the case even more serious. Their families were subjected to a great deal of hardship. Formerly the boys went to Londonderry, which is a half-hour bus ride away. Now they have to go away to a strange town and live away from home during the week. This is all because of discrimination, victimisation and detriment applied to them.

I am sure that there will be no element of retrospection about the Bill, but if it is passed and these two young boys are brought back from Ballymena and sent again to Londonderry will its provisions protect them and ensure that they have a fair chance to train in this Government centre?

We all know the answer, of course. They have not a chance, and no law contained in the Bill will protect them against this kind of discrimination. Once again, it is a matter of geography. They will be in an area which is predominantly Roman Catholic where young boys have been reared in the atmosphere talked about by my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North. They will not have a chance. The Bill is unworkable for that reason. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) that there is no need in Northern Ireland for legislation of this kind. There are provisions in other enactments of Parliament to cover these conditions.

I have a vivid recollection as a small boy of the troubles of the 1920s. My father was an artisan tradesman in Harland and Wolff or, as we called it, the Queen's Island shipyard. During the height of the troubles he, with other workers, had to run the gauntlet in a very bad quarter of East Belfast. Many a night my mother sat in fear and trembling with me, her eldest son, comforting her, never knowing whether my dad would succeed in running the gauntlet of snipers and gunmen. Many a time when he came home safely he recited to us the events of the day. One of the features of those days was that there was sectarian strife in the shipyard. There was intimidation of workers. Physical violence was used. But that does not obtain today.

One of the outstanding features of all types of industry in Northern Ireland is its complete absence of sectarian violence or intimidation of workers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh said, that sort of thing does not exist and, therefore, our industries enjoy a high standard of workmanship and production, a standard which is not equalled on this side of the channel. The Bill is therefore unnecessary, and Clause 2 is particularly irrelevant.

If the two young boys are brought back from Ballymena and sent to Londonderry, will they get the protection they rightly deserve under the Bill? It is said that school teachers will be excluded from its provisions, but what about other school appointments? Schools need cooks, cleaners and caretakers. Not so long ago there was an advertisement in the Mid-Ulster Mail—a marvellous production—by the North Eastern Education Library Board for the St. Pius XII Secondary School, Magherafelt. I do not need to explain what that school is. I know a man who would make an admirable caretaker for the school and he lives very near to it. He is, however, a loyal member of the local Orange Lodge and a leading drummer in Ballmoghan band. Yet I know what chance Johnny Thornton would have if he applied for the job as caretaker.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Since this splendid man of such admirable virtue is not a teacher, surely his application for the post would come within the terms of the Bill. This point may yet secure the vote of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop) in support of the Bill, because under its provisions he might yet live to see this admirable man as caretaker of the school to which he has referred.

Mr. Dunlop

I shall pass no comment on the hon. Member's observations. I have lived in the South Derry area for 30 years, and I know what chance Johnny Thornton would have of getting that job. The Bill should be thrown out, and that applies particularly to Clause 2.

I have been moved in the debate at the sweet accord which has passed between our Back Bench and the Government Front and Back Benches. I wonder whether in the future there will be the same flow of sweet accord with other legislation.

8.59 p.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop) has done the debate good—and this was perhaps something which it needed earlier—by enabling us to laugh a little, including laughing at the Bill. But the Bill is no laughing matter really. The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) posed, in a fair speech, the real question about the Bill: will it do more harm or more good? It is because my hon. Friends and I are convinced that, in the present context of Northern Ireland, it will do largely more harm than good that we think it our duty to oppose the Second Reading.

The commencement of the Report which has been so often mentioned, and which is properly associated with the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), goes back to August 1972. It is significant that it was then that the investigations of his working party were launched. By August 1972 the civil rights phase of the seven-year troubles was very much on the wane: the figures of the gunman and the bomber were already clearly visible, and the screen, or the misconception, of civil rights was largely dissolving. But in 1972—and as my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) pointed out, this was still visible in the 1973 Act—there was a strong disposition both here in Great Britain and to a considerable extent in Northern Ireland itself to suppose that the root cause of the troubles must lie in some kind of failure to agree, a failure to be reconciled, a failure to eliminate prejudice and discrimination between the different sections of the community in Northern Ireland.

That was August 1972, three and a half years ago. It seems very distant now, perhaps never more distant than this very day, when we reassembled under the shadow of what had been happening in Northern Ireland over the weekend.

As was said earlier, the occasion of that ferocious and still continuing attack upon the citizens of a part of this country was what is called the Stagg affair. It was simply because the Government in every respect and at every juncture acted justly and rightly in the case of Frank Stagg that the enemies not just of Northern Ireland but of this country made a dead set against the innocent people of that Province. There is a whole world which separates, poles apart, what is really happening at the moment in Ulster—the real nature of the enemy, the real cause of the trouble—from considerations of agreement between politicians of different points of view, and of discrimination between one section of the community and another.

My hon. Friends and I do not deny the statement, enunciated in lapidary fashion in the hon. Member for Wokingham's Report, that religious discrimina- tion exists "to some degree as a fact of life in Northern Ireland" today. It would have been very difficult, without turning in a nil report, to say less than that. The Report says "to some degree"—not "to a considerable extent", "to a large extent" or "to a major degree", but "to some degree". Unless that at least was the case, there would have been no point in going on beyond paragraph 11.

Not only do we not dispute that, but we assert that there is far more mistaken belief in the operation of religious discrimination than would qualify for the description "to some degree". There is a very natural atmosphere, which has been intensified by the events of the past seven years, in which discrimination is believed to exist and to be practised where we know perfectly well that it is not. It is common experience to hear, in the same area, the Housing Executive accused by one constituent of discriminating against him because he is a Protestant and by another of discriminating against him because he is a Roman Catholic.

The question is not whether discrimination exists—to some extent in actual fact, but to a much greater extent in a natural but heightened, perhaps sometimes neurotic, imagination—but whether we shall do good or harm by this legislation. Like my hon. Friends, I am convinced that this legislation will intensify both the real and the supposed importance of this problem; that it will focus attention upon discrimination, real or supposed, where attention was not focused previously; and that it will heighten the consciousness of divisions inside the community.

Let us look at how the Bill will work. The first two parts are concerned with the Fair Employment Agency. The Agency is not to be a passive body. It is not just to sit there, in case someone comes along with a complaint to make. Its statutory duty is to go out looking for discrimination, to discover religious affiliations and to find a pattern of discrimination which corresponds to them. Under Clause 1 it has the duty of working for the elimination of discrimination". So it is not just passive: it has to go out and find discrimination. It is in business to do that. That is the job with which it is entrusted.

When we look at Clauses 11 and 12 we find how it is told to do it. Let us take Clause 11: It shall be the duty of the Agency to identify and keep under review patterns and trends of employment in Northern Ireland…for the purposes of considering whether they reveal the existence or absence of equality of opportunity —which is defined as related to discrimination on grounds of religious belief.

How will the Agency do this? It has got to identify…patterns…of employment in relation to religious discrimination. Quite clearly it must ensure that firms and occupations above the minimum exclusion limit report not merely what are their recruitment practices but what pattern of employment they have. Unless this means that there is to be a survey of employment in Northern Ireland in terms of religion, it means nothing and the Agency will not be carrying out its function.

I have no doubt—it has not been disputed—that in many firms, though by no means in all, people will be pretty well aware of those who are Roman Catholic and those who are not Roman Catholic. Probably the expression "not Roman Catholic" is more accurate than "Protestant". Indeed, I often find myself in some embarrassment as an Anglican wondering whether I am a Catholic or a Protestant. Be that as it may, it must be the foundation of the Agency's work to throw a searchlight upon the proportions of those of different religious beliefs who are employed in different undertakings. Having done that, the Agency must consider what those "patterns and trends" portend, whether they 'reveal' —once again I am quoting— the existence or absence of equality of opportunity. Let me suppose that, having had such a survey carried out—never mind the problem of finding out what men's religious beliefs actually are—the Agency discovers that in a certain undertaking 75 per cent. of the employees are not Roman Catholic and 25 per cent. are. It has to go on from there to deduce whether that reveals the existence or absence of equality of opportunity". Does it take into account the tradition of that firm? Does it take into account the area in which the firm is situated? Does it take into account the traditional connection between some employments and the members of one or another religious persuasion? There are 1,001 reasons why the proportion in a particular firm at a particular place might be 75 per cert. to 25 per cent.

I shall not stop with that question. Let us suppose—because this is implicit in the Bill—that somehow—we do not know how—the Agency comes to the conclusion that that firm is guilty of denying its employees equality of opportunity; that that pattern is evidence of the absence of equality of opportunity". What will the Agency do then? It has the duty of promoting equality of opportunity". So it has a duty to indicate how the situation should be put right. How, then, should it be put right? How will the Agency operate?

On both sides of the House there has been a chorus of hon. Members saying that there is nothing in the Bill about quotas: that is one thing that seems to unite many of the speakers. The right hon. Gentleman said: "Nothing about quotas in the Bill"; and the hon. Member for Workingham would have nothing to do with quotas. But here is the manager of this firm, which is 75 per cent. to 25 per cent. and where the Fair Employment Agency has indicated the absence of equality of opportunity". The manager says "What am I to do to put it right? Would it be equality of opportunity if I had 70—30, or 65—35, or 50—50?". What will the Agency do? How will it fix what would be the right proportion, in the absence of discrimination, in that particular firm in that particular area?

The thing becomes ludicrous if it does not mean that quotas have to be fixed. Unless it means enforcing a different ratio from the ratio which the Agency has discovered, it means nothing at all—and yet this is the heart of the Agency's duty.

This is why my hon. Friends and I believe that the very essence of this operation—it cannot help it—will be to stimulate consciousness of religious difference. It will stimulate in the minds of employees the idea "I never thought of it before, but perhaps there is discrimination here". It will stimulate the desire to show up a firm, to make this a cause of complaint against a firm. In short, it will be the cause of strife, instead of leading to the elimination of it.

Under the Bill, firms and organisations are to be invited to subscribe to the Declaration of Principles and Intent. In a world in which we have "voluntary" incomes policies and "voluntary" agreements for North Sea oil, we find the rather ominous phrase in Clause 6(2): The Agency shall also use its best endeavours to encourage all employers and all vocational organisations to subscribe to the Declaration. In other words, when competing for Government contracts, for instance, or when advertising for staff, or in any other public contest, woe betide the firm that has not subscribed to the Declaration of Principle and Intent. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Hear. hear."]

I am not sure what that is directed to; but let us see whether the "Hear, hear" is an enthusiastic acceptance of what has to be said in the Declaration. Here it is: I…affirm and declare without reservation my…commitment to the principle of full equality in all aspects of employment opportunity —and then there follows— and utterly reject discrimination on the around of religious belief or political opinion. But this Bill, in Clause 16, makes discrimination on the ground of religious belief or political opinion unlawful. I submit that the citizen ought not to be invited, let alone encouraged or covertly obliged, to sign a declaration that he rejects that which Parliament has declared unlawful. It is an intolerable requirement that a person should be threatened with being pilloried if he will not come forward and say that he rejects that which by Act of Parliament is in any case unlawful. I will go so far as to say that no self-respecting law-abiding citizen would, without qualm or shame, be able to sign a declaration of principle and intent that he utterly rejects discrimination on the ground of religious belief or political opinion. If there is any practical effect of this, what is it? It is to enable the Agency to confront that man with a statistical situation—there are other means available in the rest of the Bill to deal with individual discrimination—and say "This has got to be altered, and altered in a particular way". It is that process which is going to cause the disruption, the division, the enhanced consciousness of the sectarian divide, which we believe will be the result of this Bill.

There is one point in that declaration of principle to which I drew attention in an intervention in the speech of the Minister of State, that whereas employment opportunity is defined in the Bill only in the religious context, and discrimination is defined in the context of religious belief or political opinion, the Declaration of Principle covers both, though it purports to be dealing only with employment opportunity.

Political opinion is a very ticklish business. It is to be unlawful, says the Bill, to discriminate between two applicants for employment on grounds of political opinion. Can this be meant seriously, or can anyone who put this forward have considered what it means? The Secretary of State, in the course of organising the cease-fire arrangements, discovered that there was a thing called Provisional Sinn Fein. Provisional Sinn Fein was not the IRA; it was a political party; it was perfectly lawful to belong to the Provisional Sinn Fein. So no employer in any circumstances, unless the Secretary of State for the purpose of safeguarding national security or of protecting public safety or public order signs a certificate under Clause 42, can discriminate between two applicants for employment on the ground that one of them is a member of Provisional Sinn Fein—that is to say, that one of them adheres to the political wing of a movement which is dedicated to using force, economic disruption and terror of every kind in order to detach Northern Ireland by constraint from the United Kingdom.

I have taken an extreme case, though it is covered, so far as I can understand, by the Bill, unless we are going to amend it in Committee and have a schedule of excepted political parties written in. But, of course, in the circumstances which prevail in Northern Ireland there are many shades of political opinion on which discrimination is not merely inevitable but its absence would be inconceivable. Therefore, quite apart from the operations or the Agency, we are being asked to write into a Bill something which we know in advance cannot be truthfully or practicably applied but which will provide the basis for a constant series of activities which will highlight discord, which will bring discord where there was no discord before, and which will place pressure upon those who are entirely innocent of any improper desire in the organisation of their employment.

From beginning to end of the debate there has been a question addressed to my hon. Friends and myself: why is it that we, coming from Northern Ireland, intend to vote against the Bill when all the laudable bodies which contributed to the working party presided over by the hon. Member for Wokingham thought the operation perfectly sound and, indeed, were keen to support such a Bill?

There is an obligation to answer that question, and to answer it candidly. The answer is this: one must not underestimate the force of a fashionable fetish. There is today a fetish for attempting to deal by law with all imaginable forms of discrimination. It is a fetish against which everyone grumbles in private, which people ridicule in private, but which they do not dare to oppose in public.

Although people ridicule in private the Sex Discrimination Act which the House passed in the last Session—they are now ridiculing it in the Press—there were only a handful of hon. Members who voted against it, a situation which bears no relationship to the balance between those who thought it nonsense and those who did not. Any legislation against what can be called discrimination has behind it today all the forces of fashion: it is a daunting thing for anyone to say that he does not support legislation which is supposed to deal with this kind of discrimination or that. I should have been astonished if the CBI of Northern Ireland or the trade unions, let alone the Irish Council of Trade Unions, had not merely not gone along with what was proposed but not shown themselves more than willing participants.

However, there comes a time, as the hon. Member for Southend, West said, when those responsible—and we on this Bench have a responsibility shared in this House by very few in its directness— have to decide whether they will choose not to affront a contemporary fashion, not to denounce, even at the risk of being thought to approve discrimination, a futile and damaging piece of legislation to deal with it, or whether they will stand up and say that in practice the thing will do more harm than good, that it will not reduce discrimination, that it will make such discrimination as there is more harmful and will increase the apprehension of discrimination where it does not exist. We therefore must vote against it and be seen to do so; and that is what we shall do tonight.

9.24 p.m.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

There is rather more than standing room in the Chamber, and I must say that this is legislation of a kind which does not excite frenzied enthusiasm among Conservatives, who are properly sceptical of the beneficial effect of statute law upon human relations.

My hon. Friends and I have listened with respect to the case presented from the Ulster Unionist Benches, summed up by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). We understand the fear of, for example, the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) that a Fair Employment Agency could worsen relations rather than improve them and could engender new divisions. We understand the belief of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop) that the Bill may do little to remedy the sort of vicious intolerance which he described.

The right hon. Member for Down, South answered the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) in the opposite sense from that of my hon. Friend. The burden of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that the Bill will magnify the consciousness of the problem. He asserted that it will do more harm than good. Nevertheless, as my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) said, we accept the principle in a Bill which, as was predicted by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West, we may seek to amend in important respects if it arrives in Committee. I pay tribute to the efforts that have already been made to improve the Bill in another place, not-ably by my noble Friends Lord Belstead and Lord Brookeborough.

A Second Reading debate fastens on the principle of a Bill. Surely there is general assent for the principle that in Northern Ireland neither religious beliefs nor political opinion—I stress the word "opinion"—should be used to deny work to men and women. The germ of this legislation was in the old Stormont Parliament. That has not been said by any of the hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies. The Government headed by Mr. Brian Faulkner, which included the present leader of the United Unionist coalition, produced the germ. Nor can we lightly dismiss the experience, diligence and conclusions of my hon. Friends the Members for Southend, West and Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and the working party over which they successively presided.

I do not share the view of the right hon. Member for Down, South that we should dismiss the approval or acquiescence of the main representative bodies of employers and workers—namely, the Northern Ireland Regional Council of the CBI and the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Only the week before last I had the pleasure of meeting Colonel Sleator and others of the CBI at Chamber of Commerce House, Belfast. My hon. Friends the Members for Abingdon and Southend, West and I were among Conservative Members who were glad to see Mr. Binks and Mr. Terry Carlin and a dozen others from the Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU. The principal purpose of the deputation's visit was to further the "Better Life for All" campaign. I seize this opportunity of saying that we endorse the purposes of that campaign. Indeed, many of my hon. Friends are among those who have signed the relevant Early-Day Motion.

We also discussed the Bill with CBI representatives in Belfast. Both the CBI and the trade unions have reservations although they support the Bill. That does not necessarily mean that they speak for everyone in both sections of industry. The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) put it higher than that. He suggested that they did not speak for anyone in industry. But whether they do or do not, the House should pay tribute to the employers and the working people of Ulster. We should acclaim all those in Ulster in industry and commerce who throughout these terrible years have stood for peace and productivity amid terror and torment.

The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), who speaks with experience as a personnel manager, drew attention to the fine industrial record of Ulster in spite of violence, intimidation and all the dangers and difficulties of getting to work and getting home again. Surely that is a tremendous example of a courageous response to a devilish challenge.

I am myself enough of an Ulsterman to think that the way in which we differentiate in legislation between different parts of the United Kingdom is invidious. The discrimination which is the subject of the Bill is scarcely a major problem now in Great Britain, although my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), in an intervention, told us that such discrimination is not unknown on this side of the Irish Sea. But it is still a problem in Northern Ireland, the product of history—to some extent, a history encrusted with myth. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson) gave the example of Harland and Wolff and talked of his boyhood experience in Belfast. But things have changed in County Fermanagh to which he also referred and in Northern Ireland as a whole since 1969.

The Minister of State said that grievances were felt by both sides in the community. I remember the surprise of an English Catholic of my acquaintance who, five or more years ago, took over an Ulster factory with a largely Roman Catholic work force. He wanted to fill two vacancies and was about to appoint two Protestants, whereupon he was informed by the shop stewards that if he did there would be trouble. They had their way. That is an example of discrimination the other way from that which is usually cited in this House and it may come as a surprise to some hon. Members—probably to those who are not here this evening—but not to hon. Members with Northern Ireland constituents or those familiar with conditions in the Province.

That prompts the observation that, as the Bill stands, discrimination by employees, or groups of employees, unlike discrimination by employers, will remain within the law. Thus, there is no need for the workers of Harland and Wolff, I suppose, to refrain from discrimination when electing directors to the board. There was no mention of discriminatory customs and practices in the Department of Manpower Services' discussion paper on worker participation in the firm.

The hon. Member for Armagh urged us not to exaggerate the extent and harmfulness of discrimination. I shall not rehearse the eloquent counter-arguments of my hon. Friends the Members for Wokingham and for Southend, West, the latter of whom commended the initiative of employers and trade unionists.

The working party noted the connection between discrimination on sectarian lines and such factors as "craft and community traditions", custom, convenience, the possession of skills or lack of skills and the concentration of the minority population, whether west of the Bann or in parts of the cities. Those may be stronger factors nowadays than bigotry or bias.

Unfortunately, areas where Catholic and Protestant have been able to live harmoniously together have declined in the troubles and because of the troubles. For this very reason the Housing Executive, for example, sometimes finds it expedient not to employ Catholics and Protestants in certain areas and to remove them from certain areas for their very safety. I shudder to think of a Fair Employment Agency in future drawing up solemn schemes for the bussing of workers. I do not know whether or not that would be welcomed by the employers and employees of Ulsterbus and Citybus.

Whereas the working party was required to report upon the private sector of employment only, the Bill applies to the public sector as well. In the public sector religious affiliations are officially ignored, but it was not always like that. Time was when the Royal Ulster Constabulary reserved places for the minority in almost mathematical proportion. The police no longer ask for or record the religious denomination of their men and women. The Royal Ulster Constabulary, like the Ulster Defence Regiment, is only too eager to recruit Roman Catholics with the qualifications—and the courage—needed for them to join.

The present Minister for Foreign Affairs in Dublin, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, wrote an article in the Sunday Independent as long ago as November 1972, when he was Fine Gael's Shadow Finance Minister, in which he spoke in envious terms of the measures taken in Northern Ireland to secure equality of employment opportunity throughout the public sector without regard to political considerations. These facts should be remembered and put to the credit of Northern Ireland.

Everyone who has mentioned the matter has expressed pleasure that there is no intention of imposing quotas. The working party set its face against that in the fifth chapter of the Report. The right hon. Member for Down, South had a point when he suggested that affirmative action which had substance might in effect come close to the introduction of a quota or an attempt to do so. There is still anxiety in the minds of employers' representatives, for example, on this score.

I come to the issue of discrimination on grounds of political opinion. This exicted almost fierce debate in another place. The Bill provides for considerations of national security. It seems that whereas trouble-making would be grounds for dismissal—this was made clear in another place—known membership of, say, the political wing of an illegal or terrorist organisation would not be grounds for refusing employment. The Under-Secretary of State made it clear in another place that those released from prison after conviction, not excluding terrorist offenders, must be treated as ordinary citizens"—[Official Report, House of Lords, 17th June 1975; Vol. 361, c. 814.] That sounds fine amid the red Benches up the Palace yonder. Perhaps it does not sound quite so fine in Ulster.

Lord Donaldson said that the test would be whether, on coming out of gaol, such people associated with men of violence. I suspect that as things are, unfortunately, irrespective of whether they associate with the men of violence, the men of violence would be more than likely to associate with them—unless they emigrated or unless law and order was fully restored.

I may be wrong, but Clause 33 of the Bill seems to bear the interpretation that employers might be adjudged to have discriminated in taking on employees if they had not incurred the expense of advertising in, say, both the News Letter and the Irish News. This seems hard. In the present security situation an employer might reasonably not wish to subsidise the propagation of views sympathetic to the republican movement. I hope that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will not mind my saying that I would not particularly want to take advertising space in the Protestant Telegraph, although I think that the Protestant Telegraph would not need my mite anyway.

I refer to the First Report of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights set up by the Conservative Administration. Might I, in passing, express the hope that Lord Feather is enjoying better health. The Commission agrees with the working party but emphasizes the importance of recognising those sections which point the way through education, research and conciliation". There is much to be said for the proposal of a guide to manpower policy and practice. The idea is reminiscent of the Code of Industrial Practice brought in under a Conservative Government. In the preparation of such a guide full consultation is essential.

The Commission holds the view that wherever possible, required changes should be brought about by agreement rather than by legal sanctions. For legislation can only be effective when it is supported by the great majority; only when people believe that discrimination is unjustifiable will discrimination be ended. Those are wise words, and the Government would do well to weigh them as they take account of the views which have been advanced in this informed debate.

9.40 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. John Concannon)

It would be remiss of me if I did not start by thanking the hon. Members for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and Southend, West (Mr. Channon) for the Report. They pointed out that they were the only Englishmen to serve on the Committee. It was basically a Committee of Northern Ireland people which discussed Northern Ireland problems.

Two Northern Ireland Members tried to belittle the Report by picking out certain bodies or persons who had submitted evidence to the Committee. I wondered why they did not mention the British Institute of Management, the Campaign for Social Justice in Northern Ireland, the Church of Ireland, the Churches' Industrial Council, the Northen Ireland Community Relations Commission, the Industrial Society, the Institute of Personnel Management, the Methodist Church in Northern Ireland, the National Federation of Business and Pofessional Women's Clubs of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland: County Grand Lodge of Belfast.

This has been a strange debate in some ways, with the two main parties in the House being opposed by the UUUC. That in itself shows that those of us who go to Northern Ireland, some as Ministers, accept what seemingly Members of that party do not wish to accept, namely, that there is discrimination.

Mr. Molyneaux

Does the hon. Gentleman concede that exactly the same situation occurred in 1972 during the passage of the measure abolishing Stormont and subsequently in 1973 when some of us who represent Northern Ireland constituencies, together with a few hon. Friends in this House, voted against what we said was a nonsense policy which was afterwards proved to be a nonsense policy? We are being consistent in opposing nonsense tonight.

Mr. Concannon

I would not say that the hon. Gentleman had been proved right, but that has nothing to do with this Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is to promote equality of opportunity in employment and occupations in Northern Ireland between persons of differing religious beliefs and to work for the elimination of discrimination, which is made unlawful by the Bill. The principal objective of the Bill is essentially a moral one—that of ensuring that a person's opportunity to obtain employment and its benefit is determined not by reference to the section of the Northern Ireland community from which he or she comes but according to his or her merits. The Bill should help to resolve some of the widespread feelings of grievance based on the sense of injustice which contributes to the divisions of Northern Ireland society. The Report proves that.

The hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) referred to the question of religious and political attitudes and asked what was the definition of "equality of opportunity". The Bill is concerned with religious discrimination. Part III makes discrimination on the grounds of religious belief unlawful. However, because of the connection in Northern Ireland between political and religious beliefs, the Bill must also cover political discrimination otherwise a person could say that he was discriminating only on political grounds when he was in fact practising religious discrimination. The Bill provides that it is no defence to religious inequality to say that discrimination is on political grounds.

The question of religious affiliation ran through many speeches in the debate. Those of us who have been in Northern Ireland know that there are many ways of asserting a person's religion and that the direct question is likely to be unnecessary. Even if the direct approach is chosen, the Bill provides that a person cannot be compelled to give any information or produce any document which discloses, or through which there can be deduced, religious belief. The working party acknowledges this disinclination about giving information on religious beliefs and says: it is often unconvincing for an employer or Trade Union to claim not to know fairly accurately which employer, applicant or member is a Protestant and which is a Roman Catholic. The suspicion often lingers that these facts were known and influenced decisions. Indeed professed ignorance of religious denominations might on occasions be a cover for discriminatory practices. If the Agency is to be successful in promoting equality of opportunity, it must have the powers to investigate the composition of work forces and, subject to the safeguard of the individual's right to withhold the information, to examine its religious composition.

The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), in a rather strange speech, carried on the demolition job he started in a Committee upstairs. He seems to be doing very well on demolition jobs. He does not give us many constructive jobs. Hon. Members from all political parties in Northern Ireland queue to see me with complaints about various acts of discrimination which are alleged to have occurred in Northern Ireland. I sometimes wonder what the hon. Members in the UUUC are complaining about in this House. They say they do not accept the principle of the Report.

Mr. McCusker

We said we support the objectives of the Bill. We would favour providing for individual complaints of discrimination by making access to the courts easier or by developing the structure of the Ombudsman.

Mr. Concannon

I thought the hon. Member said he was against the principle. If not, I have misjudged him. A Second Reading debate is only about principle and I can see no reason why he should not come into the Lobby with us and vote for the principle and then try to amend the Bill in Committee.

The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) and others referred to the Ombudsman. By definition and tradition, an Ombudsman is created to investigate complaints only in the public sector. He may not initiate investigations himself. He is not empowered to investigate general patterns or practices in employment which may have discriminatory effects. He may act only on a complaint from an individual. As discrimination is such a sensitive matter, it is to be expected that many people would feel reluctant to bring forward a complaint even though they may have suffered from discrimination.

Mr. Kilfedder

I was agreeing that the Ombudsman's powers were restricted and arguing that the Government should enlarge those powers so that people would have a greater opportunity to get their grievances rectified.

Mr. Concannon

The hon. Gentleman should now be able to vote for the Bill. The limitations placed on the Ombudsman may have resulted in only one case of discrimination being found by him, but there are clear indications of discrimination. The Government have received many complaints, and an almost endless number of complaints come to the Department. There is widespread belief that discrimination is practised to a significant extent. The feeling of grievance generated by such people, mistaken or not, has damaging consequences for the community as a whole. It is, therefore, very much in the public interest that the facts should be established.

Mr. McNamara

My hon. Friend spoke of the weaknesses in the Ombudsman procedure which many people have criticised. Will the Government amend that legislation to enable the Ombudsman to look at patterns of discrimination?

Mr. Concannon

That is another matter. I can say nothing about that tonight. If the Agency, like the Ombudsman, finds that there are few cases of discrimination in the public sector and in the private sector, the Agency, which the legislation creates, will have served the community well by nailing the belief that discrimination exists. It is the existence of that belief that is so damaging.

Running through most of the speeches was concern about why teachers have been left out of the Bill. The schools covered by the provisions are those which provided primary and secondary education, including grant-aided and independent schools. Only teachers are excepted by the provisions. Persons employed in other capacities, such as groundsmen, cleaners, bursars and caretakers, are not.

Northern Ireland has a dual system of education involving State controlled and voluntary schools. Controlled schools are the responsibility of the area education and library boards. The staff in such schools are employed by the boards. They are appointed from persons selected by school management committees. Those committees contain a strong representation of Protestant Churches as transferors of former Church schools to State control. Voluntary schools are independently managed. Managers appoint and employ staff. Most voluntary schools are run by the Roman Catholic Church. In general terms, the staff of controlled schools are mainly Protestant. At voluntary schools they are mainly Roman Catholic.

The purpose of the Bill is to deal with discrimination in employment, and the Bill is not the appropriate forum for changing the whole educational structure in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, provision is made in Clause 39 for the Secretary of State to vary or to remove completely the exemption for teachers in schools. The Fair Employment Agency is required by Clause 38 to keep under review the exception of teachers so as to see whether further steps to advance equality of opportunity are needed. To this end the Agency may conduct investigations in to the composition and recruitment of the teaching staff. Furthermore, the Agency may report to the Secretary of State as necessary and, whenever the Secretary of State requires, may make recommendations to further equality of opportunity for the employment of teachers in schools.

Another theme running through the speeches was the justification for legislation against discrimination. The Report considered such criticism in detail in paragraphs 9 to 11, 32 and 33. On this we may be running up against the view expressed by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) on legislation against discrimination. The right hon. Gentleman frequently refers to this theme. Today, he quoted the Sex Discrimination Act. I think he is being hasty in his judgment. That Act serves a useful purpose—the more so as it becomes more extensively used.

The working party recorded that it has found a general acceptance that religious discrimination existed to some degree in employment in Northern Ireland and that where it existed it should be dealt with. It may be argued that legislation is not a suitable method of dealing with religious discrimination as it is not possible to invoke the law in order to alter underlying prejudices and distrust. But that argument is based on a basic misconception of the aims of this legislation, which includes emphasis on conciliation, thus providing support for those who do not wish to discriminate but are fearful of social pressures or worse if they do not, and providing a means for the adjustment of grievances, reducing prejudice and protecting minority groups.

The fact that anti-social actions are the product of underlying attitudes is not an argument for the law not dealing with those actions where necessary to provide protection for the public. It is as necessary for the public to obtain remedies for actions harmful to the individual and society as a whole which are expressions of religious or intercommunal prejudice as it is for the law to counter the other forms of harmful behaviour with which it deals daily.

The main issue put by some hon. Members in the debate is whether the Bill will do more harm than good. The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, which attaches great importance to the Bill, has said that its early implementation is vital, and with implementation goes the fact that under the Bill the people of Northern Ireland will know—and this is a greatly import-

ant aspect—that their religious and political views will not be held against them when applying for work.

There is a great sectarian divide in Northern Ireland, and only a few will deny it. The problem must be dealt with in the interests of social justice and human dignity. A vote against Second Reading tonight will be seen throughout the country as a vote for discrimination. I hope that the House will vote for Second Reading overwhelmingly to show that we do not stand for discrimination in religious matters.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 156, Noes 8.

Division No. 64.] AYES [10.0 p m.
Allaun, Frank Golding, John Parker, John
Archer, Peter Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Parkinson, Cecil
Armstrong, Ernest Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Parry, Robert
Ashton, Joe Hardy, Peter Pavitt, Laurie
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Harper, Joseph Pendry, Tom
Atkinson, Norman Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Penhaligon, David
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Henderson, Douglas Perry, Ernest
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Hooley, Frank Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Bates, Alf Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Biggs-Davison, John Hunter, Adam Richardson, Miss Jo
Blenkinsop, Arthur Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Booth, Albert John, Brynmor Rooker, J. W.
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Johnson, James (Hull West) Roper, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Sedgemore, Brian
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Kaufman, Gerald Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Kerr, Russell Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Lamborn, Harry Skinner, Dennis
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Lamond, James Small, William
Canavan, Dennis Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Lawrence, Ivan Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Channon, Paul Leadbitter, Ted Snape, Peter
Clark, William (Croydon S) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton and Slough) Spearing, Nigel
Clemitson, Ivor Loyden, Eddie Spriggs, Leslie
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Luard, Evan Stoddart, David
Cohen, Stanley Lyon, Alexander (York) Stott, Roger
Coleman, Donald McCartney, Hugh Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Concannon, J. D. McElhone, Frank Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) MacFarquhar, Roderick Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Crouch, David McGuire, Michael (Ince) Tinn, James
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) McNamara, Kevin Torney, Tom
Davidson, Arthur Madden, Max Urwin, T. W.
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Magee, Bryan van Straubenzee, W. R.
Deakins, Eric Mallalieu, J. P. W. Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Marks, Kenneth Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Dempsey, James Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Wainwright, Richard (Coine V)
Doig, Peter Mawby, Ray Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Dormand, J. D. Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Ward, Michael
Duffy, A. E. P. Maynard, Miss Joan Watkins, David
Dunn, James A. Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Watkinson, John
Eadie, Alex Mikardo, Ian Weatherill, Bernard
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Millan, Bruce Weetch, Ken
English, Michael Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Eyre, Reginald Molloy, William Whitehead, Phillip
Farr, John Moyle, Roland Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mudd, David Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Flannery, Martin Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Neave, Airey Woodall, Alec
Fookes, Miss Jaret[...] Oakes, Gordon Wrigglesworth, Ian
Ford, Ben Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Young, David (Bolton E)
Forrester, John Ovenden, John
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
George, Bruce Palmer, Arthur Mr. A.W. Stallard and
Mr. John Ellis.
Carson, John Paisley, Rev Ian TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Dunlop, John Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Mr. Robert Bradford and
Kilfedder, James Ross, William (Londonderry) Mr. McCusker.
Molyneaux, James Winterton, Nicholas

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).