HC Deb 24 March 1988 vol 130 cc503-4
8. Mr. Hayes

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many representations he has received concerning his fair employment proposals.

Mr. Stanley

Representations from 87 individuals or groups were received in response to the consultative paper published in September 1986 and from 63 individuals or groups in response to the draft of the guide to the effective practice which was published in its final form in September 1987. A number of comments have been made in relation to our new fair employment proposals announced by my right hon. Friend on 2 March, including a statement welcoming them in principle made by the Irish Foreign Minister.

Mr. Hayes

While I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's proposals, will he be particularly careful to ensure that fair employment legislation is specifically targeted at genuine discrimination and that he does not create a complicated bureaucratic superstructure for positive discrimination, which would be quite counter-productive and against his laudable aims?

Mr. Stanley

I assure my hon. Friend that it is exactly our intention that we should enshrine it firmly in legislation and ensure that employment recruitment in the Province is based entirely on the principle of merit, and on nothing else.

Mr. McCusker

Bearing in mind that at the centre of those proposals is the proposition that employers should keep registers of the religious affiliations of all their employees, will the Minister consider the suggestion that, to set an example to private employers, he should instruct DHSS officers in Northern Ireland to start keeping registers of the religious affiliations of the unemployed in Northern Ireland? We may learn a lot from those statistics.

Mr. Stanley

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that our fair employment proposals apply as much to the public sector as to the private sector.

Mr. Bellingham

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is imperative to encourage employment in places such as west Belfast and the Bogside of Londonderry? Will he tell the House what specific measures he is taking to encourage small businesses and self-employment in those communities?

Mr. Stanley

As my hon. Friend knows, a later question has been tabled on that matter. We have announced some far-reaching measures to try to increase the number of training opportunities and the number of opportunities for the self-employed, and to encourage small businesses in a wide variety of ways.

Back to