§ Order for Second Reading read.5.15 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
I should tell the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and his hon. Friends.
§ Mr. King
It is a key objective of the Government, not merely to prevent discrimination but, much more importantly, to encourage and achieve genuine equality of opportunity in employment. The principal objective of this Bill is a moral one. It is to ensure that a person's opportunity to obtain employment and all its benefits is determined not by which part of the Northern Ireland community he or she comes from, but according to ability, and ability alone. That is a fundamental right of every human being. It is a major political objective of this Government to ensure that it is delivered in Northern Ireland.
Behind that moral principle lies a stark economic fact: that the male Catholic population in Northern Ireland today has an overall rate of unemployment some two and a half times that of the male Protestant population. It is beyond question that there are substantial and continuing differences in the relative rates of unemployment and employment between the two sections of the community—despite the 1976 Act, despite the hard work of the Fair Employment Agency over 13 years, and despite the efforts of many employers and of successive Governments to attract investment to those areas of greatest economic depression and those areas most severely affected by the troubles.
Nor is it right to think of this only as a Catholic grievance; discrimination against Protestants clearly exists as well, and is equally unacceptable.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
Everybody would deplore discrimination, but to what extent is existing discrimination possibly dependent on the fact that outsiders would not wish to invest in those areas where they might feel IRA activity would render their investment less successful? Also, to what extent is the existing differential in levels derived from the fact that there is intimidation, particularly by the IRA, against people taking up employment opportunities?
§ Mr. King
I will say a word about the different causes, but my hon. Friend is right to say that those are two of the elements that contribute to this problem. I have never ceased to remind this House and everybody in Northern Ireland of the damage to employment prospects that terrorism certainly does.
It would be wrong for me or for anyone to pretend there is a simple explanation for these problems. There is no doubt that to some extent higher Catholic unemployment has been caused by discrimination. I have drawn attention to discrimination against Protestants at times as well. To 197 some extent it is caused by terrorism, by geographical differences, by where people live—my hon. Friend drew attention to that as well—or by differences in education, family size or the skills traditionally associated with one community or another.
But rather than get bogged down in what could be a very long argument about the relative significance of each of these problems, I simply want to say two things. First, the Government recognise that the problem is a complex one, and therefore calls for a variety of different responses. Secondly, we are not willing to accept the problem as though it is in some way inevitable. In a part of the United Kingdom which has a rate of unemployment higher than that of any other region, it is essential that any inequalities are tackled vigorously; that those jobs that are coming are fairly distributed, and everyone has the fullest opportunity to be fairly considered for jobs for which they are suited; and that Northern Ireland should be seen nationally and internationlly as a place to invest where employment practices are fair.
We do not want the improved perceptions of Northern Ireland as an expanding region with a good supply of well-motivated and highly skilled workers to be tarnished by an image of unfairness in employment. It is not in anyone's interest—for unemployed Protestants, any more than for unemployed Catholics—that that situation should be allowed to continue.
This Bill marks a further stage in our determination to meet this challenge. We can go right back to the work of Sir William van Straubenzee, a former colleague on this side of the House, in 1973 which led to the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976. Much has been achieved since that time, but it is also clear that we need to reinforce our efforts if we are to get the improvement that we need. More recently, in 1985, we set in hand a major review of the situation, and the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights undertook a comprehensive review itself starting in 1985. In 1987, we issued to all employers a guide to effective practice, and in 1988 we established a fair employment support scheme giving free consultancy and financial assistance to introduce better practices. Indeed, many employers are already adopting the practices set out in this Bill.
I referred to the work of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. The recommendations contained in its excellent report have formed the basis for the central provisions of this Bill. The Government strongly endorse many of the views of the standing advisory commission, which have been of major importance in formulating future Government policy on fair employment in Northern Ireland.
I said at the outset, and I have always said, that there is no question of Protestants being dismissed so that Catholics can take their jobs. I have also said that the Government reject absolutely the proposal that there should be a proportion of jobs reserved for Catholics and another for Protestants. To make appointments on the basis of religion, with whatever motives, would be not only morally wrong but grossly unfair to those individuals who were affected by it. It would also be directly against the economic interests of Northern Ireland employers. One of 198 the main principles underlying the Bill is that religion should be irrelevant to anyone's chances of obtaining employment.
This is one of the lessons we have learnt. Another which has emerged from the past 10 years' experience of the existing fair employment legislation is that simply to prevent or to avoid direct and deliberate discrimination is not in itself enough to ensure equality of opportunity between Catholics and Protestants. Disadvantage arises often from unconscious discrimination as well as from deliberate sectarian prejudice.
Established patterns of employment tend to perpetuate themselves, particularly in a divided society. This can very easily lead to the virtual exclusion of either Catholics or Protestants from a particular work force. Without any deliberate or malign reason, one section of the community may find itself effectively excluded from consideration when vacancies are being filled. One of the main aims of the Bill is therefore to ensure that, where necessary—and it very often will be necessary—employers take positive steps to open up their employment opportunities to applicants from all sections of the community. Equality of opportunity is not something that will happen of its own accord; it must be planned for and worked for, like other business objectives, and that is what a main part of this Bill is about.
§ Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)
The Secretary of State keeps talking about Catholics and Protestants. Should he not be taking about perceived Catholics and perceived Protestants and on the basis of which primary schools they attended? Does he not recall that there was a famous case in Northern Ireland when an individual complained on religious grounds, because he was a Free Presbyterian, of discrimination perpetrated against her by another Protestant denomination? Will the Secretary of State confirm that the freedom of each Protestant denomination to complain when it believes that it is being discriminated against by another Protestant denomination will be included in the Bill?
§ Mr. King
Of course it will be open to people to raise complaints about discrimination on the basis of religion. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has raised that point in an entirely constructive way to help to tackle the evil of discrimination, wherever it may arise, and not in any sense to suggest that this measure is not a sensible way in which to proceed. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention. It has helped to make that point very clearly.
What this Bill seeks to do is to improve the recruitment and employment policies of Northern Ireland employers. The Bill places a number of new duties on employers and provides new ways in which employers can obtain the information and the advice which they will need in order to discharge their obligations as effectively as possible.
Part I of the Bill deals with the new institutional arrangements. In place of the Fair Employment Agency, the Fair Employment Commission will be established with considerably enhanced powers and a substantial increase in funding and staffing. Its powers will be to investigate and give directives for changes, if necessary, and to investigate patterns and practices of employment. The commission will have significant powers, but they are very much intended as back-up powers. I emphasise that the Bill's first aim is to promote a constructive working relationship between the commission and employers. The 199 commission will be responsible for drawing up the new code of practice, with detailed guidance for employers on how to improve their employment practices and to help them in that way. In advance of the new code, we shall make available before the Committee stage a preliminary draft of the revised guide to effective practice, which will serve in the interim period, in advance of the new code being available, as the first code.
The commission will seek to help employers to find workable solutions to their problems, and will be keen to encourage voluntary undertakings, in suitable circumstances, to achieve those objectives.
In addition to the commission, the Bill establishes a new fair employment tribunal, which will operate on the model of industrial tribunals. It will deal with individual complaints of religious discrimination, such as the one to which the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) referred, as well as with others that might more commonly occur. It will also deal with the enforcement of directives of the commission, or it will hear appeals against directives.
In this way, a new body will be established which will cover both the responsibility for determining individual cases and appeals and enforcement. It will be exclusively concerned with fair employment issues and thus will build up considerable experience and expertise in such matters. Another very important point that many people have recognised and appreciated, and one that is very different from the present situation, is that this body will be quite separate from the body that is conducting the investigations, giving advice and trying to help employers to meet their commitments and obligations. That will be the task of the Fair Employment Commission.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
Is my right hon. Friend able to tell the House that the Bill's proposals have been broadly welcomed by employers in Northern Ireland, whether they be Roman Catholic or Protestant?
§ Mr. King
There is a general recognition among industries and employers of the need for fair employment to be established in Northern Ireland. Many employers have spoken to me and have given warm general support for the objectives. But I am also aware that there are employers who are concerned about the specific application of individual aspects. Those matters will be discussed in Committee because there are concerns about the ways in which details will apply. I have found that the employers to whom I have spoken support the need for firm legislation and are determined—as people determined to work for the good of the Province—that Northern Ireland shall be recognised as a place where fair employment practices operate. However, there may be concern about details and those are matters that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will seek to discuss in Committee.
§ Mr. Marlow
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I apologise if he is about to come to this matter. He has implied that the commission will have a great deal of power and will be able to direct companies as to what they should do with regard to fair employment practices. Could he tell the House what these powers are and in what areas the commission will be able to give direction? Could my right hon. Friend be specific?
§ Mr. King
I may be able to help my hon. Friend because I am coming to the point about the duties of employers, when the matter will become clear. Part II deals with the new duties of employers. It deals with the duty to register, to monitor and periodically to review their practices to see if they need affirmative action. It provides duties and powers for the commission to assist employers and to assess how they are doing. It also provides for Government grants and public sector contracts to be withheld from defaulting employers.
There have been a number of misconceptions about monitoring. Monitoring is concerned with the overall pattern of a work force, not with the religious affiliation of any particular individual. There have been suggestions that monitoring will reinforce or introduce sectarian divisions. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), that is one of the employers' concerns. We do not believe that that is the case. It is certainly not the experience of those employers in Northern Ireland, both in the public and the private sectors and in the Civil Service, who are already operating monitoring programmes. Monitoring is a statistical exercise and any information about identifiable individuals is subject to very important statutory safeguards.
§ Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)
Does the Secretary of State agree that, when monitoring takes place. it is important that there should be a reliable degree of accuracy and that, where up to 8 per cent. of employees cannot be identified, there is an unreasonable degree of accuracy? Steps should be taken to correct that.
§ Mr. King
I am not quite clear about the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, but it is no doubt one that he can make in his own speech later or pursue in Committee.
In addition to the monitoring of employees that I have described, the Bill also provides that all public sector employers and private sector employers with more than 250 employees will also be required to monitor applications for employment, to cover applications to join the existing work force. The second important obligation on registered employers is to review their employment practices, to assess whether fair participation is being achieved and to consider what affirmative action may be needed.
The Bill does not attempt to define fair participation or to prescribe any particular levels or proportion of participation for which all employers should aim. What is fair must depend on the circumstances of the individual company. It must take account of where it is, the size and nature of the catchment area from which employees are drawn, the type of work involved and the availability of suitably qualified applicants.
In essence, what the employer must ask himself is whether, given all the factors and circumstances, the composition of the work force is broadly in line with what may reasonably be expected, or not. Does the composition of the recruits reflect the mix of Protestant and Catholic employees that might be expected, given the catchment area and the balance of population, or not? If it does not, what plan of action and affirmative action is needed to achieve fair participation?
Those questions require the local knowledge of the employer. There can be no absolutely right level of mix; it will vary from work force to work force and from place to place. There is no precise mathematical formula to 201 recognise whether a broad pattern is roughly right, or markedly out of line. That is something that a fair employer should be well able to assess.
§ Mr. King
I shall finish this point first.
Employers can call on the commission to advise on how the review should be carried out. The employer will also have the code of practice, which will guide him on the sort of changes that may be required in his employment practices.
I make no secret of the fact that that is not an easy or precise exercise. I have sought to explain to the House that there are different situations, as anybody who studies these matters knows well. Anybody who has studied the report produced by the Ford Motor Co. at Dunmurry, which analysed the complexities of the issues involved, knows how difficult are some of the issues that must be assessed. But anybody who studies the matter also knows how easily one can tell the difference between those who are genuinely trying and those who are making no attempt at all.
§ Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
My right hon. Friend says that the measure builds on the principles of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976. Will he tell the House how many proceedings have been brought under that Act and how often the authorities, acting under the Act, have made specific proposals for changes in the law? Are we simply going through a charade to try to ensure that we receive the MacBride money?
§ Mr. King
I did not say that the Bill builds on the principles of the 1976 legislation, but rather that it develops the approach to fair employment and tackling discrimination. The Bill carries it further. I would need to check the exact number, but not many proceedings have been brought under the 1976 Act. One of the criticisms that could be made of it would be that it was based on a voluntary approach and involved a declaration of intent. There was a lack of monitoring of that intent and people were able to certify themselves as equal opportunity employers. There was little monitoring to discover whether that intent was being carried through into practice.
We considered moving from the declaration of intent to a declaration of practice, which would be closely observed. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) may have been with us all the way through a succession of consultation documents and White Papers on the matter, and nobody can say that the issue has not been the subject of exhaustive discussion. We decided not to follow that practice but to lay duties on employers first to register if they employ more than 10 people—for the first two years, the relevant number will be 25 people. Once employers register, they will have to monitor the composition of the work force and they will have to submit an annual return. They will also have to review their performance and assess their progress every three years.
§ Mr. King
I do not intend to be heckled by my hon. Friend. I have tried to give him an honest answer and to explain the background to the problem and why there were very few prosecutions or actions. I explained in my opening remarks that the situation was virtually unchanged since the introduction of the 1976 Act and following the assessment of the standing advisory commission, commissioned by the Government in 1985, the need for more effective action was identified. That is precisely why the Bill has been introduced.
What happens if the outcome of an employer's monitoring and review shows that there is a need for affirmative action? Such action is defined in the Bill as the adoption of practices designed to secure fair participation in employment by Catholics or Protestants and the abandonment of practices which may restrict or discourage fair participation. There have been many calls for that definition to be made more precise. At present, however, it can cover a whole range of different approaches, and we do not wish to exclude options that might be relevant in given circumstances by being more precise. It might depend on—
§ Mr. King
My hon. Friend always seeks to intervene 10 seconds before I come to the point.
Affirmative action might involve widening the catchment area, removing obstacles that stop some people applying, the setting of goals and timetables of the ending of haphazard recruiting arrangements. It might involve the setting up of special training facilities. It might, indeed, involve the ending of displays of provocative flags and emblems at work or widening the range of schools contacted. The code of practice may include these and other actions.
I read the article by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) in The Irish Times this morning. He sought to find all sorts of problems and difficulties in the Bill and to pretend that the arrangements would somehow be more restrictive. He tried to make out that the Bill would make more difficult the lives of employers who genuinely sought to operate in a constructive manner. I found the whole article incredible. I profoundly believe that the Bill will lead to greater possibilities, and to more, rather than less, affirmative action.
The hon. Gentleman even referred to Short Brothers plc. I do not know whether he sought to imply that Shorts would not be able to respond positively to any undertakings that it has given, but I find it extremely mischievous of him even to have introduced such a suggestion into his article. I do not believe that it is true. I believe that the Bill will help constructive co-operation between the Fair Employment Commission and employers 203 who sincerely wish to address the problem of inequality. It is mischievous and damaging to Northern Ireland to suggest otherwise.
§ Mr. John Hume (Foyle)
Does the Secretary of State accept that affirmative action in employment legislation is not the only affirmative action that is necessary to create fair employment? The best fair employment legislation in the world will not create another job in Strabane. Does he accept that figures produced in the House show that the two constituencies in Great Britain and Northern Ireland with the highest unemployment are my own constituency of Foyle and Belfast, West? Some of us do not think that that is a coincidence and believe that it is the result of action taken by previous Governments of Northern Ireland to starve those areas of investment. If we are to have fair employment, we need affirmative action that will encourage inward investment into areas that have previously been starved, in addition to good fair employment legislation.
§ Mr. King
I want to address the problem of all areas of high unemployment. Some of the most substantial investment has gone into the Du Pont operation, for instance. I know of the considerable expansion of Desmonds and of the other investments that have been made. I am also conscious that Foyle has quite unacceptably high unemployment. I am also very conscious of the problems of trying to improve employment opportunities in west Belfast, given that some of the activities that take place there are singularly unattractive to potential investors but, as I think the hon. Gentleman will concede, that is not to say that we have not been trying. The whole House welcomed the news of the investment in the old De Lorean plant. I leave it to others to determine whether that is in east Lisburn or west Belfast, but there is no doubt that that can contribute significantly to employment opportunities for many in west Belfast.
I accept the assertion that the creation of jobs must go hand in hand with the legislation if it is to succeed. The Bill will simply not work if we are merely transferring jobs from one community to another, and it must be accompanied by a general improvement in the employment situation.
§ Mr. Cash
Does my right hon. Friend realise that, although he has been subjected to some carping remarks, some Conservative Members wish to congratulate him on introducing a measure that will genuinely help the people of Northern Ireland in a manner that goes way beyond what many hon. Members have suggested, because the difficulty of obtaining employment on a fair basis lies at the root of many of the present troubles?
§ Mr. King
I profoundly agree with my hon. Friend. Of all the measures with which I have been associated, measures to establish fair employment and equality of opportunity in employment in Northern Ireland are some of the most important.
Part II of the Bill deals with the withholding of Government grants and public sector contracts from employers who are in breach of any of their major statutory obligations. Disqualification will be determined by the commission, if an employer has been convicted of failure to register or to submit monitoring returns or of 204 falure to comply with an order or the tribunal. This will be a very powerful sanction, over and above any other penalties for which the employer may be liable.
Public sector bodies will be precluded from accepting tenders from disqualified employers and will require any subcontractors not to be disqualified. Northern Ireland Departments will be authorised to withhold financial assistance from employers who have been disqualified by the Commission. That will apply not just to grants but possibly to loans or investment. Those are tough sanctions, but it would be wrong for any employer who deliberately ignores his obligations to receive any such support from Government or public funds.
I have sought to deal with the main elements of this important Bill. We believe that it will have a real effect in improving employment practices in the Province.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
The Secretary of State sounds as if he is beginning to wrap up. Before he resumes his seat, perhaps I can extract some more information from him. I imagine that every right hon. and hon. Member desires fair employment in Northern Ireland: it is not the concern of any individual section of the community. Every section of the community at one time or another has suffered through unfair employment.
The Secretary of State has said that certain encouragement would be given to ensure that a proper balance would be kept in accordance with the balance in the community. I am the chairman of the board of a leisure centre which employs about 140 people in an area which has a very small Roman Catholic community. Roman Catholic employment in that leisure centre is vastly higher than the percentage of Roman Catholics in the community. Those people were appointed because they were the most capable people for the job. They got their jobs on merit, because of their ability. Is there any suggestion that I should redress the balance by making jobs more available to Protestants to reflect the balance of the community?
§ Mr. King
If the hon. Gentleman reflects on his intervention, he will find the answer. As I said earlier, there has to be good sense in these matters. We cannot talk with absolute precision or lay down a mathematical formula about what should happen. He may have heard me say that a genuine constructive approach is needed. If that is shown, we are halfway there.
We hope that prospects for jobs will continue to improve as they have in the present year, and that that, and the effect of the legislation, at last will produce real and significant change in the differentials of employment and unemployment. The Bill is very timely. If the United Kingdom economy continues to grow, Northern Ireland probably has the best ever opportunity for a fundamental change in its employment prospects. That is the ideal condition in which to achieve a change in balance. We shall keep the operation of the measures under regular review with the help of the commission, and we shall undertake a major review after five years.
Of course I am aware of the criticisms of the Bill, on the one hand from those who believe it goes too far and will open up problems and cause ill feeling between employees wnen none previously existed, and on the other hand that it does not go far enough and has been too lenient with employers.
205 To the first I say that it is essential for both communities in Northern Ireland that we are and are seen to be a place where there is fairness and equality of opportunity in employment. That is not the case at present, and it cannot be ignored. As for the "not enough" brigade, led by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, they seem to want reverse discrimination, quotas on employers, and the abandonment of the merit principle. That approach has been overwhelmingly rejected not just by employers, but by trade unions, and by the vast majority of people in both communities.
I believe that the Bill has the right approach. It is a powerful measure that can make a real improvement to the whole life of Northern Ireland. It demonstrates without question our determination to promote real equality of opportunity for all the people in Northern Ireland, and I commend it to the House.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and add instead thereof:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which: weakens existing policies in pursuance of fair employment; fails, in the case of political and religious discrimination, to meet the minimum requirements of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 and the Race Relations Act 1976 by forbidding outreach schemes and training programmes designed to achieve equality in employment; does not cover those working less than 16 hours per week, thus excluding thousands of workers, many of whom are female; weakens the existing remedies available to individuals in obtaining redress against discrimination; fails to impose a positive duty upon public and private sector employers to pursue equality in employment; is equivocal over the issues of contract compliance and grant distribution to employers who refuse to adopt fair employment practices and procedures; fails to meet the minimum requirements for fair employment adumbrated by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and which ignores the key recommendations of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, particularly with respect to the question of goals and timetables for the eradiction of discrimination in employment.I listened to part of the peroration of the Secretary of State about the great period of expansion that will take place in Northern Ireland. I hope that the 400 people working at Harland and Wolff who received notice today agree with him, despite the fact that steel cutting is no longer to take place at Harland and Wolff.
Twenty-three years ago today, I took my seat in the House. The same day I joined the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster and enrolled in the Campaign for Social Justice. I mention that to show that I have been concerned with discrimination and inequality in Northern Ireland before and since it became a fashionable issue. From the early days of the civil rights movement, a number of Labour Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), recognised that discrimination in employment was a major grievance which had to be remedied. Otherwise, we knew, the pent-up frustration and anger would lead to an outbreak of discontent. At that time, the Government of the day, unfortunately one formed by the Labour party, 206 did not listen. The outbreak occurred and we are living with the consequences of the inadequacies of successive Governments.
In 1975 a working party chaired by our former colleague Sir William van Straubenzee produced a report which, had it been acted upon, would have achieved real progress. Instead we enacted a watered-down version, the Fair Employment Act 1976. The lack of progress by that Act in reducing the extent of inequality of employment in Northern Ireland has been fully established by the Policy Studies Institute. As the Secretary of State pointed out, the extent of the problem which has to be tackled has been demonstrated by the ratio of Catholic and Protestant male unemployment of 2.5:1, an appalling figure when we consider that the 1976 Act has been in operation for 13 years.
§ Mr. McNamara
I suggest that for the rest of the debate the hon. Gentleman should usefully employ his time by going to the Library and reading the PSI reports. Those reports were funded by the Government—not a Labour Government, a Catholic Government or a Protestant Government. A non-sectarian Government produced that report and those figures. That is the problem.
§ Mr. McNamara
It may well be, but the Government are selling it off to foreigners.
The PSI research discovered that the Fair Employment Act had little effect on employers' practices. The vast majority of employers interviewed for the PSI study believed that the Act had made little if any impact upon their practices and procedures. Job discrimination was still thought to be justifiable by a considerable number of employers. Informal recruitment and appointment procedures contributed to continuing levels of discrimination. Investigation by the Fair Employment Agency did not often result in the setting up of affirmative action programmes by those employers investigated. Nor did investigations appear to have made any impact beyond that of the individual organisation investigated. Very few establishments were formally monitoring the religious composition of the work force. Very few establishments were carrying out any equal opportunity measures.
On the basis of the PSI reports, and the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights report, I had been looking forward to welcoming the Government's Bill as a significant step towards the resolution of that historic and well-founded grievance. In May 1988 I cautiously welcomed the publication of the White Paper on fair employment. I welcomed a number of the aspects of the White Paper as representing substantial progress: the introduction of contract compliance, the requirement to monitor, the prohibition of indirect discrimination, and, although I recognise there is controversy over this matter, the transfer of individual complaints to a specialist division of the industrial tribunals.
To that extent, I recognise that the White Paper is a significant advance on previous legislation. However, I welcomed it cautiously. I made it clear at the time that 207 whether the Government would be successful in reducing substantially the current inequalities between the two communities in terms of employment depended on the detail of the legislation that emerged. In particular, I stressed that the bench mark against which the Bill would be judged would be the report of the Secretary of State's Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights published in September 1987.
The SACHR report was the result of a remarkable concensus among the commission's members, who included the head of the Northern Ireland CBI, the secretary of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the ombudsman for Northern Ireland, the head of the Fair Employment Agency, legal experts, business men, academics and others broadly representative of informed opinion in Northern Ireland.
Unlike the brief and superficial dissenting view, the report made 123 recommendations on action needed to promote equality of opportunity. They were not a shopping list of desirable items, some to be taken from the shelf and others to be left there; they were to be taken as a whole. They constituted a coherent strategy. Remove one part of it and the rest is weakened. It is against those recommendations that we can assess the extent to which the Government have failed to deal with the problem.
The most important of the Bill's many defects is its treatment of affirmative action. It was the view of the van Straubenzee committee, of SACHR and of the Labour party that employers must be permitted and encouraged to adopt religion-specific programmes to remedy imbalances in their work forces. If they do not, or if the legal position is so unclear that they are discouraged from doing so, the legislation, I regret, will not succeed. Without affirmative action, the historic patterns of inequality cannot be changed.
There are two main problems with the Bill's affirmative action provisions. First, affirmative action is defined as meaning practices which secure "fair participation" by the two communities in Northern Ireland. That is meaningless because the Bill does not say what is fair. Nor, despite what the Secretary of State said, does it lay down any criteria by which participation could be claimed to be fair. Nor, indeed, if it appeared in a code of practice, would that be enforceable and ensure what was fair. It would be open to any tribunal to impose its own view of what was fair, even that were at odds with equality.
Does one assess fairness in terms of selection procedures or the composition of the work force; in terms of both or of neither? That uncertainty will at best breed litigation. At worst, employers will avoid legal controversy by doing little. [Interruption.] I give way to the Under-Secretary of State.
§ Mr. McNamara
The Under-Secretary of State disagreed with me and I, being a polite person, was prepared to give way.
The definition of fair employment is not the one that the Secretary of State included in the White Paper, which instead defined it as action taken to provide a more representative distribution of employment in the work force. What we have in the Bill is even less than the definition that we had in the White Paper.
208 The second main problem with the Bill's approach to affirmative action is that neither the provisions allowing limited affirmative action nor the provisions empowering the Fair Employment Commission to require employers to engage in affirmative action are treated as exceptions to the duty not to discriminate directly or indirectly on religious grounds. Without such an exception, the duty not to discriminate takes precedence and the ability to take affirmative action is, to that extent, restricted.
The consequences of that approach will be disastrous. The Fair Employment Agency has in the past advocated, and on occasion required, types of affirmative action which might have been challenged successfully under the existing Act. For instance, the recommendations made by the Fair Employment Agency about training programmes for female staff in clearing banks in order to ensure fair representation of Catholics in senior grades would be of doubtful propriety. It was to be hoped that the legality of such measures would be put beyond doubt by the new legislation.
However, instead of resolving the uncertainty in favour of legalising the types of measures currently advocated by the agency, the Bill substantially increases the chance that they will be found to be unlawful. A number of measures currently advocated by the Fair Employment Agency are called into question, a point to which my hon. Friend from Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) will no doubt return if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The Bill also renders suspect a number of measures that are clearly lawful under the existing legislation. Measures which have the effect of increasing the chances of under-represented groups can now be challenged for the first time. For example, an employer who gives preference for a job to someone who has been unemployed for a considerable time can now be challenged on the basis of indirect discrimination because that has the effect of disproportionately advantaging the members of the minority community. The employer would have to show that that practice wasjustifiable irrespective of religious belief".The approach taken in the Bill is also incompatible with existing legislation in other areas of anti-discrimination law. Race and sex discrimination law in Great Britain enables employers to engage in equivalent types of affirmative action which the Bill would make unlawful. Employers are permitted to encourage members of under-represented racial groups under section 37 of the Race Relations Act 1976, or of a gender group under section 47 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 to apply for jobs and to provide specially targeted race-specific and gender-specific training. But under the Bill there is to be no religious-specific training. Indeed, last year, the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1988 was amended by the Government to make it easier for employers to engage in affirmative action to the benefit of women, which they will now make illegal in the context of religion.
As if that were not bad enough, the absence of an exemption for affirmative action under the Bill jeopardises existing lawful affirmative action under the sex discrimination order. Certain affirmative action measures designed to improve the representation of women in the work force may also have the effect of benefiting a greater proportion of, for instance, Catholics than Protestants, or Protestants than Catholics. The Fair Employment Agency has recognised that in its report on the investigation into the 209 Northern Ireland Civil Service. However, under the Bill such affirmative action for women could be rendered unlawful. Indeed, there is some evidence that clause 50 is in breach of the EC equal treatment directive. I find it amazing that the Government could have been so ill advised as to present their proposals on affirmative action to the House.
The effect of the highly restrictive, internally inconsistent and incompetent approach to affirmative action in the Bill is of considerable importance to industry in Northern Ireland.
The legal uncertainty over the scope of lawful affirmative action in Northern Ireland is already generating great confusion among employers. Some employers are willing to redress the inequality of opportunity in Northern Ireland. Research conducted by the Policy Studies Institute found that a substantial number of employers would favour special recruitment drives to attract members of the minority community when they are under-represented in employment. That could have a significant effect when one considers that 100,000 jobs change hands in Northern Ireland every year.
There was also considerable support among employers for special training programmes to increase the representation of the minority community in jobs where they are currently under-represented. Yet those measures will not be made unlawful. The Bill will cut the feet from under progressive employers, and it is patently unfair to them. The Secretary of State may disagree, but if it is religious-specific, it is illegal.
Nor should we forget that, whether we like it or not, there is an important north American dimension to the issue. As it happens, I do not like it. The Government's proposals would be taken more seriously if they had acted of their own free will rather than waited until international and domestic pressure forced them to legislate. I for one find it depressing and distasteful that international pressure should be necessary to oblige the Government to take action to uphold such a basic human right as equality of opportunity in employment.
The Bill will do nothing to reduce the possibility of American disinvestment. I am opposed to disinvestment. It would be a disaster for the Northern Ireland economy. Far from that being a mischievous statement, the Secretary of State knows that, ever since I had the honour of speaking on behalf of the Labour party on this issue, I have been concerned about what has been happening in north America. If disinvestment occurs, much of the responsibility will lie with the Government and their failure to seize the opportunity presented by the Bill. The extent to which the Bill constrains employers from taking affirmative action will increase the problems of Northern Ireland employees with commercial and investment links to the United States. There is a considerable risk of escalation in the conflict between the United States requirements of what these employers should be doing and what they would be permitted to do lawfully in Northern Ireland.
The first casualty could be one of the Province's major employers, Shorts. If the Minister thinks that I was being mischievous about this, let us consider the facts. If the Bill as drafted becomes law, it is unlikely that Shorts will be able to fulfil its undertakings to the United States 210 Department of the Army. I think the Secretary of State is shaking his head in disagreement. Let us consider religious-specific training. I happen to have the agreement with me. It is signed by Mr. Stone in his letter about what Mr. McNulty had said. Mr. Stone was the Under-Secretary of the Army. He wrote:The company will design and implement what in the United States would be termed a set-aside".That is specific for Catholics. It is illegal.Shorts Bros. presently has a total of approximately 7,000 workers. Turnover rate is about 3 per cent. per year, meaning that the company hires about 350 new employees per year. As a baseline for 1988 the company expects to achieve a rate of 17.5 per cent. for Catholic new hires in relation to total knew hires. In 1989 the goal will be to achieve a rate of 25 per cent., and in 1990 the goal will be to achieve a rate of 35 per cent.Shorts has also undertaken to the Fair Employment Agency to approach Catholic schools to encourage more applications from Catholics. These are specific and religiously designed affirmative programmes. These committments will be unlawful under the Bill.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Viggers)
The hon. Gentleman would not wish to mislead the House. The Bill does not preclude any of the legitimate outreach measures of the kind that Shorts and other good employers have already introduced. The hon. Gentleman may not like to be corrected, but I am sure he will welcome that reassurance.
§ Mr. McNamara
Will the Minister say specifically that firms may recruit percentages of Catholics in new hirings: that the set-aside as agreed in the Shorts agreement will be legal under the Bill in the terms in which it was agreed; and that Shorts may go to Catholic schools to encourage people to train? If he is prepared to give those three undertakings, he is then saying that there is specific recruitment for Catholics on a religious basis. On that ground, those of us who read the Bill and did not find that in it will be delighted to know that it is included.
On the other hand, the measures agreed by Shorts are seen by many as a classic example of the type of affirmative action that is needed to rectify historical inequalities in relation to the Bill. The prospects of other firms taking similar action are seriously diminished.
§ Mr. Budgen
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a difficulty in understanding the Bill and deciding whether it is merely a sham or has the teeth that he wants it to have is that all such questions are left to the commission? We in this House are not allowed to decide what is discrimination or how it shall be enforced. Wide discretion is given to the commission: it may or may not do the things that he desires.
§ Mr. McNamara
I shall be coming to that point later. There are certain actions which the commission would be precluded from taking, and clause 50 and the clauses relating to training, outreach and so on will catch Shorts and what that company has been doing.
The same provisions making Shorts' undertakings unlawful would have a similar effect on a significant element of a Bill introduced into the United States House of Representatives by Congressman Donnelly. It would be in conflict with the law of Northern Ireland if it and the Bill now before this House were adopted in their current forms, because clause 3 of Congressman Donnelly's Bill would reduce tax credits for United States firms operating in Northern Ireland which failed to take certain steps, 211 including the introduction of affirmative programmes designed to give under-represented groups better access to employment and training opportunities.
If the measure now before this House inhibits affirmative action to the extent that American employers cannot comply with the provisions of United States law, that will be yet more disincentive to the establishment and expansion of American-owned firms in Northern Ireland.
But, not content with turning the clock back with regard to affirmative action, the Bill also damages the rights of individuals to seek redress. It reduces the existing rights of those discriminated against compared with their rights under the existing Fair Employment Act. There are two major steps backwards. First, the level of damages is reduced. The new maximum will be £8,500, which falls well short of what the Fair Employment Agency has been awarding and negotiating on behalf of individuals under the existing Act. Secondly, the provisions requiring an employer to engage, re-engage or reinstate a victim of discrimination will now be repealed.
In other words, the Bill not only involves a retreat from existing remedies and is a repudiation of the work of the standing advisory commission; it also involves a retreat from the proposals published in the Government's own consultative document and in the White Paper.
In the consultative document, for example, the Government proposed the adoption of a form of contract compliance similar to that adopted in the United States. Under that system, contract compliance has the function of imposing on a contractor a number of "best practice" requirements which are additional to those imposed on the mass of employers directly under the rest of the legislation.
The Bill adopts a much more limited approach to contract compliance. Under the Bill, contract compliance has a more limited function. Instead of being a positive measure designed to promote the use of best practices in fair employment, it will serve merely as a last resort sanction to be used on those employers who do not comply with the minimum standards which the legislation imposes on the mass of employers. It has turned the matter upside down. This is an important retreat both from the Department of Economic Development's consultative paper proposals and from the standing advisory commission.
The consultative document also promised to introduce an explicit legal duty on public sector employers to provide equality of opportunity. Not only has that proposal vanished, but the Bill provides weaker sanctions against recalcitrant public employers than it does against private sector employers. When we consider that 13 local authorities have refused to sign the existing fair employment declaration and that public bodies have been the subject of adverse reports from the Fair Employment Agency, the weakness of the Bill is even more apparent.
The Bill also contains a series of retreats from proposals set out in the White Paper. I have mentioned one already—the affirmative action provisions—but there are more. The White Paper promised to help the individual by providing a questionnaire procedure to ease the task of gathering evidence faced by individuals complaining of discrimination. That is not included in the Bill.
The concept of goals and timetables for the reduction of inequality has also mysteriously disappeared during the preparation of the Bill. It is no good putting that in a code of practice which is not enforceable. The White Paper promised to make available to hon. Members a draft code 212 of practice at the same time as the Bill was being considered. We do not have that code of practice. As the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) pointed out, we are being asked to buy a pig in a poke. That is what it amounts to. We do not have the evidence to reach some of the conclusions that the Secretary of State would like us to reach. That evidence is not in the Bill and we do not have the code.
Much of what should be in the backbone of the Bill is relegated to the status of secondary legislation. Not only has the code not appeared, but in a number of crucial areas of the Bill there is a complete lack of detail on which to form an assessment of the Government's proposals. Much of the Bill merely empowers the Northern Ireland Department of Economic Development to draw up regulations and orders in the future, after the Bill has become law.
I took the same view as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West on the right to silence issue and the policies that were involved with that. If we a re not enabled to amend the legislation, we are weakening the power of the House because we either accept or reject the lot. In several major clauses of the Bill the details are to be determined in regulations. These are significant areas, such as monitoring, contract compliance and the procedures of the fair employment tribunal. When they emerge, these regulations will not be subject to the full parliamentary scrutiny that the Bill will attract. If the use of affirmative action can be so signally mishandled when it is clear that it will be subject to effective parliamentary scrutiny, how much confidence can we have in the use by the Department of those delegated powers when only limited scrutiny, without the power of amendment, is possible?
It is a contempt of the House that the Government should expect us to consider the Bill in the absence of detail about what the code and regulations will contain. The absence of such detail will effectively stifle proper parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill. We should remember that the Northern Ireland Office has considerably more autonomy with regard to parliamentary scrutiny than its British counterpart.
There are two possible reasons why the Government may have chosen this course of action. One is that they do not want effective scrutiny of the Bill. The second possibility, which is perhaps closer to the truth, is that the Government have not decided the details of the measures, even at this late stage, and even in the central areas of monitoring and contract compliance. We have no evidence to assure us that the Department of Economic Development, that poacher now turned gamekeeper, is seriously committed to bringing forth tough measures to provide full equality of opportunity. Nor do we believe that it is sufficiently competent to work through the detail, even if it has the will to do so. How else can we explain a situation where key provisions of the Bill have such bizarre unintended effects as to risk a breach of the European laws, and where such a measure came to be printed and put before the House?
§ Mr. Budgen
Will the hon. Member give his assessment, on behalf of the Labour party, of the workings of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976? My right hon. Friend either could not or would not tell the House about it. If it was obvious by 1985 that the 1976 Act was not working and that under the Anglo-Irish Agreement Her Majesty's Government had this matter brought to their 213 attention, most kindly, by the Americans, perhaps the legislation would have been brought forward a little sooner. I wonder why something so important has been so delayed.
§ Mr. McNamara
I agree with the hon. Gentleman to the extent that I, too, wonder why it has been delayed. He is perhaps giving too much credit to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I believe that what so wonderfully concentrated the mind of the Government on this matter was the MacBride campaign in north America. All the hon. Gentleman has to do is look at the incidence and mounting of the MacBride campaign, how state by state fell to it, and how the money and reources, of which the Fair Employment Commission had been starved, suddenly increased as the momentum of that campaign increased. That is a good sign of the origin of some of the pressure upon the Government. That is why I find it distasteful. This is a human rights matter which has been tackled by a British Government who seized the opportunity when they saw some of the difficulties under which the Fair Employment Commission was labouring. Those difficulties arose because it was starved of funds until the time of the MacBride campaign.
I believe that the Government would have been better employed by saying to the Americans, especially when they had the report from the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, "This statement contains everything, and more, that you could ever want in your campaigning. It will not be voluntary and will cover not just north American firms but the whole gamut of employers and all investments. We will legislate on that and ensure that your campaign is as nothing." Unfortunately, as the Secretary of State said, he has failed to implement the spirit and the letter of the SACHR report. Because of that, MacBride will not go away, and will continue to spread like measles across the United States.
I believe that, if the Government are serious about fair employment, they should demonstrate their commitment by ensuring that responsibility for the implementation of the legislation should be at the highest level, in the hands of the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Office. We shall be tabling amendments to that effect in Committee. We do not believe it should have been left to the Department of Economic Development and the Minister responsible for industry because of the conflicts of interest.
We also believe that there must be effective monitoring of the new legislation, and a clear goal and a target for assessing its progress. The Secretary of State should ensure that an adequate administrative structure exists within his own Department to enable him to do that. Legislation alone is not sufficient.
My hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) has already reported on how the inward investment programme is meeting this problem. Existing Government programmes and future policy development must also take more fully into account the equality of opportunity dimension, which clearly was not taken into account in the past. The Government have brought forward no effective proposals to ensure that this will happen in future.
Unfortunately, the defects identified above are accompanied by a series of flaws, which will be dealt with 214 in greater depth in Committee. Some of them must be mentioned now, including, first, the most important section 42 national security exemption. The failure to provide clearly for independent scrutiny of the national security exemption is a glaring gap in the Government's proposal.
Let me give an instructive and farcical case to show the way in which section 42 has worked. A member of my union, a scaffolder, was employed by the Northern Ireland Electricity Service at Coolkeeragh power station near Derry. He then sought to transfer and get employment at Ballylumford power station. He was turned down. When he asked the Fair Employment Agency to investigate it, a section 42 order was issued to halt the investigation. He could not be employed there on the ground of national security. That was a very sensible decision to take, because in the meantime the scaffolder had been cleared to work at the Army headquarters in Lisburn, right opposite the GOC's headquarters. So much for section 42 and the way it has been used to hide discrimination.
The exclusion of part-time employees from the monitoring provision of those who work for 16 hours a week is another glaring exemption, for this reason among others. Some of them are among the poorest and most dispossessed Catholics and Protestants. The majority of them work for fewer than 16 hours a week, and many are women. The significance of this fact is all the greater when one considers that the eastern health and social board has 30,000 employees, 13,000 of whom are part-timers who will be excluded. The majority of them are women struggling to bring up their families. Whichever community they come from, they will not be covered by this provision.
There are in addition restrictions on the monitoring of applications, which is rather like the counting of green and orange trees instead of seeing what they can be used for to get some effective affirmative action. There is, too, the compromising of the independence of the Fair Employment Commission.
I regret to say that the Labour party cannot welcome this seriously flawed Bill. At a conservative estimate, it fails to meet more than 60 per cent. of the recommendations of the standing advisory commission's report. It ignores substantially the recommendation of the Fair Employment Agency and the Irish Congress of Trades Unions. In significant respects, it is less effective and far-reaching than the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act that it replaces, and it is even a retreat from the commitments in the less than detailed White Paper of last year. No doubt, in time, we shall discover what led the Government to back down from their commitments. Whoever is responsible has a lot to answer for. People will have to live with the consequences of the failure to create equality of opportunity.
If the Bill is enacted in its present form, it will set the clock back. For the reasons that I have enumerated, the Labour party has tabled a reasoned amendment. If it is defeated, we shall vote against giving the Bill a Second Reading. We shall seek to amend the Bill in Committee. Our motive is to ensure that the eventual legislation will achieve the objective of fair employment.
The Government are out of step, and unfortunately guided by considerations other than those which deserve the most urgent attention. The Labour party has been, and will continue to be, guided on this issue by the moderate and reasonable proposals that have been put forward by 215 the standing advisory commission, the Fair Employment Commission and the Irish Congress of Trades Unions. They will be our three bench marks. Our concerns are also shared by the SDLP, as is apparent from the reasoned amendment that its Members have tabled.
We are determined to ensure that the effects of the Bill are clearly and unequivocally brought to the Government's attention. There is still time for them to see sense. We are genuinely and sincerely anxious that they should do so. The Labour party believes, and is indeed convinced, that failure to tackle the massive inequalities between Catholics and Protestants will drive away north American investment, which is vital to the economy of Northern Ireland. That is why we wish to see it.
Today we should have been debating a measure which would offer hope to the poor and dispossessed in Northern Ireland that for them the constitutional road to reform could deliver tangible results. Beyond them there are the others who suffer the consequences of political instability and violence, resulting from deprivation and inequalities. Despite extensive research and analysis of the massive problem of structural inequality in employment, and expert advice on the responses needed to tackle that problem, the Government have chosen to present the House with a flawed and patently ineffective Bill. All those placing their faith, as I do, in constitutional methods of achieving social justice will be gravely disappointed.
We hope that when the Bill comes to the House for Third Reading it will live up to its proud title of fair employment in Northern Ireland. For the Government it is still not too late to amend many of the proposals. We hope that they will do so in the interests of fair employment, of equity and of the individuals who live in the Six Counties.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)
I listened attentively to the speech of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and to his replies to interventions from the few hon. Friends who were sitting behind him. I remain totally unconvinced about the merits of this legislation. Indeed, it speaks eloquently of the Bill that at any one time at most five Tory Back Benchers had bothered to come into the Chamber to listen to their right hon. Friend and to show their support for the Bill.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
It is already being pointed out to me that at least one of those five hon. Members detests the Bill. It is remarkable in a Parliament with such a tremendous Tory majority so few Tory Back Benchers should be present in the Chamber. Where are they? It is like the debate we had last week on Northern Ireland, when very few hon. Members seemed to be interested in the legislation under discussion on that occasion.
The Secretary of State might have strengthened what he described as the moral case for the Bill if he had announced that the Government intended to introduce similar legislation for the rest of the United Kingdom to combat religious, racial and political discrimination. Hon. Members should consider this carefully. I refer the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, whether they are here to support or to criticise this awful legislation, to an article in The Times today by the distinguished chairman of the Runnymede Trust, Dr. E. J. B. Rose. He stated: 216The greatest single contribution this government could make to improve race relations would be to attack black unemployment, which is twice as high as the rate for whites.He went on to offer cogent reasons why there should be such legislation, but there has not been a word from the Government about that.
§ Mr. Budgen
The hon. Gentleman is often more observant of American opinion than I am. Has he any information about whether the Americans have been advising the Government on the necessity of bringing forward similar legislation in the west midlands? As the Americans are so extraordinarily generous in the advice that they volunteer to us, they may have a view about the introduction of such legislation in England.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I think that American politicians view this country as a place which has not only lost an empire but needs direction from the great and brilliant minds of Washington, who are no doubt helping the Government as much as possible—just as the politicians from the Irish Republic are guiding the hand of the Government through the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
I have the honour to represent the constituency of North Down where there is no complaint about religious discrimination. I and my constituents are unequivocally and totally opposed to religious discrimination of any kind in employment, housing or any other aspect of life. There is a growing anxiety among employees on the shop floor and in offices who have received individual notices demanding bluntly that the employee should state his or her religion. This creates grave disquiet among people who have worked loyally for firms for many years. They fear, no doubt rightly, that the hand of bureaucracy will be upon their firm and that in time they may find themselves out of their jobs.
The Bill is divisive in an area such as mine—I speak of no other area, as I know that there are problems in other parts of Northern Ireland—where good relations have existed between Protestants and Roman Catholics for a long time. I do not wish to see division, but I fear that the Bill will lead to increased division.
§ Mr. Marlow
Is there not a possibility—to put it no higher—that this confidential personal information could find its way, sadly, into the hands of an Opposition politician who would only too avidly give it full media coverage and all the confidentiality would be lost?
§ Mr. Kilfedder
The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to that, but I will not speculate. All I can say is that those notices, which imply that unless the information is supplied the person will be out of a job, will create a state of affairs which will not help good community relations in North Down. I hope that I shall be proved wrong as I wish to see good community relations maintained. The future of Northern Ireland lies in Protestants and Roman Cotholics coming together—that is the way forward—but this legislation will not contribute anything to that process.
I should have thought that it was in the hands of the Government to do something to ease the position. The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) referred to Strabane. I do not know whether he mentioned the percentage of unemployment there, but it is appallingly high. A few months ago I suggested to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that Northern Ireland Members of all political opinions should go to America to appeal to American business men to set up factories in areas such as 217 Strabane, West Belfast or anywhere else where they would help to end the misery of the dole queue. That suggestion was not taken up. It is in the hands of the Government to create employment but, as the shadow spokesman the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) has already told us, some 450 people in Harland and Wolff have already received their notice. The Government, by their policies, are driving people out of jobs.
Through this legislation, the Government are branding the Protestant people of Northern Ireland as religious bigots, in the eyes of Great Britain and throughout the world. I reject the charge. I believe that whatever legislation is brought forward should be designed to help bring the people together, providing jobs and more and better homes.
I am keeping my remarks brief to allow every hon. Member to participate—especially the Secretary of State's colleagues, whose opinions I am sure that he is anxious to hear. As an elected representative, I face three options. First, I could vote against the Bill as being a bad Bill on any number of grounds, some of them enumerated by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, who pointed out serious flaws. To vote against it, however, would falsely imply that I was against fair employment, which would be contrary to my political beliefs.
Secondly, I could vote in favour of the Bill, but that would imply that I concurred with the enemies of loyalist Ulster, who are delighted to have more ammunition to attack that part of the United Kingdom. Hon. Members may rest assured that people in the United States will say that the Government have been forced to bring in this legislation to deal with an intolerable situation.
I notice that the Secretary of State is laughing at the plight of the people of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
The right hon. Gentleman says that I should not be such an idiot. I am proud to have any nasty remark made to me by him, because I know that if the people of Ulster have to judge between him and me they will not go through the barbed wire at Stormont castle to applaud him. They can come to my home, as they do, and tell me that I am right, on this as on other occasions.
The Secretary of State may laugh, but the people of Ulster have had any number of Secretaries of State. Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland come and go, but they do not affect the lives of ordinary people much because they do not live in the community and are not part of it, and when they go they are forgotten.
My final option is to abstain, and on occasions such as this I regret that there is no Lobby where I can register my total opposition to this pathetic piece of legislation.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
You were not present, Madam Deputy Speaker, when the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) said that during Question Time members of the minority parties asked their questions and then left. As a member of such a party, I stayed for the whole of Question Time and am still here. When an hon. Member has been called, however, he sometimes has to go out on other business. Which would be the more heinous—to do that, or to absent oneself from 218 a debate and then roll in to obey the Whips without having listened to the arguments or considered the impact of a Bill on the people whom it concerns?
I believe in fair employment. I gave evidence before the van Straubenzee committee. When asked my view on discrimination I said that it was biblical, and I stand by that:do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.If anyone present in this gathering claims that he does not discriminate, he condemns himself. Each of us must discriminate, whether in choosing a hat, a holiday or even, sometimes, a job.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
Yes—and some folk would have been wise to exercise more discrimination.
With fair employment, the merit principle must be paramount. Unfortunately, in the case of Northern Ireland, I am not convinced that that is so. Replying to a question from me on 3 May, the Under-Secretary of State for Employment said that he was not prepared to accept the merit principle in Northern Ireland. He dismissed our point by saying:while the system is appropriate in Northern Ireland, we see no reason to extend it to the mainland."—[Official Report, 3 May 1988; Vol. 132, c. 713.]I had said, as the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) has said, that if fair employment measures were needed in Northern Ireland they were also needed in Great Britain.
§ Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)
I do not seek to protect only the Scots. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is disturbing to find evidence of religious discrimination in Civil Service organisations and in nationalised companies on the mainland? If the legislation is good enough for Northern Ireland, despite all the difficulties, Ministers should at least investigate religious discrimination on the mainland, especially in the public sector.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I accept what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I will deal with his point more broadly in a moment.
As I made plain in a letter to the Prime Minister on 17 May last year, I stand by the merit principle. I also said:It is my belief that you have been forced to jettison your long-held view that employment should be by merit, and that a need to appease republican sentiment in Eire, the USA and elsewhere, has led to you allowing other considerations to determine employment policy in Northern Ireland.Why do I say that the legislation should be applied to Great Britain? On 15 March 1988, a headline in The Independent read:Blacks' work prospects `no better than 20 years ago'The paper claimed in a headline the following day:Black teachers 'face jobs prejudiceI find a major discrepancy in the answers given to me by the Minister for the Civil Service about employment opportunities. For example, in the Cabinet Office, which should be setting us an example, 451 top civil servants' grades show only four from the ethnic minorities. In the Home Office, only 563 of the top 4,278 employees are women.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)
I entirely agree that we need more effective action in Great Britain to deal with discrimination, and we shall welcome the hon. 219 Gentleman's support when the time comes to debate that. Is he suggesting, however, that it follows from that that there is no need to deal with discrimination in Northern Ireland?
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I appreciate the right hon. and learned Gentleman's ability to listen and to reason, but I did not say that. I said that I believed that the legislation should extend to the United Kingdom if it is needed in Northern Ireland on the grounds that we claimed for it. The same prima facie grounds exist in Great Britain as are set out for Northern Ireland. I am prepared to argue that perceptions are not necessarily accurate, because there are other reasons why people are employed beyond the fact of their colour, religion or sex—, I should like to think so.
I notice a conflict between this Bill and the recently passed Local Government Act. I query the logic of such a Bill. The Secretary of State referred to contract compliance and recently introduced legislation which outlawed councils in Great Britain from using contract compliance lists and questions to promote their policies. Yet the Government are introducing this for the private sector in Northern Ireland.
One way of determining religious affiliations in Northern Ireland has developed in relation to the schools of primary choice. As a result, there are Protestants in Northern Ireland who, for reasons best known to themselves, have attended Roman Catholic schools, and Roman Catholics who have attended controlled sector schools. They are perceived as Roman Catholics or Protestants according to the school that they attend regardless of their religion.
I recently discovered that an alleged spokesman for the Fair Employment Agency had claimed that many Shi'ite Moslems worked for Belfast council. I say "alleged spokesman" because the figures have not been released—Belfast council has not forwarded the report to the agency.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) will realise that perception can be wrong. I read a book in which he was described as the Protestant spokesman of the Labour party. In one of Alistair Maclean's books—
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I should like to be able to agree with the hon. Gentleman, but he showed his pedigree when he set out his arguments against the Bill earlier today. Impartiality is not one of his noteworthy points.
Alastair Maclean reveals the problem of perception when he writes about rifles for the Protestant IRA. Anyone who seeks to provide legislation to govern events in Northern Ireland should do so on sounder grounds than perceptions.
The basic assumption underlying the Bill is that, if there is an imbalance between the numbers of Roman Catholic and Protestants who are unemployed, the cause is always and exclusively religious discrimination on the part of employers. A bar owner in Sandy Row was approached by a man who said, "I am an Orange man, can I have a job?" The answer was, "I don't care if you are a black man—I am looking for a barman". A sensible employer will 220 always employ the person who is best equipped and suited for the job. If he employed people purely on the grounds of religion, he would soon be out of business.
No doubt imbalances exist, but I query the accuracy of the figures cited even on the authority of the Policy Studies Institute. I do not doubt that there are more unemployed Roman Catholics than Protestants, but it is not proven that religious discrimination is the sole or even the main cause. If I am right, the Bill will not be capable of putting matters right. It will merely build up expectations that cannot be fulfilled and, in the process, generate more bitterness.
§ Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)
The hon. Gentleman has made it clear that he does not believe that the high levels of unemployment among Catholics are due to religious discrimination. We should all be interested to hear him outline in general rather than anecdotal terms the real reasons for unemployment among Catholics in Northern Ireland.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I hope to come to that if I have time.
On 27 January, the Irish News—not a Unionist paper—contained the headline:Protestant graduates find jobs come easier.That partially answers the hon. Lady's question, but the paper gives the answer. It is found in a survey conducted by two academics, one in the university of Ulster and the other in Queen's university—both of which have from time to time provided work for the Fair Employment Agency. The survey shows that of 2,000 graduates—56 per cent. Protestant and 43 per cent. Catholic—who started their courses in 1985, the two groups opted for contrasting higher education courses, which explains the significant difference in the type of work that they later pursued. The Protestants mainly embarked on courses in science, technology and health science studies; the others showed a preference for arts, humanities and the social sciences. My point is that the choices that people make—this was mentioned in Question Time today—will have an impact on their ultimate jobs and economic opportunities.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)
Is the hon. Gentleman deploying the argument usually applied to school education—that Protestant children tend to receive one sort of education and Catholic children another? Does that continue through into higher education, so that one group is equipped to do one set of tasks and another group to do a different set?
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
That is not necessarily my argument. I am dealing specifically with higher qualifications. Graduates are a particular group. However, if the hon. Gentleman investigates the matter he may discover that there is a considerable difference of emphasis at different levels. I quoted the article at length to make that point.
To answer the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) further, the most striking example of the discrepancies that affect unemployment is to be found in the security forces and in firms that provide them with services. The report of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, dealing with fair employment, stated:A further contributory factor to the continuing differences in employment and unemployment is the reluctance of many Catholics to take up employment 221 opportunities in the police and other security services. These forms of employment currently provide up to 30,000 jobs in Northern Ireland, amounting to more than 5 per cent. of total employment, an are heavily dominated by Protestants. It is clear that greater equality in the distribution of these jobs would make a significant contribution to reducing differentials in employment or unemployment.The Opposition have already called that report in evidence this evening.
No one would argue that the employment pattern in this area is due to religious discrimination on the part of the Northern Ireland police authority or the Ministry of Defence. I have no doubt that the RUC and the UDR would be delighted to get more Catholics to join. I pay tribute, as I have done in the past, to the members of the Roman Catholic community who have served in those forces and have made supreme sacrifices as a result of their loyalty to the country of which they are citizens.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I agree with my hon. Friend on that. If the jobs were taken up, between 10,000 and 15,000 jobs would go to Roman Catholics which would normally go by default to Protestants. It has been said that there are two and a half times more Catholic males unemployed than Protestant males. That may be so, but the problem is that we can find no evidence to support it. To the best of my knowledge, that statistic is not based on a monitoring exercise of the unemployed. So far as I know, there are no precise statistics of Roman Catholic and Protestant unemployment or of the religious breakdown of the total economically active. Table 3.2 of the SACHR Report estimates the number of Roman Catholics unemployed as between 40,000 and 50,000 out of a total of 140,000 to 160,000 economically active Roman Catholic males. It estimates that there are 25,000 to 35,000 unemployed Protestant males out of a total of 240,000 to 260,000 economically active Protestant males. Those figures are based on the 1981 census and I presume that the margins of error arise from the fact that 19 per cent. of people refused to give their religion in their census returns. The figures, too, are obviously well out of date. I cite those figures to show that our knowledge of the actual number unemployed on religious grounds is less than perfect. I am convinced that our knowledge of the reason why a differential exists between the two groups is less precise. If, as I suspect, that reason has in large measure nothing to do with religious discrimination by employers, supporters of the Bill will be disappointed when it fails to erode the differential significance.
§ Ms. Abbott
Since my first intervention, I have been trying to follow the thread of the hon. Gentleman's argument carefully, but he seems to be making two divergent points. On the one hand, he says that the figures are wrong, and that is why a huge level of Catholic unemployment has been shown. On the other, he appears to be arguing that Catholics tend to have a preference for studying arts subjects and will not join the police force. With the greatest respect, a preference for the arts and the classics, and a reluctance to join the police force, would 222 not on their own account for the fact that two and a half times more Catholics are unemployed than Protestants. Will the hon. Gentleman elaborate his argument a little further?
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I should love to elaborate on my argument. I have a fair bit of material and if I had your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I could go on until 10 o'clock, although I reckon that the Whips would be sending me notes telling me to stop at such and such a time. I have made the point, and I hope that the hon. Lady will understand that I want to be concise. I have argued that the grounds for differences in unemployment are not necessarily those of religion. I have made the point that academic studies, personal preferences, job opportunities and such like have an effect on unemployment. I believe, however, that, above all, the unwillingness of leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the SDLP to give a lead to people to join the security forces has added to the large number of Roman Catholics who could be in work but are not.
§ Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)
Does my hon. Friend accept that the statistics that have been used as the basis for much of the argument about there being two and a half times more Catholics unemployed than Protestants are part of the propaganda of the Provisional IRA and its political wing, Sinn Fein? Those statistics have not been proved, and I should be glad to hear my hon. Friend prove them. They have been trotted out as though they were true by hon. Members in all parts of the House without any proof.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. In answer to the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott), I was about to state that I am questioning the validity and accuracy of the figures.
§ Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)
May I give the hon. Gentleman the information that he requires before he goes on to his next point?
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
If the hon. Gentleman can give me authentic information, and tell me where the statistics have come from, I shall be happy to give way.
§ Mr. McGrady
The statistics are contained in table 3, paragraph 1 of the report of the independent Policy Studies Institute dated 1987. The source is "Equality and Inequality in Northern Ireland: Employment and Unemployment 1983–85". It states that there are 14.9 per cent. unemployed male Protestants and 35.1 per cent. unemployed male Catholics, which is 2.4 times as high. There are 10.2 per cent. unemployed Protestant women and 15.8 per cent. umemployed Catholic women—one and a half times as high.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I am not arguing about where the figures came from. I have actually referred to those figures. I said that we had not yet had evidence of how the statistics were obtained. I believe that figures often lie as well as liars figure.
On the question of equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome, I understand that clause 12(2)(a) will empower the commission to issue directions to employers to take whatever action the commission deems to be reasonable to promote equality of opportunity. There is nothing in the Bill to indicate when it would be appropriate for the commission to issue such directions. In 223 other words, in what circumstances is it reasonable to conclude that equality of opportunity is not being afforded by an employer and remedial action is called for? Our only guide on this matter is the past behaviour of the Fair Employment Agency which is due to be transformed, under the Bill, into the Fair Employment Commission.
I believe that the practice of the Fair Employment Agency in past investigations of employment patterns has left a great deal to be desired. To the best of my knowledge, the Fair Employment Agency has always taken any divergence between the religious balance in a work force and that in the catchment area of the firm to be conclusive proof of the failure of the employer to afford equality of opportunity. In other words, if the firm's work force does not reflect exactly the religious balance of the working population in the catchment area, the employer is inevitably found guilty of discrimination. No other explanation is allowed.
That conclusion is arrived at despite the clear statement in the Department of Economic Development guide, which states in paragraph 3.3:Equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of outcome. Individuals have different qualifications, ability and potential ability. What is important is that everyone is given the same chance to offer their talents to prospective employers.The guide says in paragraph 4.39:the fact that the proportion of a religious grouping in a workforce (or part of a workforce) is lower than the proportion of that grouping in the catchment area does not necessarily imply malpractice.I stand to be corrected, but so far as I am aware the Fair Employment Agency has always assumed that if a religious grouping is under-represented, malpractice has been and is taking place. I should like an assurance that the Government will accept the principle that there can be equality of opportunity without equality of results. I should also like an assurance that an employer will not be pilloried by the commission for failing to offer equality of opportunity if the religious balance of his work force deviates by a few per cent. from what the commission deems to be the religious balance in the catchment area. In the past, one of the difficulties seems to have been that the Fair Employment Agency regularly moved the goal posts when dealing with a catchment area and the numbers that ought to be employed from it.
There are many other things that I should like to say, but my colleagues and other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate and there will be another time, perhaps, to deploy further arguments.
§ Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)
I am sorry that the Secretary of State has departed for his dinner. He must have thought he was friendless in this place, and he is well aware that on occasion I have expressed mild reservations about the policy followed by the Government in relation to the Province of Ulster. I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State will give him the welcome information that I shall be voting for the Bill tonight. It may be interesting to hon. Members to know why I am in favour of this Bill.
I have listened to hon. Member's statistical arguments. There seems to me to be no doubt that the 2.5:1 ratio exists. The only matter in dispute is how that ratio comes about. No one would argue that it all comes about as a result of religious discrimination, but it would be naive of 224 anyone with the slightest knowledge of the Province not to argue that some of it comes about as a result of religious discrimination. I believe that to be the case, and if any hon. Gentleman would like to argue the point I should like to hear from him now. There is that problem; it would be foolish and naive to pretend that there is not. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Prove it."] I have been asked to prove it. I cannot prove it. I cannot prove the negative either. But we should proceed on the basis that that element exists, and it is the duty and obligation of the Government to do something about it. The Fair Employment Act 1976 quite clearly has not had the effect that it was supposed to have.
All that the Bill purports to do is to stiffen that legislation. Of course, there is an element in this legislation of public relations for overseas compsumption. Again it would be naive to deny that. We would want North American money coming in and we would want investment from other parts of the world. And people in North America or elsewhere who believe, rightly or wrongly, that there is religious discrimination in employment in the Province which leads to more difficulties and foments trouble are unlikely to invest. So we are making the statement by this legislation that we are trying to do something about a perceived ill.
What is the matter with that? I do not object to saying to Americans or to anybody else that we are trying to do something about a part of the United Kingdom in which something is happening that should not be happening. It seems to me to be eminently sensible so to do.
§ Rev. William McCrea
As the hon. Gentleman is concerned about righting wrongs, should he not perhaps be suggesting to his Government that they bring in similar legislation as a matter of urgency for the coloured population on this side of the water?
§ Mr. Porter
I will come to that later. I can see the thrust of that argument and I do not disagree with it, but that sort of legislation applies to the mainland already.
My third reason for being in favour of the Bill is that it is quite deliberately vague. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) sees this as a criticism, but I do not. How could one prescribe in detail what will happen in each area, each place and each job? That would be nonsense. It might provide much-needed work for my hon. Friend, or indeed for me, in another guise as a solicitor, but it is not practical.
I was much taken by the Secretary of State's comment that the emphasis in the Bill is on voluntary action by employers rather than unnecessary penalisation. That seems to be right. I want the Bill to be given a fair wind to see how it works. The commission certainly has power, but this House has the overwhelming power, has it not? If it were seen that the commission was exceeding its powers and acting in an unreasonable fashion against the employer or the employee, or if generally it was not working well, the House could amend the legislation or put something else in its place. Surely, given the reasonable grounds on which the Bill is presented, we should have the grace to agree to see how it works.
The points which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) made were, as far as I could judge, Committee points, not Second Reading points. His objections were not fundamental. I thought that he would. have the grace to say that the Government were trying to 225 do something that ought to be done, and then see whether he could amend it in Committee; and of course he would have the right, on Third Reading, to oppose it if it did not come up to his expectations. I expected more of him and I hope that he will think about this before the Bill goes into Committee.
I have certain reservations. I find it distasteful that people in the Province should have their religious affiliations recorded. That makes me feel uneasy, but I was slightly heartened by the fact that at least 80 per cent. of people are willing to put their religious affiliations in the census form anyway. Eight out of 10 is not a bad start.
I am also uneasy about whether legislation will make things worse rather than better. I have an inherent dislike—I am sure that the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) will understand this—about whether legislation can make people like one another or come together rather than move further apart. Of course one is bothered about that. I do not want to see a religious relations industry built up in the Province in the same way as we have a race relations industry here.
§ Ms. Abbott
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the issue is not a question of relations in this field or of legislation to make people like one another? The issue is whether the state has a responsibility to intervene to try to ensure equality of opportunity.
§ Mr. Porter
The short answer to that is yes, it has. That is why, despite my feelings of unease about whether it will succeed, I say that, in the event of extreme bigotry, the state has an obligation to see what it can do to make that bigotry disappear.
My main reservation is that the Bill will not get at the root of the problem. Other people have canvassed this matter, and we have wondered whether it is a matter of the education system. I am reminded of something that was said to me in confidence when I was in Belfast last week by one of the aircraft manufacturers in the Province. They have been recruiting from schools of all kinds and have made a deliberate, positive and benign attempt to ensure that there is fair employment in the factory. I inquired whether reverse discrimination was practised. The senior man said no rather quickly, but the personnel man said that, there was a difficulty, because they found that, at the age of 15, 16 or whatever it is, there was a difference in the attainment level and qualifications of those from one sector of the education system as opposed to another.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pursuing this argument about educational attainment and the types of education available. Will the hon. Gentleman accept that if one section of the community perceives that it is excluded from particular jobs, the education they receive will adapt in order to equip them for available jobs, so it is the economic system which distorts the school system, not the school system which distorts the economic system?
§ Mr. Porter
I beg leave to doubt that. It seems to me on the evidence available that certainly one sector of the education system in the Province is deliberately chosen by that sector to achieve certain ends. I am willing to pursue that at a later time, in another place perhaps.
§ Mr. William Ross
Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate, and should not the Opposition Front Bench also appreciate, that some Roman Catholic parents, for those very reasons, choose to send their children to state or independent education even at the primary school stage, as is happening in my local school? Those children are perceived as Protestants and are numbered among the Protestant population rather than among the Roman Catholic population.
§ Mr. Porter
I did not wish to put it in such blunt terms, but the hon. Gentleman makes the point for me. So far as I can judge, the verdict of employers is that the quality of entrant they get from the Unionist Protestant sector is higher than from the other sector. I state that as a fact. It is something which ought perhaps to be recorded and reflected upon by those who have responsibility for education for Roman Catholics in the Province. I am not being critical; I merely state, despite the fact that there may be only anecdotal evidence, that that is what I have found there.
§ Mr. Marlow
My hon. Friend has expressed concern about the Bill. Is he concerned about clause 7, which vests in the commission the duty of maintaining a code of practice and publicising that code of practice? It also vests in the commission the responsibility for taking such steps as it considers necessary to encourage—that is a strong word—employers to adopt the policies and practices recommended in the code. This is giving considerable power to the commission, in which Parliament has no stake.
My hon. Friend has said that Parliament can take action against organisations such as this. In my view, on no occasion have any of these quangos introduced a code of practice and Parliament has amended that code of practice. Is not my hon. Friend concerned about that?
§ Mr. Porter
Of course I share my hon. Friend's concern, but not to the degree of my hon. Friend. I do not think "encouragement" is a particularly strong word. We have had plenty of codes of practice for good behaviour in previous statutes. Perhaps this is something that ought to be explored in more detail in Committee.
I have said why I support the Bill, and I have expressed my reservations about it. I trust and hope that I will not be on the Committee because I might be persuaded by arguments from the Opposition Benches. We have a perfectly decent, honourable Secretary of State, who, after considerable thought, has introduced this legislation. This House would do well to at least give it a chance.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)
The House of Commons is a funny place. I suspect that the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter), and I will be in different Lobbies this evening, yet I think he and I probably have more in common than I have with some hon. Members who are opposing the Bill. I hope he will agree on reflection that, although one cannot change hearts and minds by passing legislation, legislation can help to form opinion now and in the future. I suspect there is a great deal that we do have in common, but he will also remember that yesterday the House was discussing the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill and how best to contain and finally—hopefully—to put an end to terrorism. Conservative Members were even suggesting 227 that the Opposition are not as dedicated to the fight against terrorism as they are themselves. One important contribution which this House as a whole could make to stop paramilitary activities is to show an effective concern to end the conditions which provide a source of young recruits to the paramilitary organisations.
When I held the portfolio now held by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), I did not have his knowledge of conditions in Northern Ireland; still less did I have the knowledge of hon. Members who come here from constituencies in Northern Ireland. But I set out to try to get to know some of the communities over there—separately, because, unhappily, they are mainly segregated. I did it without attracting more attention than I had to and I talked to parents who were worried sick at the thought that their sons, and sometimes their daughters, would be recruited into the paramilitaries.
Then I talked to the young people themselves, and it became clear to me that there were three factors which helped to make them into potential recruits. The first was that there were genuine grievances in the places where they lived: there were housing problems, there were unattractive environments, there was poor administration of social security and there was the withdrawal of funding for community projects. Above all, there was this spectre of unemployment, which for so many of them is with them from the time they start school until the end of their lives.
Secondly, and as part of the same syndrome, there was the lack of anything constructive to do; they had idle hands, which were at the disposal of the devil. Thirdly, among people in the minority tradition there was the belief that they were the victims of discrimination, that things were not fair. We could argue about statistics and whether it should be two and a half times, twice or some other figure.
We could take the point too that was made by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume)—that perhaps the most effective thing we could do is to provide jobs across the board in Northern Ireland, because clearly it is more difficult to deal with discrimination on a falling market than on a rising one.
I do not believe that any hon. Member would question the proposition that there is an imbalance, a very real imbalance, and one which, as my hon. Friend said in an intervention, cannot be explained by any one single factor in any one primary point. I have talked to people in Northern Ireland from the majority tradition. They will normally say that there was a problem; they will sometimes say it was a few years ago; frequently they will say that it is getting better—and they may be right about that—and they will explain, quite properly, that it did not always arise from conscious discrimination: there were all kinds of factors. It arose partly from the areas where factories were situated, from the perpetuation of a family tradition—if one's uncle worked there one was more likely to get a jot—and it does arise partly from cultural factors in the educational system. It arises from all these things, but it adds up to a substantail imbalance and, if one is not on the right side of the divide, it adds up to a substantial handicap.
It would be wrong, of course, not to recognise that a great deal has been achieved in recent years. Managements and unions in some plants have worked very hard and have taken very real risks to try to deal with some of these problems. They have dealt with some of the practices 228 which made Catholics feel unwelcome: for example, the display of emblems on anniversaries. I can understand the feeling that it is a human right to put them up, but all this had an effect, and many of them have worked very hard to try to deal with it. It was not always easy for them and, of course, it does not always pay to be seen as being in the vanguard. So they have not received the recognition which they might have done, because they have not sought it. I was speaking with some of them this morning. It is important that legislation should do what legislation can be reasonably expected to do to facilitate those efforts.
The Bill could attack those problems and at the same time demonstrate a real commitment to attacking them. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North that the Government have missed that opportunity. The Bill does something towards addressing the problems, but its defects are more in evidence than its virtues. They will increase as time goes on and as people see how the Bill works. I understand the Secretary of State's problems. Some of them are caused by those who sit on his own Back Benches. Whatever he does, he will not please everybody. There are others who attack the Bill for different reasons, but the Secretary of State has missed an opportunity.
Most important of all, because it is right at the heart of any fair employment programme, is the matter that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North about affirmative action. We can all agree about some propositions. I suspect that we all agree that it is not enough simply to provide that, in future, those who are setting on labour, or considering promotions, should not discriminate. As my hon. Friend said, affirmative action has been very much a part of everyone's thinking on this matter since the van Straubenzee report.
Those who have been discriminated against in the past are entitled to expect a programme that is designed to restore their position before everybody is given equal opportunities. The horse which has been carrying an unfair handicap is entitled not only to have the weight removed; if that weight is to be removed halfway through the race, it should be given the opportunity to make up lost ground.
§ Mr. William Ross
It is not the same horse. The light hon. and learned Gentleman is now speaking about completely different individuals.
§ Mr. Archer
I wish that were true. I wish that it were possible to draw a line between present and past and to say that the hand of the past will never be heavy on the present. Some examples have been given in this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) said in an intervention that the very fact that many Catholics have found it difficult to find work in engineering has created a cultural tradition in which they do not consider obtaining engineering qualifications. There are all sorts of ways in which the past sits heavily on the present.
§ Mr. Michael J. Martin
In the west of Scotland from where I come, there are descendants of Irish Eiremen and Irish Ulstermen. There are heavy engineering industries in the west of Scotland, too—in particular, the aircraft industry in which I worked. Catholics find no difficulty in adapting to those jobs in the west of Scotland, so why is 229 Ulster different? If the argument is about Protestant and Catholic schools, the fact is that denominational schools also exist in the west of Scotland.
§ Mr. Archer
My hon. Friend is right. There is nothing about somebody's theological opinions that reflects on their ability to carry out engineering work. However, the very fact that these problems have existed in the past leads to their perpetuation in the present.
If we simply provide that there shall be no future discrimination, then, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North said, we may prevent those who wish to take affirmative action from taking it. That is a real danger, as the Bill is drafted. I am certain that the Government neither intended nor planned that, but they should be very careful that it does not turn out to be one of the by-products of the legislation.
The first part of the Bill imposes a duty on the commission and, through the commission, on employers to promote equality of opportunity. Clause 20 defines equality of opportunity in terms of individual applicants. One has to give equal opportunity to each individual applicant. Anyone who takes special measures to improve the competitive position of Catholics may find that he is in breach of those earlier provisions.
Affirmative action is discussed in the White Paper—I think that it is discussed rather better there than it is addressed in the Bill—and affirmative action is dealt with in the earlier part of the Bill. It is written, by clause 1, into duties under the 1976 Act, but we do not hear much more about it in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North has already read out the definition in clause 53. How does that square with the duty to provide equality of opportunity for individuals?
The White Paper contained a different definition. It referred tospecial measures taken to promote a more representative distribution of employment in the workforce.When the Minister replies to the debate, I hope that he will say why the Government have changed that definition, which would have made it clear that special measures were not intended to fall foul of the duty to afford equality of opportunity. It would have been better still if the Government had spelt out in the Bill, at least as examples, some of the steps that they were talking about.
Of course we all understand the need for common sense and a sense of justice to individuals; otherwise, we alienate the majority and cause a digging in of heels. We make it harder for those who are trying to make progress. I would not recommend a quota system. I would not suggest that employers should give preference to a Catholic who is unsuitable for a job over a Protestant who is clearly the best applicant, although, if I were pressed, I would opt for the American tie-breaker: when two applicants have equal qualifications, preference should be given to the one who has been penalised in the past.
There are all kinds of affirmative action that would not be offensive to anybody, such as extending and formalising the recruiting and advertising procedures, establishing goals and providing outreach training schemes. The Fair Employment Agency said in its reaction to the Bill— nobody pretends that the FEA has any political axe to grind—that it regrets that affirmative action was not spelt 230 out, as it is in the sex discrimination and the racial discrimination legislation. Then it would have been clear that that kind of action was not unlawful.
I remember the arguments that we had over the MacBride principles. They are written on my heart. The Secretary of State, if I may remind him, said at that time precisely what my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North is saying now: that the MacBride principles would fall foul of the equal opportunities legislation. The Government said that the MacBride principles recommended reverse discrimination—even a quota system. Those who have taken the trouble to read them will recollect that they did no such thing; but they did recommend affirmative action.
It was said then that to adopt those principles would entail a breach of existing legislation, because they would discriminate against Protestants. The American courts gave fairly short shrift to that argument, but the question was raised by those who wished to discredit the principles. They argued their case in the context of the existing legislation about equal opportunities.
The MacBride principles became emotively charged for two reasons. First, as the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) reminded us, there were those who were prepared to see them used to discourage American investment in Northern Ireland. I know that Sean MacBride never intended that they should have that effect. What most effectively discouraged American investment in Northern Ireland was the very discrimination which they were intended to remedy, but, I take the point made by the hon. Member for Foyle, that nobody wants to discredit what is already happening in Northern Ireland; we do not want to discourage overseas investment.
The second reason was that the principles were associated with Sean MacBride. I understand that those who knew him in the 1920s remember him as a participant in the violence that, unhappily, affected the whole of Ireland at that time. I knew him as a man whose life was dedicated to the cause of human rights, as the tireless chairman of Amnesty International, where I knew him best, and as a committed worker for peace. I should be out of order if I embarked on a further vindication of Sean MacBride, but I understand why the MacBride principles evoked some of the problems and why they were not considered objectively. But there were those who fastened upon those matters because they did not want progress to be made.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North is anxious that those who do not want to see progress made will fasten on precisely those problems. I hope that that controversy will not be reopened by the Bill. It will be bad enough if it provides an excuse for those who want an excuse not to take affirmative action, and it will be a tragedy if it deters those who genuinely want to address the problem—and there are many such people. I ask the Secretary of State to avoid that risk and to look again at the Bill, while there is still time, to ensure that the omission of those clarifying words does not defeat the very purpose of the Bill.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Earlier in the debate, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said that he did not believe that the Bill had anything to do with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I refer the 231 House to the answer given by the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney), who said:Many programmes and measures have been introduced of value to all the people of Northern Ireland, including the minority, since the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. Among the items which have benefited from discussion through the Conference are the establishment of an independent commission for police complaints, the repeal of the Flags and Emblems Act, new legislation aimed at full equality of opportunity in employment".—[Official Report, 12 January 1989; Vol. 144, c. 979.]So the Government have put it on record that the Bill flows from the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It ill behoves the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North to deny that, although he may not believe in the truthfulness of the Government and may justify his comments because of that.
For many years a great deal of attention has been focused in Northern Ireland on the question of fair employment. We have heard it implied in the House tonight that if we had full employment in Northern Ireland, or at least if the Roman Catholics felt that they had their quota of employment, the troubles would cease.
I was late coming to the House because I was attending the funeral of one of my constituents who was murdered in Strabane the other day. Does the House really believe that if the man who lobbed the bomb into the police vehicle had been given a job he would not have taken such action? Does the House really believe that the gangs who gathered and stoned the police, the ambulance and those who hastened to bring help to the dying man would not have done so if they had had their quota of employment? If the House believes that, it fails to realise what lies behind the Republican violence in Northern Ireland. The House should face up to that.
The very people who killed the police officer and who jeered at those who went to help as the man bled to death, also bomb factories and places of employment and repulse efforts by the Government to bring employment to their areas. The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) told me that the Republicans blew up an employment centre in Londonderry and then, when an election was being held, they used the tin that had been put round the wrecked site for posters saying "Vote for Sinn Fein".
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Once again, the hon. Gentleman generalises and implies that the struggle for fair employment is to give fair employment to a group of gunmen and bombers. We are discussing fair employment for the people of Northern Ireland across the sectarian divide. When the hon. Gentleman, rightly, uses emotive examples, he is conveying a different impression. I shall vote against the Bill because it does not go far enough towards what I want, but the hon. Gentleman is trying to make us adopt an emotive approach like his.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
If the hon. Gentleman had been in the House earlier and had heard what was said, he would agree that the impression was given that if these people had jobs they would not be shooting, killing, maiming and bombing. That is what was said and I was dealing with that point. I too shall be voting against the Bill, for wholly different reasons, as will my colleagues.
There are those who have tried to give the impression during the debate that there is a terrible situation in Northern Ireland in which Protestants are engaged in wholesale discrimination in employment against Roman 232 Catholics and that Roman Catholics do not stand a chance of being employed. The hon. Member for Foyle, who unfortunately is not in his place at the moment, mentioned his own area and made some remarks about it. If one quotes anything in the House from one section of the community, it is ridiculed by another section and vice versa.
I shall quote from the Fair Employment Agency's own report. The Fair Employment Agency was set up to look at employment figures in Northern Ireland. It issued a report in October 1980 on its investigations at the Department of Health and Social Security. It dealt with 21,000 personnel—and what did it find? It found that the largest part of that particular section belonged to what was known as the amalgamated general service grades. It found when it examined that section that 54 per cent, were Roman Catholics. Most people know that the overall population figures are about 60 per cent. Protestant and 40 per cent. Roman Catholic.
Although the figures that I have quoted are in an FEA report, they are often forgotten. I could give other figures. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive, for example, has 3,500 non-manual staff. The Fair Employment Agency was pushed by many hon. Members to look into the employment question there because it had been said that Roman Catholics were not being employed by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. The report said that in clerical grades the numbers from each community were very similar up to the age of 30. In that age group, there were 343 Protestants and 348 Catholics, so over half of the people under 30 years of age in clerical grades were Roman Catholics.
§ Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)
I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman's speech. It is interesting that the examples he has quoted from the FEA report involve public sector employers. I notice that the figures for prosecutions under the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976 show that 55 per cent, of prosecutions for unlawful discrimination have been in the public sector. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the answer is to have a far smaller public sector in Northern Ireland and that the privatisation programme would be a strong step in that direction?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The hon. Gentleman should wait to hear the rest of the statistics. His argument will not stand up to them, and he should try to find out what Northern Ireland is about. One does not find out from the FEA report who was discriminated against, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that a member of my church who was discriminated against by Michelin of Ballymena received the largest amount of money yet paid out in connection with deliberate discrimination. We need to find out the number of Protestants discriminated against, and I shall come to that.
There was an investigation into the Southern health and social services board. In the district of Newry and Mourne 57 per cent, of all nursing staff were Roman Catholic. The FEA found that nursing accounts for the largest proportion and greatest number of Roman Catholic staff in the board's employment. It said:57 per cent, of all nursing staff were assessed by the agency as Roman Catholics.Page 43 of the report said:The representation of Roman Catholics within the job category of nursing is higher than would be expected given the 233 ratios of Protestants and Roman Catholics within the local areas and higher than their representation in the other job categories of the Southern Health and Social Services Board. The proportion of applicants for nursing posts who were Roman Catholic was also higher than their share of the locally resident population.That was what the FEA found in the public sector.
Now let us consider the private sector. The hon. Member for Foyle talked about the problems that he had in his district. Pushed by the Unionist representatives of Londonderry, the FEA conducted a study of employment in Londonderry. It looked at private firms, and concluded:Companies located on the City side employ few Protestants and even in the case of one large company on the Waterside, the level of Protestants is substantially lower than the population as a whole.The City side, across the river, is predominantly Roman Catholic. There used to be a number of Protestants there, but they have been driven across the river, and the Waterside is now predominantly Protestant.
The study investigated six private firms. Lee Apparel (United Kingdom) Ltd., Londonderry, employed no Protestants at all. The FEA searched but failed to find one Protestant employed by Essex International, Londonderry. The three remaining firms were in the Waterside, which is largely Protestant. One was found to have a work force with 37.6 per cent. Protestant employees. The second had 33 per cent, and the third had fewer than 20 per cent. Those are not my figures. They are the figures of the Fair Employment Agency. I might add that no Unionist has any faith in the Fair Employment Agency, but these are its figures, nevertheless.
I find it very strange that Mr. Cooper, the head of that agency, has to be pushed hard before he will look into complaints from Unionist representatives. It takes him a long time to move on our complaints, although he is happy to move on other matters. The FEA's finding was that in Londonderry, where, according to various Republican civil rights groups, Roman Catholics could not secure employment, they had in fact so many of the jobs that in the Roman Catholic areas of the city no Protestants were found in the survey and even in the Protestant areas of the city Roman Catholics had the overwhelming majority of jobs.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)
Do not those figures show that what we need in areas where Protestants are discriminated against in employment is effective fair employment legislation—with which we could have been presented today, but which is not properly contained in the Bill?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I believe that the answer—some people disagree—is that we need jobs in Northern Ireland. The more jobs there are, the less of a problem there will be. What is more, we should involve ourselves in a drive to get those jobs, as when we have a super-abundance of jobs people will not argue.
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) that certain sections of the community follow particular occupations. For instance, tiling and slating have always been predominantly controlled by Roman Catholics in the city of Belfast, who have always worked at that trade. No one argues about that. In the shipyards, a system used to operate whereby four people did the riveting—father, brother, uncle and 234 son. In the early 1920s there were serious problems in the shipyards which left a dark shadow. These are matters of history, but the way to solve the problem is to get more jobs into Northern Ireland.
I represent the whole of Northern Ireland elsewhere and I represent many Roman Catholics in my own area. I have to had to fight battles for them in this regard. A Roman Catholic nurse in my constituency was discriminated against, and I had terrible trouble in persuading a Northern Ireland Minister to do anything for me when I pleaded with him about the case. I should make it perfectly clear that I am not talking about the present Secretary of State or his team. It happened to be a Labour Minister, who is a noble Lord, with whom I had trouble. I believe that people should be appointed on their merit.
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West that it is difficult to know what to do if two people have the same qualifications. The employer must consider them with regard to the respective percentages that there may be in his work force. In areas where employment quotas have risen, however, we find that instead of tailing off, they are inclined to continue to rise, until Protestants feel that they will be pushed out. That is a great problem. People receive letters through the post asking, "Do you come from a predominantly Protestant area?" I saw such a letter the other day. One of the big firms in Northern Ireland is now asking, "Do you come from a predominantly Roman Catholic area?"
Let us consider the banks. The Allied Irish bank has connections in the South of Ireland. The FEA investigated all five banks—the Allied Irish bank, the Bank of Ireland, the Northern bank, the Ulster bank and the TSB. It found that there was a wide disparity in the figures—only 16 per cent. Roman Catholic at the Northern bank but 72 per cent. Roman Catholic at the Allied Irish bank. Apparently the two banks with many branches in the Irish Republic have a majority of Roman Catholics while the three banks with their main branches in Northern Ireland have a majority of Protestants. The FEA stated:All figures provided to the Agency show that in every bank the opportunities for Roman Catholics have been improving in the last 15 years.That is a summary of what the FEA said about this matter.
I feel that the severe position of firms in Northern Ireland in regard to the idea that employers have to monitor the religion of all their people is serious business for employers. I receive many representations from employers. We were told by the Minister that the CBI agreed with the Bill, but after he had spoken members of the CBI spoke on radio saying that they agreed with nothing of the sort and were very concerned about compulsory monitoring and so are the employers and employees. Mention has been made today of the safety of all the details about the religion of employees in Northern Ireland. People in Northern Ireland are afraid for their safety and they do not like other people to know the details of their lives. All those problems arise in regard to the legislation. If we had more employment and better employment prospects in Northern Ireland, we would not be debating this business.
I accompanied the hon. Member for Foyle on a trip to the United States of America in an attempt to persuade people to invest in Northern Ireland. It did not matter where they invested whether it be Strabane or Londonderry, the east or the west, we were both pushing for investment in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman 235 was very fair to us when it came to creating employment in Belfast. I bear witness to that, and I expect that he would respond by saying that I pushed just as hard as he did in regard to other places. I will continue to do so because an employed people is a happy and contented people and we need more employment in Northern Ireland.
§ 8.2 pm
§ Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has produced selective statistics which nevertheless demonstrate the great necessity for the Bill. In spite of those quotations, it is quite clear that he will vote against the Bill.
We are considering a Bill which, in its content and its extent, must appear unusual in this last part of the 20th century. I am sure that not only in north America, but in Europe, parliaments will be wondering why, after 68 years of the administration of Northern Ireland, only tonight have we produced substantive legislation to correct an ingrained injustice in the community. For many years, successive Governments hid behind the excuse that it was the problem of the then Stormont regime, but that cannot apply to the past 16 years. One of the most disappointing features of the past 16 years of direct rule was the failure meaningfully to tackle fair employment. In that period there has been no real change by persuasion or by gentle coaxing of the main employers in Northern Ireland, and gross injustices continue to be perpetrated on the religious minority in Northern Ireland.
Tonight, I was able to quote an independent assessment as late as 1987 showing that the rate of Catholic male unemployment was 2–5 times as high as Protestant, yet that statistic was queried, as were all the statistics given tonight. However, an independent body, the Policy Studies Institute, gave us that very evidence.
I listened carefully to all the hon. Members who have spoken tonight. It seems that there is a reluctance to admit that there is a problem of job discrimination in Northern Ireland, or to confront that problem. It seems that we are pussyfooting around, to use a North of Ireland expression. The statistics quoted for and against the Bill make it clear that an imbalance is caused by religious discrimination. It must naturally follow that we should do something about it. I and my party hope that the legislation that we are considering will be that something.
It is generally assumed that bigotry in Northern Ireland is the sole cause of job discrimination and that the narrow-minded small employers in Northern Ireland are doing all the damage. But that is not the case. The annual report of the Fair Employment Agency shows, surprisingly, that the blue chip companies with headquarters here in London have made a major contribution to the imbalance of employment opportunities in Northern Ireland. I am referring to the banks, the building societies and the insurance institutions which are making a great contribution to the imbalance of employment in Northern Ireland, in addition to the ingrained and endemic bigotry that exists in Northern Ireland.
The problem must be seen in perspective. As has been said, the engineering industry and the electricity supply industry in Northern Ireland have caused and are causing a great imbalance in employment. Tonight, some attempts were made to excuse or justify that on the basis of a predilection towards educational courses which prevent 236 the minority from participating and seeking employment in those sectors. The reality is that, when parents bring up a child knowing that certain sectors of employment are cut off from their family, they have very little option but to advise that boy or girl to go in a direction where there is a possible opening at the end of their secondary or tertiary education.
Over the years, and particularly since 1976, we have clear evidence that persuasion and gentle encouragement have come to naught. That was the method in the 1976 Act and has had little or no effect. We must now have positive, strong legislation with the severest penalties for those who flagrantly transgress the most basic human right—the right to work. As we have heard tonight, we are debating an issue which goes deep into the communities of Northern Ireland and reveals many of the prejudices and biases that exist there. The Bill may be our last chance to create a meaningful piece of legislation to redress the problem. Hopefully, as with the voting franchise and the housing discrimination measures, perhaps the Bill, properly amended, will consign this problem to history, but it will do so only with substantial amendments.
There is an anomaly in tonight's debate on outlawing discrimination in employment, because legislation already exists which should have accomplished that. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 referred to and dealt with that problem. The Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 and the much-mentioned Fair Employment Act 1976 made discrimination on grounds of political or religious belief illegal. However, despite that legislation, nothing has changed materially over the years. The continuous household survey of July 1985, which confirmed the 1971 and 1981 census figures, instigated SACHR to commission a major study by the independent body to which I have referred, the Policy Studies Institute. Its impeccable statistical technology gives incontrovertible evidence of the continued existence of discrimination in employment in Northern Ireland.
There have been many attempts tonight to explain away the difference between Catholic and Protestant employment. I use those words as a kind of shorthand; I am well aware of the various differences. We have heard about different labour markets and class differences. We have heard about differences in education, attitudes to work, age distribution and family size. Then there is, in the "in phrase", the so-called "chill factor"—the unwillingness of one community to travel to work in an area where another community predominates. We have heard of the dominance of the Protestant community in security-related occupations, and there is the underlying black economy.
We have heard all those arguments and excuses many times before. The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights said that all those factors had been taken into consideration. Its final conclusion was:While all the listed factors"—the ones that I have mentioned—are related to unemployment, a man's religion is consistently shown to be a major determinant in his chance of being employed.I do not need statistics to enable me to understand what is happening and has happened in Northern Ireland. I live there and I have experienced the consequences of the contents of the reports that have been put before us. But anyone with an interest in fair employment who has studied annually the output of the Fair Employment 237 Agency cannot come to any conclusion but that there is an endemic problem that must be addressed with some determination. I should like to think that the Bill, in its final form—I emphasise that—will be the vehicle by which that problem can be addressed.
§ Ms. Abbott
Fairness in employment is a difficult issue. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that all the legislation in the world is of no avail without a genuine political will? Is the hon. Gentleman confident that this legislation is not mere window dressing to appease American opinion? What makes him confident that there is a real political will to deal with the inequality of opportunity?
§ Mr. McGrady
I shall deal with that in some detail. We must legislate to enable equality to be achieved. The Bill does not go far enough. There are many positive factors in the Bill that we welcome. For example, we welcome the annual monitoring of the religious composition of a work force which will enable an overview of the employment position to be obtained. That in itself will provide a ready tool for investigation if necessary.
We also welcome the expansion of the Fair Employment Agency—the commission, as it will be known—with its enhanced resources of money and manpower. We also welcome the substantial fines that can be imposed on employers and the withholding of grants and contracts from those found to have contravened the Act. We welcome the prohibition of indirect discrimination. That was a major gap in the 1976 legislation. We welcome the obligation on employers to carry out a three-yearly review of their employment practices.
However, that is as far as the Bill goes. We must examine whether the Bill in its present form will have the impact that the Secretary of State hopes. If the Bill cannot be amended in Committee, it will be difficult to accept it as a meaningful and earnest endeavour. I listened attentively to the Secretary of State on affirmative action. He listed a series of possibilities, the major one being the code of conduct. I find it strange that we are discussing the Second Reading of a Bill whose heart appears to be missing. We are debating a Bill which contains a considerable vacuum.
Affirmative action is the central issue, yet it has been consigned to a vague and imprecise definition at the end of the Bill. That will not merit great support or understanding among the people whom we represent. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) referred to the protection required for employers engaged in outreach and training programmes based on religious connotation. Our amendment, which was not selected, refers to specific religious training. That would be appropriate for any work force, but it should have read "religious-specific training".
There are glaring weaknesses over grants and contracts. Withdrawal will be used against employers, but the whole matter is discretionary. There is nothing mandatory about it. In practice, all kinds of pressure will be brought to bear on those charged with implementing the Act. The measures should be mandatory, not permissive. Even more surprising, in view of the 1976 legislation, the individual complainant is at a disadvantage. The Fair Employment Commission will be unable to take individual complaints unless there is a matter of policy. At present, the Fair 238 Employment Agency will investigate an individual complaint and, as it were, run with it to its successful or unsuccessful conclusion.
In addition, the individual is being put into an adversarial environment before a tribunal. Let us be practical: an individual complaining about discrimination, either because he has not been given a job or is not getting promotion, or whatever, will be reluctant to take that courageous step against his employer. Under this legislation, he will face a variety of barristers and experts, which is not the case at the moment. Even if he wins, the maximum compensation will be £8,500. If he is not entitled to legal aid, he will have to judge whether it is worth his while to proceed, despite any injustice he may have suffered.
The targets and goals that were so much a feature of the White Paper appear nowhere in the Bill. I attempted to intervene when the Secretary of State talked about monitoring applications. The figure used will apply only to work forces of 250 and over. A sizeable proportion of the work force in Northern Ireland is employed by companies with fewer than 250 employees. Therefore, an enormous number of employers—I do not have statistics to show whether they comprise the majority of employers—will be able to excuse themselves from monitoring applications of their work force every three years. There are also imprecise definitions of "indirect discrimination" and the way in which that concept will be perceived when the Bill has completed its passage through Parliament.
We are concerned about the charges of discrimination that will be excepted from investigation, in view of the Secretary of State's intervention under section 42. While I do not want to bandy words with him on this issue now, my personal experience causes me concern lest section 42 has been misapplied. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North gave an example. The Secretary of State is aware of a sub judice case involving a large employer which is obviously a serious matter.
Whatever mechanism is found, there must be some appeal procedure. At the end of the day it must be possible for an individual or company to say, "I have been found guilty without trial of being a national security risk. What is this all about? May I make a submission on my own behalf?"
We are greatly concerned about the whole area of orders and regulations. They are too numerous for me to deal with in detail now. A plethora of instruments will be left to the Department of Economic Development, including the code of practice. It is wrong that all the matters which those instruments cover should be left to a period following debate in this House. They should be before us at least in draft form.
Hon. Members have spoken of the neutrality, as we call it, of the workplace. That issue was raised substantively in the White Paper, but it seems to have disappeared. Neutrality of the workplace is an essential factor in creating conditions by which equality of opportunity can be implemented. For example, in the marching season in Northern Ireland the workplace is where neutrality must exist, for it is the place where the two communities can be harnessed—where they can work together and not oppose each other. Just like the home, the workplace is a vital area for community relations.
I have given a long list of grave deficiencies in the Bill. I could go on with my shopping list, but I will not do so now. We have before us an opportunity—one might say 239 almost a last opportunity—to do something finally about discrimination in Northern Ireland. It will not be a meaningful measure unless it is considerably amended. Indeed, if it is not amended, it will be a sign—perhaps unintentionally—of a lack of interest on the part of the Government to listen to constructive criticism and heed well-argued reasons change. It will also question the good faith of the Government in wanting to solve the problem once and for all. I hope that in Committee the Government will respond to these criticisms and make the major changes in the Bill.
There is an essential requirement on the Government outside the Bill, and many hon. Members have referred to it. The whole issue of training for industry needs urgent consideration by the Government. They must also consider the location of training schools, for their present locations leave much to be desired. While we want inward investment into Northern Ireland, hopefully from abroad, we should remember that a great factor in discrimination terms in recent years has been the location of industry.
I must tell the Minister that at this time public bodies under his jurisdiction are guilty of discriminating in the location of industry. That happens on a daily basis, when officers of the Industrial Development Board and the Local Enterprise Development Unit misdirect firms away from areas, presumably for political reasons—and for "political reasons" one can read "religious reasons". If the Minister wants evidence of that, I will be pleased to give it to him privately. It is important that the location of new industries or the expansion of existing ones takes place on a fair basis; otherwise, the problem of discrimination will not be resolved.
My party hopes that, when replying, the Minister will comment on the points I have made. In particular, will he assure us that, in Committee, the Bill will be amended to take account of many of the shortcomings to which I have referred? If that does not happen, the Bill will be useless for the purpose for which it is intended and will be rejected by the disadvantaged people in the North as a meaningless exercise.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. Less than an hour remains before the Front Bench speakers will be hoping to catch my eye to wind up. Many hon. Members still wish to speak, so I hope that those who are called, out of consideration for others, will be brief.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
When the Secretary of State moved the Second Reading, he said that he was in favour of equality of opportunity in employment. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said precisely the same. My hon. Friend the Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) made the same point, and it was also made by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth).
That shows that we have in all parts of the House a commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity in employment in Northern Ireland. There, one may think, the unanimity ceases, because despite that unanimous commitment to a single purpose, it is clear that the Opposition parties will vote against the Second Reading tonight.
§ Mr. Gow
We have not yet heard from the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown). We shall see what happens.
I remember how, 13 or more years ago, the House voted for a Bill, introduced by the then Labour Government, which is now the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North and I voted in favour of the Second Reading and Third Reading of that Bill. We meet this evening to debate the Second Reading of this measure because of a perceived failure of the 1976 Act, which was passed through the House with the support of the Conservative party for the then Labour Government.
We may mark the words of the White Paper which preceded the Bill, because in order to establish the extent to which the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976 was successful, the Government set up their review in 1985. This is what we read in the White Paper:the Government's statistical review revealed that the differential employment experience of the two communities was enduring, despite these extensive statutory provisions and the solid work of the Agency".The agency, of course, under the Bill, is to be replaced, possibly in deference to the European Community, by a commission. The question which we are entitled to ask ourselves is whether my right hon. Friend believes that the 1976 Act has made matters better or worse. Has the equality of opportunity which all parts of the House desire been assisted or hindered by the 1976 Act? If the answer is that things are really no better in 1989 than they were in 1976, one may wonder why the House is being asked to replace, in effect, the 1976 Act, with further legislation if the existing legislation has not had the desired effect.
I had considerable sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South when he said that, in a sense, the whole of life is about discrimination. It would be possible to argue that, in selecting the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North as the shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the leader of the Labour party was discriminating against all other candidates for the job. I am making an assertion that, in a sense, the whole of life is about discrimination.
The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott), who has been diligent in her attendance as usual, might assert that there is unlawful, improper or unwise discrimination by the electorate, or the "selectorate" in this country because of the small number of women who are Members of this place. It is certainly an act of discrimination because, if the kind of parity which is envisaged in this Bill had been applied to women, and for all I know the number of Roman Catholics in this place, then it would be possible to argue that discrimination is proceeding all the time.
§ Ms. Abbott
I simply make the point that there seems to be a semantic problem here. The hon. Gentleman, with an uncharacteristic lack of precision in the use of language, is confusing the notion of individual personal judgment with the notion of discrimination, which to my mind, and certainly in recent political discourse, involves large groups of people as a whole being substantially and provably economically disadvantaged.
The hon. Gentleman cannot equate my personal choice to wear a pink jumper as opposed to a blue one in the House this evening with substantial economic disadvantage among tens of thousands and sometimes millions of people. If the hon. Gentleman is advancing a serious 241 argument, which I believe he is, he will do us the service of not confusing personal judgment and taste with massive economic discrimination and the political consequences which follow.
§ Mr. Gow
I shall not follow the hon. Lady, although I am glad that I gave way to her. The point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South that, where there is inequality of opportunity—I repeat that I wish to see equality of opportunity—the belief that such inequality can best be removed by an Act of Parliament is not proven. There are large areas of employment in Northern Ireland where there is inequality of opportunity, but it is not caused by the lack of legislative provision.
I will give just two illustrations. It is possibly a matter of regret to other hon. Members in the Chamber that there is a massive inequality of religious belief among those who are currently employed as soldiers in the Ulster Defence Regiment and those who are employed as policemen in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. But I assert that it is not the absence of legislation that has led to that differential. Indeed, I believe that there is a danger that the Bill will make matters worse.
Here we are proposing to set up a Fair Employment Commission and a fair employment tribunal. We are involving the Department of Economic Development and talking about the involvement of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. We are proposing to spend another—900,000 a year and we shall take on a total of 34 additional employees. I do not know whether those employees are going to work in Massey avenue. I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who will reply to the debate, to determine how many of those additional 34 employees will be taken on by the commission or the tribunal in Northern Ireland and how we shall determine the correct proportion of Roman Catholics and Protestants, or Jews or atheists among those employees.
Can we legislate for this matter? How can we define in any meaningful sense a travel-to-work area? When we have had the annual monitoring returns from the public and private sector, how will we say that an employer in a particular area should have fewer Protestants and more Roman Catholics? It is self-evident from my right hon. Friend's speech that, even if the Bill achieves its most benign effect, we shall not see an overall diminution in the number of people who are unemployed. We may be able to spin it out rather differently so that in some parts of Northern Ireland there will be more Protestants in work and more Roman Catholics out of work. The most benign result may be that in some other parts of the kingdom more Roman Catholics are in work.
What we really should be addressing our minds to is how we can get more jobs in Northern Ireland. Of course, we are debating the Bill because the survey showed that, pro rata, more Roman Catholics than Protestants were without a job. So that is the issue to which we should be addressing our minds.
You will have gathered, Mr. Deputy Speaker, my serious reservations about the ability of legislation to improve perceived discrimination. I repeat my opening words I am in favour of equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland. [Hon. Members: "How will you do it?"] I voted in favour of what was then the 1975 Bill. I will vote in favour of this Bill tonight, because, despite my serious 242 reservations, I approve of the purpose and the policy of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the purpose and policy set out in the Bill. If one has reservations about legislation which is before the House, one is at least able to show that in the Division Lobby. Tonight I shall give the Government the benefit of the doubt.
§ Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)
I have listened carefully to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), as one always does, but the most interesting part of his speech was at the end when, having expressed all those warm sentiments about removing discrimination in Northern Ireland, he was asked what he would do about it and the answer was nothing.
Any piece of legislation that deals with the difficult issue of discrimination always comes up against the practical aspects of how these things will be judged, and against the problems over which lawyers will always wrestle as to how one legislates for one person to like or love another, and how to express fairness. Of course, we all know that we cannot do that perfectly. No piece of legislation that deals with discrimination has ever done it perfectly. But the fact that the legislation is there provides a bulwark and a backdrop for people to have the legitimate correction of a complaint.
The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 is imperfect in its actions, but its existence helps to act as a bulwark againt sex discrimination. No doubt the same is true of the racial discrimination legislation. Certainly the experience in the United States of America is that where there is legislation in all sorts of areas, even relating to discriminatory discounts for small firms, such as the Robinson Patman measure, it is a help. It may be ineffective as a counsel of perfection in its ultimate jurisdiction and in the way it is carried through, but its very existence helps to solve the problem.
Surely that is the way in which we should be dealing with this matter. It has been said that all the Opposition parties intend to vote against the legislation tonight, but we shall not do that. We shall vote for the Bill, with caveats, many of them listed in the Labour party amendment, about provisions which are inadequate. We must remember that this is a Second Reading debate, dealing with principle. That principle requires a piece of legislation which tackles discrimination to be considered by the House. We all know that on many occasions when we try to make amendments in Committee the Government refuse them. Committees are being reduced to a farce because the Government do not listen to the arguments, but on this occasion we must give the Government the benefit of the doubt.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), who has made such a significant contribution to Northern Ireland debates, gave the White Paper a qualified recommendation. He listed a number of key questions which have remained unanswered. His excellent speech bears re-reading now. Nevertheless, the legislation is an attempt to address a serious problem in Northern Ireland so we shall give it a qualified welcome. We are prepared to give it a Second Reading.
There is little change in what we see before us and what was recommended in the White Paper. A number of questions spring to mind, some of them articulated in the 243 Labour party amendment for which we shall vote. It will fail, of course. If it does, we shall vote for the Bill and argue the case later for the amendments.
Other amendments are worth mentioning. I make no apology for the fact that they were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Mossley Hill when he considered the White Paper. I am sorry that they have not been taken into account. It is important that the question of penalties should be addressed. A £2,000 penalty is adequate for non-registration, but it is not adequate if we are dealing with deliberate misinformation in the case of very large contracts. For instance, in a contract valued at £500,000, a fine of £2,000 for deliberate misinformation would be nothing. I hope that the Government will consider a sliding scale of penalties for misinformation according to the size of the contract.
The second key point relates to legal aid. We are glad that the Government have agreed that the commission can take up cases on behalf of individuals. That is helpful, although undoubtedly it will be budget-limited. If the commission has at its disposal only a finite sum to fight such cases, it will rightly pick cases to establish useful precedents which the courts can use afterwards. This may not help an individual who cannot afford to pursue a case, as so frequently happens. The lack of adequate legal aid provision is a significant deficiency of the Bill.
Positive discrimination has not been dealt with. What would happen if an individual sought to take up a case against a firm which wanted to introduce positive discrimination to correct the religious imbalance in an area? What would happen if a person wanted the firm to operate positive discrimination to provide a fairer reflection of the religious make-up of the area? Would that be subject to the legislation played in reverse, as it were?
§ Mr. Ashdown
The hon. Gentleman says yes, and so it would appear to be. That is a significant disadvantage.
The next question is addressed in the Labour amendment. It must be of great concern to people in Northern Ireland and here that the legislation clashes with existing legislation on sex discrimination and racial discrimination. I am sad not to see a tie-up on the employment rights of women, particularly those of ethnic minorities.
In a comprehensive speech, the hon. Member for—
§ Mr. Ashdown
I used to live there so I should remember the constituency. I recall that I lived next door to Captain Orr, one of the hon. Gentleman's predecessors, but that is a matter best not spoken about at the moment.
The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) mentioned the chill factor. This is an important matter brought out by the Standing Advisory Committee on Human Rights and it is one to which the Government should address themselves. Perhaps it cannot be legislated for, but I hope that the Government have thought about it and will consider how to deal with it.
Once again we are dealing with legislation which is not a solution in itself but merely an instrument which can be used to try to achieve a general solition in Northern Ireland. It does not tackle some key areas such as how to create jobs. We have to read the legislation against the miserable background of a Government who have 244 imposed their ideology on Harland and Wolff in a crazy and ludricrous way. Their policy has today delivered to a primary pillar of the Belfast economy the bitter pill of 450 job losses. This is a direct result of the Government's idiotic policy of not allowing Harland and Wolff to bid for Ministry of Defence contracts until it is in the private sector. Here we see the Government taking steps to improve the labour market on the one hand while casually destroying it on the other. It makes no sense.
With all those caveats and concerns, I believe that the Bill will provide at least an instrument which may help. It deserves to be debated and to go into Committee. It deserves to be improved along the lines which have been suggested in the House, and I hope that that will happen. In that spirit, we support the Second Reading.
§ Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) said that there is a problem, so we should do something about it. That something was legislation.
§ Mr. Budgen
Yes, but it was claimed that legislation inexorably followed from the problem. I smiled as I reflected on how his predecessor would often have said that to suggest that a problem was capable of being cured by legislation was certainly something to which one would expect the Liberal and the Socialist traditions in the House to adhere but certainly not something that Tories on the whole believed in.
When you stand in a non-political way at an election, Mr. Deputy Speaker, knowing that you will be seated in that Chair for most of the ensuing Parliament, and someone says to you, "Sir Paul, we expect that there will be less legislation if there is a Tory Government," I expect you smile. It is undoubtedly the case that, as Governments settle in, they forget the scepticism that they ought to have about legislation.
I am sure that the hon. Member for South Down will recognise that among the persons who have affected the opinions and prejudices of myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) have been his predecessor and also a great friend of his predecessor, Mr. T. E. or Peter Utley. He once wrote a pamphlet entitled "What Laws May Cure", expressing a high Tory scepticism about the value of legislation and suggesting a number of tests that might be applied before the House proceeded to legislate. He asked whether there was a consensus for the legislation, whether the law would be enforceable, whether it could be specific and whether it could avoid being discretionary and arbitrary.
When applying those tests to the Bill, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) has said, we have the advantage of the 1976 Act. I make no party political point, but it was introduced by a Labour Government—by a party which, on the whole, believes in the efficiency of legislation and holds that men's minds can be cured and altered by Acts of Parliament. When I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in what I hoped was a helpful intervention, to explain whether the Bill was building on the 1976 Act, I was amazed when he seemed to reply that it was not. I would not be so impertinent as 245 to say that my right hon. Friend had not read the brief, but if he had looked at the White Paper he would have seen on the first page:The basic objective is to strengthen and broaden the existing legislation".If my right hon. Friend had had the White Paper handy, he would also have been able to answer my question about the way in which the 1976 Act was working. Paragraph 2.4 gives a detailed exposition of the various proceedings that have been dealt with before the agency.
I have no doubt that after my impertinence in asking him how the agency worked—I noticed a message coming over from the civil servants—my right hon. Friend would have been told about the question asked by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) on 25 May about the agency's activities, which is in the helpful reference sheet put out by the Library.
It is clear that when my hon. Friend came to advocate the Bill he had nothing in his mind about the necessity of bolstering the 1976 Labour Act, although that is the thrust of the White Paper. He saw the Bill as a political necessity arising from two things—the Anglo-Irish Agreement and a desire to placate American influence. He did not bother to convince the House in any way about the 1976 legislation. He did not say, "We do not know that it is very good, but it did a partial job. For instance, we have noticed a certain amount of improvement in the discrimination problem in the Province." He simply ploughed through his remarks on the basis that more legislation was necessary.
The more that we apply the Utley tests, the more sceptical we become. When I read the Bill I thought to myself, as I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sir H. Miller) did, "My goodness, what would happen if this sort of legislation were proposed for the west midlands? When we went back to the west midlands at the weekend our constituents would be jumping up in anger." It seems that political opinion in the Province is slightly different. I do not say that there is a consensus in favour of the 1976 Act, but there seems to be a form of reluctant acquiescence.
This legislation is severely defective, and plainly not a great improvement on the 1976 Act, and greatly to be condemned because it gives the commission law-making powers that no one should have. The commission will decide what is discrimination and, in a selective way, who should be proceeded against. It is the most arbitrary and political way of enforcing the law, and we are left with no proper proof that the problems of Northern Ireland will be improved by legislation.
It is sad when a Conservative Government, with the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), say, "There is a problem; therefore it can be cured by legislation."
§ Mr. Budgen
I do not think that it will be cured by legislation. I suggest that it would best be cured by market forces. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) seems very 246 angry. If an employer is unwise enough to employ less good people because he or she does not like the colour of someone else's skin or their religious beliefs, that employer will provide a less good service, and when he competes he, will find that he loses.
Let us suppose that I am running a small business and need a lady to do a job that the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington could do. If she applied for the jot)—I know that she would say that such an idea is wholly unrealistic—and I refused her because of the colour of her skin, I would then have to employ a less good person who would offer a less good service. The market exercises a discipline, but in this context the law does not change people's minds or behaviour.
There is no evidence that the 1976 Act has done any substantive good—there is only the strong suspicion that poor old Northern Ireland is once again being used as a political pawn, partly to placate the Republic and partly to placate the Americans.
§ Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)
Like any other hon. Member, I feel loyalty to the party that I serve in the House, and I am on a three-line Whip to vote against the Bill. Nevertheless, I feel that it would have been better if we had had a free vote tonight. I never thought I would see the day when I would oppose any Government who were trying to bring in legislation to do away with discrimination in Northern Ireland. But I feel that I have some knowledge of the circumstances, living as I do in Glasgow, where the sons and daughters of Ulstermen and people from Eire came to settle because of the great famine and lack of opportunity. My ancestors come from Rathmullin. In my grandparents' day there was terrible discrimination in Glasgow; adverts in newspapers said that Catholics need not apply. Such discrimination still exists, but it is nowhere near as bad as that in Northern Ireland.
No one should kid himself that education is a problem and that because Catholics are educated in a particular way they enter certain services and industries. That is nonsense. Certainly, the Catholic schools in which I was brought up did not specialise in technical subjects. It was considered a great achievement for a Catholic school to turn out a teacher, a doctor and a dentist, but boys like me took up apprenticeships in the engineering industry. It did not make a bit of difference who we were; if we completed the training, we were able to do the job.
No foreman in the Rolls-Royce factory where I worked, which turned out the RB211s, was able to say, "That person must be a Protestant because he is a good engineer doing a good job." That is nonsense, and it does not apply in Northern Ireland.
The Government should consider the fact that discrimination takes place not only in Northern Ireland but on the mainland. It is sad that we are even discussing the legislation. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said that no legislation could do away with discrimination. Legislation does help. His argument was used when John F. Kennedy wanted to help Martin Luther King and his people in the deep south. Those who were against helping black people in America said that legislation would not help them. It has been proved that legislation, although not the full answer, certainly helps.
247 It is a sad feature of our society that bowling and golf clubs bar black people, Catholics and Jews. On many occasions in the Chamber I have spoken about the British Rail Engineering Ltd. workshops in my constituency. The religious make-up of its management is such that Catholics would not be able to obtain promotion. Yet it would be difficult for an employee to complain about that.
It is galling to have a nationalised industry and Civil Service departments where discrimination takes place, and yet taxpayers' money is used to provide those jobs. A sad feature of Northern Ireland is that a great deal of taxpayers' money goes to provide these jobs. Why should that money be used to help a religious clique?
If we introduce this legislation in Northern Ireland, we should at least examine the problems on the mainland. Every year without fail articles are written about the masonic lodges in our police forces. I have nothing against anyone joining a masonic lodge if that is what he wants to do. However, lodges that are exclusively for police officers create a problem, because they cause a lack of confidence in sections of the community.
Wherever religious discrimination exists in the United Kingdom, steps should be taken to eliminate it. The outside world must be asking what is going on in communities up and down the country where people still think in the same terms as their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.
§ 9.4 pm
§ Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)
It is now more than 150 years since the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in this House, which was the legislation which prevented anyone other than Anglicans from attending university and from participating in certain professions. Some of us who come from dissenting religions, however, still have folk memories of the sense of injustice that that legislation caused and of the fact that Quakers, Jews and other non-conformists were obliged to leave the professions to go into trade. No one should ever under-estimate the deep sense of injustice that can be felt if people believe that they are being discriminated against solely on the grounds of religion. That sense of injustice can be very deep and can go forward for many generations.
The discrimination does not have to be deliberate, positive, malicious or cruel. It is possible, especially in employment, for people to discriminate unconsciously. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) referred to people getting jobs on the basis of their father, their brother or their uncle. Of course, if people get jobs solely on that basis, almost certainly they will be awarded jobs, too, in the Northern Ireland context, because of their family connections and their religion.
We must make it clear that we are committed to fair employment because it is right and because we find it repugnant that anyone should be put at a disadvantage because of their religion. We must make it clear that we are determined to tackle the problem of religious discrimination in employment. Everyone should welcome the proposed legislation, which would require all employers not only to avoid discrimination, but actively to practise equality of opportunity and, where necessary, to take affirmative action. Some hon. Members have skated over this a little too glibly and have pretended that there is no problem in Northern Ireland, but despite almost 10 years 248 of anti-discrimination legislation and enforcement, unemployment among the Catholic community in Northern Ireland has remained disproportionately high.
§ Mr. Baldry
No, I will not give way.
A Catholic male is two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than a Protestant.
§ Mr. Baldry
No, I will not give way. I have only a limited time and my hon. Friend has already had his opportunity.
§ Mr. Baldry
Appointments to jobs should always be on the basis of merit. For that merit principle to operate properly, it is essential that there should be no unnecessary obstacles in the way of any applicant being considered on merit. Employers in Northern Ireland must be encouraged to open up their recruitment practices and processes to the widest possible range of applicants. Under-represented groups must be given a fair and full opportunity to compete for employment. To do that is not only just and equitable, but it will thwart those critics and enemies of Northern Ireland who use the statistics of comparative unemployment—for example, unemployment among male Roman Catholics as compared to that among Protestants—as evidence that employers should not invest in Northern Ireland and that it should be ignored.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, there is now an economic opportunity for Northern Ireland and for other parts of Europe in the period coming up to the European single market in 1992. I was in Korea two weeks ago. Companies in Korea and the far east want to invest in Europe before the single market is created, as do other companies throughout the world. Now is the time for Northern Ireland to take advantage of those opportunities, but the enemies of Northern Ireland will tell companies not to go there—to go to Wales or anywhere else—because there is discrimination in Northern Ireland.
The issue of employment discrimination in Northern Ireland has been exploited in the United States by proponents of the so-called MacBride principles. We know that since 1986 a coalition of local politicians and Irish American groups, through a series of shareholder resolutions and state legislation, have sought to force American companies operating in Northern Ireland to adopt those principles. Although the principles are vague, imprecise and impractical, that campaign threatens to harm substantially the long-term prospects of Northern Ireland's economy.
American firms currently employ some 10,000 people in Northern Ireland—around 10 per cent. of the manufacturing work force. With this Bill on the statute book, those in the United States who are concerned about fair employment will have all the ressurance that they need that Northern Ireland is a place where equality of opportunity is actively implemented and the MacBride 249 principles will be as redundant then as they are irrelevant now because it will be demonstrably clear that we are fully committed to fair employment.
We should not forget that if Northern Ireland is to prosper, investment and job creation are essential complements to the more effective practice of equality of opportunity. If Northern Ireland is to flourish and if the unacceptable employment differentials between Protestants and Catholics are to be reduced as quickly as possible, there is no doubt that more jobs are needed. All of us in the House must promote the considerable attractions that Northern Ireland presents as a location for new investment. That investment and those jobs will come more easily if there is no shadow of a suspicion of religious discrimination in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland undoubtedly has a lot to offer and we should trumpet that fact abroad.
It is sad that in debates such as this we hear very little of what Northern Ireland has to offer the world. Northern Ireland has plentiful skills and a traditional work ethic. In many ways, it is an educational showcase not only with two major universities but with many good schools. Northern Ireland has a high level of computer literacy, good labour relations, a well-trained work force, favourable tax allowances, highly competitive labour costs and a proven track record with international companies such as du Pont, Ford, GEC, and so on. In the past year du Pont alone has invested £180 million in new facilities. That is all very good news which we should be trumpeting abroad and, in so doing, helping to attract new jobs and new investment to the Province.
In the short time available to me, I do not intend to go into the details of the Bill because that has been done exhaustively throughout the debate and I am sure will be done in Committee as the Bill goes through the House, but we must make it clear that at the centre of the proposals is a determination to maintain the principle of appointment on merit. The Bill is clearly against quotas and reverse discrimination, because in the climate of Northern Ireland their effect could be catastrophic on acceptance by the wider community of the fairness of the equal opportunity proposals. In the context of Northern Ireland, religious monitoring must be the key to fair employment practice, for only such monitoring can supply the basic information necessary to determine whether fair employment is practised. The emphasis of the Bill is rightly on voluntary effort by employers rather than on unnecessary penalisation.
I hope that the Bill will demonstrate beyond peradventure to the whole world not only that Northern Ireland has a great deal to offer but that all forms of discrimination in Northern Ireland will be eliminated if the House has any say in the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) asks what laws may cure. The fact is that we in this House have the ability, through legislation, to demonstrate to the world that we are doing everything that we can to eliminate discrimination. If those who argue against legislation feel that there is a better way, let them come forward and demonstrate what it is. Until that time we must use the best means available to us. I hope, therefore, that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
250 There is, however, one note of sadness which the House cannot pass over in silence this evening. For many years until now there has been a considered consensus of hon. Members in all parts of the House in seeking the best way to move forward in Northern Ireland. That has implied a number of things. First, it has assumed that the Government of the day, of whichever party, have been using their best endeavours, as people of good will, to find the best way forward in Northern Ireland. Secondly, it has assumed that the Opposition of the day seek to find such common ground as they can with the Government of the day to move forward in what, on any account, is perhaps one of the most difficult situations that this House faces today.
Sadly, that consensus has now apparently been broken, and the Labour party has clearly decided that it is far easier to criticise whatever the Government are doing. Of course, whatever one does in Northern Ireland, one can either argue that it is not enough or that it is too much, but what the Labour party is doing is showing that, for the most part, it is a party of political pigmies—and the same goes for the SDLP—who have not the courage to stand by the Government on certain issues and say, "We do not agree entirely with this legislation but at least it is a step in the right direction, so we shall give the Secretary of State the benefit of the doubt for wanting to achieve something and move forward on a positive basis and we shall support him." Instead, the Opposition Front Bench spokesman merely seeks to carp and to find any division whatever. I can only assume that his speech today was written by a lawyer because if I had been given a brief to carp and nit-pick at whatever points were made in this Bill I should have been hard put to do a better job.
Not one positive statement has been made from the Labour Front Bench in this debate. I hope that Labour Members will reflect that what the hon. Gentleman said may well find favour with those groups that he enumerated at the beginning of his speech as being the starting point in Irish politics, but I doubt very much whether they will command much respect in Northern Ireland or in the rest of Britain.
§ Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)
The course of this debate has not been unexpected to anyone who has sat through the numerous debates we have had on Northern Ireland down the years, and I have no intention of following the course which others have followed in this debate. I prefer to deal with a single specific aspect of this legislation, and that is the methodology of the investigations and the setting out of the reports which have been followed in the past by the Fair Employment Agency and which will undoubtedly have to be followed in the future. If we are ever to get anywhere we must have absolutely accurate statistics, and I do not believe, despite all that has been said, that those statistics as yet exist in Northern Ireland.
The reports in future must have a single, uniform system applied to them. In my preparation for this debate I—am sorry that I have such a short time left to speak—I took the opportunity to compare a number of the reports, and I discovered that some reports treated the folk employed as being drawn from all of Northern Ireland. The Civil Service is a case in point, a most prominent one, but there are others, such as Northern Ireland Railways, 251 the Ulster museum—which surprised me somewhat—and the Northern Ireland Electricity Service, which did not really surprise me.
Then, on the report of employment patterns in the Belfast area, with particular reference to engineering, I discovered that the Fair Employment Agency used the travel-to-work area. Council areas were used for the reports on AVX, Hyster, Lucas, and the North Eastern education and library board. For the report on the Northern Ireland airports, the home towns of the various employees were listed and those home towns extended from Coleraine to Newcastle. Then, as a second string to their bow, they listed the council areas of Belfast, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Lisburn, Antrim and Newtownabbey. For the Western health and social services board, the report gave numbers and percentages of employees and also drew attention to the fact that the catchment area included Donegal, in a foreign country. In one class of employee, 7 per cent. of the employees are from Donegal.
§ Mr. Ross
That remark could also be addressed to Mr. Cooper, who is a native of Donegal.
No boundaries were drawn concerning the reports on the newsletter in the Irish News. However, we discovered that the statistics in the Belfast Telegraph seemed to be based on the number of persons who were available for each printing trade. I should have liked to deal with that matter, but unfortunately time does not permit me to do so.
If we are to produce something that makes sense and that fits together in a comprehensive manner, it is vital that each investigation should be carried out in exactly the same way, that reports should be prepared under exactly the same headings and that people should know exactly what statistics and what areas are being discussed.
In many urban areas employees will walk to work. People who live in rural areas will have either to drive or use public transport to get to work. We need to know exactly what area we are looking at and the criteria, but we do not have that information.
It is essential to find out what criteria are to be applied and those criteria should be used strictly all the time. If no information is supplied under a given heading in one report, although that information is given under the same heading in another report, the reason for the lack of that information in the first report should be stated. Only when that information is provided and only when the same procedure is followed in all reports will they make sense. I ask the Minister to take that point on board. We on this Bench agree with the first one and three quarter lines of the Opposition amendment but very little else.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)
We have had a wide-ranging debate and the difference of opinion among hon. Members is not perhaps unexpected. My first task is to explain why the Opposition will, though extremely reluctantly, be voting against the Bill.
I take as my starting point the Secretary of State's speech. I am sure that he was speaking on behalf of the Government when he said that, as a moral principle, no matter where anybody lives in Northern Ireland, he or she should have equal opportunities when applying for a job. 252 There is no difference between the Secretary of State and me on that point. There is also no difference between his party and mine on that point.
The Secretary of State also said that it was not just a question of stopping discrimination; we need to encourage equality of opportunity. It is at that point that the Secretary of State and I, and his party and mine, begin to differ. I accept that the Secretary of State takes a different view of the implications of the Bill, but our understanding of it, and the expert opinion that we have received about it, coincides with the view of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) rather than with the view of the Secretary of State—that the Bill will not carry out the intentions that the Secretary of State and the Government would like it to carry out.
The Bill is seriously flawed, particularly over the taking of affirmative action. If the Bill were to be enacted as it stands now, it would make the situation far worse in the Province and it would not lead to the increased inward investment in Northern Ireland that all of us wish to be achieved.
The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), say that that is not true. The only people whom I have heard say that that is not true are the Secretary of State and his Under-Secretary of State. Every expert opinion that I have read bears out our view about affirmative action rather than the Government's view. I suggest that the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary should re-read the Bill and understand it properly.
It is for those reasons and because we believe that the Bill is seriously flawed that it is in everyone's best interests, at this stage, to defeat the Bill so that the Government can come back to the House with another Bill on which there is some unanimity. We could then begin to carry out the objective that we all want to attain—fair employment in the North of Ireland.
§ Mr. Tom King
The hon. Gentleman is an experienced enough Member of Parliament to know that what he has said is rubbish. If the Bill is defeated, it will not come back in this Session and it will be the end of an attempt to introduce measures that we believe will genuinely help fair employment. The hon. Gentleman understands the parliamentary process and I trust that he accepts the short title of the Bill, which refers to:the promotion of equality of opportunity in employments".Anything beyond that can be amended in Committee. The House should give the Bill a Second Reading and then we can argue the points fairly in Committee. The hon. Gentleman is profoundly wrong, and I would be appalled if he denied us the opportunity to prove that we are right.
§ Mr. Marshall
The Secretary of State knows that I do not doubt his sincerity, and I do not doubt the Government's desire to do something about fair employment in the North of Ireland. Our assessment is that the Bill will fail to do that.
I want to deal with the two specific points that the Secretary of State raised. First, he said that the Bill could be amended in Committee. Our experience with this Government is that it is exceedingly difficult to persuade them to accept amendments in Committee. Secondly, the Secretary of State said that there was no further parliamentary time for another Bill on the subject this 253 Session. We believe that the present legislation, especially in terms of affirmative action programmes, is substantially better than the provisions in the Bill.
The House will be disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm shown by the majority of hon. Members from Northern Ireland. I exempt the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), but the majority of hon. Members from the Province who spoke tried to call into question the validity of the statistics. Every rational and sane person accepts the validity of the statistics. If one is not prepared to do so, one has only to go and see the reality of the situation in Northern Ireland.
It is difficult to accept or understand that position, but it illustrates the wide gulf between perceptions and reality in the North of Ireland. It is necessary that there should be some unanimity in the House over the need for fair employment in the North of Ireland. I must repeat the offer that I made to the Secretary of State a few minutes ago. If he is prepared to withdraw the Bill and to have consultations with the Opposition, I am sure that we can offer the Bill an easy and ready passage not only through the House but in Committee.
If we are ever to achieve lasting peace in the North of Ireland, all our citizens there must have equal political access and equal economic opportunity. Whatever the reasons for the present inequality—whether direct discrimination, indirect discrimination or the excuse we have heard this evening about accidents of geography—one cannot doubt the fact that Catholic male unemployment in Northern Ireland is a staggering two and a half times that of Protestant males. Clearly, there has not been equality of opportunity in the jobs market.
Any new legislation must be judged against two criteria—first, its impact on the existing jobs market, and, secondly, its impact on inward investment, particularly American investment. Judged on the first criterion, the Bill will be a signal failure. Whatever the conclusions we may reach, hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that the acid test for fair employment legislation must be the extent to which it enables employers to implement programmes of affirmative action, and to which it enables the new Fair Employment Commission to require affirmative action programmes. Despite the view of the Secretary of State, we are advised that the Bill as drafted endangers existing programmes and retards the possibility of more extensive affirmative action in future. If our assessment is correct, the Bill is fatally flawed.
On the second test—the need to attract foreign investment—the Bill may well prove to be a short-term propaganda success. I note that one of the Under-Secretaries—and, presumably, officials from the Northern Ireland Office—is parading round the UnitedStates of America, no doubt selling the Bill as a propaganda victory to the anti-MacBride campaigns in the United States. The Bill may well succeed in that short-term objective, but without a doubt its lack of teeth and substance will quickly become apparent.
We all accept that new investment in the form of new jobs is necessary if any significant attack is to be made on the imbalance in Catholic and Protestant employment. In that context, American investment is particularly important. However, it will not be long before the Bill is revealed as a toothless wonder. No matter what short-term 254 propaganda success the Government may achieve, when that happens American companies will again come under pressure when they seek to invest in the North of Ireland or to place orders there.
The proposals do not match up to what we believe is necessary. Worryingly, in our view—
§ Mr. Budgen
It may help the hon. Gentleman if I tell him openly across the Floor of the House who, according to the Conservative research department brief, will be caught by the Bill. I quote from the final sentence of the section entitled "Attacks Answered":Only deliberate defiance or obstruction of the Commission and Tribunal is penalised under the Bill.In other words, unless an employer says, "Push off" to the commission, he will be all right.
§ Mr. Marshall
I hesitate to say that I am grateful to have the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West as an ally on this point. He has reinforced my assertion that the Bill is a toothless wonder. I hesitate, too, to applaud him for voting with us this evening as, presumably, he does not have the courage to do so.
We are worried that some of the provisions in the Bill—on contract compliance, for example—are weaker than the proposals in the White Paper. One cannot over-emphasise the fact that, if it is passed, the Bill will provide the framework for fair employment legislation in the Province until the end of the century at least. If it is not capable of seriously addressing the imbalance and the question of Protestant and Catholic employment, it is not worth having.
In our view, the Government have failed in their responsibilities in three key areas. First, they have failed to give a clear indication of the way that all Government policies—political, social and economic—are to be subject to the litmus test of whether they promote equality of opportunity. Secondly, they fail to set targets and timetables for reducing the current ratio of unemployment between Catholics and Protestants, thus ruling out the only effective and objective way of measuring the success of the legislation. Thirdly, the Bill is extraordinarily silent about the measures to enforce the legislation in the public sector. We should emphasise the importance of the public sector in Northern Ireland. Although 200,000 people, or 40 per cent. of the work force, are employed in the public sector, the Bill fails to spell out how the legislation will be effective in the public sector.
The Bill pays lip service to the need to promote equality of opportunity, but it does not permit effective and affirmative action to bring that about. I shall mention two examples. As we understand it, and as we are advised, the legislation would make unlawful schemes to train existing employees in a company who might benefit from training for another job in the company or for promotion. We are also advised that outreach measures designed to encourage applications from school leavers to companies with serious imbalances in their work forces would also be illegal. The Minister shakes his head. I am prepared to be convinced by argument, but not by the Minister shaking his head.
If the Government are serious, the provisions of the legislation are far weaker than those available under race relations legislation or the sex discrimination legislation which provide and encourage means of affirmative action. In addition, the Bill should spell out that the Fair 255 Employment Commission should be specifically charged with the duty to develop and implement a strategic policy for ensuring the achievement of equal opportunity.
We welcome the proposal that all public sector bodies and all large employers should monitor applications as well as their existing work force. However, like the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, we urge that the Bill should contain a timetable for reducing the 250 employee threshold, for a number of reasons. As the Government know, private sector employers with more than 250 employees are fairly rare in many rural parts of the Province, especially west of the Bann. In certain urban areas, such as parts of Belfast, the limit is too high and very few companies would fall within the net. There should be a time scale for reducing the threshold.
The Bill is totally inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, the great expectations built up by the publication of SACHR's report on fair employment have been dashed by the Bill. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has expressed great disappintment. We share that disappointment. I urge the House to reject the Bill.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Viggers)
This is a major piece of legislation—a substantial Bill of 55 clauses which will affect the pattern of employment in Northern Ireland for years to come.
Let me first deal with the points made by my hon. Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) and for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) who challenged the Bill's fundamental purpose. Speaking, as I do, as one who believes in the dynamo of the private enterprise system that is central to economic success and who believes strongly in the importance of freeing private enterprise from the shackles and burdens of government, and indeed that the private enterprise system allows and encourages the flowering of individual efforts and so makes its contribution to democracy itself, I accept that we should think carefully before introducing further regulation on business. Government should approach the subject with diffidence and move only when it is clear that action is required.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West made that point with fluency and wit. He is one of the few Members of Parliament who can amuse and entertain even as his barbs find their mark. I enjoyed my hon. Friend's speech, but I have to say to him that, in the context of Northern Ireland, it was fundamentally misconceived.
The facts on unemployment are not in dispute. The Government's own statistics suggest that the unemployment rate for Catholic males runs to about 2.5 times the rate for Protestants. Moreover, there are significant differences in the type and pay levels of the jobs, with a clear tendency for Catholics to be over-represented in the lower grades and under-represented in the higher grades.
There could be many reasons for those disparities and the report by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights and other studies have tried to identify the explanations which could be put forward. For instance, it has been argued that Catholics are concentrated in areas of 256 higher unemployment in the west of the Province and that that contributes to the continuing differential in employment.
It has been said that social differences between Protestants and Catholics are a major element in unemployment differentials, and it is certainly true that. in using the words "Catholic" and "Protestant", one is not dealing simply with the manner of worshipping God but with a complex socio-political-economic condition. It has been argued that differences in educational attainment, and in subject choice and availability, have contributed to the disparity in employment levels.
In its important report, SACHR also studies the suggestions that have been made that Catholics tend to have a lower commitment to work than Protestants—an idea which SACHR considered and rejected—and that differences in unemployment levels derive partly from differences in age distribution of the Catholic and Protestant sections of the community and the tendency of Catholics to have larger families. All those intensely personal issues have been studied, and properly so, because they provide the framework—the background—to Government consideration and the legislation which has flowed from that.
In the context of Northern Ireland, it has been argued that Catholics and Protestants can be reluctant to travel to work outside the immediate area where they live, or may be reluctant to work in places or areas which they regard as hostile. As the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) said, this is known in Northern Ireland as "the chill factor" and there is no doubt that it has some influence. Similarly, it has been argued that Catholics are less willing to accept certain types of employment, the most obvious example being work in the security forces, where work may be available but for various reasons they may feel unable to apply.
Those are sensitive subjects, but it was right that SACHR should commission its detailed study, which in broad terms comes to the conclusion that some of those items do contribute to the employment disparity. However, it is also clear that, even when all those factors are taken into account, there is still an unexplained difference. There remains a much higher correlation than one would have expected between religion and unemployment.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
Is there any reason why SACHR did not put a percentage on the people who would have jobs in the security forces if they went for them?
§ Mr. Viggers
Yes, I believe there is. As the hon. Gentleman will know from his study of the report, it gave statistics against some of the heads that I have enumerated, but not against the security forces. It points out the number of people who do work in the security area, and I have freely admitted that that may be an element in the consideration, but the fact is that, after all those points have been carefully considered, there remains an unacceptable disparity.
At the end of the day we are left with one clear conclusion which no one can deny the Fair Employment Act 1976, conceived as it was with good intentions, has not been successful in eradicating employment disparity between Catholic and Protestant in Northern Ireland. In 257 statistical terms, overall the improvement in Catholic employment that was indeed to flow from the 1976 Act has not been achieved.
That does not mean that progress has not been made. There have been important areas of substantial progress. I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South-West that there have been over 60 sectoral studies and investigations, and over 400 individual cases, have been examined. Many valuable improvements in employers' practices have been introduced, both at the instigation of the FEA and in the light of the Government's guide to good practice.
To take one example, and an important one, the Northern Ireland Civil Service has introduced a comprehensive monitoring programme. This example is now being more widely followed in the public service generally. The experience of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, and indeed that of the major private sector employers who have introduced monitoring and have taken affirmative action, shows that any imbalance in applications and recruitment can be reduced if tackled appropriately.
So some progress has been made but the statistics remain obstinate and clear and they are reflected in public attitudes. There is a wide perception among Catholics that they do not stand the same chance of a job. The statistics confirm this to be the case, and it would be absolutely wrong for Government to stand aside from this situation. Government have a heavy moral obligation to improve the climate of fair employment in Northern Ireland and I submit that any fair-minded person entrusted with our responsibility in this field would take the same view.
If the House agrees, as I trust it will, that legislation is required in Northern Ireland to improve equality of opportunity in employment, is this Bill the legislation which is best calculated to achieve that necessary effect? Certainly, in approaching this legislation, the Government have taken care to consult widely, and my right hon. Friend referred in his introductory remarks to the consultations over two years. Throughout the whole of this process we have been consulting very widely with employers and employee representatives and with community interests. We also had the opportunity of discussing our proposals with Government representatives from the Republic of Ireland. We have followed with interest the views expressed by the Government of the Republic of Ireland, who took a sustained interest. We have taken account of their views and, of course, we have taken account of the views of all those whom we have consulted.
We are satisfied that the thrust of our proposals now laid before the House has a broad consensus of support and that they will be successful in achieving the intention of promoting equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Viggers
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way, especially as he has not been present very much during the debate and as I am short of time. But perhaps I should, briefly.
§ Mr. Flannery
Apart from there being many things wrong with the Bill, it seems to have no teeth. What 258 enforcement machinery is there to implement its provisions? It will peter out like all the others, because it contains no enforcement procedures.
§ Mr. Viggers
I shall come to that. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong, and I hope to reassure him on that in due course.
As I was saying, we have a level of consensus from the consultations that we have carried out. With this level of open consultation and support, one would have hoped to achieve a measure of unanimity for the proposals in the House, at least in principal. I recall that, when the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill was introduced to the House in 1976 by the Labour Government, the Conservative spokesman, the late Airey Neave, described that Bill as "essential and important." Winding up the debate on Third reading, the late John Biggs-Davison said:The official Opposition have supported, and do support, the principle of the Bill".—[Official Report, 11 June 1976; Vol. 912, col 2002–3.]The Conservative party at that time had reservations about points of detail on the Bill but did not seek to divide the House on Second Reading or on Third Reading. So the Conservative party supported Labour's proposal in broad terms.
How very different the situation is tonight. The Labour spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) made a grudging and petulant speech, with all the emphasis on what he perceived to be wrong about the Bill and lacking the grace to admit that much in the Bill is common ground between us. He was thrown into high relief by the hon. Member for South Down, who said that he would not oppose the Bill and that it needed amendment in Committee.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) gave the Bill a fair wind. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) said that he found himself in a surprising position, as he would have to oppose the Bill. The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall), winding up for the Opposition, sought to rectify some of the damage by hedging some of his remarks and using expressions such as "as we understand it" and "as we are advised" on several occasions.
The hon. Gentleman, as we understand it, was wrong in saying that outreach training is not possible and that affirmative action has been weakened. He was badly advised if he was told that. Moreover, if the Opposition think that outreach training and the lack of affirmative action are flaws in the Bill, although I can assure them that there are no such flaws, they should support the Second Reading. Then, within the context of the long title of the Bill, they should seek to amend the Bill in Committee.
They do not have the grace to do that. They are taking an opportunity simply to show that they oppose the Bill root and branch, and to demonstrate that they have the vitality and virility to oppose the Government. They are making a serious mistake, which I am sure they will regret.
§ Ms. Abbott
Will the Minister accept that our opposition to the Bill is based on a point of principle? The Bill is Hamlet without the prince. An elaborate structure and 55 clauses have been drawn up to enforce a code which is the heart of the Bill, yet the test of the code is not before us. Our opposition to the Bill is based on the fact that it is sheer window dressing to appease American opinion. It will leave behind it bitterness and a feeling in the Province of having been cheated.
§ Mr. Viggers
I can reassure the hon. Lady completely on that point. It is normal practice, when regulations such as a code of practice are required in connection with an Act of Parliament, that they should be introduced between Second Reading and the Committee stage. The Second Reading of the Bill approves the Bill in principle, and the Committee considers it in detail, and needs to see the code of practice. We already have the guide to effective practice which gives an indication of the lines the code will take. If we had produced the code at this point before Second Reading we would have been criticised for assuming that the Bill had been given a Second Reading. We are doing exactly the right thing, consistent with normal practice.
The Opposition, whatever they say, cannot deny that the Bill proposes the most radical and incisive legislation on fair employment in Northern Ireland presented to this House by any Government. It improves significantly on the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act produced by the previous Labour Government and introduces a new range of obligations, powers, and penalties to ensure that the new law has sharp teeth. We have no doubt that the Commission will not hesitate to use them.
Dealing with a point about monitoring raised by the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder), there will be new regulations for compulsory monitoring by employers, although of course there will be no obligation on workers to register. We stress the obligation placed upon employers. Employers will have that duty and be required to produce the results of their monitoring to the Fair Employment Commission.
There will be new criminal penalties, backed by economic sanctions, covering Government grants and public sector contracts. For the first time, indirect discrimination is defined and outlawed. In all these ways, the Bill delivers fully on the major commitments of the White Paper which was published last May; indeed, it goes further and does not renege in any way on its commitments.
The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) complained that the Bill did not explain as clearly as the White Paper how different measures would apply—for instance, affirmative action. If 1, as a humble solicitor, may say so to him, a learned barrister, this is the fault of legal language. We are turning the intentions of the White Paper into statutory language. There is no weakening of the proposals in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Archer
The point I was making was not that the Bill was not a textbook but that it did not make the position clear in statutory language. The point which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North was making was precisely the point which the Secretary of State made when we were discussing the MacBride principles—that equal opportunities and affirmative action can sometimes cut across each other.
§ Mr. Viggers
I take the point. I shall not pursue it further, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me, because of the lack of time.
I want to explain the ways in which the Bill expands and strengthens the White Paper. There will be stronger enforcement procedures. Specifically, the fair employment tribunal may impose monetary penalties up to £30,000 for breach of a tribunal order, this being a unique power for a tribunal in the United Kingdom. There will be a new obligation on employers of more than 250 people to 260 monitor not only their work force but also the applications for jobs. I have noted the point made in the debate that the figure of 250 should be reconsidered. That is a point clearly best considered in Committee.
All registered employers will be required to review their key employment practices at intervals of three years or less to see if affirmative action is required to improve their employment practice. There will be a new power whereby the Fair Employment Commission can investigate the patterns of employment at any particular organisation and receive voluntary but binding undertakings to improve on employment practice.
Accordingly, by any objective or informed standards, there can be no doubt—none whatever—of the radical and comprehensive nature of the Bill. Nor can there be any doubt about the Government's determination to see that the new commission is properly resourced to exercise its new powers. We are substantially increasing the budget and the numbers of the Fair Employment Commission.
The leglisation is indeed tough, but it is also fair. I say that with confidence, because it is a central feature of the legislation that appointments shall be on merit and that the best person should be appointed to the job. On that point I reassure the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley): merit is a clear principle in the Bill and it reflects the prohibition of direct discrimination which has been in force since 1976.
However, I must emphasise that merit in this respect takes account not only of ability but also of aptitude, and this latter point allows for recognition of potential My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) asked about this in connection with an employer in Northern Ireland whom he had visited recently. It is a central point of the Bill that there will be outreach training and affirmative action which will take account of aptitude. Employers will not simply consider the best person suitable for the job at the time. Aptitude and training potential will be relevant.
Many points were raised during the debate. Because we were anxious that as many hon. Members as possible should have a chance to speak, it will not be possible to deal in detail with all of them. I have sought to do so as far as possible, but the other points can be dealt with in Committee.
The Bill should be supported. It is a matter of grave concern to us that the Labour party does not feel it possible to support it at this point. I think the Labour party will accept that there is a great deal of discrimination which is unintentional. Recruitment by word of mouth can lead to a concentration of workers from one part of the community. Advertising jobs in one area or through one newspaper can similarly lead to an unbalanced recruitment practice. Personnel managers may not give full thought to their recruitment practices. The prevalence of flags and emblems in the workplace can discourage one or other part of the community. In that sense there are many ways in which discrimination in employment can be unintentional. We will source the Fair Employment Commission and give it more power and authority so that it can aid employers to improve their practices which may be unintentional.
Northern Ireland needs to make progress on three fronts: political, security and economic. In the field for which I have specific responsibility, economic development, great strides have been made in the last two years, with substantial investment by local companies and 261 inward investment from overseas. The economy has some good features, and increased employment can assist in every aspect of life in Northern Ireland.
The Bill will play a major part in promoting fair employment and the perception of a fair and just society. It is an important and genuinely progressive measure, and I commend it to the House.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 194, Noes 268.264
|Division No. 67]||[10 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Foulkes, George|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Fraser, John|
|Allen, Graham||Fyfe, Maria|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Galbraith, Sam|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Galloway, George|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||George, Bruce|
|Ashton, Joe||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Barron, Kevin||Gould, Bryan|
|Beckett, Margaret||Graham, Thomas|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Blair, Tony||Grocott, Bruce|
|Blunkett, David||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Boateng, Paul||Haynes, Frank|
|Bradley, Keith||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Holland, Stuart|
|Buchan, Norman||Home Robertson, John|
|Buckley, George J.||Hood, Jimmy|
|Caborn, Richard||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Hoyle, Doug|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Hume, John|
|Clay, Bob||Illsley, Eric|
|Clelland, David||Ingram, Adam|
|Cohen, Harry||Janner, Greville|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Lamond, James|
|Cousins, Jim||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Crowther, Stan||Leighton, Ron|
|Cryer, Bob||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Cummings, John||Lewis, Terry|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Livsey, Richard|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Darling, Alistair||Loyden, Eddie|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||McAllion, John|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Dewar, Donald||McCartney, Ian|
|Dixon, Don||Macdonald, Calum A.|
|Dobson, Frank||McGrady, Eddie|
|Doran, Frank||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McKelvey, William|
|Dun woody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||McLeish, Henry|
|Eadie, Alexander||McNamara, Kevin|
|Eastham, Ken||McTaggart, Bob|
|Fatchett, Derek||Madden, Max|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Fearn, Ronald||Marek, Dr John|
|Flannery, Martin||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Flynn, Paul||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)|
|Foster, Derek||Martlew, Eric|
|Maxton, John||Sheerman, Barry|
|Meacher, Michael||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Meale, Alan||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Michael, Alun||Short, Clare|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Morley, Elliott||Snape, Peter|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Soley, Clive|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Mullin, Chris||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Murphy, Paul||Strang, Gavin|
|Nellist, Dave||Straw, Jack|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Turner, Dennis|
|Patchett, Terry||Vaz, Keith|
|Pendry, Tom||Wall, Pat|
|Pike, Peter L.||Wai ley, Joan|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|Prescott, John||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Radice, Giles||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Reid, Dr John||Wilson, Brian|
|Richardson, Jo||Winnick, David|
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Robertson, George||Worthington, Tony|
|Robinson, Geoffrey||Wray, Jimmy|
|Rooker, Jeff||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Ruddock, Joan||Mr. Martyn Jones and|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Butterfill, John|
|Alexander, Richard||Carlisle, John, (Luton N)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Allason, Rupert||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Alton, David||Conway, Derek|
|Amess, David||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Amos, Alan||Cran, James|
|Arbuthnot, James||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Ashby, David||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Durant, Tony|
|Atkins, Robert||Evennett, David|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas|
|Baldry, Tony||Fallon, Michael|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Favell, Tony|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Fishburn, John Dudley|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fookes, Dame Janet|
|Bellingham, Henry||Forman, Nigel|
|Bendall, Vivian||Forth, Eric|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Benyon, W.||Franks, Cecil|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||French, Douglas|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Fry, Peter|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Gardiner, George|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Body, Sir Richard||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Boswell, Tim||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Bottomley, Peter||Gow, Ian|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Brazier, Julian||Gregory, Conal|
|Bright, Graham||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Ground, Patrick|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Grylls, Michael|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Burt, Alistair||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mudd, David|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hannam, John||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Neubert, Michael|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Harris, David||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Hayes, Jerry||Norris, Steve|
|Hayward, Robert||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Heddle, John||Paice, James|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L||Patnick, Irvine|
|Hind, Kenneth||Patten, John (Oxford W)|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Holt, Richard||Pawsey, James|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Howard, Michael||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Portillo, Michael|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Price, Sir David|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Raffan, Keith|
|Hunter, Andrew||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Irvine, Michael||Redwood, John|
|Irving, Charles||Renton, Tim|
|Jack, Michael||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Jackson, Robert||Riddick, Graham|
|Janman, Tim||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Key, Robert||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Kilfedder, James||Rost, Peter|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)||Rowe, Andrew|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Ryder, Richard|
|Knapman, Roger||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Knowles, Michael||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Knox, David||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Lang, Ian||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Latham, Michael||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Shersby, Michael|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Lightbown, David||Speller, Tony|
|Lilley, Peter||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Squire, Robin|
|Lyell, Sir Nicholas||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|McCrea, Rev William||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|McCrindle, Robert||Steen, Anthony|
|Macfarlane, Sir Neil||Stern, Michael|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Stevens, Lewis|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Sumberg, David|
|Malins, Humfrey||Summerson, Hugo|
|Mans, Keith.||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Maples, John||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Marland, Paul||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Miller, Sir Hal||Thurnham, Peter|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Tracey, Richard|
|Morrison, Sir Charles||Tredinnick, David|
|Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)||Trippier, David|
|Moss, Malcolm||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Moynihan, Hon Colin||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Viggers, Peter||Whitney, Ray|
|Waddington, Rt Hon David||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Wakeham, Rt Hon John||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Waldegrave, Hon William||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Walden, George||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Walker, Bill (T'side North)||Wood, Timothy|
|Waller, Gary||Woodcock, Mike|
|Walters, Sir Dennis||Yeo, Tim|
|Ward, John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Warren, Kenneth||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Watts, John||Mr. David Maclean and|
|Wells, Bowen||Mr. Sydney Chapman.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading):—
§ The House divided: Ayes 272, Noes 192.267
|Division No. 68]||[10.14 pm|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Durant, Tony|
|Alexander, Richard||Evennett, David|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas|
|Allason, Rupert||Fallon, Michael|
|Alton, David||Favell, Tony|
|Amess, David||Fearn, Ronald|
|Amos, Alan||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Fishburn, John Dudley|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Fookes, Dame Janet|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Forman, Nigel|
|Ashby, David||Forth, Eric|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Franks, Cecil|
|Atkins, Robert||French, Douglas|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Fry, Peter|
|Baldry, Tony||Gardiner, George|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Batiste, Spencer||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Bellingham, Henry||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Bendall, Vivian||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Gow, Ian|
|Benyon, W.||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Gregory, Conal|
|Body, Sir Richard||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Ground, Patrick|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Grylls, Michael|
|Boswell, Tim||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Hannam, John|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Brazier, Julian||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Bright, Graham||Harris, David|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Hayes, Jerry|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Hayward, Robert|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Burt, Alistair||Heddle, John|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hind, Kenneth|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Conway, Derek||Holt, Richard|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Cran, James||Howard, Michael|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Portillo, Michael|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Hunter, Andrew||Price, Sir David|
|Irvine, Michael||Raffan, Keith|
|Irving, Charles||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Jack, Michael||Redwood, John|
|Jackson, Robert||Renton, Tim|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Riddick, Graham|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Key, Robert||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Rost, Peter|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Rowe, Andrew|
|Knapman, Roger||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Ryder, Richard|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Knowles, Michael||Scott, Nicholas|
|Knox, David||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Lang, Ian||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Latham, Michael||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Shersby, Michael|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lightbown, David||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Lilley, Peter||Speller, Tony|
|Livsey, Richard||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Squire, Robin|
|Lyell, Sir Nicholas||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|McCrindle, Robert||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Macfarlane, Sir Neil||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Maclean, David||Steen, Anthony|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Stern, Michael|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael||Stevens, Lewis|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Malins, Humfrey||Sumberg, David|
|Mans, Keith||Summerson, Hugo|
|Maples, John||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Marland, Paul||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Miller, Sir Hal||Thurnham, Peter|
|Mills, lain||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Tracey, Richard|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Tredinnick, David|
|Morrison, Sir Charles||Trippier, David|
|Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Moss, Malcolm||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Moynihan, Hon Colin||Viggers, Peter|
|Mudd, David||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Neale, Gerrard||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Nelson, Anthony||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Neubert, Michael||Walden, George|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Waller, Gary|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Walters, Sir Dennis|
|Norris, Steve||Ward, John|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Warren, Kenneth|
|Paice, James||Watts, John|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Wells, Bowen|
|Patnick, Irvine||Wheeler, John|
|Patten, John (Oxford W)||Whitney, Ray|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Pawsey, James||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Wood, Timothy|
|Woodcock,Mike||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Yeo, Tim||Mr.John D. Taylor and|
|Young, Sir George (Acton)||Mr.Tom Sackville.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Haynes, Frank|
|Allen, Graham||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Hinchliffe, David|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Ashton, Joe||Holland, Stuart|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Home Robertson, John|
|Barron, Kevin||Hood, Jimmy|
|Beckett, Margaret||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Beggs, Roy||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Hoyle, Doug|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Blair, Tony||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Blunkett, David||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Boateng, Paul||Illsley, Eric|
|Bradley, Keith||Ingram, Adam|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Janner, Greville|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Lamond, James|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Buchan, Norman||Leighton, Ron|
|Buckley, George J.||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Caborn, Richard||Lewis, Terry|
|Callaghan, Jim||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||McAllion, John|
|Canavan, Dennis||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||McCartney, Ian|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||McCrea, Rev William|
|Clay, Bob||Macdonald, Calum A.|
|Clelland, David||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Cohen, Harry||McKelvey, William|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||McLeish, Henry|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||McNamara, Kevin|
|Cousins, Jim||McTaggart, Bob|
|Crowther, Stan||Madden, Max|
|Cryer, Bob||Maginnis, Ken|
|Cummings, John||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Marek, Dr John|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Darling, Alistair||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)||Martlew, Eric|
|Dewar, Donald||Maxton, John|
|Dixon, Don||Meacher, Michael|
|Dobson, Frank||Meale, Alan|
|Doran, Frank||Michael, Alun|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Eadie, Alexander||Mitchell, Austin (G'f Grimsby)|
|Eastham, Ken||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Fatchett, Derek||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Faulds, Andrew||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Flannery, Martin||Morley, Elliott|
|Flynn, Paul||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Foster, Derek||Mullin, Chris|
|Foulkes, George||Murphy, Paul|
|Fraser, John||Nellist, Dave|
|Fyfe, Maria||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Galbraith, Sam||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Galloway, George||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Garrett, John (Norwich South)||Patchett, Terry|
|George, Bruce||Pendry, Tom|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Pike, Peter L.|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Gould, Bryan||Prescott, John|
|Graham, Thomas||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Radice, Giles|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Grocott, Bruce||Reid, Dr John|
|Richardson, Jo||Strang, Gavin|
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)||Straw, Jack|
|Robertson, George||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Robinson, Geoffrey||Turner, Dennis|
|Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)||Vaz, Keith|
|Rooker, Jeff||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Wall, Pat|
|Ross, William (Londonderry E)||Walley, Joan|
|Rowlands, Ted||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Ruddock, Joan||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Sheerman, Barry||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Short, Clare||Wilson, Brian|
|Skinner, Dennis||Winnick, David|
|Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Smith, C. (IsI'ton & F'bury)||Worthington, Tony|
|Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)||Wray, Jimmy|
|Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Soley, Clive||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Spearing, Nigel||Mr. Martyn Jones and|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).