HL Deb 14 May 1973 vol 342 cc606-64

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on Recommitment of the Bill. As your Lordships have received a great deal of paper in support of the revised Bill, I do not propose at this moment to add to what is available. However, I should like to take the opportunity of thanking the Members of the Select Committee whose very hard work since last summer has made possible both the revised Bill and the supporting documents. In particular, I think I speak for the whole of the Select Committee when I say that I should like to thank our Chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Royle, who has been a remarkably impartial, wise and discriminating Chairman throughout the whole of the many sessions that we have had. I should like also to thank the Clerk of the Committee, Mr. Valiance White, without whose unflagging work we should not have got the Report to your Lordships, by this date, late though I know it is.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee on Recommitment of the said Bill.—(Baroness Seear.)

3.7 p.m.


My Lords, in the first place I am much obliged to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for what she said about me. I was very pleased when, during the course of our work, The Times referred to the "genial chairman", and I hope I managed to maintain that spirit throughout our work. I understand that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, is ready almost immediately to state the Government's position on the Bill. He was kind enough to say that he would wait until I had said a few words on it, and perhaps the House will forgive me for coming in at this stage. In effect, what I really wanted to say was what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has already said. In the course of our Report we have had the opportunity to pay tribute in the first instance to the members of the Committee who, because of illness, were unable to continue with the work of the Committee, and particularly, if I may say so, my very dear friend Charles Delacourt-Smith, owing to his death.

But other people have gone the course, and it is to them, in these few minutes, that I want to express my thanks for all the support that they have given to the Chairman in the course of the work of the Committee. In referring to them by name I shall use no discrimination in any form. I name them strictly in alphabetical order: Lord Gardiner, the Countess of Loudoun, Baroness Macleod of Borve, Lord Reigate, Baroness Seear, and Baroness Summerskill.

Through the burden of the days they have gone on, and it has been a very heavy task indeed. I think the House owes them thanks for the services that they have rendered to the House in this particular form of Committee. May I remind your Lordships that this system had not been adopted since 1969—that a Select Committee should consider a Bill introduced by a private Member. Therefore, alongside the difficulty of the parallel activity in another place our endeavours have not been easy.

While I am paying tribute I join with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in something she has said. I believe it is an old custom that in any Report Officers of the House are not mentioned, but there is nothing to prevent a noble Lord who is on his feet from paying a tribute in this House, and I join with Lady Seear in saying what a great help James Valiance-White has been in our work. He has been assiduous in his duties and carried them through with great ability and a great knowledge of the work of this House. Without him the Committee could not have got on.

As your Lordships know, we have been working for over a year. We have looked at masses of appropriate evidence. Some people changed their minds in the course of it and at the end of the day we decided that because of the evidence we had received, legislation on this problem was justified. Therefore we come to the House with a Report and with what, in effect, is a new Bill. We have amended it to such a degree that it is hardly recognisable as the original Bill. Having done that job, we think that we have produced two very good and important Reports, but there are so many Amendments in these Reports of ours that virtually, as I say, it is a new Bill. In these last few weeks I have been hoping that the Bill would have an easy passage through this House and then proceed to another place, and that what we as a Committee had decided would become law.

That was where I was going to sit down, but on Saturday morning I opened my morning paper—the best in the land, and your Lordships know where I come from—and found a statement, a suggestion, on the front page that the Government were to introduce a Bill of their own next Session to deal with this question. I do not know; I can only take the Press information as I have no other, but it is such a good paper and it is so rarely wrong that I am coming to the conclusion that there must be some truth in what it says. If I were to express my own reaction at the moment, it would be one of great disappointment. After the work that we have put in we felt that we had a Bill that was worthy of the House and would go ahead and do something real in this great problem. We thought we had found the answer. I shall listen very carefully to what the noble Viscount has to say on behalf of the Government, and if what has been suggested in the Press is true I shall ask why they have taken that action. In passing, I would say that it is strange that the Chairman of the Select Committee did not know anything about it and the Guardian did. I wonder how these things happen. Perhaps there is an explanation for that, too.

However, I am not going to say any more, my Lords. I am going to listen very intently as to why the Government think that it is not right that our amended Bill should go forward, with the Reports which we have issued, and why they think another method on behalf of the Government is a better way of dealing with this problem. My Lords, I sit down where I began, in thanking everybody who has participated in this heavy work during the past twelve months. I would add one thing: I want to thank the Leader of the House and my own Leader for being the two people who talked me into doing this job. It has been a great experience.

3.14 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Royle, in the congratulations that they have already expressed to the members of the Select Committee and, indeed, particularly among those who are no longer with us at all, Lord Delacourt-Smith, and to thank them for the very valuable Reports that they have produced. These shed light, as the noble Lord, Lord Royle, has indicated, on what is a very complex subject and they confirm the correct, if unusual, decision to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. They will be seen to mark an important stage in the endeavour to secure for women equal opportunities with men. Many of us, and certainly this Government, want to see removed the barriers which prevent women playing a full part in the life of the country. It is the Government's policy wherever possible to eliminate unfair discrimination on the grounds of sex, and we have already taken many practical steps to achieve that end. In particular, one has only to look at the implementation of the recommendations of the Cripps Report, Fair Share for the Fair Sex. For instance, your Lordships have just passed a Bill to give equal rights of guardianship to mothers as well as to fathers of children. A Bill on domicile is being considered in another place. I have not the time to go through the very large list of other measures which have implemented parts of the Cripps Report during the life of this Parliament. We are fully in sympathy with the underlying purposes of the Sex Discrimination Bill now before us, but the Government's duty is to see that the measures taken to achieve that end are appropriate and likely to be effective, because we think that it would not be in the interests of women themselves to do otherwise. I shall try to meet the noble Lord, Lord Royle, to some extent by saying what are still our reservations about this Bill and I hope that he will not take it amiss if I do that first before I turn to the constructive side, because there are these two sides and both of them are equally important.

The Committee were faced with a series of intricate questions of considerable social importance: where, and to what extent, does discrimination in relation to sex or marital status exist? When is it based on prejudice, or in what circumstances can it be justified? Is legislation an appropriate and effective means to deal with unfair discrimination in these areas? Should sex discrimination be brought under the aegis of the Race Relations Board? The evidence before the Committee shows that it is possible for people who agree on the basic aim, namely, the promotion of more equal opportunities for women, to disagree on the means of achieving it. There are many important aspects of the Bill on which opinion is still sharply divided; there are some who even question whether legislation is necessary or likely to be effective in this sphere, and others who question what should be the scope of any legislation brought forward.

I should like to make three general comments on the evidence taken by the Committee and the conclusions drawn from it. First, the Bill already covers a wide field and the Committee were wise not to attempt to expand its scope beyond the broad areas covered in the original Bill; that is to say, employment, training and education. Secondly, the Committee recognised—and I think that this is apparent from paragraphs 101 and 102 of their second Report—that the nature of discrimination on grounds of sex is different from discrimination on grounds of race. That is so both in scale and in history, though it may be that both have similar roots in prejudice. Thirdly, there are—and I say this in no sense of criticism, but I hope with understanding—still gaps in the evidence. It is to be expected that complaints of discrimination should feature prominently in the Report, but for one reason or another—and time no doubt entered very much into this aspect—some relevant evidence appears to be missing, or at any rate condensed. For instance—and this is on the education side mainly—the Committee did not take oral evidence from local education authorities, from those who administer higher education or from the University Grants Committee, although these are bodies which must surely be consulted before conclusions are reached which would profoundly affect the system.


My Lords, would the noble Viscount permit me to interrupt? Would it not meet the case that the Ministry of Education dealt with that and gave oral evidence? Surely they are able to speak on behalf of the bodies which the noble Viscount has mentioned?


My Lords, I might be guilty of heresy if I were to agree that the Department of Education and Science spoke for local education authorities or the University Grants Committee, for instance. I believe one has to be careful in the relationship between the Department and some of these other organisations.

In the field of employment the Report highlights numerous different types of employment in which women appear to be at a disadvantage. The disadvantages, however, arise from a variety of causes, and what we have to decide is whether these causes are capable of being remedied by anti-discrimination legislation. The problems are intricate, and to achieve the right remedies inevitably requires the most careful thought.

I come now to some of the main provisions of the Bill—I cannot deal with the details. Clause 2 deals with employment, and I now have the amended Clause 2 that we shall be discussing on recommitment this afternoon. This raises a number of important practical questions. For instance, in the new subsection (2) there is express provision that the requirements of protective legislation restricting the employment of men and women—in practice, of course, the latter—will be left unaffected by Clause 2. This, we think, is not altogether satisfactory, seeing the wide range of employment over which such restrictions apply. Employers could claim with some force, for example, that the restrictions of the Factories Act on overtime work, night work, Sunday work, and perhaps cleaning of machinery, make it unreasonable to require them, the employers, not to discriminate in favour of men for certain factory jobs. Two sets of legislation with contrasting and sometimes conflicting objectives might produce some formidable legal tangles; for example, if it were argued that the restrictions made sex a genuine occupation qualification in the sense of subsection (3) of the amended Bill for a wide range of such jobs because of the impact of the Factories Act. The conflict could be resolved either by excepting from the Bill those jobs covered by the restrictions, or by reviewing the restrictions so as to remove any which are no longer justified. However, these are important matters on which hitherto there have been widely different views, as indeed there were in the Committee itself, and one can see that in paragraph 106. Some of the members questioned the relevance of the existing legislation, while others thought it should be kept in force unaltered. At the very least, it would surely be wrong to put forward legislation before the issues had been fully discussed with the bodies representing those most affected. We cannot, I believe, as this Bill attempts to do, leave this fundamental conflict unresolved.

Again, in subsection (3) of Clause 2 there is provision in very general terms for the exception of employment in private households, or in cases where sex or marital status is a genuine occupational qualification. While the first exception, for private households, would probably win general acceptance, so far as it goes, the second is drawn extremely vaguely, and its interpretation would throw a very heavy burden on the enforcing authorities and the courts. The Report did indeed consider this difficulty, but concluded, in paragraph 109, in favour of a summary and general provision on the American model. The legislation in America and Canada, I know, was very carefully studied by the Committee. This American model has been interpreted as ruling out such applications of the bona fide occupational qualifications as an assumption about comparative employment characteristics as between men and women; for instance, the higher turnover rate among women, or preconceptions about women's and men's jobs, and the preferences of clients and customers. However, it is by no means clear that public opinion in this country would wish exceptions to be drawn so narrowly; for example, the preferences of customers might well be allowed some weight in personal services such as hairdressing or manicuring. There are also likely to be many jobs where public taste or decency establishes at any rate a strong presumption in favour of the employment of one sex or the other. These and other possible grounds for exception are all matters for debate in which different people will draw the line at different places, but it seems important for the Bill to provide some means by which general criteria, at any rate, can be stated, without precluding their revision if circumstances and standards change; and this, of course, for the guidance of the courts or any other interpreting or enforcing authority.

Then I come to Clause 4 on the education side. The Report does contain a number of facts and figures which point to the enormous advances made in the educational opportunities for girls in recent years. The proportion of girls staying on at school beyond the statutory leaving age has risen from 24 to 37 per cent., or half as much again, a greater rise than for boys. Twenty-three per cent. of all girls leaving school in 1970 went into further or higher education: for 1961 the figure was only 16 per cent. The proportion of women entering universities rose between 1961 and 1970 from 27 to 32 per cent., and in 1972 it was 34 per cent. Moreover, the proportion of applicants admitted to university is higher for women than for men.

I do not mention these figures to argue that there is not further progress to be made; quite the contrary. But the truth is that the number and proportion of well-educated women and girls are higher today than ever before in this country, and are still rising. The Education Acts do not refer to boys or girls as such; they refer to pupils or students. There are indeed single sex schools and higher education institutions, and the Government believe that these should be retained. Where, however, an institution is catering for both sexes, the Government's view is that no distinction on grounds of sex should enter into admission policy.

I now turn to the educational provision of the Bill as amended by the Report of the Select Committee. The effect of the revised Clause 4, as I understand it, will be to allow existing single sex schools and other educational institutions to continue but to prohibit the establishment of new ones; that is a matter which will be further discussed on an Amendment which is down on the Marshalled List this afternoon. As it stands, as it comes from the Select Committee, the Bill makes it illegal for co-educational institutions not to offer similar opportunity to girls and boys, and to prevent certain, but not all, institutions offering courses leading to professional qualifications from operating an admission policy which discriminates on grounds of sex or marital status. On the first point, I am afraid that the fundamental conflict with existing legislation, which the Select Committee recognised as a valid criticism of the original Bill (paragraph 103(d) of the Report) is still there. Section 13 of the Education Act 1944 requires the approval of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to the establishment of new schools, the discontinuance of existing schools and the conversion of single sex schools to co-educational schools and vice versa.

In considering proposals under that section my right honourable friend has regard to the wishes of parents concerning the provision of education in single sex schools. The Government think it right that as much freedom of parental choice as possible should be maintained, and do not think that there is universal acceptance of the view which has been expressed in paragraph 9 of the second Special Report of the Select Committee. The implication of that paragraph is that a handful of parents are holding up progress towards full co-education by selecting single sex education for their children. But there are in fact nearly 700,000 boys and 650,000 girls attending single sex schools in England, representing 16 per cent. of all pupils. There are thus many people who believe in single sex education for their children, and their views should not be disregarded. This is not just a matter of safeguarding the present single sex schools.

In considering schemes of secondary reorganisation my right honourable friend is still faced with requests from parents for the provision of single sex schools, particularly where the component parts of the reorganisation scheme have a single sex element and where the demand for single sex schools is still seen to exist and where it is practicable on organisational grounds to provide them my right honourable friend approves the establishment of such schools. I really must say this once more—the Government do not wish to restrict the freedom of choice in such matters which my right honourable friend is able to take note of, and for that reason the proposals in Clause 4 of the revised Bill as they relate to single sex schools are unacceptable to us.

The second subject of Clause 4(1) concerns access to educational opportunity. Here the Government's attitude is not so fundamental. If girls wish to take subjects which have hitherto been traditionally regarded as boys' subjects there is no reason why they should not do so. Nor is there any reason under the law as it stands why boys should not take subjects which have hitherto been regarded as appropriate for girls, and I have no doubt that given a change in the social climate these things will happen, but because of the limitation of resources they cannot happen overnight. In principle, I think it is a good idea that boys should cook and that girls should know how to mend fuses—the illustration given by the noble Lord's Committee. Finally on Clause 4, I would only mention that not all institutions at which I guess the clause is aimed will be caught by it. Colleges which are part of larger institutions and which do not themselves conduct examinations would escape.

The third main area in this Bill—and it is of just as great importance as the two previous ones—is administration and enforcement. One approach to this problem is that adopted in the Bill. This is to establish a Sex Discrimination Board, which is in some respects modelled on the Race Relations Board, although the Committee recognise that there are important distinctions between the two subjects. The Board would be charged with the hearing of individual complaints on the grounds of discrimination, and could also conduct investigations where discrimination was suspected and bring civil proceedings before the courts. These functions would be complemented by a new power from what we originally saw in the Bill under the new Clause 13 to conduct general inquiries (with the approval of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment in this instance) into the relative position of men and women in different employments and professions, and to undertake appropriate education and publicity.

Clauses 8 to 12 of the Bill have been much elaborated. Nevertheless, when we consider the potential scope of the Bill, coupled with the lack of guidance about the exceptions of which I spoke earlier, the functions placed on the Board and the absence of any provision for local machinery, it seems to us possible that a board of 14 members would collapse under the weight placed on it. If this machinery is to be adopted, therefore, it seems that it will need to be considerably strengthened and enlarged. Moreover, the Bill as it stands leaves a heavy potential burden on the courts. Access to the courts by complainants is limited to those whose complaints have been investigated by the Board, but there will be appeals to test the Board's decisions, particularly no doubt on the subject of exceptions, and we doubt whether the courts are best equipped to decide social questions of this kind.

There is another possible approach. In employment, where the great majority of discrimination cases could be expected to arise, the situation has changed radically as a result of the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Industrial Relations Act of the following year. A widespread network of industrial tribunals exists—they were in existence before but they have increased in importance since then—to deal with matters which in practice often have a very close connection with discrimination questions, such as unfair dismissals and, when the Equal Pay Act becomes fully operative, equal pay. There are good arguments for making use of existing machinery of this kind to deal with cognate matters, such as are the subject of the present Bill. The chairman and members of industrial tribunals represent a combination of legal skills and relevant lay experience, and are developing a kind of expertise which would appear well suited to the consideration of discrimination cases in employment.

This alternative is at least one which merits careful consideration. Moreover, it might well be possible to combine the two systems. If, for instance, enforcement of individual cases were entrusted to the industrial tribunals, this need in no way preclude an independent board or commission, charged with the responsibility for investigating broad areas of discrimination going well beyond the scope of the present Bill, and in promoting the aim of equal opportunity by education and publicity. Such a body might act as a pathfinder for further measures designed to strengthen women's rights. Perhaps these functions would be more effectively discharged by a body which was not distracted by enforcement responsibilities which the Board has under the Bill as it stands. These would make heavy demands on its members and sometimes bring it into controversy on individual cases which might conceivably inhibit its ability to make general investigations. Over the long run, positive action of this kind may well be more important—that is the general investigations—than the enforcement of legal prohibitions; and there could be value in establishing a body unambiguously charged with the promotion of these major objectives. The respective roles of the various organisations which might be set up would need to be considered very carefully.

That is the critical side of what I have to say and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Royle, and the members of his Committee will not think that these are carping criticisms. I have attempted to go fundamentally to the root of some of the problems which I know they have already rehearsed and discussed very carefully, but on which we still see problems.


My Lords, will the noble Viscount allow me to interrupt? He stated a number of criticisms or reservations about the Bill. Would it not have been fairer if he had put those reservations down in the form of Amendments at this stage so that those who have to deal with them would be able to answer them in debate?


My Lords, perhaps noble Lords will give me another moment or so and it may well be that the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, will see why we have not done that. As I have said, we are very grateful for the work done by this Select Committee, and I have also said that we are in full sympathy with the intention underlying the Bill. But the work and consultations necessary before what we consider to be practicable and effective measures can be devised to deal with this complex problem are extensive and we think a number of important questions remain unresolved. This leads us to the conclusion that amendments to the present Bill will not satisfactorily achieve the results which we should all wish to see. Nevertheless, the Government, with the noble Lord, Lord Royle, and his colleagues, believe that legislation can play a part in helping to overcome unfair discrimination, which undoubtedly exists. It will be influential in setting standards and leading individuals and organisation to change their attitudes and modify practices which are unfair.

I come now to the points which the noble Lord, Lord Royle, mentioned and which he took from the Guardian on Saturday. I do not know what the sources were but they were certainly not me and I should not have given them any preference over the noble Lord—I promise him that. We are working on legislation of our own designed to assist in the removal of unfair discrimination on grounds of sex and to promote the opportunities open to women. We undertake to the House to carry out what we regard as the necessary consultations and to publish a consultative document as soon as possible—I hope, although I cannot promise, this summer—which will serve as a basis for discussion with the intention of seeking an early opportunity to introduce legislation.

Naturally, I am not yet in a position to say what form our legislation will take; if I were, I should have been able to deal with it in the way suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King. But we anticipate that it will be concerned primarily with unfair discrimination in employment, including training. We shall also consider including provisions preventing unfair discrimination on grounds of sex so far as education is concerned, particularly in regard to admissions to educational institutions catering for both sexes and to access to courses of study within them. I think that is a point on which the noble Baroness. Lady Summerskill, has placed a good deal of emphasis. I hope that our consultations will be conducted speedily, given the thought and work which many of the parties mainly concerned have already put in by way of preparing and giving their evidence to the Committee, which has been reinforced by the Committee's valuable comments on the problem.

In the light of the new situation created by this undertaking, I hope that the sponsors of the Bill will forgive me if I do not participate much further in the detailed debate on the Bill this afternoon or later, though of course I shall be taking careful note of the points that are made and raised in the course of discussions, because the noble Baroness will present her Amendments and what is, in effect, a re-write of the Bill. We shall want to listen to all of that, and we shall want to listen to the discussion on the Amendments that have been put down by my noble friends behind me. All of this will be of great assistance to the Government in the preparation of their own proposals. But for me actively to take part in the discussion on their merits would, I think, be premature, and I hope that those who want to argue about them will not think it discourteous of me if I stay here and merely listen. My Lords, that is the Government's situation on this Bill this afternoon.


My Lords, may I ask a question on what the noble Viscount has said? Why did he not tell the whole House that the Government were going to introduce a Bill covering all these aspects of discrimination against women? Furthermore, why select very busy people to sit for a whole year discussing these matters, summoning to them deputations from most important bodies, taking up their time and wasting money, if the Government now tell us that all of that has proved abortive and they will themselves introduce a Bill? I really regard this as an offensive attitude to many Members of this House.


My Lords, if the noble Baroness thinks that, then I daresay that nobody on this earth will ever move her from her opinion. But I thought I made it perfectly plain that the Government take a quite contrary view and that this work has not been a waste of time. It has been extremely helpful, it has directed a large number of people's minds to this whole subject matter, it has produced some extremely valuable results, and it will shorten the process which the Government are undertaking. For all those reasons, it has not been a waste of busy people's time; on the contrary. it has been of very great benefit to all of us.

3.43 p.m.


My Lords, this has almost become another Second Reading debate and I should like, first of all—I shall not be very lengthy—to congratulate the Committee on the work that they have done. It is perhaps a measure of the success of the Committee that, although for some strange reason they do not wish to participate further at this stage the Government have clearly done rather more thinking than they had done before. I am quite sure that we in this House ought to complete the stages of this Bill. Those of us who have supported a measure of this kind have always recognised that the original Bill was defective in important respects, and I should not be surprised if, despite the hard work that has been put into it, the Bill is still defective in certain respects. But I feel that, having followed the rather unusual precedent of sending the Bill to a Select Committee, we should now proceed to debate it and give it the sort of discussion in a Committee of the Whole House that is given to other Bills. I believe it is all the more important to do that since I am bound to say—and I say this with sorrow—that I detected prejudice in some of the noble Viscount's answers and in some of the points he made. I find it quite extraordinary to use the fact that there are now more highly educated women than ever before as an argument that everything is all right, because that is also true of men. There are presumably—


My Lords, the noble Lord has misheard me. I said that I did not use it as an argument of that kind; quite the contrary.


I am sorry, my Lords. But then we had a further argument on freedom of choice. I shall not quote the figures, but the fact that a large number of boys go to single sex schools, and parents wish them to go to such schools, was apparently used as an example of freedom of choice. The noble Viscount said that there are letters and requests of that kind, but I wonder what freedom of choice there is for many of these children. Certainly in country districts, whether the schools be comprehensive or anything else, there is no choice of that kind. I am sorry to have to say this, but that is the sort of argument which makes me suspicious of the degree of conversion on the part of the Government and, indeed, of large sections of the community—although the Government are more important—to the concept of removal of sex discrimination.

What was most interesting to me about the Report of the Committee was their unanimity in regard to the fact that there really is genuine sex discrimination, although there was, no doubt, quite a lot of argument on details. But the Committee took a very moderate view and avoided some of the more difficult and controversial areas, for which they will undoubtedly be criticised as not having gone far enough. I think it is most unfortunate that, partly due to delays in the publication of the Report, we shall not now be able to discuss on the Floor of the House detailed issues such as those to which the noble Viscount referred. It is probably true that the Committee feel they could have spent a great deal longer on this subject and heard many more witnesses, but they thought they had enough to make their case. I shall be very surprised, regardless of the provisions of the Bill, if their conclusions with regard to discrimination are not valid and will not remain valid. They have done a remarkable job in investigating a very wide field and in producing a Report with such speed.

It is unlikely that in all the circumstances we can do very much to the Bill. The Minister's speech suggested to me a number of possible important Amendments which might be made to the Bill and, clearly, the sponsors of the Bill will have to consider whether they wish to pursue them at Report stage. I was very interested in what the noble Viscount said in regard to industrial tribunals. This is a wide area and, in other circumstances, one might have suggested that this subject should go to a Royal Commission. But the case is so fully proven, even if there is no prejudice on the part of the Minister himself—and, if he says that there is not, I shall apologise and withdraw—that there is still widespread prejudice in this country, and a widespread lack of understanding of the fact that there is discrimination; and it has been accepted that it is only by legislation, which is sometimes ahead of the views of certain sections of the community, that we can within a reasonable space of time remove the disabilities from which women are suffering to-day.

I should like to make this point about the medical side. The argument was used to the Committee on occasion that because there is a greater turn-over of women the job therefore is to provide doctors for the medical service. What people still do not appreciate is that society does not exist for its own convenience, but for the happiness of and justice to the people in it; that women have other responsibilities which impose liabilities and disabilities on them—the need to bear children and to bring them up—and that it is incumbent on society, I will not say to discriminate but to adjust the balance even if the answer in terms of pure economics appears to be less favourable.

My Lords, I had not meant to make a speech of this kind but, on the one hand, I am encouraged that the Government are going seriously to tackle this question. We have been given undertakings that work is going ahead; and I accept of course what the noble Viscount said, that the Government find the work of this Committee, the recommendations and the evidence of particular value. What the noble Baroness intends to do to-day I do not know. I must say that I had hoped that possibly at Report stage, now that we know the Government's attitude, we might have tackled certain Amendments. It may be that she and the members of the Committee will come to the conclusion that perhaps this is not worth doing and that the important thing is to pass this Bill through all its stages as an example, as a Bill which can be immediately picked up again in another Session. This is the important fact, that if the Government themselves do not proceed then undoubtedly this Bill will have to be introduced again. Of course, it is arguable that we want to send it back to another Select Committee. I do not think the previous Select Committee would welcome that; but I am bound to say that they have done such a good job on it as a process in an approach to legislation where you have to operate, as you do in this country, very largely without drafting help from the Government—and it is notable that the Committee had the help of a brilliant draftsman in the shape of Sir Noel Hutton—that I think the Minister may find that he will have a slightly roughish time from now on.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, as I was a member of the Committee perhaps I might be allowed to speak from these Benches, and I hope I may be allowed to give way to the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, in due course. I must say that I listened to my noble friend's speech with dismay and with deep regret, because at the end of it there was not anything which could not have been said when this original, rather bad little Bill had its Second Reading. We could have been told that consultations were going on; we could have been told that it was the Government's intention to introduce legislation in due course; and we might then have been relieved of what was in fact rather a boring chore. It had its lively moments, but for the most part it involved the reading of more paper than I had ever contemplated existed, even at a Committee stage of a Bill; and I cannot but feel that, despite all the compliments that my noble friend paid us, this great weight of paper is very largely waste paper. It is waste paper not because the Government will not read it, not because the Home Office will not perhaps profit from it, but because as individuals we have wasted our time. I hesitate to accuse my own Government of discourtesy, but I think that in fact we have been rather discourteously treated.

If I may go a little further in analysing my noble friend's speech, he made some comments about the witnesses whom we heard. I think any of us could have added a list of about a hundred witnesses whom we ought to have called. I think he forgets one thing: that this Bill and the setting up of the Select Committee was widely advertised, and many bodies who were interested approached us. They were the ones who were keen. Now we are told that we ought to have consulted the University Grants Committee. Why did not the U.G.C. offer to come and give evidence to us? If they are interested, if they want to pursue this matter, why did they not come to us? It may be it was a mistake. Frankly, I think that the U.G.C., as a committee, would have found it very difficult to give an opinion to the Committee. It is not something that falls within their normal terms of reference. So I really think that that argument falls to the ground entirely. Incidentally, when my noble friend talked about extensive consultations, he did not tell us with whom he was going to have consultations. Presumably the U.G.C. will be among those he will consult.

Then he went through a long list of the failings of the Bill. I listened very carefully, and I do not think there was a single one which could not have been met, within the Short Title and the Long Title of this Bill, by an Amendment. He almost drafted the Amendments for us as he went along. He mentioned, for example, that we were imposing too much of a burden on a small board of 14 members. That could be dealt with by a simple enough Amendment: you could add a nought at the end, if necessary. I really did not think there was anything of substance in any of his complaints. Then, I think I am right in saying he said that the Government hoped to introduce legislation in the next Session. I have never known a Government that did not say they could introduce legislation in the next Session; and no doubt there will be other important matters which will not be dealt with next Session because the Government are going to introduce legislation on this matter. How much better, how much more courteous it would have been, if my noble friend had taken this Bill and helped us to make it a better Bill.

I speak a little strongly on this matter because (and I think my noble friend Lady Macleod would allow me to speak for her on this, too) we were not enthusiasts for legislation. We were certainly not enthusiasts for legislation along the lines suggested by some of those who came before us as witnesses. Some of the witnesses did not want a law at all; they wanted a declaration—and a declaration of war, at that! But I think she and I were amazed by the degree and the wide field of prejudice which exists, and which exists most importantly of all to the damage of our economy. That is the argument that got home to me every time: the damage to our economy which is done by the frustration of opportunity that exists in certain fields. I think she and I were converted to legislation; and I think I can also say that all along the line our weight was thrown on making exceptions. I should be perfectly happy to limit the Bill even further; but the nub of reform is in our proposals, and I deeply regret that it is this Government who are not going to pursue it.

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, the role of Cassandra is not a happy one. I think I was the only Member of your Lordships' House who opposed the procedure of referring this Bill to a Select Committee. I foresaw that it would end in disaster, and in disaster it has ended. This Bill was introduced to deal with a simple moral issue very closely comparable to the moral issue of discrimination on grounds of race. The principal difference is that in the case of race it is a discrimination of the majority against the minority, and in the case of sex it is a case of discrimination of the minority against the majority of the population of this country. If this Bill had not been subjected to this archaic procedure but had been allowed to go through your Lordships' House in the ordinary way, being suitably improved in Committee and at Report stage and with such of the complications mentioned by the noble Viscount as are real dealt with at both those stages of its passage, it might by now have been through your Lordships' House and well started on its career in another place.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, I agree so largely with what the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, said that I do not desire to add much at all. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the view that I understood him to put forward: that he did not propose to take any further part himself in the Amendments to this Bill. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, will not withdraw the Bill. I am sure that the right course to adopt is to complete the passage of the Bill in this House and we can then see what happens after that. It is very disappointing, I agree, to have had this statement made by the Government now, when they could have made it a year ago.

There are two other points I should like to raise. First, I appreciate the view of those who always think that decisions should be made by an individual and not by a Committee. I think—and I have said it before—that on questions of social reform, if a Committee represents quite different views and it comes out with an agreed Report (which does not always happen) it is usually fairly good service. This Committee included three Members out of seven who had voted for the original Bill thinking that legislation would be right and that the Bill could be much improved, two who voted against the Second Reading of the Bill because they did not think it a suitable subject for legislation at all, and two who had not voted either way. Yet in the end, after a considerable time and after all the evidence that we heard, the Committee were generally unanimous about the Bill.

May I make another point while it is still in my mind? The noble Viscount for some reason seemed to think that we had never considered whether the advantage of the existence of the industrial tribunal should not have been used for enforcement purposes. We could not mention everything in our Report, but if he read the evidence he would have observed that we most carefully considered this matter. Our reason, as appears in the evidence of what was said during the examination of witnesses, was that among the biggest discriminators are some employers and some trade unions. We had, for example, an offset printer who used a preparatory process which is really typewriting. He always employed men but he thought that some women might be better at that typewriting job than some men. He was going to pay them the same. Out of the three trade unions that he had to deal with, one did not mind; one said that he should use women only if he could not get men and then on the terms that if there were redundancy, however long the women had been there, they must go first. The third said, "No women at any price." Naturally this employer did not want all his employees to walk out and to have an industrial dispute. He sought help from the Trades Union Congress, but met with no real assistance.

Therefore when we were invited to make the enforcement machinery a tribunal—two out of the three of them employers' representatives and one a trade union representative—we preferred to rely on the courts. This is another example of the fact that the Government have not really appreciated the depth of the task that we have undertaken. I hope that the House and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, will agree that we should go forward with this Bill and complete it. The Government can easily put down Amendments on a number of these points. When we have completed the matter in this House we shall at least have done everything that we can do.

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, this is a most unusual debate in most unusual circumstances. Before I say a word or two, may I first say how much I appreciate, like everybody else in the House, the patient and detailed work of the noble Lord, Lord Royle, and his Committee, and of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I would disagree with the noble Lord who spoke before me when he said that the work of this Select Committee has been wasted. It has not been wasted. I believe it is certainly true that out of the work of the Select Committee, out of the Bill before the House at the moment, out of the Bill which is apparently making its way through another place and out of the ultimate decisions of the Government we in this Parliament shall have advanced much further along the course of equality between the sexes.

I interrupted the noble Viscount because I took the view (which I still hold) that if he had put down on the Marshalled List, as Amendments, the reservations he had about this Bill, at any rate we could have had a full debate at this recommittal stage of what he and the Government regard as the weaknesses in the Bill. I hope that we shall agree to the Motion to recommit the Bill, that we shall debate the two Amendments on the Marshalled List, that when we come to the Report stage Her Majesty's Government will at least put down some of its thinking in Amendments, that this Bill will ultimately pass through this House. It will then be for the Government to decide what to do finally with a Bill which has received the approval of the House of Lords and some similar Bill from the other place, a Bill which I think itself may be improved in another place by the discussions that have taken place in the Select Committee on this Bill. The Government will finally have to make up their minds; but I hope that the noble Baroness will persist with her Bill and that we shall carry it through its stages here.


My Lords, we expect to hear from the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches, a person much loved in the other place, the kind of speech he has just made; but I put it to him as a former Speaker that we are in a curious position. The work of the Select Committee has been rejected by the Government who have said that they are going to introduce their own Bill. But the most important thing which has happened this afternoon, and which in my opinion prevents the procedure the noble Lord suggests, is that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, has told the House that he is going to say no more and is going to take no further action in the proceedings. That is what he has told the House. He is going to sit there silent while we, like a lot of puppets, get up and make speeches which will mean absolutely nothing to the Government when they come to frame their Bill in the months to come just before the General Election. Surely this is asking rather a lot of mature Parliamentarians who have already given a year of their time to this work if the Minister is going to insult the House by sitting there and ignoring every speech—and that is what he has said—every invitation to speak, every invitation to answer a question. Surely the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, will not ask us to take part in this farce.


My Lords, may I intervene for a moment? I have sat in this House since 1928 and this is the first time I have ever heard a Government Minister say that he will not take any further part in a debate. I feel that it is rather an insult to your Lordships. I would hope that the position will be reconsidered.


My Lords, with leave, may I say just a few more words?—because very naturally there have been some criticisms. Would the noble Baroness allow me to do that before summarising on the Motion that the Bill be recommitted? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, said that he agreed with my noble friend Lord Reigate. In view of the compression necessary to reduce my speech to one of tolerable length on this very important subject I wonder whether those who listened to me understood quite how fundamental were the points I was talking about by way of the difficulties which we saw in this Bill. I do not want to say, I did not say, that these difficulties were insuperable. But I did say that they were fundamental.

On what the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, has just said, may I say that I did not say that the Government rejected the result of the work of this Select Committee? I said nothing of the kind—indeed, the very contrary. What I was attempting to do was to point out, in what was in fact a speech of nearly half an hour, what were the areas that we saw as being problems. Incidentally, I did know about that Committee. Not only did I read the evidence, but the noble and learned Lord told me that the Committee had looked at the industrial tribunals. He told me himself what were the objections on which he has just expressed a point of view in the House. That does not mean to say that the Government necessarily share that point of view. It is a point of view, but it is something that we should like to consider for ourselves, even though we know it was considered by the Committee and rejected by them.

My Lords, I am very sorry if the House, and particularly the members of the Committee, consider, first of all, that they have wasted their time and, secondly, that this waste of time could have been precluded by a Government Statement some time ago. I would rather turn it the other way round. It seems to me that it is a tribute to the work of the Committee that, as was said, I think by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, they have so clearly identified the fact that there is discrimination, by the investigations that they have made, that I was able to say towards the end of my speech (I invite Members of your Lordships' House to look at the report of my speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT) that the Government now recognise that there is discrimination and that legislation could greatly assist in putting the position right.

When this Select Committee was set up, my Lords, there was no such recognition on the part of the Government. At that stage I could not have made a statement going anything like as far as I have been able to go this afternoon. With respect to the House, I should have thought it a true tribute to the work of this Select Committee to say that what it has done has convinced the Government that this is so, and that there is a case for legislation. What I do reserve is the position that I have explained, that we have a great deal of work of our own to do.

My noble friend says that it will be discourteous if I do not take part in further proceedings. I do not want to stop the proceedings. I do not in any way wish the noble Baroness to do other than pursue this matter. But for me to give detailed answers at this stage on detailed problems such as the ones I have raised would lead to very great difficulty, I would respectfully suggest to the House, because if I say something without having properly explored some of the problems which I have mentioned I am, as likely as not, to be wrong. I am as likely at not to mislead the Committee into which the House will shortly resolve itself. And if silence is discourteous and a disservice to the House, I believe that to mislead it is an even greater disservice and discourtesy. In order to avoid that I should like to listen. I shall not ignore, neither will the Government ignore, what is said by noble Lords, particularly those who have made so close a study of the matter. Very far from it. I shall sit here patiently and listen with great interest throughout the discussion. All I am saying is that at this stage of our consultations I do not wish to start intervening with what may be misleading and wrong interruptions or answers to questions.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down may I ask him to modify his attitude to the extent that if on any particular point he feels some element of certainty or can give some guidance, he should do so, rather than adopt this unprecedented, "I will sit back and listen to you boys" attitude.


My Lords, I will do that. But if somebody wants me to discuss the basic philosophy of whether we go to an industrial tribunal or the courts or something—


Why not?


Because, my Lords, this is the very subject on which we are at the moment engaged in discussion. But I will certainly modify my attitude to the extent that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton suggests.


Would the noble Viscount be happier if we were to adjourn?


No, my Lords.


That is the correct procedure, my Lords.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, needless to say, I am disappointed in the statement which has been made by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, although perhaps I have more sympathy with his point of view than with the views of some noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon. I am fully aware that this Bill involves changes in society which reach very far into social customs and social attitudes, and that a great deal of discussion and thought are necessary in connection with legislation of this kind. However, I do not believe that the points that have been put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, are of such an order that it would not have been possible for them to be put as Amendments to this Bill. I fear that I cannot accept that that is a procedure which could not have been adopted here.

May I briefly take up the major points raised by the noble Viscount. It is true, of course, that there were many sources from which we did not hear evidence. If we had heard all the evidence possible about discrimination we should have been sitting for another two years. We heard enough to convince ourselves that legislation was needed, and we knew enough about the kind of legislation which would be appropriate, so the fact that certain persons and institutions were not heard does not seem to me to be a conclusive argument. The noble Viscount pointed to protective legislation and identified some difference of opinion in the Select Committee with regard to the continuation of protective legislation. But we went out of our way to make the point in the Report that revision of protective legislation is needed for men and also for women. The Government have the Robens Committee Report in front of them and it is to be hoped that action on that Report will soon be taken. This, then, is the time at which the whole question of protective legislation for men and for women should be considered. In my view there is no reason why we should not continue the existing legislation, as we recommend in the Report, until the time—which surely cannot be long delayed—when a whole review of the protective legislation for both sexes must be undertaken. This would be in line with what the I.L.O. and the United Nations have themselves proposed in dealing with questions of discrimination, so that is not an obstacle.

The noble Viscount referred to Clause 4, the education clause, and felt that this was in conflict with the provisions of the 1944 Education Act. We accept the reality of this conflict. That was why we recommended, against the wishes of a good many of us, that existing schools should continue on a single sex basis for the time being. This, we believe, would give adequate protection for parental choice. We could not go further, for the simple reason that there was overwhelming evidence that the roots of discrimination are to be found in education; and so long as there is a failure to tackle discrimination where it first begins to grow, in the early days in the schools—although indeed it frequently starts in the home before that—it will not be possible later on to make the changes that we wish to see made. So we felt it necessary, with regard to new schools which were being brought into being, that they should be on a mixed school basis.

Then the noble Viscount referred to the use of tribunals and the machinery for enforcement. We were fully aware of the difficulties of enforcement by the Board, particularly if it combined enforcement and conciliation, but the noble Viscount did not refer to the fact that we had gone a considerable way along the road that he himself recommended, because we have suggested that individual cases in the employment field, and in the main training fields too, should be referred to the conciliation officers of the Department of Employment. This is the first and most important step in the procedure which he wishes to see adopted. We did this for the very reasons that were in the mind of the noble Viscount, if I interpret him rightly—because as I have already said, we believe that conciliation and enforcement are best separated, but also because the conciliation officers of the Department of Employment are extremely familiar with work of this kind. They are understood by and understand people in industry, and are used to seeing them on cases of this sort: and they already will be required to deal with cases coming to them under the Equal Pay Act. Therefore it seems to us, as it seems to the noble Viscount, that this is the right way to deal with it. It would take the weight of the great mass of individual cases away from the Board.

My Lords, the only point of difference between us and the noble Viscount on this matter is whether, after the conciliation officers have handled them, the cases should then proceed, if they have not been resolved, to the industrial tribunal, or be referred back to the Sex Discrimination Board. In our view they should at that point come back to the Sex Discrimination Board. But the great mass of the work—a point on which the noble Viscount laid such great emphasis—will have been handled by the conciliation officers at that stage.

One thing that I welcome—and I am glad to be able to welcome something that the noble Viscount said—is his acceptance of a new clause giving the Board the power to make investigations and to ask for reports. I, like the noble Viscount, believe that this may, at the end of the day, prove to be the most important section of the whole work of the Committee, because it is not, I think, by the individual case that the removal of discrimination is going to take place; it is by investigations and by an educational process, which will mean employers and trade unions accepting the need, in terms of both economic good sense and justice, for removing the discrimination which undoubtedly exists on a large scale against women. It is this work of the Board to which the Select Committee attached great importance, and I am delighted to note that the noble Viscount also attaches great importance to this innovation.

I think I have referred to most of the criticisms which the noble Viscount has made. I do not believe that any of them are of such a nature that they could not have been incorporated in Amendments to this Bill. While sympathising with some of his problems and understanding his point of view in some respects, I cannot accept that this is an appropriate way to deal with the Bill now before the House. I accept, incidentally, that the Government have to some extent been converted. When this Bill came before the House in March of last year it was the view of the Government and their supporters that legislation was inappropriate. To my mind, the important thing at the end of the day is to get the elimination of sex discrimination on to the Statute Book. But I do not think there is any necessity to wait for a new vehicle to be brought forward by the Government. I maintain that the Bill now before the House, suitably amended, if you like, can adequately do this overdue task.

I have not the slightest intention of withdrawing this Bill and I very much hope that we shall now move into the Committee stage. Whatever attitude is taken by the noble Viscount—whether he honours us with further contributions to the debate, or sits and learns, as I hope he will—I hope that this Bill will be passed by your Lordships' House. Whatever the Government subsequently do with the Bill, it is vital that it should be passed. The effect on public opinion of this Bill being passed by the House of Lords—and at the end of the day it is public opinion that counts in this matter—will be to give the greatest encouragement to people who have worked actively to see legislation of this kind on the Statute Book. The fact that it has been passed by your Lordships will be the greatest reassurance to those people in the middle of the road who fear that this is a revolutionary innovation. I should be deeply sorry if this Bill failed to pass through your Lordships' House, because of the hard work and of the expectations of women, and of men, up and down the country who believe that in this Bill we have an instrument, with the backing of your Lordships' House, for removing a very serious wrong.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The VISCOUNT HOOD in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Discrimination in employment]:

4.25 p.m.

LORD DERWENT moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 17, after ("qualified") insert ("and suitable").

The noble Lord said: I hope it will be convenient to the Committee if we discuss the first two Amendments together, because the second Amendment is purely consequential. The object of these Amendments is to protect certain smaller firms from unnecessary, possibly unpleasant, and certainly time-wasting inquisition. This does not apply to any particular trade, but to individual firms. In my view, the word "qualify" or "qualification" is not sufficient to save small firms from suffering, at best, a good deal of inconvenience. It wants something wider than "qualification".

I should like to give an illustration of what I have in mind. Let us suppose that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, starts a dress shop, and because of her other activities she puts in a manageress. She employs a woman in the dress shop and, being the noble Baroness's business, after a short time it becomes a success. She then says to the manageress: "I think we are doing well enough to take on our own young designer, a woman"—and we all know that many of the good dress designers are men. At this point I think the noble Baroness would possibly be beginning to commit an offence under the Bill. The reason why she adds "a woman" is probably because—and it is a perfectly valid reason—her premises are not suitable to enlarge in any way, possibly to make a second lavatory, wash-place or anything else for a mixed staff.

So far, your Lordships will see that it is unlikely that the Board will take any notice of this. But let me go a little further. Supposing the noble Baroness then sacks her manageress, possibly because she may think she is dishonest, lazy or inefficient. The manageress is annoyed at being sacked, and she writes to the Board and says: "Lady Seear is running a business, and she flatly refuses to take on any men." Under the Bill, the Board have to take notice because a complaint has been made. It may be singularly annoying to the noble Baroness and might well waste her time, although probably it would be all right in the end. A man might well qualify for the job, but she will not have a man there for perfectly adequate reasons. These Amendments are as simple as that. In my view, if a word like "suitable" is not put in, this wretched Board will have complaints, particularly from smaller firms, on those sort of lines. I suggest that "suitable", and in the second Amendment "suitability", are the most appropriate words. I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like to comment on the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dement, not in the rather pernickety way in which he approached it but in a rather more general fashion. It is for me a worrying Amendment. The word "suitable" is one of those elastic, open-ended concepts that is liable to diverse interpretations. I was not sure that the word "suitable" had a proper place in a legal document (this was before I heard the Government's statement), especially in a Bill which after many tries stood a good chance of becoming law. However, since hearing the Government's statement, this does not hold good at all. The word "suitable" could be interpreted by women discriminating against men for a job, and vice versa; but I have a notion that it could more frequently be grasped by those men still hesitating to afford women equal opportunities with men.

It is true that when engaging staff and selecting the best applicant, considerations other than pure qualifications can be taken into account. I was a member of the board of governors at a boys' comprehensive school, and when we were interviewing several applicants for a French teaching job, one of those was a very attractive young woman. There was a moment's hesitation from the board of governors. Despite her qualifications, I was not sure whether her youth and beauty would have a disrupting effect on the discipline of the staff or pupils. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, would consider such a young lady to be suitable or unsuitable for the job because of her looks.

In the Report I found the reply of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, about suitability very interesting. She pointed out that a person might not have the necessary qualifications for a job, yet be suitable for training. This is a very shrewd point which came out in the Report. I was also going to say that nothing now should get in the way of the Bill, but again I am stymied by the statement of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. On the whole, the Bill is not as strong as the legislation which exists in America, or even in Canada, but in one or two ways it is better than the legislation in either of those countries.

If any women have reservations about this Bill, these will have been quickly dispelled by reading the latest news of religious affairs in The Times this morning, concerning the campaign for women as priests. I myself am not religious and have no axe to grind regarding this campaign, but the case against giving equal opportunities to women was epitomised in the statements made by certain Bishops. Discrimination against women was stated as "God's intention", equal opportunities with men were described as unnatural and, finally, condemned as the result of the recent upsurge of demand by women for what is called "equality with men". I think the Government are at one with the Bishops. I think we have rarely heard a Government statement which is so unimaginative and so old-fashioned. All the arguments which the Government have produced against this Bill have been heard not over the last hundred years but over the last thousand years. However, it is not only in the Church, as I say, that we find such atavistic views. What amazes me about the Bishops' attitude is not their own views—because, after all, they can have views which differ from all of us—hut the fact that they say it is the word of God.

I should hate to see the work of this Select Committee coming to nothing and I hope the Government will think again about the matter. I hope that the hard work of my noble friends and of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, will not be frustrated. Everyone has been very complimentary about my noble friends. My noble friend Lord Royle was a gentle and rather articulate Chairman, if I may say so. My noble friend Lady Summer-skill continued her relentless, lifelong fight for women's rights, and she was none the less effective for being more moderate than she usually is. My noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner was as persuasive as always. This was a very good Select Committee and it has produced an excellent Report. The really valuable part of that Report lies in the evidence it has produced. I hope that this Bill will be finally accepted in the Commons. This Amendment only holds up its progress, because it is a "pussyfooting" Amendment, and I am against it.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support this Amendment and I think I should say at the outset that I am 100 per cent, in favour of the principles behind this Bill. I have some reservations—I have not entirely made up my mind whether or not it is a suitable subject on which one should, and I think I would say must, legislate. However, what worries me about the Bill as it stands—and very much the same point has worried the noble Lord, Lord Derwent—is that it seems to me that under the Bill as it stands you might get a number of candidates, whose qualifications will of course vary, applying for a job. It is normal to go through the list, and those candidates who are considered suitable or to have adequate qualifications are called for interview. The purpose of calling people to an interview is to assess what is far more important than the level of their qualifications (provided that these are adequate)—that is, their personality. I believe that with the Bill as it is a great deal of trouble could arise because in fact the selection, when it was made, will have been made on character and suitability. That, I maintain, might well be an offence under the Bill. I am sure it will be argued that to put this in greatly weakens the Bill, but I am not so sure that it does, when we consider the purpose of the Bill and how it will operate.

I do not believe one can change things very greatly just by setting up a Board and making penalties. What we are trying to do is to change people's attitudes. The fact that there is a Bill there will, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has already made clear—certainly she made it clear to me—make people think very carefully before they discriminate, in order to make sure that they do not do so. If that object is secured, I do not believe that any Bill which looks legalistically better will achieve results which are any more valuable; and it may achieve less.

Finally, I think one must realise again that though women are equals of men, the average woman is not the same. On average, women are better at some things than men and men are better at some other things. It is folly to imagine that one can completely equate them in all respects. The majority of women, of course, would not want it so: they like to keep their privileges; they like to have the door opened for them and to go out first. One could quote a number of things in that vein. We should be wise to include this Amendment. I do not believe it weakens in any way the purpose of the Bill, which I support entirely.


Would the noble Lord agree that men also differ? There are intelligent men and less intelligent men. I thought he made a rather sweeping statement which suggested that women are different but men are not.


No. Obviously men vary right over the range and women vary right over the range. There are women who can beat men at any game, even in the man's province—they are far better in every respect. All I am saying is that, taking the average, there is a difference, and I think it is as well not to put this under the carpet. It makes no difference to my support of the Bill. One must realise that the noble Baronesses here are not average women; if they were they would not be here.


Would the noble Lord agree that the great difference is that women can have babies, and so far men have completely failed to match up to that?


I entirely agree.

4.42 p.m.


I was invited by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, to play my part in this debate. I will be very brief. I have no idea what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, thinks about this. I agree with those—and the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, expressed this—who would say that this Amendment would water down the effect of Clause 2. The reasons have been described in a number of speeches. When discussing an Amendment of this sort what we are up against is not so much (if I may respectfully put this to my noble friend Lord Derwent) whether we want to amend Clause 2(1) about qualifications in the two places where he suggests, but whether we want to look again at Clause 2(3).

What I said earlier on was that whereas probably there would be very few people who would not allow the exception whereby you could continue to discriminate when you were seeking somebody to work in a private household, there might be other areas which have not yet been defined and could possibly do with a bit more definition where the same thing would apply. I do not know whether the dress shop which my noble friend was talking about is a good example; I do not know whether the parallel with race relations where a factory which has less than a certain number of employees can, as it were, opt out, is the right parallel in this case.

It seems to me that when one is considering this one ought to look at the range of exceptions. Certainly genuine occupational qualification is one, if you can define it; certainly private households is another. But I wonder whether there is a further area which could be usefully put in the Bill, because this is the set of criteria that enforcement authorities will need to guide them in the course of any deliberations; that is to say, if you have the Bill with the framework such as it is at the moment.


May I ask my noble friend whether he will consider this matter before the Report stage and help me to put down a further Amendment? Or is it too early for him to consider it?


The anwer is that I do not know that the Government accept the framework of Clause 2. I have put forward some of We problems. There are the statutory exceptions in the Factories Acts. At the moment these are saved in the Bill. We want to look at this root and branch, and if I cannot say at the Report stage that I accept the framework of the employment part of Clauses 2 and 3, then any help I may give to my noble friend will fall into the difficulty that I suggested before. It may at the time be the best that we can do, but it may be misleading to suggest that it is the best that can ever be done. One might want to take an entirely different course at a later stage.


I hope the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, will not carry this Amendment to a Division. I agree that character and suitability must always be taken into account; that is, the character and suitability of the individual on grounds other than sex. This Amendment would open the flood gates. "Suitability" is a very wide word indeed; it could cover almost anything. I regard consumer preference as a very dangerous criterion. As the Report shows, it has already been held by the United States authorities that it is illegal to discriminate against men in the employment of stewards on aeroplanes. The defence put forward was that the passengers wanted a pretty girl to look at as a sex object. I think that was the right decision.

Regarding suitability, I suppose the oldest excuse in the business is, "Yes, of course she is highly qualified. Yes, we should love to have her; but unfortunately we do not have a woman's lavatory." This still persists to-day. I remember that consideration was being given to electing a woman Queen's Counsel and Bencher of an Inn. I was told by a member of the Inn, "It is impossible, anyhow, because we do not have a women's lavatory". As soon as a woman was appointed a High Court Judge (she was not already a Bencher and judges are always made Benchers) this difficulty was solved in the twinkling of an eye. It is still solemnly put forward, although most people in their homes do not have more than one lavatory. Many of them have none and have to share with other families. Father, mother, boys and girls, all use the same lavatory. This is what we shall get if we adopt such a word as "suitable". I hope that whatever the noble Lord may "concoct"—if that is not the wrong expression—for the Report stage, with the assistance of the noble Viscount, he will not press this Amendment to a Division.


It may save the time of the Committee if I say that in view of what my noble friend has said—and I am not happy about the word "suitable" although something of that kind is necessary—I think my noble friend's suggestion that probably this problem ought to be looked at in another way is a better solution. Unless anybody else wishes to speak, I will ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.


May I say a word? In order to comfort the noble Lord, who is, I know, something of a feminist, I want him to recall that whenever I jump up and ask the Government whether there is a woman on a certain Committee—the bail committee had no woman on it, the liquor licensing committee had 15 men and no women on it—the stock answer of the Government is, "We always choose those whom we consider the most suitable". Curiously enough, women are generally excluded. I ask the noble Lord to consult Hansard and he will find that what I have said is correct.

There is a subtle difference between "qualification" and "suitability". In my opinion, "suitability" is infinitely more subjective than "qualification". We have to realise that these committees are drawn up by civil servants who, if not consciously anti-women, are subconsciously anti-women. If the noble Lord uses the word "suitable" he will, as we have seen in case after case, decide that he cannot find a suitable woman. To leave in the word "qualifications" is more objective. A person then has to be reminded that he has to choose somebody with certain qualifications. In my opinion, there will be much more likelihood of a woman then being chosen to serve on a committee than if the word "suitable" is included.


This is an important debate which goes to the heart of the Bill. I appreciate the noble Lord's and other noble Lords' desire to speed the work of the Committee since we are giving it, I hope, close examination. We have actually lured the Minister to his feet; I can see he had not perhaps done as much homework as he might have done. I assumed that if he was not going to take part he was not prepared.


Yes, I am.


Well, that is fine. So he has come down all ready to take part and I am very glad that we are going to be able to provide him with the scope to make use of his researches.

What I want to say is that I am not entirely happy myself about "genuine occupational qualification". I am not sure that this may not give rise to some of the kind of objections that the word "suitable" has. I fully accept that it is the best that can be done, but even now I have a fear that this may also be used as a device to defeat the purposes here. We run into great difficulty, I quite understand, if we try to spell this out too widely. One suggestion made, although I am not sure whether it would be an improvement, is to make the provision more restrictive by adding such words as: always provided that individuals shall be treated on their individual merits and not with regard to the generalised or assumed cllaracteristics of their sex". I am not sure that we want to go into quite such detail, but even here we are in trouble and we are going to have to depend a great deal—and this may be an objection from the noble Viscount's point of view or from that of other noble Lords—on how the courts interpret this. I hope that in this matter, since courts, I gather, follow courts in other countries, the American example will provide some kind of guidance.


I confirm what the noble Lord has said. This was indeed one of the major points I made under Clause 2, and I drew the attention of the Committee to the American model and its interpretation. I specifically mentioned that in my speech.


The noble Viscount has succeeded in creating such prejudice to-day that nobody will recognise how helpful he has been all the time.


They might read it.


Let us look at this from the practice of employers in having had to engage many people. They must get prejudice out of their minds. This is the purpose of the Bill, and gradually there will be the change of opinion; and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, is not proposing to pursue this Amendment.

Probably the Committee have got it about as far right as they can at this stage, but I would not exclude the possibility, either in the clause itself or by a further definition even, of attempting to make the provision even more restrictive than it is now. This seems to me to have been the great value of the way we have gone. Indeed, were it not for the fact that the noble Baroness who criticised our process in this matter is not in a position at the moment to participate, I should have said that one of the virtues of going via a Select Committee is that we have a Bill which is infinitely better than the previous Bill, which in my view would not have been amendable as it stood. It is because we virtually have a new Bill, with the work of the Committee, that we have something really to get our teeth into. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, will be inclined to resist this Amendment; but I think it lands us in greater difficulties and, if anything, I would want an Amendment which is even more resttictive.


As the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has withdrawn—


No, he has not.


He is going to.


—or is going to, may I say that important matters have come up in the debate on this Amendment upon which I should like to comment? May I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, that he illustrated a very common error in the whole discussion of this question. He spoke about the "average woman" being this, that or the other. One does not ever appoint to a job the average woman; one appoints a particular person who has applied for a particular job. As we have tried to underline right throughout the Report, the danger is that people draw conclusions about what they regard as the "average woman" and then apply these characteristics to the particular woman with whom they are dealing. It is precisely this error which we wish to see banished from people's minds. It does not help to speak about the "average woman", who, as noble Lords know full well, in all other fields of life simply does not exist as a person.

On the Amendment itself and the addition of the word "suitable", perhaps some misunderstanding has arisen by reason of the meaning attached to "qualify". It has in some speakers' minds been too narrowly interpreted as concerning paper qualifications. I pursued this matter, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, having put his Amendment down in good time, with the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, which I found was a substantial ally because it says that "to qualify" for something is "to make fit"; and then when one looks at the meaning of the word "suitable" one finds that to be "suitable" means to be "fitted". So I would suggest that, as according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary both those terms can be given the same meaning, it would be tautology to add "suitable" to "qualified".


If I may interrupt the noble Baroness, this is precisely my anxiety about the word "qualification".


Indeed; but it does not help to add the word "suitable We do not want to make confusion worse confounded by adding one vague word to another vague word, or a slightly less vague word. So I hope that the addition of "suitable" will not be a test.

In replying previously to the noble Viscount, I did not refer, as I should have done, to his criticisms of "genuine occupational requirement". We had very considerable discussion in the Select Committee about this term. The suggestion was put forward that we should have a schedule of occupations and activities which could be regarded as exemptions. We decided against this. We feel that to compile such a list would be almost impossible and would lead to endless argument as to why A had been included and B had been excluded, and there would be continual attempts to have that schedule revised. We felt this was most undesirable. We were also strengthened by the fact that the Americans had been using a Latin version of "genuine occupational requirement"—the bona-fide qualification—and had been able to do this pretty stringently.

Of course, it needs interpretation, but in a matter of this kind surely it is appropriate that we should proceed by what is virtually case law, by building up interpretations of what is meant by "genuine occupational requirement", always provided that those words are interpreted very stringently. I shall be delighted if in the course of this debate noble Lords can think of some way of making that definition tighter than it already is. We tried in the Select Committee to do just that, but were not able to find a form of words that would add anything to "genuine occupational requirement"; and we felt at the end of the discussion that those words as they stood, particularly in the light of the American experience, were adequate. But this is a matter which we could usefully debate here and now.


I am glad that the Government have this in their heads at the moment. I think it is necessary to have some alteration of words, if only to protect shopkeepers and small firms from unnecessary harassment where it is not intended under the Bill. The sort of thing my noble friend suggested might be done under a later subsection by a different form of words. I agree that my own wording is not satisfactory, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Discrimination in education and training]:

5.2 p.m.

LORD CONESFORD moved Amendment No. 3: Page 3, line 12, leave out ("established before the commencement of this Act").

The noble Lord said: In rising to move this Amendment perhaps I might make one preliminary remark. I had the honour of being appointed to the Select Committee, but unfortunately last summer I fell ill and had to go into hospital for an operation, and therefore I had to retire from the Committee. But before I retired I received so much kindness from the noble Lord, Lord Royle, and my fellow members of the Committee that I wondered whether I should intervene at all in this debate. I thought that I should, because, had I been able to continue on the Select Committee, this particular Clause 4 in its present form would have been adopted only over my dead body. I should have opposed it most strenuously. Nevertheless I consulted the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and she encouraged me by all means to propose any Amendment which I thought on its merits ought to be made. I should like to agree with one remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—and I think here I shall certainly have the agreement both of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner—that the Committee were extraordinarily well served by the Parliamentary draftsman.

I have tabled only this one Amendment and the consequential Amendment that follows because I think they raise a vital point. Indeed, unless some such Amendment is made, I believe the Bill is endangered. Let me say that the effect of the Bill before us without such an Amendment as I am moving is that we shall have, with one modification, the very evils to which I drew attention in my speech on the Second Reading in March of last year. In the clause as it then appeared I pointed out that every boys' school and every girls' school and every men's college and every women's college would henceforth be unlawful. I thought that was quite intolerable and I still think so. But the Committee no longer suggest that. Taking the case of the schools, they make an exception for any school established before the commencement of this Act. They make a similar exception in the case of the colleges, and there is a further limitation contained in further words in paragraph (b) of subsection (2).

Is that really sufficient? Have we really got the knowledge to say that from now onwards it has been revealed to us that no single-sex school and no single-sex college can possibly be allowed to come into existence? I think that if we were to insist on such a limitation we should be guilty of the deadly sin of pride. What appalling arrogance it would be to say that something that has been practised throughout the history of civilisation, and particularly perhaps Christian civilisation, namely, the founding by well-meaning individuals of schools and the devotion of charitable funds to their creation, shall henceforth have this enormous limitation! In this clause we are not only dealing with what may be done by education authorities in public education (though there I hope the Committee will have noticed what was said by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross) we are considering all schools of every kind.

Here perhaps, before the House commits itself to so tyrannical a decision, so arrogant a decision as it seems to me, perhaps I ought to declare—I do not suppose that it amounts to an interest that one must declare, but I should like it to be known to the Committee—that I have long been a vice-president of an important and highly reputable Trust which provides girls' schools. I think I am not the only vice-president in this House; there is one on the Benches opposite, though not at the moment present. I refer to the Girls' Public Day-School Trust. Many schools belonging to that Trust will be known to various noble Lords and Baronesses. They are most admirable schools, and there is a considerable number of them in various parts of the country. I have no idea whether it is the intention of the Trust ever to have a new school in some new area, but does anybody think it ought to be declared unlawful for them to have such a school? I cannot believe that that would be the view of the Committee. Let me make it quite clear that I have had no communication of any sort with the Trust and I do not claim to be speaking on their behalf. I am only giving my own view, and I may say that before I was a vice-president of this Trust I served for some years on a local committee of management of one of the individual schools.

In the course of the long history in which men and women of good will have sometimes left their fortunes to establish schools and colleges I should have thought that this was among the noblest uses of charitable funds: to provide a good school or a good college. Some of those schools and colleges have been for men, some have been for women, and some have been mixed. But there have been examples in all three classes of absolutely excellent schools and colleges. I cannot imagine why we should think that in this particular year, 1973, we have suddenly got such inspiration and knowledge that we know that there must never be in future a single sex school or college, or school or college in which one sex predominates. We should even be causing great distress to some people on religious grounds. I find that there are among my Catholic friends quite a number who send their daughters to convent schools. I have no doubt that there will be convent schools that are preserved under the clause as it stands. But do we want to lay down, by a tyrannical Act, that no new convent school shall ever be established in future? I cannot think that that is right.

I appreciate the importance that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and other members of the Committee attach to education. I am sure they are right to seek, by appropriate means, that girls shall have the same chance of a good education as boys. One of my points is that as the clause stands we are depriving some girls of having that opportunity. Curiously enough, I have never been on the governing body of a boys' school, but I have knowledge and experience and know the excellence of the girls' school with which I have had the happiness of being connected, and I have visited many others. I beg the noble Baroness not to think it necessary to resist my Amendment. I have reduced the Amendment to the fewest words so as to make absolutely clear what it is that I am attacking, but should the noble Baroness think that, if these words are struck out, it will render desirable some further modification of the words that remain, that could be considered at the next stage of the Bill. I hope that I have made the case—and I do not wish to labour it—that this Bill as it stands saying that from the date of the passing of the Bill into law it shall be unlawful to create a new boys' school or a new girls' school, or a new men's college or a new women's college, constitutes a most illiberal, tyrannical and arrogant act. I hope that the Committee will agree with my views.

I now revert to something that is perhaps slightly outside the scope of my Amendment. I believe that the noble Baroness and her Committee have had a most notable triumph. My reading of what has happened, and I am a reasonably old hand, is that they have transformed a Bill containing any number of objections to a Bill that we are now seriously considering. I believe that that has converted the Government, and I believe that whatever the fate of this Bill the work that the Committee have put in will bear important fruit. I understand that the Members of the Committee who worked so hard may say, "It is all very well for you to say that, but you have not been doing the work". I know I am open to that criticism, but I genuinely believe that the Committee have had a great success. But I believe that the clause without my Amendment is intolerable and that, unless some such amendment as I propose is made, the inclusion of the clause as it stands would prevent the Bill from having the chance of passing into law which it otherwise might have.

5.16 p.m.


I should like to support this Amendment for a number of reasons. First, and most important, is that I simply do not think that this is the right Bill to make a major change. Whatever one may feel about the rightness of no longer having any single sex schools, I do not believe that it is desirable to make a change by this Bill; and if we leave it in, it is going to antagonise a good many people. There is also at the back of it somewhere or other, I seem to feel, something which might be called a Party issue—or it has a vague significance in that way. Here again, for the future of the Bill, it would be the greatest pity if people were able to turn round and say, "Ah, yes, there it is coming back again, this Party issue". The reason why I think to some extent that is so, is that there is a Party feeling about schools which have no grant. The idea on the Socialist side is to try to get uniformity. Against that, I personally feel that unless there is a very good reason for interfering with people's liberty—which is constantly being decreased—one should leave the point alone. If people want to send their children to single sex schools—and there is no conclusive reason or opinion that it is a really had thing to do—we should not try to prevent it. So I very much hope that this Amendment will be passed.


I had not intended to speak from these Benches, but the noble Lord's comment makes it essential that I should clear the point. There is certainly no Party issue in this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, has argued this matter in his usual persuasive way. I am bound to say that I came to the House with a completely open mind on this matter, particularly as I am a product of a single sex school, a convent where, as I recall, it was not single sex up to the age of seven because small boys were evidently permitted in the Convent while older boys were not. But the noble Lord's words are such that I can see the great force of his argument. Thinking of the religious denominations, I believe I am correct in saying that there are still colleges for priests only and for nuns only, and that may well cause some difficulty to them. I intervene, however, merely to point out to the noble Viscount that this is certainly not a Party issue. We approach this matter with a completely open mind, and although I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, that I do not think there will be many more single sex schools established, I take his point that the wording of the clause as it stands may well create great problems for those already in existence and I therefore support his Amendment.


In fairness to the Promoters of the Bill, and in slight correction of the noble Baroness, for whose support I am most grateful, when she mentions priests, I would say that they may be provided for under Clause 7. That does not deal with any of the other points I made. It is the complete bar on the establishment of future schools against which I have made my case.


If I may say so, I did not suggest for one minute that there was any Party issue here or that anybody was motivated by one. What was worrying me was that I thought that people outside might consider that there was such an issue.


I will go on responding very briefly to the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, simply to say this. In the speech I made a little earlier, I set out the Government's view on parental freedom of choice, and I will not go over that point again. It is very much along the lines which my noble friend Lord Conesford has been expressing. However, one of the by-products of accepting this Amendment would be that it would get over what is at the moment a fundamental conflict between what is in the Bill and Section 13 of the Education Act 1944. At the present moment, the Bill as it stands, with these words in, is in direct and irreconcilable conflict with the Dowers and duties of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State under Section 13, and something will have to done about this. It would so happen that this Amendment, if it otherwise found favour with noble Lords, would get rid of that conflict.


The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, as the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said, is exceedingly persuasive, and, of course, this is a nicely balanced issue. There are arguments, one accepts, along the lines stated by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford. There was reason, however, for inserting this clause, which was indeed a modification of the previous Bill—noble Lords will remember that in the previous Bill it was all schools. We took the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and the point about parental choice and Section 13 of the 1944 Act. In our view, leaving existing schools as they were would meet, to a very large extent at any rate, not, I agree, the strict legal point of Section 13, but the general principle of parental choice. Against this, and against the libertarian point, which I very much take in Lord Conesford's words, there is the other very real point, that discrimination is rooted in education; it is the customs and attitudes and points of view put over during early life in school which so largely determine whether boys and girls will grow up as unconscious discriminators. It is the unconscious discriminator, the discriminator who discriminates as a matter of course, with whom we have the greatest difficulty, not the person who is the all-out declared champion of the rights of his own sex. We do not think this will be righted as long as boys and girls are educated separately. It is for this reason, though with some reluctance, that I cannot accept the Amendment put forward, because we need to underline how immensely important educational change is in changing attitudes. That is really what this Bill is all about.


I am very sorry that this very firm attitude has been taken, and perhaps it is particularly astonishing that it should be taken from the Liberal Benches. That in no way diminishes my admiration for the noble Baroness and for her conduct of this Bill. I am disappointed. Though I think nobody in the House doubts that I am a Tory, and although they might prefer the term "reactionary", to which I have not the slightest objection, I have had a number of Liberal friends. I used to hear with pleasure such Liberals as the late Lord Keynes, and one of the things in which Liberals took pride was that they stood for variety of experiment. How anybody who likes variety of experiment can say that from henceforth no new school of one sex can be lawful simply beats me. I am not prepared to withdraw this Amendment. I invite the House to support me.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I think it would be the wish to the Committee that I should treat this Amendment as consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 15, leave out ("so established").—(Lord Conesford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I think we may have to return to this Question at a subsequent stage of the Bill. I did in fact on Amendment No. 3 say "Not-Content", and so, I believe, did the noble Baroness, Lady Seear.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Saving for Clergy]:

5.28 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?


I do not feel that the Committee should pass Clause 7 completely unchallenged. I admit that I have been late in doing my homework. I have not come prepared to speak, and I have not put down an Amendment. Nevertheless, I hope it is not too late to see whether I can stir up one or two people from various parts of the Committee, including perhaps the Bishop's Bench, in order to elucidate a little more clearly the arguments for putting in this clause. It seems to me wholly illogical in this day and age that we should let this Bill pass with a clause labelled "Saving for clergy". Quite apart from the fact that clergy, of all people, should be able to save themselves,; I have managed to read quickly through the evidence taken before the Committee, and it seems to me that a great deal of that evidence, even some of the evidence given by the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chester, supports the view that the present rules and customs of the Church are archaic and mediæval and entirely out of line with present-day thinking. I should not like it to be thought that no one here was bold enough to challenge the Church in this matter, and I should very much like to hear the views of others.


The noble Lord may be surprised to hear that many intelligent women these days are a little indifferent to this subject. We see the offensive nonsense in The Times to-day of Bishops, whom one would have thought had achieved some eminence in their profession and therefore should be a little more moderate in their language, telling the world that in their opinion women were quite unfitted to serve in the Church because it would be unnatural. Of course the Bishop does not mind at all having a woman in a subordinate position cleaning the floors of the church, spending her time attending bazaars and making money in order that the church should function. This is quite in order. Use women by all means, exploit their services, and far from giving them equal pay give them nothing. That is the norm in the Church so far as women are concerned. The Archbishop, the Bishops, the priests of every denomination except the Nonconformist Church will accept that, and will even get on to the platform, as we see in The Times to-day, and have so little intelligence that they think, in these days of what is known as "women's lib.", that they are making an impression.

One consequence of this attitude is that if you look at the churches to-day there are few intelligent women ever found sitting in the pews—and few unintelligent people sitting there. The churches are empty. They are decrepit, crumbling, waiting to be demolished or possibly used for some other purpose. Who have been in charge of the Church for the last 2,000 years?—men. The fact is that women are a little indifferent to the whole subject. I myself would not urge intelligent women to give the kiss of life to the unintelligent organised Church as it is to-day, because it is unintelligent. As for the contributions one hears from the pulpit, I as a Member of Parliament for many years have had to go to so many of these church affairs and listen to these contributions which are so elementary. It is so clear that the clergy are out of touch with the ordinary people that I want to say to the noble Lord who says that he wishes to stimulate somebody, that he has stimulated me to say that women are no longer prepared to give the kiss of life to the organised Church. Men have destroyed it; let men reconstruct it.


It seems to me that the noble Baroness is rather begging the question on this matter. Her speeches on the churches may or may not be accurate, but it does not seem to me that it is the business of the British Parliament to tell the Churches how to run their own organisation. The Pope—and I have no agreement with the Roman Catholic Church—has recently said that the Roman Catholic Church will not ordain women. Are we going to force the Roman Catholic Church in this country to ordain women as priests? I do not think that the British Parliament would do anything of that kind. It seems to me to be quite absurd.


When the Church is attacked in this House those of us who are churchmen must stand tip and say that we are sorry. I think it was an entirely irrelevant attack. I always enjoy the noble Baroness's attacks and I enjoyed this, too; but I do not think a Bill of this kind is the right place to start telling people who have religious views, however odd, how they should run their lives. I should oppose this bitterly. Basically this is a Bill about women. Many religious organisations include women; some do not, but it cannot be the wish of anybody in this House to tell them how to behave. Surely we must oppose the rejection of this clause.


I think the view of the Committee as a whole is this: that the Churches are not of course outside the Bill at all, nor is there any reason why they should be. They are wide em-employers of all sorts of people—secretaries, typists, vergers and so on—and there is no reason why they should not conform to the ordinary law, as it will be, on sex discrimination. But when it comes to priests and clergy, they are doctrinal questions and I think the Committee as a whole felt that for a private Member putting forward a Private Member's Bill to put into the Bill that which is directly contrary to somebody's religious beliefs would not find acceptance by the House.


The noble Lord, Lord Platt, was kind enough to say that he intervened at the last moment, and he will therefore understand that I was not prepared for this. I should only like to draw your Lordships' attention to the evidence which was submitted to the Select Committee and presumably was taken into account by the Committee in including Clause 7. It was made clear in the evidence submitted by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, and in the discussion which the Committee had with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, that this is a matter of very considerable discussion, certainly within the Church of England, and also (I think there has been some more recent evidence) within the Church of Rome.

It so happens that the Convocations of England will be meeting next week to discover their mind on this particular issue of the admission of women to the priesthood. They are doing this because this is part of an international discussion that has been going on since the meeting of the Bishops of the Anglican Communion at Lambeth in 1968, as a result of which, as the Committee was told by the Archbishop in his evidence, reported on page 115, the Anglican Consultative Council resolved in 1971: Many of the Churches of the Anglican Communion regard the question of ordination of women to the priesthood as an urgent matter. We therefore call on all churches of the Anglican Communion to give their consideration to this subject and to express their views in time for consideration by the Anglican Consultative Council in 1973. I mention this only to show that this is not a matter on which, as somebody said in the Press over the weekend, the Church of England has been teetering on the brink for a long time. It is a matter now approaching a decision, and because it is a matter approaching a decision, and as the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, has indicated, people who feel very strongly on doctrinal grounds have expressed their views, some of which have found space in The Times to-day. That does not mean to say, however, that they are representative of the whole of the Church for which they speak. Members on both sides of the House are surely aware within their own Parties, democratically organised, that there are differences of view which are respected and understood. The same goes for the Church that I have the honour to represent here; and, if I may say so, not all of us agree with the views that are expressed in The Times to-day.

I hope that noble Lords will realise that the Select Committee, in including this Clause 7, were avoiding what might well have been an unfortunate clash that might have turned into a Church versus State issue, and I do not think that any of us believe that this is the right issue upon which that great discussion should start. I believe that opinion is moving very fast on this subject. Although it may be right at this moment for this clause to be phrased in this way, if there should be any delay in this particular Bill becoming law, if it passes from this Parliament to the next Parliament, it may well mean that the wording can be different.


May I say a final word and thank the speakers for their contributions, especially the right reverend Prelate for his wise and very encouraging words.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Investigation without complaint]:

5.40 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 10 shall stand part of the Bill?


I feel very strongly that a clause of this nature should not be included in a Bill such as this. At the present time there are literally thousands of people who are entitled to enter one's premises or one's home in certain circumstances, and allowed to question one. The people of this country are getting fed up with the multitude of people who can interfere with them. The majority of those people, such as gasmen, fire prevention officers, sanitary inspectors—I am not sure whether that is their correct technical name, nowadays—health inspectors, office inspectors and so on, are there for safety's sake, and although they are not welcomed by the British public they are usually necessary. This clause states that we should appoint what, in effect, are more snoopers, and even when no complaint has been made the Board will be able to send out their people to make inquiries if they think they might have a case. Is this power necessary?

I am aware that there is a precedent in the Race Relations Act, but your Lordships will recollect that the purpose then was to prevent possible intimidation. The Race Relations Board needed that power to prevent intimidation when no complaint had been made. But here there is no question of intimidation. If something is wrong, there is no difficulty in making a complaint. If someone is refused a job because of her sex she can write to the Board. We ought not to give power to a new Board so that it can go around asking questions and investigating when there is no evidence that something is wrong and when there is merely a suspicion. People are fed up with this kind of interference, and this Bill is not a suitable place into which to put a clause of this kind.


I am afraid that I arrived late and I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has already spoken, but the Question is about to be put and she ought to be quick.


In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, I should like to say that as well as the Race Relations Act there are precedents in the Factories Acts and in the Wages Councils Act, under which inspectors can see whether the law is being obeyed. If nondiscrimination is part of the law of the land it will be an exact analogy with the question of minimum wages, and if the Wages Councils Act can be enforced it should also be possible to see that there is no discrimination. The noble Lord also said that there is no reason why an individual should not complain and that there would be no intimidation in such cases. That is mast certainly not the case where promotion and access to training schemes for promotion are concerned. If a woman feels that she is being passed by she will make herself extremely unpopular with her colleagues or competitors if she lodges a complaint on her own behalf. So there is a serious possibility that, for fear of repercussions inside her place of work, a woman will be unwilling to take her case to the Sex Discrimination Board. Clause 10 is included because we feel that women will not themselves put their case forward and it may be necessary for the Board to take action.


I listened with interest to the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, and I take his point on the old-fashioned cry about the hordes of snoopers, but the fashion nowadays is to ask for more. Everybody wants a thousand more alkali inspectors and so on and says that there should be more protection. This is surely a matter of balance. As I understand it, the noble Lord is rather sympathetic to the Bill, but I think it would be very undesirable to remove this piece of a very carefully thought out pattern, so I hone that he will not divide the Committee on this clause. I should have been interested to know what my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner had to say about this clause. But I should be very sorry if we suddenly struck it out, as we nearly did earlier, when the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, might only be wishing to test the strength of the arguments, such as those of the noble Baroness, and perhaps not wishing to divide the Committee. I was not a member of the Select Committee, but this clause seems to me to be essential in order to make sense of the Bill.


We had evidence as to what had happened under the Race Relations Act. We thought that a similar clause was necessary and were satisfied by the evidence we heard that there were a number of women who would simply be too afraid of being dismissed to complain.


I do not understand the noble Baroness's argument. She said that there are two types of people involved here. The first type is those who are not taken on for employment, and there is no difficulty if they want to complain. The second type is the person who is passed over for promotion or for training, and she said that such a person would not like to complain because that would affect relations with her colleagues. But if there is no complaint, how can the Board have any suspicion whatever that something is wrong? It does not make sense. I am sorry, but I think that this clause is unnecessary. There are too many clauses of this type in Bills nowadays. When there is a question of safety or intimidation I think it is right to have a clause such as this, but in other circumstances I think it is wrong, and I shall oppose this clause.


Before we let this clause go, I should like to make a plea to the noble Lord that, for two reasons, he should consider this matter further. First, I do not think we want to stop the Bill in its progress and I hope there are enough people in the Chamber to ensure that that does not happen. Might I suggest to him—in any case, he might be more successful on another occasion—that he should not press to take it out now. He is able to put down a substantive Motion on Report stage to leave out a clause providing he really intends to leave it out and not just to produce a debate; and I would suggest that either we plough on a bit further and discuss his arguments or he might wish to see whether the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and my noble friend Lord Gardiner could convince him—or perhaps he may convince them. At the moment he certainly has not convinced me that it would be right to delete this clause. It may well be that we should have a vote on this Amendment, but I still appeal to him not to divide the Committee but to let it go at this stage.


I normally listen to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition because we happen to agree on a number of points. I think his strongest argument is the very thin Committee, and perhaps for that reason it is not a suitable moment to discuss this matter at length; but I shall deal with it again on Report. If the noble Baroness or the noble and learned Lord would like to have discussions with me, I should very much welcome it, but at the moment I am not convinced that it is wise to have this clause in. I think there is too much unnecessary legislation but at the moment I will not oppose this clause.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedule [Provisions as to the Sex Discrimination Board]:

5.52 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Schedule shall be the Schedule to the Bill?


I hope that perhaps we may give a little thought to the Schedule, which struck me as being capable of further development. There are a number of models of Schedules to Bills setting up Boards, and I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether it was her intention and the intention of the Committee that this Board should be of a kind to which the House of Commons Disqualification Act should apply. I am not sure that it should. Obviously, if there is remuneration it almost certainly will have to apply; but it will be perfectly possible to make an Amendment (and, curiously enough, one has an example of such a Schedule in the Nature Conservancy Bill, which is also before your Lordships' House) to ensure that Part II of Schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act should apply only in the case of members of the Sex Discrimination Board who receive remuneration.

I am not suggesting a particular Amendment at the moment, but I wish to ask why it was that the Select Committee just took it for granted that Members of Parliament should not be on this Board. I do not know even what the position is in regard to the Race Relations Board. I do not know whether or not there are Members of Parliament on that Board; but I should have thought this was the sort of area where that point was worth considering. I should like to know whether it was merely a case in which it was decided that Members of Parliament were not suitable to be on the Board, bearing in mind it has been quite usual in the case of other Boards to include perhaps one or two Members of another place, representing different Parties. They might even have a Liberal Member of Parliament if their numbers go up. Therefore, it does not follow automatically that the Disqualification Act should be applied, provided you have certain members who do not receive remuneration. I think I am correct in saying that. This Schedule is one which I think is satisfactory, but I suspect that it is one to which, again, when the Government come to consider it, they might wish to do something. The noble Viscount might like to give us one of his valuable interventions at this moment, but perhaps he would prefer to hear from the noble Baroness first.


I believe that the reason for this is the question of payment to the members of the Board: the fact that we anticipate that the work of the Board will be time-consuming and will impinge upon many other important matters to which they will wish to attend and indeed will have to attend. This is perhaps a matter which could be dealt with at Report stage. If it is felt that some Amendment should be made, then perhaps a noble Lord will put down such an Amendment.

5.55 p.m.


I will certainly rise for my third intervention. Perhaps I should just say (because I may have been thought unnecessarily discourteous) that of course I was always prepared to discuss the specific Amendments on the Paper. It was just that, in view of what I had said to your Lordships' House before we resolved ourselves into a Committee, I did not want to be drawn too far on the Motions that the various clauses stand part. That was the main reason for what I think various people interpreted as being a discourtesy, and for which I am very sorry. Of course, the whole of the constitution and functions of a Board under the legislation that I undertook to produce at the earliest opportunity would be very important, but we have first of all to decide—and this was the third part of my speech—what are the various organisations or bodies that we should wish to set up. Is there to be a combined conciliation and enforcement body; or is there to be one of each, rather as in the case of race relations; or what is there to be? I really think it would be to put the cart before the horse for me to say that this Schedule in this particular form, with the inclusion of paid members, or the total inclusion of paid members, is right, because we might want some entirely different apparatus. Some may be part-time and non-paid; but we should have a look at functions before we looked at membership, in rather the same fashion as I think the noble Lord opposite was once inclined to look at the position of this House itself. I think we have to do it that way round, and certainly this is something we shall consider very carefully.


I am grateful for the noble Viscount's intervention. It struck me from what the noble Baroness said—and again I pay tribute to the work of the Select Committee—that they had not thought about all the implications of this, and I think we could have had an interesting debate. I can see a strong case for possibly a slightly bigger Board which would include a certain number of part-timers. I would certainly not wish automatically to rule out Members of another place.

So far as the noble Viscount's intervention and his apology is concerned, he has had a slightly rough time of it to-day, but this is all good for his soul and satisfactory to us. I am sorry, again, that my noble friend Lady Wootton is not here. Last time I could not answer her because I felt it unfair as she was in the Chair. But before we leave this Committee stage I am bound to say—and I think the Government agree—that the procedure on this Bill has been a very great success story. The fact that the Government, who previously were much cooler, had not been able to announce what they were going to do (I seem to remember that I was totally dissatisfied with the Government's reply on Second Reading) is a measure of that success. It is not the disaster which my noble friend Lady Wootton said it was. I really think, in the interests of the members of the committee, who laboured very long and very hard, that they can be extremely pleased. The great thing is that if we now complete the Committee stage and get this Bill through—and I apologise for what is, in a sense, almost a Third Reading speech, but it all seems to have come up to-day—then the Bill will have completed all its stages, and if the Government do not move for any reason, although they have given an absolutely clear-cut promise, then we have something with which to start pursuing them. I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his third intervention.

Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.