HL Deb 15 July 1975 vol 362 cc1113-221

3.15 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Earl of Listowel in the Chair.]

Clause 17 [Police]:

Baroness VICKERS moved Amendment No. 18: Page 13, line 14, leave out from ("childbirth,") to end of line 16.

The noble Baroness said: On behalf of my noble friends, I beg to move this Amendment. In doing so, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, about something he said yesterday at column 1058, which reads as follows: As a result of those representations, this clause was put in in another place, and nothing I have heard this afternoon would convince me that I should go back and tell the Department that it is quite wrong and they should reverse their decision. If this is the attitude which is to be taken regarding the Bill—in other words, that a Minister cannot go back to ask his Department for further advice—surely we are not going to get anywhere. I have always understood that the Minister was responsible for his Department, that he made the decisions and that the highly intelligent personnel in his Department were there to give him information and help. In the same column, I asked the Minister, "Why?" I did not get an answer, but perhaps the noble Lord did not hear me. It seems to be very unfortunate that a Minister cannot take responsibility for his own Department.

Having said that, I should like to tell your Lordships that this Amendment is a probing Amendment. We should like to know the reasons for taking out the part which deals with pensions in respect of special constables and police cadets. This is a rather confusing clause, and it was suggested that we might put down this Amendment in order to ascertain the reasons for the differences, particularly as regards special constables. Is it because they have different duties? I understand there might be differences in pensions, but surely the police cadets must be equally treated, girls and boys. I should be grateful for the Minister's answer, and I beg to move.


The noble Baroness was probably working on the assumption that my noble friend Lord Jacques would reply to this Amendment and therefore also to the question she put to him. All I can say in reply to what the noble Baroness has said is that I think what my noble friend was saying was that the matter had been discussed in another place and that if new arguments of significance had been put forward during the course of our debate he would have endeavoured to persuade the Department to change their decision. As I understand it, he was endeavouring to point out that the matter had been seriously considered on a number of occasions and that no new argument had been adduced.

On the point raised on this Amendment by the noble Baroness, I agree that this is rather a complex matter and I can understand the reason for putting down the Amendment. There does appear to be some discrimination against police cadets and special constables. The reason they are treated differently is that so far as pension regulations are concerned they come under different Acts of Parliament. The pension regulations in respect of special constables and cadets are made under the Police Act 1964. So far as police officers and women are concerned, their pension regulations are made under the Police Pensions Act 1948. Had we not put in the subsection referred to, there would have been a most anomalous result. The situation would have been that special constables and cadets would be treated in one way for pension purposes and constables would be treated in a totally different way; so the intention of this clause—though it might not appear to be so on the face of it—is to make sure that the entire police service are treated exactly the same for pension purposes.

Baroness VICKERS

I am grateful to the noble Lord for that explanation, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 17 and 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Ministers of religion etc.]:

3.20 p.m.

Baroness SEEAR moved Amendment No. 19: Page 14, line 40, leave out ("or avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of any of its followers").

The noble Baroness said: I realise that this Amendment is in some ways more controversial than any of the other Amendments before your Lordships, and even less a matter of Party politics than other matters we have been discussing. May I say at the outset—and I hope my reasons for saying this will be clear when I have finished—that if the Government will agree to take back this phrase and reconsider the wording I shall be happy not to divide the Committee on this issue. However, I shall find it difficult not to divide the Committee if the Government take the somewhat intransigent attitude which they took to our Amendments yesterday. In moving this Amendment, I speak as a member of the Anglican Communion and as one who was deeply disappointed at the recent Synod decision. When the matter was discussed in the Select Committee of your Lordships' House, it was suggested that the position in the Church was moving at such a rate that it was very likely that before long the question of the ordination of women would be resolved satisfactorily, from the point of view of those of us who have long wished to see this change come about. However, we learned only last week that this was not to be so.

So far as the first part of Clause 19 is concerned, I would entirely support the argument that there should be no interference whatsoever through Acts of Parliament on matters of doctrine. This to me would be quite unacceptable, but it is a matter which I do not propose to pursue this afternoon in your Lordships' House. It is an old historic argument of relations between Church and State, and I know where I stand in that matter. But it is to remove the last phrase, or avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of any of its followers that I am moving this Amendment. I realise that there are problems about ending this clause with the words, "doctrines of the religion". So far as the Anglican Church is concerned there are difficulties, because I believe—and I speak subject to correction—it is agreed inside the Anglican Church that there are no reasons of doctrine why women should not be ordained. So I assume that this clause has been added in order to continue to exempt the Church from the provisions of this Bill, when it has already admitted that there are no doctrinal reasons. It is the wording of this clause which many of us find objectionable.

It refers to "the religious susceptibilities of any of its followers" who object to the idea of women being ordained in the Church, but it ignores not the susceptibilities but the deep convictions of a considerable number of women—and I believe also of men—that women should have the opportunity to serve in this way. I speak this afternoon for a number of women whom I know personally, who would dearly like to devote their abilities, both intellectual and spiritual, to the service of the Church and are denied the opportunity to do this in any except the most limited way. It is their conviction that they wish to serve the Church in this way; they wish to support the faith of the Church and its work and they are being denied this, and will continue to be denied this, for fear of upsetting the religious susceptibilities of any other members of the Church.

I think it will be common ground among all that there is a shortage of people prepared to come forward to do the work of the Church, and it seems to us who support the ordination of women more than ridiculous—indeed, damaging to the work of the Church—that half the human race should be denied full participation in that work. We maintain that this is a conviction whose importance goes far deeper than the susceptibilities of certain individuals who may dislike the idea of seeing women in this capacity. I would also draw your Lordships' attention to the extraordinary end of this phrase, offending the religious susceptibilities of any of its followers". How long, O Lord, how long, if we are to wait until there are no followers who object to the ordination of women!

I was privileged by the friendship of a really remarkable woman Congregational minister, the Reverend Mary Webster, who used to recall that on one occasion when she was preaching in a church she was deprived of the assistance of the organist, because before the sermon he marched out announcing that he could not hear the Word of God preached by a woman without a hat. If we are to wait until such persons are converted, we shall wait until all eternity—and that is much too long. If the Government say that they will take back this phrase and see whether they can reword it in a way which is less extreme and less offensive to the sincere women whom the Churches now need, then I will not press this Amendment to a Division. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of SOUTHWELL

I am sure your Lordships will expect me to intervene in this debate, and I should like to do so. However, I do so with one major misgiving, in that in this instance I shall appear to be speaking for the Church of England alone rather than on behalf of all the Churches. This Amendment seems to me to be trying to put the Church of England on the spot in a way that will not affect the other Churches. I am sure that the proposers of this Amendment did not intend anything malicious in that way; it is just working out in that way.

If I understand the Amendment aright, it is not seeking to deny any Church the right to define its doctrine. Any major Church, having declared its mind on an issue, may be deemed to have clarified or redefined its doctrine. This Amendment seems intended to prevent a Church—if I may use that term for religious bodies of all faiths—from continuing to discriminate between the sexes because a minority claims that its religious susceptibilities are being threatened. I hope I understood aright the intention of the proposers of this Amendment as I think I do having heard the noble Baroness move it. But if I do not, it is still a fair interpretation of the Amendment to say that the consequences for the Church of England at this time would be immense. It would mean that the Church of England could be acting illegally if it maintained its present stance of refusing to ordain women for the priesthood now.

As your Lordships are probably well aware, the Church of England has recently declared its mind on this matter. May I be allowed to spell out what it actually did. In this matter I think I can speak with some hope of sympathy from your Lordships when I say that in the debates in our General Synod I voted not only for the motion that there is no fundamental objection to the ordination of women, but also in favour of the motion that women should not be debarred from ordination now but should now be allowed to be ordained. All three Houses in the General Synod—that is, the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity—voting separately but in agreement, agreed that there is no fundamental objection to the ordination of women. It may be said, therefore, that the Church of England has redefined its doctrine. But the majority by which that decision was agreed still left a very large minority against such a view. In all 255 people voted in favour; 185 against, with 5 abstentions. That is no small minority.

In the face of that vote we had to decide whether to go ahead; whether to overrule the feelings of so large a minority and change the practice of our Church, a practice which has been in existence from as far back as we can discover. The Church of England General Synod by its next vote did not feel that it was justified in being so insensitive as to overrule tender consciences to that extent. It therefore voted, by 226 votes to 184, with one abstention, not to proceed to lift the legal barriers to the ordination of women in the Church of England. As I say, although I myself voted for the lifting of the barriers, I must agree that it would hurt the Church of England greatly if at this time we were to proceed in the face of that expression of contrary opinion. In this case the General Synod echoed exactly the feelings of the Church at large as expressed in the diocesan and ruridecanal synods up and down the country.

This leaves the Church of England in a difficult position so far as this Amendment is concerned. We have defined our doctrine as in favour of the ordination of women and we have declared ourselves in the interests of charity unready to act on that assumption. Are we then acting merely in accordance with the religious susceptibilities of our adherents rather than according to our defined doctrine? I submit that in the terms of this Amendment we may well be deemed to be doing just that. Certainly the removal of these words from the Bill leaves the Church of England unprotected. We should be acting illegally if we failed to ordain women who presented themselves for ordination and who in good faith we might feel were wholly acceptable in themselves for that ministry. I ask: does this House really want to push the Church of England along in this way? It may be said that the views of the minority in the Church of England are irrational, that they are not soundly based theologically. But they themselves believe themselves to be acting wholly conscientiously and wholly theologically; and who is to determine what are doctrinal objections and what are irrational religious susceptibilities? I can hardly think that any body of persons set up by the State would wish to be arbiter in that kind of discussion.

This Amendment does not affect those three Churches which have already decided to accept women as ministers alongside men. It does not affect the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church, or any other Church which has defined its doctrine as being such that women are unable to be ordained to the priesthood. It is only the Church of England which is being affected—and that because it has been courageous enough to try to change its practice. Do your Lordships really wish to treat the Church of England in this way?

We live in times of great religious ferment. Changes are taking place in all the Churches of Christendom at a pace which a few years ago would, I believe, have been thought to be incredible. In particular, the Church of England is being accused, not of being too slow in the changes it is making, but of being too fast. Indeed, many of your Lordships may remember the debate which took place in this Chamber not so very long ago on the Church of England Worship and Doctrine Measure, where we were in a sense being urged that our changes were too fast and too far and that we were creating dangerous anxieties. I hope that this House will not push the Church of England too far and too fast. We are trying to change and are trying to take folk along with us in our changes. And I would ask this House to remember that we have the responsibility of considering not only those who go to church but those who do not and still require of us the duty of fulfilling the function of providing a religious reference for every person at each point in life. Many outside the ranks of regular worshippers are not convinced yet that they want women as their parish priests, and we must allow time for what may be regarded as no more than religious susceptibilities to change.

Yet, having said this, what is wrong with religious susceptibilities? It is not easy to separate in the realm of religion the emotional content from the doctrinal. We are dealing here with the whole realm of support for individuals in that area of life in which they have to face the imponderables of life and death. It may be that some of our fears about life and death are irrational, but they cannot therefore be disregarded. I contend that this nation at this particular time is suffering from feeling unsupported at this very point by the fact that the Church is being attacked as irrelevant to modern man and there is no one else around to help him to whom he wishes to turn.

The Church of England at this time has decided in its General Synod that not to act over the ordination of women at this time must not be a final decision. It should not be a closing of the door for the foreseeable future. We decided in Synod that the bishops must reopen the issue as soon as there is a chance of the Church's being able to accept the change that we should like to see made. We also decided that discussion should be initiated with our friends in the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Free Churches, with a view to trying to obtain agreement in moving towards the ordination of women in the whole of Christendom. In my view, it will be many years before the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church change their practice. But we in the Church of England want to be sure that in going forward as we wish to do we are not going to put up inseparable barriers between ourselves and our Roman Catholic and Orthodox co-religionists. We want to go forward with them. We want to go forward with their knowledge, with their good will, and without endangering the chance of breaking Communion with them.

I hope that in this perhaps over-long speech I have succeeded in making clear some of the implications of this Amendment for the Church of England. Those of us who sit on these Benches are entirely behind this Bill, as I believe indeed are the majority of this Committee. We ask you to be patient with the Churches. We believe in all branches of Christendom that the ordination of women to the priesthood is a theological matter, not a matter of "women's Lib." That fact is indeed enshrined in this Bill, in that the sincere doctrinal formularies of the Church are to be respected. I hope your Lordships will allow the Churches to change without political pressure, for political pressure is what this Amendment may well be deemed to be. I know that your Lordships would not wish to presume to alter the Church's views by Act of Parliament. To alter the Church's practice by Act of Parliament at a time when contrary opinions are unresolved would, I think, be resented very strongly by Church folk.

In the light of all this, I hope that the Committee will look very carefully at the implications of this Amendment and that it will leave the Bill as it is.


Before the right reverend Prelate sits down, I wonder whether he would give the Committee the benefit of his observation on a point which was made by the noble Baroness regarding the significance of the word "any" in the original draft of the Bill. Are we to understand that the right reverend Prelate insists, so to speak, on a liberum veto?

The Lord Bishop of SOUTHWELL

I do not think that the Church of England would deem itself to be inhibited from ordaining women if there was a very tiny majority against it. Certainly we endeavour to conduct our affairs in line with what we feel to be the majority view as determined by our General Synod. In fact, in matters of this kind we are required to have certain majorities of voting in the different Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity. It is meant to be a two-thirds majority. So there could be certain people—and not a very tiny majority—who would still perhaps be unwilling to allow the ordination of women, but who would presumably be overruled by a decision of the General Synod which voted in that kind of proportion.


Again before the right reverend Prelate sits down, with the leave of the Committee may I ask him to be good enough to amplify his indication that there were certain difficulties about breaking Communion. As I understand it, for a variety of reasons his Church disallows people to have Communion in the Church of England. Therefore, I find myself a little bewildered about his submissions in support of his argument relating to the breaking of Communion.

The Lord Bishop of SOUTHWELL

I think that my remarks on Communion were misunderstood. The point I am seeking to make is this. At this time, to a greater and growing degree, we are endeavouring to establish relationships of Communion with our other Churches. We are not officially in Communion with the Roman Catholic Church, but we do not wish to act in a way that will drive us further apart. This is the point I was trying to make and I believe your Lordships will have some sympathy with that view.


I am very much obliged to the right reverend Prelate.

The Earl of ARRAN

I support this Amendment, the purpose of which, I understand, is to encourage the ordination of female ministers in the Anglican Communion. I do this for two quite simple and naïve reasons. I honestly believe—and perhaps your Lordships will forgive me for generalising—that on the whole women tend to be nicer, more important and nearer to God than men. That they are gentler nobody will deny. I hope I shall not offend any of the male Members of your Lordships' House by saying this. I know the practical arguments against the ordination of women. One is that for the Anglican Church to take a line which is opposed to that of the Roman Church would hinder the cause of ecumenism. I am a strong ecumenist. About 12 years ago I had the honour of introducing a debate on this subject in your Lordships' House in which I never thought to hear Catholics and Protestants speak with such charity towards each other. It saw the beginning of the movement which, under the late Lord Fisher of Lambeth and the Holy Father, Pope John, has gained in strength and is slowly but surely crossing all barriers.

However, at the risk of seeming controversial, should not we Anglicans have the chance to point out where we believe that our Catholic brothers may have gone astray? Is it not a fact that nuns dedicate themselves to chastity and to God? Is it wrong and demeanful that the Roman Church respects women equally with men? Should not we, for a change, show the way, in the hope that we may be followed by our friends in Rome? If asked which is the more important—Christian unity or the introduction of a practice to which one section of the Church may be opposed—I find it very hard to make up my mind. Heaven knows, there is nothing that I would regard as more evil than to hinder in any way the ecumenical movement. There are many paths to God. Who of us is to say that he or she has followed the right one?

The second argument is that the Anglican Synod has declared itself in principle for the admission of women into the ministry and it is up to the Anglican Church to decide for itself when that moment has arrived. It has got nothing to do with Parliament. I have no wish to intervene between Church and State, but perhaps with appropriate humility we may attempt to expedite the business; and with due respect for the ultimate truth, which I believe to be the Christian truth, I ask your Lordships to vote in favour of the Amendment.


May I make one small point which is of direct relevance to this Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, pointed out the difficulty of the word "any". If the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, were able to find words such as "a substantial number of any of its followers", or another legal phrase which means that, I think we should all be happy to agree with this Amendment. The right reverend Prelate explained the matter to us very clearly, and what we want is to find some words which mean "a substantial number".


As a practising member of the Anglican Church—which I noticed was a phrase that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, could use, but the right reverend Prelate did not seem to be able to use—it seems to me that there is no reason why the Anglican Church should take the very narrow view he put forward. Mr. Hugh Scanlon could have made the very speech which he made: "Don't take me too far; my majority is not yet big enough. Don't get me into trouble with Mr. Jack Jones; allow me to take it in my way". With great respect, I do not think that that is a very persuasive view for the Anglican Church to take. The only religious episcopal support that he has for his view is Paul. It was Saul of Tarsus who ruled it out. It was not Christ the founder. It was no other member of the original Apostles. Paul invented this much later, and the right reverend Prelate is, in fact, taking about as reactionary a stance as anybody could.

There is no reason why women should not be ministers in the Anglican Church, and I beg the right reverend Prelate in future, if he wishes to carry me with him, to use our actual title. It may be he cannot go so far as to say "AngloCatholic", but then we are Catholics in our Church. However, if he cannot get as far as that he can at least say "Anglican". There is no reason why we in the Anglo-Catholic Church should refuse to be ministered to by women. Indeed, as the noble Earl, Lord Arran, said, we are ministered to by women but we prefer to call them by some other name than ministers or priests. I urge upon the right reverend Prelate that there is no reason why we should go at the slowest pace of the slowest person in the Anglican Church. We have this problem in the trade union movement. I have the joy of belonging to both; I sometimes get equally fed up with them. Therefore, as an Anglo-Catholic, as a member of the Anglican Church, I fully support this Amendment and I see no good Christian or Anglican reason why he should not, except that he is among the reactionary members of our Church.

3.51 p.m.


I think this debate is moving on too many levels. Would it not be rather better if we were to conduct the whole debate about the ordination of women on the Question, Whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill? That in fact raises the whole problem. This is a fairly small Amendment to the clause and it is not really a debate about the ordination of women. I should be delighted to enter into such a debate with the right reverend Prelate. I think I could give him fair answers to the points he has made, although it would probably be a fairly useless task since I suspect that he could give them himself, judging by his voting record on this matter.

What we are talking about, however, is not putting the Church of England "on the spot", which I thought was a slightly unworthy imputation of the motives of those of us who tabled this Amendment. It is not that at all; it is not the ordination of women. It is about the law of the land and the relationship of the law of the land to minority groups on this matter of the equality of the sexes. In this House, and in Parliament in general, we often distinguish between offending against the doctrines of a religious body and offending against some of the feelings of that religious body. Whether we make judgments as to whether or not those feelings are well based, we still have to make judgments about passing the law. We do it, for instance, when we are talking about Jehovah's Witnesses and their beliefs about treatment for children; we do it when we have to discuss the problem of Sikhs and motor cycle helmets; we do it when we have to discuss the problem of Sunday shop opening and Sabbatarians. These are judgments we are constantly making; there is nothing unusual about them, but we go out of our way to say that Parliament will not legislate against the doctrines of a body, although it does reserve the right to discriminate between those accretions to fundamental doctrine which have grown up and which we, in our wisdom or our folly, consider should not in fact be pandered to, to the extent of making them exceptions to the law of the land.

We are now passing an extremely important Bill concerning the equality of women and we are endeavouring as much as possible to make it an absolutely straightforward Bill which lays down a basic overwhelming principle. In the religious field we quite rightly say that we can find an exception; that where a Church or a religion of any kind has doctrines on this matter we must not legislate against those doctrines. But it is an entirely different matter when we are dealing with something which is considerably less than doctrine and concerns a particular case. Here I do have to become particular, because it is a particular case that has been raised at this moment and is probably the main outstanding case, although I should not be surprised if there were others in other religions. But in this particular case which we are considering it has in fact just been acknowledged not to be a doctrine.

The right reverend Prelate said that the Church of England was being attacked because it had not been courageous enough to change its practice. I imagine that was a slip of the tongue for "change its doctrine'. The right reverend Prelate is indicating that such is the case, because what the Church is being attacked for—if it is being attacked at all, and that is only incidental to the process of law-making on which we are embarked—is because it is not courageous enough to change its practice to go with its doctrine, and not courageous enough to follow the idea that I should have thought was central to all religious belief, that behaviour stems from doctrine, that morals stem from belief and that behaviour should be governed by what we believe. But as I have said, I think that is the minor point.

I believe the major point is that it is not the doctrine of the Church of England against which we are asked to legislate. It is something far less, and if, as the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, has suggested, it was the feeling of trade unions, or if it was of other bodies or a body less important than the Church of England—because as I have mentioned before we in fact legislate against the beliefs of Sabbatarians all the time—we should not hesitate to resist the idea that the last few lines in this clause should be taken out.

I feel very strongly that they should be taken out, not because of my belief in the ordination of women, which is absolute, but because I do not believe that there is a case for making an exemption against a law which is good in itself and for bending the law in this way for as light a reason as this is seen to be before the general principle that we are discussing. That is the reason why I hope we shall take these words out, and at the very least I urge the Government to find some other method of phrasing them if they have to stay in, because as my noble friend Lady Seear has said, it is offensive for the law of the land to be set aside on the religious susceptibilities of any member of any Church or religion, which is what this clause, as it stands, says. It says that the general principle that we are embodying in this Bill is to be set aside because one person of any Church, of any religion, has his or her religious susceptibilities infringed. I do not think that is the way we should make laws, and I hope the Committee will accept this Amendment.


I should like to intervene for a moment to say that I find myself in almost complete agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and my noble friend Lord George-Brown have said. I am a firm believer in the ordination of women and I was disappointed in the speech made by the right reverend Prelate, whom I thought put up a not very strong case against this Amendment. I would support the Amendment. My view is that it is entirely a matter for this Committee and for Parliament to decide. While your Lordships will doubtless have respect for what the General Synod has said, my view is that even if the Synod has decided that there is a doctrinal objection to the ordination of women, that would not have been conclusive; it would still have been open to this Committee and the duty of this Committee to express its own view upon this Amendment.

I think this is a matter which is of far too great importance to be left to the General Synod; I think it is a matter for legislation and for legislators to decide as a matter of the law of the land. But I think in coming to a conclusion, as I hope we shall, to support this Amendment we are at least heartened by the fact that the General Synod has expressed itself sympathetic to it, in that it has decided that there is no doctrinal objection to the ordination of women, a view to which I subscribe.

I think one of the arguments that the right reverend Prelate used in opposition to this Amendment was that he thought that if the ordination of women in the Anglican Church, of which I am a member took place, to paraphrase his words, it would be an almost insuperable objection to the cause of reunion with other Churches, notably the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. I do not believe that for a moment. I think it is a completely fallacious doctrine. I do not think it would be an objection, let alone an insuperable objection, but even if it were, I would not regard that as a valid reason for opposing the ordination of women.

As I understand it, if the Anglican Church decides, on doctrinal grounds, on rational grounds, on grounds based on changes taking place in society today, that the ordination of women is right, as I think it has so decided, then it is the duty of the Church of England to give effect to that opinion and not be afraid of doing so because of a fear that it might—I do not think it would—postpone reunion of the Churches. I am at least as enthusiastic about the ecumenical movement and the cause of ecumenism, and improved relationship and communion between all Christian Churches, as I am in favour of the ordination of women. I do not believe that that cause, for which I have great enthusiasm, would be in any way postponed or robbed of the impetus it is now being given if the Church of England, occupying a very special position in the theology of Christendom, as it has done for many years, were to take the initiative and take the courageous decision which I think it ought to take. In so far as it may be said—not on this matter but on some matters—that there is, or may be, a conflict between the Church and the State, then on matters of this kind, which may be controversial between the Church and the State, I adhere to the view that Parliament has not only the right but the duty to express its own opinion. In this case it is fortified in doing so, and in supporting this Amendment, by the fact that it is acting in accordance with a substantial majority of opinion expressed in the General Synod.


Perhaps somebody should remind your Lordships that the Select Committee of this House spent some little time on this. We had a Memorandum from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury pleading for exemption from the whole of the Bill for the Church of England as an employer, and we had the advantage of oral evidence from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, now the Bishop of London. I pointed out to him that this claim could not rationally be made, because, of course, the Church of England employs masses of clerks and cleaners and all sorts of people. He agreed that it was infelicitously expressed and that they really meant to confine it to the clergy. So far as the clergy are concerned, I think there was no member of the Committee who was against the appointment of women clergy. But we felt that this is a point on which people have strong religious views and therefore in our Report, to which, of course, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was a party, we said in paragraph 103(a): In all the circumstances it seemed to the Committee appropriate that the Act should not apply to priests or ministers of any denomination, nor to their training or education. This exemption should not, of course, apply to religious bodies in relation to their lay employees. The point I wish to raise is that this clause as drafted is extraordinarily general. I suppose the Government had some reason for departing from the simple form of clause that we suggested. It applies to "employment for purposes of an organised religion". It is in no way limited to ministers or clergy. As I read the clause, it means that if it offended the religious susceptibilities of any mem- ber of the Church of England to find in Church a woman organist, the Church of England would then be fully entitled in law to discriminate against women organists. Perhaps when my noble friend comes to reply he will tell us whether that is really what is intended.

Viscount GAGE

I was for many years a member of the Joint Parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee of your Lordships' House, the object of which was to warn Parliament where its privileges were likely to be in some way affected. This seems to be the case in reverse. Parliament is now being asked to do something which greatly affects the Church. I am just wondering whether Parliament can insist on doing anything quite so drastic as this, in a matter which has been considered one of the most controversial matters to come before the Synod. Where is the process to end? Is Parliament to insist on making every kind of direction about the way in which the Church should conduct its affairs? I must confess that I have a great deal of sympathy with what the right reverend Prelate said. Before this debate we have been warned that we could not give any detailed instructions in this House to nationalised industries, but apparently we can give all sorts of instruction to the Church of England as to how to conduct its affairs. I hope that at least we shall get a compromise on this matter.


I, too, should like to support the right reverend Prelate and my noble friend Lord Gage. I am wondering whether this is the time for women to be accepted as priests in the Church of England, and it is certainly not the State's part to insist on this. This is an entirely ecclesiastical affair. It has been before the Synod more than once, and they have decided it is not the time to accept women for ordination. I think it would be far better left as it is. This Bill seeks to force the, hand of the General Synod, which has decided it is not the time to accept women for ordination. If this Amendment is put to the vote, I shall certainly vote against it.


I wonder whether I may intervene at this point. I wish to do so on one of the more lowly levels of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. I understand entirely why the Government have provided for an exception; the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, explained this. I think had we been the Government we should have done the same. There are a few problems which arise out of the Amendment itself, and it might be helpful if the Committee could be told, before we finally decide what to do about it, the answers to one or two questions. First, is it right, as the right reverend Prelate said—I assume it is—that the effect of this Amendment would probably impinge only upon the Church of England, and that by doctrine rather than by religious susceptibility the other Churches would still be prevented from having ordained (or whatever the other term is) women as their priests? There are noble Lords here who are not solely concerned with the Church of England, and we should like to know whether, by leaving out the words that the noble Baroness is talking about, we still provide adequate protection on doctrinal grounds to other Churches.

The second point that worries me, and I hope that this is not just a matter of words, is this. This clause applies to women organists, cleaners, clerks in the diocese offices, and goodness knows who else in any other religion, and I am worried about an even more fundamental point, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will be able to answer on this. What is exempted here is employment, and that is defined in this Bill at Clause 77, where it says: 'employment' means employment under a contract of service or of apprenticeship or a contract personally to execute any work or labour …". I know that the context may otherwise require, and that this may be a case of it, but I have been having a whispered conversation with my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn and he thinks that upon ordination ministers in the Church of Scotland are certainly not employed by the Church of Scotland. I strongly suspect that at the stage of ordination people are not employed by the Church of England either, in which case this clause does not bite at all upon the situation which the Committee has been talking about, and we shall have the whole question raised in front of an industrial tribunal or a county court. It is fundamental to know whether "employment" includes ordination. That is the first stage.

I do not suppose it very much matters which religion or branch of the Church we are talking about, but does "employment" include the appointment to a living, or whatever the equivalent is in some other religion? I do not think—though I am subject to correction on this—that anybody employs the rector in my village. I believe he pays self-employed National Insurance stamps. Certainly, at the moment, the patron appoints him to the living, and the parochial church council has a certain amount of influence on what he does, although not perhaps very much, but I do not believe that anybody employs him. Therefore, if we come to the stage when the Church of England—and I talk about that for the moment—decides that women may be ordained, will it still not be possible for a parochial church council or a patron who takes a strong line on the religious susceptibilities, to say, "No, this woman shall not come to this living," and will the exemption in this clause still not cover that situation because it is not a matter of employment?

If that is right, and I do not know whether or not it is, then the Amendment does not begin to affect the fundamental question that the noble Baroness intended to get at and at which the whole debate has been directed. Therefore, I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Harris, would deal with this. I appreciate that it might be just a nasty legal quibble, but if I am right there is a fundamental flaw in the whole clause and in the exception that is intended to be created by it.

4.14 p.m.


I do not think anyone who has heard this debate will doubt that this is an important question which has divided Members of your Lordships' House who are members of the same church. This was emphasised by the speeches of the right reverend Prelate and of my noble friends Lord George-Brown and Lord Fletcher. I would first talk about the substance of the matter which is being discussed, and then about some of the questions of phraseology. As I think the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, would concede, what we are discussing here is a question not of phraseology but of substance. On one aspect of the matter I hope I shall be able to meet her—that is a point which has been touched on in a number of speeches this afternoon—and that is on the use of the word "any".

On the central question, the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, asked about the position of Churches other than the Church of England. I think that he was right. I do not believe that this would simply bite on the Anglican Church for a reason which I shall explain in a moment. In my view, the Amendment could lead to a situation which affected not only the Church of England but the Roman Catholic Church, and certainly the Moslem and Sikh religions, which is not a point of unimportance given the substantial other religious communities we now have in this country. We now have to recognise the importance of this issue to supporters of those faiths. I think that all these churches could well be affected if the Amendment were carried this afternoon, and I say that for reasons which I shall explain.

Before coming to the precise way in which this matter would be tested, I should say that it is recognised, both in the Western World in particular and in general, that people should be allowed to practise their religion freely and in their own way. This is, after all, enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it is important to recognise that fact. It is important when discussing this whole issue to look at the practical effect of carrying this Amendment this afternoon, and this comes to the point which the noble Viscount raised a moment ago. If the Amendment were carried, the question to be determined would simply be: what is the doctrine of the religion?

But in many Churches there is debate not only on what the doctrine should be but on what the doctrine is, and it is this area which would have to be discussed. But by what sort of organisation? Would it be discussed by an industrial tribunal? There are many places where matters of religious doctrine should be debated and adjudicated upon, but it was not until this afternoon that it occurred to me that the most appropriate way of examining this issue is before an industrial tribunal. I must emphasise that if this Amendment were carried that would inevitably be the effect. The tribunal would have to decide on the central doctrinal issue. There would be debate before the tribunal in certain circumstances, and not just, as the noble Viscount rightly said, by members of the Anglican Communion; there could be, at some stage in the future, minority and majority opinions in the Roman Catholic Church, and certainly in the Moslem and Sikh religions and in other religions. It does not seem to me that this is the right way of approaching this general question.

The clause as drafted would require a person claiming benefit of the exception to establish that any discriminatory action was taken to avoid giving offence to the religious susceptibilities of the people concerned; normally, those members of a particular church, chapel, or temple. But I freely concede—and this point was made by a number of speakers this afternoon and was touched on by my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, although he was making a slightly different point—that some part of the phraseology of this clause is not necessarily in the most perfect possible condition.

I should certainly like to look at the point raised by the noble Viscount at the end of his speech. He will not be surprised that I should like to look at this matter rather carefully. In any event, we should want to look at the use of the word "any", because I take the point that this could lead to an unfortunate development in the situation. As my noble and learned friend acknowledged, it is extremely difficult to get this precise formulation right. We shall look at the matter carefully, but I must make it wholly clear that in so doing I could not agree to the substance of the argument developed by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. But before Report we will consider the narrower question of the precise way in which the matter should be put in the clause.


I am not an authority on Church matters, nor an authority on women. I am not against women, and I do not wish to discriminate against them in any way. But if women are ordained to the priesthood, I think it will follow that sooner or later they will want to be given a parish. What would the parishioners then do when one child after another appeared on the scene? Would they have to go to the neighbouring parish to find a priest to carry out the necessary duties, or would the parish have to pay for another priest to come into the parish? What would be the situation?


Has the noble Lord considered the fact that women doctors also have children, yet somehow they manage? It is a curious thing that you can be consulted, and still be a mother, and give excellent advice.


With all due respect to the noble Baroness, where Holy Communion can be given only by ordained priests, it might not be easy to whistle up a priest from another parish which, in a country area, might be 10 miles away.


I think that they will arrange that all right, once we get in.

Baroness SEEAR

I am sure it will be agreed that we have had a useful debate which has revealed that there are points in this whole clause which need further examination. I gather from what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said, that he is prepared to look at the clause again, although he does not agree with the main substance of what I have been saying. A number of points raised this afternoon will give him cause to think, and in view of the useful exploration of the whole matter and the Minister's promise to look at the whole clause, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 agreed to.

4.23 p.m.

Viscount COLVILLE of CULROSS moved Amendment No. 20: After Clause 19, insert the following new clause:


Nothing in this Part applies to employment for purposes of the college or hall of a university where the employment is limited to women as so to preserve and to increase the opportunities for employment open to women.

The noble Viscount said: My noble friend Lady Young is the expert on this subject. From having read the debate on a similar Amendment in another place, I am vaguely aware of what the subject matter is, but I am greatly sustained by noting Amendment No. 26 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—I think I am referring to the correct Amendment—to which she will no doubt be speaking in due course. Since my noble friend Lady Young has had to leave the Committee for the moment, would it be acceptable to the Committee if I were to move this Amendment formally, and then invite the noble Baroness to make a speech on the subject, since it is also the subject matter of one of her own Amendments? I beg to move.

Baroness SEEAR

I wish to give a very brief explanation. This Amendment and Amendment No. 26 deal with the same problem. It concerns the situation which arises in the interim period when a single-sex college is going over to catering for both sexes. If when a single-sex college is taking in members of the other sex—and is permitted so to do because this is allowed in the legislation—if it is not at the same time permitted that it should discriminate in favour of the minority sex in terms of members of the staff, then there will be an imbalance in the teaching staff in that institution, which having previously been single-sex ceases to be single-sex.

As I am sure a number of your Lordships will be aware, this situation has arisen particularly in connection with the Oxford and Cambridge colleges. If a Cambridge college, which has previously been exclusively a male college, begins to take in young women undergraduates but is not permitted to discriminate in favour of women in the matter of fellowships and members of the staff, then it is highly probable that the college will have women students in increasing numbers but that the staff will not similarly comprise members of both sexes. It is suggested that this exception—and it is an exception—should be granted only for the interim period, while the college is building up its staff in line with its new responsibilities; otherwise the situation will act very adversely in relation to both the staffing of a college and the position of women seeking fellowships.


Although the noble Baroness has dealt in effect with two clauses, I wish to deal at the moment with Amendment No. 20. The White Paper published last September was called Equality for Women, and this is what we are concerned with in this Bill. Our aim in the field of employment is that a woman should not be discriminated against because she is a woman. A candidate for a post should be considered on his, or her, merits, and the best candidate should get the post, irrespective of sex. This is the basic point of principle. We are not attempting to legislate that there should be discrimination in favour of women when candidates are being considered for a post. Yet this essentially is what the new clause is aiming to do.

At the end of 1972 (the last date for which published figures are available) the full-time teaching and research staff in universities comprised nearly 4,000 women and about 32,000 men. We should all obviously wish to see the number of women increased, but it is questionable whether the cause of better opportunities for women is served by protective legislation. Particularly in the university field, I should have thought that most women would prefer to be able to say, "I got the post because I was the best candidate", than to say, "I got the post not because I was the best candidate, but because I was a woman". I accept that it is desirable that a single-sex college going co-residential, or co-educational, which also has a single-sex staff, should recruit some members of staff of the opposite sex. Clause 7(e) of the Bill makes this possible because it is a genuine occupational qualification where, the holder of the job provides individuals with personal services promoting their welfare or education, or similar personal services, and those services can most effectively be provided by a man". In the context of that clause for "man" we should alternatively read "woman". I am confident that under this clause the appointment of women tutors to the stall of a college which has previously been a man's college would be possible. But the Government cannot accept that, as is intended under the new clause, there should be discrimination in favour of women so long as the college considered this was necessary, as the new clause says, to preserve and to increase the opportunities for employment open to women". Where does one stop—when half the staff are women? Any form of quota of this kind would be out of keeping with the spirit of the Bill which, I repeat, is concerned with equal opportunities.

The clause applies to colleges and halls of universities, but if the principle were accepted, what is the logical reason for confining the exception here proposed to universities? If it was extended to professions or areas of employment where women were in a minority, then a coach and horses would be driven through the Bill.

Finally, I regard the clause as drafted as defeatist, and this is a surprising attitude for the exceptionally gifted and able women who teach in universities. It is from the light blues that this clause has originated, and three colleges in Cambridge are already co-residential and four more plan to become so by 1978. But under the Bill, the remaining 17 men's colleges will, in the appointment of staff, not be permitted to discriminate against women. The opportunities for women should therefore be increased, not diminished, and it is for women to seize those opportunities. In view of what I have said, I hope the noble Lord will be prepared, on behalf of the noble Baroness, to withdraw the Amendment.


My noble friend has advanced a very convincing argument against this clause. I am never really certain whether when an argument is convincing it should be regarded as correct. I have had great difficulty over many years in universities—and not in one but in many—in dealing with the whole problem of recruiting women on to the staff. It is a very difficult problem because it is quite easy to say that we treat them all in exactly the same way but, the moment we do so, we almost invariably discriminate against women.

In my own subject of chemistry, if one has a woman who is a good chemist, who is well trained and who is working in the university and that woman has a child or two or three children, that means that time has necessarily been lost by that woman from her purely academic work. In consequence, when it comes to seeking new employment it will turn out that she will apply for a position and it will be found that she has not published as much original work as the man who has not been so distracted, if I may put it like that. If one likes to say so, she has been forced to do some other duty. In consequence, the selection committee will, with the best will in the world, when looking at the short list in front of it, choose the man. I have frequently wanted to recruit women on to the staff of my department—a chemistry department—but in the whole of my active university life I succeeded in recruiting only three because it was extremely difficult to get women who had the qualifications in terms of their active research work.

If we do not allow a certain degree of positive discrimination in favour of women, I believe that any sex discrimination legislation will be discriminatory and that it will discriminate against women. I am quite sure that, if one throws tile whole position absolutely open, a college, which started by being a women's college and which recruited a number of women who did perfectly good work though they were not perhaps all of them absolutely outstanding in achievement in their subjects because they had other duties, would, if it were turned into one which was open to both men and women and if it were laid down that there must be no discrimination at all, end with a majority of male staff. There is at least one institution in the University of London in which this has already occurred.

I feel that we should be extremely careful about this. I believe that there should be, at least for a certain period of settling down, some right to discriminate in favour of women. Otherwise, I believe we shall be discriminating against women.


I want to say only a few words on this point. I have had a little experience in this field and I feel that it would not be at all a kindness to women to discriminate in their favour in this field. In the old days, a great many people who went to universities did not care what sort of degree they got or whether they got a degree at all. Nowadays, the competition is very intense and it is embarrassing to be—as I have been—head of a college and to have the undergraduates saying that the tutor is not up to his work and that they want to be sent to someone else. I do not say that all men tutors are good or that all women tutors are bad, but it just seems to me that it would be unfortunate to give a handle to people to say that there has been discrimination here in favour of women and thus expose them—as I believe they would be exposed—to this unpleasant experience of having their own people asking to go to someone else.


The whole question of positive discrimination raised in this debate is fascinating. It has really been the object of most of the people responsible for the Bill that we should try to produce as little discrimination either way as possible as an end result. I believe that, though positive discrimination in legislation is sometimes necessary, it is so only on behalf of the really powerless and the very inarticulate. However, there is a case for positive discrimination during transitional periods. The noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, appeared to be speaking on the general problem during most of his speech, but towards the end he came down to the transitional point. Amendment No. 26 in the names of my noble friends and myself deals specifically with transitional periods in educational establishments, and I hope that the Government will look with favour upon it. The present Amendment, on the other hand, although it may be meant to deal with the transitional situation, does not say so. It goes a very great deal wider.

I wonder whether the best thing would not be for the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, if what they really want to achieve is positive discrimination during the transition period, to withdraw the Amendment at this stage and wait to see what happens to Amendment No. 26 when it comes before the Committee. When they know what the Government and your Lordships feel about it and if it gets anything of a fair wind, a similar Amendment could be put down on Report stage dealing with this sector and limited to transitional periods. That seems to me a possible way of approaching this problem.


I am inviting the noble Baroness to put any views which she may have to the Committee, but certainly, for my part, what I should like to do is to think about this and to discuss it with my noble friend Lady Young. Indeed, if we are to have another short debate on Amendment No. 26, what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has suggested will come to pass, so at this stage I feel that the best course is to beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 [Midwives]:

4.40 p.m.

Viscount COLVILLE of CULROSS moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 15, line 6, at beginning insert— ("The Secretary of State may by order provide for the coming into operation of the following amendments to the Midwives Act 1951 and the Midwives (Scotland) Act 1951—")

The noble Viscount said: This subject has been controversial right the way through this Bill, and indeed it was controversial in the consultative documents beforehand. It think it is the only area in the Bill that directly concerns the Department of Health and Social Security and it is therefore right that the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, should reply. There are two rather irreconcilable points of view which one has to consider on this matter. First, I have a considerable amount of sympathy for those who want to state in the Bill as a matter of principle that they wish to get rid of discrimination either way, wherever it can be found in the Statute Law.

Secondly, I have discovered by listening to some discussions with midwives, by reading correspondence that has been sent to me and to other Members of this House and, of course, by reading the Official Reports of debates in another place, that there are those who say that although one day it might be right to allow male midwives to carry out some or all of the roles that female midwives alone are now allowed to do, this is not yet the moment. To decide how to handle this in the Bill has caused a good deal of difficulty. This subject has a chequered history, because at one stage an Amendment was carried in another place, but it was put right from the Government's point of view on Report. I am not seeking to deal with this in a definite way, one way or another; I am trying to suggest to the Committee that there might be a sensible compromise.

I think it is right to say—and the profession of midwives would probably agree with me—that the day will come when some, at any rate, of the duties of the midwife can acceptably be carried out by men. I do not know whether all of them can be, and I shall come to this later, but we should certainly not turn our backs on the possibility that men will do this sort of job one day with perfect acceptance from the public and with perfect decorum, as one would expect. I hasten to dissociate myself from certain criticisms which I have found in correspondence about the standards of male nurses. I do not think this debate should turn for one instant on the standards of male nurses, or indeed of any nurses, because those who carry out these tasks would, I am certain, be properly trained and entirely fitted to do the tasks allotted to them. So I immediately disclaim that ground.

What I do find, however, is that there are specific parts of the job of a midwife which some women—and I say humbly that I understand why they take this view—object to men doing. From the statistics I have seen—a number of surveys have been carried out, one by the community health councils—I think that fewer women would actually object to a man carrying out the delivery of the baby. What a large number of them object to—and, incidentally, they say their husbands feel likewise—is men instructing them in some of the particularly intimate antenatal and post-natal exercises that midwives customarily do, whether in hospital or at home. It seems to me, from what little information I have to enable me to form a judgment, that the time is not yet ripe for men to do this sort of thing—at any rate, for a large number of women who would be very seriously offended and upset, at a time when, in my view, they should be particularly carefully treated.

What does one do about this? In another place the Government said that a woman should be given freedom of choice. The corollary of that must be that there will be only a limited number of geographical areas where it will be possible, even if the Bill were implemented in its present form, where men could perform some or all of the jobs of a midwife, because when they do these jobs they have to be chaperoned, for reasons which the Committee will understand; for the patient's protection and, indeed, for their own protection, too. They have to chaperoned and that means there has to be more than one midwife available, and there are only a limited number of places, presumably in the larger centres of population, where one can always guarantee to have more than one midwife on the strength at any time to deal with an emergency.

There is also the difficulty that if one has a male midwife and is really going to allow freedom of choice, one must also provide a female midwife to be on duty all the time as well, because there may be a woman who genuinely would not like the operation or treatment or whatever it is to be carried out by a man, and to give her genuine freedom of choice there must be one of each sex available to carry out these duties. If this is to be implemented now, it will involve considerable extra resources in the National Health Service at a time when—and I have read the correspondence with the right honourable lady the Secretary of State—the NHS is strained in financial terms.

Let me suppose that it is fairly widely accepted that one day these restrictions, which allow women alone to carry out these duties, may be able to be relaxed. In that case, let us say so as a matter of principle in this Bill. It is the principles that we wish to establish; the exceptions are dangerous and we wish to reduce the number of exceptions as far as possible. But if neither the resources allow, nor a large number of women wish, the full range of duties to be carried out by men—or, indeed, in some cases, any of the duties to be carried out by men—then let us adopt the same sort of approach to this issue as appears elsewhere in the Bill.

The Factories Acts have been widely quoted and I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, has a particular interest in this matter. In this Bill, the Government are not taking a decision about these Acts. They say that there is power by regulation under the Health and Safety at Work Act to deal with these by Statutory Instrument, after the Equal Opportunities Commission and anybody else concerned has decided whether or not they should be repealed. There is protective legislation giving special protection to women.

It occurs to me, therefore, that instead of taking a black or white decision on this issue today, we may enshrine in the Bill the principle which I believe the Government want, but use the device, which they themselves are adopting elsewhere in this legislation, of giving them leave to bring in these amendments by legislation at such time as they think fit. That is provided for in my Amendment, but in case there is any doubt about it I have a consequential Amendment to Clause 75, Amendment No. 72, which provides that the Government—I suppose the Department of Health and Social Security—can bring in regulations requiring an Affirmative Resolution in order to implement this change when they think the time is ripe, from the attitudinal point of view and from the financial and organisational points of view.

I commend this to the Committee as being a middle course in a subject which has caused a good deal of dismay and difficulty. It means to say that we can have a principle that a number of us would like to see, but can nevertheless take account of the practical difficulties and the views of people who are opposed to it, and therefore postpone the coming into operation of this reform until the Government of the day think the time is really ripe.


I rise—


Perhaps my noble friend Lady Summerskill will for once permit me to speak before her. I appreciate that she is an expert on the subject while I am an ordinary person, a woman who would have to choose whether she would like a male midwife or a male gynaecologist, or a woman midwife or a woman gynaecologist. People seem to take a more irrational attitude to this than to practically any other problem, for it is exactly the same. One has exactly the same feelings. If a woman does not like a woman doctor then she tries to choose a male doctor, and if a woman prefers to go to a woman doctor then nothing can stop her. I should like to know the figures but I imagine that there are more male gynaecologists delivering babies than women gynaecologists because there are probably more male than women gynaecologists. As for this rather prissy attitude we take about delivery, the problems of it, the way children are delivered and the way the midwife has to deal with her patient before the delivery, despite the objections that people have about delivery and about the way the midwife looks after the woman, there are very few differences. If you think that there are unpleasant or sensitive areas, I must say that they are there in both cases, for the midwife and for the gynaecologist. I can see no reason, except a reactionary one, for women not coming to prefer male midwives rather than objecting to them.


I am quite sure the Committee will think I have risen to support the principle of the Bill, the principle which is well known to you all; that is, that men and women should have equal opportunities and also receive equal treatment in certain fields. I have considered this position for some time because I realise what happened in the other place. There was a change of mind there. Let us accept the fact that men and women there are equally knowledgeable with us; that they are men and women of common sense who have given great thought to this matter They have changed their minds, which is always commendable. I have given great thought to this and for many years I have worked in this world of women, of sick women, of pregnant women, of obstetricians and gynaecologists and so on. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, will be surprised to hear that I agree with him. I think that he has adopted the right attitude.

I have received a number of letters on this Bill but most of them have been concerned with this particular matter. The very last one I collected in the Lobby this afternoon and it is one that I shall read to you because it is written by a sensible woman, and she puts the case as she sees it and as women like her see it. She says: I wonder if I could gain your support to vote against the introduction of male midwives in the debate in the House this week by telling you of my own experience. The trainee male nurse who came to my room before the baby's birth had worked with me in an office in town before he had taken up nursing and he is a near neighbour. He was embarrassed w hen he saw me and"— I do not know what this means— unprofessional enough to deal with the situation. When I spoke to my husband about him, he was horrified to think that in the future a young boy—we are both near 40—could shave me, give me an enema, instruct me on breast feeding, including expressing milk, give me a bed pan, supply me with maternity pads, inspect stitches after the birth and remove the stitches. The presence of a man at the birth is of no consequence at all. The King and Queen could be there and I am sure that the mother concerned would not notice. But before and after the birth when a woman is so emotional and acutely aware of embarrassing situations, the presence of young men with whom one would not trust a flea is completely alien to all the decencies of life. This is not a case of sex discrimination in the true sense for the most adamant expressions of revulsion have come from husbands I have spoken to who were appalled at the thought of their wives being handled by other men. Doctors do none of the things midwives do and come into a different category. I feel that if more women knew what was being foisted on to them you would receive many more letters. Indeed I have! This woman is quite right in giving all those details associated with maternity. There are the pre-natal examinations. You could say that they are done by male GPs; but male GPs never do any of these other things. They never sit patiently by the woman's side, as good nurses should, showing her how to breast-feed her child, how to handle her nipples properly and how to express milk, as this women describes. On this detail, I rather fear that we shall have some young male midwives who themselves feel some embarrassment when all this is going on in the upstairs room in a working class home and the husband sitting probably downstairs in the kitchen. If the nurses do these jobs properly as they should be done, it requires much time, much perseverance and much patience. Therefore I have this picture before me. I have seen it operating in many working class homes where the nurse is teaching a young mother how to handle the baby and these other matters and dealing with her in the intimate fashion that this woman graphically describes. I must agree with the noble Viscount that the time may come when the equality of the sexes is such that this will be feasible; but I think it is impractical now.

We are told there will be a chaperon. It will be really ludicrous to have a woman nurse to chaperon every male nurse who goes into the upstairs room of the woman. The chaperon will sit there (and presumably she will be a nurse, another midwife) while a man sits by the bed teaching the woman how to express her milk and so on. The picture is ludicrous. It is a little pathetic to think that that kind of scene may be enacted because the unfortunate woman is absolutely helpless and she will lie there, upset and longing to say to the chaperon, "Can you not look after me instead of letting this young man do it while you are sitting in the chair watching him?" What is the chaperon going to be there for? Is it to ensure that the male midwife does not behave in an unprofessional manner? I presume that is what the chaperon is for; or is she to be there in order to try to lessen the embarrassment of the patient? What a terrible waste of money. It really means that we shall be paying twice the sum for a confinement that we paid before male midwives and chaperons were needed.

Therefore I feel—and I put it as kindly as this—that the time has not yet come when we can accept this. I am sorry but I will have to go into the Lobby against the Government if this is pressed to a Division.


May I ask one question? My noble friend said the husband would object to a young male midwife. Would the husband object to an old man midwife or an older man midwife?


Knowing men, I think the husband would object to old men as well as young ones.


Speaking as one of the old men, I have an interest in this question. I find myself—and we are having a non-Party debate—very much in harmony with the noble Viscount, Lord Colville. I had intended to speak outright against the employment of male midwives but I shall be content with supporting his Amendment; that is to say, to shelve the question until there has been more consideration. I want to deal with this question objectively and not emotionally. At the age of 77, perhaps it may be said that I can deal with this in the spirit of objectivity. I have an interest in this matter as well. Long ago, when I lived in my little Essex village, I was president of the district nursing association where we employed a nurse/midwife to cover a vast area, and I was partly responsible for the administration of her affairs. I know that midwives have to be sent out in moments of emergency. You cannot always detail for a particular confinement the midwife who had originally been assigned to the job, and so it may well be that whereas a woman midwife had been dealing with the patient during the course of the pregnancy, during the last few months a man has to be sent out because he is the only one left on the duty rota.

Powerful voices have been raised against this proposal to legalise the employment of male midwives. The Royal College of Midwives, the Community Health Councils, the Area Health Authorities, the Royal College of Gynaecologists and the Association of Supervisors of Midwives have spoken out clearly against it. The British Medical Association have also had some serious reservations. It is generally accepted—and I have been assured it is the fact by midwives who are today practising—that most women prefer to have a woman midwife. It is certainly the fact that most husbands prefer their wives to have a woman midwife and not a male midwife. My noble friend Lady Gaitskell spoke about male gynaecologists. Surely we must accept the fact that gynaecologists are on a very much higher professional level than midwives, and whereas one might not have complete trust in a male midwife, one can have complete professional trust in a male gynaecologist; anyhow, it is usually the midwife who does the work even if the gynaecologist is present. The Minister in the other place said women would have the choice of accepting the services of a male midwife or female midwife; but they will not always get that choice, they will probably have to take the particular midwife who happens to be on duty at the time on that day.

It has been pointed out that we are dealing with a very delicate problem. I want to make one thing clear regarding the delivery of the child. Nobody has any objection, the College of Midwives has no objection, to a male midwife officiating at the actual delivery of the child. The College of Midwives has suggested that male nurses should have a month's training in the delivery of infants so that they can deal with emergency or even non-emergency cases. Similar training is also given to many policemen, ambulance drivers and attendants. The actual delivery of the child is something quite apart from the general question. The nine months before the birth, and the few months afterwards is the period with which we have to deal.

In the course of the nine months before the birth the midwife has to make periodical examinations of the patient. This, if I might use non-technical language, involves a good deal of mauling about. There are many women who would not like that to be done by a man, and many husbands who would not like to hear of a man examining their wives in those circumstances. As my noble friend Lady Summerskill said, there is the post-natal period when all kinds of intimate performances have to be gone through. The woman has to be taught how to breast feed her baby and I am old-fashioned enough to think that that is a job more for a woman than for a man. There are half a million women who need midwifery treatment in their homes. This is not necessarily for the actual delivery—many of them go into hospital for that. The Minister says that he will not depute male midwives to carry on this domiciliary treatment; but he cannot always guarantee it. As I said, the next midwife on duty might be a man. The female midwives in that area may be miles away dealing with extremely urgent cases.

Even if the Minister says the male midwives shall not be allowed to deal with domiciliary cases, this is contradictory and looks like a case of discrimination against male midwives. We have been told that male midwives will perform their duties in hospitals and not in the homes of patients. As my noble friend Lady Gaitskell said, these men have to be protected against charges, either real or false, of impropriety. We know that women at that time of life are subject to very fanciful fantasies. It may be that many male midwives will be unjustly accused of impropriety when no such impropriety has occurred. The Minister has said that a chaperone will be present in all those cases. As my noble friend pointed out, and as I intended to point out, this will merely double the cost at a time when the National Health Service is starved of money. It may be said that I am arguing in favour of discrimination, but discrimination is there already. It has been put there by a far higher power than this House: women become pregnant, men do not, and I think this particular job is one for women and not for men.

5.5 p.m.


I should like to support the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, in his Amendment. Like other Members of the Committee, I have been written to by a number of people and particularly I speak for the College of Midwives in Scotland who are deeply concerned about this, and who hold the same views as the College of Midwives in England and the other organisations that have been spoken about today. I also have with me an article which other noble Lords may have seen which reflects a poll taken on midwives by the Royal College and which gives the answers, "Yes" and, "No" and, "Undecided" on the subject of introducing male midwives into the Service. The figures are overwhelmingly against.

We were talking on another Amendment about the vote of the General Synod of the Church of England and the fact that in their vote on the ordination of women they had a large, but not overwhelming, number of people against. The majority were in favour and so they postponed the decision. Today there is an overwhelming majority among those in the nursing, surgical and other professions and ordinary people, for whom midwifery is a vital part in their lives, against male midwives. I hope very much that if the Government are not prepared to accept Lord Colville's Amendment, he will put that to a vote, and we shall vote in favour of it. It certainly represents the views of a large proportion of people involved.

5.9 p.m.


I should like to support the noble Viscount's Amendment. It is always very unfortunate that if one expresses a point of view slightly different from the current trend of the time one is accused of being reactionary. This weekend I attended a conference of some 600 women, and I should like to take up the point about the freedom of choice. They were discussing the increasing practice of the induction of labour, about which they had very strong views. It was pointed out that they have a choice. But it was equally indicative that very few of the patients realised that they had a choice in this matter. As has been said, a pregnant woman is already in a slightly emotional state, and when she gets to the point of being in hospital she is not very conscious of the fact that she has certain rights which she can exercise.

Therefore, I think the idea that women would have a choice is a fallacious one. It has been indicated, very rightly, that if we are talking about midwives coming into the patient's home, it is highly unlikely that at the time when the midwife is needed the woman would be able to say, "I don't want a man; I want a woman. "They would simply say, "I'm afraid, my dear, you must have the only one that is available." This presupposes that we have a much larger staff than we know in fact is there. Equally, I would agree with my noble friend about this total piece of nonsense over having a chaperon. What are the qualifications of the chaperon? We seem to be moving backwards if we are going to have that sort of thing. I would say to my noble friend Lady Gaitskell that it is true there are a number of male gynaecologists, but it is equally true that if you talk to women you are left in no doubt that if they are given a choice they would in most cases prefer a woman. But there are not many women gynaecologists, so again we come back to the question of how valid is the choice.

The right reverend Prelate, speaking on another Amendment, said that even if fears are irrational they should be taken note of. I think we have to take note of the fact that the employers, as has already been mentioned, have certain reservations, and also that the majority of Area Health Councils are against this. The consumers, if one may thus describe patients—and I have talked to a tremendous number of them—are not yet in favour of it. It may be that we are moving a little too quickly, but I would say to your Lordships that we have in this Bill certain other areas where we have been considering feelings. For example, I believe we are going to consider not sending women down the mines, and that we still have outstanding the question of lavatory attendants who are, of course, not quite so important. So it seems we have room for manoeuvre. I would say that the duties which have been outlined so clearly by my noble friend regarding ante-natal and post-natal attendance are totally different from what is involved in the delivery of children. There is no real relevance there. One day the position may change, but I do not think this is the moment, and I hope we shall not ride roughshod over the feelings of so many people who have written to me and who have also, as we have heard, written to others of your Lordships. In addition, I have talked to many women who feel that there are times when the legislators seem to be legislating for something which they themselves do not have to undergo. I feel that in this matter we must exercise a certain measure of acceptance that this may not be quite the moment when the position can be accepted. I would fully support the Amendment.


I would strongly support the Amendment but should like very briefly to say that we should in no way deride male nurses, because they are doing a remarkably fine job in their field. But, as many speakers have indicated, we are in a very delicate and sensitive field. We have all been given statistics and we have all tried to get our own. I have with me the report of a local working party of nurses who got together to discuss mutual problems, and perhaps I might quote from it. It said: Arising from discussions, it would appear that the main wish of the male nurse is that they could obtain an adequate knowledge of obstetrics. It would appear that in the main they do not wish to follow this by practising midwifery. The working group therefore came to the conclusion that they would support the policy of providing some obstetric training for male nurses, but could not at this moment agree to a policy which would mean employing male midwives. Perhaps we would all support the training of male nurses in obstetrics, because many first-aiders, policemen and so on are called upon to deliver babies in emergencies, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But speaking, like the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, not as a medical practitioner but as a father and parent, one knows that over the years when the child was on the way and after the child was born there were periods of extreme sensitivity, when the husband had to be extremely careful about how he acted and what he said. That is an indication of some psychological effect, and the employment of male midwives without any precaution whatever could give rise to some serious situations in the Health Service, where we now have some great problems of complaints about the treatment of patients. This could set the ball rolling in a field where I do not think we should rush in. I not only commend the Amendment, but I commend the noble Viscount and those who have advised him on the common-sense way in which the arguments have been prepared and put forward.


I feel that this discussion ought not to be allowed to close without some plea being made on behalf of the trained male midwife, who is of unquestioned probity and integrity when attending not only the actual birth of a child, but the pre-natal and post-natal stages as well. I accept a great many of the arguments put forward in this discussion. I am sorry that to some extent they may have been somewhat one-sided; but just as you have a male gynæcologist and obstetrician who inspires complete confidence in the mother at all stages of her confinement, we ought to accept the fact that there can be trained male midwives of unexceptionable integrity and devotion, who have the capacity for inspiring complete confidence in a mother at all stages of her confinement.

I do not want to elaborate the argument because the discussion has already gone on long enough. But let us leave the door wide open so that perhaps, not at the present moment, but in the not unforeseeable future, we shall be able to give an opportunity to this type of male midwife who, in the course of time, when his reputation becomes known—and in cases where there may be a local shortage of female midwives—should not be denied the opportunity of pursuing his rightful occupation.


Before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him to clarify one point? He said that there are many trained male midwives, but are there? Because if there are, why does the Bill say that Clause 20 removes the statutory requirement that the midwife must be a woman?


All I can say to my noble friend is that if there are not at present these midwives, I hope there soon will be.


May I say just two sentences before my noble friend replies? We have heard a great many statements today which are completely unproven. Anyone can come along and say, "I know that women don't and won't want a male midwife. "We have no proof of this whatever, except from groups who do not want to accept this because it would affect their interests. My noble friend Lady Summerskill gave us all the grisly details of what leads up to the delivery of a child. She did not go into the details of the actual delivery, which are just as sensitive and about which people are just as squeamish. In fact, men are entirely squeamish about the whole question of delivery and of the whole thing with regard to women, and really they should not be taken any notice of.


I am extremely grateful to the noble Viscount, for the very balanced way in which he put his arguments. It is something which we have come to expect of him, and we were not disappointed. I should like to remind your Lordships that we are discussing the Sex Discrimination Bill. Let us not forget that this is a Bill which is aimed at removing sex discrimination. Ever since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House my noble friend Lady Summerskill has complained about discrimination against women. We are now dealing with one specific factor relating to discrimination against men, and I think we ought to keep this in the forefront of our minds if we are going to make a balanced decision following, if I may say so, some very balanced argument.

As I understand the situation, Clause 20(4) and (5), together with certain repeals in Schedule 6, seek to remove the statutory prohibition on a man becoming a midwife. If I undestand the purpose of the Amendment to Clause 20 and the insertion of a new paragraph (d) in subsection (1) of Clause 75, it is to require that the removal of this prohibition shall come into force only following an Order made by the Secretary of State and subject to an Affirmative Resolution. The principle apparently is not being challenged, and if I may say so with the greatest respect it is the principle that we are now concerned with. If the noble Viscount will allow me, perhaps it will be convenient to deal now with both these matters, Clauses 20 and 75, at the same time. I recognise that the question of whether the statutory prohibition on men becoming midwives should be removed is a sensitive and—as is quite obvious from what has taken place this afternoon—controversial matter.

First, I should like to explain that, even when the statutory provision is removed, Clause 20(1), (2) and (3)—and I think the noble Viscount will agree with me—will ensure that the profession of midwifery is not open to men without a good deal of restriction and safeguards. I want your Lordships to bear in mind that even when the statutory provision is removed there is still going to be a great deal of restriction and safeguard so far as male midwives are concerned. Indeed we are sure that there must be administrative safeguards. However, the point at issue is whether there should be a statutory prohibition saying that in no circumstances may a man be a midwife. We on the Government side—and bearing in mind what the Bill is trying to do I think this is important—see this as a matter of principle and we do not think that a firm prohibition is justified.


Hear, hear!


We would certainly accept that there should be freedom of choice for the patient, freedom for the expectant mother to choose not to be cared for or treated by a male midwife. There is no problem about this. When the woman is admitted to hospital before the birth of the baby this can be clearly determined and her attitude can be gone into and recorded. In many other ways these sort of things are already done. We appreciate that there should be no deterrent to expectant mothers seeking proper and necessary care.

However, I think I have to put to your Lordships very firmly that we do not accept that the removal of the statutory prohibition, together with complete exemption from the Bill of the provisions relating to training and access to jobs in the case of midwifery, need or will have undesirable effects which we do not want on either of these counts. We propose—and I want to say this with all the force I can bring—to limit the training and the employment of men as midwives to a few selected centres where it will be possible not only to ensure but to guarantee that there can be a choice by the patient. The Amendment in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, seeks to provide that there should be an Affirmative Resolution procedure for the Order bringing into effect the abolition of the prohibition of male midwives and, if I may, I should like to deal with that for a moment. Quite sincerely, I find it difficult to advise your Lordships to accept that Amendment.


Of course I had a choice whether to put it down under the Affirmative or the Negative Resolution at the end of the Bill. I chose the positive one because it seemed to me to be a controversial matter and one that Parliament would probably like to debate. If the Government find that to be the only sticking point and they want it done by the Negative procedure, it does not make a great deal of difference to me.

5.25 p.m.


I am much obliged to the noble Viscount for his comments. In the first place, as a matter of general principle, and except where otherwise provided in the Act, it is the practice that Acts of Parliament come into force—as the noble Viscount knows probably better than most people in your Lordships' House—when they are enacted. It is quite common to provide that an Act shall come into force on days appointed by the Minister. This is often administratively convenient, but the general practice—if he does not mind my saying so—which is reflected in the Bill in Clause 78 which deals with the transitional commencement procedures, commitments and appeals, is that the Commencement Order is not subject to Parliamentary procedure.

The reason for this basic rule is that, if Parliament has willed that a Bill should be law, it should not be possible to have further votes on the subject. This rule should be broken only in exceptional circumstances and I do not think that exceptional circumstances obtain in the case of Clause 20(4) and (5). I have recognised that there has been controversy about these provisions, though I think that this is not sufficient reason for having a provision which would be unique in the Bill requiring their commencement to be the subject of an Affirmative Resolution. I shall go into the matter though I should have thought that much the same thing would also apply to a Negative Resolution.

I think we should decide whether we want the provisions in the Bill. If we want them I think we should do something about it now. It is all very well for noble Lords to say that this is not the right time. No time is the right time. This Parliament has done a tremendous amount—and if I may say so with great respect so did the previous Government—when perhaps we could not afford to do what we were doing but we went on doing it. As the noble Lord says, that may well be why we are broke, but it is still necessary in the interests of people generally to do the things that are being done. In fact we have to ask ourselves when is the right time.

I am sure the noble Viscount will agree with me that the subsections to which I have referred, Clause 20(1), (2) and (3), provide safeguards which I think we could bring in without any difficulty. Noble Lords have asked, "Why chaperones? Is this not going to put a heavy strain on the existing number of female midwives?" But it does not have to be another midwife, it could be another woman. In general practice when a doctor is examining a patient it is not uncommon for another woman (not necessarily a nurse) to be present. This could be done in this kind of situation. I do not think that we ought to be carried away by statements that women do not want this and that their husbands do not want this.

My noble friend Lord Leatherland said that most women want a woman midwife. We do not know this and my noble friend does not know it, either. There are millions of women of child-bearing age in this country and nobody has a clue as to what they want. He said that most husbands would object to a male midwife. We just do not know this. This is assumption and I do not think we ought to make judgments on assumption. I am not impressed by the sources from which objections come—and I do not mean your Lordships' Committee today. One is grateful to have the views of both sides, but one would expect—at least I would expect; perhaps I had better speak for myself—objections to come from the Royal College of Midwives and a whole number of other sources with vested interests in this particular field. But we must face the fact that if we are going to be sincere and absolutely genuine, and want to get on to the Statute Book something which will deal in no uncertain way with sex discrimination, it means precisely that—the prohibition of sex discrimination.

If I have any difference of opinion with the noble Viscount, it is on timing. There is a principle here. We ought to accept the principle. I know he is going to say: "You would be accepting the principle, but implementation ought to be delayed until a more suitable time." I do not know when there is going to be a more suitable time. There is no evidence that husbands and wives are opposed to this proposal. We could not get such evidence, in my opinion, if we tried. There is every reason to believe that we should provide facilities whereby we can have male midwives, bearing in mind that their training would have to be done strategically. Training would have to be done in certain large centres where there are a number of women midwives and where there would be a choice between male and female midwives. That would mean, of course, that it could not be done all over the country for probably a long time, if ever. We ask your Lordships to accept the principle, bearing in mind that there are sufficient safeguards in the Bill itself to ensure that male midwives, if and when they are fully qualified, will function and train only in areas where they will be very much in a minority, not in a majority.


There is a new factor here. My noble friend said that a chaperon need not be a qualified woman; she could be a lay woman. How could a lay woman judge whether a male midwife was behaving in an unprofessional manner if she knew nothing about the technique of midwifery?


I do not think we need to be too delicate about the use of this word "chaperon". I think we know, or at least I imagine, that the idea of the man being chaperoned is mainly to observe his conduct rather than his professional skill. It is felt that this would be a useful aid.


I believe it is wrong to pass legislation on a description of this kind. I do not know where we are going to find these women. My daughter-in-law has twins who are four months of age. Because we live in London, not even a home help can be provided, and one is unable to obtain paid help. To assume that there will be a supply of these ladies to sit in while the male midwife is at work is totally impracticable and totally a fantasy idea. It seems to me that we are passing legislation on the supposition that certain people will be available, when we know in practice they do not exist.

The Minister has said that protections are contained within the Bill. He did not spell out what they were. Perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, knows. But I would ask seriously where in London—I do not ask about the whole of the country—a supply of those women is to be found? There is not a good supply of nurses in maternity hospitals. I can assure your Lordships that practically every other day I talk to groups of young wives—I have no axe to grind—and I listen to what they have to say, and I would ask whether it is right for us as legislators totally to ignore the views of people outside this House. I do not think so.


My noble friend raises two points. One concerns safeguards. I thought I dealt fully with the safeguards which are already to be found in Clause 20, subsections (1), (2) and (3). The safeguards are that male midwives would be trained only in certain areas and upon completion of their training they would be very much in a minority; and there would be ample midwives, both male and female, for a woman to choose from. All our evidence shows that male midwives will be very much in a minority. The other point concerns where we are going to get chaperons from. Until we have a scheme there is little we can do about seeking them. A good many of our hospitals, certainly our large hospitals which will be the centre of this kind of activity, have a number of creditable and responsible volunteers. Whether they could be used, I do not know. But I would not say it would, be impossible to find suitable people to do this work.

5.38 p.m.


I cannot of course withdraw this Amendment without the consent of the Committee. Before I even decide whether I shall ask for that consent, I wonder whether I might ask the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, one or two further questions. First of all, he refers to the protection in Clause 20, subsections (1), (2) and (3). Nothing is said there about recruiting chaperons; nothing is said about there being training in certain areas only; nothing is said about organisation; nothing is said about timing. All that is said is that certain provisions in the earlier part of this Bill which ensure that discrimination shall not take place will not apply to the professional midwife. The clause does not tell us any more than that. It does not provide any positive protection to anybody. Nor does it tell us anything about the way in which this system is going to be worked by the Department of Health and Social Security.

What I want to know from the noble Lord is this. If this Amendment does not go into the Bill, when is this clause going to be brought into force? When does the noble Lord's right honourable friend propose to use the powers which one finds in a later part of the Bill whereby the Bill can be brought into effect? The powers are in Clause 78. When are they to be used to bring Clause 20 into effect? Furthermore, will the noble Lord tell us something else which was not told to Members of another place? Before those powers are used, precisely what organisational arrangements are going to be made? Where are these areas to be? What will be the prerequisites within the National Health Service for providing the special protection, the special provisions, that the noble Lord very fairly spelt out?

I do not suppose that the noble Lord can answer these questions today, because I suspect that nobody in the Department of Health and Social Security has yet made up his mind, nor have the resources been provided. That means that Clause 20 will not come into force as soon as the Bill is passed. The Committee is probably fairly safe in taking that factor into account.

I put another point to the noble Lord, He has heard what has been said on every side of this Committee. Probably the Department will achieve precisely and exactly what my Amendment seeks to achieve by simply not bringing the clause into effect at all. But that will not allay the fears of the people who have written—the people who have seen this clause in the Bill and are worried by it. I entirely agree with the noble Lord. When I first heard of this, I said to myself, "Oh, it's the Royal College of Midwives and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they took this view. I'm certainly not going to put down an Amendment until I have talked to them". And talk to them I did with my noble friend Lady Young—and I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, talked to them as well.

I will tell your Lordships why I am inclined to give the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, another chance to go back to his Department and think about this again. The Royal College of Midwives is having its conference during the last two days of this week. Certainly the Secretary and President told me when they came to see me—and I hope that they will forgive me for announcing this—that they were proposing to discuss at their conference the very suggestion I have put down in the Amendment. Supposing that the Royal College of Midwives in full conference comes to the conclusion that this is the right way to do it, will that not be of great assistance to the Government? At once it will remove the suggestion that there is any prejudice. There was certainly no prejudice in what they said to me and my noble friend. They said "The time will come. Younger people are not taking this attitude about male midwives. They're not anything like so sensitive about these things. We think that the time will come". And the time may not be that far off—probably the same time as the noble Lord has it in mind to bring into operation Clause 20. Therefore, would it not be sensible for the Government to put this House in possession of a few more facts? If the noble Lord can tell me now when Clause 20 will come into effect, I will sit down and give him the opportunity to do so. I see a broad smile on his face which I think is a smile suggesting that he does not know. However, I will give way if he can tell us.


If the noble Viscount is asking me for a date, I cannot give it to him, but let me say that I know how my right honourable friend the Secretary of State feels about this, just as I know how my honourable friend the Minister of State feels about it. They are no less sensitive about this matter than are noble Lords. They are fully aware of what people are thinking and feeling. They know it is a sensitive area. It must remain a sensitive area, and because it is a sensitive area it is their intention, as I said earlier, to see that the training of male midwives takes place in strategic areas where the right kind of training can be given. When they emerge as qualified male midwives they will be considerably outnumbered by women midwives, so there can be a choice. It means that they will be available only in certain parts of the country, and my guess is that they will be available only in those areas where there are adequate training facilities. They will not be available throughout the whole country and I should have thought that this is what the noble Viscount and the remainder of your Lordships would want.


Will my noble friend allow me to put a question to him on his statement that male midwives will be in major maternity centres. Is he aware that paragraph 45 of the White Paper on which the Bill is based says that will be so "at least initially". It means, therefore, that later on it will not be so.


I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said. The fact remains that he does not know where and he does not know when. The difference between the noble Lord and myself is that my formula allows him exactly the same delay as he will have under the Bill as it is drafted, except that everybody who is concerned with this matter will see on the face of it, the Statute, in the place where they would expect to find it, a provision providing for the necessary delay. In principle, therefore, there is no difference between us upon this. What the noble Lord can bear in mind is what he said I was going to say, and say it I will.

I have specifically and conscientiously—because I believe in it myself—allowed the noble Lord the point of principle that into this Bill there should go the express provision removing this piece of discrimination. I entirely agree with him that this should find a place in this Bill, but as it will be delayed in its coming into operation I suggest, for the reasons I have given, that we should look at it again to see whether it should not be expressed. I do not know what the Committee thinks. I am inclined to allow the noble Lord to take this back to his right honourable friend and his honourable friend to discuss it again and tell them of the views of the Members of this Committee as expressed this afternoon—and my views, for what they are worth. I suggest also that we might like to know what the Royal College of Midwives say later this week. Therefore, tentatively I wish to withdraw this Amendment today with the absolutely certain determination that I shall put it down again at Report stage, unless something very strange has happened in the meantime, and then I shall take it to a Division. I do not know what the Committee says, and I am entirely in their hands. However, unless anybody says anything to the contrary, I respectfully beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.


We do not know exactly when this matter will be raised at Report stage. Some of us have listened for a very long time to very interesting arguments which have been rather interfered with by continuous conversation on my left. It may be that when the Report stage is reached there will not be nearly so full a House. Therefore, I hope that the noble Viscount will think twice before finally withdrawing his Amendment.


At this stage, could my noble friend reinforce the arguments of the noble Viscount and assure the Committee that if such legislation should reach the Statute Book, the same sanctions and penalties will apply in the case of a trained male midwife who is found guilty of unprofessional conduct, as in the case of a registered doctor—that he risks ruining his professional career? If this assurance were given to the Committee at this stage, how could we oppose the principle involved in this clause? Why should we assume that every member of a much-maligned sex must necessarily, if he is a trained male midwife, have one thought uppermost in his mind? Why must every member be automatically suspect and thought to be susceptible? Surely the principle of discrimination against the male sex ought to apply equally as against the female sex.


Your Lordships have been very generous in the amount of time given to the discussion of this matter. There is nothing between us. The noble Viscount, as well as the Government, want to do the right thing. I wonder whether it will satisfy the noble Viscount if I say this. Let the Government read Hansard very carefully and pay particular attention to what he and others have said, including my noble friend Lord Segal, who has just sat down, to see whether we can come back with something that will be acceptable. Perhaps I may be allowed to write to the noble Viscount between now and Report stage to find out whether there is some measure of agreement between us.


Although the noble Lord, Lord Platt, and a number of other Lords have done us the honour of listening to this discussion, I would rather get this agreed. I do not necessarily want this forced upon an unwilling Government by a Division. If the Government read what has been said, I believe they will be convinced by this. I agree with the noble Lord that there is nothing between us. It is a matter of presentation and showing people that there can be the necessary delay to allow things to be properly organised and to take account of what is a very real public opinion. The noble Lord and I are at one on this. It is a matter of how we put it into the Bill, and I believe we can reach a solution which will be on the lines I have suggested, or something else. Let us try to agree on an Amendment of some kind to show that we are aware of this point and that we are prepared to bend a little in our approach to these problems in order to arrive at something which everyone will accept and which will be acceptable in another place. Therefore, I hope that I may be given leave to withdraw the Amendment at this stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 agreed to.

5.50 p.m.

Viscount COLVILLE of CULROSS moved Amendment No. 22: After Clause 21 insert the following new clause:

Single-sex trade unions

".—(1) Section 12 of this Act shall not apply to an organisation of workers if the Registrar (as defined in the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Act 1974) is satisfied and so certifies in writing that the following conditions are fulfilled—

  1. (a) that it is an organisation which provides services or benefits to men only or to women only; and
  2. (b) that there exist one or more organisations which provide services or benefits to members of the opposite sex to an extent no less favourable to members of that sex than those provided to members of the first-mentioned organisations; and
  3. (c) that all organisations referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section shall have given notice to the Registrar that none of them objects to the membership of any of them being confined to men only or to women only as the case may be.

(2) Any certificate issued by the Registrar under subsection (1) of this section shall cease to have effect if any of the conditions mentioned in that subsection cease to be fulfilled."

The noble Viscount said: Now it is my turn to "have a go "at the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, and I am going to ask him exactly the same question about the coming into operation of Clause 12. I have read with enormous interest the proceedings in the Committee yesterday. I am sorry that I was not here, but I had a professional engagement. The noble Lord was pressed quite hard by a number of people, including the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and my noble friend Lady Young, to say whether he was prepared to accept an Amendment which dealt with the teaching profession, which this Amendment of mine avowedly does, and so did that moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill. At least we know that all these provisions would not necessarily come into force at once. The noble Lord was therefore asked whether there was to be a period of grace during which trade unions of the kind with which my Amendment deals may adjust to the new situation which the structure and the whole influence of the Bill has brought to bear upon the situation, and the noble Lord gave nobody an answer.

In the educational world, I think that probably the powers are wide enough for his right honourable friend the Secretary of State to deal with separate trade unions under Clause 12 separately. But can the noble Lord tell us when, in relation to the teaching profession, Clause 12 is to be brought into force? I think that the period of grace during which the Association of Assistant Mistresses and the Headmistresses need to adjust themselves to the provisions of this Bill can probably be met by not doing anything for a little while. The noble Lord did not really concede this; he gave no information about it at all, so here is another chance for him and I invite him to do so now. I beg to move.


The noble Viscount is extremely kind. As he said, I did not yesterday give the assurance that I was asked for about the delay that would or could take place before this clause came into effect. I did not give that assurance or make any statement on it because I did not wish to mislead Members of this Committee into feeling that there could be a very long period of delay, which I thought was the period which the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, was asking for. However, we have considered his argument and the arguments of the other noble Lords most carefully; that is, that the four teacher associations which make up the joint four should be given time to comply with the requirements of the Bill. The Government are not unsympathetic towards this proposition and will be prepared to consider introducing at the Report stage an Amendment which will give transitional arrangements.

There has also been tabled a new Amendment to Clause 78 which is shortly to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, to the effect that, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (2), Clause 12 of this Bill shall not come into operation until the expiration of a period of two years beginning with the passing of this Act. This will shortly come up for debate and it is our intention to say that we shall be ready to give that transitional period. I hope this will also meet the point raised by the noble Viscount, because it appears to be what he has asked for, and this we are prepared to do.


I think that is most helpful and I am glad that we have had a chance to return to it. If the noble Lord thinks that we are going to get to Clause 78 "shortly". I am afraid he has another think coming!


I was making my contribution.


I will try to do the same. I do not know whether it was made entirely plain yesterday that there was provision in my drafting which provided for the repeal of the clause. It is part of my Amendment to Clause 75. I do not think anybody pointed it out, but mine was intended to be a transitional provision in any event. It sounds as though the noble Lord's second thoughts are good ones. I should like to consider what he has said when I have seen the text on Clause 78, but certainly this seems to be a great advance on the position yesterday and I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 22 to 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 [General duty in public actor of education]:

5.56 p.m.

Lord CROWTHER-HUNT moved Amendment No. 23: Page 17, line 35, after ("performance") insert ("by a body to which subsection (1) applies of the duties imposed by sections 22 and 23 and shall also apply to the performance").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment and Amendments 24 and 25 are drafting Amendments. The Government's policy was set out in the White Paper Equality for Women, as being that enforcement of the education clauses should rest in the first place with the education Ministers. The Amendments ensure (and this is not expressed in terms in the present clause) that the Secretary of State's powers under Sections 68 and 99 of the Education Act 1944 shall be exercisable in respect of breaches of Sections 22 and 23 as they are in respect of a breach of the general duty imposed by Section 25. The powers of the Secretary of State under Sections 68 and 99 of the Education Act remain the only sanction for breach of the general duty, but a complainant's remedy in the civil courts in respect of a contravention of Sections 22 or 23 which is also a breach of the general duty is preserved. The point I am trying to make is that these are only drafting Amendments to give clear effect to the intentions of the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 24.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 37, leave out from ("Act") to end of line 38.—(Lord Crowther-Hunt.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 25.

Amendment moved—

Page l8, line 4, leave out from ("Act") to end of line 5 and insert— ("(4) The sanctions in subsections (2) and (3) shall be the only sanctions for breach of the general duty in subsection (1), but without prejudice to the enforcement of sections 22 and 23 under section 63 or otherwise (where the breach is also a contravention of either of those sections).")—(Lord Crowther-Hunt.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 26 [Exception for single-sex establishments]:

On Question, Whether Clause 26 shall stand part of the Bill?

6.0 p.m.


I indicated on Second Reading that I found the single-sex exemption provisions of Clause 26(1)(a) unnecessarily tightly drawn, and my researches since then have done nothing to dampen my fears—quite the opposite, This paragraph effectively defines a single-sex school as one where the admission of the opposite sex is exceptional. Noble and learned Lords will correct me if I am wrong, but I have been under the impression that judges, and indeed the legal profession generally, have been complaining bitterly about the imprecision and lack of clarity of some of the drafting of recent Acts of Parliament. The word "exceptional" would seem to typify this imprecision. I think the average person would tend to take the word "exceptional" to cover, for instance, the case where a headmaster's daughter, or, for that matter, an assistant master's daughter, was allowed to enrol in a school that otherwise took only boys. It might also just possibly cover an independent boys' school such as Marlborough a few years ago when they admitted a mere six girls. It could not possibly cover Marlborough today where there are as many as 60 girls, forming just under 7 per cent. of the total enrolment.

I have discovered that there are between 40 and 50 independent boys' schools at the moment which admit a certain number of girls—the latest recruit being Rugby, where it was announced two days ago that they were about to do so—the average number of girls at each of these schools being in the region of 25. There is also one girls' school, Felixstowe College which has recently announced that it will take boys; so far only one boy has in fact applied. The point is that none of these schools intends going fully co-educational, so that all of them are in danger if this clause stays as it is. Marlborough, for instance, would either have to get rid of most if not all of its 60 girls, or would have to get rid of about 370 boys so as to be able to admit 370 girls in order to equalise the numbers.

I cannot believe that a majority of noble Lords would wish this to happen, or that they would think it fair or desirable. There may be some case from the equal opportunities point of view for having some sort of restriction, but confining it to higher education only: although one must point out that the same problems would then appear to confront those men's colleges at Cambridge, and to a lesser extent at Oxford, which admit a certain number of women with no ultimate intention of going co-educational. I think the clause as it stands is very unsatisfactory and worrying, and I hope the noble Lord will be able to assure me that something can be done before Report stage.


I am grateful for the points the noble Lord has made, and I will do my best to reassure him. Indeed the point of the clause is to cover precisely what he is saying, both Marlborough yesterday and Marlborough today, in the way that the noble Lord was putting it. Rather than take up an undue amount of time, if the noble Lord feels that he would like to be reassured in detail on this point I should be very glad to consult with him to see if his fears are as unfounded as I am certain they are. Certainly, the intention is to do what the noble Lord is wanting, and if he would accept that assurance perhaps we could talk together later.


Before we leave this subject, I should like to say, as a former schoolmaster, that although one naturally wants equal opportunity for girls and boys when leaving school, I feel their education should be different. Men and women should be equal, most certainly, but I sincerely hope that they will always remain different. Merely to take the rather minor point of the sort of games they play, I cannot think of Rugger as a very suitable game for girls; nor do I see boys taking to netball very successfully. But there are many more things than that, such as the whole interior life of the school. There are some very distinguished girls' schools. I do not see why we should have to have coeducational schools throughout the country. I have always been firmly against it and I shall remain so.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Exception for single-sex establishments turning co-educational]:

6.4 p.m.

Baroness SEEAR moved Amendment No. 26: Page 19, line 18, after ("pupil") insert ("or member of the staff").

The noble Baroness said: This is the Amendment which we discussed when we were considering Amendment No. 20, after Clause 19, on which the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, and I collaborated. We said that Amendment No. 20 was very widely drawn, and we would delay the discussion till we reached the more narrowly worded Amendment which is now before the Committee. The point of this is to deal with the interim period. This was the point of putting it in in this clause, which covers transitional periods for single-sex schools or institutions, or colleges going co-educational. I, for my part, entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, that this Bill is about giving equal opportunity on merit, not about making special opportunities for women, and I believe the whole principle of the Bill would be undermined if we went any way along the road of positive discrimination, much as I know many women would like to go along that road, unless we do it in a way which is quite specific and limited and with our eyes open.

In this Bill we have made one exception in favour of positive discrimination. The Government did this themselves by putting in, quite rightly, the clause which permits positive discrimination in the field of training. I am suggesting that this Amendment is a similar limited movement, both in extent and duration, in the direction of positive discrimination, but one which is very easy to identify and to define, as to the time when it should be terminated. I know that the noble Lord said on the previous Amendment that the situation of the single-sex school or callege going co-educational was covered so far as the staff were concerned by Clause 7(2)(e)— the holder of the job provides individuals with personal services promoting their welfare or education …". I do not at first sight believe that a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, would recognise his job as described in that clause. It is about the future Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, when that College is taking an increasing number of young women, whom we are talking in connection with this clause. If the noble Lord will assure me that such positions as Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, are really covered by this clause, I should be delighted to withdraw my Amendment, but it seems to me unlikely.

He mentioned the situation of a tutor, and I suspect that he had in mind, as I believe is really intended by Clause 7(2)(e), the welfare of and assistance to the girl pupils. It is a slightly different point from this question of Fellowships at the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges, which is what this Amendment is all about. I do not think it would be a serious breach of the accepted agreed principle on positive discrimination to allow Clause 27 to be amended, so that it would not be illegal under the Bill to admit into colleges going co-educational for the transitional period not only pupils but also members of the staff. It would be limited in extent and in time, and it would make a very positive contribution to what is a limited but very difficult problem. I beg to move.


I wonder whether the noble Lord would give us some thoughts about the extent of Clause 7(2)(e). I know that we discussed this at an earlier stage and I do not want to delay things further, but I was rather taken aback when he said that Clause 7(2)(e) covers this point. I wonder what other points it covers. It seems to me that if it covers this point it can cover almost anything, and it is a great hole running through the Bill which it may be our duty to plug at a later stage. I think that we may have not taken into account the full implications of Clause 7(2)(e), and I should be grateful if the noble Lord would say some words about that.

6.10 p.m.


Clause 27 of the Bill as drafted provides that a single-sex school or other educational establishment which wishes to admit pupils on a non-discriminatory basis may be permitted to do so by stages and over a fixed period by means of a transitional exemption order. A transitional exemption order does not, however, provide for the establishment concerned discriminating when advertising for and appointing staff.

I accept that a school which has hitherto been, say, a boys' school may have an all-male staff, or most of the staff are men. When this school begins to admit girls, there will be a need to appoint some women teachers to undertake a pastoral role, and possibly to teach subjects such as physical training and sex education which may best be taught to girls by a woman. Such appointments of women staff are already covered by Clause 7(2)(e) of the Bill, which the noble Baroness spoke about and I mentioned earlier. This clause provides that a discriminatory appointment can be defended on the grounds that a person's sex is a genuine occupational qualification where a job involves providing individuals with personal services promoting their welfare or education, or similar personal services, and those services can best be provided by a person of that sex.

The noble Baroness said that she finds that difficult to apply to a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and I think that that is so. The point I was trying to make was that the Government believe that this goes as far as is necessary in all the circumstances. The Government cannot accept that the staffing of a school or a college which is moving towards coeducation needs to reflect the proportion of the boys and girls in the school, or the proportion of sexes in the college. The Government take the view, as was said at Report stage in another place, that there is no educational justification for saying that girls should be taught by women or boys by men, and many subjects can be taught equally well by men or women. It is on that basis that the Government stand on this matter, and therefore, Clause 7(2)(e) is designed, as I am now trying to make clear, for those special areas where it is necessary, or where it is felt it is better, for a girl to be taught by a woman in certain special subjects.

The Government believe that on other matters, as I said in the Report stage, there really is no educational justification for saying that girls should be taught by women or boys by men even during a transitional period, and to go further than that would be to introduce the positive discrimination in favour of women which this Bill it not about. This Bill is about equal opportunities for women, and we believe that that is what it will achieve. Therefore, I invite your Lordships to agree that discrimination other than that allowed by Clause 7 cannot be justified, and therefore to agree to the withdrawal of this Amendment.


If we want to resurrect this at another stage, I should be grateful for a little technical assistance from the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, on behalf of my noble friend, to see what is the best way of doing it. We might want to test whether or not the principle is right. The noble Baroness attempts to apply the transitional exemption order provisions, but to a college in a collegiate university. I looked at Schedule 2 to this Bill, and as it is now drawn it seems as though it would not apply to any university at all, because these are bodies which do not fall under the jurisdiction of the authorities mentioned in that Schedule. If that is right, there are no doubt a number of things that we can do about it. But it may be that, after all, the noble Baroness's method of approach is not susceptible of being fitted into the texture of the Bill, and we ought really to do it by a new clause if we are to do it at all.


Listening to my noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt, I have been reminded of the remark made by Earl Russell, better known as Bertrand Russell, that carrying any argument to its logical conclusion was carrying it far beyond where you ought to take it. In the discussion that we have had, we have been faced with logical imperatives. We are concerned rather with the actual facts. I have heard reference made to a certain college of which I am not aware, something called Trinity College at Cambridge. But we are dealing with the whole question of how the education of young people in universities is carried on. This has nothing to do with the question of whether you fit it into a certain logical pattern. Of course any Department of Education would wish to have a beautiful, clear, logical pattern, and they would thereby destroy education completely.

We are not concerned with this. We are concerned with how you deal with educating young people, boys and girls in universities and colleges, and so on, and surely it must be recognised that where you have a preponderance of girls in a college it is important that you have women in that college in the position of tutors, lecturers, and professors. If you do not have this, then the whole purpose of this Sex Discrimination Bill is being utterly destroyed. What you are, in effect, doing is saying that girls are not allowed to have the sort of education appropriate to them; that they must fit into a pattern which has been decided in the Department of Education. God hell, us! Many of us know the Department of Education and we have a high respect for its purely administrative capacity. But we have very little regard for its understanding of how things are done inside schools and colleges.

It is important to realise that if we are to do this job properly, we must admit that if we are moving from one situation to another—and I personally am entirely in agreement with this move—there must be a transitional period. If there is a transitional period as is described in this Bill for pupils, must there not also be a transitional period for the staff? Are we going to say that when we move from, let us say, 100 per cent. women students to 50 per cent., or whatever it may be, of men and women students, we are going to move on the staffing side straight across to whatever the accident of the market happens to set up? My noble friend does not believe in the market, nor do I. One cannot throw these things straight into the market and let the market decide how it shall be done, otherwise one might as well go to Petticoat Lane to decide. We should be considering this matter of how thing are done—and I am not ashamed to use this phrase—in a Socialist pattern. We should decide these matters in a way which governs the interests of the people in the community.

We are concerned with whether the children, the young men and women, will be properly and suitably trained. We are considering whether we will have the right sort of people to train them and I believe that it would be criminally wrong for us to say that we should move suddenly from what has been a certain ordered pattern to an utterly disordered one simply because the market dictates it. I hope that my noble friend will reconsider this matter and realise how important it is for us to pay attention not only to whether we allow the pupils' opinions to be respected but also whether they get what they need.


Following that remarkable speech by my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones, with which I entirely agreed, I rise simply to say that I have taught both boys and girls and that I know well that I did 100 per cent. better when I was teaching boys than when I was teaching girls, and the same is probably true of most teachers.


I find it somewhat difficult to give the noble Viscount the technical advise he sought when, as I understood him, he was asking whether it would be better in the circumstances to put down a new clause for discussion or take up the issues before us when we come to Schedule 2. The difficulty I find myself in is that there are a number of different strands of argument being adduced in opposition to the line I put forward on behalf of the Government. Some noble Lords are arguing for positive discrimination for all time in different educational establishments. This was certainly the gist of the earlier remarks of my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones and was partly an inference I drew from his speech a moment ago. Then there is the question of positive discrimination during the transitional period, and there is the argument, which has been partly put forward, that in any educational establishment the proportion of males to females among the teaching staff should somehow or other for all time reflect the proportion of males and females being taught.

There are therefore a number of different strands within the arguments that have been put forward and I suggest to the noble Viscount—I hope this is in order; if it is not I stand to be corrected—that those who are taking a line, against the points I made on behalf of the Government, should get together, produce a new clause and put it forward at a later point within this Committee stage, and then we can meet the issues directly and consider them directly and precisely; as precisely as the noble Viscount and the noble Baroness would want us to do.


We welcome the noble Lord's suggestion and accept his offer and will do our best to produce something for the next day of the Committee stage. If that should prove impossible, then of course there will still be the Report stage when we can do it. I hope the noble Lord will consider seriously what we are putting forward because it seems that there is a far stronger case for giving way on this issue than there was, for example, on the question of the schoolmasters' and schoolmistresses' unions, where there was a built-in transitional time anyway, in view of the length of time it would take for the change in the balance of those organisations to happen. If the Government could give way on that, they should give way on this and I hope that we will be able to produce a satisfactory new clause. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [Discrimination in provision of goods, facilities or services]:

On Question, Whether Clause 29 shall stand part of the Bill?

6.25 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

On Second Reading I asked for an explanation of this provision. I am not asking the Minister to give me such an explanation tonight but I trust that he will look into the matter. The clause is extremely complicated. Subsection (3) begins "For the avoidance of doubt", and as one reads it one becomes more doubtful all the time. I would therefore be grateful if the Minister would consider the matter and perhaps write to me or otherwise simplify the wording of the Bill.


I agree with my noble friend Baroness Vickers, because for people who are alleged to have done something discriminatory there will be a defence in the county court or sheriff court. I believe that this refers to hairdressers, but the phraseology is not good and it must be simplified because it could become so litigeous and tiresome that it might not be worth having this provision in the Bill.


I said on Second Reading that I thought that whether by accident or design this Bill would effectively make it illegal for British Rail to retain "Ladies Only" waiting rooms at stations and, to the extent that they still exist, "Ladies Only" compartments on trains. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, shook his head to indicate that I was mistaken, but the more I study this clause the more puzzled I become by it. Subsection (2)(a) and (f), particularly as qualified by subsection (1)(b), which refers to facilities being provided "in a like manner" to one sex as to another, would appear to rule out these single-sex waiting rooms and compartments. I am bound to say, however, that if these are permitted, then bars in pubs or hotels which admit men only must surely be permitted as well. I am in favour of the retention of "Ladies Only" waiting rooms and "Ladies Only" compartments on trains, if there is a demand for them, just as I am in favour of "Men Only" bars in pubs and hotels if there is a demand for them—though I would not patronise one myself—and provided there are facilities under the same roof for members of the opposite sex to have a drink. However, it seems illogical to permit one and ban the other, although in fact I do not think that the clause as drafted does that, because it seems to be either all or nothing, one way or the other.


I accept a great deal of what the noble Viscount said about the phraseology of this clause. As he rightly said, it affects hairdressing, and tailoring as well in certain circumstances. Perhaps it could be phrased more happily, but he will know from experience the difficulty the draftsmen can have on some occasions. It is easy for us to criticise phraseology on occasions such as this, but it is often more difficult to make the phraseology clearer in legislation. However, if we can do anything we will do it, but I cannot hold out much prospect of that. In regard to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, I will inquire into the fate of "Ladies Only" waiting rooms and compartments and write to him before the Report stage.

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 27: After Clause 30, insert the following clause:

Discrimination: consent for assignment or sub-letting

(" .—(1) Where the licence or consent of the landlord or of any other person is required for the disposal to any person of premises in Great Britain comprised in a tenancy, it is unlawful for the landlord or other person to discriminate against a woman by withholding the licence or consent for disposal of the premises to her.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if—

  1. (a) the person withholding a licence or consent, or a near relative of his ("the relevant occupier") resides, and intends to continue to reside, on the premises, and
  2. (b) there is on the premises, in addition to the accommodation occupied by the relevant occupier, accommodation (not being storage accommodation or means of access) shared by the relevant occupier with other persons residing on the premises who are not members of his household, and
  3. (c) the premises are small premises as defined in section 31(2).

(3) In this section "tenancy" means a tenancy created by a lease or sub-lease, by an agreement for a lease or sub-lease or by a tenancy agreement or in pursuance of any enactment; and "disposal", in relation to premises comprised in a tenancy, includes assignment or assignation of the tenancy and sub-letting or parting with possession of the premises or any part of the premises.

(4) This section applies to tenancies created before the passing of this Act, as well as to others.")

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the new clause is to deal with what I believe the House will agree is a lacuna in the provisions of the Bill dealing with the dispersal of premises. Subject to the small dwellings exception in Clause 30(1), it makes it unlawful to discriminate in the provision of premises. This will deal with a situation in which a landlord refuses to grant a lease to a woman on the grounds of her sex. It will also make it unlawful for any tenant to discriminate by refusing to assign a lease or sublet a premises to a woman on the grounds of her sex. The new clause is designed to deal with the situation in which a tenancy agreement provides that the landlord's licence or consent is required to assignment or subletting. Let us say that a tenant wants to assign a lease to a woman and that the landlord withholds his consent because the prospective assignee is a woman. If the tenant abides by that refusal of consent and does not assign to the woman, the woman will—with some justification—feel that she has been discriminated against.

However, the tenant has probably not contravened Clause 30 because the reason for his action was the withholding of consent by the landlord and the landlord—who is the real culprit in this situation—has clearly not contravened Clause 30 because he is not disposing of the premises himself. It is true that the withholding of consent would probably be held to be unreasonable and will become inoperative under the landlord and tenant legislation, but we think it right to put the matter beyond dispute and that is why we have proposed the new Clause. I beg to move.


I entirely agree with the noble Lord that it is much better to have it spelt out in the Bill than to have to rely upon somebody taking a case to court, with we know not what result. I agree that the clause should go in and that it is an improvement.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 31 [Exception for small dwellings]:

On Question, Whether Clause 31 shall stand part of the Bill?


I should like to ask the noble Lord if he can say why subsection (1)(a) exempts only a near relative from the provisions of the two preceding clauses. Clause 77 defines a near relative as a wife, husband, parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister or illegitimate child. I should have thought that, in certain cases, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces might be just as much part of the family circle as grandparents and grandchildren. I wonder why they have been excluded.


It is difficult to formulate a precise description of what is a reasonable definition of "near relative". The Government have made their view clear in Clause 77(5) and I think that that is reasonable. It is fairly widely drawn, as the noble Lord has pointed out. I will look at the matter again, gladly, but I think that it is probably as widely drawn as is desirable.


I feel that, apart from the question of how one can have those relationships which are listed in Clause 77(5) by affinity—a matter of which I should like an explanation sometime—the definition in the Bill is probably similar to that in the Rent Acts and in the Agricultural Holdings Acts. Probably it is as well to keep a similarity of relationship and not to extend it any wider, and I believe that the better course will be to stick to the Bill.

Clause 31 agreed to.

Clause 32 [Exception for political parties]:

Baroness VICKERS moved Amendment 28: Page 21, line 31, after ("applies") insert ("for a period of ten years").

The noble Baroness said: This is an entirely new clause which was not in the original Bill and which proposes a special provision for persons of one sex only, in the constitution, organization or administration". of a political Party which would be unaffected by the goods, facilities and services clause—Clause 29. In this example, it means that separate women's sections for political Parties will remain lawful. I do not think that what I have to say will be particularly popular with any political Party in this Committee tonight because most of them seem to wish to retain this provision. But I feel that it is rather hypocritical to say in subsection (1)(a) that: … it has as its main object, or one of its main objects, the promotion of parliamentary candidatures for the Parliament of the United Kingdom". How, by keeping men and women in separate sections, can one do anything to promote Parliamentary candidates? I feel that it is extremely unfortunate that we should keep up this system in, I believe, all three Parties. Surely, the great thing, if we really want to work together, is gradually—and that is why we put in 10 years—to ensure that there is a change of thought and that men and women can work together on political matters. After all, it is 55 years since women got the vote and we have very few Members of Parliament. I believe that that is partly because of the segregation of the sexes. Traditionally, when the women have their annual conferences nothing particular ever comes out of them. They are very enjoyable, they provide a good get-together; there are discussions, but those who attend are not, in most cases, delegates. They just come from their local constituency and therefore they have no power at all. They learn quite a lot from hearing the Ministers or Shadow Ministers and the leaders of their Party, but that will not help women in the future. I suggest that it is very detrimental that we should keep these groups separate.

I quite realise that it is not possible to change the system quickly, so we have suggested a period of 10 years in the hope that the matter can be worked out over that time. I feel that, if there are to be equal opportunities, equal powers and equal work under the Bill, all political Parties must acknowledge that women do most of the work in the constituencies, at General Elections and in raising funds—and so long as we keep these separate sections this will go on. I do not want it to be perpetuated among the younger generation because, in so many other fields, the younger people get together. I know that most of the political Parties have young sections in which the young start off as boys and girls or young men and women, according to their age, and it seems such a pity that, when they come to join the Party proper, they are so often segregated into groups according to sex.

So I hope that the Minister will consider this, as the clause is a new one—an afterthought, in other words—and that 10 years or any other time they may like to suggest will be considered sufficient to allow the Parties to think this matter out. Until women can get into the mainstream with men and not have separate organisations, we shall never get them really working together. I know that this is a point which all political Parties find it rather difficult to talk about, but I feel that, now we have the present Bill, it might be a way to achieve a change over a period of years. I beg to move.


I once said of the Labour Party that it had so many principles that it could not live up to all of them at once. It seems to me that here is an example of the failure of the Government to live up to the principles of the Bill in matters relating to its own domestic affairs as a political Party. I am also looking at Amendment No. 47, which makes exceptions for elective bodies which have reserved places for women. These safeguards may be justified. But contrast that with the debate we had yesterday on Clause 12 relating to the teachers' organisations for men and women, who have been separately organised for a very long time; and probably for very good reasons. Until we demurred yesterday from throwing them into the melting pot the day after the Bill became law, we did not realise that no period of grace was allowed for these organisations to adjust themselves. I believe that we have probably not paid enough attention to the need for reasonable periods during which those concerned can adjust themselves to the new and quite drastic reform contained in the Bill.

I believe that in many respects the Bill is in advance of public opinion, and one has to be very careful when imposing on the public new standards, a new outlook or a new approach, by legislation. A reasonable period for people to become adjusted to the new principles and the new order is a common sense approach to the problem. I need not defend my record in this field. I believe that in the present circumstances, in which there is so much that seems to divide the nation and so much restiveness in various parts of society, especial care is necessary to proceed with reasonable caution in asking the public to accept different ideas. That is the philosophy of the matter that persuades me to have considerable sympathy with the Amendment. Without this, it appears that under Clause 32, political Parties can go on indefinitely in a type of organisation which is in fundamental conflict with the principles of equality which the Bill lays down.

Ten years seems to be a very reasonable period for political Parties to adjust themselves. I suppose that this applies to women's sections and other traditional forms of activity in political Parties. No one has a feeling of greater indebtedness to women's sections than I; nor is there any other Member of your Lordships' House who has stood for election to another place who knows more than how much one came to rely on the efforts of the women's sections. Nevertheless, I think that they began, and were continued, as a distinctive and differential part of the activity of political Parties in constituencies. I am not sure whether as a matter of principle we want to continue that. Ten years would give everyone the opportunity of forming a new concept of local organisation and of men and women working together.

I should not like to say what was the principle upon which these separate activities developed in political Parties. I have a feeling that it was because women came on to the political scene later than men, and for all sorts of reasons banded themselves together in women's efforts and women's activities in which they could express themselves, and in which they could be in charge of their own affairs and make their own contributions to political Parties. Therefore, I think it was based on the inferiority, or secondary role, of women when they first came into politics. That is how it occurs to me, seeing how it has developed over a number of years.

If my deduction from events is correct, that alone suggests that the situation should not be continued indefinitely, but that it should be brought to an end within a reasonable time—


My Lords—


I hope that my noble friend is not going to spoil my argument.


My noble friend was asking how this situation developed and I thought that he got it wrong. I think that the women's sections developed from the early days—especially in the trade union movement—when the men worked long hours into the evening and while women had time off, particularly in the afternoon. They could spare the time then, and someone had to look after the larger families in those days. I think that is how it started. I agree with the rest of the argument and so I will not trip up my noble friend. I want merely to ensure that he gets the origins correct.


I am very grateful to my noble friend. We do not strongly disagree on matters, and I am glad that he is helping me more than hindering me in the presentation of my argument to the Committee. He is probably correct. But nowadays we frequently have an entirely new situation, in which the man stays at home to look after the family, while the woman goes out to do an evening shift, or part-time work, or take part in political activities. We are living in a different age, and some of the practices of the past should now come under closer scrutiny and should not be continued for an unduly long period.

I support the Amendment because I regard it desirable to provide a period for the protection which Clause 32 gives to a type of organisation which I believe is rapidly outliving its usefulness in political affairs.


I wish to support my noble friend Lady Vickers. I believe that the origins of segregation go back even further to the time of the suffragettes. I recall that when I was very young the anti-suffrage movement was operating and women banded themselves together very strongly and took strong action to get a vote. That situation probably hung over after they got the vote—which took a long time to get—and they still remain in groups. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lady Vickers and with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, that the situation we have been discussing should come to an end. If there is one type of organisation where men and women can work together very strongly, it is the political organisation. I sincerely hope that the Government will see their way to accepting this very simple Amendment, allowing termination after 10 years.


As one who put his name to this Amendment, I should like to intervene briefly. A very serious principle is involved here, and I hope that the Ministers will not dismiss the Amendment lightly. It is very important that these days politicians are not seen to exempt themselves from what they are legislating for other people. This is a very clear case of where we are trying to do it without any good excuse. The proposal must be amended in some way before the Bill passes into law. That it can be done over a period of time I have absolutely no doubt.

The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, said she did not think that the Amendment would be welcome to any political Party, but it is certainly welcome to the Liberal Party. One of the reasons why it is welcome is that the Women's Liberal Federation—our equivalent body, of which my noble friend Lady Seear is President—began two or three years ago to admit male members. There are not very many, but there are a number of people who want to help, and who can help this type of women's support organisation, or who are particularly interested in policy matters which affect the equality of the sexes, or questions dealing specifically with women, and they are totally entitled to become members of the Women's Liberal Federation. There is no reason why these things should not develop gradually and generally, but 10 years is rather long. However, there must surely he some qualification to the clause as it stands.


I am in sympathy with the Amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, but I wish to comment on the statements by my noble friends Lord Houghton of Sowerby and Lord Pannell. Are not all reforms in advance of public opinion? I recall the many causes espoused by my noble friend Lord Houghton which were far in advance of public opinion. Yet he produced that argument against the Amendment and I am rather surprised, almost shocked.


I press this point to reply directly to the noble Baroness. Most of the campaigns in which Lord Houghton had taken part in the past were on behalf of women. Now, for the first time, men are making incursions into such women's fields as midwifery; and the women do not like it.


It does not matter very much at my age what I feel about this at all. I do not mind the Amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, if she wishes to move it; but I think we are getting to a rather ridiculous situation. I represented an industrial area in Parliament for something like 38 years and therefore I think I am entitled to speak on these matters. To develop the way the discussion has gone in the debate tonight, I think women sometimes enjoy being together—in the same way as I think men enjoy being together. I do not want us to introduce in this Sex Discrimination Bill the sort of situation where people feel that it is only men and women together who are going to make any progress. That is absolutely ridiculous. My noble friend Lady Vickers spoke about a Conservative women's conference. Things may be different in the world she comes from, but I think, at any rate, that women love coming up to a women's conference and being together for a bit and enjoying life.

You do not always have to have men and women together to enjoy some of the things of life or to make progress. All I can say is that if at the women's conference when they put forward resolutions, sometimes very good ones, there has been a failure, it has been that of MPs. probably men and women, to get the things they wanted on to the Statute Book, because MPs, men and women, did not take the action they could have taken in the House of Commons to forward the causes in which they believed.

I would not dream of supporting anything which prevented women from meeting together, or men from meeting together. Looking at the country as a whole, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, was probably right to say that this Bill is in advance of public opinion. But I am not certain, in the kind of things that one enjoys in life, that one wants to be in advance of public opinion. I do not know whether men realise what fun it is for women—certainly it is so in my part world—occasionally to be together without men. Much as I like them, I certainly would not want always to be with men. I have had plenty of men in my life and enjoy being with them; but I do not always want to be in a mixed society.

Sometimes people have asked me, as I first fought in a very industrial area—and this was before I was allowed to vote—in Morpeth when I fought a high ranking miner. Bob Smillie. and I fought another high-ranking miner, Ebby Edwards: "How did you manage to get adopted to fight seats like that?" I always replied that it was because there was not a trainload of glamorous young men who wanted to fight difficult seats like that. On the whole, I never got very far. I did not get into Parliament through fighting Morpeth. Although the miners did not vote for me, we always got on very well. I liked them; and sometimes, after they had given me a bad time politically, they used to rescue me.

I am not going to vote for an alteration of Party administration in a Bill of this kind without ever having heard from, at any rate, my Party organisation, about whether they welcomed the introduction of a clause of this kind. The Amendment I could not care less about—and I am certainly not going to vote for anything that is going to decide how a political Party must organise itself. That is absolutely dotty. In no circumstances would I support it. Probably nobody in the Committee will agree with me, but I think this business of—


I am much obliged to the noble Baroness for giving way, but I feel that my noble friend Lord Pannell and I are being scolded. Would the noble Baroness kindly turn around and address some of her remarks to her noble friend Lady Vickers. That would distribute the sense of responsibility.


I hope that my noble friend Lady Vickers is listening to what I am saying. I cannot always turn around. I do not turn around and look at the men all the time. There were plenty in the House of Commons and there are plenty in the House of Lords; and I am delighted about that. I think that perhaps some men do not know what fun it is for women sometimes to be alone. I remember one of the first occasions when I went to Finland in the early 1930s to help with British Week there. It was quite amusing. I went to the enormous dinners that were given. They were all-men affairs; I was the only woman present. I thought that the men would like to be by themselves; so that when all the speeches were over I turned to the Minister—there was not an Ambassador in those days—and said: "I think I should be going". He said, "Going?" I said, "I thought that I should like to leave the men together." He replied, "You can't go before the President leaves." So I had to sit there. Perhaps they thought I ought to be thrilled at being with all those men.

I like to allow men to have their fun as well as I like to have my own fun. I have never had any difficulty in getting on with men. I would not vote for a clause of this kind. Nobody will support me, so I shall not object to it; but I should not dream of supporting a clause which makes arrangements about political organisations without any conference with my political Party. I do not always support my own Party, or my own organisation, but I should not dream of doing this in a Sex Discrimination Bill without having the support of my own Party in my own part of the world. I am sorry. I do not often disagree with my noble friend Lady Vickers but she seems to want to have men and women always together. This means that they are going to miss quite a lot of fun from life. You can have your little Amendment, for all I care; for I shall not be alive in ten years' time. I do not think it is wise on a Sex Discrimination Bill, which I support wholeheartedly, to think that you must go so far in order to arrange how other people ought to organise their affairs. I am sorry about that, but I think we are going dotty if we go on in that way.


This debate has demonstrated, if nothing else, that there is no justice in politics. The Government faced severe criticism from the noble Baroness who has just sat down, and from my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby, who said we were failing to live up to our principles. Last night the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said that the Government were not paying sufficient attention to the points made by people who took a contrary view on issues arising from this Bill. In these circumstances, it is probably desirable to discuss for a moment what were the antecedents of this clause.

This matter was raised on the Floor of the House in another place, on the Second Reading of this Bill, by the right honourable gentleman who leads for the Conservative Party on Home Office affairs. The matter was then raised in the Standing Committee by a Labour BackBencher who moved an Amendment which is now this clause. It was, in fact, agreed following consultations which took place—this deals with the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ward of North Tyneside—between the representatives of the political Parties with whom my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary spoke following the issue having been raised by Mr. Gilmour. That is the background to the appearance of this clause in this Bill. I do not know whether I will carry my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby with me when say, as someone who has been involved in the machinery of the Labour Party, that I have absolutely no doubt what would be the effect if the Amendment of the noble Baroness were implemented forthwith. There would be fewer women on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party; there is no doubt about that.


But we are considering the Amendment of the noble Baroness.


I am well aware of that fact, of course. I am well aware of the Amendment of the noble Baroness to which I will come in a moment. If at this moment one was not permitted to have reserved seats on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party for women, there would be fewer women on that National Executive.


So much the worse for the Labour Party.


I should not like to discuss the affairs of the Liberal Party in the presence of the noble Lord. It is some little time since we had the benefit of a woman Liberal Member of Parliament in another place.

Baroness SEEAR

That is the fault of the system of representation in this country, not the Liberal Party.


This shows the danger of being provoked by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I will now retreat from this partisan position to the tranquil waters, I trust, of the remainder of my speech. Reserved seats in the Labour Party and I suspect this may be true of the Conservative Party at constituency level—I cannot pretend to be equally expert on their national machinery—means there would be more women in positions of seniority within the Labour Party and, arguably, within the Conservative Party, than would otherwise be the case. I take the point which has been made in this debate. I am well aware of the fact that though there was virtual unanimity in another place, there has been unanimity in the opposite direction in this place on this clause. I will gladly look at the matter between now and Report stage. It is only fair to say that, as this Amendment was tabled following consultations between representatives of the political Parties, there will have to be further consultation about the term of the Amendment of the noble Baroness. Subject to that, and to one or two further Amendments, which will come up later, which will have some beefing on this matter, I am prepared to look at this before the Report stage and draw my right honourable friend's attention to what has been said tonight.

Baroness VICKERS

I thank the noble Lord and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.5 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 32 shall stand part of the Bill?


If the noble Lord is to look again at the wording of this clause, perhaps I may be allowed to put an additional point to him which occurred to me during the debate. Does he know—and if he does not, could he find out and tell the House at Report stage—whether the definition of a political Party which is in Clause 31(1)(a) is a new definition to the Statute Book, or was it drawn from somewhere else? I see the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt has rejoined the Committee. He has done so at exactly the right moment for, as an ex-teacher of politics, he will know that there are many different ways of defining political Parties. To do so solely in terms of canditature for Parliament is one way. But whether it is the only way I do not know. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is considering at the moment how political Parties should be financed. If it comes to legislation on that aspect, if there was already a definition of a political Party on the Statute Book, for this Bill it would be wise to give some thought to this is a rather wider context.

Does the noble Lord know what is intended in Clause 32(1)(b)! It says: It is an affiliate of, or has as an affiliate, or has similar formal links with, a political Party within paragraph (a). The trade union movement, as I understand it, is already covered under a separate clause which it is proposed should be added to the Bill after Clause 46. If that is not intended to cover the trade union movement, what other bodies are intended? I appreciate that the noble Lord may not have the answers at his finger-tips. Since he has indicated he is to look at this clause again, could he include the answers to these questions at the same time?

Baroness BACON

On that point, I should like my noble friend to clear up this matter. As the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said, Clause 32(1)(b) would surely bring in trade unions, so far as the Labour Party were concerned at any rate. Yesterday, when we were discussing whether or not there should be separate trade unions for women, I was against this and so were my noble friends on the Front Bench. I am wondering whether this is now going to be contradictory, in that in one place—which I supported—we decided we were not going to allow trade unions solely for women or solely for men, but here we are allowing that to be so for trade unions, in that they are affiliated to a political Party.


I think I can satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, on one point straightaway. The idea of a political Party is unknown to the law and therefore this is the first time, so far as I am aware, that this definition has appeared in that form on the Statute Book. It obviously raises difficult questions of definition and phraseology.


It is a slightly casual way to place a definition of a political Party for the first time on the Statute Book in a Bill of this nature; it is introduced in a clause which was not in the Bill when it was originally drafted and introduced in another place.


We are always anxious to follow the advice given by the right honourable gentleman who spoke on this subject for the Opposition Party in another place. He raised the question that perhaps the matter should be looked at. The Government have followed his advice, and I am sure the noble Lord will agree that that is no cause for any censure of this Government. They clearly had to define a political Party if we were to meet the point raised on the Floor of the House. We have endeavoured to do so in that way. Regarding the second point, paragraph (b) deals with the affiliate. I speak subject to correction, but this deals with the constituency Party. We are talking about two things: first, the national Party organisation and, secondly, constituency Parties.

My noble friend Lady Bacon raised a question regarding trade unions. My impression is that this is dealt with in another part of the Bill. I do not think it is directly dealt with here but I will certainly look into it, given the fact that I have already said that we will look into the clause as a whole, following the Amendment which would impose a 10-year time limit on this requirement.

Baroness BACON

Before my noble friend sits down, I do not think he quite grasped my point. It is quite true that trade unions are dealt with in another part of the Bill, which we were discussing yesterday. The Government spokesman resisted any Amendment which would make it possible to have trade unions of one sex, and I was in favour of that. But my point is that Clause 32(1)(b) is in direct contradiction to what is said in the trade union part of this Bill.


May I make one point. Is it really true to say that this defines "political Party"? It seems only to say what kind of political Party this clause is concerned with. Paragraph (a) says what kind of political Party it applies to, but it does not define "political Party".


I do not want to take this very much further, but I should like to clear up one misunderstanding with the noble Lord. I was not expressing a point of view consistent with or posed from the Front Bench in another place by Mr. Ian Gilmour. I have not been close enough to this issue. Perhaps it could be argued both ways, but it seems to me that if, as I thought, there is no definition of "political Party" on the Statute Book, and if this is either a definition or—taking the qualification that my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has just given—it defines a type of political activity which is to be exempt for the purposes of the Bill, then this is a far-reaching step to take.

The noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, as a teacher of politics, will appreciate the significance of the fact that it will get a footnote in the constitutional history books. So all I am saying is, please, if it has been added for reasons of expediency, which may be good ones, could the noble Lord, between now and Report stage, make sure that this point is carefully looked at by the draftsman and within his own Department, because it may have repercussions for the future. That is the only point I was seeking to make.


May I make one point. I would not wish to press the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for a reply now, because I think this clause has implications much wider than one might originally have thought. We have been talking about the major Parties, but in an Election the Communist Party stands and ranks—indeed, it is given time on television—as an official Party in the electoral system. There are many wings which are affiliated under different names. Some of them are identified as being of one sex; for example, the Women's League for International Peace or names of that kind. I must beg your Lordships' pardon if I have not got the title absolutely correct, but they are an affiliated body, and I think we need to see just how widely this clause will apply. It may be going beyond the three major Parties, with whose activities and constituency arrangements we are all very familiar. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will be able to give us some specific definition before we get to the Report stage.


I would not have troubled the Committee at all had it not been for the intervention of the noble Baroness. I would have been quite content not to speak, because the point I wanted to make was made far better than I could have made it myself by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. The only part of the Bill which interests me concerns the effect of the intervention made in another place by Mr. Ian Gilmour. Here, by a back door, we are going to apply a footnote to various books which are written on constitutional practice, and later on we shall find that the definition of "political Party" is in a sloppy footnote to what is essentially a sloppy Bill. Every atom of my political being revolts against this kind of treatment. This is a subject of fundamental importance, and tile fact that it has come about as a result of an intervention by Mr. Ian Gilmour adds no respectability to it. I do not put him in the front rank of political thinkers; but whether or not it is as a result of his action, the responsibility rests with Her Majesty's Government in general and with the Home Office in particular; and to put this clause into the Bill seems to be nothing short of an outrage so far as I am concerned.

As the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has said, we have never attempted in this country—I think wisely—to be very precise in our political thinking. We have rather played it by ear and found the truth as we went along. And suddenly to jump into it in this way, in the absolutely certain knowledge that by doing this we shall be opening a door—and there I exempt the noble Baroness from any attempt to cast smears on the Communist Party—to the kind of thing which is bound to happen if this Bill goes through. I will not say any more than that. I hope the Minister responsible will take the matter back to the Home Secretary, who is himself no political novice, and ask him to look at this clause and its implications. May we ask the Home Office to do a little homework and come up with something better than the present wording here.

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 agreed to.

Clause 34 [Further exceptions from ss. 29(1) and 30]:

7.15 p.m.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 29: Page 22, line 27, leave out ("prison") and insert ("reception centre provided by the Supplementary Benefits Commission")

The noble Lord said: This may not at first appear to be what it is; namely, a tactical Amendment. It is necessary because of the difficulty over the use of the word "prison", for example. Prison is not caught by Clause 29(1); it is a singularly bad example. Therefore, we are proposing the alternative form of words. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Baroness SEEAR moved Amendment No. 30: Page 22, line 33, leave out ("or avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of any of its followers")

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment should be considered in connection with Clause 19 and, if I can take it that the Government will consider this phraseology at the same time, I will ask leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 35 agreed to.

Clause 36 [Discriminatory practices]:

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 31: Page 24, line 14, leave out ("or could result")

The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment which has been put down to tidy up the language used in this clause. Some criticism was made in another place and the Amendment is an attempt to meet that criticism. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 32.

Amendment moved— Page 24, line 17, at end insert ("or which would be likely to result in such an act of discrimination if the persons to whom it is applied were not all of one sex"—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 33.

Amendment moved— Page 24, line 22, leave out ("can") and insert ("would")—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 36, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 37 [Discriminatory advertisements]:

Lord DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 34: Page 24, line 30, leave out ("or might be")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is exploratory, in a sense. The clause as now drafted reads: (1) It is unlawful to publish or cause to be published an advertisement which indicates, or might reasonably be understood as indicating, an intention by a person to do any act which is or might be unlawful by virtue of Part II or III. I should have thought that one thing we would seek to achieve by law is to make it certain. To me the words "or might be" introduce an element of uncertainty which is highly undesirable. I wonder whether the noble Lord could explain what is intended. I beg to move.


I am in slight difficulty on this point and for a number of reasons I should like to consider the matter. I will look at it again before Report.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.21 p.m.

Lord DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 35: Page 24, line 37, at end insert ("(such as "male or female" or "M/F")")

The noble Lord said: The point of this Amendment is very simple. It is to find out what the Government consider would be an indication in an advertisement that the advertiser did not intend to discriminate. It is intended also to be helpful as guidance to advertisers in the same way as the parentheses describing or giving examples of sexual connotations is intended to be helpful. Numerically by far the largest number of advertisements that might fall foul of this clause would be classified advertisements of up to three, four, five or six lines or so, and every letter of a word adds to the cost. The Amendment is suggesting a brief formalised formula that everyone will understand and keep within the law.


This Amendment is an attempt to clarify the phrase, "an indication to the contrary" which appears in subsection (3). However, it is considered that in this respect the addition is unnecessary. In fact to introduce a word such as "male" or "female" may place limits on the interpretation of what constitutes "an indication to the contrary". We think it would be undesirable to have any such limitation and that there should be a wide choice, for example, "waiter" or "waitress" or "waiter, male or female". There should not be an indication of restriction by the addition of words such as, "male or female". We are rather afraid of the abbreviation M/F for two reasons: first, because it would not necessarily be understood by people; and, secondly, it might be hidden away in a long advertisement. We feel that this Amendment is unnecessary and that advertisers would be left with a wider choice if the Bill were left as it it.


In that case can the noble Lord tell us how the advertisement is intended to contain "an indication to the contrary"? Can he produce some examples of good indications to the contrary within the meaning of this subsection? We can then see whether they fit into advertisement language and whether it is something which it is reasonble to expect people to insert. If one is not allowed to use a description like "waiter" I see a great difficulty unless there is some indication to show that it could be either a waiter or a waitress.

Now the noble Lord says that he is not going to allow anybody any shorthand method of fulfilling the requirement to indicate that there is no sexual discrimination. He is putting a certatin amount of difficulty in the way of somebody who wishes to insert a short nondiscriminatory advertisement of the sort my noble friend was talking about for somebody to come and do a job which happens to be of the sort normally known by a name such as is set out in brackets in subsection (3). The noble Lord must see that there is a point here. He is saying that it is perfectly all right without showing how it is practicable to do it.


May I also suggest to the noble Lord that, if he is right in thinking that people would have difficulty in understanding what M/F meant, he has only to look at the classified advertisements to see the number of recognised abbreviations which appear. But this may easily mean going over to another line with an extra £1 to pay. In these hard times the noble Lord must not disregard this.


We are saying that the addition of "male" or "female" is unnecessary and could be restrictive. For example, an advertisement for a clerk, male or female, would be quite all right, but there is no need to put that in the Bill. An advertisement for a porter, male or female, would be quite all right; "waiter or waitress" would fit in with the Bill, as indeed would waiter, male or female". We are saying that words such as "male" or "female" are unnecessary and are dangerous in that they might be restrictive in the sense that they would imply that you should use those words and not some other words such as "waiter" or "waitress".

The other issue concerns the use of M/F, and I have made clear our objections to that—first, that the abbreviation is not generally known as male or female. Secondly, it could be concealed in. a large advertisement in such a way as not to be easily found. This is not a matter on which we feel strongly, but we think it is better to leave the Bill as it is.


I hope the noble Lord will give a little further consideration to this before the next stage of the Bill. It would not be worth while dividing the House at this time of night, but I feel it is a matter worth considering. However, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.28 p.m.

Lord DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 25, line 1, leave out subsection (4) and insert: ("(4) The publisher of an advertisement made unlawful by subsection (1) shall not be subject to any liability under that subsection in respect of the publication if he proves that he is a person whose business it is to publish or arrange for the publication of advertisements and that he received the advertisement for publication in the ordinary course of business and did not know and had no reason to suspect that its publication would amount to an offence under this Act.")

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the House, I would suggest that with this Amendment we take Amendment No. 39. As the clause stands, people whose business it is to publish advertisements—mainly newspapers, periodicals, magazines, radio and television and cinema proprietors and proprietors of outdoor sites; that is, poster advertising—are caught by the provisions no less than the advertiser himself. As the provision stands, the publisher of an advertisement made unlawful by subsection (1) is not to be subject to any liability under that subsection in respect of the publication if he proves that he is a person whose business it is to publish or arrange for the publication of advertisements and that he received the advertisement for publication in the ordinary course of business and did not know, and had no reason to suppose, that publication would amount to an offence under this Bill.

This is the present formula under the Trades Descriptions Act which is well understood, and on which publishers, the Press in particular, are accustomed to work. I think it needs a good reason to warrant a change from that position. As the definition of an advertisement for the purposes of this Bill in Clause 77 makes clear, the publisher may be the advertiser himself. The clause goes very wide indeed: 'advertisement' includes every form of advertisement, whether to the public or not, and whether in a newspaper or other publication, by television or radio, by display of notices, signs, labels, showcards or goods, by distribution of samples, circulars, catalogues, price lists or other material, by exhibition of pictures, models or films, or in any other way, and references to the publishing of advertisements shall be construed accordingly". That is the background of what publishing means in this subsection.

I should like at the outset to ask one or two questions about this matter. First of all, are those who print circulars on behalf of advertisers, publishers? Are businesses which send them out by post or deliver them from door to door on behalf of advertisers, publishers? Are those who merely print labels or show-cards to the order of the supplier of goods but do not distribute them themselves, publishers for the purposes of the Bill? Presumably the last are not publishers because they do not distribute, but we want to be quite clear what we are talking about.

When we come to cinema operators, television and radio contractors and outdoor site proprietors, they probably would not find the provisions of the clause as it now stands particularly onerous because they deal with relatively few advertisements and have ample opportunity to study and check them. But publishers of classified advertisements are in an entirely different position. Newspapers handle literally hundreds of classified advertisements every day. It is calculated that there are 40 million to 50 million classified advertisements published every year by the regional Press alone. It may be said—the noble Lord may take this point and I give it to him right away—in that case, all the more need to check that they are lawful. But of course the main and primary responsibility should and must rest with the advertiser himself. The publisher can take only a quick look to see whether an advertisement might reasonably be understood as indicating an intention to do an unlawful act.

I think all of us would agree that there is an enormous difference between sex discrimination and racial discrimination, for two reasons—and I bring this matter in simply to make the point that we need a separate and different provision here. An intention to do an act of racial discrimination can be much more readily discerned, the more so as this Bill is much more complicated than the Race Relations Act. Secondly, the number of advertisements in which the possibility that racial discrimination might arise is minute by comparison with the large volume of advertisements in which the advertiser might be taken to indicate an intention to do an act of discrimination, whether he had any intention to do the act or not.

I am not for one moment suggesting that publishers should not be expected to play their part in eliminating sex discrimination. What I am urging is that they should not be expected to do the impossible; and I will explain what I mean. As I understand the clause, if a publisher prints an advertisement which the Commission, or whoever it is—perhaps the court—thinks might reasonably be understood as indicating an intention to discriminate, whether or not there was such an intention on the part of the advertiser, he commits an unlawful act unless he obtains a statement from the advertiser that the discrimination is in fact permitted under the Bill and that it is reasonable for the publisher to rely on that statement. I dare say the noble Lord is aware—I do not know which noble Lord will reply, but I am sure that both noble Lords are well aware—of the immense modernisation in the handling of classified advertisements which has taken place in the last decade. He probably is, and his officials may also have heard of it. But have they taken it sufficiently into account? In the old days one passed an advertisement over the counter, either at the newspaper's offices or at an office or a shop which acted as their agents. Some advertisements came by post. But today a sizeable newspaper will have literally dozens of girls taking advertisements by telephone.

I should like to say right away that arrangements are being made to train these girls to discern at a glance whether any act of sex discrimination is obviously intended. If they have reason to think an advertisement in any way discriminatory they are to ask the person at the end of the telephone whether he is entitled under the Bill to discriminate; whether the act is lawful. I understand the arrangements are that the girl will then put a mark in the chit which she passes on to the supervisor, and if he is satisfied he would pass it on to the classified advertisement manager (I hasten to add, or manageress) to the effect that she has obtained such an assurance. I would add also that instructions in the Bill's requirements are to be included in all the training sessions organised by regional papers—I cannot speak for the others because I am not aware of their full arrangements, but I am sure they will be doing the same thing.

The question is by what criteria can the manager decide whether it is reasonable to rely on that statement? He has to decide; otherwise, according to the clause as it now stands, he is committing an unlawful act. Even the newspaper's lawyer would have difficulty in deciding: he would have to assess the reliability of an unknown individual and the probability of his being right in law, and so forth. The alternative would be for the person who called the tele-ad operator to insist on the advertiser giving chapter and verse in writing. If so, this would mean a complicated procedure with delays. Bear in mind that something like 60 per cent. of classified advertisements are. I understand, advertisements for employment. So obviously the newspaper's costs could rise considerably, and to very little purpose because, as I have said, it would still be very difficult to be sure that the publisher would be considered to have been reasonable in relying on the statement. Certainly that difficulty would remain.

I do not expect the Minister to give a final answer today. I hope he will not try to do so today because I doubt whether he has had time fully to consider the matter. My Amendment proposes that, in place of the complicated arrangements, which I suggest are of doubtful value (unless the noble Lord proposes to accept the Amendment straight away; that would be a different matter) and would give rise to a great deal of trouble and expense, there should be substituted the familiar formula which the Amendment reproduces. Under the Amendment any publisher would be expected to know what the Bill requires, and expected to ensure that his employees in the classified advertisement department know also. If he had reason to suspect that an advertisement was discriminatory he would reject it or ask for an explanation by telephone or in writing.

But one of the great difficulties of the tele-ad system is that if it were a question of something unlawful having been done, even though the advertiser had given an assurance to the tele-ad operator, it is highly probable that the advertiser would deny ever having given that assurance. So a real problem exists here. What the newspapers fear is that it will be very difficult for them to prove that the employee, who accepted an advertisement for publication, asked for or obtained an oral assurance that it conformed with the Bill. To require a written statement in all cases would seem quite impracticable.

Amendment No. 39 simply makes the necessary changes in subsection (5) to fit in with Amendment No. 37 and can thus be regarded as consequential. I am suggesting, however, that it is very much better to rely on a well tried and well understood form of words, especiallly during the early stages of the operation of the Bill. If it should prove later that this is not enough, the Secretary of State could alter it under the powers which Clause 75 provides, which could be amended to include Clause 37(4). I know that the Government do not like to amend powers that involve criminal sanctions, but this does not involve a criminal sanction. As I understand it, the publisher is not liable on a criminal charge; it is only the person who gives the statement who is liable on a criminal charge. Therefore, I suggest to the noble Lord that this is the best way to proceed. I beg to move.

7.41 p.m.


This Amendment suggests that we are being too tough on the publisher, yet in Amendment No. 38 it is suggested that we are not being tough enough on the publisher. This makes us feel that we have probably struck the right balance. The purpose of the amendment to subsection (4) is to reduce considerably the liability of the publisher of an advertisement which is unlawful. As drafted, subsection (4) affords the publisher of an unlawful advertisement an exemption from liability under subsection (1) if he can prove that he relied upon a statement by the person placing the advertisement that the advertisement was excepted from subsection (1) by subsection (2) and that it was reasonable for him to rely on that statement. This is in recognition of the fact that where the publisher of an advertisement is not also its originator he may be in some difficulty, given the range of exceptions in the Bill, in determining whether or not it is lawful. But it would be quite wrong, and it would thwart the purpose of this important clause, if there were no obligations on a publisher to take reasonable steps to ensure that advertisements are not unlawful. The onus must, in our view, be on the publisher to satisfy himself that he is complying with the law, just as it is the duty of anybody else to ensure that his or her actions are within the law.


If I may intervene, this is exactly the purpose of the words I have put down in the Amendment. This is why they are in the Trade Descriptions Act. It is the duty of the publisher to assure himself that the advertisement he is accepting is lawful, but only to the extent that he knows it to be lawful or has no reason to suspect that it is unlawful.


In our view, the Amendment does not go far enough. If it appears that the advertisement is or might be unlawful—I stress the worth "or might be" because in many an advertisement it will not be clear on the surface. For example, an advertisement for a female cook may or may not be lawful. Whether the cook is required for a private house, for a small firm, or for a larger firm, it may be unlawful and it is then for the publisher to make his inquiries. Even though the advertisement may in itself be only an indication of an intention to discriminate, this is a particularly crucial area, given the impact which advertisements have. As the clause stands, the publisher does not incur liability if he ensures that the person placing an advertisement which might be unlawful makes a statement to the effect that it is not unlawful and if the statement is plausible. I do not believe that this is too onerous a burden to impose on the publishers of advertisements, even those who operate at the pace of the daily newspapers. All we are saying is that on the face of it one can see whether an advertisement is unlawful or might be unlawful. Therefore, there is an indication at once that one should make an inquiry and if one receives a plausible reply one is entitled to rely upon it.


I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, would care to look at this clause again. If one analyses the way that the Bill is supposed to work, I am wondering whether or not it ought to be subdivided. Enforcement under Clause 69 is to be carried out only by the Equal Opportunities Commission. This will not be a case where individuals complain about the actions of each other in front of one or other of the tribunals that we have set up for Parts II and III. It will be the Equal Opportunities Commission which will step in. One looks at Clause 69 to see what they can do. They can ask the right court to decide whether there was a contravention of the Act and in a bad case they can also ask for an injunction. If I remember rightly, there is also provision for them to serve a non-discrimination notice under Clause 64.

With the very greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, I should have thought that there is a difference between the person from whom the advertisement originates—who, I should think, is the real culprit if there is, in fact, an act of discrimination—and the channel through which that advertisement is put forward. I am absolutely certain that it is right that a fairly heavy burden should be placed on the person who inserts the advertisement in the first place, whose advertisement it is and who wants the job filled. He should have to fulfil a fairly heavy test. As I understand what my noble friend was saying, he could be a publisher. But if, for instance, it is a newspaper carrying sheets of classified advertisements for jobs one would expect there to be a slightly different test, for the reason of pure volume. It is a very great advantage to people who are looking for jobs that there should be a large number of jobs advertised in the newspapers. One does not want to cut down the opportunities that people have to get the right job that they need because one nuts such onerous burdens on the channels of communication that they are slowed down or they have to take on a colossal number of extra staff.

As this is to be done through the Commission and presumably will be taken up only in bad cases, I am wondering whether the noble Lord may consider that it would be right to subdivide this clause. I am speaking off-the-cuff at the moment, having listened to what my noble friend has said. If one is too strict—this is something which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, has been saying with great cogency throughout the debate in Committee—and takes too onerous a view of what should be done under the Bill, with the purposes of which I entirely agree, and makes the whole thing ridiculous by being too restrictive and onerous and making it too difficult for people to stick to the rules, one will bring the whole thing into disrepute. I put this forward to the noble Lord so that he may consider it. I do not suppose that the matter will rest here today, and in view of the remedies which will lie in the hands of the Equal Opportunities Commission I should like the noble Lord to examine whether or not he could simplify it a little.


I am most grateful to my noble friend. He has made a very important point, because the responsibilities for the advertiser and for the publisher in these respects are quite different. As I said before, I am not saying that the publisher must not take care. He must make certain, so far as it is possible, that the law is not broken and that unlawful tasks are not done. If I may say so, I regret the noble Lord's final sentence. He said that if you get a plausible reply from anybody to whom you put a question you are entitled to rely upon it. Personally, I do not think that that goes far enough, nor do I think that it is what the clause actually says. The courts would not necessarily say that it was reasonable for you to rely upon a reply because it was plausible. This is part of the difficulty. We have to make certain that innocent people are not caught out on matters of this kind. They do their best, but the publisher cannot do more than his best to find out whether or not the proposed act would be unlawful.

So I hope the noble Lord will take careful account of what my noble friend has said and will also see whether on examination it would not be better to rest on the existing formula. He has not said for a moment that the formula in the Trade Descriptions Act and other Acts is inadequate; he has not said that it is working badly; he has not said that it is not sufficient for this particular case. I have gone out of my way to assure him that so far the newspapers and magazines are taking this very seriously and that they are setting up procedures which are the best that can be designed in the circumstances. I think it would be quite wrong if, having done that, they were to be caught out by somebody saying that it was not reasonable in the particular circumstances to rely on a statement when they had followed all their usual procedures and done their best in the case. I hope the noble Lord will look at this further.


From what I said yesterday—and said repeatedly—I am obviously sympathetic to the point of view put forward that this can be pushed too far and become ridiculous, and that too much onus of responsibility can be put on people who are secondary in the matter. I accept that immediately, but we think a publisher should have some responsibility for the advertisements which he publishes. We are putting the main onus on the advertiser.

Let us look at the position of the publisher: it can be seen at a glance whether an advertisement is unlawful, or might be. I have given the example of the advertisement for the female cook. That advertisement may be unlawful or it may not, depending upon whether it is a small firm, whether it is for a private household or whether it is for a large firm. The answer is different in each case. We are saying that if you get an advertisement which is, or might be, unlawful, the publisher, before publishing, should make inquiries from the advertiser.


If I may intervene for a moment, that is just where I think we are in danger of going too far. I will put a possible solution to the noble Lord to see what he thinks of it. Supposing I am the proprietor of a newspaper and I wish to publish sheets of classified advertisements for jobs. I will tell you what I do in order to meet this. I put at the top of the heading of the column a description of how to put in a classified advertisement and give the telephone number, and then I say: Advertisements are accepted only on the basis of an implied warranty that they do not offend against the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and are accepted on the basis that a deemed statement has been made to comply with Section 37(4)(a). Upon that basis I would put the whole onus upon the originator of the advertisement, and I would argue that it was perfectly reasonable for me to rely on that statement because I had drawn it to the attention of the man or the woman when they were putting in the advertisement, and as it had been drawn to their attention why should I not rely upon it?

This completely disposes of the whole of the noble Lord's argument because, of course, the newspaper then has to do absolutely nothing. They do not even have to check the advertisement. If this is made too difficult and it is made a requirement that they should go back to the original advertiser and say: "Can you tell us which subsection of the Act it is in fact lawful under because we are not very sure?", the answer is that they will not accept the advertisement; it will not appear and there is a perfectly good job lost. That is the sort of practical difficulty that I think we shall get into unless we look at this rather carefully.


I think the noble Viscount has put forward a suggestion that ought to be examined. Incidentally, I very much doubt whether what he is suggesting would fit into the Bill as it stands.


I am prepared to argue.


I would rather be on the other side on that one! I do not think that is the question. The suggestion that has been made is so reasonable and so useful that we might reconsider the wording of the Bill. I will give an undertaking that we will look at this, but I must point out to the Committee that in a few moments we are coming to an Amendment where the proposers take exactly the opposite point of view and it may well be that at the end of the day the Government will take the view—

Baroness SEEAR

It might help the noble Lord if I said in advance that I do not intend to move the next Amendment.


That is extremely helpful. I now have no hesitation in saying that we will look at this point and return to it later.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord for his assurance, and on that assurance I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 37 shall stand part of the Bill?


Perhaps I may just ask why the words "it was effected" appear in line 4 instead of the words "he acted", which are the words used in other parts of the Bill. Why are special words used in this case rather than the words used in other parts of the Bill?


Since the question refers to other parts of the Bill I should, of course, like to look at those other parts before I give an answer. I promise to give an answer as soon as possible.

Clause 37 agreed to.

Clauses 38 and 39 agreed to.

Clause 40 [Liability of employers and principals]:

7.58 p.m.

Baroness SEEAR moved Amendment No. 40: Page 25, line 37, at end insert ("or subordinate").

The noble Baroness said: With the leave of the Committee I will move Amendment No. 40 and speak to Amendment No. 41. Amendment No. 40 is in the nature of a probing Amendment. The responsibility for a breach rests not only with the employer but with, the clause says, "an employee of his". In many circumstances the responsibility lies with the manager and that manager puts the responsibility on to a junior. But that junior is not an employee of the manager who has delegated the responsibility; he is a subordinate. This is why it is suggested that we should insert the words 'or subordinate' to cover a manager delegating to his junior as well as an employer delegating to his employee. I beg to move.


As the noble Baroness pointed out, we are discussing the use of the term "or subordinates". What she has said has indicated that most subordinates will of course be employees, and where they are not they are likely to be agents. If it is argued that there is a third category of people who are not caught by any of these terms—and I do not think frankly that there is—they surely are caught by Clause 38 of the Bill which makes it unlawful for a person—(a) who has authority over another person, or … I will not bore the Committee by reading out Clause 38, but if the noble Baroness looks at that I think it will in some degree reassure her. We have looked at this, but I think it is better to maintain a clear distinction between principals and agents on one side and employers and employees on another. I think the addition of the word "subordinate" would in no way be helpful to the cause in which the noble Baroness is interested, and indeed would cause some confusion.

Baroness SEEAR

I thank the noble Lord for that explanation. I am still not absolutely certain. I am thinking, for example, of the personnel manager, and it will be very much in personnel departments where this will arise. It has, of course, arisen under the Race Relations Act. The personnel manager who is responsible for handling the whole selection procedure, the vital stages of the procedure in relation to this Bill, has a number of subordinates who do the interviewing and talk to people and see the applications. It has happened not infrequently in matters of racial discrimination that someone quite low down the line who has racist tendencies has talked in a way which is undoubtedly a breach of the Act, although quite contrary to the intention of that person's boss, who is himself an employee. Who, then, is the responsible person? The company has delegated the selection responsibility to an employee, the personnel manager; the personnel manager delegates the handling of applications and the handling of the selection procedure to a junior personnel officer. The personnel manager has no intention of discriminating, but the personnel officer, who is what is known now as a "male chauvinist pig", proceeds to discriminate. Who is responsible? The personnel officer is not an employee of the personnel manager; he is a subordinate.


I think the answer to the noble Baroness is Clause 38.

Baroness SEEAR

If the noble Lord thinks that is satisfactory, I will accept it and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 40 agreed to.

Clause 41 agreed to.

Clause 42 [Charities]:


As we have got to the end of Part IV, and I observe the noble and learned Lord, full of views about the maximum number of judges, awaiting his turn, might I ask the noble Lord, Lord Harris, whether we could have an indication as to how long we are going on with the Committee? I think we have made good progress. Although the remainder of the Amendments on the Marshalled List—largely because I have drafted some of them—look rather lengthy, I do not think there is an enormous amount of substance in some of them. We might perhaps contemplate resuming the House at this stage.


I am always anxious to follow the noble Viscount in any suggestion that he makes, and I am sure he is speaking for a large number of noble Lords who have laboured long on this important Bill. Nevertheless, I should like to make a little further progress; I am not quite so content as the noble Viscount with the amount of progress we have made. I think he would agree that a number of the clauses and Amendments to which we are about to come are of a fairly technical character. I should like really to get to Clause 50, and I think we could do that within half an hour or so.

8.3 p.m.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 42:

Page 26, line 30, at end insert— ("(3) In the application of this section in England and Wales—

  1. (a) "charitable instrument" means an enactment or other instrument passed or made for charitable purposes, or an enactment or other instrument so far as it relates to charitable purposes;
  2. (b) "charitable purposes" means purposes which are exclusively charitable according to the law of England and Wales.
(4) in this application of this section to Scotland "charitable instrument" means an enactment or instrument passed or made by or on behalf of a body of persons or trust established for charitable purposes only.")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is largely clarificatory. It has three purposes. First, it brings the definition of "charitable instrument" out of Clause 77, which contains general interpretation provisions, and puts it in Clause 42, which is the only clause in which the term "charitable instrument" is used. This will make the provision more self-contained and easier to refer to. Secondly, the definition is, we hope, set out rather more clearly; in particular, Scotland now has its own subsection. Thirdly, the Scottish definition is expanded slightly to ensure that, like the English definition, it applies to charities established by private Acts of Parliament as well as other charities. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 42, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 43 and 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 [Communal accommodation]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 43. As the clause stands at the moment it is, I fear, defective in that it requires steps to be taken to compensate a woman if she is refused a benefit only where that benefit consists of accommodation. This Amendment seeks to put right that error.

Amendment moved— Page 27, line 32, leave out subsection (5).—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 44.

Amendment moved—

Page 27, line 44, at end insert— ("( ) Neither subsection (3) nor subsection (6) is a defence to an act of sex discrimination under Part II unless such arrangements as are reasonably practicable are made to compensate for the detriment caused by the discrimination; but in considering under subsection (6)(b) whether the use of communal accommodation could lawfully be refused (in a case based on Part II), it shall be assumed that the requirements of this subsection have been complied with as respects subsection (3).")—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 45, as amended, agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 45.

Amendment moved— After Clause 45 insert the following new clause:

Discriminatory training by certain bodies

".—(1) Nothing in Parts II to IV shall render unlawful any act done in relation to particular work by a training body in or in connection with—

  1. (a) affording women only, or men only, access to facilities for training which would help to fit them for that work, or
  2. (b) encouraging women only, or men only, to take advantage of opportunities for doing that work,
where it appears to the training body that at any time within the 12 months immediately preceding the doing of the act there were no persons of the sex in question doing that work in Great Britain or the number of persons of that sex doing the work in Great Britain was comparatively small.

(2) Where in relation to particular work it appears to a training body that although the condition for the operation of subsection (1) is not met for the whole of Great Britain it is met for an area within Great Britain, nothing in Parts II to IV shall render unlawful any act done by the training body in, or in connection with—

  1. (a) affording persons who are of the sex in question, and who appear likely to take up that work in that area, access to facilities for training which would help to fit them for that work, or
  2. (b) encouraging persons of that sex to take advantage of opportunities in the area for doing that work.

(3) Nothing in Parts II to IV shall render unlawful any act done by a training body in, or in connection with, affording persons access to facilities for training which would help to fit them for employment, where it appears to the training body that those persons are in special need of training by reason of the period for which they have been discharging domestic or family responsibilities to the exclusion of regular employment.

The discrimination in relation to which this subsection applies may result from confining the training to persons who have been discharging domestic or family responsibilities, or from the way persons are selected for training, or both.

(4) In this section "training body" means—

  1. (a) a person mentioned in section 14(2)(a) or (b), or
  2. (b) any other person (other than a body mentioned in section 22), being a person designated for the purposes of this section in an order made by or on behalf of the Secretary of State,
and a person may be designated under paragraph (b) for the purposes of subsections (11 and (2) only, or of subsection (3) only, or for all those subsections."—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)


Is the noble Lord not going to tell us how the new clause fits in with the existing Clause 46, if we leave out these two subsections? I think what the noble Lord is doing is subdividing this, and since these will be Amendments that go back to another place I think a word of explanation would be helpful. This is the part where we have the positive discrimination in favour of women. It is obviously an important subject which ought to be described.


I agree. The bulk of what is going into the new clause is being transferred from Clause 46 by Amendment No. 46, but we are inserting a new concession, if I may put it that way, to women. We have now concluded that there is one more area where training bodies should be able to make special provision of benefit to women, without fear of being in breach of the Act. This is the area of special training for persons who, for domestic or family reasons, have been off the labour market for some considerable period of time. Very largely, this pattern occurs where a woman gives up work to bring up her family, and later, once her children are no longer completely dependent, wishes to return to work. Other women enter the labour market after a long period spent caring for sick and elderly parents. The woman coming back to the labour market may find that her old skills are no longer in demand, or need modifying, or it may be that she could benefit from a more general course which would help her to readjust to the pattern of working life after being so long out of employment. In any case, she will have special problems which result from her absence from the labour market. Under the Bill as it stands, a course for women returning to the labour market would be clearly unlawful, and the purpose of the Amendment is to make it lawful.


I think that is very useful. I am still trying to find where it refers to people who have been away for a long time and want to come back to their trade. I expect that if I look long enough I shall be able to unravel the drafting. The noble Lord has, of course, dealt with an area of considerable importance. It is exactly within this region where one gets the waste of talent of people who were subject to a very expensive and very extensive training at an earlier stage of their career. They go out of the profession or the job, because they are bringing up their families, or looking after a dependant. Plainly, the expertise goes on developing, and at the end of the time they wonder whether they are fit to go back, and whether they have sufficiently up-to-date techniques and skills. It is just those people who are very welcome back indeed, and who, at the present moment, are often hesitant to come because they think they may be in some way deficient. If the noble Lord is providing for them, I think he is greatly improving the Bill.

Baroness VICKERS

May I ask whether the training facilities will be in the neighbourhood of where the person is living? I have great experience of this problem. For instance, when people are sent from Plymouth to Bristol they get their training and then they come back and there is no job for them. They are disappointed, and it is a waste of their training. With these women in particular will there be, as far as possible, training near their homes in those skills which will enable them to find a job? Thousands of pounds have been lost where people have had training—and this includes blind people, too—and have not been able to obtain a job afterwards. Can the noble Lord give some assurance that this matter will be looked into?


May I ask whether in this context training includes retraining?


May I ask where the money is coming from to do the training? Though I think that the new clause is excellent from the point of view of training both men and women who require new skills, I should like to know whether there is money available in order to put that new clause into operation, because this is tremendously important.


The subsection concerned is subsection (3). Whether or not the training courses would be local depends entirely on economics. There are many occasions when, from the point of view of pure economics, you just cannot have a local class because there are not sufficient numbers to attend. The intention is to make it local so far as possible, but with some regard to economics. For example, in Plymouth there should not be any great difficulty, but in one of the smaller villages in Devon there would be considerable difficulty. It will not always be local, but certainly in urban areas the size of Plymouth it would be extremely likely to be local. The clause is pretty restrictive. The new clause will apply only to Industrial Training Boards and the Manpower Services Commission and its agencies. It will apply to other bodies only if they are designated for the purpose of an order made on behalf of the Secretary of State, so that some control is being exercised. The concession is made, but it is a controlled concession.


Would not my noble friend agree that the polytechnics being set up in so many parts of the country could be used for this purpose? Very often, when a woman gets married and leaves her employment, she becomes a different person, more mature, and develops different interests because of her children. This might mean that we would not need segregated buildings, which we call training or rehabilitation centres for women, and the courses could be run along with further education in the polytechnics and in the broad concept of what we call education.


While the noble Lord is contemplating that, may I ask him why we have these words in subsection (4)(b): any other other person (other than a body mentioned in section 22)", because in Clause 22 we have the table, and I wonder whether the noble Baroness's polytechnic may not be in class 5: Establishment … providing full-time or part-time education, … as long as it has been designated under Clause 24. Clause 24 provides for it to be a polytechnic, among other things. In those circumstances, why is a polytechnic excluded from being a training body under the new clause we are dealing with as Amendment No. 45?


I am authorised to say that, so far as the use of polytechnics is concerned, we accept the suggestion, and everything will be done in order to get economical use of such buildings for this purpose. So far as the contradiction is concerned, I should prefer to look at that and write afterwards. I do not think I could reply to that offhand.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 46 [Certain discriminatory training etc.]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 46.

Amendment moved— Page 28, line 17, leave out subsections (2) and (3).—(Lord Jacques.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 46, as amended, agreed to.

8.16 p.m.

Lord JACQUES moved Amendment No. 47: After Clause 46, insert the following new clause:

Trade unions etc.: elective bodies

" .—(1) If an organisation to which section 12 applies comprises a body the membership of which is wholly or mainly elected, nothing in section 12 shall render unlawful provision which ensures that a minimum number of persons of one sex are members of the body—

  1. (a) by reserving seats on the body for persons of that sex, or
  2. (b) by making extra seats on the body available (by election or co-option or otherwise) for persons of that sex on occasions when the number of persons of that sex in the other seats is below the minimum,
where in the opinion of the organisation the provision is in the circumstances needed to secure a reasonable lower limit to the number of members of that sex serving on the body, and nothing in Parts II to IV shall render unlawful any act done in order to give effect to such a provision.

(2) This section shall not be taken as making lawful—

  1. (a) discrimination in the arrangements for determining the persons entitled to vote in an election of members of the body, or otherwise to choose the persons to serve on the body, or
  2. (b) discrimination in any arrangements concerning membership of the organisation itself."

The noble Lord said: This is one of a number of extensions of principles to the Bill which my noble friend Lord Harris promised on Second Reading. In Clause 46, which your Lordships have just agreed, the Bill provides that trade unions and other bodies to whom Clause 12 applies may take special steps to encourage persons of one sex to become members, or to train persons of one sex for posts of any kind within the organisation and encourage them to take advantage of opportunities for holding such posts, where that sex has in the past been under-represented among the members or officials of the organisation. In effect, this takes account of the fact that in many unions women may need some special encouragement if they are to overcome any diffidence and any assumption that union affairs are more naturally the preserve of men, and come to play a full and equal part within the bodies that represent them. Clause 46A seeks to take this principle one step further, by allowing the reservation or creation of places for persons of a particular sex on committees, delegate conferences and other elected bodies within the organisation.

A number of unions have taken steps designed both to encourage women to participate fully in union affairs and to ensure that women are seen to be working alongside men on the decision-making bodies of the organisation. For example, the National Union of Public Employees has recently enlarged its Executive Committee and set aside five seats for women members. Naturally, women will also have access to the other seats on the Executive if they succeed in being elected (and Clause 12 would make any other arrangement unlawful), but the Executive will at least contain a minimum of five women members. The Government feel that for this Bill to force those unions who have chosen this means of encouraging women's participation to abolish those arrangements would be a retrograde step of no benefit to either sex. Should other unions choose to follow the example of the few who have made such arrangements, we feel they should be allowed to do so. I beg to move.


I have now forgotten what it was the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, said was to happen about the teachers on an Amendment which is not on the Order Paper, which is apparently to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, but which will be accepted by the Government. My recollection nevertheless is that it was something temporary and I observe that the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, has not told us about the consequential Amendment No. 70 to Clause 75, which enables the Secretary of State by Affirmative Instrument to amend this clause. Can the noble Lord tell us a little more about this?

I have a strong impression from reading the Official Report of yesterday's Committee stage debate about the single-sex unions that anything we are likely to achieve is to be on a temporary basis and that it is not the policy of the Government, at any rate permanently, to provide a special entrenched position for women, because the whole object of the exercise is to give women the opportunity and then allow them to take it. In the context of teachers it was said, "Here is a chance for women to come up through the unions on a two-sex basis, put in their claims and get the top jobs". I am sure it is absolute sense to do what this Amendment allows; that is, for a period of time to provide that women shall be allowed a special look-in by means of reserved seats. But I do not see this as a permanent feature of the sex discrimination scene. That is exactly the contrary of what this Bill is intended to provide.

If the noble Lord's consequential Amendment to Clause 75 is to allow the repeal of this clause at some stage when it is thought that the operation has been successful and that women have been given the opportunities through the trade unions to get to the positions that they deserve, then I would be happy to support it. But that is not what it says, and all we do is to amend it. Would the noble Lord tell us what Amendment is anticipated and what is the point of putting in a provision to allow this new clause to be amended and how it fits in? Is it to be a permanent feature of this legislation or is it looked on simply as a temporary one, because if it is a permanent one. I look upon it with a certain amount of disfavour.


It is intended that in the course of time we should overcome this problem. What we are concerned about, first of all, is that we should not frustrate those organisations which have attempted to encourage women to take an active part by not making this provision. We hope that in the course of time it will not be necessary to continue this provision. I do not know of any special provision in the Bill for repealing the provision, but I stand to be corrected. I do not know of any provision in the Bill which would mean that this could be repealed by, for example, an order.


Perhaps the noble Lord would care to look at Amendment No. 70, because he will see that it is proposed to insert this in Clause 75, so we get the power by Statutory Instrument subject to Affirmative Resolution to amend this clause. It is added to the list of clauses that can be amended. In what way is it proposed to amend it, and if it is to be amended rather than repealed, does not that run contrary to the spirit of the Bill? If the noble Lord had not taken the power he needs to repeal it when it is no longer necessary, would he not think it would he a good idea to do so?

Baroness SEEAR

I support what my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross has said. In all the cases where we have attempted to make some positive provision for women we have been careful to argue that this should be for a limited period only because, as the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, said earlier, any other such provision is contrary to the spirit of this whole legislation, which is that men and women should get equal treatment with no discrimination either way and that women should win their place on their own merits and not by having special seats reserved for them.

Viscount COLVILLE of CULROSS Would the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, like to look at this again? I do not wish to hold him to anything this evening. Here we are discussing the last Amendment before we conclude tonight's proceedings, and I wish to keep the spirit of the debate as friendly as it has been. However, I think we have a point here and if the noble Lord will simply rise and say he will look at the issue again, we will allow the Amendment to go through perfectly peacefully.


I should like to look at it again because Amendment No. 70 is a little more complicated than it appeared to be.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clauses 47 to 49 agreed to.


I think at this stage it would be appropriate to move a Motion which will, at least temporarily, lead to some popularity in the Committee.


Hear, hear!


I am glad that I carry the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, with me. We have made substantial progress in the last twenty-five minutes. At eight o'clock I prophesied that we would deliberate for a further half hour. In the event, I made an error of five minutes, largely through the generosity of the noble Viscount, and at this stage I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.