HC Deb 25 May 1988 vol 134 cc219-21W
Mr. Charles Wardle

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he intends to publish his White Paper on fair employment in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Tom King

A White Paper entitled "Fair Employment in Northern Ireland" was published today. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are also available in the Vote Office.

I outlined the main features of our proposals for new fair employment legislation in my written answer of 2 March to my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), and they were published in the form of a brochure, copies of which were placed in the Library. Today's White Paper explains the policy more fully and sets out in some detail the key elements of the proposed legislation. The Government intend to introduce a Bill into Parliament at the earliest opportunity.

The Government's proposals for new legislation are designed to strengthen existing fair employment law in Northern Ireland. They clearly demonstrate our continuing commitment to eradicate job discrimination and to promote genuine equality of opportunity in employment. the proposed measures will improve the institutional structure within which the policy will operate and will lead to better equal opportunity practice in both the public and private sectors.

These proposals represent an effective and constructive response from the Government to a serious economic and social problem in Northern Ireland. Despite the progress which has been made, and the sound work of the Fair Employment Agency since 1976, it is clear that a broader approach to the problems of disadvantage and discrimination is necessary, and that this must also deal with the problems of indirect and unintentional discrimination. The elimination of all discrimination in the workplace is one of the Government's major priorities.

The proposals set out in the White Paper are far reaching. They impose important new responsibilities on employers, and entail serious penalties for breach of duty. But the emphasis throughout our proposals is on fairness. We do not want to transfer hardship from one section of the community to another. we do not wish to impose an intolerable administrative burden on employers. We intend to give support to anyone who is genuinely trying to create employment and prosperity in Northern Ireland. The problems which the Government are addressing in this White Paper are of long standing and will require time and determination to resolve. The proposals published today represent a major step in the right direction.

Mr. McNamara

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) if he will name each employer for which the Fair Employment Agency has completed or initiated formal investigations under section 12 and section 24 of the Fair Employment Act (NI) 1976, stating the nature of the finding in each case;

(2) how many complaints under section 24 of the Fair Employment Act (NI) 1976 have been made against (a) public bodies and (b) private employers; and what has been the outcome in each case.

30. Mr. Viggers

It is not the practice to release the names of employers who are the subject of an investigation by the Fair Employment Agency under section 12 of the 1976 Act, unless it is considered appropriate on completion of an investigation, nor to identify the parties in a formal investigation under section 24 of the Act. Agency reports on section 12 investigations, where published, are available in the Library as are copies of agency's annual reports which contain an account of investigations under section 24 of the Act. A breakdown of agency investigations under each section, together with the names of employers published by the agency, is given in the tables.

Table I

Section 12 (to end April 1988)

Employers identified but no report published*

  • Department of Health and Social Services, local office, Enniskillen
  • British Broadcasting Corporation
  • Northern Ireland Polytechnic
  • Bass Charrington
  • Cantrell and Cochrane
  • Ormeau Bakery

Employer identified but final report not published

  • Cookstown District Council

Employers identified and reports published

  • Northern Ireland Electricity Service
  • British Broadcasting Corporation (2nd phase)
  • Northern Ireland Civil Service
  • Fire Authority for Northern Ireland
  • Northern Ireland Housing Executive
  • Northern Ireland Ambulance Service
  • Southern Health and Social Services Board
  • Ulster Museum
  • Deny City Council
  • Northern Ireland Railways
  • Belfast Telegraph
  • Unipork

Report of an investigation into the nine building societies in Northern Ireland

(Halifax Building Society, Woolwich Building Society, Abbey National Building Society, Gateway Building Society, Nationwide Building Society, Leicester Building Society, Leeds Permanent Building Society, Anglia Building Society, Progressive Building Society)

Report on investigations into the principal banks in Northern Ireland

(TSB, Northern Bank, Allied Irish Bank, Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland)

Report of investigation into eight insurance companies

(Prudential Insurance Company, Pearl Insurance Company, Commercial Insurance Company, General Accident Assurance Company, Britannic Insurance Company, Refuge Assurance, United Friendly Society, Royal Insurance)

Employers not identified but general report published

  • Employment patterns in the Belfast area with particular reference to engineering.
  • Employment patterns in the Londonderry area.

Investigations completed and reports in course of preparation

Investigations currently under way

* When first established agency policy was not to publish reports of section 12 investigations.

Table II
Section 24 (to end April 1988)
Private sector Public sector Trade unions
Total number of complaints 320 389 3
Unlawful discrimination 23 29 1
No discrimination 165 198 2
Section 42 1 20
Withdrawn or not pursued 82 89
Outstanding 49 53