HL Deb 12 February 2004 vol 656 cc180-1WA
Lord Lester of Herne Hill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Ashton of Upholland on 28 January (WA 39–41), whether their decision to incorporate Catholic sixth-form colleges into the further education sector (with consequential amendments to the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003) but not to incorporate any further religion or belief-based institutions into the sector constitutes a difference of treatment based on religion; and, if so, what is the objective and reasonable justification for the difference. [HL1139]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

The Catholic sixth-form colleges were first designated as eligible to receive support from funds administered by the further education funding councils under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 and were incorporated as further education institutions in 2001. No other religion or belief-based institutions principally concerned with providing full-time education suitable to the requirements of persons over compulsory school age who have not attained the age of 19 years existed then or now. Since the Catholic sixth-form colleges were and remain the only religion or belief-based institutions of their type, the Government's view is that their incorporation into the further education sector did not constitute a difference of treatment based on religion.