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Discrimination By Way Of Victimisation

Volume 897: debated on Saturday 16 August 1975

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Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 2, line 32, after first "person" insert" (the discriminator)"

4.18 p.m.

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

I understand that it is convenient, with this amendment, to consider the following Lords amendments:

No. 2, in line 38, leave out "him "and insert
"the discriminator or any other person"
No. 3, in line 41, leave out "him" and insert
"the discriminator or any other person"
No. 4, in line 44, leave out "him" and insert
"the discriminator or any other person"
No. 5, in page 3, line 1, leave out "him" and insert
"the discriminator or any other person"
No. 6, in line 5, leave out "he" and insert "the discriminator".

These amendments are the result of the consideration which the Government undertook to give to points made on Report in this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) about the scope of the definition of "victimisation". As Clause 4 stood, a person, X, victimised another person, Y, where he treated Y less favourably than other persons on the ground that Y had done any of the things specified in subsection (2); for example, instituted proceedings under the Act against him. However, the clause did not define as victimisation the less favourable treatment of Y by X on the ground that Y had done any of the things specified in subsection (2) against a third person, Z. The amendments to Clause 4 secure that the definition of "victimisation" is extended to cover such a situation.

I suppose that at this stage of the Bill it is rather hopeless to oppose these amendments, but I think some words should be said against them because these things tend to slip through, particularly in the later stages of a Bill, without their significance being considered by the House. One feels grateful that the alphabet ends with Z, otherwise this sort of thing could go on and on in ever-increasing circles.

The amendments strike at someone who treats less favourably, in employment for example, a person on the grounds that he has done or intends to do anything by reference to this Bill in relation to that first person. The "anything" that is done by reference to this Bill does not refer to proceedings under the Bill, to giving evidence or information under the Bill or to allegations of a contravention of the Bill. One could understand all that, whatever one thoughth of it, but that is not referred to. That is all dealt with under Clause 4(i)(a), (b) and (d).

The "anything" must be the holding or expressing of disagreeable opinions about this measure. There is nothing else it can be, and that is the significance of this extension of the clause. It does not just mean the person who is guilty of the conduct, if I may be allowed to use that expression; it is now widened from X and Y to Z. In the comparable provisions of Clause 13(2), it is laid down in the most explicit terms that where an authority or body is required to take into account or assess the character of a person for the purposes of employment, then the fact that someone disagrees with this Bill is to be evidence of bad character. Somebody who says to another: "You are the sort of person who agrees with this Bill. I do not think I like you" will be guilty of discrimination under the Bill. This is a dangerous path on which to tread. The expression of opinion about the policy of an Act will be treated as evidence of a bad character, and a person who, like me, thinks this measure is bad and wrong in principle will be struck at by the extension proposed in the amendment.

I realise that I speak in vain. Even if I spoke with the tongues of men and of angels, there is hardly anyone here to listen, so I could not persuade them, but before this Bill becomes an Act it is right that one voice should be raised to point to the dangers in the way the law is increasingly being used to stigmatise and, in a sense, outlaw the expression of certain opinions about matters of controversy.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.