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Statute Law Database

Volume 708: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that up-to-date versions of relevant legislation are available in the statute law database before the equality Bill is introduced.

My Lords, the statute law database is being updated in accordance with a priority list reflecting both specific requests and hits on legislation via the Office of Public Sector Information and statute law database websites. Those Acts likely to be affected by the equality Bill are unlikely to be up-to-date when the Bill is introduced. However, consolidated versions of the relevant legislation can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website free of charge. The Library also has access to commercial databases.

My Lords, perhaps the Minister would take this as a request in relation to the equality legislation and the statute law database. I thank him for his reply. In the light of the reported views of the Secretary of State for Business, can he confirm the commitment given in the discrimination law review that future equality legislation should involve no loss of protection for groups covered by equality legislation and should, indeed, enhance it where appropriate?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. The way to get the statute law database up to date on this more quickly is for him and others to use the website so that priority is gained. I point out to the House the huge progress that has been made under successive Governments to enable online access to legislation, which has been free to all users since December 2006. On the noble Lord’s other point, on the proposed equality Bill, I can confirm what he said.

My Lords, can my noble friend say when the Bill will be published and whether there will be an easy-read version for the benefit of people with learning disabilities?

My Lords, there will be an easy-read version of the legislation. I cannot give a date for when it will be published, but my understanding is that it is likely to be in the spring.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is in the best interests of employers, trade unions, business enterprises and ordinary men and women that we should replace the present opaque, lumpish morass of anti-discrimination legislation with a single equality Act that is user-friendly? Does he also agree that we need to devise a scheme whereby employers and trade unions are rewarded, if there is a proper job evaluation scheme, with some transitional protection to enable equal pay to be brought about at last, all these years after the 1970 Act?

My Lords, we agree absolutely with what the noble Lord says about the need to change the morass that there has been in this field over a number of years. That is one of the main reasons for the Bill. On his second question, we are very much taking his expert views into consideration.

My Lords, when a statute is on the database and up to date, and it is amended by order or some other means, I gather that there is a considerable time lapse before the amendment is made. Would it be possible to flag the version on the database so that people know that they have to look for other information?

Yes, indeed, my Lords. There can be a time lag. Making sure that legislation is on the database in the best possible way is still a huge enterprise that we are involved in. A user can find out whether there are outstanding effects to be applied via a warning notice that appears—I have seen one myself this morning—on the “results within legislation” page, listing the years from which there are outstanding effects on that legislation. Users may then link through to the “tables of legislative effects” page, recording all outstanding effects for each of the years from 2002 to the present. It is actually much easier to do that than the way in which I describe it.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the equality Bill, as it applies to employment, should not discriminate against a person on a genetic basis?

My Lords, I have to be careful that the noble Lord does not lead me down lanes of which I know little. His views and the expert views of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, will be considered. The Bill will be introduced soon.