Saturday, 17 March 2007

Sexual Orientation Regulations - What Next?

There seems to be some confusion as to what will be happening next in respect of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. The BBC's report on the Committee meeting which took place on Thursday morning seem to imply that the Regulations are now only waiting for implementation barring the risk of a forced vote in the House of Commons.

The order of business for the House of Lords at the date of Wednesday 21 seems to imply that there is at least one last hurddle:
Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 Baroness Andrews to move that the draft Regulations laid before the House on 13 March be approved. 12th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee and 14th Report from the Merits Committee (Dinner break business)

Baroness O’Cathain to move, as an amendment to the above motion, to leave out all the words after “that” and insert “this House, having regard to the widespread concerns that the draft Regulations compromise religious liberty and will result in litigation over the content of classroom teaching, and having regard to the legality of the equivalent regulations for Northern Ireland, declines to approve the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.”
From what I have been able to acertain, the fact that the debate took place in Committee rather than on the floor of the House of Commons is due to procedure and how the regulations were included to the Equalities Act, of which they will form a part. The regulations were in fact an amendment added to the bill during its third reading, in the House of Lords.

As far as I know, Wednesday's vote in the Lords is not binding but might mean that the House of Commons have to vote on the regulations once more should the result be negative in the Lords. Thankully, there seems to be a board cross-bench support for the regulations and the result of the vote is likely to be positive.

Update - 19 March
An anonynous comment was left today on this post. The comment reads as follows and provides some clarification, I think:
"The Equality Act 2006 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations relating to discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation - so the rgeulations are made under, and are not part of, the Equality Act. But,so that the executive's power is subject to some form of control by the legislature, the minister is not able to make them unless a draft has been approved by both the Commons and the Lords."
For me, this means that Thursday's meeting was the Commons approval and the Lords will take place on Wednesday. Although there has also been an amendment tabled by a tory baroness to try and stop things.

More info on this complicated situation there.

To read my (growing number of) previous posts on the subject, please click here or on "Sexual Orientation Regulations" in the right hand menu.

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