Equality Bill - Conservatives force government climbdown over rights of faiths
(February 10th 2010)
Conservative Peers have, in the House of Lords, forced the government to climb down over provisions in Harriet Harmanís Equality Bill that would, if passed, have forced organised religions to abandon their insistence that, for certain posts, applicants would have to behave in accordance with the faith as defined by that religion.
In the Commons the Conservative Party, which had backed the current balanced of religious freedom, was defeated by the government but in the House of Lords the government was defeated three times . The government has now confirmed that it will accept these defeats and not seek to reverse them in the Commons.
Commenting on the climb-down North Thanet's MP Roger Gale said:
"I regard this as a victory for common sense over doctrine. It cannot be right for the State to seek to compel people to abandon the principles of deeply held religious conviction in the interests of a false "equality". This has been plain from the time that Ms. Harman first introduced her bill into the Commons where, unfortunately, the overwhelming weight of Government numbers prevailed against the wishes of even some of their own backbenchers.
The fact is that the faith groups were saved by the Upper House and by the bell, because the government has at last understood that it is on the wire and that politically unacceptable legislation can no longer be forced through in the time left between today and election day. This is very good news indeed"