Debates between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Stevens of Birmingham during the 2019 Parliament

Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Stevens of Birmingham
Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Lab)
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My Lords, could the Minister comment on the actual functions of some of these so-called public bodies? I assume that secondary schools will be regarded as public bodies. They have a wide range of functions focusing on educating the children who are pupils there, but they are also responsible for the development and improvement of their school buildings. Let us take the example of a school that has an extremely rich alumnus who wishes to reward it for the excellent job it did in educating him, and allocates to it a very large sum of money to put up a completely new building: will that be caught by the Bill’s scope, so that the school has to decide whether it will be found to be breaking the law because it takes into account moral and ethical considerations in its purchase of goods for providing a very large new school building? These are the sorts of questions that people will face, and I am not sure that the governors of most state secondary schools will be terribly familiar with Section 6 of the Human Rights Act; nor will they find it that easy to get advice about it. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that sort of situation.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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I take the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, just made in respect of schools, but I also agree with the point the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, made about the jurisprudence that has arisen, which has clarified this for a number of institutions, including, I think the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester will find, the Church of England. In fact, I believe the first case to test whether a body in the Church was indeed a public authority was Aston Cantlow Parochial Church Council, which was trying to exact a chancel repair charge. In the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords at the time, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, deemed that the parochial council was not a public authority. Many details have been laid out by the courts quite clearly over the years, but if the Government could adduce that on to a single sheet of paper in the way that has been described, it would be very helpful.