Dear Ms Gallagher,
I am responding to your e-mail of 12 July to Vera Baird QC MP and your subsequent e-mail of 15 July to GEO enquiries. I apologise that you were sent a standard reply to your previous requests for clarification on what protection breastfeeding mothers will have under the Equality Bill which did not answer all your questions.
Turning first to your e-mail of 12 July, the Equality Bill, which applies to England, Wales and Scotland, makes absolutely clear that breastfeeding mothers are protected from discrimination in relation to provision of services to the public, whatever their baby's age. So a woman who is breastfeeding her baby in a restaurant or on a bus cannot lawfully be asked to leave, or get off, for that reason.
I believe that the clause in the Bill which caused you concern was clause 16(7) which introduced a "reasonableness" test which was intended to be used to judge whether discrimination had taken place. We listened to representations by interested stakeholders and recognise that this clause would have had the unintended consequence of potentially allowing discrimination against pregnant women or new mothers if this could be shown to be reasonable. Therefore on 9 June, we tabled amendments to clauses 16 and 17 of the Bill which prohibit pregnancy and maternity discrimination - one of which was to remove clause 16(7). These amendments were briefly debated on 16 June and agreed, and therefore now stand part of the Bill. We believe that these amendments will improve legal clarity without any risk of a loss of protection and will represent a return to the level of protection given under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (as amended).
You specifically asked for an answer to the question "if she is asked to leave the premises by a person in authority must she go?" It is not for us to provide a yes or no answer to a hypothetical question as you have requested. However, if this was in a café for instance, the person asking a woman to leave because she is breastfeeding would be acting unlawfully. It would therefore be open to the woman to challenge the café owner. However, if for any reason she did not want or felt unable to do this, she could bring a claim of discrimination against the café owner.
With regard to you 15 July e-mail, at your request, we have noted that you do not support the Bill. With regard to the Bill making it unlawful to turn a woman away from a restaurant for instance because she is breastfeeding, this is what is covered by clause 16 (now clause 17 in the Bill as republished on 7 July. This can be accessed electronically from the following link: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmbills/131/09131.i-vii.html).
As and when the Bill is enacted, before it comes into law, guidance will be produced to explain what the Bill means and will cover matters such as these. You should be aware however that the section 3B of the Sex Discrimination Act which makes maternity discrimination unlawful already protects a breastfeeding mother in the same way as clause 17 of the Bill does. It is this that we are making clearer in the Bill.
I hope this provides the clarification that you seek.
Kate Stasik Government Equalities Office
Let me take you through that:
July 12th, I ask this question, to Vera Baird:
"Could you please confirm that under the provision of Clause 16 in the proposed Equalities Bill, that if a mother who is breastfeeding in England & Wales is asked to leave premises providing her with goods or services, she must leave? I do not wish to hear an answer that states you think that as it is (note IS, not will be) an offence to do so, no person in authority on those premises would ask a mother to do so. I’m not interested in that response. I’m interested in the answer to the question: if she is asked to leave premises by a person in authority… must she go? The answer is either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’: if that helps you narrow down and formulate your response."
July 15th, Vera replies:
July 15th I reply:
"Thank you. At least we're getting somewhere.
".... the Equality Bill, which applies to England, Wales and Scotland, makes absolutely clear that breastfeeding mothers are protected from discrimination in relation to provision of services to the public, whatever their baby's age."
So... once again, the whole six-month fallacy nailed. Despite the briefings to MPs, despite the discussions in committee. They are continuing to answer questions without dwelling on the schism of how mothers claim after the event, depending on the age of their babies. But it's so important they've put these two points - no new protection, just a clarifiying of existing protection, and no age limit - into this response.
Although, of course, they've kept to 'premises'. Still no protection in public spaces Mums, just somewhere where there are premises and good and services. Another little sleight of hand - good at it, ain't they?
I'm going to get this info back to the MPs who are working with their constituents on this - Alastair Burt, Simon Hughes, Cheryl Gillan, Annette Brooks and Ed Davy. I'll also see if the tabled questions by Cheryl have been answered.
Watch This Space.