Today, Ms Laing took advantage of our policy of allowing a right of reply to all articles by asking us to reprint this letter which she hopes will make her own views on the matter clear.
We reprint it with a number of small changes for space reasons.
I read with interest your article entitled ‘Conservative Equality Spokeswoman Slammed Over Gay Rights’, posted on your site today.
I would simply wish to clarify one or two matters regarding this article and expand a little on the wider issue of Equality and my Party’s view on this issue.
In reference to the article and the Goods and Services section of the Equality Bill, the article states, ‘Eleanor Laing argued that the law shouldn’t apply to small businesses’. This is simply untrue and I have at no stage argued that small businesses should have an exemption from equality laws; in fact I believe the opposite.
In order to put my comments on this matter in their correct context I think it is necessary to include the following sentence from my speech in the Second Reading debate, ‘In forming legislation, we must respect those upon whom a duty lies, as well as those to whom rights are given’ . I believe that this is very important as it serves to protect the LGBT community as well as all other groups within the Equality Bill.
The article fails to note that there are already exemptions for short-term leases in the Bill, as it provides choice for landlords regarding with whom they share their premises. As the Bill currently stands, if one rents a room to someone else on a short-term lease, then they can choose who stays there, but if they rent it overnight, then they cannot. I believe that although this is not a problem for large hotel chains, it may be if the owner of a small Bed and Breakfast was also a resident on the premises. I would like to see some consistency in the Bill.
As I argued during the Second Reading debate on Monday, I believe that every person in Britain today should be allowed to live their own lives as they wish, whilst respecting the right of every other citizen.
As you may be aware, on October 4th at a Stonewall meeting in Blackpool, I spoke to support the inclusion of Sexual Orientation in the Goods and Services Section of the Equality Bill. The Conservative Party front bench supported me. Other Parties made comments on the issue, but the Government still tried to postpone including the clause. The Conservative Party has been ahead of the Government in promoting this issue for some time.
Eleanor Laing MP
Shadow Minister for Women Equality
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA