Thursday, 23 July 2009

Mind The Gap



This is a ps to the previous post.

Vera's office have been busy little bees, and this version has been sent out to the MPs who prompted for a proper response. Not by Vera, or by the office bod I got mine from, but by Michael Foster MP, also at the Equalities Office. Michael, Deputy Lieutenant for East Sussex, btw, is also a law bod. However, he's listed as being interested in Poverty & Animal Welfare. One wonders why he's answering Vera's mail?

Anyhows, here's his response to Julie Kirkbride, MP:

Dear Julie,

Regarding [letter from constituent]

Thank you for your letter of 23rd June to the Vera Baird QC MP on behalf of the constituent Ms Goodwin concerning the Equality Bill. I am replying as the Minister responsible. I am sorry for puting you to the inconvenience of having to write a second letter as our first reply did not fully answer your constituent’s concerns. This was due to an administrative error.

On your constituent’s first point, if a mother was asked to stop feeding her child and leave a cafe, she will know that the law is on her side and this should give her the confidence to challenge the cafe owner by pointing out that he or she is treating her in a discriminatory manner. However, if for any reason she feels unable to do this, she can bring a discrimination claim against the cafe owner before the county court. Information and help on bringing a claim can be obtained from local Citizens Advice Bureaux, local Law Centres or the Equality and Human Rights Commission helpline.

With regard to her second point, the Equality Bill provides protection across specific areas - work, goods, facilities, services, public functions, premises and associations/private clubs. As is the case with discrimination law now, it therefore does not apply to exchanges between individuals in a personal or private capacity such as passers by in the street.

I hope this information is helpful to your constituent

Michael Foster DL MP


So it's his 'area' now, is it? Vera no longer in charge?

Anyway. I'd like to draw your attention to a gap.

It takes place here:

"..discriminatory manner. .................However, if for...."

Spotted it? Between the sentence 4 and 5 above? Second paragraph, starting "On your constituent first point..." that sentence and the next.

See that tiny gap? Here's what is in it:

"I'm telling you to go, you can't do that here."

"You can't throw me out. It's my right to stand here and feed my baby."

"Look love, this is a private Mall. You can't do that there, stop feeding now, and go into the toilets, or leave."

"I'm telling you, it's unlawful for you to throw me out. I will not stop feeding my baby, you are breaking the law"

"Look love, stop shouting, people are looking, let's move away from here."

"I'm not moving anywhere, I know my rights. You can't stop me feeding my baby, I'll sue."

"Right, move on now, right this second, or we'll have to throw you out."

"Don't touch me, I am not going, I am not stopping feeding my baby. Let go of my arm NOW!"

"Charlie, call through to control, and get the police here now. Right lady, let's move off outside the doors here, you're on private property and you must go right now. The police will be here, and they will deal with you."

"I'm going to sue you."

"Fine, sue us. But get off the property right now, or we'll have you charged for trespass."

Quite a lot to fit in a little gap, isn't it? Of course, she now has to collect evidence that this has happened, find a lawyer, sort through the funding and finances, and issue a claim. So the gap is quite a bit bigger than above.

Let's try the same gap, in Scotland...

"I'm telling you to go, you can't do that here."

"You can't throw me out. It's my right to stand here and feed my baby."

"Look love, this is a private Mall. You can't do that there, stop feeding now, and go into the toilets, or leave."

Mother picks up mobile phone. Dials police. "Hello, I'm breastfeeding my baby in the St Enoch Centre. Two Security guards are telling me to stop feeding my baby and leave the premises, please can you help me?" Police attend and defend the mother, cautioning the two security guards that they may be charged and fined. Also arrange to speak to employers about re-training.

Sheesh. Bit different, huh?

Lets now look at the sentence a bit further down.

"As is the case with discrimination law now, it therefore does not apply to exchanges between the individuals in a personal or private capacity such as passers by in the street."

Let's see how that pans out, shall we, between Edinburgh and Westminster?

Edinburgh:

"I'm sorry, I have children in this park, I'm not having them exposed to this. Stop that immediately."

"I'm sorry?"

"I find that offensive, and you're in sight of my children, stop it right now."

Mother phones police. "Hello, I'm in Princess Street Gardens, and I'm being asked to stop feeding my baby by a very annoyed woman who is shouting in my ear. Can you come and help me?" Police attend and defend the mother, cautioning the other woman that she may be charged and fined.

Westminster:

"I'm sorry, I have children in this park, I'm not having them exposed to this. Stop that immediately."

"I'm sorry?"

"I find that offensive, and you're in sight of my children, stop it right now."

"But I'm not doing anything wrong?"

"You're being obscene, and you're doing it in front of my children, and I want you to stop and go away. I've never seen anything so disgusting in my life, why don't you have some common decency and use a blanket, I don't want to see this and I certainly don't want my kids to see your saggy breasts."

And on it goes... Mum either has to shout back, stay her course with the tirade, or get up and leave.

Ho Hum.

An awful lot not in their letter, ain't it? Wonder how old that baby is, in his letter... we better get that clarified!

Of course, that's what we think would happen... what we suspect. We still don't know for sure, as no one will answer the question....

4 comments:

norma said...

Let's hear it for laws with teeth!

SuSuseriffic said...

Teeth Teeth!

Kate said...

I don't know whether to laugh or cry or just tell my other half that we're moving to Scotland before DC3 is born.

It's utterly bizarre that the very law that they're touting as being all about "protecting" breastfeeding mothers is actually going to give more ammunition to the idiots who object to feeding in public.

Maybe it's all part of the government's plan to get us spending more money, because the only way a breastfeeding mother is going to have a modicum of recourse against the numpties is if she goes into a café or shop to feed her baby, unless she's able to hide away in a designated feeding area. Feed your baby in a public area and you may as well just have a sign above your head saying "feel free to verbally abuse me - the law is on your side"...

Katherine said...

But people still don't get the point. Just look at this comment on my blog : http://www.muddlingthroughmotherhood.co.uk/2009/07/the-equality-bill-saga-continues/

People just don't understand (or care) about the actual implications and practicalities of the legislation, which I guess is why people like the NCT are (or at least were, dunno if they've changed their mind since) supporting the act!