Parliaments, politicians, and political parties

New guidance

The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. The information on this page reflects changes to the law.

This guide is for you if you are a member of the public using services provided by, or otherwise coming into contact with:

  • The United Kingdom (Westminster) Parliament
  • The Scottish Parliament
  • The National Assembly for Wales
  • Politicians

in circumstances where equality law applies.

Pages in this section include:

This guide is for you if you are a member, associate member or guest of a political party, or a prospective member or guest. It tells you:

  • how you can expect a political party to treat you if it is doing what equality law says it must do, in relation to its terms of membership and its activities, and
  • how political parties can use positive action in the selection of candidates.

If you are not a member or associate member of the party or a guest of one of these people or of the political party, but are using the party’s services as a member of the public, then you should read the guide to your rights to equality in relation to businesses instead.

For example:

Someone who is not a party member but is hiring a function room at a political party’s premises so they can hold a meeting there will have the same rights as someone who is hiring a room from a pub. These rights are slightly different from the rights a member, associate member or guest will have. A person who is attending the meeting at the invitation of the hirer of the room will also be a service user, rather than a guest in the sense in which it is used in this guide.

Equality law applies to:

  • People or organisations that provide goods, facilities or services to the public or a section of the public, or carrying out public functions.
  • Associations, which includes political parties.

It doesn’t matter if services, public functions or membership, associate membership or visiting as a guest are free.  

Equality law affects everyone who is providing a service or carrying out a function, including people who are running an organisation or who might do something on its behalf, such as staff or volunteers.

But there are sometimes differences in how equality law applies to different people and organisations or for specific activities or in specific situations.

This guide also contains the following sections, which are similar in each guide in the series, and contain information you will probably need to understand what we tell you about your rights to equality in relation to parliaments, politicians and political parties:

  • Information on how people and organisations must avoid discrimination in the way they – and their staff – behave and how they run their association and provide their services, whether that is face to face, at a particular place, using written materials, by the internet or over the telephone.
  • Information about when a person or organisation is responsible for what other people do, such as their employees if they have them.
  • Information about reasonable adjustments to remove barriers for disabled people.
  • Advice on what to do if you believe you’ve been discriminated against.
  • A list of words and key ideas you need to understand this guide – all words highlighted in bold are in this list. They are highlighted the first time they are used in each section. Exceptions to this are where we think it may be particularly useful for you to check a word or phrase.
  • Information on where to find more advice and support.

What this guide means by particular words

  • ‘Service provider’: a parliament or a politician.
  • ‘Services’: goods and facilities as well as services, and public functions.
  • ‘Service user’: you, or anyone else who is using services. It includes someone who wants to use services (for example, someone who is stopped or put off using a service by unlawful discrimination).
  • ‘Political party’: any group which is registered in Great Britain under Part 2 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The Electoral Commission keeps a list of these parties. Details of how to contact the Electoral Commission are in Further sources of information.
  • ‘Member’: someone who has joined a political party. A ‘potential member’ is someone who is not currently a member but is actively trying to become one or would be eligible to join.
  • ‘Associate member’: someone who is a member of another organisation, membership of which gives them some or all of the rights of a member of the political party. A person cannot be a ‘potential associate member’ because they are automatically an associate member by virtue of their membership of another association.
  • A ‘guest’: someone who is invited by the political party or one of its members to enjoy or participate in some activity of the political party. A ‘potential guest’ is someone who is likely to become a guest, is trying to become one or would be one if it were not for unlawful discrimination by the political party.

The Human Rights Act 1998

When you are receiving services from a public sector organisation or others who deliver services for them or carry out public functions on their behalf, you may have rights under the Human Rights Act 1998.

You can contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission to find out more about the Human Rights Act.

Note: political parties are not public sector organisations, so this does not apply to what they do. 

More information

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