Creating a fairer Britain
20 May 2011
The Equality and Human Rights Commission today issues its first response to the governments consultation on the Commission's powers and duties.
The Commission welcomes the opportunity to build on the achievements of its first three years, and to address the lessons of its start-up phase. However, it warns that some of the proposed changes are likely to lead to greater uncertainty and increased costs for public bodies and businesses; more litigation and less conciliation in discrimination cases; and the undermining of the government's own new equality strategy.
The Board of the Commission supports the government's aim to create a more modern, focused legal mandate; and strongly endorses the need to strengthen the organisational and financial structure of the body. The Board believes that the Commission's financial and operational independence from government must be protected if it is to be an effective regulator and remain a UN-recognised A status Human Rights Institution.
The Commission's principal concerns are:
Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
"We support Ministers' desire for a more focused mandate, and greater effectiveness. We want our equality and human rights work to support Britain's social and economic recovery, not to stand in its way. But the proposals in the government's consultation document as they stand are a missed opportunity to modernise the way that equality law works.
This should be a moment to help the many groups of people who are currently shut out of the labour market by their age or sexual orientation; to continue to force down the pay gap and to increase women's participation at the top of business; and to ensure that organisations like the English and Welsh Defence Leagues do not turn back the clock on the huge progress we've made in community relations.
But instead of modernising the Commission, these proposals risk turning it into an anonymous, cowed, nit-picking compliance factory, remote from the everyday challenges that face ordinary people - the last thing business, the public sector and the victims of discrimination need."
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For more press information contact the Commissions media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.
For general enquiries please contact the Commissions national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.
> Details of the consultation can be found on the Government Equalities Office website