May 20 2006 - 1000's of tribunal cases have not delivered equality-it's time to consider what will
15 May 2002 -
Barbara Roche, Minister responsible for equality co-ordination across
Government, says that there are good arguments in favour of a single equality body and that
the Government is now looking at the longer-term feasibility of this.
In a speech at the British Bankers Association in London, she said:
"We are looking at the longer-term options for the UK's
equality framework. This doesn't mean ignoring the voices of any
particular group represented by the current Commissions. It does mean
finding ways of involving those who think they aren't being catered
"Equality isn't a minority issue and discrimination legislation is
not just about protecting a few, important though that is - it's
relevant to all of us.
"But we also need to achieve a lasting culture change by looking
beyond legislation, at the broader economic inequalities that still
persist in our society.
"Women still lose out to a tune of £250,000 during their working
lives; a ground- breaking PIU report for which I'm Sponsor Minister
shows that a black man is still 2.5 times more likely to be
unemployed than a white man; and people with disabilities are seven
times more likely to be out of work than a non-disabled person.
"We are committed to an open and inclusive process and will be
drawing on the expertise of those working in the field of equality,
including the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for
Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission."
The EOC and the CRE were established in the mid-1970s and the DRC
was set up by the Government, in 2000. Following a directive from the
European Commission, the UK Government is committed to outlawing unfair discrimination at
work for the first time on the grounds of religion and sexual
orientation by 2003, and age by 2006.
The DTI recently conducted extensive consultation under the title of
Towards Equality And Diversity,
which took views from business, trade unions and interest groups. Respondents showed support for the concept of a 'joined-up
approach.' But Barbara Roche emphasised there would be no changes to structures
within the lifetime of this Parliament.
A project team in Cabinet Office will report on the initial
conclusions of the Single Equality Commission Project in September. Terms of reference
of the project are as follows:
One of the Government's main aims is to create opportunity for all.
The promotion of equality for individuals, business and service
providers is a key part of this. It also means that if people are
unlawfully discriminated against they should have access to advice
and support to resolve, if needs be through legal means, their cases.
The Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial
Equality, and more recently, the Disability Rights Commission, have
statutory powers to do carry out these functions in their respective
Legislation currently being introduced to implement the EU Article 13
Employment Directive will extend the grounds for protection against
discrimination in employment and training to include sexual
orientation and religion by 2003 and age by 2006.
In anticipation of this, the prospect of a single equality body in
the 'longer term' was signalled in the consultation document on
Article 13, launched on 13 December 2001. A new, more unified
approach to equality has some clear attractions. It could provide a
single point of contact for employers and employees, service
providers, customers and members of the wider public, by offering
advice and support on the broad range of common grounds for
However, there are various models for achieving greater unity and
these may impact in different ways on the work of the existing
commissions. The advantages, disadvantages and the timescales need to
be carefully examined. It is also necessary to consider the
relationship between possible new arrangements for promoting equality
and those for promoting and protecting human rights more widely.
A focussed project is therefore needed to look at these issues, and
consider key relevant policy developments including:
- the creation of interim arrangements relating to sexual
orientation, religion and age under the new legislation mentioned
- alternative disputes resolution policy;
- modernised delivery of public services.
The project will:
- Examine the pros and cons of possible arrangements, in the long
- promotion of equality in relation to sex, race, disability, sexual
orientation, religion and age, to individuals, business and service
- resolution of discrimination cases;
- production of statutory codes of practice and other guidance;
- "last resort" enforcement mechanisms;
- review of anti-discrimination legislation;
- assistance to individuals