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Equality North East

Black think-tank has serious concerns about the Equality Bill

The Government need to ensure a strong Equality Bill is passed, the 1990 Trust said. Failure to achieve this will be seriously detrimental to race equality in Britain.

The 1990 Trust is concerned that existing Race Equality Legislation will be completely undermined, if the statutory regulations (specific duties), that support the general duty to ensure race equality, are watered down.

In June 2009, the Government proposed that the race equality schemes required of public authorities would be replaced by self determined objectives, by the public body, with no requirement to set objectives in relation to all equality strands. The majority of race equality organisations attending consultation events held by the 1990 Trust in Leicester, London and Liverpool, in September 2009, opposed this on the grounds that it was ‘regressive’ on existing equality legislation. The problem now centres on the fact that the results of the specific duties consultation, which discussed what would be attached to the Act, have not been published.

The failure to make it clear how the Government is approaching the specific duties - which have in the past clearly identified requirements for the planning, monitoring, assessment and training needs for race equality - means that it may be preferable, at least for race equality, if the Bill did not become an Act.

Furthermore, it is felt that:

•the community consultation exercise was pointless, as many organisations put a great deal of effort into giving rich advice and feedback, as well as expressing serious concerns about the GEO’s proposals to significantly water down and weaken the specific equality duties;
•we run the risk of missing the opportunity to draw on the body of experience, knowledge and research, developed over eight years since the introduction of the specific race duty;
•the Lords debate and possible amendments should, and could have been informed by the results of the specific duties consultation; and
•even if the GEO publishes their policy statement today, there will be little opportunity for reflection by the Lords or any other party, or an assessment of the implications for the public duty clauses.

David Weaver, Chair of the 1990 Trust, said: “Despite these challenges we still hope that, even at this eleventh hour, for the Lords to have the time to consider the appropriate balance between what should be contained in the Equality Bill/Act and what should be left for the regulations.

“Furthermore, following the debates during the committee stage, around the socio-economic duty and age discrimination and services, we hope for the same level of commitments to be made by the Government and the Lords about what really must be addressed in the regulations on equality.”

January 25, 2010

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