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Government to impose single equalites body even if consultation opposes it

By Lester Holloway
6/5/2004

THE GOVERNMENT will push ahead with axing the Commission for Racial Equality and imposing a new single equalities body even if the majority of people were against it

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will launch a White Paper consultation next Thursday, heralding the biggest-ever shake-up in equalities.

Ministers are determined to force through plans to merge race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion and human rights under one roof in a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).

At a public meeting last Tuesday, called to vent concerns over proposals for a new, senior DTI official Angela Mason refused to say what the government would do if the majority of people responding to the consultation were opposed to the CEHR proposals.

Questioned by Blink over whether the government would respect the majority view, Mason, the DTI’s head of the Women and Equality Unit, twice refused to rule out the possibility that the government would impose the CEHR in the teeth of opposition, merely saying it was “a hypothetical question.”

And in a comment aimed at Blink, she added: “It doesn’t help when we have misrepresentation of what’s going on.”

‘ride roughshod’

The meeting at the capital’s City Hall, organised by The 1990 Trust and Greater London Action on Disability, was attended by around 100 people, most of whom expressed opposition to the CEHR.

Angela Mason
Angela Mason: ‘hypothetical question’

Mason’s comments caused anger amongst some activists, who claimed the forthcoming White Paper consultation risked lacking credibility if the government were willing to “ride roughshod” over the outcome if it went against them.

Simon Woolley, head of Operation Black Vote, said: “These comments seem to suggest that come what may the government will drive this through. If this is the case, what is the point of a consultation?

“Is it to provide a smokescreen to drive through a flawed policy and give it a veneer of legitimacy? Black grassroots organisations should demand the right not to sign up to a bad deal.”

Brenda Ellis, from the Greater London Action on Disability, added: “I feel generally the consultation process has been piecemeal, and it has given the impression that the government has made up its’ mind and is going ahead with a new commission regardless.”

confusion

However today the governments’ position appears somewhat confused. A DTI spokesman initially claimed that, contrary to what Mason has said, the government would abide by the results of the White Paper consultation. He said: “We will go with what the majority are saying.”

single equalities meeting  audience at the GLA council chambers 6 april 04
Audience listen to speakers at the single equalities meeting this week

This appears to hint that the government will be prepared to ditch the CEHR plans if a majority come out against it, but the form of words used does not constitute a commitment.

The CEHR proposals have been attacked as an “inaccessible monolith” by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who joins an ever-increasing list of people criticising the plans for various reasons.

Other critics include the governments’ former race relations minister Angela Eagle and Lord Anthony Lester, who believe having a single equalities body without a single equalities law is “putting the cart before the horse.” Others, like former CRE chairman Lord Herman Ouseley, have raised concerns over enforcement powers.

symbolic

In March, the current CRE chair Trevor Phillips warned that although he was in favour in principle, he would walk away from the table if minimum demands on resources and powers were not met.

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Resources:

Teeth and their use

Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: One year On

The Zahid Mubarek Inquiry

pdf Dept. for Communities & Local Government Citizenship Survey

Responses to the Equalities Review Interim Report

The 1990 Trust Response to The Equalities Review Interim Report

Equalities Review Interim Report Briefing – Addressing Race Equality

pdf Our Rights, Our Future

pdf Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: The Government's race strategy

CRE response to DTI Statement on Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Equality and Diversity Forum welcomes the progress on a Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Summary of Changes to the CEHR

The 1990 Trust’s response to the CEHR White Paper

pdf Delivering equality and human rights for black and minority ethnic communities

Flush the academic racism in Blunkett’s office down the pan

Jacqui Smith answers questions on the Single Equalities Body

How to Contact your MP

Links:

Race and Faith and Communities

Election Memory

Catalyst Magazine

UNITE TO PROTECT OUR RIGHTS: sign the statement against the erosion of civil liberties and human rights by new anti-terrorism proposals A Black Manifesto No 2 ID FREE FAROUQ PDP ASSOCIATES Power to the People

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