Combined anti-discrimination body to be given power to make a difference

Secretary of state for trade and industry Patricia Hewitt is today expected to promise stronger powers for the new Equality and Human Rights Commission, which will combine the functions of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission.

Hewitt is expected to announce that the body will have enhanced rights to prosecute cases of discrimination and the power to demand evidence from witnesses in inquiries.

She is also expected to give guarantees on reforms to blasphemy laws to cover all forms of religious hatred.

The body, which will have an annual budget of £50m, has won the support of business leaders who have complained that companies are increasingly entangled in red tape from a myriad of anti-discrimination organisations.

The proposals will be included in next week’s Queen’s Speech.

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