The government has reintroduced the Equality Bill, which aims to "tackle discrimination and put equality at the forefront of British society".
The Bill will create a single Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) that would create a ‘a one-stop shop’ for individuals suffering discrimination and provide employers and service providers with improved advice and information.
It also creates a duty on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity between men and women (‘the gender duty’) and to prohibit sex discrimination in the exercise of public functions.
The CEHR would bring together the work of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission.
The new body would also have responsibility for the new equality areas of age, religion and belief and sexual orientation and would work to promote human rights.
The CEHR will be established in October 2007 for all areas except those for which the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) is responsible. These areas will remain with CRE until April 2009, when the CRE's responsibilities will transfer to the CEHR.
Deputy minister for women and equality, Meg Munn, said: “The expertise of the commission will help ensure that no-one has to suffer discrimination, prejudice and inequality."
However, organisations have raised concerns about the CEHR. The Employers Forum on Age attacked the government for failing to take into account the needs of employers in its rush to create the body. The CRE feared that the effectiveness of each equality body could be diluted by the launch of a 'super commission'.