Government announces equality review

A comprehensive review to investigate the causes of persistent discrimination and inequality in British society has been announced by equality minister Jacqui Smith, and minister for the Cabinet Office, David Miliband.

The Equalities Review, which will be chaired by Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, and will report to the Prime Minister by the summer of 2006, will:

– investigate the social, economic, cultural and other factors that limit or deny people the opportunity to make the most of their abilities

– provide an understanding of the long-term and underlying causes of disadvantage that need to be addressed by public policy

– make practical recommendations on key policy priorities for the government and public sector, employers and trade unions, civic society and the voluntary sector; and

– inform both the modernisation of equality legislation towards a single equality Act; and the development of the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

Smith said: “Discrimination simply has no place in our society. We can only tackle poverty, ensure access to the best public services and enable people to make the most of their talents, whatever their background, if we have equality of opportunity and fairness for all.

The review comes after plans to set up a single equalities body ran into trouble when the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said it did not want to join. It was also condemned by the Disability Rights Commission.

Last month, Personnel Today revealed that the equality body would not be pushed through parliament until well after the general election, with senior government sources confirming it was low down on the priority list.

Critics of government plans for a single body accused ministers of “putting the cart before the horse” in proposing a body before thinking about what it really wanted it to do.

The new single equalities body would inherit a messy legal position, experts have warned. For instance, a nightclub would not be breaking the law if it refused someone entry because they were gay, but would be breaking the law if it refused someone entry because of their race.

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