Trevor Phillips has been confirmed as the first chair of the £70m Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, which is due to be launched next year.
It will also have responsibilities for rights in relation to age, sexual orientation, religion and belief, and will ensure that trade unions and organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau have the correct training and information to advise people about these rights.
A new helpline and website will also be launched to give people advice about what to do if they have been discriminated against.
Ruth Kelly, secretary of state for communities and local government – the department which will oversee the commission, said Phillips was the best man for the job.
“He has a proven track record, a wealth of experience and is prepared to tackle the difficult and controversial issues head on,” she said. “This will be a valuable asset right across the whole equalities.”
Phillips said he would work to make the new commission “a modern, creative, open, powerful and, above all, independent voice for equality and human rights in Britain and internationally”.
However, Phillips’ appointment will cause controversy: some activists have campaigned against his appointment.