Jo Swinson MP writes…Equality is about more than ticking boxes

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) would never have become a valued and respected national institution if it was allowed to continue on the path it was on. Labour’s tired old way of working was turning equalities into a burden. When people heard the word equality they also heard bureaucracy and red-tape. Instead of being about fairness it was more about frustration.

If Labour’s method of ticking boxes and filling out forms led to equality, then why did they leave behind a society with so much inequality across the board? Twenty percent wage gaps between women and men, nonexistent social mobility, unfair pensions, and a poorly funded education system that let so many children down. The way to tackle these issues in order to create a liberal, equal society is certainly not with careless, short term thinking – equality can’t be brought about solely in bureaucratic ways. Equality Impact Assessments (EIA) exemplify this: popular because they’re the easiest way for departments to comply with equality duties. EIAs are not under threat from the Coalition Government but they are a good example of why we need to move beyond a slapdash exercise at the end of the process and make sure equality is rooted in from the beginning.

Clause 56 to 59 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will make a number of changes to the EHRC. For those of you with concerns, like Nick has said the Equality Act isn’t being watered down and it isn’t going anywhere. What we are doing is redefining the role of the EHRC and focussing its efforts so that it becomes a strong independent body. It was bogged down with so many vague and unnecessary provisions. It had never submitted a clean set of books when we came to office. It was criticised by both the Public Accounts Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. In March 2011, we set out proposals to reform the EHRC and almost 1,000 responses were received with most people unhappy with its performance. So we’re making changes to transform the EHRC into an effective, financially accountable body that Liberal Democrats can be proud of.

And there is already much work on equalities to be proud of. Our record on equality speaks for itself. We have established the first ever Inter-Ministerial Group on Equality; legislated to allow civil partnerships on religious premises; published the first ever transgender action plan; introduced support for disabled people seeking access to elected office; established the Women’s Business Council; provided support for women to set up and grow their own businesses; taken action to promote equal pay and championed equality on company boards. Not to mention Nick’s work on social mobility, Steve’s pension reform and Sarah’s pupil premium. Much good work has already been done and of course more remains to do, not least delivering equal marriage – a momentous step for Liberal Democrats who have long campaigned for equal rights.

As Liberal Democrats we don’t think equalities should be about ticking-boxes and regulatory hoops – it’s too important to be relegated to an administrative duty. Advancing LGBT, gender, disability and race equality will only be achieved by putting equalities at the heart of every department. A 21st century inclusive approach with less rules and more fairness.

From the policies that we adopt at conference to the measures we put in place at council level and Westminster, equality should be embedded in everything we do. That’s what party members and voters expect from our party.

* Jo Swinson is the Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire and is a Minister in hte Department Business, Innovation and Skills and Equalities Minister

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40 Comments

  • James Sandbach 17th Jan '13 - 12:42pm

    Jo, this is a disappointing piece – it is hugely oversimplsitic and misleading to describe the current equalities regime as all about bureaucracy, red tape, ticking boxes and filling forms – it is about putting some very basic requirements on public bodies that have persistently failed to make any progress in narrowing equality gaps or adressing deep seated discrimination, It is not party policy either to get rid of these duties (read any of our conference motions on the subject) and there now seems to no consistency at all between our position on equalities in opposition (eg when we supported a broad remit for EHRC and introducing equality impact assessments into policy making) and our position on equalities in Government .

  • Geoffrey Payne 17th Jan '13 - 12:55pm

    I find this article incredibly complacent. If the Parliamentary party thought there was so much wrong with the EHRC it would have been good if they could have discussed this with the wider party before they agreed to radical overhaul they have given it. There is nothing in this article about racial discrimination, and no wonder because since being elected into office this government has done virtually nothing about it, except make it easier for employers to get away with it. All this “tick box” rhetoric sounds all very well, but how alternatively do you propose to tackle it?
    The ethnic minority population in this country votes overwhelmingly for Labour, despite the fact that in office Labour has often let them down. As a result we have always been a credible alternative up until now.
    But now is obviously going to be difficult because we are in Coalition with the party of Enoch Powell, and whilst David Cameron does not copy his divisive rhetoric, what remains true is that the Tories have a negative view of multiculturalism. Now I don’t see why we should be lumbered with that. Just as Vince Cable fought the Tories on Beecroft, we should do likewise on racial prejudice. The Tories think they can get away with pretending it doesn’t exist. But it absolutely does exist and as far as we are concerned this is something that makes our country illiberal and we should be improving on Labour’s record not going backwards with the Tories.
    It is now plain to see what price we pay as a party for not having any ethnic minority MPs. No one else seems to think there is a problem with racism that needs to be tackled.

  • James Sandbach 17th Jan '13 - 1:42pm

    @Simon – suggest you ponder the combined impact of introducing wacking great tribunal fees for discrimination cases, removing the statutory disclosure obligation on employers in discrimination cases , repealing the multiple discrimination provisions from the Equality Act, changing the specific duty regulations under the Equality Act so that public bodies no longer have to produce racial equality schemes, abolishing the EHRC’s casework service – that’s just for starters; once the EHRC reforms are complete it will have no enforcement capacity at all and all the pro-active duties on public bodies not to discriminate are now likely to be repealed..

  • Martin Frost 17th Jan '13 - 2:07pm

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/130109-gc0001.htm#13010948000167

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/130114-gc0001.htm

    Please find enclosed the links to the recent debates on the repeal of Clause 56, 57 and 58.

    On the specific point about the 1,000 respondees to the Government’s reform agenda for the EHRC and the Equality Act, only 5% supported the Government recommendations, 95% were opposed. There were a number who called for the EHRC’s total abolition but this was probably due to a campaign run among Daily Mail readers at the time of the consultation. Also if any provisions of the Equality Act are vague and unnecessary, the EHRC would simply not use them. I am puzzled by the suggestion that this impedes its work.

    Many of the references in the article above are taken out of context and do little to enlighten the debate on what is a hugely important issue.

    It is time for the Minister to directly engage with party members on this issue. The Coalition appears to be making Liberal Democrat policy on the hoof, and with their coalition partner rather their own membership.

  • James Sandbach 17th Jan '13 - 3:05pm

    @Martin – re, engagement with members, I did send a letter to Jo’s office co-signed by key equalities campaigners within the party and many councillors involved in equalities issues; the letter questioned why the Government was going ahead with a spate of equality legislation repeals, and highlighted the implications of Party policy- for example the motion at the last party conference which was expressly against this (and suppported overwhelmingly in the conference vote)..

    Several months have passed and there has been no reply despite chasing it up. I’m afraid this is the standard of engagement with members that I have come to expect from liberal democrat Ministers when Party policy and Government policy so clearly conflict – total silence, I guess because there is nothing much more to say,,,

  • James Jennings 17th Jan '13 - 3:25pm

    I write this response in my capacity as the Vice Chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats.

    Currently EMLD are lobbying veraciously against any watering down of the duties and powers of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Contrary to the article, these clauses would make EHRC a toothless body and eventually lead to its abolition. More fundamentally, we are fighting against these proposals because the body assists in our strive to create and safeguard a free, fair and open society.

    I am concerned about the rhetoric that is used in the article and elsewhere in saying that monitoring equalities is a burden, an unnecessary tick-box exercise. Local government, through the old Equality Standard and more recently the Equality Framework, have embraced the equality agenda and as a result, has led to better policy making and knowledge management which thus leads to better targeting of resources to those that really require it. Central government on the other hand have been apprehensive about the whole agenda because it actually requires them to do their job in thinking about impacts their policy decisions have on our communities. To them that’s too cumbersome.

    I totally agree with the final point in the article that equalities need to be embedded in everything we do. But by abrogating the powers of the EHRC, we halt any progress that has been made so far. Do we in the Liberal Democrats want to go down in history being associated with that?

    James Jennings
    Vice Chair
    EMLD

  • Meral Hussein Ece 17th Jan '13 - 3:48pm

    I completely agree with James Jennings, and Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera and others. I fundamentally disagree with the removal of the General Duty of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, thus further reducing its remit and influence. This comes after its budget has been reduced by 62%. The majority of Liberal Democrat Peers are not convinced by this argument. Inequalites are widening, not narrowing. I have led on this in the Lords at the Committee Stage of this Bill, and my contributions, and those of very experienced race equality and disability equality Peers, like Baroness Jane Campbell, were very eloquently argued. Here is the full debate: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/130109-gc0001.htm#13010948000167

  • David Allen 17th Jan '13 - 6:10pm

    “Labour’s tired old way of working was turning equalities into a burden. … Instead of being about fairness it was more about frustration…. ticking boxes and filling out forms … why did they leave behind a society with so much inequality … equality can’t be brought about solely in bureaucratic ways…. (blah de blah)”

    Fine, let’s slag off Labour and blame them for everything under the sun, thereby establishing some sort of threadbare rationale for tearing everything up and starting again. Just the sort of bone-headed partisan political approach which we used, rightly, to condemn those “old parties” for, when we had the freedom to do so.

    “making changes to transform the EHRC into a… body that Liberal Democrats can be proud of. And there is already much work … to be proud of.”

    Pride. We’re proud of our pride. We’re always telling people just how proud we are. We go on doing it, even though people clearly tell us that they hate it. Could it be (whisper it not) that we are actually into denialism? That the emotion we really feel is shame? And so we go around repeatedly claiming the opposite, in the hope that saying it repeatedly might make it come true?

  • Dee Jay Skiii 17th Jan '13 - 7:43pm

    Lester my friend, without repeating the same old rhetoric or the well versed responses above, who would have thought we would be here supporting New Labour’s quango on ‘equalities’. There are so many stories that could be reiterated here either as ‘Black’ public sector employees being subject to greatest proportion of complaints and disciplinary, deaths in police custody, SuS, disproportionate unemployment rates & criminalisation, not getting bank loans, clearly not an exhaustive list!!!! So not much has changed, just we know where we are at with the Tories!!!! New Labour and Lib Dems rhetoric only serves to lead us up the proverbial path! I would like to see your question answered though “So what has happened to us in the past two and a half years? Because when Lib Dems can answer that I might think about voting for my local Lib Dem uncle Nick!!!!!

  • Ruth Bright 17th Jan '13 - 7:48pm

    This fits perfectly with all our women MPs (but one) voting to allow maternity pay and maternity allowance to lose value over the next three years.

    Too right David Allen – shame indeed.

  • Gemma Roulston 17th Jan '13 - 9:28pm

    Jo, sorry but you do not understand what equality for disabled people is about. It is not just being able to get help to get elected, at whatever level of power (parish, borough/district/county/MP/MEP etc), it is about being able to live in a society where you are not going to get harrasment, discriminated against, being able to have access to goods and services that everyone else takes for granted. It about those in power – either at a local level or at a central government level – thinking things through, seeing how their ideas,policies etc are going to affect the disabled. A disable d person wants to be able to live and, if possible work in the society, feel part of society. However, at the moment, if they feel that this is not happening, then they can ask the EHCR for help and guidance, and for the commission to take up their case. Under these proposals there will be no chance of this, the EHCR have reduced staff as has already been pointed out, they are not going to be strengthened by the proposals. Despite in theory wanting to increase the disabled person’s right to a normal life that others can easily do, these ideas are going to be going in the opposite direction. The pupil premium, is helping the poor, but what about the disabled child who needs interaction, I do not think that the proposed changes for SEN are going to help them one bit. This is another example of the Tories getting their way – Beecroft is getting through via the shares for rights proposals – which we should also be against. These ideas are putting disabiltiy equality back, not forward. None of what you have written shows me where we stand now on equality, equality for the rich, but not for the rest of us. Please read the preamble, and ask yourself this question, does these proposals really put that into practice? From what others have said above and my own reading of this article I cannot see how it is putting it into practice.
    Why have you not given James Sandbatch the courtesy of a reply to his letter sent sometime ago?

  • Issan Ghazni 17th Jan '13 - 10:52pm

    Jo, I’m sorry but there comes a point when its only right to put our collective hands up and accept that we don’t really know what we are doing!

    We really ought to stop, take a breather, consult with equality campaign groups, experts, practitioners in the field and most importantly with concerned party members with real experience in implementing equalities to get a proper perspective. You may even try talking to Doreen Lawrence who campaigned so hard to get the Race Relations Act amended in 2000 and to introduce specific duties to include Equality Impact Assessments. You may not trust party members to give you advice and guidance, but I’m sure you’ll agree she knows a thing or two about institutional discrimination.
    This article is dangerously weak in its ability to put forward any form of compelling argument for the sorts of changes being proposed. I’m disappointed that yet again some of our ministers are talking like experts in the field, yet they fail to speak to liberal minded and dedicated people within the party who have a wealth of knowledge and coal face experience of living discrimination on a day to day basis and others who have worked in this field within the public sector.

    I’m afraid the article does nothing to allay my concerns that we are sleepwalking into a dangerous situation here…one in which Tory right wingers and UKIP will be rubbing their hands in glee – a diminution of the role and effectiveness of the EHRC, weakening of the specific duties including Equality Impact Assessments and most importantly of all, removal of the General Duty which supports the Public Sector Equality Duty. Far from it, the piece exposes our breathtaking lack of awareness of how equality works or doesn’t work in public bodies and a grim determination to keep going without regard to consequences faced by disadvantaged communities in Britain.

    “Labour’s tired old way of working was turning equalities into a burden. … Instead of being about fairness it was more about frustration…. ticking boxes and filling out forms … why did they leave behind a society with so much inequality … equality can’t be brought about solely in bureaucratic ways”.

    We’ve got to stop using Labour’s failure to achieve an equal society to justify our own attempts at pushing a Tory agenda of weakening equality legislation and its regulatory framework. Inequality exists throughout every aspect of society and remains a constant uphill struggle for everybody…even for Liberal Democrats – we have no BME MPs in the House of Commons…is that Labour’s fault too?

    These proposals are not Lib Dem Party policy, they were not in the Coalition agreement, are a million miles away from our party preamble and have certainly not been subjected to internal party consultation. This is one off-the hoof policy which is certainly going to face a lot of resistance and will damage our electoral prospects within minority and disadvantaged communities.

    As Chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, I wrote to Jo directly several weeks ago to raise our grave concerns and to ask for support in stopping the planned removal of the General Duty. I asked for a meeting with my executive team…to date there has been no response. Am I to take it that this article is my response?

    Issan Ghazni
    Chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) and Public Sector Equality Practitioner with 20 years of experience – currently equality adviser in the NHS.

  • Horrible apologia for tory policy on Lib Dem Voice. What a lovely up to.

  • I don’t understand this:
    “like Nick has said the Equality Act isn’t being watered down and it isn’t going anywhere. ”

    Clause 56 removes the s3 General Duty under the Equality Act 2006. How is that not a watering down?

  • Further to that the explanatory notes to clause 56 state:
    ” This clause amends Part 1 of the Equality Act 2006, which makes provision for the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, to clarify the Commission’s remit by [b] removing some of its powers and duties [/b]

  • Could someone please explain why the Coalition is seeking to dismantle the General Duty on the Commission and other acts of vandalism when:
    - neither party opposed that part of the Bill at its final passing in 2010
    - neither party proposed it in its 2010 manifesto
    - there was no reference to it in the Coalition Agreement

    Given the comments above and the conference motions, on what authority does Jo Swinson or anyone else seek to dismantle the duty.

    Robin Lynn
    Cardiff & Penarth

  • Peter Watson 18th Jan '13 - 12:22pm

    I don’t think I have seen a LibDemVoice thread with such general agreement between all those posting.
    Curiously, it seems to show unity in disagreeing with the views of a Lib Dem MP.

  • Rabi Martins 18th Jan '13 - 1:39pm

    I read Jo’s piece with disappointment and concern
    Disappointment because the piece is clearly written by Jo using her coalition government Ministerial head rather than her Liberal Democrats heart Many of us know Jo’s record on equalties – particularly with regards to her campaigning and success on women’s issues

    The basis of my concern has been very adequately articulated by a number of the other contributors, particularly Issan
    ” I’m afraid the article does nothing to allay my concerns that we are sleepwalking into a dangerous situation here…one in which Tory right wingers and UKIP will be rubbing their hands in glee – a diminution of the role and effectiveness of the EHRC, weakening of the specific duties including Equality Impact Assessments and most importantly of all, removal of the General Duty which supports the Public Sector Equality Duty”
    and Lester
    “Jo is wrong to assert that Equality Impact Assessments are not under threat from this Government. The government of which she is a member are consulting on EIAs and have expressed a wish to water them down when the right approach would be to strengthen them so that public authorities know more clearly how they should be writing them, for the benefit of ensuring policies don’t discriminate”

    None of should be surprised that the Conservatives want to water down Equalities Legislation – particularly those elements of the legislation that protects Black and Ethnic Minority communities The focus of their attention has always been and always will be the better of
    Fairness to ourconservative coalition partners is protecting big business and multi million pound home owners – jus a handful of whom have BAME origins
    This group has no need to rely on the protection from EHRC
    For Liberal Democrats Fairness should be something completely different It is about ensuring that no one is disadvantaged because of their circumstance
    And one circumstance that continues to be the greatest cause of disadvantage for individuals is when their racial background happens to be Black or Asian That was the case back in the 1970s when some of us campaigned for and secured the first Race Relations Act The fact that no government has repealed that Act but amended and strengtened it time after time is proof that Racial Discrimination is alive and well and thriving in Britain
    How then can the Coalition Government contemplate justify reducing protection for those who suffer Racial Discrimination ? Because that is what the consequence of the proposed changes to the EHRC is going to be
    Teresa May seems more concerned with the cost of running the EHRC rather than the welfare of BAME citizens of the country Further eveidence that the Conservatives class BAMEs as second class citizens
    Liberal Democrats in government must make it clear that that is not how we see things That all citizens must be protected from discrimination and that in order to do that we need a strong and effective EHRC with wide reaching powers

  • This whole thread, featuring the Government’s current Lib Dem Equalities spokeswoman, when combined with calls from Lib Dem disability campaigners critical of the last Lib Dem Equalities spokeswoman, does not frankly speak well of our current policy or spokespeople on Equalities. Too much more of this, and I see us losing the majority of our Equalities campaigners, another blow to our member numbers and our overall campaigning strength. Not good.

  • Ms Swinson, my experience of seeking out and working for EQUALITY spans perios before the original EQUAL PAY ACT in 1976. When sought employement as an apprentice in contracting engineering. At that time there waso protection from being ‘discriminate against’. It was ok for them to refuse me access to training , because it was far to travel, it was residential and ofcourse as a female I was really interested in marrigare an the kitchen sink. I needed to ake poitive action tree times to get my right to equal paywith men. I am sad thatmore than 35 yars aftr the EQUAL Pay ACT we are still working towards its goals.
    There was no EHRC support me.
    Structual racisim in the NHS, I met and married a man from anoher contient. Contracts in the 70;s 80; onwards requied execcive hours (100+ weekly) . Contracts ran for 6 months as did visas. A very stressful expereince. Poor quality traning in the UK ment these medics moved often with families twice a year. Mostly to poor areas at the margin of he country. In comparision White medics were more likely to be structured taining programes wih support =some even became international rubgy players on the side. We had five close friends at the tme. Four are now dead and three left young families to be brought up singlehanded by the mother –
    There was no EHRCspport at the time,

    As an adult student (90;s) questions on my husbands income formed part of application process for access to University
    There was no EHRC support at the time.
    Now a retired and disabled person I face mutiple discrimntaion by Governement that allows its agents to send letters clients ; I am gong off for Christmas hols today. You did not ring me backas requested! Respon withi 15 days or else we will remove you fro the caseload. By the way we do not return until 5 Jan . So you cannot comply with this demand.
    A final thought Equalty has a partner called equity = but Ms Swinson why is this aspect of the spirit of existing equality legisiaion left out. Whatever the spin people tell you the electiate has a capacity to deal with more than one aspectof problem at a time – they invariably live with them
    Ms Swinson, I have 3 young adult female children, They are making their way in life, do not given the shackles of descimination had. Our chiden deserveand rightly demand a better future. Do ont act iliberally and Constriant the EHRC in ways in which reduce access to justice.
    amina

  • Peter Watson 21st Jan '13 - 9:56am

    Any chance of the original author, Jo Swinson MP, reading and replying to the comments on this thread or is communication via LibDemVoice seen as a one-way process?

  • sorry for the typing spelling – it is part of my problem

  • So still no sign of Jo Swinson.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 24th Jan '13 - 8:24am

    Alex Folkes highlights in simle terms the real benefits of Equality Impact Assessments (EIA’s), and challenges the “Tory mantra on scrapping red tape”, which some within the Liberal Democrats seem to have adopted over and above our mantra of “Building a Fairer Britain”.

    http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-you-know-what-equality-impact-assessments-can-be-quite-useful-32798.html#comment-236817

  • Simon Banks 24th Jan '13 - 4:13pm

    I regret that Jo’s comments about EIAs are so casual and superficial. EIAs are basically risk assessments for equality implications. They can be done as part of a risk assessment process and are useful and time-effective as are sensible risk assessments. Initially some processes were excessively bureaucratic and time-consuming, but people working in the equality field were aware of this and made progress in simplifying them. But of course, they’re just bureaucrats.

  • To everyone: I appreciate you wanted more immediate responses to your comments and while I had read them earlier I’ve only now been able to get a decent slot of time to respond. I also warmly welcomed the opportunity to meet with several of you last week to discuss these and related issues.

    @James we still support a broad remit for the EHRC, which won’t be restricted at all by these changes, but they will have to work on a smaller budget like every other department. And EIAs are not being abolished – just to clarify what we have said is that if departments can show they have considered equality another way then that is fine too. Equalities shouldn’t just be ‘considered’ anyway but embedded into policy-making from the start. My experience in Government is that equality is often considered too late, hence simply ‘ticking boxes’.

    @Caracactus social mobility, access to the same opportunities for all, is very much about equality. The gender pay gap in Britain remains among the highest in the European Union. The full-time gender pay gap between women and men in the private sector is 20 per cent, though it varies across sectors and regions, rising to up to 55% in the finance sector and up to 33.3% in the City of London.

    @Geoffrey Payne I agree that more should be done on racial discrimination – which is why Nick has asked me to look into the high unemployment rates of young black men and Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in particular. We commissioned research on the specific barriers that will then inform policy action.

    @James You’ll have received a response by now. As you know I didn’t receive the letter until 27 November when you resent it directly to a member of my staff from a non-hotmail email address. Also in the past few months I have met with members on this including Navnit Dholakia, Rabi Martins, had a telephone call with Lester Holloway, and replied to a letter written by Issan Ghanzi on 10 October 2012. And of course the reason I wrote this post was to engage with Liberal Democrat members.

    @Meral I know we have a genuine difference of view about section 3 and have discussed it several times. I can see nothing to suggest that repealing section 3 will either stop or impair the EHRC’s ability to fulfill its important equality and human rights duties. John Wadham, the EHRC’s General Counsel, told the Public Bill Committee, when the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill was still in the House of Commons that he did not find the repeal of the general duty to be problematic “because other parts of the legislation provide sufficient clarity on what our job really is.” And the EHRC budget has not been reduced by 62%, as we discussed on Thursday, if you account for the fact that the Government has taken on responsibility for the provision of a new Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) in place of the EHRC helpline, and for funding frontline initiatives in place of the EHRC’s grants programme. Funding was transferred from the EHRC to the Government Equalities Office to reflect these changes. Taking into account this transfer of funding, the reduction to the EHRC’s resource budget announced in October 2010 is less than 35%, and consistent with the level of savings required from all public sector organisations.

    @Gemma Roulston There is a number people can call to get help and guidance – it’s the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) Telephone number is: 0808 800 0082 Textphone: 0808 800 0084 The lines are open from 09:00 to 20:00 Monday to Friday and 10:00 to 14:00 Saturday. There is no Beecroft getting in! We’ve put extra safeguards in place to the employee shareholder idea make sure no-one can be forced to take part in this scheme. The first safeguard ensures that if employee doesn’t want to take part and is then overlooked for promotion, or has been disadvantaged in any other way because of that refusal, they can present a claim to an employment tribunal. The second sees the creation of a new unfair dismissal right. If an employee is sacked because they refused to accept an employee shareholder contract, this will be regarded as automatically unfair. Both of these rights will apply from day 1 so employees are protected from the very beginning.

    @Lester Holloway Consulting on something does not mean watering down or abolishing it! Governments should be allowed and should be encouraged to review policy to ensure it is working. EIAs are absolutely not being abolished. We have to embrace the realities of Coalition Government. Neither party will get to enact all the policies and legislation that their party members would want because neither party won the election.

    @Issan I replied to your letter of 3 August (sent to Lynne Featherstone and passed on to me as the new Equalities Minister) on the 10 October.

    I absolutely support the Public Sector Equality Duties, just because there is a review doesn’t mean that they are going to be got rid of. What it means is that we are looking at how they are working and if they can be improved. I want to reassure you that we are approaching the review positively. I’m sure there will be lots of best practice that is well worth sharing!

  • I rarely comment on debates such as this one. However, this seems to me to be a classic example of why a complicated issue should not be dealt with by Liberals in short, ill-judged and ill-considered musings which amount to little more than web burps. The end result is zero progress, zero new thinking and a lot of people wasting a lot of time responding.

  • Geoffrey Payne 29th Jan '13 - 1:29pm

    Jo, thank you for your reply. To be honest it does not sound like you are doing much to tackle racial discrimination. 3 years in and all your are doing is research. The overall tone of your article about getting rid of checkboxes, without saying what the alternative would be smacks of ideological opposition previous government policy, rather than one that is based on evidence. What I also notice from the comments is that EMLD, disability groups and the party at large have had virtually no say in the decisions you have made on behalf of the party. Perhaps if they had have been this kind of discussion on LDV would have been more measured. But for many of us what you have said out of the blue has come as a shock.

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