Tag Archives: equalities

Jo Swinson launches Lib Dem campaign to deliver equal pay in the workplace

jo swinson Alex Folkes/Fishnik PhotographyIn an email to party members, Jo Swinson, Lib Dem Minister for Consumer Affairs & Equalities, has launched a new campaign to deliver equal pay in the workplace:

Shockingly, in 2012 women were paid nearly 20% less than their male colleagues. It is an unacceptable difference and one the Liberal Democrats are determined to tackle.

Today we’re announcing plans to require large companies to publish the difference in pay between male and female workers. This will create pressure from staff and customers to close any pay gap and

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“No to weakening the protections in the Equalities Act”

ECHR and CleggNo to weakening the protections in the Equalities Act

That’s what Nick Clegg said in his conference speech last week.

This is not the same as saying no to weakening the effectiveness of the Equalities Act 2006. Back in April we nearly lost Section 3, which gives the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) its purpose. Without Section 3 a future government would have less difficulty further dismantling the EHRC. Lib Dems in government raised no objections at the time. But for a strong showing in the Lords, some back-bone on the back benches and an emergency motion at the Welsh Spring Conference, we would have sold the pass on that one.

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Equalities – how the ‘General Duty’ was saved

It was fitting that, on the 20th anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence, the government decided to listen to campaigners and save a key element of our equalities laws.

Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) played a leading role in the campaign to save Section 3 of the 2006 Equality Act which provides a vision and mission statement for Britain’s equality watchdog.

This is known as the ‘general duty’ and both informs the work of the watchdog – the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – which itself is responsible for setting the standard for the rest of our public services.

That is …

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Opinion: Are you a man?

menAre you a man? Have you been or might you be on a fringe meeting panel at Liberal Democrat conference? If the answer to both is yes, I’d like your help…

At the Spring conference just gone in Brighton, I nearly ended up being a speaker on an all-male panel – and one taking place on International Women’s Day no less. The subject – technology and politics – is one where there are a good few female experts in the party, and it was only Olly Grender’s last minute addition which saved my blushes from Mark Thompson’s quite reasonable intention to turn up and put us all on the spot about what was an all-male panel.

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Lord Avebury writes… Gay asylum-seekers: we’ve come a long way, but much still left to achieve for LGBTI people around the world

It is estimated that worldwide more than 175 million people, some three times the population of the UK, are at risk of persecution because of their sexual orientation. Seventy-six countries criminalise consensual same sex relations, among them 54 countries of the Commonwealth.

Hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is deeply entrenched in the culture of these countries, and their elected governments reflect the prejudice of the masses. They know that persecuting LGBTI people is contrary to international law, and leads to friction with donor nations.

In the case of Gambia, when EU representatives were due to …

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Opinion: Does the debate over equal marriage reveal our blind spots?

Let me begin by saying that I enthusiastically support equal marriage. The ability of two people who love each other to marry regardless of their gender is a blessing, Tuesday’s vote was a victory for liberalism, and despite its flaws the Bill is a big step forward to a fairer society. I found the explanations made by those Lib Dem MPs who opposed the bill to be intellectually unconvincing, sometimes evasive, and fundamentally illiberal.

And yet, I was slightly perturbed by the number of people – and a party organisation – discussing whether to refuse to campaign for the ‘rebels’. …

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Majority back same-sex marriage

Wedding ringsFrom the polling published this weekend:

Would you support or oppose changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?
Support: 55%
Oppose: 36%

Amongst Conservative voters the results are 44% – 49% (which is a statistical dead heat, when you remember to factor in the  margin of error).

Interestingly, the majority support comes despite the lead-up to the question being a tadge inaccurate:

Posted in Polls | Also tagged , and | 46 Comments

Fighting for the rights of women – all over the world

This week, The Independent has run an interview with International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone – and no surprise that equalities feature strongly in her approach to the job:

Today we are talking about Zambia, from where she has just returned from a trip to meet victims of domestic violence, as well as the First Lady and the newly-appointed Minister of Gender, as part of her brief as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for International Development (DFID).

In Masabuka, Featherstone discussed ways to empower a population where 63 per cent of women believe domestic battery is justifiable. “It’s a culture that is so

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Jo Swinson appointed new Equalities Minister

In an email to party members this evening, Nick Clegg delivered the following news:

Tonight I’ve been hosting a reception to celebrate the Coalition’s commitment to equal marriage, an issue I’m very proud that Liberal Democrats are delivering on in Government.

I was delighted to be joined at the reception by Jo Swinson MP – who I’m pleased to announce is our new Equalities Minister, in addition to her role as Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs.

This news, I suspect, will be greeted with a very deep sigh of relief by many Lib Dems, not only because it means a Lib Dem …

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Maria Miller’s appointment: have you forgotten what was said when Theresa May got the role?

Maria Miller’s appointment to, amongst other things, the Women and Equalities brief has received quite a lot of criticism from non-Conservatives today.

One part of that is wrong, but understandable – a simple mistake in not realising that the role she’s taken on isn’t the one Lynne Featherstone had but rather the one Theresa May had. As the BBC got this wrong, it’s no surprise many others followed in also getting it wrong, even though the accurate information is readily accessible in many places such as in Theresa May’s own write-up on the Home Office website. Not double-checking something the BBC …

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Clegg set to open the way for churches to hold gay marriages

Via The Independent:

Nick Clegg will allow Parliament to go further in its plans to legalise gay marriage and enable churches and other religious institutions to conduct the ceremonies, The Independent has learned…

In a letter to the Quakers, Unitarian and Free Christian churches and Liberal Judaism, who all want to conduct same-sex marriages, Mr Clegg indicated that religious groups could be given the option.

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Lynne Featherstone to reform Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone is to reform the Equality and  Human Rights Commission, cutting its budget and removing some of its responsibilities, most notably its obligation to assess how Government policies would affect the poorest.

Now, if ever there was a quango in need of reform, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is that body. Dysfunctional seems to be the best word to describe the EHRC. Wasteful would be another. For three years running, the National Audit Office qualified its accounts. Last year was the first year since its formation in 2007 when it managed to …

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MORE SHOCK NEWS: Bill that was going to be in Queen’s Speech will be in Queen’s Speech

Pick and mix your allocation of blame between some Tory right-wing MPs and some political journalists, between deliberate deceit and genuine confusion as you wish, but as the dust settles on yesterday’s political stories about the Queen’s Speech the news is remarkably dull:

  • A Bill that was not going to be in the Queen’s Speech will not be in the Queen’s Speech, and
  • A Bill that was going to be in the Queen’s Speech will be in the Queen’s Speech.

Or in other words, ignore the nonsense about how the absence of an equal marriage Bill from the Queen’s Speech means the government …

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SHOCK NEWS: A bill that wasn’t going to be in the Queen’s Speech isn’t going to be in the Queen’s Speech

The plan wasn’t for an equal marriage Bill to be in this Queen’s Speech, so the news that there will not be an equal marriage Bill in the Queen’s Speech is hardly news – even if some on the Tory right (unenlightened wing)* are trying to turn this into a story about how the government is backing down on the issue.

As Lynne Featherstone, Minister for Equalities, puts it on her blog:

In the aftermath of a tough set of election results for both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – I couldn’t help but notice a few naysayers popping up in the

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Labour MP Ben Bradshaw: gay people aren’t bothered about marriage

Bizarre comments from Labour MP Ben Bradshaw on the government’s plans for marriage equality:

This isn’t a priority for the gay community, which already won equal rights with civil partnerships. We’ve never needed the word ‘marriage’, and all it’s done now is get a bunch of bishops hot under the collar. We’ve been pragmatic, not making the mistake they have in the US, where the gay lobby has banged on about marriage.

As Pink News goes on to report:

In 2010, 98 per cent of PinkNews.co.uk readers that identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans said they wanted full marriage equality*. Mr Bradshaw’s

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Christian group pledge support for gay couples marrying

Pink News reports:

The Progressive Christianity Network (PCN) is the latest British faith-based group to come out in favour of legal recognition of gay marriage.

Reverend John Churcher, a Methodist minister and chair of the PCN, said in response to comments from Roman Catholic bishops – who have urged Christians to campaign against the government’s proposal – that there are very few biblical texts that appear to condemn homosexuality, and that the interpretation of those that do is controversial…

There are now a range of Christian groups on both sides of the debate. Those groups who have expressed support for gay marriage

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Tim Farron MP writes… Equal Marriage consultation: take part and spread the word

One of our fundamental values as a party is our firm belief in equality. This is why I am member of our party and why I am so proud to be your President. We have always stood for individual liberty and the right to choose how we lead our lives. That’s why we came into being in the 19th century to protect the rights of religious minorities, it’s why we led the support for equality for women and why we decided before any other major party that civil marriage should be open to same-sex couples equally. The Liberal Democrats in …

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Is this the most biased opinion poll question ever asked?

The Coalition for Marriage was launched last week. And as many groups do to try and drum up some publicity announce themselves to the world, they commissioned an opinion poll of public attitudes to equal marriage.

Which is fair enough. But then, it appears, a thought struck them. The UK is, by and large, a tolerant nation, with the vast majority now accepting of gay and lesbian relationships being respected and recognised. So… how to pose an opinion poll question that could produce the result they wanted?

Thankfully, ComRes (a member of the British Polling Council) did them proud. You can read …

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LibLink: Lynne Featherstone on marriage – this is not gay rights versus religious beliefs

Writing in the Daily Telegraph Lynne Featherstone says:

I believe that if a couple love each other and want to commit to a life together, they should have the option of a civil marriage, irrespective of whether they are gay or straight.

We are not prioritising gay rights, or trampling over tradition; we are allowing a space for the two to exist side by side…

Marriage is a right of passage for couples who want to show they are in a committed relationship, for people who want to show they have

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Lynne Featherstone MP writes… We do not just elect individuals, we elect people to be members of a team

Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone writes a monthly column for one of her local newspapers. Here is the latest edition, looking at Parliamentary representation.

Our Parliament has come a long way in recent years. In fact, watching ‘The Iron Lady’ with Margaret Thatcher sticking out like a blue female sore thumb amongst the total male greyness of the then chamber – it reminded me of how recently in history this establishment was nearly all male.

However, despite real progress, it is still nowhere near reflecting the percentage of women in the country – and that is without even starting to talk about …

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The Lib Dem Candidates Leadership Programme – a participant’s view

Last weekend marked the official start of the Candidate Leadership Programme, with a residential training weekend in Greenwich. For many, this Programme marks an important shift in thinking to improve the diversity of our Parliamentary Party. I write this piece to give a participant’s point of view.

Despite efforts for years to get candidates from diverse backgrounds to become approved, sadly, and not without great effort on behalf of organisations such as the Campaign for Gender Balance (CGB), the result did not show in terms of elected Parliamentarians.

The Leadership Programme is designed to focus on the steps post-approval and selection, to …

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Evan Harris writes… Lynne Featherstone delivers on Lib Dem equality pledge – a response to Peter Tatchell

“It’s a Coalition, innit!”

No one would accuse me – I hope – of a lack of commitment to LGBT equality. Nor would anyone  – I fear – of being a cheer-leader for the Government, nor indeed of slavish support for Liberal Democrats in Government. But I can not accept my friend Peter’s criticism of Lynne Featherstone set out in his article. I doubt many readers of Lib Dem Voice would do so either, because his failure to distinguish between “Liberal Democrat policy” and “Government policy” is schoolboy-obvious, and his attack thus falls as flat as a pancake that’s been …

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The Independent View | Peter Tatchell writes… Lib Dems should stick to their principles and urge Lynne not to renege on equality pledge

Bravo to the Liberal Democrat party conference. Two years ago, party members voted overwhelmingly to end the twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. They committed a future Lib Dem government to scrap sexual orientation discrimination in marriage and partnership law. Well done. Thank you

Sadly, the Lib Dem Equality Minister, Lynne Featherstone, apparently with the support of the Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is now actively backing discrimination. She plans to keep unequal laws, contrary to the Lib Dem’s election pledges.

Specifically, Lynne is vowing to retain the prohibition on heterosexual civil …

Posted in The Independent View | Also tagged , , and | 18 Comments

Opinion: Nick Clegg and Scarman

We have grown used to politicians approaching the issue of ‘race’ in the context of immigration, crime, or the aftermath of a tragedy.

So it was enormously refreshing to hear Nick Clegg offer up a well-informed speech on the quest for true race equality, without a negative backdrop.

Delivering a Scarman Lecture on the 30th anniversary of the ground-breaking report into the 1981 Brixton riots, Clegg gave arguably the best speech on race equality by a Cabinet minister.

It was Liberal Democracy at its best, bravely shattering the conspiracy of silence on one of the biggest issues of the day – the …

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The Leadership Programme: the first 11

The all-member Liberal Democrat News currently in the post to party members includes this update on the party’s Leadership Programme, designed to support candidates from under-represented groups:

Of the first 11 candidates, five are women, three from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, three have disabilities. There is one LGBT candidate and five of the 11 come from low socio-economic backgrounds … we have four candidates on the Programme so far who are under 30.

The scheme is due to expand to support at least 30 people.

You can get a subscription to receive each weekly edition of Liberal Democrat News here.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Opinion: Tackling the myths about that Scottish Diversity motion

I’ve seen a few comments online over the past few days insinuating that the Scottish Liberal Democrats don’t care about improving diversity in the wake of a motion passed at the recent Scottish Conference after a passionate debate and a protracted and complex series of votes.

I want to correct some myths about what happened. Scottish Women Liberal Democrats (SWLD) put forward a motion containing a wide ranging series of measures. Most of these were uncontroversial. Who can argue with making sure that the concerns of women are hardwired into the policy process?

The first main points of contention were over the …

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Opinion: Why the Lib Dems need all-women shortlists

In his Lib Dem Voice piece “Too male and too pale” – Why shortlists and the Leadership Programme are not the answer, Paul Head states that he is totally opposed to all-women shortlists (AWS) because they ‘ignore the real problem’ that this reflects in the party as a whole; and that we need to engage more with women and BAME people on a grassroots level and change from below.

This is a sensible argument, and is something that we should strive for. However, I believe that there is a place for AWS in the Liberal Democrats, despite the fact that …

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The Independent View: Evidence that candidates make a difference

The Liberal Democrats in England took an important step in 2007 when they decided to review the approval process for parliamentary candidates. The aim was to develop a modern system capable of identifying, supporting and developing the best possible political talent in order to ensure the Party could field candidates with the qualities, skills and values needed to build public support and win seats.

Although change can take a long time in politics, four years on it is hard not to be impressed at what the Party has achieved.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters and The Independent View | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

Opinion: None shall be enslaved by….maternity?

Nick Clegg bemoans the maleness and paleness of the Lib Dems and his sense of shame that our parliamentary party is 88% male seems genuine enough.

What is it about the culture of Lib Dems that has brought about this striking gender imbalance?

My own experience as a councillor and candidate is that being a (young, childless, solvent) woman is a huge advantage. When I was approved and selected in 2001 you could almost smell the desperation of the party to promote women. The glass ceiling – what was that?

But then I did what women do and I had children and …

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Can you guess who said what?

Take two people: one a successful female businesswoman and one a male Tory MP.

Then take two public statements: one calling female Cabinet members “an ugly bunch” and “I could not look at them”; the other calling for companies to be better at ending the male dominance of the boardroom.

Who do you think would have said which…?

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