Opinion: Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference supports retention of Section 3 of the Equality Act

At the Welsh Liberal Democrat conference in Cardiff yesterday, a comfortable majority of representatives carried a motion urging that Lib Dem peers be allowed to vote with their consciences on amendment 35 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. By so allowing, the party will send out the signal that our commitment to equality and human rights is undiminished despite being in coalition with a party whose commitment is at best questionable.

Amendment 35 was originally moved in the Lords by disability campaigner Baroness Jane Campbell and passed in March, supported by Labour, cross Benchers, a majority of Lib Dem peers, and a few Conservatives. Its purpose was to retain Section 3 of the Equality Act 2006, the section that gives the Equality and Human Rights Commission its purpose. Our MPs under the Government whip, voted to reject the amendment although 3 of them rebelled plus 1 Conservative. Now it returns to the Lords again.

It is to be hoped our peers (and MPs) will bear in mind that when one of the party’s national conferences has had a chance to vote on the issue, they have taken the opportunity to send a message to the leadership of “not in our name”, indicating that they are out of touch with their own grass roots members.

It would be ironic for section three to be rejected by the Lords on the twentieth anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which is today  (22 April).

* Robin is a member in Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan

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6 Comments

  • Martin Frost 23rd Apr '13 - 12:31am

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/lords/todays-lords-debates/read/unknown/515/

    The House of Lords have voted by 210-180 to send Baroness Campbell’s amendment to retain Section 3 of the Equality Act back to the House of Commons for a second time.

    I do hope that the Government or at least their junior partners in the coalition will allow it to stand.

  • David Wilkinson 23rd Apr '13 - 7:51am

    A conference vote,!I sure Nick and his merry band of MP’s will take notice of that, just like the secret courts vote

  • Chuka Umunna has just tweeted this: Further to our calls, Equalities Minister Jo Swinson has notified me that the Govt is u-turning on it move to repeal the EHRC’s general duty.

  • YeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeHaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! If that isn’t inappropriate in the context.

  • Martin Frost 23rd Apr '13 - 2:36pm

    It looks like the elation is premature. The Government is now proposing to accept amendment 35 but to insist on amendment 36. Please see below an extra from Baroness Campbell’s speech.

    “In the other place last week, the Minister told MPs: “We are also changing the commission’s monitoring duty to
    ensure that it reports on its core functions, rather than on the state of society generally”.—[OfficialReport, Commons, 16/4/13; col. 217.] At present the commission is required to monitor Britain’s progress towards the aims of the general
    duty. In so doing it holds up a mirror to society, as it did in its seminal report, How fair is Britain?. As the Minister indicated, if the general duty is repealed, the monitoring duty will be fundamentally changed—itwill be limited to holding up a mirror to itself and asking only, “How effective is the commission?”. This is why Amendment 35 relating to Section 3 and Amendment 36 relating to Section 12 of the Equality Act 2006 are inseparable andmust bemust be considered as one.

    In other words, the Government is allowing Section 3 to stay and rendering it entirely inoperative. A very cynical measure unworthy of the Liberal Democrats in Government.

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