inequality wherever it occurs was announced.
Under the plans, the work of existing equality commissions will come
individuals, businesses and communities to crackdown on
discrimination, and promote equality and diversity.
For the first time - via the new body - the government will provide
support for the promotion of human rights. The new body,
provisionally called the Commission for Equality and Human Rights
(CEHR), is the result of the biggest review of equality institutions
in a quarter of a century.
It will bring together the work of three existing equality
commissions - the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal
Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission and
take responsibility for new laws outlawing workplace discrimination
on age, religion or belief and sexual orientation.
Patricia Hewitt, trade and industry secretary and minister for women
'We are committed to providing opportunity for all and equality
matters to everyone - it is not a minority concern. A successful
society must make full use of the talents of all its members.
'But tackling discrimination in the 21st Century requires a joined-up
approach that puts equality in the mainstream of concerns.
'As individuals, our identities are diverse, complex and
multi-layered. People don't see themselves as solely a woman, or
black, or gay and neither should our equality organisations.
'By bringing these bodies into one organisation we will make life
much easier for individuals to get help and advice, especially when
they are discriminated against on more than one level.
Lord Falconer, secretary of state at the Department for
Constitutional Affairs said:
'Human rights and equality are two sides of a single coin - respect
for the dignity and the value of each perso n. The CEHR should be able
to change the way that public authorities treat individuals and drive
up our public service standards. It will champion human rights good
practice and responsibilities throughout the public sector, reducing
the need to go to court over problems. We want to see a human rights
culture, not a litigation culture.
'With rights also come responsibilities. Human rights involve
balancing one person's rights against another's and taking into
account the rights of the wider community. This will be key to the
success of the new body.'
Ms Hewitt also announced that she was setting up a task force with
members reflecting different equality interests to advise on the
governance and structure of the new body ahead of a White Paper next
The government will consult widely on the priorities for a new
commission to ensure it provides a framework for supporting all
individual equalities issues as well as championing equality as a
The Commission for Equality and Human Rights would:
* better reflect today's Britain and promote diversity and equality
as key drivers of a culture of respect which underpins a prosperous
and cohesive society;
* improve the existing situation where an individual's problems are
often pigeonholed into one category (race, gender or disability) when
things can be more complicated. People often have multiple identities
with equality issues ie - an employee could be an ethnic minority
woman with an equal pay issue;
* deliver a better service for businesses, as well as public sector
organisations at a local and national level, providing information
and advice on implementing a broad diversity strategy in the
workplace that covers a range of equalities. At the moment they have
to go separately to each commission;
* promote equality in the delivery of public services so that all
citizens are better served;
* promote respect for human rights in public services, so that
everyone is treated properly and human rights abuses are stamped out;
* continue to enforce anti-discrimination legislation in race,
gender, and disability and take on responsibilities for
discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation
Ms Hewitt continued:
'We consulted widely on how best to achieve our vision of a fairer,
more inclusive and prosperous Britain and concluded that a single
body to cover all equalities is an important step forward.
'The new commission will also help organisations such as schools, the
police and other public, private and voluntary sector bodies get
comprehensive advice on diversity and become better employers,
improve performance, strengthen community relations and reduce human
1. Ms Hewitt made a written statement to the House of Commons today
and Lord Falconer has made a written statement to the House of Lords.
To obtain a copy visit the websites:
www.dti.gov.uk and www.dca.gov.uk
2. The task force will include representatives from the existing
statutory equality Commissions, faith communities, 'new' strands
(sexual orientation, religion/belief and age), business, human rights
experts, and trade unions.
3. For more information see the press notice on the publication of
Making it Happen 'New plans in the drive towards equality for all',
ODPM, Barbara Roche MP, 15 May 2002 -
4. The government's consultation Equality and Diversity: Making it
Happen was published in October 2002. It sought views on future
arrangements for equality institutions in Great Britain -
5. Today's announcement forms the government's response to the Joint
Committee on Human Rights Sixth Report on the Case for a Human Rights
6. The Department for Constitutional Affairs has responsibility for
human rights within government. http://www.humanrights.gov.uk
7. Information on new equality legislation can be found at
8. The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) was established following
the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA); the Commission for Racial
Equality (CRE) was established following the Race Relations Act 1976
RRA); and the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) was established in
2000 to provide institutional support for the Disability
Discrimination Act. Each is charged with working towards the
elimination of discrimination in relation to their strands; promoting
equality of opportunity for their strands; and keeping under review
the relevant legislation. In addition, DRC is charged with
encouraging good practice in the treatment of disabled people. The
powers of the EOC are set out in the SDA; the CRE in the RRA and the
DRC in the Disability Rights Commission Act 1999.
9. The Human Rights Act 1998 came into force on 2 October 2000, and
section 6 places a legal obligation on all public authorities not to
breach anyone's Convention rights (the rights from the European
Convention on Human Rights, annexed to the Act). Anyone who feels
that their Convention rights have been breached can assert their
rights in any court or tribunal in the UK - rather than having to go
to Strasbourg, as was previously the case.
10. When the Human Rights Act came into force the government said
that they had not closed their mind to the idea of a Human Rights
Commission, but that much more work needed to be done. The Joint
Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights was set up in 2001, and one
of their first items of business was to inquire into the case for a
Human Rights Commission. In March 2003 they recommended that the
Government create an integrated Commission for Equality and Hu man
Rights. The government has carefully considered that recommendation
in coming to the decision it has announced.
11. The CEHR will serve the whole of Great Britain, in keeping with
the distribution of powers to the UK and Scottish Parliaments and the
National Assembly for Wales (equality legislation is a reserved
matter in Scotland, and not transferred to Wales). The government is
responding to the strong call for the body's arrangements in Scotland
and Wales to fit well with devolved legislation, institutions and
policies, and for its policies to take account of the social,
cultural and economic circumstances of Scotland and Wales. The
Scottish and Welsh perspective will be represented in the task force.
The CEHR will need to work in close partnership with the proposed
Scottish Human Rights Commission, taking full account of the division
between devolved and reserved matters. Proposals will be published in
the White Paper. Currently each of the commissions has an office in
Scotland and Wales.