Home secretary Jack Straw has launched a consultation document to public bodies, including councils, to help shape the implementation of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.
The document seeks views on the operation of the new duty on public authorities to promote race equality.
The duty on public bodies to promote race equality involves:
-A general duty on public authorities to work toward the elimination of unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people of different racial groups
-Specific duties to be enforced by the Commission of Racial Equality
-CRE codes of practice to provide guidance to public authorities.
The Act, which updates 25-year-old race legislation, forms a key
recommendation of the inquiry into the murder of London teenager Stephen Lawrence - that the full force of race relations law should apply to the
Mr Straw said: 'As well as outlawing race discrimination by law enforcers, such as the police, it outlaws race discrimination in public functions not
previously covered by the Race Relations Act 1976. It also places a positive statutory duty on public authorities to promote race equality in carrying out their functions - to avoid discrimination before it occurs.'
The CRE welcomed the document as 'an historic moment for race relations'.
'The government's proposals fulfil the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the public for a multiracial society that works in the interest of all its members and a public sector which is a key driver for achieving that,' said Gurbux Singh, chairman of the commission.
Peter Smith, policy officer at the Local Government Association, said the duty will have significant impact on councils and added: 'Authorities with small ethnic populations have done less work than authorities with larger populations.
We have been targeting these smaller authorities and they will get additional resources from us.'