The conference, due to take place on 21 November 2002, at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in London, will provide Ms Roche with the first public platform to voice her views on the draft legislation to outlaw discrimination at work on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion and belief.
'This means implementing it in a way that fully engages business. So our first priority has to be getting the legislation on employment and training right, and ensuring that the rights and obligations under the Directive are understood and widely supported. Additionally, we will continue to monitor the impact of the new legislation.
'It is important not to underestimate the potential impact that these changes will have. And to ensure that all the new provisions - which constitute a significant undertaking in themselves - have time to bed down before we consider what we might do next.
'I believe that if we are to realise our vision of equality, we should broaden our approach beyond a focus on legislation - however important that is - and make sure we concentrate on the wider economic inequalities that persist in our society.'
Other speakers at this important conference include Rory Love, leader of Shepway DC and Laura Willoughby, of Islington LBC. Cllr Love, who will be chairing the conference, said:
'I cannot recommend that members attend strongly enough. Any new legislation creates problems or challenges depending on the approach that the employer takes. I would like to think that the challenges that the Directive has laid down would be a good thing. There should be no problems for authorities that are switched on and who are tackling equality and diversity issues in a fairly forward looking way. The challenges will come for those who have been slow to embrace the diversity agenda. However, irrespective of where local authorities are, participating in the conference will help answer a great many questions and provide them with a sounder platform from which to build on the minimum requirements.'
The conference provides elected members, chief executives, human resource specialists and other interested parties with their first opportunity to discuss the directive collectively. After receiving contributions from communities of interest including The Inter-Faith Network, Stonewall, trade unions and the British Humanist Association, delegates will work together to develop strategies for implementing the directive, as well as identifying barriers and prospective remedies.