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Harman’s Equality Legacy to BME communities

Harriet Harman

The Equality Bill, set to become law after it was passed in the last days of the current Parliament, could be one of the Labour government’s strongest legacies to the Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities.

Dubbed ‘Harriet Harman’s legacy to a generation,’ the Equality Bill completed its passage through Parliament on 6 April 2010, just as Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the date of the general election.

It is currently waiting to receive Royal Assent by the Queen before it officially becomes law.

The bill brings together and amends the existing discrimination legislation concerning sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and age. Introduced by Leader of the House Harriet Harman (pictured), the bill has been controversial in its passage to law, igniting opposition from some churches and faith groups.

The government said that its aim behind the bill was to build a Britain where fear of difference, prejudice, and discrimination were replaced with tolerance, understanding and a shared set of values, belonging and purpose.

Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote, said:

“During this Government there has been few more committed to race equality than Harriet Harman. This big piece of legislation, far from being perfect, nevertheless offers a generational commitment to defeat the scurge of racism.

But let’s not forget that legislation is only tool. Individuals, groups and organisations, such as ECHR -Equality and Human Rights Commission- will need great skill in using this tool to guide, demand and if necessary prosecute those who don’t adhere to its basic tenets. OBV’s General Election slogan has been, ‘Expect the best from yourself and your society’, that could also be used from Harman’s Equality Act.”

The bill imposes an equality duty on all public bodies, and schools, councils and health bodies to promote equality, with employers also permitted to positively discriminate and select candidates from under-represented sections of society should two candidates have the same qualification.

The bill also introduces a new concept of ‘dual discrimination’ that will allow people to identify themselves as having been discriminated on two levels – for example their sexual orientation and their race – as well as preventing private members clubs from stopping members or guests using them based on gender reassignment or sexual orientation. One of the biggest changes was a move to allow gay couples to have civil partnerships in church.

Other highlights include allowing political parties to use all women shortlists until 2030 thereby helping to increase the number of women in Parliament; putting a duty on public bodies to consider the needs of people with different religious and philosophical beliefs when designing and delivering services; and extending the power of employment tribunals to make recommendations in discrimination claims that would benefit the wider workforce, and not just an individual claimant.

The law will be put into effect in the autumn with the public sector equality duty to be phased in April 2011.

Dominic Bascombe

3 Responses

  1. […] is now important that black communities and organisations engage with the EHRC to influence the priority and strategic direction of the […]

  2. Having been victim discrimination in the 70s 90s and 2010 will this new Law be implemented by an independent body or would the discriminators get away by attending a diversity course????

    • Which ever way you look at this new bill – which I am a hundred percent certain would not favour BME or be fair to everyone – as long as various British Government’s refuse to engage all citizens regardless of their colour a fair say in how they are being governed, I am afraid that racism is here to stay. New Labour have not helped deal with this problem, nor advance the position of BME born in this country. The interfering New Labour have only tackled this subject to favour the majority in this country so that they will keep them (New Labour) in power; through the vote of the majority.

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