HC Deb 09 July 2002 vol 388 cc857-8W
Sandra Gidley

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has established a baseline for policy appraisal against which to measure progress on equal treatment; and what progress has been achieved. [66526]

Jane Kennedy

Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, requires public authorities to have due regard to the need to 'promote equality of opportunity' and have regard to 'promoting good relations' within Northern Ireland. The legislation also requires them to produce an 'Equality Scheme' stating how they will fulfil these requirements. In January 2000 the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) commissioned the preparation of an 'Equality Scheme' which was approved by the Quality Commission for Northern Ireland on 20 November 2001. The Scheme sets out how the Department and its Agencies fulfil their duties and obligations with regard to all of their policies, functions and duties.

An 'External Assessor' has recently produced the first Annual Progress Report on the operation of the NIO's Equality Scheme. The report looked at the work of the Department to date and commented favourably on progress.