§ Lord Lester of Herne Hill
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they intend to introduce legislation to forbid religious discrimination beyond the employment field, so as to match the protection given by the Race Relations Act.[HL2620]
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)
While the Government's mind is not closed to such a possibility, we have no current plans to do so. The provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act in relation to freedom of religion already provide some protection for religious communities. The coming into force of the Article 13 regulations in December has provided new protection against religious discrimination in employment and training.
For the future, the Government are progressing the equalities agenda by working towards the creation of a single equalities body in 2006. Faith equality will be included within the body's remit and the White Paper Fairness for all: A new Commission for Equality and Human Rights published on 12 May sets out how the Government intend to support the new equality strands including religion and belief. Representatives from the new strands will be fully involved in the preparatory work for the new body and the establishment of the CEHR will, for the first time, provide institutional support for the new discrimination regulations on religion and belief in employment. In the run-up to the establishment of the new commission and in the first years of its operation, particular attention will be paid to the new strands.