HL Deb 17 March 2005 vol 670 cc3-4WS
Lord Sainsbury of Turville

My right honourable friend the Deputy Minister for Women and Equality (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (the Member for South Shields) and I are today announcing a review of the persistent social, economic and cultural factors that combine to deny individuals the opportunity to make the best of their abilities and contribute to society fully.

The Equalities Review, which will report to the Prime Minister by the summer of 2006, will look at barriers to opportunity and will make practical recommendations on key policy priorities for the Government and public sector, employers and trades unions, civic society and the voluntary sector. Its findings will inform the modernisation of equality legislation and the development of the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).

In the Queen's Speech, the Government announced that they intend to bring forward a Bill to establish the CEHR as soon as parliamentary time allows. The CEHR will bring together existing expertise from the current equality commissions on gender, disability and race and make provision for the new equality strands on sexual orientation, religion and belief and age, as well as promoting human rights. The Bill will also introduce provisions to outlaw discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in the provision of goods, facilities, services and public functions; and a general framework to introduce a duty on public bodies to promote equality of opportunity between women and men and prohibit sex discrimination in the exercise of public functions.

It is widely recognised that in many cases the root causes of disadvantage go beyond discrimination and cannot therefore be rectified by anti-discrimination legislation alone. Earlier consultation on the CEHR also demonstrated considerable support for modernising equality legislation and creating a simpler, fairer, legal framework.

In response to this and in conjunction with the equalities review, the Government will also now begin a review of discrimination legislation. led by the Department of Trade and Industry, which will benefit from the background and analysis that will be provided by the equalities review. This will assess how the equality legislative framework can be modernised to fit the needs of Britain in the 21st century. Specifically, proposals will aim to minimise the burdens on business and on public services while leading to demonstrably better outcomes for minority groups. This work will be the foundation for the development of a clearer and more streamlined legislative framework.

The Prime Minister has asked Trevor Phillips to chair the equalities review in a personal capacity. He will be joined by a small panel of leaders from the fields of business, the public sector and the social policy arena. The review panel will draw advice from a reference group co-chaired by Bert Massie (chair, Disability Rights Commission) and Julie Mellor (chair, Equal Opportunities Commission) whose members will include key equality, human rights, business and trade union stakeholders and other experts. The equalities review will be supported by a Secretariat based in the Cabinet Office and will be overseen jointly by DTI and Cabinet Office Ministers.