Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Single Equalities Bill Is a Good Start

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Single Equalities Bill Is a Good Start

Article excerpt

Byline: GILL HALE

DURING the welter of disillusion, outrage, exposed greed, likely corruption and hypocrisy that has surrounded the media's coverage of politics and politicians over the last few months, one piece of important Government legislation was introduced almost unnoticed.

'A Fairer Future' is the title of the long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated Single Equalities Bill which had its first reading in Parliament at the height of the furore over MPs' expenses.

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality (and mercifully untainted by the recent debacle) says that the Bill "will promote fairness and equality of opportunity; tackle disadvantage and discrimination; and modernise and strengthen our law to make it fit for the challenges that our society faces today and in the future".

Fine words - and I can hear the 'political correctness gone mad' brigade groaning already - but, rhetoric aside, why do we need a new law? Current law on discrimination is a tangle of nine major pieces of legislation, about 100 statutory instruments setting out rules and regulations, and more than 2,500 pages of guidance and statutory codes of practice.

Try finding your way around that lot if you are an ordinary worker wondering what your rights are or an employer trying desperately not to break any laws.

Or even, dare I say it, a poor trade union organiser trying to decide whether someone has been discriminated against or not.

A single, streamlined law which, if the Government keeps its promise will also have explanatory guidance written in plain English, can only be an improvement.

But what will the new law do and (here's the PC gone mad brigade again) why are we bothering with luxuries like equality when we are facing the biggest economic and social crisis that most of us can remember? The truth is that equality is not a luxury but a necessity. To achieve the economic recovery that is so vital, particularly in our own region, we need to seek out and use all of the creativity, talent and innovation we can find. …

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