COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL
GOVERNMENT News Release (111) issued by The Government News Network
on 12 June 2007
today published a consultation document including proposals for a
Single Equality Bill, to simplify and improve existing legislation
and make common-sense proposals to modernise discrimination law.
The Discrimination Law Review (DLR) will have two key aims:
* preventing discrimination happening in the first place by
making equality law clearer;
* consulting on whether there are significant gaps in protection
where we should legislate
Ministers believe the current laws covering discrimination need
to be simplified. After all, they have grown up over the past 40
years, and different approaches have been taken at different times.
Discrimination law is currently contained in nine major pieces of
legislation. This can act as a barrier to fairness. Having
clearer law in a Single Equality Act will help prevent
discrimination in the first place, because everyone will know
where they stand. If people are discriminated against, they will
know what their rights are. The Single Equality Act will put the
law on equality and discrimination in one place, supported by
clear practical guidance.
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly said:
"Equality law is not about some abstract concept. It is
about how every one of us is treated at work, as a customer and
consumer, and by our public services. Our consultation document
aims to provide clearer and more effective protection from
discrimination wherever people are faced with it in their everyday lives.
"This Government has a proud record of promoting equality of
opportunity and tackling discrimination. This has included
legislation to prevent harmful discrimination in the workplace,
duties on the public sector, new rights and the biggest package of
support for working families and carers as well as setting up the
Commission for Equality and Human Rights.
"For over 40 years, laws have been introduced in a piecemeal
fashion and have as a result become overlapping and less clear. So
it is right we have this review to ensure the laws which govern
how people are treated in their everyday lives are as clear and
effective as possible."
The Discrimination Law Review will consider the opportunities for
creating a clearer and simpler discrimination law framework which
produces better outcomes for people who experience disadvantage.
The Government will make clear this is a green paper and
recognises there are strongly held views in what is a complex
area. The review calls for a full and informed debate before
bringing forward legislation. We want legislation that is
proportionate and targeted specifically at harmful discrimination.
In a wide-ranging consultation document, just some of the issues
and proposals the Government will seek views on are:-
Private clubs and associations - we do not favour preventing
people setting up clubs which have membership targeted at one sex
But we believe that people being treated as second class citizens
when a club is open to all is not acceptable. For example, there
are still golf clubs which restrict the times their female members
can have access to club facilities or play during the day or bar
them from being part of the running of the club.
Asking whether the equality duties for public bodies should be
simplified and extended. We want to explore how the existing
duties on public bodies to promote equality can be simplified and
made more effective, and to consider whether they should be
extended to new areas. This could ensure a much more strategic
approach to tackling discrimination is put at the heart of public
bodies' day to day business - rather than simply being an
add-on box ticking exercise to be completed every three years.
Improving access to and use of premises for disabled people.
Currently there is no duty for landlords and managers to make
alterations to 'common parts' of rented or let
properties - such as stairs, hallways and entrances. It is
estimated that 57,000 disabled people could be facing difficulties
because of inaccessible communal areas.
It is feared this can create a situation where someone could
become a virtual prisoner in their own home, when a simple
alteration could resolve this. In future a landlord would be
required to make an alteration with the cost paid by the tenant.
For example, you would no longer be refused permission to put a
permanent ramp at the front of your rented house or install a
stair-lift up the communal stairs, even if you offer to pay for it.
Asking what the most effective way is of tackling age
discrimination outside employment. Areas that are raised include
health services and financial services. For example, ensuring all
older people are given equal priority when planning and
In the provision of financial services, for example preventing an
older person being refused a store credit card or loan just
because they are over 65 even when they earn a good salary.
The Government will also make clear that legislation will not
prevent benefits available to certain groups - examples might
include holidays marketed for specific age groups and discounted
bus fares for pensioners.
New protections for new mothers. The law would make clear that
expectant and new mothers are protected from discrimination in
relation to goods, facilities and services generally. For example,
a mother with a baby under one-year-old could no longer not be
made to leave a cafe when they are discreetly breast feeding their baby.
Improving the handling of discrimination cases - We want to
enhance the expertise of courts hearing discrimination cases
outside the workplace. We want to explore setting up specialist
courts at county and (in Scotland) sheriff-level, with expertise
in hearing discrimination cases, including judges with specific
knowledge of this area of law to ensure there are centres of
excellence across the country. This would ensure swifter, less
costly and more effective justice.
Notes to Editors
1. The Discrimination Law Review can be accessed by visiting http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1511211.
This document is available in Braille and audio versions, go to http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1511248
2. The paper includes consultation on plans for implementing
Council Directive 2004/113/EC ('the Gender Directive'),
which implements the principle of equal treatment between women
and men in the access to and the supply of goods and services. The
Directive requires us to amend some existing provisions in the Sex
Discrimination Act 1975. The deadline for implementation is 21
December 2007. Because a Single Equality Bill could not come into
force until after this deadline, we intend to implement the
Directive using powers under the European Communities Act. The
consultation closes on 4 September 2007. HM Treasury will also be
publishing draft Guidance on the insurance provisions of the SDA
being amended through the Directive.
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