• Alex Dingwall

TUC add its voice to concerns over Equality Duty review

On 15 May 2012, the Home Secretary announced a review of the public sector Equality Duty, as part of the outcome of the Red Tape Challenge spotlight on equalities. They are now combining it with a planned review of the general 'due regard' equality duty which would have been done in 2015.

The TUC believes this review is premature - the new equality duty only came into effect just under two years ago and the specific duties only a year ago. They have also expressed concerns about the review being overseen by a steering group that lacks any public service user or worker voice on it and has no representation from the devolved administrations.

The TUC briefing echoes concerns already expressed in November 2012 by Doreen Lawrence OBE and Dr Richard Stone OBE in an open letter to the Prime Minister about the review of the Public Sector Equality Duty, asking that the Review by overseen by an appropriate parliamentary committee or independent panel, that it is governed by clear published terms of reference, and that it follows best practice in terms of post-legislative review. This letter was also addressed to the First Ministers of the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

In their response of 19 December 2012, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister gave an assurance that the review would be overseen by an independent high level steering group and published the terms of reference but defended the early review of the duty.

In his own response also of 19 December 2012 to Doreen Lawrence, the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, states, “The Welsh Government has distanced itself from the PSED review although we will provide a response with evidence on positive impact of the PSED within Wales. He also refers to the recent press notice issued by Jane Hutt, Minister for Finance and Leader of the House with responsibility for Equalities, which publicly states the Welsh Government position on the PSED.

"Whilst I appreciate a need to be efficient in our decision-making, I do not believe that this can be achieved by taking steps backwards. To ensure a strong future for the people of Wales, it is vital that we take into consideration the needs of all individuals from the very first stage of any policy-making and budget decision.

"The Equality Impact Assessment itself is just the mechanism for evidencing our due regard for the equality of the protected characteristics in Wales. We publish the EIAs for all to see on the Welsh Government website, demonstrating the transparency in Welsh Government decision-making.

"Our commitment to assessing the impact of our decisions is intended to make our communities, businesses and local economies stronger, by ensuring that the needs of individuals are given due regard when we do so."

The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights hope that the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond MSP, will have taken a similar robust position in his reply to the letter from Doreen Lawrence.