Equality and Diversity Forum
Meeting of 13 October 2004
Committee Room 11, House of Commons, Westminster SW1
Action points in bold
Present: Sarah Spencer, Chair, EDF; Patrick Grattan, Third Age Employment Network and Secretary, EDF;
Moira Dustin, Manager/Researcher, EDF (minutes); Mohammed Aziz, Muslim Council of Britain; Margaret
Batty, DTI; James Bridge, ACE; Tijs Broeke, EOC; Catherine Casserley, DRC; Lydia Clapinska, Odysseus
Trust; Valerie Coleman, Citizens Advice; Gareth Crossman, Liberty; Anna Edmundson, BIHR; Tessa
Harding, Help the Aged; Andrew Harrop, ACE; Michelynn Lafleche, Runnymede Trust; Irena Lichnerowicz,
British Council; Margaret McMahon, ACAS; Paul May, Scope; Sam Mercer, Employers Forum on Age; Gay
Moon, JUSTICE; Tom Moran, CBI; Samantha Palmer, Liberty; Sandra Schmidt, CRE; Pam Smith, CRE;
Hanne Stinson, British Humanist Association; Safia Tharoo, Muslim Council of Britain; Ali Westmoreland,
DWP; Myra White, DRC; Helen Wildbore, LSE; John Wilkes, ECG Scotland.
Apologies: Amanda Ariss, EOC; Frances Butler, IPPR; Bethan Collins, Radar; Sarah Cooke, BIHR; John
Kennedy, CTBI; Francesca Klug, LSE; Salma Mirza, FAIR; Brenda Roper, ACAS; Delphine Valette, National
Aids Trust; Sharon Witherspoon, Nuffield Foundation; Joanna Wootten, NCVO.
1. Minutes of the meeting on 8 September 2004
The minutes were approved.
2. Matters arising
3. CEHR update (Mohammed Aziz and Hanne Stinson)
The Task Force has stopped meeting although certain issues may be referred back to it. The Steering
Group is meeting on a fortnightly basis. The Group is made up of one representative from each strand (with
two from religion and belief). Its members are the chief executives of the DRC and EOC, Francesca Klug of
the LSE Centre for Human Rights, Mohammed Aziz (Muslim Council of Britain, Hanne Stinson (British
Humanist Association), Ben Summerskill (Stonewall) and Gordon Lishman (Age Concern England). It’s first
meeting was an awayday for members to get to know one another. The meeting discussed the responses to
the White Paper consultation, funding, vision and a programme of work to take the Group through until the
Bill and the establishment of a Shadow Commission, at which time the Steering Group will cease to exist.
The current plan is for a CEHR Bill to be in the next Queen’s Speech in November and it is hoped that it will
be given royal assent in spring 2005. After that, the board will be appointed, then the senior management
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team and the chief executive. It is not yet decided whether the CEHR would start off with all strands
participating or whether there would be phased joining of various strands.
A document outlining the Bill has been presented to the Steering Group. There was discussion of whether
there should be a duty or a power to promote human rights, with Francesca Klug arguing for the former. A
sub-group has been set up to look at this issue. A further subgroup is working on the level of resources
needed for the body. Concern was expressed at the second meeting that there had been little discussion of
the new body’s legal powers to challenge discrimination as the CRE now does in criminal cases. The DTI
will take this forward. There was also discussion of the promotion of good relations. The meeting discussed
accountability and the pros and cons of various models. There was also discussion of whether the
Commission might have programmes of work rather than fixed structures to allow a balance between
general and strand-specific work.
Forum members noted that the Steering Group was covering a broad range of policy issues including topics
already dealt with in the Task Force – not just the transitional arrangements for the new Commission – and
could therefore be subject to the same criticisms about accountability as the Task Force had been. The
Steering Group has now been extended to include representatives from the private sector and trade unions.
However, this will not address all concerns about inclusion, for example, community organisations working
on advice and support are not represented. The Forum will follow up this up with the DTI.
The Forum was also concerned about the balance between enforcement and promotion being weighted too
much towards the latter, particularly in light of the recent Guardian article reporting Jacqui Smith’s reference
to the Commission as a ‘modern light touch regulator’ (Guardian 12th October, 2004). Steering Group
members pointed out that this was only the first meeting, that the Steering Group had set up smaller working
groups to deal with particular issues, but that it did expect to be focussing on the practical arrangements. It
would be looking at drafts of the Bill coming back from parliamentary council. The language in the White
Paper might have been better phrased but the DTI was clear that there would be no regression from the
current enforcement measures.
The Steering Group is a small group and needs to refer back to stakeholders. A reference group has been
set up by some strands such as age and religion/belief; other strands may wish to set up similar groups. The
CRE is not represented on the Group because it has not received the assurance on its concerns about the
White Paper that it requires. There is no one responsible for race on the Steering Group apart from Mark
Carroll from the Home Office. Scotland and Wales are represented on the Steering Group, however the
ECG is arguing that a Scottish Steering Group should be set up and believes there is agreement on the
principle of this.
Lord Lester has concerns that there will be regression from the powers of the existing Commissions. He has
tabled parliamentary questions on this which will be forwarded to the Forum for information. There was a
general view that the DTI could readily make a more unequivocal statement about no regression to clarify
the position, without any change on their current position.
Mohammed Aziz and Hanne Stinson will give the Forum a briefing by email after each Steering
Group meeting. The Forum will clarify the status of Steering Group meetings papers in terms of
confidentiality, and will ask if they can be circulated to the Forum.
4. Research agenda
This is a piece of work which the Forum first commissioned unsuccessfully a year ago. In light of proposals
on good relations in the White Paper, it has been decided to shorten the tender to make a more
manageable piece of work. Sarah Spencer is drafting a narrower brief. Applicants will be asked to attend a
meeting to present their ideas on how the research should be carried out.
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Advice and representation
Citizens Advice is interested in co hosting an event on this subject with the Forum. Citizens Advice has
just sent out its consultation as part of the scoping exercise funded by the DTI and will send it to
Moira Dustin to forward to Forum members. Roger Smith at Justice has written a paper on the current
state of legal aid and would probably be happy to talk at an event or to a meeting of the Forum on the
question of legal aid. The Scottish Human Rights Centre has also done some work in this area. Forum
members stressed their concerns about availability of both advice and representation. Patrick Grattan will
be taking this forward with Valerie Coleman.
The draft Disability Bill has gone through pre-legislative scrutiny. The Bill will extend the definition of
disability marginally, extend provision on transport and introduce a positive duty for public authorities. (The
DRC have met with the EOC and CRE to discuss the framing of this and the differences and similarities
between the three duties; further information on this will be circulated to the Forum).
A DWP consultation Delivering Equality for Disabled People gave further details of plans to extend the
Disability Discrimination Act to public authorities introduce a duty to promote equality for disabled people.
The consultation closed on the 21st October and its results will inform the revised draft of the Disability Bill.
The Disability Charities Consortium has been looking at a Good Relations amendment. Paul May will
forward the paper to Moira Dustin to circulate. Scope is also launching an Access to Justice Campaign
shortly. From the end of the week, the Department for Work and Pensions will have an online consultation at
www.disability.gov.uk. Catherine Casserley will give the DRC’s response to Moira Dustin to circulate.
In the meanwhile the final phase of the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act came into force
on 1st October extending the law and the requirement to make reasonable adjustments to cover all
employers, including small businesses.
Religion and belief
It was announced at the Labour Party Conference that protection against discrimination will be extended to
cover religion and belief. This will cover goods and services only; there will not be a positive duty. Muslim
Council of Britain have met members of the Home Office to express unhappiness about the intention that
the goods and services protection not cover harassment, as the employment regulations do, but only direct
and indirect discrimination, and victimisation. The new provisions will be included in the CEHR bill. Gareth
Crossman and Gay Moon had met the Home Office to discuss extending the law on incitement to racial
hatred to religion, and had also discussed this. The Forum will write to the Home Office arguing for the
inclusion of harassment, also for the extension of provisions on race to cover nationality and colour.
The Forum discussed arguing for extension to age and sexual orientation but agreed that it might make it
more difficult to get the Bill through in the time available.
Tessa Harding represented the EDF at a seminar in Riga at the end of September called ‘Europe together,
for diversity against discrimination’, the focus of which was awareness raising. Her briefing email about it
will be circulated to the Forum. The Forum thanked Tessa for representing us at the Seminar.
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The membership and terms of reference of the Women and Work Commission has been announced
Investors in People
The existing Commissions are working to prevent the removal of the requirement that those meeting the
standard are equal opportunities employers.
Committee against Torture
The Committee is taking evidence from the UK this month. Please email Gareth Crossman at Liberty
(GarethC@liberty-human-rights.org.uk) for further information.
Religious organisations would like to get support from the DTI for casework – previous funding has only
been for awareness-raising – and is arranging a meeting with the DTI at which it would be helpful to have
representatives from the Forum and other strands. Mohammed Aziz will contact Moira Dustin with
6. Lobbying and Communications Sub-group
Thank you to Forum members and observers who took Forum leaflets to party conference events.
The next APG event is a seminar on positive duty on the 9th November with Colm O’Cinneide of UCL and
Roz Hardie-Ejiohuo of Croydon Council.
7. Any Other Business
The Forum is holding a seminar on 21st October to discuss the Northern Ireland Equality Bill. Speakers are
Evelyn Collins from the Northern Ireland Equality Commission and Evelyn Ellis who was on the Panel of
Experts for the Bill.
The Forum’s Statement of Principles and Memorandum of Understanding are due to be updated. The
Forum Secretariat suggests combining them so that there is one document identifying our principles and
how we operate. A draft will be circulated for comment.
The next meeting of the Forum is on Wednesday 17 November at 10am at Pentonville Road.
The meeting was followed by a joint seminar with the Associate Parliamentary Group on Equalities
addressed by Alain Brun of the Fundamental Rights Unit of the European Commission (paper to be
14 October 2004
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