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Socio-Economic Duty Scrapped

It was announced this week that the government are dropping the socio-economic duty introduced in the Equality Act 2010.  We don’t normally do opinion with our news stories so please indulge us on this occasion.

Lynne Featherstone (Minister for Equalities) stated in the House on Thursday that the socio-economic duty section of the Act introduced unnecessary bureaucracy.  The response to all questions raised and statements presented in opposition to the decision was, “it’s not going to work so I’m not doing it”.  Her argument was that the government is:

  • Increasing child tax credits for the poorest families
  • Increasing spending on the NHS and school
  • Increasing the income tax threshold
  • Protecting lowest paid public sector workers from the public sector pay freeze

And the Minister thinks that that's all there is to socio-economic disadvantage and that these actions are going to address all socio-economic problems?!   We know that Lynne Featherstone has a better understanding than that, as at the second reading of the Equality Bill she called for additional legislation on this issue, including pressing for a separate bill for socio-economic equality.  So this major about turn cannot be a comfortable one.

The whole of the government’s argument seems to be that this duty was not substantive enough and would not have the desired impact.  Now I’m not a politician (the world breathes a sigh of relief) but could I suggest that if the legislation wasn’t substantive enough that the government MADE it substantive instead of scrapping it?!  Disabled MP Anne Begg highlighted that major changes in disability discrimination only came about because of legislation, and that people suffering socio-economic disadvantage needed similar legislation to support improvements in their position.

Acts such as the Equality Act 2010 aren’t introduced at the whim of one politician or Minister.  The number of readings and debates held in the House of Commons and House of Lords before the Bill was passed was extensive and MPs from all parties were involved.  If it was such a bad idea and was so strongly challenged by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats how did it get through in the first place?  Possibly because they didn’t challenge it as ferociously as they now are.

Peter Bone MP (Conservative, Wellingborough) admitted that he didn’t even know what socio-economic duty was and that it was left-wing tosh.  I find it absolutely abhorrent that an MP doesn’t know what the duty is and am just glad he isn’t representing me.  Sorry Wellingborough!

The socio-economic duty was just the start of a new journey, and it’s a real shame that it didn’t even get out of the garage.

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