Government social mobility strategy

On 5 April 2011, the Government published Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers: A Strategy for Social Mobility.

The strategy focuses on inter-generational social mobility, to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to do better than their parents. It aims to tackle unfairness at every stage of life with specific measures to improve social mobility from the foundation years to school and adulthood.

As part of the strategy, the Government will create a new statutory Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

Government national Child Poverty Strategy

Department of Education

On 5 April 2011, the Department for Education published a national strategy document ‘A New Approach to Child Poverty: Tackling the Causes of Disadvantage and Transforming Families’ Lives’.

The strategy sets out a new approach to tackling poverty for this Parliament and up to 2020. At its heart are strengthening families, encouraging responsibility, promoting work, guaranteeing fairness and providing support to the most vulnerable.

Click here for link

Commission on a UK Bill of Rights: announcement and responses

Ministry of Justice

An independent Commission to investigate the case for a UK Bill of Rights was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke on 18 March 2011.

The Commission, to be headed by former Permanent Secretary, Sir Leigh Lewis, fulfils a pledge set out in the Coalition Agreement.

In addition to the Chairman, the Commission will include eight human rights experts appointed jointly by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Commission members are:

  • Martin Howe QC
  • Anthony Lester QC
  • Jonathan Fisher QC
  • Helena Kennedy QC
  • Anthony Speaight QC
  • Phillippe Sands QC
  • Michael Pinto-Duschinsky
  • Sir David Edward

Click here for Written Minsterial Statement

The Equality and Diversity Forum and other oganisations issued responses to the announcement:

Click here for Equality and Diversity Forum response

Click here for response from Liberty

Public sector Equality Duty: policy review paper on new draft specific duties

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) logo.

On 17 March 2011, Ministers made an announcement to Parliament about the new Equality Duty. They confirmed that the general duty will come into force as planned on 5 April 2011. This is a positive duty that will help public bodies to deliver effective policies and public services, while increasing transparency and democratic accountability.

Draft specific duties regulations to support the general duty were published on 12 January 2011. Since publication, the Government has considered the draft regulations further in the light of two key policy objectives: ensuring that public bodies consider equality when carrying out their functions, and not imposing unnecessary burdens and bureaucracy.

On 17 March, the Government published a policy review paper which seeks views on new draft regulations designed to free up public bodies to do what is appropriate in their circumstances, to take responsibility for their own performance, and be held to account by the public.

The closing date for responding was 21 April 2011.

From 5 April, public bodies will need to comply with the new general duty. To help public bodies understand what their legal obligations are under the general duty and how they might achieve good practice, GEO is working closely with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure clear, practical guidance is made available as soon as possible.

Click here for policy review paper ‘Equality Act 2010: The public sector Equality Duty: reducing bureaucracy’

Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls: Action Plan

Home Office

On 8 March 2011, Home Secretary Theresa May announced the publication of a set of supporting actions to end violence against women and girls and a full response to Baroness Stern’s review into how rape cases are handled in England and Wales.

The framework for the action plan is based on the ‘Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls’ published on 25 November 2010.

Click here for Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls: Action Plan (pdf)

Click here for ‘Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls’ published on 25 November 2010.

Click here for the government’s response to Baroness Stern’s review into how rape complaints are handled by public authorities in England and Wales

On 10 March 2011, the Home Secretary announced better support for victims of domestic violence.

Click here for announcement

ECJ ruling on insurance premiums

CVRIA European Court of Justice

In February 2011, the European Court of Justice ruled that insurers cannot charge different premiums to men and women because of their gender.

The decision means that women can no longer be charged lower car insurance premiums than men. It is due to take effect from December 2012.

Click here for BBC news report

Protection of Freedoms Bill – Public Reading Stage

On 11 February 2011, the Coalition Government published the Protection of Freedoms Bill, containing ‘a raft of measures to restore hard-won British liberties that have been lost in recent years’.

Some of the measures came from the 14,000 ideas left on the Your Freedom website.

The Coalition Government also launched the first stage of plans to give members of the public the right to comment on every aspect of new legislation: through a new pilot public reading stage, members of the public will be able to comment on each clause of the Protection of Freedoms Bill.

Click here for link to announcement of pilot public reading stage by the Deputy Prime Minister

Click here for link to information about the Protection of Freedoms Bill

Parliamentary Committee report on Public Bodies Bill

The House of Commons logo.

Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) published a Report on the Public Bodies Bill on 21 January 2011.

The Bill was published following the Government’s review of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs). It proposes to create a number of delegated powers by which the Government can abolish, merge, modify the constitution, functions or budgetary arrangements of a body or authorise delegation of a body’s functions to a third person or body.

This Report focuses on three significant human rights issues arising in the Bill. The Committee is concerned that there should be no adverse impact on the ability of the UK to safeguard individual rights and liberties protected by domestic law and the ECHR, and to meet its international human rights obligations.

The Committee’s three main concerns are:

  • First, the inclusion in the Schedules of this Bill of bodies which serve a function as part of the institutional machinery for the protection of individual rights in the UK. This may undermine their functional or perceived independence and their ability to give effect to the UK’s human rights obligations in practice. These bodies include: the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Children’s Commissioner, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, the Parole Board, the Judicial Appointments Commission, the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council and the Legal Services Commission.
  • Second, the abolition or reform of other bodies which serve a particular decision-making function. This may undermine the right to procedural fairness guaranteed by the common law, the right to a fair hearing guaranteed by Article 6 ECHR and procedural protections guaranteed by specific articles of the Convention (e.g. the right to liberty in Article 5 ECHR). Although the Government has tabled amendments proposing to delete some of these bodies in both of these groups from the Bill, these concerns still remain.
  • Third, the excessive use of delegated powers which may reduce the effectiveness of parliamentary scrutiny for human rights compatibility of proposed legislation. The Committee regrets that there is currently insufficient information about the Government’s intentions with regard to most of the bodies listed in the Bill, and about proposals to delete some bodies and retain others; and notes that, despite vigorous debate in the House of Lords and a number of amendments proposed by the Government and by peers, the safeguards against possible abuse of powers within the Bill are still clearly insufficient.

Dr Hywel Francis MP, the Chair of the Committee, said: ‘The breadth of delegation proposed in this Bill appears wholly inappropriate. We remain concerned that the broad use of delegated powers in the Bill would erode Parliament’s role in protecting and strengthening human rights. It would undermine Parliament’s ability to influence or prevent changes to the operation, functions and existence of bodies which play an essential part in protecting individual rights and liberties in the UK.’

Click here for further details

EHRC Statutory Codes of Practice

The EHRC logo.

On 26 January 2011, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published statutory Codes of Practice on Employment, Equal Pay, and Services, Public Functions and Associations.

The purpose of these Codes is to explain the new statutory provisions of the Equality Act. The Codes will help to ensure that the law is applied consistently by lower courts and tribunals. They will also help make the law accessible to a wider audience, such as those who have obligations and those who have rights – or their representatives. The new Codes will replace those Codes of Practice issued under previous discrimination legislation.

Click here for link