Is it a record? Coalition managed two U-turns by lunchtime

The Lords defeated the government last night
The Lords defeated the government last night
Ian Dunt By

The coalition beat even its own impressive record for multiple U-turns today, when it backtracked on two policies before lunchtime.

Plans to strip the Equality and Human Rights Commission's general duty to protect human rights and promote equality have been discarded, as has the government's opposition to outlawing caste discrimination.

Ministers were defeated on both policies last night during a Lords debate on the enterprise and regulatory reform bill, in which 17 Liberal Democrats and one Tory contributed to a majority of 30 against the government.

The coalition had argued that the EHRC's general human rights commitment was unnecessary and that its other legal duties satisfied its role, but the Lords vote appears to have forced the government to back down. Equalities minister Jo Swinson told shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna they had dropped the plans this morning.


The end of government opposition on caste discrimination will also be welcomed by campaigners, who had protested parliament at the lack of movement on the issue last week.

The under-reported problem of caste discrimination is widespread in Asian communities, as immigrants bring some of the social practices of their home countries to bear in their employment decisions in Britain.

"We are delighted that the government has accepted that discrimination against caste should enjoy the same statutory protection as all other forms of protected characteristics," Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, commented.

"The 'informal conciliation' solution proposed by the government, possibly in deference to high caste (and high influence) Hindus, was woefully inadequate for such deep-seated discrimination that ruins people's lives."

Business secretary Vince Cable said it would now be treated as an "aspect of race".

Politicians from across the political spectrum welcomed the government climb-down.

Conservative MP Richard Fuller said: "This is a straightforward issue, caste discrimination in the work place is wrong and the people who suffer from it deserve legal protection. That's it. Beginning and end."

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