Govt taken to task for dismantling Equality Act

The government was subject to wideranging attacks from Labour MPs for the move
The government was subject to wideranging attacks from Labour MPs for the move

By Ian Dunt

Labour MPs have queued up to attack the government for scrapping parts of the Equality Act.

Theresa May announced she would scrap the so-called 'socio-economic' measure in the law.

This places a duty on public bodies to show they were working to reduce inequality in a number of ways, including by by demonstrating improvements in public health in deprived areas.

The home secretary came in for particular criticism for announcing the move outside of parliament, but she sent one of her ministers, Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone, to answer an urgent question on the subject from Fiona Mactaggart.

Comment: The extraordinary silliness of Theresa May

"It's very disappointing I had to ask the right honourable lady to be here today," Ms Mactaggart said.

"I would have expected a written ministerial statement at least.

"While we know the Conservatives have never wanted government to take responsibility for creating a more equal society. That is not the view the right honourable lady had previously taken."

She added: "This duty would have helped to make our society failure. It would have given poorer people a fair chance. So why is she scrapping it?"

Ms Featherstone described the law as "new and unnecessary", in a reply which was almost a word-for-word recreation of Ms May's speech in central London yesterday.

"I said at the time that this was a weak measures, that it was gesture politics and that it would not have achieved anything concrete," she said.

"All the policy would have been is another box to tick."

Supporting his Liberal Democrat colleague, Tory MP Peter Bone said: "I don't know what a socio-economic responsibility is. May I suggest it is left-wing tosh and should be scrapped?"

But several Labour MPs stood up to lambast the government for its decision in increasingly angry tones.

"What she [Ms Featherstone] has said today demonstrates that she and other Liberal Democrats in government are just the mouthpiece of the Tories," David Winnick said.

Emma Reynolds added: "When exactly is this government going to stop taking measures that have a disproportionately heavy impact on women?"

Around 90% of the Equality Act has already passed into law. The remaining ten per cent is still being assessed by the government.


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