More results...

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Filter by Categories
Assured Shorthold tenancy
Benefits and care
Housing Conditions
Housing law - All
Introductory and Demoted tenancies
Leasehold and shared ownership
Licences and occupiers
Mortgage possession
Regulation and planning
Trusts and Estoppel
Unlawful eviction and harassment



Without further ado, a hodge-podge of Equality and Human Rights updates.

Firstly, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Justice have finally launched the long expected Commission on a UK Bill of Rights. The Commission comprises a number of human rights and constitutional law experts and, er, some people who are presumably Cameron’s kind of people. The UK Human Rights Blog has a better analysis of the qualifications of the various members. The terms of reference, as expected, do not include the option of complete withdrawal from the Convention. What they do include is:

“The Commission will investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extend our liberties.

It will examine the operation and implementation of these obligations, and consider ways to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties.

It should provide advice to the Government on the ongoing Interlaken process to reform the Strasbourg court ahead of and following the UK’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.

It should consult, including with the public, judiciary and devolved administrations and legislatures, and aim to report no later than by the end of 2012.”

Next up is the announcement from Theresa May that the Equality and Human Rights Commission is up for an overhaul. There is a consultation covering three areas:

“1) Clarifying the EHRC’s remit. The government will amend the legislation that established the EHRC, the Equality Act 2006, to clarify the Commission’s core functions. This will allow the EHRC to focus on the work that really matters, where it alone can add value. At present, vagueness in the Equality Act, for example, the duty to “promote understanding of the importance of equality and diversity” has led to the EHRC undertaking a wide range of activities that are not regulatory in nature, including running summer camps for young people.

2) Stopping non-core activities. One of the causes of the Commission’s difficulties was the breadth of its remit – extending beyond its core role to, for example, operating a helpline and grants programme. The Commission has struggled to do these things well in the past, so we have decided that we should not fund it to do them in the future. The evidence suggests that this work could be done better or more cost-effectively by others.

3) Improving transparency and value for money.Problems with financial controls mean that each set of the EHRC’s accounts have been qualified since its creation, and it has struggled to deliver value for money. Today’s proposals include a legal requirement for the EHRC to publish an annual business plan in Parliament, and comply with the same rules as all other public bodies when spending money. Where the Commission fails to show that it has spent taxpayers’ money wisely, financial penalties will apply.” (emphasis added – nice for them to at least let respondents know which bits there is no need to reply on because the decision has already been made)

It may come as some surprise to the EHRC that the helpline and grants programme are part of the causes of the Commission’s problems, given that they were the source of some pride in the report published to celebrate the EHRC’s first year ‘One Year, Ten Stories’ (PDF) – mind you, so were the summer camps, and I always thought that they were a bit rubbish.

The consultation is open until 15 June.

We then turn to the Equality Act 2010 (and, if I may be so bold, you may wish to consider our earlier effort on that Act).

The expanded public sector equality duty, contained in s.149, is still due to come into force on 5 April 2011, but the specific duties designed to underpin the general duty are not ready. Therefore, the general duty will come into effect without any specific duties at all. While for some of the protected characteristics this will still be a step forward, for race, gender and disability it will be a significant retrograde step until the specific duties are also in place. For instance, it may be noted that the requirement to have equality schemes derives from the specific duties in regulations. You can find general information from the GEO here, and the policy review paper on reducing bureaucracy here (PDF). The general indication from those is that, when the new specific duties come into force, there will still have been a retreat in respect of the existing duties. You may think it odd that after a consultation exercise and the publication of draft regulations covering the specific duties, the Government feels that it needs to publish a policy review paper and reconsider this. If you did, you’d be right.

In other Equality Act news, the Chancellor (that’s right, the Chancellor) has announced that s.14 of the Equality Act 2010 will not be implemented as those “costly … rules” are part of “£350 million worth of specific regulations” being chucked in the rubbish bin. Lest we forget, s.14 was designed to target dual discrimination where someone is discriminated against because of a combination of two of the protected characteristics. The detail, such as it is, is in the ‘Plan for Growth’ – see pp.7, 18, 23 & 53 of the PDF. Interestingly, it isn’t until p.53 that HMT/BIS reveal that the much vaunted £350 million figure is, well, not supported by any published evidence. Not implementing s.14 of the Equality Act is part of a package of four measures. For three of these impact assessments of the costs have been published, which produce a whopping total of £4.3 million a year. So the massive £350m? Well that comes from not extending the right to request time to train to businesses with fewer than 250 employees, which would have cost businesses “up to £350 million a year”. And the source for that figure? BIS estimates. Ah well, as long as they’re using a firm evidence base, eh?

Look, what HMT and BIS do about requesting time off to train is really not the concern of a housing law blog. And if GEO (you know, the Department responsible for the Equality Act) found that there wasn’t evidence to support s.14 then so be it, although it would be surprising after they consulted on precisely that issue. But please, don’t tell us, as the Chancellor did that “£350 million worth of specific regulations will go – including the Equality Act’s costly dual discrimination rules”, because that is incredibly and unnecessarily misleading. Still, we’re all in this together.

Finally, you know when sometimes you get an intense feeling of deja vu, which must be down to a glitch in the matrix? Well the GEO is consulting on banning age discrimination in goods and services. Open until 25 May, giving you plenty of time to find your old responses and change the date and title on them.

*I really wanted to use this, but you try getting those characters into a WordPress title.

chief is a barrister in the big city. he specialises in public law, landlord & tenant, football and rock 'n' roll (the last two are only when his clerks aren't watching). he sometimes pops by here, but not as often as he'd like. he will occasionally eschew capital letters. the reasons for this odd affectation are lost in the mists of time.


Leave a Reply (We can't offer advice on individual issues)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.