Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Gordy Gets Serious?

About 30mins a go Gordon Brown finished delivering a sort of mini Queen's Speech. He rattled through the measures but through the wonder of technology the full document is now online. I heard him mention "equality" during the speech but he was going so fast that I couldn't work out what he was saying. This was further compounded by the confusion int he chamber as Tory members complained they did not have a copy of the speech. You do wonder about the effectiveness of these measures if the Government can't even get the proposals to MPs. Anyway, having now read the full doc, the Government does indeed intend to introduce a new Equality Bill. The doc states (p43):

  • Making Britain fairer through a single equality duty which will require public bodies to consider the diverse needs and requirements of their workforce, and the communities they serve, when developing employment policies and planning services;
  • Making public bodies more transparent. If inequality remains hidden, it can’t be measured and progress cannot be made;
  • Improving enforcement;
  • Allowing political parties to use all-women election shortlists until 2030;
  • Making the law more accessible and easier to understand, by bringing together nine major pieces of legislation and around 100 other laws in a single Bill

What on earth does this mean? The All women shortlists is simply a measure to help Labour int he run up to the General election. The other measures are utterly meaningless as they stand. Improving enforcement? How?

The document goes on to state that the Government will also seek to:

  • for the first time, a Government target to close the gender pay gap, included in the Equalities public service agreement;

  • improved data collection on equality, providing a better evidence base to support further progress;

  • work to increase the number of black and minority ethnic women councillors;

  • work collaboratively with business, trade unions and the Equality and Human Rights Commission on ways to improve equality in the private sector.
More meaningless measures that don't require legislation. From an equality perspective the close of the pay gap is to be welcomed and does require legislation to be effective so why is it in the additional section? Pulling the equality measures into one document is a tidying exercise which is rather pointless. Finally we have the continued binary understanding of gender - men and women. If they introduce a new law that does indeed close the pay gap it will presumably do by defining the legislation in terms of men and women. Or will it be radical and bold (not words you generally associate with the current Gov) and go further? Will a new Equality Act seek to re-define existing measures in a more progressive framework that recognises intersex and transgender? I think we know the answer.

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