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Rumours are rife Coalition may repeal Equality Act

A frenzy of rumours was sparked late last week following the removal of the Equality Acts implementation date from the Government Equalities Office (GEO) website. Human Resources portal Personnel Today broke the story after noticing the omission. Journalists could not commit a GEO spokes person on a definitive implementation date sparking fears the Act could be repealed.

Diversity and Equality Practitioners around the country have been preparing for new measures introduced by the Single Equality Act most thought to be enacted in October 2010. Specialist training, conferences and internal compliance goals have been set with the assumption that the timetable would not change.  But this is now in question as Out-law.com have quoted a government spokesperson stating that the GEO was not bound by the timetable set by its predecessors.
 
Legal experts confirm that the new government can if it wishes delay implementation of some or the entire act indefinitely.  Indeed during the washout the Conservatives were deeply opposed to positive discrimination and socio economic clauses in the Act. It is plausible the coalition may choose not implement specific clauses or the entire act during their period in government.
 
Hearing of the rumours the Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners (IEDP) sought to gain a clarification on the issue.  Late last week Linda Bellos, IEDP’s chair approached Jonathan Rees, Director General of Government Equalities Office for a clear stance on the issue. According to the IEDP Mr Rees responded by saying:-
 
“There is no secret agenda. Everything is ready to commence on 1 October. The timetable cannot be confirmed until it is approved by the new Reducing Regulation Committee (RRC). An announcement on commencement orders is expected by 5 July.”
 
Reading between the lines the statement is potentially evasive. If accurate it merely states everything is as it was before and the timetables approval is now subject to a new committee. Worryingly the new committee are tasked with looking at removing “needless” regulation. The information sent out by the IEDP intended to calm fears appears to escalate them. Why do the RRC need to approve anything related to this Act?
 
Heading the RRC, Business Secretary Vince Cable has stated “The deluge of new regulations has been choking off enterprise for too long”. The Single Equality Act could easily be viewed as increasing regulation. The involvement of the RRC is certainly disconcerting.
 
The GEO seem to have left everyone guessing on this issue. At best it appears a few vital clauses of the bill may be stalled, at worst we may end up with a severely watered down bill. It looks as if we are going to have to wait with bated breath until July 5th 2010 to find out.

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