Lynne Featherstone

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

my blog
Lynne's Parliament and Haringey Diary, established 2003

Government Equality Strategy

The winds of real change blow through the new Government Equality Strategy that I launched yesterday.

This is no longer focused on ‘strands’ – and whilst there is certainly much to do on improving particular issues for each ‘strand’ – be that sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, disability, etc  (if you read this blog then you will see how much is going on in terms of these issues on a daily basis) – the new strategy is about equal treatment and equal opportunity – for every individual.

It is about tearing down barriers across the field – in every avenue of life – from education to work. In work, for example, individuals, businesses and communities will be able to use measures such as pay reporting and positive action in recruitment and promotion.

Change is necessary so that we can make use of everybody’s talents and draw from the true resources this country has to offer. But it cannot happen by Government diktat and this strategy will ensure that people on the ground will have the tools to make their community and their work place fairer and more equal.

Fri 3 December 2010
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Comments

  1. The only problem with “equal treatment and equal opportunity – for every individual” is that that is not necessarily going to create equality.

    Each of the strands had particular unique issues, by lumping everything together, you are diluting the unique issues to the lowest common denominator. The only consequence of this is a political argument that equality has been achieved, while failing to actually change the things that need changing. It has always been acknowledged that true liberalism has a failing in that it does not take account of the uniqueness of different minority groups and you have fallen into this trap.

    Forty years of legislation has failed to address the gender pay gap. The same with race and even disability. This is not because of poor legislation per se, but simply because the government has never faced up to the moral challenge that equality truly brings.

    Equality needs to be addressed by persuading the ruling class to give up the privilege that they enjoy. That battle is being undermined by these actions.

    Win the male supremacy battle and VAW will be dealt with, along with the real battle towards gender pay and opportunities. Deal with the gender equality issues and this will work towards the sexuality and gender identity issues – if men start to see women as equals, then sexuality becomes less of a power issue and, therefore less of an issue. If men start to see women as equal then both men and women will see gender identity issues differently and the problem starts to ease.

    The same applies to race – see people as equal regardless and the problem goes away.

    No amount of legislation can possibly change attitudes, with one exception: compulsory equality education as this will start to change the hearts and minds of the next generation. That is a multi-generation move, so one that no government is interested in.

  2. Paula says:

    The strategy only makes any sense if government is prepared to devote legislation time to fixing the unfairness for which it is responsible.

    I understand that government has no plans to address the unfortunate consequences of the 2004 GRA?

    As Alison says, changing attitudes is the longer term solution.

  3. steve hart says:

    Yesterday your government announced that it would scrap the Equality Act requirement for mandatory pay audits from 2013. You now argue, in the face of all the evidence, that equal pay can be ended voluntarily by employers.

    When you were the LibDem Opposition spokes person on equality you said:

    ” A voluntary audit system for private industry is hardly worth the paper it’s printed on. We need to know when the government actually plans to step in if progress isn’t made.”

    You also said in a speech at the Libdem conference in 2009:

    “Liberal Democrats would introduce mandatory pay audits”.

    As a Minister you have now done the exact opposite. This is a complete betrayal of your previous pledges, and betrays the cause of equal pay for women. Have you no shame?

    You pledged to vote against Tuition fees, now this reversal of commitments made to the electorate.

    Will you now resign?

  4. RT @lfeatherstone: Government Equality Strategy http://tinyurl.com/24plgc3 [which is best read alongside this: http://bit.ly/cpQESJ GREAT.]

  5. There never was anything about mandatory pay audits in the Equality Act. Section 78 – mandatory pay reporting remains on the books.

  6. Harriet Harm Man says:

    An awful lot of rubbish being posted so far, perhaps the worst set of comments I’ve ever seen here.

    “this strategy will ensure that people on the ground will have the tools to make their community and their work place fairer and more equal.”

    really? you mean by putting an ending to selecting the best candidate and instead legalising sex discrimination.

    It should be the very best person getting the job every single time. No exceptions, no sexism and no racism.

    What does “equally qualified” even mean? I don;t it has even been defined which is going to leave it open to all sorts of abuses and excuses for sexism.

    Also how come certain characteristics have been deemed worthy of special protection and others not? Height is by far the biggest determinant of pay gaps yet you never mention that not promise to do anything about the height pay gap.

    I’m pleased you’ve done away with pay audits, although I’d much rather you’d kept those and not legalised sexism and racism in the workplace.

  7. steve hart says:

    Which part of the quote below from the FT is wrong?

    “The government has ditched plans to force companies to disclose how much they pay women and men in a move likely to be applauded by big business but spark consternation among equality campaigners.

    The Home Office announced on Thursday it would ask companies to narrow the pay gap through voluntary efforts, reassuring business that she will not enact legislation forcing companies with more than 250 employees to publish gender audits of pay from 2013. The decision to abandon compulsory gender pay disclosure unpicks a flagship element of Labour’s equal opportunities agenda. Harriet Harman, the deputy labour leader, included the provision to make disclosure compulsory in the Equality Act to ensure that business could not drag its heels on closing the gap. ”

    Your policy before the election was to”introduce manadatory pay audits.” Do you agree with the FT interpretation or do you agree with your pre-election policy?

  8. R Collins says:

    As long as children born out of wedlock, prior to 2006, to British fathers, are excluded from acquiring UK citizenship, in some fair manner, this Government Equality Strategy means nothing.

    You recently quoted out-of-date and bigoted policy regarding nationality rights for children born out of wedlock before 1 July 2006 to British fathers. To correct you, in 2009, it was proven that registration of birth would remove all quandaries relating to nationality conflicts. This was implemented for adult children born to British mothers in 2002 and 2009, and it has been successful since.

    As for numbers of people coming forward, which worried Phil Woolas. How different would it be if those coming forward to claim UK citizenship had a marriage certificate attached to their births? There would be no difference.

    As for possible abuse of the system, which also worried Phil Woolas. How would the requirements to prove paternity be any different from those who were born after 2006 who also have to prove paternity? There would be no difference.

    Even the human rights group Liberty considers this discrimination “suspicious”.

    You of all people should know Lynne. You were actually behind the 2009 fight to remove nationality discrimination against all children born out of wedlock to British fathers. You fought along with Lord Avebury, Lord Roberts, Lord Dholakia, and Tom Brake MP. All Liberal Democrats. I am confused why you have recently changed your tune about this subject and have abandoned us kids.

    If this is a problem of Theresa May or Damian Green trying to stop you, certainly you could have the Lib Dems back you to make sure this discrimination ends completely. I even got a response about this from Nick Clegg back in April:

    “Many thanks for your email to Nick Clegg MP. Nick has asked me to contact you on his behalf. I apologise for the delay in responding but I hope you’ll understand that, due to the sheer volume of correspondence that Nick has been receiving, it can take some time for us to reply.

    Liberal Democrats recognise that the system for granting and registering citizenship must be governed be properly regulated while maintaining sufficient flexibility to ensure that people can exercise their right to a family life.

    Thank you once again for emailing.

    Best wishes,

    Bess Mayhew

    Office of Nick Clegg”

    That you cannot find some possible way now to remove the 1 July 2006 cut-off date and allow all children born to British fathers a fair pathway to citizenship (straight citizenship through registration, ancestry visa, special work to citizenship visa) makes all this talk about a Government “Equality” Strategy empty.

  9. Dave Page says:

    I think this is a very interesting and welcome evolution of the equalities platform. The concentration on strands has been valuable over the last few decades, and as you say there is still some work to be done there.

    But the problem with strands is that not only do they tend to be rigidly defined (such as the trans “strand” excluding those people not seeking surgery), but they also tend to ignore the unique concerns of people in multiple strands (such as BME LGBT people). This more holistic approach might help us to better address the needs of such people.

  10. dave says:

    @ Dave Page

    Unfortunately Lynne hasn’t yet confirmed that same-sex marriage is even on the coalition’s equality agenda.

    As regards the example you gave about a person suffering from discrimination due to race and sexual orientation, doesn’t Section 14 of the Equality Act 2010 deal with that situation?

  11. Mike H says:

    Come on Lynne.

    How about answering Steve Hart – 3 Dec 4.50.

    You know very well that, in the private sector, the gender pay gap is huge. Why are you (yet again as a Lib Dem) bottling it in the face of your Tory masters.

    Life as a Minister too good to give up, is it?

  12. Paula says:

    I saw the the film about the Dagenham ladies and their fight for equal treatment. I found this very moving. Alas the Equal Pay Act consequent has failed to deliver (yet) but I am impatient as that Act was only 40 years ago!

    However, the real lesson from the film is that nothing will be handed to a disadvantaged group. There has to be a fight. The ‘Equal Love’ campaign points the way. Government is to be dragged through the Courts to end the ‘separate but equal legal partnership system’ that we now have, that amounts to a form of apartheid.

  13. furious says:

    SHAME ON YOU!

    HOW DARE YOU GO BACK ON YOUR PLEDGE! YOU HAVE SHOWN YOURSELF TO BE A CYNICAL, SELF-SERVING HACK.

    SHAME SHAME SHAME.

    WE WILL VOTE YOU INTO OBLIVION

  14. Mr Bubblebath says:

    Recall Lynne Featherstone NOW!

    Sign the petition:

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/recallfeatherstonemp/

  15. Gill Hay says:

    I am so appalled. As a working single parent of twin girls just starting university I cannot see how I will be able to continue to support them so they can continue their studies in the face of your decision to raise tuition fees.
    Unless they come from millionaire families like yourself or are poor enough to benefit from your patronage, young women will be forced into low paid work, unemployment or early marriages. The many young women I talked to in and around Parliament Square on Thursday were brutalised and terrified by the vicious and inept police tactics that encouraged the volatility that has been more widely reported.
    A generation of young women will despise you for actively supporting this awful policy.

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