Groups have been fighting to prevent the government from watering down or dispensing altogether with the one part of the law which allows us to challenge institutional discrimination.
Following the Macpherson recommendations, the 2000 Race Relations Amendment Act introduced a duty on public bodies to promote equality and the need to assess policy in terms of a detrimental equality impact. This was of course an extension of the idea of non-discrimination and a useful tool in campaigning. But precisely because it was being used and cases were going for judicial review, the authorities began to complain about the red tape and a review was mounted.
The Independent Steering Group of the Public Sector Equality Duty review, published on 6 September, has not, as some feared, dispensed with the duty altogether, but recommends that the government explore alternate means to judicial review to resolve disputes relating to the Equality Duty. The government has now launched a consultation: ‘Judicial Review: Proposals for Further Reform’. According to Race On The Agenda (ROTA), which has been campaigning to retain the provisions, ‘by removing the right to enforce the Equality Duty through the courts, the government is attempting to get rid of the duty through the back door’. Furthermore, the recommendations in the review seriously undermine, ROTA believes, the ‘specific duty’ to publish equality information, which exists to ensure transparency and demonstrate that public authorities are complying with the Equality Duty.
The campaign, supported by community groups and many lawyers, to save and strengthen the Equality Duty continues.
See here for ‘Judicial Review: Proposals for Further Reform’