A new Equality Commission to fight discrimination and challenge inequality was announced today by Patricia Hewitt and Lord Falconer.
Under the plans, the work of existing equality commissions will come together to give greater support and more joined-up advice to individuals, businesses and communities to crackdown on discrimination, and promote equality and diversity. For the first time - via the new body - the Government will provide support for the promotion of human rights.
The new body, provisionally called the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR), will bring together the work of three existing equality commissions - the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission and take responsibility for new laws outlawing workplace discrimination on age, religion or belief and sexual orientation.
Patricia Hewitt, Trade and Industry Secretary and Minister for Women said: "By bringing these bodies into one organisation we will make life much easier for individuals to get help and advice, especially when they are discriminated against on more than one level."
The CEHR aims to improve the existing situation where an individual's problems are often pigeonholed into one category (race, gender or disability) when things can be more complicated. People often have multiple identities with equality issues i.e. - an employee could be an ethnic minority woman with an equal pay issue.
Lord Falconer, Secretary of State at the Department for Constitutional Affairs said: "Human rights and equality are two sides of a single coin - respect for the dignity and the value of each person. The CEHR will champion human rights good practice and responsibilities."
Ms Hewitt also announced that she was setting up a task force with members reflecting different equality interests to advise on the governance and structure of the new body ahead of a White Paper next spring.