Labour’s shadow minister for women and equality, Yvette Cooper, has called for the coalition to hand back powers to allow the Equality and Human Rights Commission to hold Britain’s 30,000 public authorities to account.
Her speech to Labour’s annual conference follows the intervention of the shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna who challenged his opposite number Vince Cable to reverse plans to “abolish the equalities commission by stealth.”
Speaking today, Cooper said:
“The action we took to tackle discrimination is now being dismantled. Abandoning Labour plans for pay audits, even though it will take another 65 years for the gender pay gap to close.
“Ending requirements on employers to protect their staff from racist or homophobic abuse. Repealing laws that could help older women fight the toxic combination of ageism and sexism. Introducing a new thousand-pound price tag to purse an equal pay claim.
“Stopping the Equality and Human Rights Commission from assessing whether policies affect the poor.
“Bit by bit they are eroding the protection people have – salami-slicing here and there. And Conference, the Labour Party must not let them get away with it.”
“And our anger that this Government time and again is turning the clock back, widening the gap. Reinforcing, rather than challenging discrimination.
“Look at the way unemployment among young black men has reached over 50 per cent.”
It is hardly surprising that Labour ignore Lib Dem initiatives to help the poorest in society, like the Pupil Premium and raising the tax threshold to take the lowest paid out of the tax bracket altogether.
But Cooper’s comments about the Equality and Human Rights Commission and tackling disproportionate Black unemployment are extremely welcome.
These are sentiments I hope all progressive people, from Labour and the Lib Dems, can sign up to.
Hopefully Labour’s efforts to raise these issues will lead to a rethink by the Coalition of their savage cuts to the equalities watchdog and the stripping away of their powers to enforce equalities laws.
And the focus on disproportionate BAME unemployment, so effectively highlighted by the London Evening Standard, should prompt Government ministers and officials to consider policies aimed at combating this serious problem.
By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway