Local Government and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 12:27 pm on 8th November 2007.

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Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government) 12:27 pm, 8th November 2007

My hon. Friend tempts me into some very difficult territory. I will listen carefully to his further representations on that point.

The problem with the Queen's Speech is not just what is in it, but what is not in it. Chief among those absences is the lack of a single equalities Bill. Discrimination law in this country is in a mess, and we need that Bill to protect people regardless of their race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or gender identity. It is a great pity, and I very much regret that such a Bill will not come forward in this parliamentary Session. I hope that behind the scenes there will be some action to kick it forward promptly. However, if there is to be a delay, the Secretary of State could take advantage of that setback to consider including within that Bill the outlawing of discrimination on the ground of caste, as well. Some of us attended a conference in this place yesterday, hosted by Rob Marris, at which we heard testimonies to the pervasive way in which this blatant discrimination has crept into British public services. This is a real and substantial issue, and it now falls to the Secretary of State, on behalf of the Government, to take it up.

In the Queen's Speech the Government have flunked the housing question, blocked the planning issue, stumped local government and run away from equality. Neither they nor the Conservatives have any answers to the key issues of fair local taxation, local empowerment and Britain's housing crisis. The Liberal Democrats will, accordingly, vote against the Queen's Speech.

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