Motion to Approve

Part of Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 6th September 2011.

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Photo of Baroness Verma Baroness Verma Lords Spokesperson (Department of Business, Innovation and Skills), Lords Spokesperson (Home Office) (Equalities and Women's Issues), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 4:45 pm, 6th September 2011

My Lords, my noble friend asks a question that I may not be able to respond to straight away. I assume that it would be up to the school and the school's policy to inform parents of what they are doing in activities including school meals.

The noble Lord, Lord Low, has pressed the Government to replace these regulations with the draft published in January. I must stress from the outset that I wholly share the noble Lord's wish that the equality duty should produce tangible, positive equality improvements for people who experience discrimination and disadvantage. His record on pressing for such improvements for disabled people is to be respected and admired, and I can assure him that we seek to achieve the same ends. We differ only on the best means of achieving them.

As I explained at the beginning of this debate, the equality duty set out in the Equality Act 2010 is a stronger and broader duty than the previous equality duties on race, disability and gender. By providing a clear explanation of what it means to have due regard to the need to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations, the new equality duty is designed to focus the attention of public bodies on the aims they need to consider when carrying out all their functions.

In addition, in respect of disability, the equality duty also makes clear that consideration of the need to advance equality of opportunity for disabled people includes considering the need to take steps to account for their disabilities. This important and helpful clarification was the result of an amendment put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell. Noble Lords should be assured that the equality duty will be an effective lever for delivering equality improvements for those who still regrettably experience discrimination and disadvantage.

On the detail of the concerns that the noble Lord expressed, the January draft regulations were not implemented so we cannot know exactly what effect they would have had. The regulations that the Government now propose are the right approach and will help public bodies perform the equality duty better. There was a full public consultation on an earlier draft of the specific duties last year and a further public engagement exercise on them earlier this year. The Government are grateful for the many responses they received and have carefully considered them. Plainly the regulations-