Clause 143

Part of Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 30th June 2009.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 12:00 pm, 30th June 2009

I thank my hon. Friend for his remark. He is absolutely right. The way in which I approached the matter was twofold. First, it was not seen as something that was separate. I committed my local authority to being the first English county council to go for a charter mark for the organisation as a whole. Therefore, there was a context and a process in which it could sit. In parallel to that were a series of workshops with groups that represented all those with the protected characteristics that met regularly to look at how different aspects of the organisations were working. We asked them to tell us what outcomes they wanted and to say how we could integrate them in a more fundamental way. There are some extremely good examples of what my hon. Friend was saying, such as by taking an holistic view of an organisation and not making the issue too separate, a lot could be achieved within the organisation by mainstreaming it.

I return to a bit of pushing and shoving. As a practical example of the difficulty, Citizens Advice commented, “With a little bit of pushing and shoving, the public duties are effective, but the problem is that pushing and shoving does not occur a lot of the time”. The difficulty of the EHRC monitoring so many organisations and the difficulty of read-across between them came out in several pieces of evidence that have been delivered both to the Committee and to the Select Committee. The example that I cited earlier came from the public interest research unit, which referred to a public authority that was excellent in promoting equality, but which did not undertake impact assessment so it is in breach, against an authority that assesses all its policies and procedures, but is appalling in terms of delivering equality.

There were ticked boxes around the current schemes, which is probably the description that has been used most by those who have looked at them. It is certainly something that we need to move away from, but we need to understand what it is in terms of the monitoring of compliance that underpins the delivery of what the clause sets out to achieve.

I reinforce the point that I made earlier to my hon. Friend on his intervention: moving away from the schemes and the bureaucracy, and talking and listening to people  is by far one of the most effective ways of ensuring that real outcomes are delivered, and that people are not trammelled by bureaucracy and the ease with which one can slip into an output-based culture, rather than an outcome-based one.