Monday, 9 March 2015

New Labour introduces a diversity agenda

A fundamental driving force in the 'diversity' agenda is the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which places a 'general duty on all public authorities to promote race equality'. The duty aims to make the promotion of race equality 'central to the way public authorities work, and it is a positive one and not simply about avoiding discrimination'. Meeting the requirements of the Act in full imposes an almost incredible burden on public organisations. As a result of the Act, all public bodies are required to publish a 'Race Equality Scheme' of exceptional detail. This includes monitoring staff by racial group to identify those 'who are trained and promoted, who suffer detriment, who are involved in grievance and disciplinary procedure' and much more. In addition, there is a requirement to 'analyse data to find patterns of inequality', 'take action to remove barriers' and 'promote equality and publish the results each year'. There are further references to 'functions and policies on the promotion of race equality, 'arrangements for assessing and consulting on the impact of policies', 'arrangements to identify any adverse impact on equality' and so on.

This is a very brief synopsis, the full requirements seem endless, almost beyond belief in their detail and inescapably they require an inordinate amount of staff time. And all public sector authorities now have a statutory duty to carry them out. Further initiatives from the European Union add to the regulatory burden. For example, the EU Race Directive establishes indirect discrimination if 'an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of racial or ethnic origin at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons'. This Directive, like all other emanating from the EU, overrides domestic legislation, so cannot be rectified through the democratic system. Thus it also removes such matters from national political debate. It is difficult to see how this degree of state sponsored interference, in what are supposed to be autonomous public bodies, adds anything to community cohesion or the public good.

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