How our new Conservative government can make Britain fairer

by David Isaac

Published: 13 Dec 2019

As the dust settles on a turbulent election period and the Prime Minister settles back into Number 10, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome and congratulate the Prime Minister and his new Government.

As the National Human Rights Institution for England and Wales, and as the body responsible for enforcing the Equality Act across Great Britain, we are uniquely placed to identify the barriers to a fairer society.

For the last twelve years, we have acted as a critical friend to successive governments. We support, champion and challenge where required to protect and promote equality and human rights. We will continue this vital role over the course of the next Parliament.

We welcome this morning’s commitment from the Prime Minister to unite the country and spread opportunity and offer our support in seeking to create a post-Brexit Britain where everyone can thrive.

Our message has been clear that there must be no rowing back on the protection of people’s rights as we leave the European Union.

Today I’m asking the new Government to take the following ten steps to help create a fairer and more equal Britain:

  1. Strengthen equality laws to give everyone a chance to thrive by implementing outstanding and repealed provisions of the Equality Act 2010 and strengthening the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED).
  2. Ensure the UK has world-leading human rights legal protections. As the Prime Minister has acknowledged, human rights are for everyone and the Human Rights Act upholds parliamentary sovereignty, while providing essential protections, including for soldiers on active duty. Any action which would weaken these protections or limit the Act’s reach must be avoided. We will engage with the proposed Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission to ensure there is no erosion of our rights. The UK must show global leadership on rights and freedoms and we urge the Prime Minister to commit to our ongoing membership of the European Convention on Human Rights and to make vital UN treaty rights enforceable in UK courts.
  3. Incorporate a right to independent living for disabled people into domestic law. Disabled people often feel like they are treated as second class citizens. We offer our support in developing a National Strategy for Disabled People and look forward to working together to ensure this drives up standards in the benefits system and addresses concerns about access to employment.
  4. Protect workers. We have a strong record of enforcing the Equality Act and the proposed Single Enforcement Body can complement our work by improving protections and practice, including through the enforcement of tribunal awards.
  5. Make employment accessible to all. While the nature of work is changing, employers must look for the best talent available. We and the Government share a commitment to promoting flexible working. We hope to work together to make workplaces fairer by addressing gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.
  6. Uphold the human rights of the most vulnerable and powerless. Our mental health system should provide greater choice and control for those detained or treated under the Mental Health Act. We urge the Government to create a fairer immigration system, including by ending indefinite immigration detention.
  7. Provide an inclusive transport system that meets the needs of older and disabled people. By having accessibility at the heart of existing services and planned investment in transport networks we can ensure that older people and disabled people can participate fully in all aspects of life.
  8. Ensure access to justice for all. Our justice system must work fairly for everyone. That’s why reforms must not marginalise some, or side-step vital due process protections.
  9. Educate our children about equality, human rights and respect for others. Creating a fair society starts with education. Schools should be places where children from different backgrounds mix and where respect for equality and human rights is taught. We welcome the Government’s commitment to increased provision for special educational needs and to tackling bullying, including homophobic bullying.
  10. Give a clear picture of potential inequalities by requiring a range of bodies to collect, publish and analyse comprehensive data about protected characteristic groups.

The Government has the opportunity to set a positive and inclusive vision for the whole country over the course of the next Parliament.

We will offer our help and expertise on all the areas above and many more so everyone has the same opportunity to thrive and fulfil their potential.