Standards in political discussion: a letter to all political parties

by David Isaac

Published: 21 Apr 2017

We wrote to all political parties offering advice and guidance on the equality and human rights commitments they could include in their manifestos and calling for political debate to follow standards that will not create divisions.

Britain has a long history of upholding people’s rights, valuing diversity and challenging intolerance. At this time of significant change, the Equality and Human Rights Commission considers it vital that the next government should build on our heritage of respect and inclusion and put in place measures to ensure we are a country that benefits everyone.

Healing divisions as we leave the European Union

As the country prepares to exit the European Union, the next government will have a golden opportunity to create a fairer and more united Britain. As Britain’s legal guardian of equality and human rights laws, the Commission is encouraging all political parties to make a commitment in their manifestos to our 5 point plan to protect and promote equality and human rights in the UK. Our plan sets out concrete steps to build on the UK’s strong legal framework and bring the nation together behind shared values. It is imperative that the UK remains a committed party of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the UK Government will need to work with the devolved governments to ensure these commitments are implemented across each country to ensure our equality and human rights framework remains coherent.

Delivering a Britain that works for everyone

As your party prepares your manifesto for government, we recommend that you introduce specific measures to address the most pressing disadvantages affecting those groups protected by the Equality Act 2010, such as older people, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities. This will ensure your proposals deliver a Britain that really works for everyone.

The Commission’s recent reports on race and disability in Britain have made a compelling case for the next government to put in place comprehensive equality strategies, with stretching new targets and concrete actions to improve opportunities and outcomes for all protected groups. The next government should commit to bringing responsibility for each of the equality strategies under one Secretary of State, with clear accountability and governance arrangements in place across departments to ensure action is coordinated effectively. The UK Government should further ensure action is coordinated between UK and Welsh and Scottish Governments to maximise impact.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission

Our role as an effective regulator would be strengthened if the next government were to further safeguard the Commission’s independence, including by giving Parliament a decisive role in setting our budget and making appointments to our Board. A manifesto commitment would signal the next government’s willingness to be robustly held to account on equality and human rights.

Standards in political discourse

We have been in contact with all the political parties represented in the House of Commons to discuss our shared belief that while political debates should be free and open, they should not create or worsen divisions in society. We have today published a set of voluntary principles for standards in political discourse. We urge you to take the steps necessary to ensure that your candidates and campaigners abide by these principles in the forthcoming general election campaign. We also look forward to continuing our dialogue with you on this matter, with a view to asking all the parties to make a public pledge on the basis of these principles during the new Parliament.

The Commission is a centre of excellence for evidence, analysis and equality and human rights law. As you develop your manifesto, we would be pleased to offer advice and assistance on how your proposals could best advance equality and human rights in Britain.

Yours sincerely

David Isaac

Chair, Equality and Human Rights Commission

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