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Government and CRE reach peace agreement on new equality commission

26 November 2004

The Government and the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) would appear to have reached a peace agreement over the formation of the new single equality body, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).
The Department of Trade and Industry announced this week that, following responses to the consultation paper Fairness for all, a number of key changes to the CEHR would be made, including tougher enforcement powers, greater independence and the publication of regular progress reports. New legislation will also be introduced to tackle discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief in the provision of goods and services.
The CRE had previously voiced serious reservations about the structure and effectiveness of the CEHR, saying that it wouldn’t possess the necessary enforcement powers and would reduce the impact of the CRE at a time when racial and religious hatred were especially sensitive issues. Following the government concessions, the CRE released a statement saying they were “pleased that the government has listened to many of our concerns and gone some way towards meeting them”.
“The CRE is particularly pleased that the government has listened to the strong representations we made, along with The Muslim Council of Britain and others, for a new law that would outlaw religious discrimination.”
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty said: “I am delighted that the government has accepted the need for a new body to positively champion equality and human rights. The last few years have certainly demonstrated that these fundamental democratic values are far too precious to be left to politicians alone.”
Support for the changes was also voiced by Citizens Advice. Citizens Advice head of social policy, Dan Vale, said: “A fully independent CEHR that is properly equipped to champion equality and human rights on behalf of citizens should be a major step towards ensuring that unfair discrimination and rights abuses become a thing of the past.”
The Bills, which establish the single body and create a new offence of incitement to racial hatred, were announced in this week’s Queen’s speech.
The CEHR, expected to be fully functional by 2008, will merge the CRE, Equal Opportunities Commission, and the Disability Rights Commission.

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Discrimination Education