Headlines: December 2nd, 1999

The Cabinet Office has announced plans for a cross-governmental scheme to help small businesses.It is to pilot a new service to small businesses to provide them with a one-stop shop of information on equal opportunities. Smaller businesses often lack the personnel resource to advise them on measures that stamp out discrimination.

The measure is one of a package announced by the Cabinet Office to inject new impetus into the fight against discrimination.

They include changes to tribunal procedures which would help speed up and simplify equal pay claims; a campaign to address ignorance of disability issues, and raise awareness amongst service providers of their duties to improve access for disabled people; and research into religious discrimination.

The Government also intends, when parliamentary time permits, to create a statutory duty for public bodies to promote equal opportunities.

This will be on top of Race Relations (Amendment) Bill which Jack Straw will introduce in Parliament in this session, which will extend existing legislation to cover public functions such as law enforcement and immigration.

The Cabinet Office says it will continue to work to meet the targets set for the Civil Service to double the representation of women and ethnic minorities within 5 years.