Headlines: January 28th, 2000

The Government is to strengthen the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill, currently before the House of Lords. The change will ensure that the Act’s provisions on indirect discrimination apply across the public sector.There will also be a statutory requirement on public bodies to promote race equality. The Government intends to table the amendment when the Bill reaches the Commons.

The Government originally held back from such a fundamental duty for the whole public sector on purely practical grounds. It wanted to protect public bodies from too many legal challenges.

It is now satisfied that the risk of spurious challenge is outweighed by the strength of message sent out that discrimination is not acceptable.

Direct and indirect racial discrimination is already prohibited under the Race Relations Act 1976 in the fields of employment, training, education, housing and the provision of goods, facilities and services in respect of the public and private sector. The Bill already extends provision to new ‘non-service’ fields in the public sector and to which prohibitions on direct or indirect discrimination did not, therefore, apply. The Act will now extend to areas such as the implementation of central and local government’s regulatory, economic and social policies and law enforcement in respect of indirect discrimination as well.