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Gender Equality

Volume 455: debated on Tuesday 16 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) when he expects to publish his Department’s gender equality scheme; (101474)

(2) what steps he is taking to ensure that private organisations contracted to work (a) in his Department and (b) for non-departmental public bodies and executive agencies for which his Department is responsible are aware of their duties under gender equality legislation when exercising public functions on behalf of public bodies;

(3) what plans he has to carry out gender impact assessments of his Department’s major policy developments and new legislation;

(4) what steps he is taking to ensure that (a) his Department and (b) the non-departmental public bodies and executive agencies for which he is responsible are taking steps to meet the requirements of the forthcoming duty on public bodies (i) to end unlawful discrimination and harassment and (ii) to promote equality between women and men.

In Northern Ireland section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires public authorities to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity and regard to the desirability of promoting good relations. These duties ensure that equality issues, including gender, are integral to the whole range of public policy decision making. Public authorities, such as the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), are required to submit Equality Schemes to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and to carry out impact assessments of their policies in certain circumstances.

The NIO is fully committed to the fulfilment of the section 75 obligations on the promotion of equality of opportunity and good relations. The NIO Equality Scheme, approved by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission in November 2001, sets out how the Department proposed to fulfil those duties with regard to all of its policies and functions. In 2006 the NIO conducted a comprehensive review of the operation of the scheme during its first five years and this report was submitted to the Equality Commission in July 2006.

Copies of the NIO Equality Scheme and 5 Year Review Report may be found on the Northern Ireland Office website: