My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Women and Equality wrote to the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission on 5 August, setting out the need for the commission to strengthen its relations with stakeholders and to set out clearly what is being done on each equality strand. A follow-up meeting was held on 22 September to discuss the matter. Such meetings will continue.
Given that the Minister for Women and Equality talked on the “Andrew Marr Show” about the need to be able to see the different strands of discrimination, rather than about having an amorphous, overarching human rights concept, will the Minister of State admit that the Government got it wrong in how they set up the Equality and Human Rights Commission?
No, I do not admit that we got it wrong. It was completely correct to bring together the Disability Rights Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality, in order to ensure, in addition to the new three strands, that employers and those regulated by the commission know where to go and have only one body to go to. That is completely the correct decision. However, it is also correct to ensure that the underlying causes of discrimination, which can be different for disabled people from those for black and minority ethnic people, for example, are visible and have different solutions, for which the commission can account to its stakeholders.
Are not human rights one of the important aspects of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and do they not underpin the whole approach to discrimination? Having that strand running through the commission is another reason why those organisations needed to come together.
I agree with my hon. Friend. That is an important underlying strand of the work of the commission. As the commission moves forward, it will be important for it to make its work on all the strands much more visible than it has perhaps been in the past, and it has undertaken to do that.
I am not convinced that the hon. Lady has accurately cited what that report actually said. The commission is doing a lot of work on parental rights, for fathers and mothers, but not all the reporting of that work is an accurate reflection of what it has said.
In the interview that my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) cited between the Minister for Women and Equality and Stephanie Flanders on the “Andrew Marr Show” on 2 August, the Minister said that she did not favour the Equality and Human Rights Commission using the overarching human rights concept. How does the Minister of State think that it should instead deal with recognising the different strands and with making the commission more effective in combating discrimination?
My right hon. and learned Friend did not say quite what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting. However, it is important for the commission to be much more visible in setting out its work on each of the strands for which it has responsibility, as well as its work on promoting human rights. It will be held accountable for that by my Department, the Government Equalities Office, as well as by the wider stakeholder community and others in this House.