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Caste as a Protected Characteristic

Volume 631: debated on Thursday 23 November 2017

9. When she plans to respond to the Government’s consultation on caste as a protected characteristic in equality legislation. (902533)

The public consultation on how best to ensure that there is appropriate and proportionate legal protection against caste discrimination closed on 18 September. We received more than 13,000 responses, which are currently being analysed, and we will respond in due course.

Given the thousands of responses from British Hindus saying that having caste as a protected characteristic in equality law is unnecessary and divisive, will my right hon. Friend take action to remove that provision—which was introduced by the Labour party—from the legislative book?

We appreciate that caste is an extremely sensitive and emotive subject which is important to many people, but there is clearly no unanimous view among consultation respondents about how best to provide the necessary legal protection against caste discrimination. We are therefore considering the responses very carefully, and will be taking account of all the relevant points raised when deciding how to proceed.

Does the Minister recognise that leaving people to rely only on case law would not be sufficient, because they would be uncertain whether their cases would necessarily accord with decisions in previous cases, and does he agree that legislation is necessary for that reason?

The hon. Lady has expressed an opinion, and so has my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman). As I have said, we are looking at 13,000 opinions. We completely oppose any form of discrimination related to a person’s caste, but the way in which we ensure that that does not happen must be proportionate. We will respond to the consultation in due course.