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Protected Characteristics: Caste

Volume 641: debated on Thursday 17 May 2018

2. When the Government plan to respond to the consultation on caste as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010. (905377)

Our public consultation on how best to ensure that there is appropriate and proportionate legal protection against caste discrimination ran for six months last year. We received more than 16,000 responses, which demonstrates how important this matter is to some groups and communities, and we will respond in due course.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to her post. She is the third Minister for Women and Equalities since the consultation closed, and I have no doubt that she is going to wade through those 16,000 responses, which will overwhelmingly be in favour of caste being removed as a protected characteristic. Will she agree to meet me so that I can brief her on the feelings of the community on this matter?

I understand my hon. Friend’s frustration. He has really championed this issue for a long time. I have already agreed to meet him, and I am very happy to do so, but I can reassure him that previous holders of this post have already briefed me and that this matter is receiving my immediate attention.

The Minister will be aware that the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 requires the Government to amend the Equality Act 2010 to provide for caste as an aspect of race discrimination, and that case law will not be sufficient to do that. In addition to meeting those who advocate removing caste altogether from the legislation, will she also meet the all-party parliamentary group for Dalits, so that we can explain why the will of Parliament must be followed?

I will be happy to do that, and I would like to do it swiftly. I want to ensure that we take absolutely the right decision. The responses to the consultation were heavily weighted towards one outcome, but I want to know the case law and all the arguments before we take any decision.