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Equality Act 2010: Implementation by Local Authorities

Volume 711: debated on Wednesday 30 March 2022

6. What recent representations she has received on the implementation by local authorities of the provisions of the Equality Act 2010. (906382)

The Equality Act’s provisions, including the public sector equality duty, apply to local authorities, and they are legally bound to implement them. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, an independent public body, is responsible for enforcing the Equality Act 2010 across the public sector, including in local authorities. The EHRC makes its own decisions on how it exercises its functions.

I thank the Minister for that response. Women from my constituency and across Fife have had their coffee mornings cancelled by Fife Council officers for reasons that have not been adequately explained. Does the Minister agree that preventing women from lawfully organising and discussing matters of importance under the protected characteristic of sex forms part of an emerging culture of women being cancelled, intimidated and silenced and is deeply harmful? Does she further agree that all public bodies, including police services and local authorities, must observe the clear definition set out by the inner house of the Court of Session on the category of sex in the Equality Act, and that an attack on one protected characteristic should be considered an attack on all protected characteristics, and must be robustly challenged and cease?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s sentiments. I do not think it right that women should be prevented from organising on the basis of their sex. Freedom of belief and speech are vital pillars of our democratic society and no one should be silenced from expressing their legitimately held opinions. Like any public body in this country, the hon. Gentleman’s local council must have regard to its public sector equality duty in all its functions and decision making, including the case he refers to. He may wish to pick the issue up with the Scottish Government, as they are responsible for education policy of the kind we are discussing. I do not know the particular details of this case, but if he writes to me, I might be able to provide more information.

As the Minister has set out, local authorities have a duty to have regard to equality in all their work, and it is local authorities that facilitate our elections, so would the Minister agree that getting more information about who stands for election published might help us to ensure that our electoral system is as fair and open as it can be?

Yes, I would agree with that. Local authorities carry out the work of providing that information to the electorate, but if there is something specific that my right hon. Friend thinks they could be doing more of, I would be happy to look into that in my capacity as local government Minister.

What urgent conversations is the Minister having with British Cycling to ensure that elite female athletes such as Dame Laura Kenny, a six-time Olympic medallist, and her team-mates will not lose their places and have their records broken because of British Cycling’s inability to uphold section 195 of the 2010 Equality Act and implement the agreed guidance from the Sports Council Equality Group on transgender inclusion in sport, which was published in October last year?

The hon. Lady makes an important point. I have not had any specific discussions with British Cycling, but I am glad she has raised this issue with me. I will pick up the matter with my colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport who look at sports guidance and see what we can do to provide clarity on the subject.