The Government’s controversial equalities watchdog is set to be stripped of a number of its responsibilities, the Home Secretary announced yesterday.
Proposed changes to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have been published as part of a three-month Home Office consultation.
The troubled EHRC funded the case of a same-sex couple who sued Christian B&B owners over their double bed policy.
The Commission had to make an embarrassing u-turn earlier this month when an attempt to demand more compensation backfired. The EHRC said the move was an “error of judgment”.
In the previous week the Commission had been forced to apologise after claiming that Christian foster parents may harm children by ‘infecting’ them with their moral values.
Last year the Commission was criticised by Home Secretary Theresa May for its “track record” of misusing taxpayers’ money.
The EHRC, chaired by Trevor Phillips, survived October’s “bonfire of the quangos”, but Mrs May said yesterday “It’s vital that we have a strong, effective and independent equalities and human rights body”, but pointed out that from its creation the EHRC had struggled to deliver.
The commission, which was formed in 2007 and is Government funded, has far-reaching powers to enforce equality duties and support legal actions to “push the boundaries of the law”.
Last year a Guardian newspaper commentator, Julian Glover, questioned the Commission’s obsession with equality of outcomes, and warned that the EHRC’s “definition of a fair society is one that champions the constant reduction of unequal outcomes.”.
The Commission has been embroiled in a string of controversial cases.
It has previously said that making girls wear skirts as part of a school uniform policy is “potentially unlawful”, claiming it may discriminate against girls who believe they are boys.
Responding to the EHRC claim, one columnist said it showed the ‘loony Left’ policies of the 1980s had been embedded in the group.
Leo McKinstry wrote: “Such an edict would be laughable were it not so indicative of the disturbing mindset of the equality bureaucrats who wield such control over our lives.”
The Commission has also claimed that discrimination laws should treat veganism as a belief, and that vegans should be afforded the same protection as religious groups.
It called for people to be questioned about their sexual orientation each time they visit hospital A&E departments, report crimes to the police, or respond to a major survey.
They also wanted to store the results on a giant database, which would have allowed for checks on possible ‘inequality’.
The EHRC has been criticised for funding atheist group, the British Humanist Association, to run a series of events where known opponents of Christian liberties were invited to train the public in issues of religious freedom.
In February the Times newspaper reported that the controversial quango will have its budget reduced to £22.5 million before the next General Election – a cut of “almost 60 per cent”.
Its budget has already been reduced from £60m to £53m by the Government and staff numbers have also been significantly slimmed down.