People expect fairness, but “equality” has become associated with the worst kind of pointless political correctness, the minister for women and equality has said.
Theresa May, who is also the Home Secretary, made her comments as she announced that the Government is dumping Labour’s controversial ‘socio-economic equality’ law.
The law was nicknamed ‘socialism in one clause’ and was part of the Equality Act passed by the previous Parliament before the general election.
The minister also announced that the Government is moving away from ‘equality of outcomes’ to ‘equality of opportunity’.
Equality of outcomes is a public policy approach that uses the state in an attempt to ensure that everyone’s life has the same result.
But ‘equality of opportunity’ is an approach that uses the state in an attempt to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to better themselves.
Theresa May said: “I do not believe in a world where everybody gets the same out of life, regardless of what they put in. That is why no government should try to ensure equal outcomes for everyone.”
She added: “we do need to say that equality of opportunity is for everybody.”
However, despite the minister’s comments, the Government’s equality department appears to be planning to push public bodies to ensure equality of outcomes.
The proposals are outlined in a Government document about the Public Sector Equality Duty. A consultation on the proposals recently closed.
As it stands the ‘equality duty’ will require public bodies to publish equality outcome objectives “as part of their normal business planning process”.
But The Christian Institute has warned that such proposals will simply act as a distraction for overstretched organisations, and go far beyond what is actually required by the Equality Act.
The Institute’s response to the consultation said: “The Equality Act states that one aspect of the general duty is to ‘advance equality of opportunity’. Yet equality outcomes are very different to equality of opportunity, and lead to radically different approaches.
“Equality outcome approaches stifle initiative, level down achievement and can be hijacked by special interest groups.”
The Christian Institute also warned that Christians have often been penalised by existing equality laws.
The response cites a number of examples, including the time a nurse was suspended for offering to pray for a patient, where Christians have been marginalised for their faith.
In October a Guardian newspaper commentator warned that a fair society would encourage equality of opportunity for all instead of enforcing equality of outcomes.
Julian Glover’s comments came as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a report on inequality in Britain.
Mr Glover questioned the EHRC’s obsession with equality of outcomes, and he warned that the EHRC’s “definition of a fair society is one that champions the constant reduction of unequal outcomes.”
He added: “I think the EHRC has a wrongheaded idea of fairness. It measures the extent to which people’s lives are different, and then calculates the action needed to make them more the same. The assumption is that equality is what we all want.”
Mr Glover went on to explain that a valid alternative to enforcing equal outcomes, would be to provide everyone with equality of opportunity which would then allow them to realise their potential.
He said: “This overlooks the possibility that the actions needed to compel equality may be seen as unfair by those who do not benefit from them.
“An equally valid idea of a fair society may be one in which people are given the space and the right to strive for inequality: advantage achieved by their own efforts.”
He added: “The corollary of rejecting equality as a goal, and placing greater responsibility on individuals, must be to increase opportunity by reducing unfair advantage.”