Equalities office under fire over expenditure

The department responsible for the controversial Equality Bill has been criticised for spending three-quarters of its outgoings on administration and above-average salaries.

The Government Equalities Office spent a total of £5.2 million on rent, wages and administration compared with the £1.8 million it spent directly on programmes.

A GEO spokesman defended the figures, arguing that nearly £71 million was allocated to its two “operating arms”.

One of these is the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which was recently criticised for paying a group of atheists to run conferences on religion and equality.

The GEO’s flagship Equality Bill is set to impose new duties on public bodies which will force them to promote sexual orientation equality.

Its top minister, Harriet Harman, recently revealed that gay rights are being monitored by ‘sleeper ministers’ in various Government departments.

The information on the department’s spending was uncovered in an investigation by the all-party Commons communities committee.

They found that the department’s 62 employees were paid an average wage of £46,000 a year, compared with £34,000 at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Matthew Elliott of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “There’s not much equality with the common man in paying paper-pushers twice the average wage.”

Theresa May, the shadow women’s minister, said: “In the current economic climate it is outrageous that Labour is spending three times as much on administration in the Government Equalities Office than on the direct programme spend.”

The Equality Bill

The Equality Bill is a priority for the Government, and was included in the Queen’s Speech despite a cull of proposed legislation.

The Bill will apply to England, Wales and Scotland. It aims to streamline existing equality laws and give more powers for enforcement.

Last month a survey found that employers were concerned about the extra time and financial expense of implementing the Bill if it becomes law.

As well as imposing equality duties, it will also allow political parties to use all-women shortlists for candidates until 2030. Some homosexual activists are pressing for all-gay shortlists to also be allowed.

In recent years some equality laws, particularly on the grounds of sexual orientation, have clashed with human rights laws that protect free speech and religious liberty.

The Bill’s progress through Parliament could give some backbench MPs an opportunity to attempt further limitations on the religious liberty and free speech of Christians and others.

Ben Summerskill, head of ‘gay rights’ lobby group Stonewall, welcomed the news that the Equality Bill will place a duty on public bodies to promote homosexual and transsexual equality.

He said: “We are delighted that after so many years of pushing, the duty to promote will be in the Bill.”

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