The controversial and costly Equality Bill was passed by MPs at Second Reading yesterday, despite criticism describing it as “unworkable”, “misleading” and “gobbledegook”.
Even though religion is a protected ground in the Equality Bill, Harriet Harman, equalities minister, failed to mention it on numerous occasions as she listed groups that will be protected by the Bill.
Tory MP Philip Davies slammed the Bill, saying it had “nothing to do with equality”, and called it an “incredibly misleadingly titled Bill”.
He said: “one of its central planks is not to enshrine equality in law but to reintroduce discrimination into the workplace.”
Mr Davies warned: “It is all about the politically correct extremism of the Leader of the House and her trendy, left-wing prejudices.”
He added: “The Bill is massive—250 pages, including the schedules, and nearly 250 pages of explanatory notes—but if it were truly about equality, we would not need 250 pages of politically correct gobbledegook.”
Theresa May, speaking on behalf of the Conservative Party criticised the Bill, saying: “The Government had the opportunity to put together a meaningful and significant piece of legislation with fairness and common sense at its heart.
“But by including unworkable and overly bureaucratic proposals, they have undermined the benefits of the Bill and caused us to have serious misgivings about its probable outcomes.”
Lib Dem front bencher Lynne Featherstone called for religion to be partially barred from the new equality duty.
She cited “varied” religious views on abortion, alcohol, homosexuality and sex education in schools as reasons for exclusion.
She also seemed to favour narrow exemptions for religious employers saying that “if exceptions for religious organisations in employment are too broad, there will be abuse of that protection”.
Another Liberal Democrat, Evan Harris, also challenged the introduction of an equality duty on religion, claiming it was “highly controversial” and that the proposal could lead to the “entrenching” of religious resentment.
The Lib Dems also questioned the ban on homosexuals giving blood and want to widen protections for transsexuals by changing the legal definition they currently come under.
The Bill will now be considered in more detail by MPs at Committee Stage.