A sweeping new equality law, the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), comes into force across Great Britain today.
The law obliges 27,000 public bodies in England, Wales and Scotland – such as schools, police, and local councils – to actively push equality.
Critics say it will be bureaucratic and expensive. But even more laws are on the way.
The practical impact of the equality duties in England and Scotland will be massively increased later this year when all public bodies will also be required to adopt equality targets. The requirement for Welsh public bodies to set equality targets comes into force tomorrow.
The English equality target laws – the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations – are currently the subject of further consultation, after which they will be debated by Parliament.
The regulations have been redrafted at least four times under two different Governments, perhaps reflecting anxiety over their bureaucratic burden on councils.
The powers to introduce these further regulations are permissive so the Government does not have to use them.
Meanwhile, The Christian Institute has published a briefing summarising the flaws in an influential book called The Spirit Level.
During debates on the Equality Bill, the book emerged as the handbook for those pushing the ‘equality outcomes’ agenda.
The book claims that major social problems are caused by inequality, and a better society can be created by enforcing equality.
The Christian Institute’s briefing critiques the book’s assumptions, methods and conclusions.
One of the major problems is the confusion between ‘equality of opportunity’ and ‘equality of outcomes’. The former seeks a level playing field for all; the latter seeks to ensure that every match is drawn so that nobody wins.
It was under the equality of outcomes philosophy that the European Court of Justice recently ruled that car insurance premiums must be the same for both sexes even though women are more careful drivers.
This same approach is followed when Councils ban women-only swimming sessions because of supposed discrimination against men.
The Christian Institute’s Director, Colin Hart, said: “From today, the Public Sector Equality Duty means public bodies will find themselves vulnerable to vexatious claims from activist groups that they are not doing enough to promote equality.
“Under equality laws Christians always seem to lose out. The additional regulations forcing public bodies to have targets will make a bad situation worse.
“But the Government doesn’t have to impose these new requirements. It should make a clean break with the controversial approaches of the past and not bring forward the equality target regulations.
“The book The Spirit Level reveals a world view of political correctness which goes against plain common sense. The equality outcomes approach undermines equality of opportunity and ends up sacrificing diversity in the name of equality.”