The Queen’s Speech: more equality laws

The Government’s legislative programme has been outlined by the Queen in the state opening of Parliament, with a promise to introduce a new Equality Bill.

The Government also says it will clamp down on lap dancing clubs and binge drinking. And pro-lifers are concerned about plans to ‘modernise’ the law on assisted suicide.

The Equality Bill

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

It will place a duty on public bodies – like the police and local councils – to promote homosexual and transsexual equality.

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.”

Policing and Crime Bill

A Policing and Crime Bill was also promised. It aims, in part, to tighten control of lap dancing clubs.

A change in licensing legislation four years ago means that lap-dancing clubs now just need a Premises Licence to open – placing them on equal footing with a pub or a café.

Since this loophole was created the number of lap-dancing clubs operating in the UK has doubled, and residents have complained that their opportunities to object have been severely limited.

The Bill will also crack down on cheap alcohol sales amid concerns that binge drinking is getting out of hand.

Coroners and Justice Bill

The Queen’s Speech made reference to a new Coroners and Justice Bill. The Government says it will include “simplifying and modernising the offence of assisting suicide”.

Pro-lifers fear this will give supporters of euthanasia an opportunity to change the law.

The Bill does not apply in Scotland, but Margo MacDonald MSP has said she will attempt to change the law there.

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