By Sandra Osborne MP - 24th April 2012
Sandra Osborne MP calls for the EHRC to continue to provide much needed enforcement powers, advice and support at this time of economic and social crisis.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is an independent statutory body established by Parliament under the Equality Act 2006. It has the important role as regulator for enforcing equality legislation and encouraging compliance with the Human Rights Act. Yet it is being dismantled by the government with a 62 per cent. from the budget and 72 per cent cut from staffing compared to levels at its creation.
I have called this debate to object strongly to the axing of frontline services like the helpline and grants to regional outreach work and the end of free legal representation for victims of discrimination. With these cuts there is the risk that whole areas of the UK will be without vital advice services. UN accreditation of the UK as an A status national human rights institution may be at risk as a result of the cuts to EHRC budget and the narrowing of its remit.
I am also concerned that over 200 experienced regional casework and advice staff may be axed, while the commission retains highly paid management consultants to implement a change programme. No wonder PCS members at EHRC offices have taken industrial action in protest against job cuts, closures and privatisation. Staff are anticipating deeper and faster cuts resulting in even more job losses and outsourcing this year.
I am calling on the government to put a halt to spending more taxpayers' money on another costly restructuring exercise, and to instead fund the body so that it maintains its remit and staffing levels to help victims of discrimination and promote a culture where all are equal and the human rights of all are respected.
The Commission has a proud record of achievements in its first two years and there are some real equality challenges facing Britain at this time of economic and social crisis.
It looks as if the government is intent on closing the body entrusted by Parliament to protect equality and human rights. I am arguing instead for an outward looking, integrated and well resourced commission in touch with ordinary people and their concerns. We need the EHRC to provide much needed enforcement powers, advice and support.
Sandra Osborne has been Labour MP for Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock since 1997.