Phillips must ‘prove himself’ in gay equality role

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Campaigners have immediately called on Trevor Phillips to prove himself to the gay community after he was officially appointed as the leader of the new equality and human rights body this morning.

Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, today announced the appointment of Mr Phillips as the Chair of the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay charity Stonewall, was quick to ensure the gay community are fairly represented, he said: “Trevor will have to prove that he can address the needs of all the communities represented by the CEHR.

“He has not so far delivered for lesbian and gay people, who were rarely mentioned in the Equalities Review he chaired. We trust he will listen to a range of stakeholders as he climbs this steep learning curve.”

The CEHR will be responsible for enforcing the Equality Act which guarantees freedom from discrimination in the provision of goods and services regardless of sexual orientation.

It will inherit the responsibilities of the existing equality commissions, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission.

The body will also have responsibilities on rights in relation to age, sexual orientation, religion and belief, and will ensure that Unions and organisations such as the Citizen Advice Bureau have the correct training and information to advise people on these rights.

Launching in Autumn 2007, it will provide a single voice on equality and human rights.

But its creation has been controversial, with gay rights activists complaining that their specific concerns will be marginalised within a body responsible for everything from equal pay for women to the rights of the disabled.

Ms Kelly said: “We all want to live in a society where everyone can get on in life irrespective of their background. Whether it is at school, at work or in how different services treat people this sense of fairness is deeply held.

“The new equality body will be a powerful advocate for a fairer society for many years to come. It will fight for people who face any barriers or discrimination in their lives.

“Trevor Phillips is the best man for the job. He has a proven track record, a wealth of experience and is prepared to tackle the difficult and controversial issues head on. This will be a valuable asset right across the whole equalities agenda.”

Mr Phillips said: “We need a society where our origins do not determine our destiny, where the dignity and equal treatment of the individual is unfailing, where the disadvantaged are protected and empowered. Our ambition must be to create a society that is at ease with all aspects of its diversity. Bringing Britain closer to this vision is probably the most exciting task of our time.

“When I joined the CRE I believed it could be a great job. In fact, it’s turned out to be the best job I ever had. I am thrilled to be asked to lead this completely new organisation which I hope will inherit the best of its predecessors and be enriched by the contributions of the new equality strands.

“The CEHR will be a modern, creative, open, powerful and above all independent voice for equality and human rights in Britain and internationally.”