Harman: Equality is at the heart of Labour

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The Prime Minister made a ten-minute appearance at an event organised by Stonewall last night.

It was the first time that Gordon Brown had mixed and mingled with so many LGBT activists from his own party, and he seemed relaxed during his time at the function.

Absolutely Equal, supported by Barclays, was a joint event between Stonewall, the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission and Equal Rights on Age.

Just before the arrival of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Secretary of State for Equality Harriet Harman addressed the crowd:

“Firstly to say that the question of equality, hatred, discrimination and prejudice are at the heart of why many of us and many of you joined the Labour party.

“Gordon, in his truly brilliant speech as our great new Prime Minister, mentioned equality as one of the real, important things for him as Prime Minister. So it is and will remain at the heart of our concerns.

“I think that we have got to remember that although there is a feel, a kind of consensus about this issue, there are still battles to be fought.

“Just because people know not to say things that are homophobic and not to say things that are racist and not to say things that are sexist, that none of us will forget that there is actually still a great deal of discrimination against people with disabilities, on the grounds of sexual orientation, on the grounds of race or gender and therefore we have made a great deal of progress but we are still in a struggle.

“People will know that I worked long and hard, as many people here have, on issues of gender and they might know that I’ve worked long and hard on issues of human rights from when I was back at Liberty.

“They’ll know that from my constituency and there are many people from Southwark here tonight, that they are a very diverse community so I’m very deeply concerned about racial equality.

“But I just wanted to pledge to people who are concerned first of all about discrimination against people with disabilities and opportunities for people with disabilities and also for people who are fighting for non discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation that I will pledge to be every bit as much a champion.

“Barbara (Follett, minister for equality) and I will pledge to be every bit as much champions of all strands of equality.

“And to that end I want to say two final things one is about the new commission and Trevor Phillips is here tonight and he is the correct person to be dealing with the commission (the Commission for Equality and Human Rights).

“The commission is not to water down the different strands of discrimination and very different routes and different solutions to tackle them.

“It is to make the campaign for equality more mighty and more powerful and I know that’s what Trevor and all the people working in the commission are determined to do and that’s why the commission was set up.

“So I hope that all of us who are so grateful to the work that has been done on the individual commissions will not feel sadness but proud for the what they’ve done and determined to see their work taken forward by the new human rights and equality commission.

“And the final thing I want to say is about the Bill. We are going to have a new Equality Bill and this commitment, that will be introduced by way of the Queen’s speech in November next year, and what we want to do is make sure that there is more than just a consolidation of all the Acts of Parliament of the last century.

“Although it is important to bring together all those Acts of Parliament, we want to make sure that it’s making progress, that it’s making change, that it’s an Equality Bill for the 21st century.

“So all of you who’ve got ideas about how the law can continue to make a difference think back to 1970 and the Equal Pay Act, what a huge thing that was.

“What is the demand in the first part of the twenty first century which is the equivalent of that?

“Because we need to make sure that we shape the equality legislation efficiently for the future for equality in this century.

“So thank you very much indeed for allowing me to say these few words and to say finally to you that Gordon Brown is going to be coming in a few minutes so thank you.”