Report calls for equality commission to be scrapped

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission contributes “very little to meaningful equality” and should be dismantled, a think tank report has recommended.

The body, headed by Trevor Phillips, has been harshly criticised by gay rights advocates in recent weeks after calling for religious homophobes to be given ‘accommodations’ and ‘compromises’ in the workplace.

According to the report by think tank Civitas, the quango, which costs millions of pounds every year, could be scrapped at “no obvious cost” to the public.

The commission was criticised last year for its financial and hiring procedures, which were said to be “seriously flawed”.

The report, Small Corroding Words by Jon Gower Davis, makes little mention of LGBT issues, although it does question the time and resources spent by the EHRC on the “very small minority” of LGBT people.

It says: “Yet while all minorities, qua minority, are equal and many indeed are called, few are chosen for the level of concern and comment devoted to LGB and transgender people.”

The report says the commission’s outlook is impractical as it wishes for “life outcomes be entirely divorced from health limitations, cultural practices and lifestyles”.

The EHRC is also criticised for blaming Britain for inequalities when other factors are likely to be to blame, “illogical” use of statistics and having a “narrow approach to social policy” which is neither useful nor reasonable.

The Civitas report gives several examples of “serious flaws” in the EHRC’s thinking. One – cited in the EHRC’s ‘How Fair is Britain?’ report – is the fact that men are more likely than women to die in work-related accidents, which the Civitas report says Britain is “inaccurately blame[d]” for.

In another example, the Civitas report says: “Infant mortality rates for Pakistanis are affected by a somewhat higher prevalence of inter-cousin marriage, which make congenital birth defects more probable. This is an issue over which British policy has little direct control. Yet Britain is still regarded as being responsible for the outcomes.”

A spokesman for the report said: “Ultimately, abolishing the EHRC itself would not just be a cost-saving exercise. It may well present an opportunity to channel resources into addressing the most pertinent issues holding back equality and fairness.”

Mark Hammond, chief executive of the EHRC, said: “There are many reasons why people experience different levels of prosperity, health and happiness, but in some cases this can be because of discrimination and unfairness.

“No one blames Britain for that but it’s our job to start a debate on issues where we could see better outcomes for people suffering unfair disadvantages. Mr Phillips does not hold the views attributed to him by Civitas.”

The EHRC stated last month that it believes ‘reasonable adjustments’ could be made for religious employees in the same way that disabled people are accommodated in the workplace. This could mean allowing anti-gay Christian workers to swap shifts to avoid gay people.

After strong criticism from Stonewall, Peter Tatchell, trade unions and some MPs, the body appears to have decided not to argue for ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Former Stonewall chief executive Angela Mason, who is the body’s only LGBT commissioner, said this week that the EHRC had come to a “preliminary view” on the matter.

In response to emails from concerned readers
, she wrote: “The commission has already decided not to put forward ‘reasonable adjustment’ arguments if we do continue with our intervention.”

However, the commission has refused to confirmed Ms Mason’s comments.