Julie Mellor

The chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Commission responds to an article by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown calling for one body to replace the various equality commissions
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The Independent Online

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown suggests that the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) need to join a conversation about the future of equality legislation and the equality commissions, in the light of the Human Rights Act.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown suggests that the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) need to join a conversation about the future of equality legislation and the equality commissions, in the light of the Human Rights Act.

She is out of date. We are already involved in that conversation. The EOC and the CRE, with the Institute of Public Policy Research, led a series of seminars last year on the interrelationship of the rights enshrined in the Human Rights Act and those in the Sex Discrimination and Race Relations Acts.

Like Yasmin, we also believe that the creation of a human-rights commission would greatly enhance the effectiveness of the Human Rights Act. We would wholeheartedly welcome the opportunity to work closely with such a body in creating a new human-rights culture.

Ultimately, our commitment is to equality, not to particular institutional forms. We will always be alive to fresh ideas on how to accelerate Britain's progress towards achieving equality. Nevertheless, we should not rush into any decision to make structural changes.

We also have much to learn from the experiences of Northern Ireland, where a human-rights commission and an equality commission are already in place, and from our work with the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament on the implications of devolution for our institutions.

All this work will inform the ongoing debate about the future. We will support whatever is needed to help Britain to become a just and fair society. In the meantime, the commissions will get on with their urgent work promoting the cause of racial equality and establishing disability equality as part of the human-rights agenda in Britain.

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