Clip the wings of bossy Commission and revise Equality Act

I am inclined to agree with the view of The Times that the government should not get bogged down in the argument about the impact of the June budget on the poor. The IFS is probably correct in its analysis suggesting that this was not really a “progressive” budget in the technical sense – although the IFS analysis is also limited in that it does not model second-order consequences as people adapt to tax and benefit changes. This argument could run and run and detracts from the whole point of the budget – to get a grip on our huge fiscal deficit. It’s basically a party-political argument and the government should politely but decisively move the agenda on.

Slightly more problematic is yesterday’s statement from the Equality and Human Rights Commission that it may have to consider “appropriate enforcement action” against the Treasury for not conducting a rigorous analysis of the impact of the budget on “vulnerable groups” – women, ethnic minorities, the disabled and the elderly. The Commission, recently castigated for wasteful spending (its budget is well over £50 million a year), has long been subject to mission creep, but has not previously sought a veto on fiscal policy. The apparent enforcement powers were one by-product of the dogs-dinner Equality Act 2010, which I have previously criticised.

The whole future of the EHRC needs looking at closely, particularly given its poor management and its odd relationship with the Government Equalities Office. The issue of “Equality” should be detached from “Human Rights” as there is no logical connection between them. But the legislation itself also needs fundamental revision – even if the EHRC stays its hand, the feminist campaigning group the Fawcett Society has already announced it is seeking judicial review of the budget for neglecting to assess whether it has a disproportionate effect on women.

The impact of budgets on individuals is very difficult fully to understand, let alone model: I was once, many years ago, working in this field and I know this only too well. If the courts are to judge whether or not an analysis is adequate we are in big trouble. Forget Jarndyce v Jarndyce: Any Aggrieved Pressure Group v. The Treasury could keep lawyers in clover for decades.

And any cuts in public expenditure are bound to have an impact on one or more allegedly vulnerable groups. Together the allegedly vulnerable groups account for about two-thirds of the population. Only white males under 60 seem not to present any problems to our Equality watchdogs.

1 thought on “Clip the wings of bossy Commission and revise Equality Act”

  1. Posted 26/08/2010 at 15:43 | Permalink

    Interested to know if past budgets showed positives for various groups and therefore results in a negative for the married white middle aged male. Equality cuts both ways. The best way is to dismantle the entire confection and any statutory powers that go with it.

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