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Government Race Relations Consultation

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An invitation to help shape the implementation of new race equality legislation was issued to public bodies and others by Home Secretary Jack Straw today as he launched a consultation document on the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

The provisions in the 2000 Act, which outlaws race discrimination in public functions not previously covered by the Race Relations Act 1976, and the new general duty on public bodies to promote race equality, will come into force on 2 April 2001.

The consultation document seeks views on the operation of the new statutory duty on public authorities – such as the police and health services – to promote race equality in carrying out their functions. This new duty will help public bodies to avoid race discrimination before it occurs.

The duty to promote race equality involves

  • a general duty on public authorities to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people of different racial groups;
  • specific duties to be imposed on some or all of the public authorities to help their performances under the general duty, which will be enforced by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE);
  • CRE codes of practice to provide practical guidance to public authorities on how to fulfil their general and specific duties.

Responses to the consultation document will help inform the development of secondary legislation under the Act, on the nature of the specific duties to be placed on public bodies and on making additional public bodies subject to the new requirements.

Launching the consultation document Mr Straw said, "The Race Relations Act 2000 is the most radical piece of race relations legislation in nearly 25 years, and fulfils a key recommendation of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry – that the full force of race relations legislation should apply to the police. But it also goes much further than that.

"As well as outlawing race discrimination by law enforcers, such as the police, it outlaws race discrimination in public functions not previously covered by the Race Relations Act 1976. It also places a positive statutory duty on public authorities to promote race equality in carrying out their functions – to avoid race discrimination before it occurs.

"We want the public sector to set the pace in the drive for race equality and to lead by example. Our proposals are a key part of the framework we are developing to achieve that objective."

Background to the consultation

The consultation document – Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000: Proposals for Implementation – will be sent to public bodies and other interested parties. The consultation document is also available on the Home Office website (available in .pdf format adobe acrobat reader will be required)

The public consultation process is due to end on 15 May 2001, and responses to the document should be sent to:

The Race Equality Bill Team
Home Office
12th Floor, 50 Queen Anne's Gate
London SW1H 9AT

The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 received Royal Assent on 30 November 2000. The new Act fulfils a key recommendation of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry – that the full force of race relations legislation should apply to the police.

The Act also outlaws race discrimination – direct, indirect and victimisation – in public functions not previously covered by the Race Relations Act 1976. For example, it will be unlawful for the police or others such as Customs and Excise officers to discriminate racially when they are enforcing the law. The new law applies to immigration officers when they exceed what is required by immigration law or has been authorised by Ministers. It will also apply, among others, to the prison and probation services. The Act also places listed public bodies under a statutory duty to promote race equality in carrying out their functions.

The Act's provisions outlawing race discrimination in public functions not previously covered by race relations legislation will be brought into force on 2 April 2001. The general duty to promote race equality will also be brought into force on 2 April in respect of public bodies listed on the face of the Act.

Specific duties to promote race equality will be introduced in July 2001, following the public consultation exercise launched today. The new duties will come into force towards the end of the year by which time the CRE's statutory codes of practice should be available to provide practical help and guidance to public bodies on how to meet their obligations under the general and specific duties.

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