Every week during the summer recess, Lords Hansard publishes written answers online to questions submitted by members of the Lords, and included in the Written Answers and Statements for 4 August is the following:
Question: Asked by Lord Avebury
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 6 May (WA 331–2) and the comments by Helen Grant, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities on 9 July (HC Deb, vol.584 col. 140 WH), how they intend to establish baseline data that can be used to determine whether caste legislation is stopping unlawful discrimination given their acceptance of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s statement that research for that purpose would not be possible; and what are the terms of reference of the feasibility study announced by Mrs Grant.[HL1061]
Baroness Northover (LD): The Government has accepted that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will not be undertaking further research in the area outlined in the question. However, in their respective statements neither Lord Ahmad nor Helen Grant accepted that such research cannot be done, which is why we are commissioning the feasibility study to which the Noble Lord refers.
The key objectives for this study, which form its terms of reference, are to:
- Identify and critically assess the key issues which affect the feasibility of quantifying the extent of caste discrimination in Britain, and measuring changes over time;
- Identify specific methodological approaches for realistically and feasibly quantifying the scale of caste discrimination in Britain and measuring changes over time;
- Appraise the costs and benefits associated with each methodological option.”
On 28 February 2014, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission published two research reports on the issues surrounding caste in Britain. These form part of the Commission’s Caste in Britain project, undertaken at the request of government to help inform the introduction of a new statutory law; the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 requires that government introduce a statutory prohibition of caste discrimination into British equality law. Copies of the reports are available here and here.
As Helen Grant noted on 9 July:
“The EHRC had originally intended to commission a second research phase that would establish much-needed baseline data that could be used as a starting point for consideration of whether caste legislation was doing its job and stopping unlawful discrimination. Unfortunately, on further consideration the EHRC felt that that research would not be possible and that it might be intrusive and ruin good relations in communities. We have discussed those problems with the EHRC and we are now deciding how best to establish baseline data. We are conducting a feasibility study on the matter,”
and on 6 May, Lord Ahmad said:
“We had intended to reflect consideration of this [EHRC] work in the public consultation process. However, further discussions between Government and the EHRC about the research needed for it have revealed concerns that not only might this be difficult to commission successfully, but it could be seen as intrusive and might have an adverse effect on good relations in the relevant communities. We are therefore considering how best to proceed with the consultation in the light of this.
Another recent development is the judgment in the Employment Tribunal case of [Tirkey v Chandok (ET/3400174/13), 24 January 2014] which concluded that there is already legal protection against caste discrimination through the race provisions of the Equality Act 2010. We need to review recent case law to consider whether and how it may affect the way in which we implement the legislation.
We would expect the public consultation document, including our conclusions on these matters, to issue in the Autumn.”
No timescale has been announced for the feasibility study referred to in the Written Answer. No doubt Lord Avebury will continue his line of questioning with a view to obtaining further details.