Conservative Diary

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The invidious nature of Labour's equality legislation becomes all the more apparent

By Jonathan Isaby

George Osborne Budget Day Paul has already written here this morning about the IFS report and what it claims will be unfair impact of George Osborne's Budget on certain groups.

Fraser Nelson, meanwhile, has blogged about the Today interview with Treasury minister Mark Hoban (listen here) in which he avoided answering whether the Treasury had conducted an assessment of the impact of the Budget cuts on women, the disabled, ethnic minorities and other "vulnerable" groups.

Such an assessment was a requirement of Harriet Harman's Equality Act and, as such, Nelson concludes, is a devastating political landmine:

"Paragraph 32 of Harman's Act states that any individual is not prevented "from bringing judicial review proceedings against a public body which  has not considered socio-economic disadvantage when taking decisions of a strategic nature". So if anyone makes cuts which Jo Blogger thinks hit kids with special needs, they can have the decision subject to a judicial review. And, perhaps, try to claim legal aid for so doing. The Treasury might claim this is baseless, but they may end up being sued nonetheless - it will be great fun for the unions to find out how far they can go.

"In this way, Labour transferred power from parliament (where it was about to lose power) to the courts (where the lefty judiciary reign supreme). Their calculation was that if they did this quietly enough, and in technicalities, the Cameroons would not wise up to it because of their aversion to detail. Cameron should have repealed the Equalities Act instantly." 

An Equality Act sounds fluffy enough and Labour clearly calculated that it was the kind of law which, once enshrined, would be politically hard for a future Government to repeal on the grounds that it would create unfavourable headlines.

However, as Fraser Nelson says, there is something seriously wrong with a law that opens a government to judicial challenge over virtually anything that it does.

Whatever happened to the notion of democratic accountability by which politicians are held accountable for their decisions at the ballot box rather than through unelected judges in the courts?


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