A cross-party House of Lords committee has criticised the government for its “objectionable” failure to bring into force key anti-discrimination measures that became law more than a decade ago.
The Lords liaison committee said ministers had also failed to use their much-criticised National Disability Strategy to implement “key provisions” from the 2010 Equality Act.
A report, published today (Thursday), says the committee “finds it objectionable that parts of the Equality Act, now over 10 years old, are still not in force”, which it says is “an affront to Parliament”.
Among the areas of the Equality Act that the government has failed to improve or implement over the last decade, according to the committee, are the public sector equality duty; access to taxis and private hire vehicles; and access to sports stadiums.
The report also highlights the continued delay in implementing the provision in the Equality Act that would give tenants the right to force landlords to make reasonable adjustments to the common parts of residential buildings, such as hallways and staircases.
Ministers have repeatedly pledged to implement this provision, but there will now be further delays, with the new disability strategy promising only a consultation rather than immediate implementation.
The Lords liaison committee also calls on the government to make it easier for disabled people to take discrimination claims under the Equality Act by extending the use of a process known as Qualified One-Way Costs Shifting (QOCS).
Disabled campaigner Esther Leighton failed last year with a judicial review that aimed to force the government to extend QOCS to Equality Act cases.
The committee said it found the government’s stance on the issue “disappointing” and added: “The Government should be focusing on the impact of the current costs regime on disabled people and the fact that it is preventing disabled persons from accessing justice.”
The report follows up an inquiry by the Lords Equality Act 2010 and disability committee, which concluded in 2016 that the government was failing to protect disabled people from discrimination, and that laws designed to address disability discrimination were “not working in practice”.
An analysis by Disability News Service of the government’s response to that report, which was published later in 2016, suggested that it had accepted in full only about eight of the committee’s 55 recommendations.
Baroness Deech, who chaired the Equality Act 2010 and disability committee, said: “The government has missed a golden opportunity to tackle key issues including ensuring the public sector equality duty delivers results and improved outcomes rather than being a tick-box exercise, ensuring taxis and private hire vehicles are accessible to disabled people and ensuring sports stadiums have appropriate provision for all fans.
“Some of these provisions are already law and are just not being enforced; for the government to ignore them yet again in its national strategy means that it is not acting on what parliament has agreed.
“The government cannot expect disabled people to have confidence in its new strategy when it has consistently failed to enforce existing legislation or act on recommendations to rectify that.”
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