Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Fourth Report


20. During the passage of the 1989 Act, the Government had committed itself to conducting a formal review of the operation of the legislation and other government policy in this area within five years of the commencement of the legislation. This task was originally entrusted to the Central Community Relations Unit of the Northern Ireland Office; but responsibility was later transferred to SACHR. After detailed research, SACHR recommended substantial changes to both law and practice in the area in a report published in June 1997[35]. In particular, it recommended that the PAFT guide-lines be reformed and put on a statutory basis, and that changes be made to TSN and the existing 1976 and 1989 Acts.

21. The Government's response to the SACHR Report was set out in the White Paper, "Partnership for Equality", published in March 1998.[36] This accepted some of the recommendations - in particular the recommendation for a new statutory equality duty on public authorities to replace the PAFT guide-lines. The White Paper proposed, however, subject to further public consultation, that the existing equality bodies be amalgamated into one new Equality Commission. This had not previously been proposed by SACHR. The Belfast Agreement took note of the White Paper and, in particular, included a commitment by Government to "make rapid progress with ... measures on employment equality...".[37]

35  Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, Employment Equality: Building for the Future, Cm 3684, June 1997, The Stationery Office. Back

36  Cm 3890, March 1998, The Stationery Office. Back

37  Cm 3883, p. 19. Back

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Prepared 29 July 1999