Memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland
THE FAIR EMPLOYMENT (NORTHERN IRELAND)
ACT 1989: TEN YEARS ON
This paper provides information on developments on
designation under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998,
structures for advising Secretary of State on his statutory responsibility
under section 75 and progress on developing the NIO equality scheme.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the Northern Ireland Human
Rights Commission and the Equality Commission has been agreed.
Public procurement, the Northern Ireland Senior Civil Service
and Fair Employment are transferred matters and are therefore
the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Designation under section 75
Section 75(1) of the Northern Ireland Act requires
all public authorities to
"have due regard to
the need to promote equality of opportunity -
- between persons of different religious belief,
political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual
- between men and women generally;
- between persons with a disability and persons
- between persons with dependants and persons without."
In addition, and without prejudice to those obligations,
public authorities are required under Section 75(2) to
"have regard to the
desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different
religious belief, political opinion or racial group."
The vast majority of public bodies in Northern Ireland
were automatically brought within the scope of section 75 by virtue
of s75 (3)(b)&(c). These c.120 bodies were required to submit
their equality schemes to the Commission by 30 June 2000. The
Commission is currently assessing the submitted schemes.
The Act also makes provision for the Secretary of
State to designate further bodies as public authorities for the
purposes of section 75. The Government believes that non-designation
should be the exception rather than the rule and wants to see
as wide as possible a range of public bodies brought within the
scope of section 75.
To this end, the first designation order was made
in June 2000, when the following bodies were designated:
British Library Board
Customs & Excise
Data Protection Commissioner
Department for Culture Medial and Sport
Department of Trade and Industry
Export Credits Guarantee Department
National Lotteries Charities Board
New Opportunities Fund
Northern Ireland Court Service
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
Northern Ireland Office
Office of the Director General of Telecommunications
Probation Board for Northern Ireland
Trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
These bodies are required to submit equality schemes
to the Equality Commission by 25 January 2001.
The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 extended section
75 to cover the Police Service, Policing Board, Police Ombudsman
and the new District Policing Partnerships that are to be created.
A further tranche of bodies will be designated early
in the New Year with others to follow as necessary.
NIO Equality Structures
Since the restoration of devolution on 27th May,
the NIO's Human Rights and Equality Unit has assumed responsibility
for advising the Secretary of State of his duties under section
75. This is in addition to the co-ordinating machinery set up
to develop and implement the NIO's own equality scheme, outlined
below. The unit has developed strong working relationships with
the Equality Commission and with the non-devolved public authorities.
NIO Equality Scheme
A comprehensive draft Equality Scheme has been prepared,
with consultation with representatives of the various section
75 categories. Currently, this is being revised to take account
of those consultations and of further work done within the Northern
Ireland Office, with a view to a final draft being available to
send to the Equality Commission before the end of January.
The Equality Scheme has the explicit endorsement
of the Secretary of State, and of the Permanent Under Secretary
of State. The NIO's Director of Resources, Mrs Doreen Brown, is
the member of the Departmental Board with particular responsibility
for the Scheme, and Christine Collins has been appointed as the
NIO's Equality Scheme Co-ordinator. Each NIO Director has appointed
Equality Scheme Drivers, in their commands, to co-ordinate work
on equality issues within their areas. In addition, the NIO have
appointed an independent consultant to provide facilitation and
advice, and a measure of assurance to the Departmental Board on
the robustness of the Scheme.