THE BLOG

Let's Spend A Penny On Human Rights

15/12/2016 15:40

Imagine an organisation that could advise parliament on improving human rights and monitor our national compliance with international treaties. An organisation that works across the public and private sectors to protect individuals from unequal treatment. An organisation empowered to take legal action to tackle discrimination wherever it occurs.

You might recognise this organisation's work. It has helped get rid of the benefits cap for unpaid carers. It has ensured vulnerable people have the right to be asked before a 'Do Not Resuscitate Notice' is placed in their hospital notes. It supported the landmark ruling that B&B owners cannot refuse bookings made by gay couples. It has led work to tackle non-natural deaths of adults with mental health conditions detained in prisons, hospitals and police stations. And now, as Dimensions campaigns for specific changes to tackle learning disability and autism hate crime, we find this organisation has been driving the agenda for many years.

This is the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Great Britain's national equality body. A body that is facing a 70% cut in its budget by 2020 at a time of unrivalled need for its services.

At a time when the Far Right seems on the rise throughout Europe, when hate crime of all forms is on the rise, and when America's President Elect campaigned for a wall with Mexico and to keep a whole faith group out of America, this is no time to blunt Britain's equality and human rights watchdog. I am proud of our country's long history of upholding people's rights, valuing diversity and challenging intolerance. But our open society did not come easily. It is not a birthright. It is the freedom our fathers and grandfathers fought for. It is our freedom, and we should cherish and protect it at all costs.

We simply cannot protect that freedom if we cut the EHRC's budget from £62m to £17m. That £45m gap is no more than a quarter of a penny on a pint of beer. Without it, our watchdog will become toothless - no bite and precious little bark. Am I the only one thinking this is a complete no-brainer?

Almost no-one born in Britain today has lived in a society deprived of fundamental freedoms. We take for granted the freedom of our press, our right to life, to liberty, to equal treatment, to practice our beliefs and to pursue happiness. The axe currently being taken to the Equality and Human Rights Commission is not something to tut about in passing. It is something we must all get truly angry about. Our national identity depends on it.

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