A piece in today's Guardian demonstrates how seriously discrimination can affect people's lives. Last year Arlene Phillips was dismissed as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. Newsround first reported rumours that Arlene might be replaced by Alesha Dixon on Thursday 18 June 2009. Age discrimination is one of the long-standing concerns of Newsround Blog, for example see this blog entry.
The BBC, of course, denied that Arlene's dismissal was anything to do with age, but most people thought otherwise. Lynne Featherstone, who at the time was a member of the House of Commons Equality Bill Committee, was very annoyed at what happened. So annoyed in fact that she felt the BBC should not be exempt from the Equality Duty. In her blog, Lynne wrote: And as the Equality Bill is not yet through its legislative processes – I will be considering bringing an amendment to the Bill which looks at the BBC’s exemption again. They clearly can’t be trusted.
In the event Lynne did not bring forward such an amendment - the reason being that the BBC wasn't granted any exemption - not in the House of Commons at any rate. What did happen, however, is that an amendment was put through this year at a late stage in the House of Lords, without there having been any debate in the elected Chamber of Parliament.
The public sector Equality Duty is being consulted on at present, and is due to come into effect next April. The consultation ends on 10 November 2010.
Lynne Featherstone is now Minister for Equalities at the Government Equalities Office. Despite Lynne's annoyance, it is very possible that the BBC will, in large measure, be exempt from the Equality Duty. This exemption for the BBC seems very unwise because, as Lynne put it, they clearly can't be trusted.