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How can we put equalities at the heart of Government?

13 January 2021

The Women and Equalities Committee is opening a new inquiry which will examine how the Government Equalities Office (GEO) is delivering on its responsibilities.

Government Equalities Office

The GEO's resposibilities include:

  • Improving equality and reducing discrimination and disadvantage for all in the UK
  • Taking the lead on the Equality Act 2010 and being the lead department on gender, and LGBT issues in Government including the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004
  • Supporting and implementing international equality measures in the UK, including the UK’s international commitments

The inquiry

The inquiry will focus on: 

  • The structure and function of the GEO and its location in the Cabinet Office: how effectively does this enable it to support cross-departmental work on equalities, including the collection and analysis of equalities data?
  • The GEO’s role in supporting compliance with international obligations including the UN Conventions and Sustainable Development Goals
  • The role of Minister for Women and Equalities: what does it mean for this to be a dual departmental role? How robustly does it champion equalities across Government?
  • The GEO’s role in highlighting the numerous equalities issues which have been exacerbated by the pandemic

The inquiry will also consider the new approaches and initiatives which Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss announced in her speech on fighting for fairness at the Centre for Policy Studies on Dec 16 2020. This includes the implications of the GEO taking on sponsorship of the Social Mobility Commission.

Chair's Comments 

Committee Chair Caroline Nokes said: 

“We will examine the GEO’s role in the light of the Government’s ‘new approach to fairness’, as set out by the Minister for Women and Equalities in December.

"The role of the Government Equalities Office has never been more important, and will be vital in reducing discrimination and disadvantage and creating a more equal society after the very unequal impact of the pandemic.

"We aim to make recommendations which would strengthen both the role of the Minister for Women and Equalities, and the GEO’s ability to put equalities at the heart of Government.” 

The role of Minister for Women and Equalities and the place of GEO in government

In May 2018 the Women and Equalities Committee in the previous Parliament conducted a similar inquiry.

It noted the instability caused both by the number of times the Minister for Women and Equalities has changed and the repeated relocation of the GEO.

It recommended that the GEO be given a permanent place in the Cabinet Office and that the Minister should become a full time role.

The GEO was subsequently located in the Equalities Hub in the Cabinet Office.  

Calls for evidence

The role of the GEO: embedding equalities across Government is open for written evidence until 17 February 2021.

The Committee encourages evidence from individuals as well as organisations.

Terms and conditions

If your submission is accepted by the Committee it will usually be published online. It will then be available permanently for anyone to view. It can’t be changed or removed. 

If you have included your name or any personal information in your submission that will be published too.

Please consider how much personal information you want or need to share. Your contact details will never be published. 

Decisions about publishing evidence anonymously or about accepting but not publishing evidence are made by the Committee.

If you want to ask the Committee to keep your evidence anonymous (we’ll publish your evidence but not your name or personal details) or confidential (the Committee will read your evidence but it won’t be published) then please tick the box on the form.

This lets the Committee know what you would like but the final decision will be taken by the Committee. 

Written submissions from anyone aged under 18 will be automatically anonymised. 

We can’t publish submissions that mention ongoing legal cases. Contact us if you are not sure what this means for you. 

Further information

Please feel welcome to discuss any questions with the Committee staff on, 020 7219 6123.

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