05 June 2018
The Women and Equalities Committee has called on the government to start treating the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the role of Minister for Women and Equalities more seriously.
In a new report, the MPs complained that the GEO is constantly moved around Whitehall. Further, the role of Minister is a part-time one, and it has changed hands four times – and departments three times – in the last two years.
Currently, the Ministerial team is split across two departments and the civil servants supporting them are in a third department.
Since 1997, the responsibility for equalities issues has shifted around eight different departments, and the Committee warned that “each move brings disruption, delay and incurs costs”.
Calling for the role of Minister for Women and Equalities to be made full-time and given a cabinet seat, the MPs cautioned that the current system “risks undermining the effectiveness of equality policy and giving the impression that equalities issues are peripheral to day to day government”.
The Committee recommended that the GEO should also operate out of the Cabinet Office.
Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP, said: “The conveyor belt of ministers and continual upheaval at the GEO has caused unnecessary disruption, delay and is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
“With the gender pay gap still too high, women facing sexual harassment and serious inequalities faced by BAME people, LGBT groups and people with disabilities, we need the GEO to focus on tackling these burning injustices not continual departmental moves and reorganisation,” she added.
“Leading on equalities across government needs to be a full-time role, not an add-on to a busy Secretary of State’s portfolio.”