By Matthew Barrett
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Jon Gower Davies, a former Head of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Newcastle and a Labour Councillor on Newcastle City Council for 20 years, has written a report for the think-tank Civitas, entitled "Small Corroding Words: the slighting of Great Britain by the EHRC", which advocates the abolition of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, currently chaired by Trevor Phillips, the ex Labour member of the London Assembly.
In the report, Davies systematically critiques the philosophy and practices of the EHRC, and reveals serious research flaws.
Amongst the findings about the EHRC's research methods were:
- The EHRC doesn't take into consideration environmental factors, such as country of origin, when reviewing statistical differences between social groups in Britain
- Instead, when the differences appear to disadvantage some groups, it is assumed to be the result of Britain's unfairness
- The EHRC draws attention to the comparatively small differences in life expectancy between all British-born women (80.5 years) and women of Pakistani origin (77.3), but fails to note the much larger difference in life expectancy between British women of Pakistani origin and women living in Pakistan (67.5)
- The EHRC fails to acknowledge the impact of cultural practices on life expectancy that will inevitably lead to statistical differences between ethnic groups, and despite not having control over these factors, Britain still gets the blame for the inequality that results from them
- The EHRC advocates "policy double binds" – for example, it highlights the injustice of a disproportionate number of black victims of crime, and a disproportionate number of black prisoners, which is partially explained by the fact that it is frequently black individuals who are the victims of black offenders - the government cannot win in the eyes of the EHRC, because being more leniant on prisoners would mean more victims of crime, and standing up for victims of crime would mean more prisoners
- "In 2009 the National Audit Office felt obliged to report to the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts on what appeared to be irregular accounting practices at the newly-created EHRC"
- Recently, the EHRC also wasted £870,000 on an inoperable website
- There are concerns about the level of pay for senior employees of the EHRC: "The Commissioners are paid for approved duties at the rate of £500 per day, with a maximum number of days permitted ranging from 3.5 days per week for [Trevor] Phillips as Chair, down to 20-30 days per year for the other Commissioners". Phillips receives £112,000 for his three-and-a-half days.
- The expenses available are extensive: "There is an allowance of 40p a mile for the first 10,000 miles of car use, of 20p a mile for pedal bicycle use; and a variety of accommodation expenses, including one of £25 if staying overnight with a friend"
- The Chair of the EHRC, Trevor Phillips (pictured), is allowed a car and driver.
Finally, the report recommends abolishing the Equality and Human Rights Commission, because the EHRC contributes little to equality in Britain, it would save money, could be thrown on the government's "bonfire of the quangos", and it would present an opportunity to address real equality and human rights issues, which are inadequately represented by the existing Commission.