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EU must not let Labour off hook for discrimination

March 8, 2009 6:19 PM
Baroness Ludford

DELGA Vice President Sarah Ludford MEP

London MEP Sarah Ludford, Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman, has for the third time pushed the European Commission, as the watchdog of compliance with EU laws, to challenge the UK's record in implementing a directive from 2000.

This generally outlaws discrimination at work on grounds of religion and sexual orientation as well as age and disability but has an opt-out allowing some limited discrimination to continue (see footnote). The Commission's latest reply says its analysis of UK transposition of the Directive 'is still on-going' but that it will if necessary 'use its powers to ensure compliance with the EC Treaty, should it find that the UK laws go beyond the exceptions allowed under that Directive'.

Sarah Ludford, who is Vice President of DELGA, commented: "It is vital to make clear where religious freedom ends and unlawful discrimination, begins. The Labour government has indulged religiously-based prejudice against lesbian and gay staff or those of the 'wrong' faith. I hope the Commission's cagey response is a signal that a crackdown is imminent. If not, they are allowing the UK to get away with a clear violation of EU equality rules"

Jonathan Fryer, London Lib Dem Euro-candidate, said: "The LGBT community in Britain fought long and hard over many years to achieve equal rights, which are being increasingly implemented across the EU. It is unacceptable that the British government is now trying to undermine the legal basis for hard-won protection on the spurious grounds of religious-based prejudice."