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Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, has published the final report from its year-long inquiry into human rights and discrimination, which is headed by a commission of three former Conservative Cabinet Ministers.

The final report from Bright Blue’s one-year Conservatism and human rights inquiry provides about 70 policy recommendations for the new Conservative Government’s social reform agenda.

The final report offers ideas on: measures to reduce all forms of discrimination in education and employment, especially gender and disability discrimination; strengthen social integration for religious and ethnic minorities; defend human rights protections in the UK, including for asylum applicants and those suffering from modern slavery; and promoting human rights overseas, including through the UK’s international development budget and policy towards refugees.

To improve women’s rights and protections, Bright Blue recommends:

  • A ban on the detention of pregnant women should be introduced.

  • All police services should follow the lead of Nottinghamshire Police and classify all instances of misogyny as hate crimes.

  • Sharia councils should be prohibited to conduct Islamic marriages if the couple has not previously obtained a civil marriage certificate.

  • The Government should legislate to make it a criminal offence for medical practitioners to knowingly not report an incident of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to the police.

  • The breach of a Domestic Violence Protection Order should become a criminal offence.

  • All advertised jobs in the civil service and government agencies, including senior civil service roles, should have gender-blind recruitment procedures.

  • Remove the requirement for employees to have worked for 26 continuous weeks with their current employer before having the right to request flexible working. Instead, when someone is offered a job, they should have the right to request flexible working.

  • All expectant mothers should be given the right to paid leave to attend antenatal appointments with a healthcare professional.

  • Government should abolish employment tribunal fees for all basic-rate taxpayers.

To reduce discrimination against Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people, Bright Blue recommends:

  • Government should mandate that all police forces should introduce positive action in the recruitment of police officers to ensure their workforce mirrors the ethnic makeup of their communities they serve.
  • Government should legislate to give the Home Office the power to require police forces to show annual declines in the number of stop and searches. The Home Office should have the power to remove the relevant chief police officer if certain targets are not met.

  • The Home Office requires all Police Services to ensure all of their officers wear body worn cameras when interacting with the public.

  • The Government should introduce ‘Anti-Discrimination Agreements’ with Higher Education Institutes, based on the currently used Access Agreements, which aim to widen access to Higher Education Institutes. All Higher Education Institutes charging above £6,000 in tuition fees would be required to compile and sign-up to an Anti-Discrimination Agreement, setting out how Higher Education Institutes would safeguard students, especially women and BME students, from discrimination

  • We recommend that The Office for Fair Access (and its replacement, the Office for Students) should require all Higher Education Institutes to disaggregate the participation levels of different ethnic groups in their Access Agreements.

  • All advertised jobs in the civil service and government agencies, including senior civil service roles, should have name-blind recruitment procedures.

To reduce improve outcomes for disabled people, Bright Blue recommends:

  • Employers National Insurance Contributions (NICs) on each disabled person an employer hires should be scrapped, permanently. This should be done in line with the reforms introduced for employers of young apprentices in 2016, so an employer will not pay employers NIC on any disabled employee earning under gross £866 a week.

  • All local authorities should be required to permit a disabled person to be accompanied by a compassion for free when using the National Concessionary Travel Scheme.

  • The Government should design a number of minimum requirements for disability access on rail travel and writes these into future franchise agreements. Train Operating Companies who failed to meet these minimum requirements would risk being stripped of their franchise agreement.

  • All local authorities should be required to permit a disabled person to be accompanied by a companion for free when using the National Concessionary Travel Scheme.

  • All new dwellings in all local authorities should be required to meet more stringent standards for disability access. Specifically, M4(2) of the building regulations.

To provide greater equality for LGBT+ people, Bright Blue recommends:

  • All state schools should be required to establish anonymous, online reporting systems for all forms of bullying in schools.

  • We recommend that the Government should establish and promote a new national LGBT kitemark scheme for employers.

  • We recommend that all police services – including the British Transport Police – introduce a discrete reporting system so that individuals can report hate crimes as they are happening. This could be in the form of a text messaging service (SMS), website or mobile app.

  • We recommend that the Government amend the Equality Act 2010, replacing ‘gender reassignment’ with ‘gender identity’ to ensure all transgender people are protected.

To champion human rights overseas, Bright Blue recommends:

  • The Department for International Trade should ensure that trade deals, where possible, include obligations to improve human rights in the partner countries.
  • In the Brexit negotiations, the Government should prioritise proposing continuing to fund the European Development Fund as a positive, but conditional, offer.

  • DFID should be required to match the funding provided by the FCO to the Magna Carta Fund each year.

  • Government should commit to ensuring that at least 10% of the Syrian refugees that are taken in under the UK’s Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme are Christians. This would mean that Christians from Syria are receiving fair, not special, treatment in the UK’s refugee system.

  • Government should introduce a new legal resettlement route for Christian refugees worldwide with the total numbers admitted determined by Government with advice from the new Human Rights Advisory Committee.

  • The UK Government should appoint a Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion and belief overseas.

  • Any individual or organisation should be given the right to seek to persuade a High Court judge to determine that the UK Government should seize the UK assets of a human rights abuser.

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

“Britain is the home of human rights and a global force for good. After Brexit, Britain should not just be a global leader in free trade, but in human rights too.

“In this country, too many people are held back in education and employment because of who they are rather than what they do. As part of its social reform agenda, the new Conservative Government can and should be more ambitious in smashing the barriers, including discrimination, which prevent too many individuals from flourishing in life.”

Commenting, the Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Bright Blue’s human rights commissioner, said:

“Workplace changes over the past decade have not always translated into improvements for British mums. Over the past 10 years levels of maternity related discrimination have doubled and some pregnant working women now don’t even have the right to paid leave to attend ante-natal medical appointments to safeguard their baby’s health.

“These recommendations from Bright Blue could help re-shape attitudes toward pregnant women at work and create a long overdue culture change which better reflects this country’s laws, values and beliefs.”

Commenting, the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, Bright Blue’s human rights commissioner, said:

“I am very pleased to see the publication of this report by Bright Blue which makes a serious contribution to developing ideas to improve human rights in our country.

“At a time when we are moving towards Brexit it is of particular importance that the UK should be at the forefront of promoting human rights, an area where we are seen to have already made a major contribution that has benefited all humanity.

“The proposals for promoting social integration for minorities and removing discrimination will be of value in strengthening the rights of the individual and underpinning a liberal and tolerant society. They are also very much in the Conservative tradition.”