Current Affairs

Follett named Equality Minister as new office established

Tony Grew July 27, 2007
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Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced a shake-up of the machinery of government with regards to equality.

He informed the House of Commons yesterday that the Women and Equality Unit, currently part of the Department for Communities and Local Government, will move to the Department for Work and Pensions as part of a new Government Equalities Office.

The Women and Equality Unit was instrumental in pushing forward gay rights legislation such as civil partnerships and protections at work and in goods and services for LGB people.

Its head, former Stonewall director Angela Mason OBE, is leaving the government to take up an advisory role with the Improvement Development Agency.

The Prime Minister confirmed that Harriet Harman, Leader of the House of Commons, will be responsible for the Equalities Office at Cabinet as Secretary of State for Equality.

He named Barbara Follett as Minister of Equality in addition to her role as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions. She is also Minister for the East of England.

Ms Follett, 64, the MP for Stevenage since 1997, is married to author Ken Follett.

Alan Wardle, head of parliamentary and public affairs at Stonewall, welcomed the announcement.

“I think the most important thing for equality is the politician who is driving it and not structures,” he told

“Harriet Harman has a strong record on equality across the board, including support for lesbian and gay people.”

Ms Harman addressed the crowd at this year’s London Pride celebrations in Trafalgar Square, committing herself to advancing lesbian, gay and bisexual rights.

Lead Cabinet minister on community cohesion, race and faith issues is Hazel Blears, while Peter Hain takes the lead on disability issues.

Baroness Ashton, the Leader of the House of Lords, will cover the whole Equalities agenda in the Lords.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Ed Miliband will chair a government sub-committee on Communities and Equality to bring together ministers to discuss equality policy.

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