Press release

Socio-economic duty to be scrapped

Theresa May has today announced that the socio-economic duty, which was created as part of the 2010 Equality Act, will be scrapped.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality Theresa May has today announced that the socio-economic duty, which was created as part of the 2010 Equality Act, will be scrapped.

The announcement came as the Home Secretary outlined a radical new approach to equalities that rejects political correctness and social engineering.

In a speech at the Coin Street Community Centre in south London, the Home Secretary announced plans to tackle inequality by treating people as individuals rather than labelling them in groups, and ending the top-down approach that saw Whitehall trying to impose equality from above.

The speech also underlined the Government’s ongoing commitment to equality and fairness. This included the Home Secretary announcing that a measure in the Freedom Bill will allow people who were prosecuted for having consensual gay sex at a time when this was illegal to apply to have their convictions deleted from criminal records.

Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality Theresa May said: ‘Equality has become a dirty word because it has come to be associated with the worst aspects of pointless political correctness and social engineering. 

‘Just look at the socio-economic duty. In reality, it would have been just another bureaucratic box to be ticked. It would have meant more time filling in forms and less time focusing on policies that will make a real difference to people’s life chances.

‘We need to move away from this old approach and make equalities work for everyone. We need equalities policy to work with the grain of human nature, not against it. Legislation on its own is not enough. Government will no longer dictate how people should behave. Instead we will put in place an architecture to support business and wider society to do the right thing.’

Instead of issuing top-down targets, the new approach will see the Government  encouraging greater transparency so that the public have the power to hold organiations to account. Instead of trying to engineer equal outcomes for all, the Government will, in line with its commitment to fairness, seek to create a level playing field where everyone has equal access to opportunity.

Up to 12,000 men will be treated more fairly thanks to the changes relating to convictions for consesual gay sex with over 16s. Until 1967 gay sex was illegal and many men who were convicted in the 1960s can now find themselves unable to volunteer with some charities because criminal record checks show they have been convicted of a ‘sexual offence.’

The Freedom Bill, due to be published in January next year, will change the law so that people can apply to have such convictions deleted from the Police National Computer. 

Media enquiries

For further details on the new approach to equalities and the socio-economic duty contact the Government Equalities Press Office on 020 7035 3245.

For further details on changes to convictions for gay sex, contact the Home Office press office on 020 7035 3535.

Notes to editors

You can read the full speech on the Home Office website:

Clause One of the 2010 Equality Act created the power for the Secretary of State to introduce the socio-economic duty. The duty has not yet been introduced and, following today’s announcement, it will not be introduced and the Government will look into repealing the law that allowed for its creation

The duty stated: ‘An authority to which this section applies must, when making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise its functions, have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.’

Updates to this page

Published 17 November 2010