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An Absolute Duty: Equal Opportunities and the National Assembly
for Wales - A Study of the Equality Policies of the Welsh Assembly Government and their Implementation: July 1999 to March 2002
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Introduction to the Project

Wales has a poor historical record in respect of equality of opportunity. The axes of contemporary inequality are social, cultural, economic and political. Women, disabled people, members of ethnic minority communities and other groups have long been under- represented and marginalised in the practices, procedures and culture of government. Thus, for example, prior to 1997, Welsh constituencies had only ever returned four women MPs to Westminster. Whilst in the Welsh Office, a significant number of staff had received no training or awareness raising at all on equality. This study focuses on attempts to tackle inequality at all levels of society following recent measures to modernise government. Specifically, it explores the nature and impact of a unique legal innovation; the Welsh Assembly’s unparalleled statutory duty to, ‘make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that its functions are exercised with due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people’. This report covers the period between July 1999 and March 2002. It has three aims:

To establish whether a distinctive equality agenda has emerged over the first two-and-half years of the Assembly’s lifetime.

To establish the impact of the Assembly’s statutory duties in respect of equality of opportunity.

To learn lessons for the rest of the UK, specifically on the merits of legislation for a public duty to promote equality across the UK.


Methodology

This study is informed by past and present academic research. It presents an analysis of semi-structured interviews with politicians and officials in the National Assembly as well as an examination of the policies and practices of the Government of the National Assembly for Wales. Interviews and a focus group have been conducted with managers of Assembly Sponsored Public Bodies (ASPBs – formerly ‘quangos’), the statutory equality commissions, Welsh Local Government, NHS Wales, Assembly sponsored equality organizations, and members of groups representing women, disabled people and
people from ethnic minorities.

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[Introduction to the project]
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