David Cameron has promised to “call time” on official tests to ensure that government policies comply with equality laws. “Equality impact assessments” were introduced by Labour to make sure officials took account of disability, gender and race in their decisions.
But the prime minister said there was too much “bureaucratic nonsense” and policy-makers should use “judgement” rather than “tick boxes”.
Labour called his decision a “joke”.
Equality impact assessments, introduced in the 2010 Equality Act, involve assessing “the likely or actual effects of policies or services on people in respect of disability, gender and racial equality”.
Supporters say they are essential to improving fairness, while opponents argue they are ineffective, expensive and time-consuming.
In a speech, the prime minister told the CBI conference in London that he wanted to reduce constraints on the public sector to help reinvigorate the economy.
He said there were too many “pointless reports” being produced, adding: “Take the Equality Act. It’s not a bad piece of legislation.
“But in government we have taken the letter of this law and gone way beyond it, with equality impact assessments for every decision we make.
“Let me be very clear. I care about making sure that government policy never marginalises or discriminates. I care about making sure we treat people equally.
“But let’s have the courage to say it: caring about these things does not have to mean churning out reams of bureaucratic nonsense.
“We have smart people in Whitehall who consider equalities issues while they’re making the policy. We don’t need all this extra tick-box stuff.”
Mr Cameron added: “So I can tell you today we are calling time on equality impact assessments.
“You no longer have to do them if these issues have been properly considered.
“That way policy-makers are free to use their judgement and do the right thing to meet the equalities duty rather than wasting their own time and taxpayers’ money.”
But, for Labour, shadow equalities minister Yvette Cooper said: “Under David Cameron millions are paying more while millionaires are getting a massive tax cut – women are being hit much harder than men with low-income working families and disabled families losing out badly.
“Now the prime minister wants to remove any requirement for the public sector to even think about equality and he wants to destroy the evidence that his decisions are widening the gap.
“This is even more proof of David Cameron’s personal blind spot on women and his lack of concern about the unfair impact of his policies. The idea we can leave equality to the ‘judgement’ of this prime minister and his cabinet with so few women is just a joke.”