BNP may be in breach of anti-discrimination law

By agency reporter
23 Jun 2009

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today written to the British National Party (BNP) over possible breaches of anti-discrimination law.

The Commission has demanded that the party address potential breaches related to its constitution and membership criteria, employment practices and provision of services to the public and constituents.

The letter, sent to the party chairman Nick Griffin, outlines the Commission’s concerns about the BNP’s compliance with the Race Relations Act. The letter asks the BNP to provide written undertakings by 20th July that it will make the changes required by the Commission. Failure to do so may result in the Commission issuing an application for a legal injunction against the BNP.

The Commission has a statutory duty, under the Equality Act 2006, to enforce the provisions of the Act and to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination. This duty includes preventing discrimination by political parties.

The Commission thinks that the BNP’s constitution and membership criteria may discriminate on the grounds of race and colour, contrary to the Race Relations Act. The party’s membership criteria appear to restrict membership to those within what the BNP regards as particular “ethnic groups” and those whose skin colour is white. This exclusion is contrary to the Race Relations Act with which the party is legally obliged to comply. The Commission therefore thinks that the BNP may have acted, and be acting, illegally.

The Commission has required the BNP to provide a written undertaking that it will not discriminate contrary to the Race Relations Act in its employment and recruitment policies, procedures and practices.

The BNP’s website states that the party is looking to recruit people and states that any applicants should supply a membership number. The Commission thinks that this requirement is contrary to the Race Relations Act, which outlaws the refusal or deliberate omission to offer employment on the basis of non-membership of an organisation. The Commission is therefore concerned that the BNP may have acted, and be acting, illegally.

The letter asks the BNP to provide a written undertaking that it will amend its policy on recruitment accordingly so that it complies with the Race Relations Act.

The Commission is also concerned that the BNP’s elected representatives may not intend to offer or provide services on an equal basis to all their constituents and members of the public, irrespective of race or colour. The Commission thinks that this contravenes the Race Relations Act and the Local Authority Model Code of Conduct and that the BNP may have acted illegally and may act illegally in the future.

The Commission’s letter asks the BNP to provide a written undertaking that its elected representatives or those working for them will not discriminate on grounds of race or colour in the provision of services to members of the public or constituents.

John Wadham, Group Director Legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “The Commission’s statutory role includes a duty to investigate possible breaches of discrimination law and take action where appropriate. The legal advice we have received indicates that the British National Party’s constitution and membership criteria, employment practices and provision of services to constituents and the public may breach discrimination laws which all political parties are legally obliged to uphold. We await a response from the BNP to our letter before deciding what further action we may take. Litigation or enforcement action can be avoided by the BNP giving a satisfactory response to our letter.”

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