Firms should ‘make trains accessible for disabled people or lose franchise’
Thinktank urges Britain to take lead on human rights Misogyny should become a hate crime, says report
Rail operators should be stripped of franchises if they don’t meet standards for making their services accessible for disabled people, a leading Conservative thinktank has argued in a report outlining a vision for human rights after Brexit.
It is among about 70 recommendations around discrimination and rights in a publication by Bright Blue, an influential voice for liberal Tory ideas, which argues the UK should not neglect such ideas once it leaves the European Union. Among other ideas is that police services should classify offences prompted by misogyny as hate crimes, and that it should be a criminal offence to breach a domestic violence protection order.
The report says police forces should be forced to take positive action to ensure their workforce “mirrors the ethnic makeup of their communities they serve”, and that the Home Office should sack chief police officers if their force fails to reduce the number of stop and searches.
The year-long inquiry – which also argues Britain should stay in the European court of human rights after Brexit – was advised by a five-strong panel, among them three Tory MPs and former ministers: Maria Miller, Dominic Grieve and Caroline Spelman. The authors argue that given Theresa May’s stated commitment to social reform, it was important to take a lead on such issues as Brexit approaches.
“Britain is the home of human rights and a global force for good,” said Ryan Shorthouse, director of Bright Blue and one of the report’s authors. “After Brexit, Britain should not just be a global leader in free trade, but in human rights too.”
The recommendations cover areas of discrimination including gender, race, sexuality and disability. In the latter section the report says the government should create a set of minimum requirements for disability access at railway stations and on trains, with companies who failed to meet them at risk of losing their franchises. It also says firms should be given an incentive to employ people with disabilities by scrapping employers’ national insurance contributions for any who earn less than about £850 a week.
Shortly after she took power, May announced what she called an audit on how people from minority ethnic groups interact with public services, among them police. But last week it emerged this would be delayed until the autumn.
The Bright Blue report urges a series of measures to improve police relations with minority ethnic communities, overseen by a newly created police diversity champion, and the obligation on police forces to show annual declines in stop and search operations, which May as home secretary warned tended to disproportionately target minority ethnic groups.
On gender issues, the authors recommend the classification of misogynybased offences as hate crimes and “gender-blind recruitment procedures” for civil service jobs.
A final section recommends that the Department for International Trade should ensure post-Brexit trade deals include “obligations to improve human rights in the partner countries”.
The Tory MPs on the panel – who, the report stresses, do not necessarily endorse every idea suggested – said it was time for a serious discussion about such issues.
“At a time when we are moving towards Brexit it is of particular importance that the UK should be at the forefront of promoting human rights, an area where we are seen to have already made a major contribution,” Grieve said.
The report says rail operators should be set minimum standards for access