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

The Guardian - - NEWS - Pe­ter Walker Po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent

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

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