Buckingham Palace: We comply with the Equality Act ‘in principle & in practice’

As we discussed yesterday, the Guardian has been doing a series of investigative/historical reports on “the Queen’s Consent,” an arcane political procedure in which the British monarch – in this case, Queen Elizabeth, can work behind the scenes to influence parliamentary procedures and the laws and proposals made by the government. Basically, the Queen and her courtiers can influence or refuse to give their consent to certain issues. Buckingham Palace has used the Queen’s Consent to hide Liz’s massive personal fortune and ensure that it is largely free of being taxed. Liz also used the Queen’s Consent to ensure that Buckingham Palace would be exempt from British laws prohibiting racial discrimination. Here’s more on that:

In the late 1960s, the Labour government sought to eradicate racism by expanding the racial discrimination laws, which only banned racism in public places, so that they also banned discrimination in employment or services such as housing. But the Queen and her household have been excluded from those laws, which has made it impossible for women and ethnic minorities working for Buckingham Palace to complain to the courts if they believe they have been discriminated against.

Any complaints would have been referred to the Home Secretary instead of the courts. It is understood these clauses remain in place to this day.

In 1968, then Home Secretary James Callaghan and Home Office officials appeared to believe they should not request Queen’s Consent for Parliament to debate the Race Relations Bill until her advisers were satisfied it could not be enforced against her in the courts. Written memos reveal how in February of that year, Lord Tyron, the Queen’s chief financial manager, told Home Office civil servant TG Weiler ‘it was not, in fact, the practice to appoint coloured immigrants or foreigners’ to clerical roles in the royal household, but that they were permitted to work as domestic servants.

Weiler, who summarised the discussions, said Tryon had told them the Palace was prepared to comply with the proposed law, but only if it enjoyed similar exemptions to those provided to the diplomatic service, which could reject job applicants who had been resident in the UK for less than five years.

According to Weiler, Tryon considered staff in the Queen’s household to fall into one of three types of roles: ‘(a) senior posts, which were not filled by advertising or by any overt system of appointment and which would presumably be accepted as outside the scope of the bill; (b) clerical and other office posts, to which it was not, in fact, the practice to appoint coloured immigrants or foreigners; and (c) ordinary domestic posts for which coloured applicants were freely considered, but which would in any event be covered by the proposed general exemption for domestic employment.’

Weiler wrote: ‘They were particularly concerned that if the proposed legislation applied to the Queen’s household it would for the first time make it legally possible to criticise the household.

The phrasing suggests that Mr Callaghan and officials believed it might not be possible to obtain the Queen’s Consent for Parliament to debate the racial equality law unless the monarch was assured of her exemption.

[From The Daily Mail]

“Any complaints would have been referred to the Home Secretary instead of the courts. It is understood these clauses remain in place to this day.” Meaning, I believe, that Buckingham Palace is still given a special legal categorization where if they do happen to employ a person of color (or a woman, or both) and the person is treated poorly, the person has few legal remedies and zero path to sue the palace for racial discrimination or harassment. It’s also likely that BP still operates under their own separate set of rules and are not required to comply with any and all anti-discrimination hiring practices. To this day. So, BP responded (finally) and their response was not good:

“Claims based on a second-hand account of conversations from over 50 years ago should not be used to draw or infer conclusions about modern-day events or operations,” a spokesman for the palace said. “The principles of Crown Application and Crown Consent are long established and widely known. The royal household and the Sovereign comply with the provisions of the Equality Act, in principle and in practice. This is reflected in the diversity, inclusion and dignity at work policies, procedures and practices within the royal household. Any complaints that might be raised under the act follow a formal process that provides a means of hearing and remedying any complaint.”

[From ABC News]

“The royal household and the Sovereign comply with the provisions of the Equality Act, in principle and in practice…” But… are they legally required to do so? Because that’s one of the issues – without the government mandating BP’s compliance with the Equality Act, it’s little more than a toothless gesture. Which is what the Guardian’s report said – Buckingham Palace threw their weight around to ensure that there would be no government oversight into the palace’s compliance with the law, and they used the Queen’s Consent to ensure that there would be a separate procedure in cases where people of color tried to complain about their treatment. As we’ve seen time and again, the palace does employ people of color as domestic staff and not office staff. As we’ve seen repeatedly, to this day, the Queen’s office staff (the “courtiers”) are made up of white men. So where is the legal compliance with the Equality Act?

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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