Today the Bank of England responded to the legal challenge under the 2010 Equality Act regarding their decision to replace the only woman on our banknotes other than the Queen, with yet another white man.
As a reminder of their duty under the Equality Act, here is the relevant subsection 149(1):
“A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to –
(a) eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited under this Act;
(b) advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
(c) foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.”
The Bank of England claims that they have given due regard to these needs. However, they also claim, somewhat counterintuitively, that the choice of personages on banknotes is not an equality matter. In a demonstration that they do not understand the Equality Act, they also accuse us of not having demonstrated that this decision is discriminatory; we do not need to do this - the onus is on them to produce evidence that they have paid due regard to the Act's stipulations. We are having to take their word that they have done this, as they are refusing to provide any of the correspondence related to the decision, despite our requests for this documentation. I can think of no reason for them to refuse this other than their not having considered equality at all.
So in brief, the Bank of England thinks this doesn't matter, they claim to have considered equality anyway, but they also refuse to provide any evidence of having done so.
I will be taking advice from my lawyer, Louise Whitfield at Deighton Pierce Glynn, on how to proceed and I will be releasing a more considered response in due course. This statement is just to announce the Bank's decision.