The government does not believe it has a responsibility to create a "fairer society", Labour has claimed following Home Secretary Theresa May's decision to scrap part of the Equality Act 2010.
On 18 November 2010, shadow equalities minister Fiona Mactaggart condemned the decision and claimed the government "just doesn't care about socio-economic inequality".
But equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said the government believed in "real action" rather than "empty gestures".
Asked to explain the decision in the Commons in response to an urgent question, Ms Featherstone said: "You do not need new laws to come up with policies that open up opportunities and you do not need new laws to come up with policies that support and protect the most vulnerable."
She added: "All the policy would have been was a bureaucratic box to tick, another form to fill in.
"It would have distracted hard-pressed council staff and other public sector workers away from coming up with the right policies that will make a real difference to people's chances in life."
Ms Featherstone told the Commons: "We believe that real action should be taken in order to address the root causes of disadvantage and inequality.
"You don't need empty gestures and you don't need the socio-economic duty to do that."
Ms Mactaggart said: "Isn't it true this government just doesn't care about socio-economic inequality?"
She told Ms Featherstone: "You said you cannot deliver inequality by legislation but the simple truth is that the government doesn't believe it has any responsibility to deliver a fairer society."