Theresa May, the Home Secretary, warned the Chancellor that his emergency Budget ran a “real risk” of breaking equality laws by disproportionately hurting women.
Mrs May wrote to George Osborne to say the Treasury was in danger of breaching laws requiring departments to consider the impact of policies on women, pensioners, ethnic minorities and the disabled, it is reported.
Mrs May’s letter, written in her capacity as equalities minister, warned there was a “real risk of successful legal challenges”, according to a report in the Daily Mail.
She wrote to the Chancellor a fortnight before his emergency Budget, in June .
Campaigners say the package of austerity measures will hit women particularly hard because billions of pounds have been cut from child benefit, child tax credits, maternity support and child trust funds.
In addition, women are also more likely to be in lower paid jobs or looking after elderly relatives and are worse hit by cuts in housing benefit and carers’ allowances.
An ‘equality audit’ by Yvette Cooper, Labour’s work and pensions spokesman, found women would bear more than 70 per cent of the £8bn cuts.
Equality campaign group, The Fawcett Society, has already filed a legal challenge to the Budget .
However, the Treasury told the Daily Mail it was confident that it had met its obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and said it was still considering its response to the court action.
In her letter, Mrs May said she agreed with the objective of spending cuts, but added: “There are real risks that women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and older people will be disproportionately affected.
“Women, for instance, make up a higher number of public workers and all four groups use public services more. The majority of those in receipt of tax credits and welfare payments are also from these groups.
“If there are no processes in place to show that equality issues have been taken into account in relation to particular decisions there is a real risk of successful legal challenges.”
Ceri Goddard, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, told the newspaper: ‘There is a point of principle here.
“The question is had the Government followed the proper process, would Parliament have voted for the Budget? If they had known that 72 per cent of the cuts would be borne by women, would they have voted for the Budget?”