Skip to main content

Equal Opportunities (Ethnicity)

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 22 March 2007

20. What guidance she issues to other Government Departments on the use of ethnicity as a factor in decision making. (128969)

The Commission for Racial Equality, on behalf of the Government, issues guidance to public authorities on meeting their obligations under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The commission issued a statutory code of practice in 2002 on the steps that public authorities can and should take to meet those obligations.

My constituents who work at Her Majesty’s Prison Service office at Crown house in Corby are disgusted that the Prison Service should cite as one of the key influencing factors for trying to relocate the office to Leicester the perceived ability to recruit a more diverse work force there. In other words, my constituents are being told that they are too white and too British. Will the Minister undertake to ensure that the Commission for Racial Equality issues guidelines to the Home Office and its quangos to say that the Home Office should recruit people on the basis of their ability to do the job, and not the colour of their skin?

Of course, the hon. Gentleman has raised that issue before with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who is here on the Front Bench now. The issue, as I understand it, is that there was no alternative to relocation. The building in which the current staff worked was being sold, so there was a need to look at other locations. There was a comprehensive consultation of staff to consider a range of issues that had to be addressed, and the hon. Gentleman’s portrayal is not accurate or true, so he should reconsider his position.

May I confirm that there are lots of white British people in Leicester, and say that we welcome the relocation of those jobs to the city? On the wider point, the Minister is abolishing the Commission for Racial Equality. What discussions has she had with the Lord Chancellor about the Carter proposals, which will have a huge impact on the number of ethnic minority firms doing legal aid work?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments about the city of Leicester, and I pay tribute to his representation of all his constituents, whatever their ethnic background. Issues relating to the employment and representation of people from ethnic minorities will be taken over by the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, and guidance will continue to be available on a range of issues, including that raised by the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone). It is a factor to be taken into consideration, but the notion that it is the only factor in any relocation or change is nonsense.

I was surprised that the Minister did not mention the report by the Equal Opportunities Commission entitled “Moving on up? Ethnic minority women at work”, which paints a dismal picture of the situation facing black and Asian women. What specific advice has she given the Department of Trade and Industry so that it can support firms that want to break down the barriers and employ more black and Asian women, but find it difficult to do so?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I am sure that if I tried to mention everything, you would have words to say about the length of my answer, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, the hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to that report, which identifies the fact that ethnic minority women, many of whom do better than their counterparts, still have great difficulty finding employment. I am pleased to say that this is not just a matter of my giving advice to the Department of Trade and Industry, as it has long had a committee that looks into such issues and seeks to ensure that exactly what he described takes place. We are beginning to see progress, although it is not fast enough, and we want to see more.