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House of Commons Hansard
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Justice System: Causes of Racism
23 January 2020
Volume 670
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5. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on (a) tackling the causes of racism and racial disparities in the justice system and (b) promoting equality of opportunity. [900373]

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6. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on (a) tackling the causes of racism and racial disparities in the justice system and (b) promoting equality of opportunity. [900374]

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We are working across Government and with partners to tackle the over-representation of black and Asian people and those from other ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system, which we know has deep-rooted causes. That work includes taking forward the recommendations of the extensive, independent review by the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and developing a number of interventions, and it is all aimed at reducing disproportionality.

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The Home Office’s proposals to strengthen police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments have rightly been condemned for discriminating against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and for effectively criticising and criminalising their way of life. Those who have condemned the proposals include the Scottish Government Minister for Older People and Equalities; Friends, Families and Travellers; and Liberty. The Women and Equalities Committee has also looked at this issue. Given those concerns, will the Minister commit to conducting and publishing an equality impact assessment of the proposals?

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My Home Office colleagues are aware of this, and it is something they are considering.

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The Home Secretary was recently quoted as saying:

“I’m not in that category…where I believe there’s racism at all. I think we live in a great country, a great society, full of opportunity, where people of any background can get on in life.”

Does the Minister agree with the Home Secretary’s statement that there is no racism at all? If she does not, will she condemn those who deny that racism and inequality of opportunity exist?

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That is not my understanding of what the Home Secretary said, but let me be absolutely clear that this Government have regard to eliminating discrimination and advancing equality of opportunity in all our work. This approach informs regular engagement between Cabinet Ministers in relation to the justice system. This is something we take incredibly seriously.

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I pay tribute to the work of my predecessor in this role and a good friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley).

It is not just the Home Secretary who is in denial about racism. The racism to which it is easiest for us all to turn a blind eye is the insidious type, where often even the perpetrator does not realise what lies behind it. Is the Minister open to working with people like me and, more particularly, with black, Asian and minority ethnic MPs to raise awareness of unconscious racial bias and the devastating impact it has on the day-to-day lives of many of our citizens?

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I think it is deeply unfair to lecture the Home Secretary on discrimination. Let us be absolutely clear that this Government are committed to closing the opportunity gap in our society. We are determined to implement the policies needed for the UK to succeed as a nation. I work very closely with the right hon. Member for Tottenham, and the Ministry of Justice takes the issue of racial disparity very seriously.