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Volume 811: debated on Monday 15 March 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March, what steps they are taking to tackle (1) institutional, and (2) structural, racism in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, this Government campaigned on commitments to tackle prejudice, racism and discrimination. That is why the Prime Minister established the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities last July, to examine all aspects of continuing racial and ethnic disparities in Britain. The commission has focused on areas including education, employment, health and the criminal justice system. The commission is currently finalising its report; this will be submitted to the Prime Minister shortly.

My Lords, Covid-19 has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. This disease has laid bare and exacerbated racial structural inequalities. Does the Minister agree that, when the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities reports in a few days’ time, it must include a Covid-19 race equality strategy, to comprehensively deal with inequalities in health, employment, education and housing?

My Lords, on 26 February we released a second report on the progress being made on tackling Covid-19 disparities experienced by individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds. I am sure this will be part of the outcomes of the commission that the Prime Minister will shortly receive.

My Lords, given the spotlight put on the levels of racism still found across all levels of society—public, private, civil society and institutions—will the Government, following the review, also review their own processes across Whitehall in order to root out all barriers that prevent people of colour accessing the same opportunities as their white colleagues? There seems to be a gap between those coming in at entry level and at senior and middle management. Will my noble friend meet with me and others who understand these issues very well, as someone who has had personal experience herself, to help shift the dial?

My noble friend is correct, but the Government are campaigning on their commitments to tackle racism and discrimination. They are committed to increasing ethnic minority representation at senior levels within the Civil Service, across all government departments and their agencies. We have taken a number of clear steps in recent years that are already having a very positive impact. I am certainly very happy to discuss a meeting with my noble friend and the department.

My Lords, 22 years ago Sir William Macpherson declared the Metropolitan Police to be institutionally racist and the law was changed, but little has changed. The Guardian editorial today, in the light of Saturday’s grossly over-the-top and aggressive use of police power against women, states:

“The commissioner declared the service no longer institutionally racist, while a surge in stop and search has alienated many people of colour … this weekend, many more women and men are questioning whom exactly the police serve.”

Is it not time to abandon the unaccountable notion of operational independence and direct the police to abandon racist practices, notably stop and search?

My Lords, there was obviously, in the last few years, a large report on racism within the police. However, we will continue to work on this, and the commission will continue to look at what more we can do to ensure that all the systems—education, policing et cetera—have no racism in the future.

My Lords, the Office for National Statistics analysis in October 2020 showed that the ethnicity pay gap between white and ethnic minority employees has narrowed but persists, with marked regional variations. The largest is in London, at 23.8%, and the smallest is in Wales, at 1.4%. There are also gaps between ethnicities. Will the Minister consider amending legislation to impose a duty on employers to report the ethnicity pay gaps in parallel to those under Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010 in respect of the gender pay gap?

My Lords, the Government are already looking at this issue and will report in due course. However, the important thing to note is that because of the pandemic we look at unemployment among all the people of this country, and for that aim there has been a £30 billion investment in the Plan for Jobs, which obviously will include looking at the issues that ethnic minorities have in particular.

Institutional and structural racism is real and affects every aspect of black and minority ethnic people’s lives. A recent report showed that black women are still four times more likely than white women to die in pregnancy or childbirth in the UK, and that 85% of black people are not confident that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police. The Government seem to be taking a rather piecemeal approach. Will they take their responsibilities seriously, bring forward a plan for a comprehensive race equality strategy and, in doing so, implement the outstanding recommendations of the reviews that they commissioned, such as the 2016 Lammy review and the 2017 Angiolini review into deaths in police custody?

My Lords, the race disparity unit has been supporting the Department of Health in driving positive actions in maternity services to improve, quite rightly, the outcomes for ethnic minority women, including the NHS Help Us Help You campaign. As I have said, the commission will bring all these issues together and we will look at moving that work forward on the back of all those reviews that we have had in the past, taking them all into account.

My noble friend Lady Lawrence’s recent report exploring the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus crisis on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities concluded that the virus has both exposed structural racism in the UK and itself fuelled racism. It was not just a random case of above-average infection rates; it was a result of decades of social and economic inequalities and of structural injustice, inequality and discrimination. When do the Government intend to publish the delayed report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities that was submitted to the Prime Minister on 28 February?

As I have said, the commission has one final meeting to finalise its report. After that, the report will go to the Prime Minister and then it will come back for us to look at its recommendations.

My Lords, David Baddiel’s latest book is called Jews Dont Count. Bigotry against Jews and Israel is rampant in our universities, from the top of the administrations through the academics to the students, as evidenced by the Community Security Trust. The problem is institutional—for example, at Bristol University right now. The Universities UK report last November on racial harassment ignored it. Will the Minister make sure that the Office for Students uses its current consultation on harassment on campus to bring forward plans to address anti-Semitism?

My Lords, in reality there is only one race: the human race. What steps are the Government taking to address the fact that, for the first time in six years, there are currently no chairmen or chairwomen, chief executives or finance directors in the FTSE 100 from the black community?

My Lords, this issue is something that the Government have been working on with the private sector for a long time and will continue to do so, particularly on increasing the number of ethnic communities that are at the top of those organisations.

My Lords, will my noble friend commend the work done to combat racism and discrimination in football through Kick It Out campaigning? I know the Government are supportive. Will she lend support to the many clubs campaigning to end discrimination, such as my own club, Leicester City?

My Lords, I congratulate Leicester City on being third in the league and on their 5-0 win yesterday. My noble friend is right: racism or indeed any form of discrimination has no place in football or society, but there is still more to do. The Government continue to liaise closely with the football authorities to tackle this issue.