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Race Disparity Audit

Volume 785: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2017


My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the First Secretary of State in another place. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, I wish to make a Statement about the race disparity audit, which the Government are publishing today through a new website—Ethnicity Facts and Figures—and a summary report, which I have ordered to be placed in the Library of the House. The audit was announced just over a year ago by the Prime Minister as part of her commitment to tackling injustices in society. This exercise has been unprecedented in scale, scope and transparency. It covers detailed data on around 130 different topics, from 12 government departments.

The first product of the audit is the website, which is created to be used by all citizens. It has been developed through extensive engagement with members of the public from across the UK, public service workers, NGOs and academics. I hope honourable Members will agree, once they have had the chance to examine it, that the website is clear and user-friendly. Each section of the website includes simple headlines and charts, and allows users to download all the underlying data.

Although the past few decades have witnessed great leaps forward in equality and opportunity in British society, this audit shows that there is much more still to do if we are to end racial injustice. In itself, that will sound to honourable Members like an unsurprising conclusion. However, the audit adds a lot more clarity and depth to that single challenge. It tells us in which public services there are the largest disparities, whether those are increasing over time or diminishing, and about the influence of poverty and gender on the wider picture. For example, black people were more than three times more likely than white people to be arrested and more than six times more likely to be stopped and searched.

There are three issues that demonstrate the added complexity of the data. First, there are significant differences in how ethnic minorities are doing in different parts of the country. For example, while employment rates are generally higher for white people than for ethnic minorities, there is a larger gap in the north than in the south. Also, if people are expecting a report that is relentlessly negative about the situation for ethnic minorities in Britain today, I am pleased to say that it is simply not the case that ethnic minorities universally have worse outcomes. For example, people of Indian and Pakistani origin have similar levels of homeownership to white people, though this is not true of other ethnic minorities. Secondly, on some measures there are very significant differences between ethnic minority groups. Education attainment data show there are disparities in primary school which increase in secondary school, with Asian pupils tending to perform well and white and black pupils doing less well, particularly those eligible for free school meals. Finally, on other measures, it is white British people who are experiencing the worst outcomes, for example in relation to self-harm and suicide in custody or smoking in teenagers.

In terms of what happens next, the data set out on the website present a huge challenge, not just to government, but also to business, public services and wider society. We hope this website will contribute to a better-informed public debate about ethnicity in the UK and support local managers of public services to ask how they compare to other services.

On behalf of the Government, I have committed to maintaining and extending the ethnicity facts and figures website. More importantly, I commit that government will take action with partners to address the ethnic disparities highlighted by the audit. We have made a start through initiatives such as the Department for Work and Pensions taking action in 20 targeted hotspots. Measures in these areas will include mentoring schemes to help those in ethnic minorities into work and traineeships for 16 to 24 year-olds offering English, maths and vocational training alongside work placements.

In the criminal justice system, I want to thank the right honourable Member for Tottenham for his recent report, and I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Justice will be taking forward a number of recommendations made in the recent Lammy review. These will include developing performance indicators for prisons to assess the equality of outcomes for prisoners of all ethnicities, committing to publish all criminal justice datasets held on ethnicity by default and working to ensure that our prison workforce is more representative of the country as a whole.

In addition, the Department for Education will take forward an external review to improve practice in exclusions. This will share best practice nationwide and focus on the experiences of those groups who are disproportionately likely to be excluded. The House can expect further announcements on future government work to follow in the coming months.

The approach the Government are taking is “explain or change”. Where significant disparities between ethnic groups cannot be explained by wider factors, we will commit ourselves to working with partners to change them. The race disparity audit provides an unprecedented degree of transparency into how ethnicity affects the experiences of citizens. It will be a resource which tells us how well we are doing as a society in ensuring that all can thrive and prosper, and I commend it to the House”.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating this Statement this afternoon. As he said, much more work needs to be done. It is good that we now have the Government’s race audit, although it is a shame it was delayed from its original release date in July. I am not sure why the Government made that decision to delay it.

The outcome of this race audit cannot come as a surprise to the Prime Minister. After all, in 2010 she wrote to the then Prime Minister that there is a real risk that women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and older people would be disproportionately affected by proposed cuts. But now, as Prime Minister, knowing full well the damage that would be caused by these cuts, she has said nothing to remedy the problems she foresaw as Home Secretary and has in fact made them worse.

We need solutions and a sustained effort to really tackle these injustices, and the Government are simply not yet providing those. I was pleased that the Minister mentioned the mentoring schemes. It is always good to have mentoring schemes for people, but we believe they are not ambitious enough. The closure of Sure Start centres and the closure of Connexions were mistakes made by this Government—knowing full well the disproportionate effect that these closures would have on groups with protected characteristics.

I have a number of questions for the Minister. Will he confirm how many groups and organisations were consulted as part of the race audit? Will he confirm whether there are plans to extend the audit’s analysis to devolved regions such as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? Can he confirm for the House what steps the Government will take to tackle the racial disparities exposed in this audit and other reports released recently? What is their timescale for taking action, and what framework will they be using to judge improvements?

In the last general election, Labour issued a manifesto to tackle problems of discrimination. We said we would introduce equal pay audit requirements on large employers, implement the Parker review recommendations to increase ethnic diversity on the boards of Britain’s largest companies, and enhance the powers and functions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is what we plan to do when we are in government.

I hope the Minister is able to provide us with answers to these questions today. We need a Government willing to take decisive action to tackle racial inequalities and I look forward to what the Minister has to say about how this audit will be implemented.

My Lords, this audit shines a light on the prejudice and bias that continue to blight the lives of black and ethnic minority members of our communities. It lays out the challenges we face as a society, which cross party lines. Mrs May, our Prime Minister, commissioned this audit and she cannot now shy away from tackling the causes, which are cuts to public services and a shrinking state. This comes alongside another report, by the Runnymede Trust, on the impact of austerity on black and minority ethnic women in the United Kingdom. It shows that BME households are being hardest hit by austerity, with a drop in living standards of 19.2% for black households and 20% for Asian households.

I have some questions for the Minister. Will each department be required to put forward a plan setting out why these disparities exist and how they will close the gap? What are the next steps? For example, will there be a Cabinet committee looking at this? Given the Prime Minister’s commitment to this cause, perhaps she might chair it herself. Finally, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s budget has been cut by almost 70% since it was created, and its current budget will be cut by a further 25% over the next four years. The Government are talking the talk by publishing this audit—but will they walk the walk and make available the resources to tackle these terrible problems that we face?

I am grateful to both noble Baronesses for their broad welcome of the publication of these statistics. On the question of the delay, no one has ever done this before and there was no template for us to follow. No other country has done this. It was a complicated exercise. We wanted to make sure that the data were of the right quality, and that has contributed to the delay from the hoped-for date earlier this year. We are taking steps to address some of the problems that have been mentioned, particularly the 20 hot spots, which we have not announced yet, where there will be special measures by the DWP to help those who find it difficult to get into work, such as mentoring, which the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, mentioned, traineeships and other steps to help people into work.

The noble Baroness asked a good question about the devolved regions. The Minister, my noble friend Lord Bourne, is meeting the devolved regions tomorrow. The initial indications are that the Welsh Assembly is quite anxious to participate but so far the Scottish Parliament has been somewhat more reluctant, as my right honourable friend said in another place. The devolved regions hold some of these statistics. We have provided only statistics for data that are reserved; the devolved Assembly and the Scottish Parliament have many of the local data. I very much hope that they will either join in this or take it forward in their own way. As I said, there is a meeting tomorrow to take this matter forward.

On the question of who was involved, the race disparity audit that was published at the same time said:

“Ongoing and wide-ranging consultation with potential users of data has helped identify questions of public interest and concern, and to understand how to present the data objectively and meaningfully in a way that makes sense to users and commands their confidence. This has included roundtable discussions with NGOs, public service providers and academics, and engagement with the public”.

So there was a fairly extensive consultation exercise before we published this.

In response to further questions that were asked, we expect there to be further announcements in due course from other government departments taking the agenda forward. In response to the noble Baroness from the Liberal Democrat Benches, there will be an interministerial group where all the departments involved will be represented to take it forward. The noble Baroness will be familiar with the Parker report, which looked at representation on executive boards, and we need to take that agenda forward. However, this is not just a matter for the Government; it also poses some difficult questions for those in the private sector.

“Explain or change” applies to the Government as much as to everyone else. We will have to explain why these figures are as they are. If there is not a good explanation then we will have to make changes, and we will come forward with those in due course.

My Lords, in the 1950s and 1960s it was perfectly legal to put adverts in shop windows saying, “No blacks or coloured people”. There has been a gradual improvement, but in the past few years here, in the United States and in much of Europe it has gone the other way. There is a lot of xenophobia, which was very evident in the Brexit debate. Does the Minister agree that to some extent that explains why we have this continuing problem?

The noble Lord is right to say that we in this country have made enormous progress. I was looking at the Equality and Human Rights Commission report Is Britain Fairer?, which says:

“The reader will find that Britain has become fairer in many areas. We should be proud of and celebrate these advances. If we do not recognise the positives, we run the risk of feeding an untrue and excessively negative narrative that suggests everywhere you look we are becoming more divided and less fair as a nation”.

I think there has been enormous change and improvement in social attitudes, underpinned by relevant race equality legislation. The noble Lord is right that there was a spike—I hope it was just a spike—after the referendum result, and that poses a challenge to all those government departments with responsibility for promoting good relationships. There is particular responsibility for the police on the law and order front. In publishing this document, we recognise that we have progress to make in a wide number of areas.

My Lords, I add my welcome for the publication of this report. Sunshine is often the best disinfectant, and bringing transparency to areas where more work needs to be done to tackle persistent inequality and prejudice is most welcome. I encourage the Government to develop a proactive agenda to tackle these issues. At the same time, there is some positive evidence in the report, particularly regarding the British Indian community, which comes top in a number of earnings and education indicators. For example, 35% of British Indians earn more than £1,000 a week, versus an average of 24% in that income bracket across the population; and 14% of British Indian children achieve three A grades or better at A-level. Does my noble friend agree that the British Indian community provides a role model for how a minority group can integrate successfully into British society and make a positive and outstanding contribution to this country?

I agree with my noble friend. One positive fact that emerged from this audit was that 85% of ethnic minority people believe that they are British and identify very strongly with their community. That is a very positive sign. My noble friend is right that in many of these indicators, the Indian community does well; but, by contrast, they reveal that the Bangladeshi community does not do nearly so well on many of the same indicators. We need to understand the reasons, address them and see whether we can bring those members of the ethnic minorities who do not achieve quite as well as the Indian community in the respect that my noble friend mentioned up to the same standard.

My Lords, although, let me be clear, the Church of England has nothing to teach anyone else on this subject—our record is not a good one—in the diocese of Chelmsford, where I serve, which includes the east London boroughs, which have some of the most diverse communities in Europe, we have found that of course there is racism and xenophobia but there is also what has been explained to me as unconscious bias. It is not quite the same as racism; it is those things which prevent us from seeing each other as clearly as we need to. Both in the Church of England generally and in the diocese where I serve, we have done a lot of training over the past couple of years to help people to see their own unconscious bias towards people, and this is already bearing fruit in the church context with black and global majority people coming forward into positions. I wondered whether the Government had looked at that both for us and in wider society to try to move the debate on beyond the binary thing of, “Somebody is a racist or they are not”.

I welcome the work which the right reverend Prelate has been doing in east London, in his diocese. If there is a template there, a model of working which can have wider application, of course the Government would be interested. One thing that I discovered from going on to the website this morning, which I had not appreciated before, is that black people are disproportionately more likely to engage in voluntary work than any other group. If one digs into the audit, there is a lot of good news there about ethnic minorities, which I hope we can now put in a wider domain. If we can build on the good work that the Church has done in east London and apply it to some other areas where there are big ethnic minority populations, the Government would be delighted.

My Lords, congratulations have already been received by the Government on publishing this race disparity audit. It has been well presented and the Prime Minister has done the country a good service. I understand from inside information that, of the 25 people around the Cabinet table this morning, there was only one under 40 years of age. It would be interesting to see the list of those who attended the Cabinet discussion this morning and to know why there was only one person under 40, given that some of the information made available to the newspapers reveals that many of the key factors affect those under 30. Does it indicate whether the Government’s relationships with people under the age of 30 may need a little enhancement and support to ensure that this race equality audit is put into place?

As the Minister referred to the fact that he looked at the audit this morning, perhaps he could also tell the House whether it says anything about the race profiling undertaken by customs officers, border control and police services. Although that may not necessarily relate to education or employment, it is infuriating, especially for black people, who find themselves consistently stopped, undermined and picked on. Sometimes it actually reverses their commitment to nationhood.

In response to the last question posed by the noble Lord, I have looked at the website and I think I am right in saying that it does not contain the data to which he has referred about those who are stopped at border control or customs. I shall double check that and, if I am wrong, I shall write to him.

On the broader point, I was not sitting around the Cabinet table this morning but, if I had been, I would certainly not have scored as being under 40. I shall make some inquiries but, in the Statement made by my right honourable friend in the other place, he said that there were 12 representatives of NGOs at that meeting and that there was a universally positive response. The representative of Black Vote said that this was a real opportunity to make transformational change.

I take the noble Lord’s point about those under 40. My party has a challenge in that regard, which we need to address between now and the next general election. But one good thing about the audit data is that they break down by age, showing for example that those offenders most likely to reoffend are between the ages of 15 and 18. So there is a lot of information about age there—but it is also broken down by ethnicity, which will help us to tackle particular areas in the criminal justice field.

My Lords, I did not intend to say anything on race, because I have spoken for 60 years in this country. There have been many changes, but we are not talking about black people—this is about white people, and the Aryan myth of white superiority. I would be very grateful if somebody did some sort of exercise to bring forth that myth of white superiority. We forget that education came from Africa to the west; noble Lords can look that up and will find out that it is true. I have had 60 years in race relations—and I gave up a career to work in that field because I was fortunate to have had a good education early on in the Caribbean. We do not have people coming to universities here from the Caribbean who are unworthy of taking their place without getting an access course. That is happening in white Britain. Before I die, please show me that you will look at that myth of white superiority and, for God’s sake, end that discussion.

I applaud the work that the noble Baroness has done over many years in the field of promoting better community relationships. One thing this audit does is to demolish the myth of white superiority. According to the indicators, white children leaving school do much worse than particular ethnic minority groups. As I said in the Statement, white children are more prone to smoke than children from other ethnic minorities. It helps to identify those areas in which ethnic minorities are outperforming the white British. If I refer to black people, that is the language used in the report, on the website and in the Statement. But I hope that when the noble Baroness has an opportunity to look at the website, she will find that some of her fears about promoting white superiority are allayed.

The race disparity audit is very welcome. I have worked in the race equality field since the mid-1980s, and I was a commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission when the report to which the Minister referred about how fair Britain is came out some years ago. It is depressing that there are still areas that have not improved, through discrimination, poverty or class—through a variety of factors. It cannot be right that black and ethnic minority children are more likely to be excluded and are less likely to go to a decent university; they are more likely to end up in prison, and they also, perhaps, may have to change their names on their CV to get an interview. Lots of research has been done; those are the stubborn areas that we need to tackle.

A lot of this is new, but an awful lot of it is not and has been around for many years—we have been talking about it for many years. Will the Government undertake to have a coherent race equality strategy which, as my noble friend Lady Burt said earlier, is cross departmental, and whereby Secretaries of State have responsibility in their own departments to tackle this issue and make a difference?

I agree with much of what the noble Baroness has just said. If one looks at excluded children, which I did this morning, one sees that those most likely to be excluded are Traveller children and those in the Roma community. Publishing the figures highlights the fact that those children are more likely to be excluded. The noble Baroness is right that there are substantial discrepancies and differences between particular ethnic groups when it comes to exclusion. Now those who run our schools will have to explain or change—that is the whole purpose of the exercise.

On a coherent race equality strategy, again, I hear what the noble Baroness says. As I mentioned a moment ago, there will be an interministerial group to take this forward. I anticipate that there will be interest in both this House and another place now that we have published the report and the Government have explained how they are making progress in eliminating some of the discrimination that has appeared.

My Lords, in debating these matters, will my noble friend bear in mind the advice of the late Lord Bauer—the distinguished economist Professor Peter Bauer, at whose feet I was lucky enough to sit many years ago as an undergraduate—that sometimes the word “difference” is more enlightening than “inequality”?

Yes—and, again, if my noble friend has time to look at this, he will see that often there are very good reasons why there are differences. But he has given me some good advice and I will stop there.

My Lords, the Runnymede Trust has found that 59% of black Caribbean children, 44% of black African-Caribbean children and 61% of mixed race children grow up in a single-parent family, compared with an average in this country of 22%. The figures highlight the fact that it needs to be understood that many Afro-Caribbean fathers are identified as not being with the family at birth but are found to be there when the child is five. I have worked with many young black boys—and, indeed, white working-class boys—who feel the lack of a father. Will the Minister and his colleagues think when they decide how much to fund local authorities in future how harmful it is to such vulnerable families as these when funding for children’s centres and family support groups is cut, as it has been in recent years? These are the families who pay the greatest cost. They need the most support to stay together and intact so that we do not continue the generational breakdown in families.

The noble Earl is quite right. Again, I looked at some of the figures this morning. Children who grow up in single-parent families are disproportionately likely to have Afro-Caribbean mothers. That, of course, has a knock-on effect on the income of the household, which in turn has a knock-on effect on expectations and in some cases achievement. The specific question of how one recognises these challenges in the formula for the revenue support grant is one that I will pass on to the Secretary of State at CLG to make sure that he takes it on board as we look at next year’s RSG.

My Lords, I want to follow up on the previous comments of the noble Earl from the Cross Benches, which relate to what my noble friend Lady Howells said. We need to address busting the myths about one of the issues, which is the impact of families living with a single parent and the claim that there is always an impact. That myth is always about black parents. There are countless single-parent families in this country and many children have done well, so we should not continue to perpetrate this myth because it adds to the burden of racism that many families have to face. I welcome the audit and whatever it is going to deliver, but it would be very helpful if the Minister said what the timeframe is for explaining and for action. The noble Lord himself will know about some of the issues around disparity and discrimination—whatever we wish to call it—and the challenge of making ourselves a more equal and just society. He has many long-standing associations with Tower Hamlets. He knows all about this issue, as do other members of the Government. I want to be told about the parameters of action to be taken rather than about the audit or the changes envisaged, because change has obviously not taken place over a generation. Therefore, I would welcome a little more certainty about the timeline.

Change will not happen overnight; this will take some time to put right. On the first part of the noble Baroness’s intervention, there need be no more myths about growing up in single-parent families because the figures are now clearly set out on the website. She can see that there are significant variations according to the ethnicity of the family. The figures are there and we have to respond to that. On the question of government responses, I announced in the Statement some action that is being taken by the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Work and Pensions. There will be other announcements in due course from other departments as they take the agenda forward.

My Lords, I commend my right honourable friend the Prime Minister as she has been passionate about getting this issue on the agenda for as long as I have known her, which is a very long time. Could we start first with Whitehall? Many people of all ethnicities come into Whitehall but, when it comes to promotion, we seem to lose people of colour along the way and very few positions across Whitehall are held by people from ethnic minorities. I am not sure that mentoring is the answer, because I do not think you need it if you have an equal level of education.

My noble friend is absolutely right. The statistics showing the percentage of those from ethnic minorities employed in the public sector are in the report. She is right to say that there is good representation at the lower levels but much less as one goes up the chain. Again, that is a question for the Government to explain or change. If one looks at the Armed Forces, the Army has a relatively good record with some 10% of personnel coming from ethnic minorities, but the RAF has a less good record. Therefore, there are challenges for the Civil Service and those in the public sector to look at the figures and establish why those from ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented in the less well-paid posts.

My Lords, I welcome this report because it focuses on an issue that affects the whole of society, even more so than when I came here from Trinidad as a 10 year-old in 1960. I was born in Trinidad so I knew that I was worthy and I knew about my history, but a lot of young black and Asian minority children do not know about their history. It is Black History Month so I have visited schools, universities and prisons. Just this morning I visited a school in Bedfordshire to talk about Black History Month. When I visited prisons, I realised just how much black men did not know about their history and how they felt let down by the education system not focusing on who they are. To move forward you need to know where you have been and where you have come from. What are the Government doing to create a safety net and ensure that BAME children do not fall through it? We need a safety net to help and protect them and show them that they belong. We owe it to them and we owe it to our young people—not just black people but white people too—to teach them about black history and how we can all move forward to make our country, Great Britain, great again.

Again, I commend the work that the noble Baroness has done in this field. If I may say so, she is an admirable role model for those in our country. The specific question she raises—the extent to which one wants to change this issue and inject into it the dimension to which she referred—is one for the Department for Education and the national curriculum. I very much hope that schools will teach not just British history but history more generally, particularly in those areas where they have children coming from a wide variety of different backgrounds. I will certainly pass that suggestion on to my noble friend.