The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Tuesday 20 April.
“With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on our work to examine inequality across the population and set out a new, positive agenda for change.
The Government are committed to building a fairer Britain and taking the action needed to promote equality and opportunity for all. We do, however, recognise that serious disparities exist across our society, and are determined to take the action that is required to address them. Following the events of last summer, our nation has engaged in a serious examination of the issue of race inequality, and the Government have been determined to respond by carefully examining the evidence and data. We need to recognise progress where it has been made, but we also need to tackle barriers where they remain. That was why, last summer, the Prime Minister established the independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. It was tasked with informing our national conversation on race by carrying out a deeper examination of why disparities exist and considering how we can reduce them.
After careful study, the commission made evidence-based recommendations for action across government, the private sector and other public bodies. The commission was established with 10 experts drawn from a variety of fields, spanning science, education, economics, broadcasting, medicine and policing. With one exception, all are from ethnic-minority backgrounds. The chair, Dr Sewell, has dedicated his life to education and to supporting young people from socially deprived back- grounds to reach their full potential. This distinguished group was tasked with reviewing inequality in the UK, and it focused on education, employment, crime and policing, and health.
As this House will be aware, on 31 March, the commission published its independent report. I will now turn to its findings. It is right to say that the picture painted by this report is complex, particularly in comparison with the way that issues of race are often presented. The report shows that disparities do persist, that racism and discrimination remain a factor in shaping people’s life outcomes, and it is clear about the fact that abhorrent racist attitudes continue in society, within institutions and increasingly online. It calls for action to tackle this.
However, the report also points out that, while disparities between ethnic groups exist across numerous areas, many factors other than racism are often the root cause. Among these are geography, deprivation and family structure. For example, a black Caribbean child is 10 times more likely than an Indian child to grow up in a lone parent household. Disparities exist in different directions. People from south Asian and Chinese ethnic groups have better outcomes than the white population in more than half of the top 25 causes of premature death.
The report also highlights the progress that Britain has made in tackling racism, and the report’s data reveal a range of success stories. For example, it underlines the significant progress achieved in educational attainment, with most ethnic-minority groups now outperforming their white British peers at GCSE level. The report also delves into the causes and drivers of some of the most persistent and enduring issues. For example, the commission has identified the disproportionate rate of black men convicted of class B drug offences.
Let me be clear: the report does not deny that institutional racism exists in the UK. Rather the report did not find conclusive evidence of it in the specific areas it examined. It reaffirms the Macpherson report’s definition of the term, but argues that it should be applied more carefully and always based on evidence.
The commission made 24 evidence-based and practical recommendations. These have been grouped into four broad themes: to build trust; promote fairness; create agency; and achieve inclusivity.
There are many things that unite this House. A shared commitment to making Britain fairer for everyone is one of them. In the light of that fact, I urge right honourable and honourable Members to take the time to read the report’s 258 pages. There is also another thing that I am sure unites this House, which is abhorrence of the appalling abuse meted out to the commissioners and the false assertions made about their work in the past three weeks. It is true that this landmark analysis challenges a number of strongly held beliefs about the extent and influence of racism in Britain today. The commissioners have followed the evidence and drawn conclusions that challenge orthodoxy, and they were prepared for a robust and constructive debate. However, they were not prepared for the wilful misrepresentation of the report that occurred following its publication, such as false accusations that they denied racism exists, or that they wished to put a positive spin on the atrocities of slavery, or false statements that commissioners did not read or sign off their own report, or that they are breaking ranks. I have been informed by the chair and by individual members that the commission remains united and stands by its report.
This Government welcome legitimate disagreement and debate, but firmly reject bad-faith attempts to undermine the credibility of this report. Doing so risks undermining the vital work that we are trying to do to understand and address the causes of inequality in the UK, and any other positive work that results from it. For that reason it is necessary to set the record straight. This report makes it clear that the UK is not a post-racial society and that racism is still a real force that has the power to deny opportunity and painfully disrupt lives. That is why the first recommendation of the commission is to challenge racist and discriminatory actions. The report calls on the Government to increase funding to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make greater use of
“its compliance, enforcement and litigation powers to challenge policies or practices that…cause…unjust racial disadvantage, or arise from racial discrimination.”
The Government even more firmly condemn the deeply personal and racialised attacks against the commissioners, which have included death threats. In fact, one Opposition Member presented commissioners as members of the Ku Klux Klan—an example of the very online racial hatred and abuse on which the report itself recommended more action be taken by the Government.
It is, of course, to be expected that Members will disagree about how to address racial inequality and the kinds of policies that the Government should enact. However, it is wrong to accuse those who argue for a different approach of being racism deniers or race traitors. It is even more irresponsible—dangerously so—to call ethnic-minority people racial slurs like “Uncle Toms”, “coconuts”, “house slaves” or “house negroes” for daring to think differently.
Such deplorable tactics are designed to intimidate ethnic-minority people away from their right to express legitimate views. This House depends on robust debate and diversity of thought. Too many ethnic-minority people have to put up with this shameful treatment every day, as some of my fellow MPs and I know too well. The House should condemn it and reprimand those who continue with such behaviour.
The commissioners’ experience since publication only reinforces the need for informed debate on race based on mutual respect and a nuanced understanding of the evidence. The Government will now consider the report in detail and assess the next steps for future policy. In recognition of the extensive scope of recommendations, the Prime Minister has established a new inter-ministerial group to review the recommendations. It will ensure that action is taken to continue progress to create a fairer society. As sponsoring Minister, I will provide strategic direction with support from my officials in the Race Disparity Unit. The group will be chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
On that note, on behalf of the Prime Minister, I would like to thank the commissioners once again for all that they have done. They have generously volunteered their time, unpaid, to lead this important piece of work, and the Government welcome their thoughtful, balanced and evidence-based findings and analysis.
The Government will now work at pace to produce a response to the report this summer. I assure the House that it will be ambitious about tackling negative disparities where they exist and building on successes. It will play a significant part in this Government’s mission to level up and unite the country, and ensure equality and opportunity for all, whatever their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic background. I commend this Statement to the House.”
President Joe Biden said today that the conviction of a former police office in the killing of George Floyd can be a giant step forward in the march towards justice in America, but he warned, “We can’t stop here”. I would add that neither can the United Kingdom.
Following the Black Lives Matter movement, the commission that produced this report had an opportunity meaningfully to engage with structural inequality and racism in the UK. Disappointingly, and incredulously, they have produced a divisive and downright offensive piece of material. It seems to glorify slavery and within the underplay of institutional racism appears to blame ethnic minorities for their own disadvantage. This report must be rigorously challenged to prevent the decades of progress that we have made in our efforts to develop race equality in the UK. Since its publication, the report has garnered widespread criticism from groups and individuals such as the BMA, Professor Michael Marmot, all of our major trade unions, which represent over five million workers, and human rights experts at the UN who state that the report has misrepresented data, shoe-horned conclusions and misquoted academics. My noble friend Lady Lawrence said it gave
“a green light to racists.”
The data is misleading and incoherent, and its conclusions are ideologically motivated and divisive. I have many questions to ask the Minister in my speech, and I will be content to receive written responses from her, as it may be difficult to answer every one I pose in the Chamber today. These questions need resolution and reflection on this highly contentious government report.
Despite the overwhelming body of evidence, why does this report seek to downplay the role of institutional and structural racism in the UK? Does the Government share its view? It was reported that a number of commissioners say that No. 10 intervened in the writing of the report and failed to give them sight of the final copy. These are serious accusations that call into question the credibility and independence of the report. Can the Minister whether her Government intervened in the work of the independent commission and rewrote any part of the final report?
Does the Minister agree with the foreword by the chair of the report? There he remarks:
“There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain.”
Will her Government reject these abhorrent remarks? The report attempts to construct a false binary between socio-economic inequality and racial inequality, suggesting that racism has less of a role than class to play in producing inequalities. Does the Minister agree this is disingenuous and divisive given that so many ethnic minority people are part of the working class struggling after more than a decade of Tory austerity?
The report appears to soften the role of structural racism in the labour market, but the latest ONS unemployment figures show that the unemployment rate for ethnic minorities is more than 9.5%—more than double the rate for white people at 4.5%. What steps, therefore, will the Government take to address structural racism in the labour market? Will the Minister commit to publishing equality impact assessments of job creation schemes?
Many of the recommendations in this report lack teeth. They are repetitions or rely too much on individual discretion. Some simply ask the Government to undo the damage they have done since 2010. Proposals to fund the EHRC and to establish an office for health disparities are particularly ironic, given that the Conservatives have slashed EHRC funding by £43 million since 2010 and abolished Public Health England. Does the Minister regret these cuts, and does she have any plans to restore this funding?
The report appeared to downplay the role of structural racism in health inequalities despite the hugely disproportionate number of deaths of black and Asian people from Covid-19 over the past year and is out of step with the analysis of the ONS. Does the Minister agree that this section is an insult to black, Asian and ethnic minority people who have suffered the worst fatal and financial consequences of the pandemic?
The report also downplays the role of structural inequalities in our education system, despite very recent data that shows that black Caribbean children are more than five times more likely to be excluded from school in parts of the UK. There have been 60,000 racist incidents in schools in the past five years. What steps will the Minister take to address the deep-rooted, structural racial inequalities within the education system?
The report contained minimal information and recommendations on social security, despite this being a key mechanism to end socio-economic and racial inequalities. What steps is the Minister taking to address structural inequalities of race and ethnicity in the social security system?
Finally, the language in the report appears to regress to blame black, Asian and ethnic minority people for their own disadvantage. Mentions of family structure and culture misrepresent the reality of structural racism and turn back the clock on how we talk about race and structural inequality. Will the Minister reject this report before us today in this Chamber?
I am afraid the next speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Hussein-Ece, is not present in the Chamber or in the ether, so we will not be able to hear from her and we will go straight to the Minister.
My Lords, the Government will not be rejecting this report outright. When I began to read this report, it did not match, in my view, what had been reported in some parts of the media about it. I commend it to noble Lords to read. It is 258 pages long, so it will take a bit of diary time to do that. It is an evidence-based report; it is our first official attempt to look at ethnic disadvantages and advantages. First, dealing with the theme of the noble Baroness’s speech regarding structural racism, the report commends and stands by the Macpherson definition of institutional racism. As we stand here, the day before Stephen Lawrence Day, I think it is important to recognise that. It has stood the test of time.
In the areas the commission was reporting on, the evidence base did not support structural racism findings. However, the report is incredibly clear that racist incidents, racist prejudice and racism exist today in this country and should be dealt with and condemned wherever they are found. It is not an offensive report. It does not glorify racism but stands against it. The noble Baroness recognised that we are not the Britain of the 1950s and 1960s. That is not to say we are a perfect country. As the report outlines, the commission hopes that it is
“a road map for racial fairness.”
We are still on a journey in relation to this.
The 10 commissioners did this report as volunteers. They were not paid to do it and are all present, as commissioners, standing by the report. They did not seek to blame ethnic-minority individuals for their lot in life. I regret to say that that is a misrepresentation of the report.
In relation to the criticism that the United Nations has made of the report, unusually, the UK Government have responded to say that, again, that is a misrepresentation of the report. I do not mean to do a disservice to the report but, compared with the media reporting, it is a tad dull in the way its narrative is written. It is not the stuff of the headlines. The UN response has misrepresented it. It is not a matter of disagreement here, which we all welcome around reports put into the public domain, but when that strays into the line of misrepresenting the evidence and the findings, we have to speak out. The Minister for Equalities in the other place will write to the United Nations group to outline what we believe is a misrepresentation of this report.
I can quite categorically say to the noble Baroness that no, No. 10 Downing Street did not write the report. The communication strategy was by an independent person not connected to No. 10. There is no false binary here in the report. It is evidence based. It commissioned research from the University of Oxford. It included the white-majority population for the first time in a report such as this. Within our population, it attempted to separate out different groups with different experiences.
The noble Baroness is, though, right to draw attention to the fact that, unfortunately, Covid has led to a recent increase in young, black unemployment. We are looking at the response to that. There are various initiatives, funded particularly with some London boroughs, trying to redress that. With Brent and Newham, we are looking at the Black Training and Enterprise Group and the Moving Up programme. There are also, of course, some geographical disparities in where job losses have been, so we have to look at the granular data as to why that has been an outcome at the moment, and at the causes of that, to redress it. Obviously, across the whole population of this country, we are trying to drive up the skills base and increase the profile of apprenticeships in order for people to get the skills that they need.
It is important to outline the commission’s response to the criticism of its remarks about slavery. It says this:
“There has … been a wilful misrepresentation by some people of the Commission’s view on the history of slavery. The idea that the Commission would downplay the atrocities of slavery is as absurd as it is offensive to every one of us. The report merely says that in the face of the inhumanity of slavery, African people preserved their humanity and culture. The Commission’s recommendation for Government to create inclusive curriculum resources is about teaching these histories which often do not get the attention they deserve.”
It is important to put accurate comments on the record in relation to the commission’s remarks on slavery.
We are looking seriously at the 24 recommendations. A group has been formed within the Cabinet Office, chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to look at the recommendations put forward.
In relation to the role of the family, the commission is very clear:
“We reject both the stigmatisation of single mothers and the turning of a blind eye to the impact of family breakdown on the life chances of children.”
That is a balanced statement. This is the first commission to look at the effect of family structure. Like me, many noble Lords will know of families who have lost the other parent due to death. To suggest that we would say to them that there is not a huge impact on their children puts the matter in a less political context.
I have to disagree with the noble Baroness. As noble Lords will be aware, I often stand at this Dispatch Box on behalf of the Department for Education. There have been incredible achievements across education among certain ethnic groups. We have seen an incredible rise in particular in the number of black African boys going on to higher education at the moment. I do not recognise the noble Baroness’s characterisation of structural racism across our system. That is not to say that there are not incidents within our schools that need to be dealt with as and when they happen, and we would of course expect any member of teaching staff treating any pupil in that way to be subject to disciplinary measures.
The report is a careful, evidence-based piece of work that we will look at. It is very illustrative of the different achievements in different sectors of ethnic-minority groups—for instance, the incredible educational performance of some second-generation British south-east Asian communities—but that is not to say that we do not have issues to deal with around educational participation in, for instance, the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. It is a complex and nuanced picture that is Britain and England today, and we will look at the recommendations carefully.
My Lords, we come to the 20 minutes for Back-Bench questions. There are 16 Back-Bench speakers, so noble Lords can do the arithmetic; if they can keep questions focused, we would be very much obliged.
My Lords, will my noble friend join me in thanking all those millions of people who, over the last 50 years that I have been politically conscious, have made this country a much friendlier place for ethnic minorities? The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, reports that, on average, there is one report of a racial incident at a school every two and a half years—it would have been more like every two and a half hours when I was young. Does my noble friend share my commitment to living up to the commission’s vision of how Britain can continue to do better—a vision of unity and equity, and of shared values, history, culture and future? Will she look carefully at all the ways in which the state is supporting the philosophies that seek to set us against each other?
My Lords, yes, the Government commend the ambition of this report, which is for us to use it as
“a road map for racial fairness.”
I hope noble Lords have understood that, although we are not the country we were, and we are not in a perfect place—the commission does not say that—we want to work together. We applaud all those people who have stood against the injustices that we have seen decline over the years. We recognise that anywhere racist incidents exist, we all have a responsibility. It is not just government; wherever we see such incidents—many of us will have seen them in our own lives on public transport and places such as that—we must all speak up. We all have a responsibility to get to a racially fair society.
My Lords, the CBI, of which I am president, recently launched Change the Race Ratio, an initiative to promote ethnic-minority participation in business. The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities made 24 recommendations. However, the disclosure of the ethnicity pay gap—one of the most transformative steps a company can take to address race inequality at work—was not one of them. Surely this should be a recommendation, as closing the UK’s ethnicity pay gap is about making our society fairer and more inclusive. Do the Government not agree that diverse companies perform better on every metric and that transparency should be the watch- word? While progress has been made on race inequality over the past few decades, there is still a long way to go.
My Lords, yes, diversity of governing boards and businesses is indeed a strength. We obviously agree that people should be paid in accordance with their work and that there should not be an ethnic pay gap. However, it is the mechanism by which we get there that I believe we are in disagreement on. The report states that, when companies publish ethnicity pay gaps, they should also publish action plans and diagnoses as to how they are going to close that gap.
My Lords, I am sure the Minister recognises that the ideology that puts race and gender as always subservient to economics and class, which seems to underlie this report, was developed in the now discredited and defunct Revolutionary Communist Party. Given that the commission was appointed by No. 10, is the Minister proud that it is the ideology of the RCP that is now driving social policy at the centre of this Government? It does not understand what is going on in our society and people are rather offended by that.
My Lords, as I have outlined, there will be detailed analysis of the recommendations that are given. The methodology that the noble Baroness outlines is not one that I recognise from the parts of the report that I have read. It is an evidence-based piece of work that looks at the causes of disparity and at other factors such as cultural issues, family, social class and geography. I will pass on her comments to the commission about the methodology.
My Lords, the Statement does nothing to allay the fears of the black and ethnic minority community about this report. We seem to have come full circle from the report on the Brixton disorders by Lord Scarman. A lot of research has been done since then that clearly identifies that racism and racial discrimination are a daily reality in the lives of the black and ethnic minority community in Britain. Socially and economically they occupy the same place that was allocated to them in the earlier days, and institutions and organisations have little awareness of our culturally different communities. Will the Minister examine some of the reports by the Commission for Racial Equality, which was responsible for issuing legally enforceable non-discrimination notices to some of our institutions? Equality has no meaning unless it is properly and ethnically monitored. I want to see the day when black and brown faces in this country do not have to look over their shoulder to see if they are welcome.
My Lords, I can allay the fears that the noble Lord outlines, as the report recognises that:
“Outright racism still exists in the UK”.
It does not detract from that. I will ask officials to look at the reports that the noble Lord has outlined. One report that has been drawn to my attention and that is in a similar vein was by the Runnymede Trust in the early 2000s; the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, was involved in writing it. We need to look at the causes of these disparities. We will not change the outcomes for people if we do not diagnose the causes properly. Then, we can get the right solution and change the outcomes. That is what we are passionate to do for better outcomes for all the communities that the noble Lord outlines.
My Lords, I must commend the Government on their considered response to this careful and measured report. I have two questions. First, will sufficient time be given here to debate the issues that it raises, and early enough to inform the Government’s deliberations? Secondly, will the Government emulate the commissioners’ courage by acting on evidence about the benefits of stable family structures and being proactive about preventing family breakdown where possible, because of its myriad contributions to poor outcomes for children?
My Lords, it will be a matter for the parliamentary authorities and the usual channels as to whether time is allowed for debate, but of course, noble Lords have that opportunity as well. Yes, the response will take seriously the recommendation —I think it is framed as a “Support for Families” review—to look in more detail at the effect that family structure can have on someone’s outcomes, particularly educationally and economically.
My Lords, yesterday was a momentous day. Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. President Biden responded by stating that we must acknowledge and confront systemic racism. In spite of the overwhelming evidence from many, including the medical association, representing 150,000 doctors, Dr Sewell’s report stated that the evidence they found did not show systemic racism. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of black and white young people who took to the streets to protest for Black Lives Matter were dismissed in the report as well-meaning idealists but wrong in their assertion of systemic racism.
Yesterday the government Minister Kemi Badenoch, who seemed to attack anyone who did not agree with her, including the excellent race equality organisation the Runnymede Trust, none the less stated, to my great relief, that no one, not least the Government, is denying institutional racism as distinct from verbal racism. She went on to say that it is not everywhere, and I think we can all agree with that. But the report said, and the Minister confirmed, that Dr Sewell and his commissioners did not find systemic racism in this report from the deluge of evidence, including from myself. Given that dramatic but welcome U-turn in acknowledging systemic race inequalities, were the commissioners incompetent or in wilful denial?
My Lords, as I have outlined, the evidence that was considered by the commissioners, as we understand it, is that they did not find institutional racism in any of the sectors. I will come back to the specific comments from the other place that the noble Lord has raised but I understand that context to be, as I have outlined, that institutional racism is a concept that we respect and understand, and the commission stood by the Macpherson definition, but there was not the evidence base here. Of course it is difficult when feelings are running high—obviously, I note that it is an important day today, particularly for the criminal justice system in America—but when the evidence does not lead you to that conclusion then we have to respect that. As I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, a critique of the methodology may be wanted, but these are the conclusions of 10 respected commissioners: that the evidence did not lead to that conclusion, as uncomfortable as that can sometimes be.
My Lords, in this report of over 250 pages I read two perfunctory narrative mentions of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller ethnic minority groups—arguably the most discriminated against in the UK—and a few insertions in the Department for Education tables. They are absent from the sections on health, employment and criminal justice, where data exists, often explicitly racist. The report’s conclusions ignore their situation. Did the commissioners speak to anyone, or take any evidence, from these communities? Does the Minister concede that this kind of omission can only, sadly, reinforce the superficial and unscholarly aspects of the report?
My Lords, with regard to Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, the report makes the specific recommendation that the Government should improve the way in which they collect ethnicity data. As I understand it, and I will write if I am incorrect in saying this, the commission worked with MHCLG, which, as the noble Baroness is aware, is working on a strategy that is soon to be launched in relation to GRT. That will be the main government action on GRT. I know from past experience that the noble Baroness will welcome the action that we need to take on GRT, particularly on educational underperformance.
My Lords, the report cites the evidence that you are six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police if you are black than if you are white; that the vast majority of stop and searches are for drugs, not weapons; and that as a result class B drug offences amount to nearly half of prosecutions of all ethnic minority groups. This evidence gives rise to the perception, which the report fails to mention or address, that the police are there to target black people, not protect them. As the Minister mentioned, Stephen Lawrence Day is tomorrow. A witness to the Macpherson inquiry into his tragic death 20 years ago said that the black community felt overpoliced and underprotected. What has changed? How can progress be made if black people do not have confidence in the report?
My Lords, in the report there are a number of recommendations in relation to crime and policing. One is about setting up independent safeguarding partnerships locally. There is also, obviously, the recommendation that police forces should reflect the communities they serve. On the point specifically raised by the noble Lord, there is an innovative recommendation that exposed the commissioners to an allegation that they supported the legalisation of drugs because they wanted to see the increased use of out-of-court penalties for the kind of class B possession that they outlined in the report. We are looking seriously at those recommendations but obviously, we know that our police forces should reflect the communities that they serve and that everyone should have confidence that the police are there to protect them, not target them.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is important to consistently measure progress, or the lack of it, as we do with gender? This Government have been at the forefront of challenging companies and public sector organisations on gender issues. The report agrees that racism is still deeply imbedded and, exists across many sectors of life, and that the colour of your skin remains a big issue. I have grown up in this country; I know what it feels like to be discriminated against and called names. It is important that we start by examining how employment across Whitehall is monitored and ensure that career support is provided for people entering with non-traditional qualifications. Will she look at why, in authorities like mine in Leicester city where more than 50% of the population is non-white, there seems to be not one person of colour in a director role at the local authority offices?
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for outlining the non-traditional qualifications route to a career in Whitehall. We have recently announced the delivery of 30,000 apprenticeships by next April, and we will look seriously at the commission’s recommendation to have a targeted campaign or initiative in relation to the take-up of apprenticeships. There is a consultation out currently—I think it was launched only yesterday—on flexible apprenticeships, to try and make those more available. I cannot comment on the employment statistics of a local authority.
My Lords, in 2020 the big four accountancy firms had 11 black partners out of a total of 3,000. Deloitte had one, Ernst & Young and KPMG had two each and PricewaterhouseCoopers had 6. The big eight accountancy firms have only 17 black partners out of a total of 4,000. There is also an ethnicity pay gap of up to 37%. Is the noble Baroness concerned? If so, will she order an independent investigation into big accountancy firms?
My Lords, yes, of course I am concerned about figures showing a lack of representation like that. There have been various initiatives such as the Parker review and the review conducted by the noble Baroness, Lady McGregor-Smith. We have been working closely in government on the Hampton-Alexander review and are looking at that piece of work. I will note the statistics the noble Lord outlines when we are looking at that review.
My Lords, to an extraordinary degree we see racial questions in this country through the prism of the American south—a subculture anomalous within North America, let alone within the wider English-speaking world. We saw that in some of the atrocious and shocking language directed at the authors of this report. One MP posted a picture of a Klansman and the authors were called “Uncle Toms” and worse. These are not words with cultural resonance in this country. Will the Minister join me in thanking the authors for giving up their time from a sheer sense of service and patriotism to produce this forensic and factual paper? Will she add her voice to mine in saying how important it is that these issues are not be left to race professionals, but should allow people like the authors of this report—who have distinguished themselves as scientists, educators, economists, and in all the fields that enrich our national life—to have their voices heard?
My Lords, as I have outlined, robust disagreements in this scenario sadly descended into abuse of the commissioners, which is not acceptable. The first recommendation ironically outlines more work needing to be done on online abuse. I am concerned that the treatment of these commissioners may mean we see people less likely to come forward to volunteer for public services, if that is the treatment that they expect.
My Lords, I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, and the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Woolley. Since Scarman, again and again reports have reiterated that we live in an inherently unequal society predicated on race, gender, religion and socioeconomic conditions such as class and wealth, as well as access. Work undertaken by the right honourable David Lammy and recently by my noble friend Lady Lawrence directly challenges the Government’s assessment and findings, and asks for immediate long-term action to address structural discrimination and inequalities as they impact our citizens of minority heritage. I join my colleagues in this House and the other place, alongside thousands of British experts, including highly respected academics, in making clear that this shocking attempt to misrepresent and deny experiences of racism and islamophobia will be challenged so that justice prevails. Will the Minister consider urgently meeting Members of this House as a way forward?
My Lords, the commission outlined a number of reviews, including those that the noble Baroness outlined, and they were broadly in agreement with many of them. They took the recommendations of the Lammy review seriously, many of which have already been put into effect and others are in train. I shall come back to her on her kind offer of a meeting.
My Lords, I will go back to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hannan. Do the Government regret the manner in which this report was pre-briefed by No. 10 in what looked like a deliberate attempt to stir up controversy with independent scholars and lifelong campaigners who have worked to eradicate the scourge of racism from our society? What is to be gained by pursuing these culture wars? Should action in future not be based on objective evidence? If that is the case and we are basing action on objective evidence, why did the Minister not welcome the plea from the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, for companies to be required to publish data on ethnic-minority pay gaps between people with equivalent qualifications and abilities? Surely we have to make progress this way.
My Lords, it is deeply regrettable, as I have outlined, that reading many of the media reports and the commission’s report is like moving from one planet to another. The commission had its own independent communications advice and no one wants to see an issue go from robust disagreement —which is what we have always had a strong history of in this country—to personal abuse directed at various individuals who have given their time for nothing. As I have outlined, we agree that there should not be an ethnicity pay gap, but we disagree about the mechanism to change that. The history of our politics is that we agree on the ends, but disagree on the means to get there.
My Lords, the time allowed for this Statement has now elapsed. My apologies to the three noble Lords who were not called.