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A funny kind of equality

by Shirin Aguiar-Holloway
27/10/2005

THE GOVERNMENT conspired with opposition parties to throw out proposals to include a voice for Black communities in the new single equalities body.

Lord Ouseley
Disappointed: Lord Ouseley hopes the Commons will be more sympathetic to proposals for a race committee in the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

Amendments to create race committee as part of a new body merging several equalities areas were rejected in the House of Lords.

Former Commission for Racial Equality chairman Lord Ouseley and Lord Victor Adebowale put forward the changes arguing there should be a race committee as well as the proposed disability committee.

But the lord chancellor Lord Charlie Falconer, for the government, opposed the move along with Tory peers and Liberal Democrat Lord Anthony Lester.

Lord Ouseley told the upper house it was inconsistent to have committees for disabilities, Scotland and Wales but not for race and the other new equalities subjects covered by a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).

The move is a big setback for race campaigners concerned about the abolishment of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).

deal

Lord Ouseley told Blink he and his colleagues didn't have a chance of success. He said: “The Government had already set its face against all of this.  It had decided what it wanted in the long term and there was a deal between the Lib Dems, Tories and the Government.

Shahid Malik
Shahid Malik MP: black communities have got to have confidence in the new body.

“This is how the Government behaves in the Lords, and we will have the same opposition in the Commons.”

Hopes are now pinned on MPs to rally support for the amendments in the House of Commons.

“The Lords have rejected it, so the battle goes to the Commons and hopefully the Commons will look at it more sympathetically, although I doubt it”, Lord Ouseley added.

Black-led human rights organisation The 1990 Trust carried out a widespread national consultation which found Black communities opposed to the abolishing of the CRE and wanting a race committee to replace it, as part of the CEHR.

The 1990 Trust chief executive Karen Chouhan said:  “I'm just disappointed that after such extensive consultation that the Trust carried out with Black communities that as per usual consultation appears to be a token exercise and the voice of the communities is not being heard.”

marginalised

Hopes are now set on MPs like Hackney and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott who said:  “I very much regret that the Lords have thrown out the race committee. A separate race committee is essential if we are to avoid race being marginalised within the new body.”

 - quote - I very much regret that the Lords have thrown out the race committee.  - unquote -
Diane Abbott MP

Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik also pledged his support.  He said:  “Whatever the final proposals, the Government has got to ensure that the BME community will have confidence in this new body. 

“The different permutations and possibilities should allow the possibility for that to happen.

“It's important for the Government to listen to the BME community because the Commission will be with us for many decades, so it's important to get it right, and that includes taking the wishes of the BME community into account.”

A joint statement from race campaigners, including mayoral adviser Lee Jasper, Operation Black Vote and the National Assembly Against Racism, urged the Government to address these, or risk losing any faith of black and minority ethnic communities in the commission from the outset.

transparency

It said: “The new CEHR, as currently proposed in the Equality Bill, will have no representative criteria for the selection of Commissioners, therefore no guarantee of Black and Minority Ethnic representation.

 - forum -
   Have Your Say

“It is proposed to have no race committee. Its budget compares badly to the budget for the existing commissions and without clear structures, such as a race committee, there will be inadequate security and transparency of budgets to specific areas.

“The Bill provides for a Commissioner who is a disabled person and for a Disability Committee but the it is silent on similar provisions for all other equality strands, and specifically on race. We reject this inequality of treatment.”

Campaigners are also concerned about the push to locate the CEHR out of London, given the diversity of London's population, the size of London's BME population, the lessons London has for equality policy and the fact that London is the seat of national government.  A shift elsewhere would further downgrading of race equality, they claim.

Lord Ouseley's amendments had been welcomed by the CRE, the Disability Rights Commission and the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

The CRE said: “We have had strong representations from CRE stakeholders about the need for race to have a committee similar to the disability committee. 

“Some stakeholders have suggested that it would represent a regression from the current position if a similar committee is not provided for in the Equality Bill.

“Over the past thirty years a great deal of local race equality expertise has been built up by the network of race equality councils and it is vital that this connection with the race equality community is not inadvertently lost in the establishment of the CEHR.” 

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Resources:

Teeth and their use

Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: One year On

The Zahid Mubarek Inquiry

pdf Dept. for Communities & Local Government Citizenship Survey

Responses to the Equalities Review Interim Report

The 1990 Trust Response to The Equalities Review Interim Report

Equalities Review Interim Report Briefing – Addressing Race Equality

pdf Our Rights, Our Future

pdf Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: The Government's race strategy

CRE response to DTI Statement on Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Equality and Diversity Forum welcomes the progress on a Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Summary of Changes to the CEHR

The 1990 Trust’s response to the CEHR White Paper

pdf Delivering equality and human rights for black and minority ethnic communities

Flush the academic racism in Blunkett’s office down the pan

Jacqui Smith answers questions on the Single Equalities Body

How to Contact your MP

Links:

Race and Faith and Communities

Election Memory

Catalyst Magazine

UNITE TO PROTECT OUR RIGHTS: sign the statement against the erosion of civil liberties and human rights by new anti-terrorism proposals A Black Manifesto No 2 ID FREE FAROUQ PDP ASSOCIATES Power to the People

Published by The 1990 Trust

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