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Why we oppose the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights


DOREEN LAWRENCE and anti-racist organisations over the absence of race from the governments proposed new single equalities body.


On Monday legislation is set to be passed which will herald a big set back for the effective ability to combat race discrimination.

The Equality Bill will establish a Commission for Equality and Human Rights and pave the way for abolition of the Commission for Racial Equality. This new Commission has no specific focus on race equality and no guaranteed Black representation.

Black communities have been strongly opposed to the CEHR and its incumbent   proposal to abolish the CRE, believing that a high profile, identifiable individual statutory commission was essential at a time of growing national and international racism.

This view was reflected in the decision to give a further two years life to the CRE beyond the initial abolition date.

Believing this wholly inadequate, we argued that the establishment of a race committee could guarantee the representation of black and minority ethnic people in the CEHR and ensure that race equality would have the focus it needs.  and pointed out these were lacking in the government&#39s Equality Bill.

These requests were expressed in both the House of Lords and the Commons stages of the Bill as well as outside of Parliament. It represented an attempt by Black leaders to positively engage with the CEHR despite our initial views. 

This olive branch was offered and it seems will be rejected. Without the engagement of Black communites the CEHR will be a disaster for race equality in the UK.

Specifically we asked for: a statutory Race Committee, black and minority ethnic representation amongst the Commissioners, adequate funding of the CEHR on race related issues.

Keith Vaz and Roger Berry MPs have laid down amendments in support of these calls and several Black MPs are set to support these amendments.

Ironically the government has already shown this sort of representative provision is acceptable for another community whose rights the Commission is intended to represent: disabled people will have a statutory guarantee of representation among Commissioners and a Disability Committee with funding.

However, a similar and equal guarantee of representation for black and minority ethnic communities has been flatly refused. Indeed representation has been an issue since the inception with a distinct lack of Black people on the initial task force and on the more recent steering group.

This in the face of explicit demands for representation by over 400 representative organisations of the black, minority ethnic and anti-racist communities and by many representative individuals.

Indeed the most recent representative to voice this demand, at the recent Steering Group of the CEHR, met with a rude and ill-informed dismissal.  

The foundation of inequality, lack of representation and lack of expertise and focus on racism which the CEHR is to have bodes ill for its future. Ministers are squandering a once in a generation opportunity to advance equality.

We appeal, even now, for government to listen to the overwhelming opinion of black and minority ethnic communities on this matter and correct the glaring flaws in its legislation.

The CEHR as proposed will, we believe, be unacceptable to Britain&#39s millions of Black, Asian and other minority communities. Without the firm representation of our communities, how will this Commission be fully informed of the reality of the rising racist attacks, the impact of the growth of the British National Party or the continuing gross underrepresentation of black and minority ethnic people in every part of public life?

We demand race equality and the involvement of Black communities. We reject the CEHR.




Karen Chouhan – Trustee, The 1990 Trust
Tanuka Loha – Director, The 1990 Trust
Lee Jasper – Senior Equalities Advisor to London Mayor Ken Livingstone
Doreen Lawrence – Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust
Milena Buyum – National Assembly Against Racism
Simon Woolley – Operation Black Vote
Naz Malik – Chief Executive: All Wales Ethnic Minority Association–
Patrick Yu – Director of the Northern Ireland Council of Ethnic Minorities
Tanveer Parnez – Black and Ethnic Minorities in Scotland
Peter Herbert – Society of Black Lawyers
Rita Patel – The Peepul Centre
Lisa Lovell – Equalities worker, Milton Keynes

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