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MPs support for race committee grows

by Lester Holloway and Shirin Aguiar-Holloway

SUPPORT IS GROWING among Black and Asian MP's for a race committee to be built into the super-equalities body.

David Lammy
Arts minister David Lammy: concerns over abolition of local race equality network

Dr Ashok Kumar MP is one of several MPs criticising the governments plans for a Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).

Dr Kumar told Blink he government to be “flexible” in the face of demands for race to be recognised within the structure of the single equalities body.

Dr Kumar, MP for for Middlesborough South and East Cleveland, said: “The government should keep its mind open and we could look at it [race committee] further.”

He added: “If the Government is happy to incorporate these things [race committee] I’m happy for that. I don’t think we have to rigidly stand by what is being proposed.”


The remarks by Dr Kumar, who is a Labour loyalist, are bound to make the governments equalities minister Meg Munn take notice. Until now the only MP who has publicly demanded a race committee is the Labour rebel Diane Abbott.

Dr Ashok Kumar
Dr Ashok Kumar: believes government should think again over single equalities body

Ms Abbott recently called the government plans “a betrayal of the black community to go forward with this body which is taking race relations back 30 years.”

Dr Kumar, an MP since 1992 and parliamentary private secretary to the international development minister Hilary Benn, said he “wouldn’t go to the barricades” over the issue but did have concerns.

He said the work of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) would be sorley missed when it is abolished and merhed in the CEHR.

“We have to be a bit flexible recognising the excellent work done over the years by anti-racist organisations as well as the Commission [CRE].”


“If Diane [Abbott] led the way, if she needed the support of people like myself, let’s say a collection of Black and Asian MPs, I would go along with her you know.  I wouldn’t sit there thinking ‘No all of you go’ and I won’t support there.”

Meg Munn
Equalities minister Meg Munn: lobbied by public over race committee. She now faces growing pressure from MPs.

Piara Khabra, the veteran Labour MP for Ealing Southall, told Blink he wanted to see a race committee within the CEHR.

He said: “I think we can put pressure on the government to consider the consesus of ethnic minority communities. They have set up a disability committee. I will be lobbying for a race committee.”

The government plan to axe the CRE and the existing commissions covering gender and disabilities, and merge them into one big super-body with new areas of sexual orientation, age, religion and human rights.

Ministers plan a disability committee and disability board commissioner for the CEHR, but have so far not made any provision for race equality.


Dozens of individuals lobbied the minister piloting the Equality Bill, Ms Munn, yesterday in favour of a race committee following a call to action by Blink. See' Last Chance to get race on single equalities agenda.'

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Arts minister David Lammy told Blink he had concerns about the national network of CRE local racial equality councils (REC) being scrapped.

He said: “I do believe that the work that the CRE did at grassroots level, its race equality councils, the inter-ethnic stuff between communities – the sort of stuff on the ground in Tottenham, in Chapeltown in Leeds, in Toxteth in Liverpool – I don’t see the CEHR being able to do that work.

“I do think that the local work that RECs do will not easily be replicated by the CEHR and we do need to think about what organisation will step into the breach to deal with that important work.  You just have to look around the inner city to see that there is a need for that work.

The axing of the REC network was one of the key issues that saw CRE chairman Trevor Phillips turn his back on the governments single equalities body proposals.

Mr Lammy said he supported the overall CEHR proposals. “My position is clear. I obviously support the Government I’m in the Government. I think the CEHR is a good thing.

“I don’t see the need for a race committee or a race commissioner because I cannot agree with a situation in which you start to give one equality strand something over the others.

“However  There needs to be a new organisational body on the ground dealing with race relations specifically as targeted and that is the position that I take personally take up.”

His comments will be seen as support for fellow Guyanese Mr Phillips, who is putting forward the idea of a new “Commission for Citizenship and Integration.” This is opposed by anti-racist groups.

Conservative MPs Adam Afriyie and Shailesh Vara were too busy to speak to Blink. Glasgow Labour MP Mohammad Sarwar was also unavailable.

Gloucester Labour MP Parmjit Dhanda, who is believed to privately support calls for a race committee, yesterday said he was unable to comment because he is a government whip.

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