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CEHR chair “must have a record of fighting discrimination”

by Lee Jasper

TREVOR PHILLIPS has overseen a massive reduction in the number of legal cases taken by the CRE. Lee Jasper says this does not indicate a commitment to fighting racism.

Trevor Phillips
Trevor Phillips: overseen massive decline in CRE legal cases… and he's proud of it.

The equality commission must have a Chair with strongest record in fighting discrimination and commanding confidence of the anti-racist movement.

Jasper, Secretary of th National Assembly Against Racism, said the new Commission for Racial Equality (CEHR) needs to fight discimination cases, not abandon victims of prejudice.


The specific basis on which the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights is to be established – under terms set out in the Equality Act earlier this year – has precipitated great concern among equality campaigners.

The CEHR will lack almost any guaranteed structures to ensure it is representative of equality communities and expertise or to continue the specialist policy work and case support of the equality Commissions it is to replace.

It will have a lower budget – justified by statements about it needing to have a 'strategic focus', rather than support anti-discrimination cases.


It is currently planned to be mainly based outside of London. The Equalities Review – set up by the Prime Minister to inform its development – has produced a highly contentious Interim Report which tries to replace established and proven analyses of inequality and has been massively rejected by equality campaigns and experts.

 - quote - Now is not the time to backtrack on equality or water down the commitment to fighting racism.  - unquote -
Lee Jasper

The Report itself attacks equality campaigners, suggesting they may bring some problems of inequality upon themselves.

All this is coinciding at a time of growing racism, Islamophobia and a growth of the extreme right in Britain and Europe.

 Now is not the time to backtrack on equality or water down the commitment to fighting racism.

 However, the Times newspaper has speculated that the chair of the Equalities Review, who has overseen its much derided Report, Trevor Phillips, is being considered as Chair of the CEHR.


Trevor Phillips period of leadership at the Commission for Racial Equality which began in March 2003, has coincided with a decline in legal representation by that Commission for those fighting race discrimination cases through tribunals, despite his own comments in the foreword to the 2004 CRE Annual Report in which he says: ‘Securing redress for individuals whose lives are blighted by racism is part of the CRE’s core business.’

In June 2004, Lord Ouseley, a former Chair of the CRE asked a parliamentary question:

'What proportion of their annual resources for 2002–03 and 2003–04 were expended by the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission in supporting individual complainants in cases before the employment tribunals; and how much was spent by each body; and what amounts of money have been earmarked in 2004–05 by the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission to provide representation for individual complainants in cases before the employment tribunals?'

The answer shows the Commission for Racial Equality to spend the lowest proportion:

In the year 2002-03: 3.4 %, of CRE annual grant-in-aid was expended in supporting complainants in cases before the employment tribunals. This compared to 4.7 % for the EOC in and 6% for the DRC in the same year. The DRC figures noted that this 'covers all discrimination cases as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act' and does 'not include the cost of support given via the DRC's helpline and casework services'.

In the year 2003-2004 2.3% was expended by the CRE compared to 4.5 % for EOC and 5.7 % for DRC. The figures projected for 2004-05 were: 2% for the CRE compared to 3.1% for the EOC and 5.5% for the DRC.


Even these figures may not present the full picture. The CRE's Annual Report 2004 shows that in that year, only one case received full legal representation with a further three receiving 'limited legal representation'. This was a sharp decline from figures given in previous annual reports.

The foreword to the 2004 Annual Report refers to a conscious goal of 'changing the way people think about race and racial equality' and indicates this was carried forward in the fact that 'the issue that gave the CRE the greatest number of column inches in 2004 was the debate we started about multiculturalism'.

Instead, the CEHR needs someone at the helm with a proven record in fighting discrimination and doing everything possible to enforce equality law, who can command the confidence of equality campaigners rather than attacks the equality movements and is able to work to overcome the weaknesses of the CEHR rather than potentially add to those weaknesses.


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