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The moment of betrayal


THE PROSPECT of a race committee for the new super-equalities body disappeared during Tony Blair's reshuffle after last years' general election.

Meg Munn (left) and Jacqui Smith

The DTI, who are responsible for legislation to create a single equalities body under the former equalities minister Jacqui Smith, promised to look favourably at a race committee if it was proven to have strong support from Black communities.

On Monday MPs will hold the final Commons debate before abolishing the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), and creating a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).

Ms Smith held a meeting with Karen Chouhan, former chief executive of The 1990 Trust, early last year, during which the trade minister stopped short of promising a race committee but sent out unmistakably positive signals.


Black-led human rights and anti-racist organisations are furious that those intial promises to hear the voices of Black communities have seemingly been ignored by the new ministers.

Karen Chouhan
Karen Chouhan: results of consultation with Black communities was not listen to.

The government has failed to honour that agreement despite The 1990 Trust, Operation Black Vote, the National Assembly Against Racism, AWEMA (Wales), NICEM (Northern Ireland) and BEMIS (Scotland) amongst others demonstrating overwhelming support for the idea UK-wide.

The 1990 Trust, who led the consultations, believe they were led up the garden path after publishing the consultation report 'Our Rights, Our Future' in June last year with community-proposed amendments to the Bill, only to find a new equalities minister – who was appointed in the same month – taking a different approach.

The DTI even paid towards the costs of carrying out a national consultation. The 1990 Trust and partners held ten sessions across Britain during April and May, in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow, Swansea, Leicester, Milton Keynes and London.

red herring

But the key recommendation coming out of the consultation, the need for a race committee to be part of the CEHR, has been ignored by ministers and the amendments suggested to the Equalities Bill have not been taken on board.

Keith Vaz
Keith Vaz: leading the push for a race committee

Ms Chouhan said: 'Having ensured one of the most extensive pieces of consultation, working with our regional partners and 400 organisations in the expectation that the results would be seriously considered.

'The government have demonstrated that this was an expensive red herring to keep us busy while they designed what they wanted.

'If the voices of Black communities ae not going to be listened to at this stage, what hope is there that the new CEHR will do it in future when it is set up?

'We argued from the outset that the CEHR was the wrong way to go, but went the extra mile to try and ensure Black communities could have the final say in the decision to go with it or not.

'Communities offered a lifeline to the CEHR enagagement with Black communuities, and it has been rejected. We need to seriously consider whether any sort of engagement with the new body will yield results for race equality.'


The 1990 Trust, Operation Black Vote and the National Assembly Against Racism called on Ms Munn to support amendments for a race committee proposed by former foreign office minister Keith Vaz MP, which is due be debated in the Commons on Monday.

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone: ready to speak out strongly if government fails to deliver a race committee.

The debate is the last stage of the Equalities Bill before the CEHR is created and the Commission for Racial Equality's abolition is confirmed.

The anti-racist groups are also urging MPs to support an amendment by Roger Berry MP for the CEHR board to have a quarter of its commissioners from black or ethnic minority background.

Tanuka Loha, director of The 1990 Trust, said: 'The CRE is an organisation that was fought for by African-Caribbean and  Asian communities in order to ensure that the law in relation to race discrimination was enforced.

'Today, at a time when black communities are still socially, economically and legally discriminated against and disadvantaged, the government is edging towards leaving black communities with no guaranteed representative body enshrined in law.

'This is a regressive step on the part of this government and a betrayal of black communities. The absence of a race committee, with adequate resources, and guaranteed /and /credible black representation will lead to us having no confidence in the ability of the CEHR to champion or protect our rights.

'We urge the government to reconsider its position and hope that MPs across all parties will support the amendment by MPs Keith Vaz and Roger Berry calling for a race committee.'

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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

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