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Lammy supports race committee for equalities super-body

Exclusive by Lester Holloway

BRITAINS TOP BLACK MP wants a race committee to be part of the governments new equalities super-body.

David Lammy
David Lammy: could prove the decisive force pushing the government to change single equalities plans.

The move by arts minister David Lammy will pile pressure on the government who have so far resisted calls for race to be recognised in the single equalities body.

Operation Black Vote (OBV)say most black and Asian MPs now either publicly or privately support a race committee for the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).

Diane Abbott was the first black MP to protest about the absence of race in the proposed CEHR structure, which she called “a betrayal of the black community.”

Yesterday junior minister Dr Ashok Kumar publicly voiced his concerns along with backbencher Piara Khabra. Government whip Parmjit Dhanda and Shahid Malik are known to privately support demands for a CEHR race committee.

Today in a letter to OBV's Simon Woolley, Tottenham MP Mr Lammy wrote: “I have recieved a number of representations on this matter from my constituents and from the wider Black community.

'strong case'

“I agree that those calling for a Race Committee within the CEHR have a strong case. I empathise with the sentiment, put forward both by you and by my constituents, that the need to maintain a link with the national voice on race and local race equality issues does not seem to be served by the proposed structure of the CEHR.

Simon Woolley
Simon Woolley: it would be 'unthinkable' for ministers to ignore black and Asian MPs.

“In this regard, I fully expect the CEHR to set up a Race Committee on its inception.”

Mr Lammy's intervention could prove the decisive factor that forces equality minister Meg Munn to amend the Equality Bill introducing committees for all seven subjects covered by the new commission.

Under government plans the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) will be scrapped, along with the existing bodies covering disability and gender, and merged with sexual orientation, religion, age and human rights.

Ministers have included a disability committee and CEHR board commissioner for disability in their Equality Bill, but have made no provision for race and the other areas of discrimination, arguing it is up to the new CEHR to set up its own committees when it begins work in 2007.


That is not a view shared by the majority of black and Asian MPs, who have been lobbied this week by Blink readers. OBV and The 1990 Trust spoke to several BME MPs who either strongly supported calls for a race committee or, like Tooting MP Sadiq Khan, said they were sympathetic to the arguments.

Meg Munn
Meg Munn: coming under strong pressure to rethink the exclusion of race from CEHR

Ms Munn has been lobbied by 36 Blink readers since this website launched an email campaign three days ago.

Several MPs have promised to ask the minister to encorporate a race committee in the BIll.

Mr Woolley said: “I'm delighted that David Lammy has used his ministerial weight to support the concerns of the black community.

“It's very clear now that almost all Britain's black MPs unequivically support a race committee.

“It would ne unthinkable for the government to ignore Britain's black parliamentarians and the unprecendented call from the community.

“Frankly a statutory race committee is a minimum that black Britain needs in the fight to beat racism and to ensure that equality of opportunituy is served for Britain's black communities.”

Simon Hughes, president of the Liberal Democrats, today blamed Trevor Phillips' CRE for the fact that the government had not put forward any amendments on race committees.

He said: “I am told they made no request for amendments to achieve this to be made to the Equalities Bill when it went through the House of Commons.

“Only after the decision was made that the headquarters of the CRE should be in Manchester did they come out in support of a separate race committee.”

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