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Pump up the volume

by staff reporter

RACE ACTIVISTS have urged Commission for Racial Equality chief Trevor Phillips to turn up the volume and support calls for race representation to be included in an equalities merger.

Trevor Phillips
Trevor Phillips: frank discussions with race activists

CRE chairman Mr Phillips held an emergency meeting this morning with leading race equality campaigners as debate over the proposed new super-equality body moved into the final stages.

Government plans for a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) have sparked a furious row by ignoring calls for proper representation, including by a race committee and commissioners. Campaigners support the model of representation secured for disabled people and want parity with it.

Representatives from The 1990 Trust, the National Assembly Against Racism and London’s City Hall met Mr Phillips at his south London office this morning to demand more vocal support for a CEHR race committee and guaranteed black representation on the board.

Last week Mr Phillips called for a new “commission for citizenship and integration” to tackle racial tension. But activists believe the battle to include race within the CEHR is not over and can still be won: the CEHR will have the main responsibility for combating race discrimination and will not be able to do its job if those with direct experience are not represented.


More than 100 groups and individuals, including Doreen Lawrence, have now backed a statement calling for Black communities to be fairly represented in the new body.

Lee Jasper
Lee Jasper: called on CRE to act now over race committee

Last week Lee Jasper, race advisor to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, wrote to the CRE commissioners urging them to call for a representative structure at the CEHR. 

Mr Phillips told the meeting he always believed in the need to have a race committee and race commissioners.

Experts say equality minister Meg Munn is under pressure and the intervention of Mr Phillips could prove vital at this crucial stage.

Mr Phillips is understood to be sympathetic to calls to turn up the heat on government but is not optimistic ministers will change their mind.

MP’s on the Equality Bill standing committee meet tomorrow to pick over the legislation. Labour MP Diane Abbott, who is not on the committee, called the proposals “a betrayal of the black community to go forward with this body which is taking race relations back 30 years.”


David Weaver, chairman of The 1990 Trust, said: “As campaigning organisations we don’t feel it’s all over. We need a last ditch plea for race to be explicitly recognised in the new CEHR. That means a race committee and race commissioners.”

Mr Phillips also met with Milena Buyum, national coordinator of the National Assembly Against Racism, and Rob Neil, deputy director of The 1990 Trust.

In October former CRE chairman Lord Herman Ouseley put forward amendments to create black and minority ethnic representation along the positive model used for disability but the government argued against it by claiming the new body would have the power to set up it’s own committees.

Activists say the experience of local council’s abolishing race committees show that unless Parliament rule that race equality must be part of the CEHR’s structure then the issues would be downgraded. There are fears that the race initiative would get far less cash than the £20 million currently dedicated to the CRE.

Ms Abbott said: “As black people we will be marginalised. We haven’t even figured in the thinking. At a time when we are still hearing about killings such as Anthony Walker, the idea that these incidents are things of the past is just not true.”

Under plans currently going through Parliament the CRE would be axed, along with the existing commissions covering gender and disabilities. New areas of sexual orientation, age, and religion would be included in the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).

In an editorial on Saturday The Guardian called on “all sides” to compromise over including race in the CEHR structure while arguing that ‘community cohesion could be pursued by a separate body’, seen as tacit support for Mr Phillips call for a commission for citizenship and integration.

However some campaigners believe such a body would not have a remit to dismantle the barriers of racism in employment, education or policing, but would instead “problematise” Black communities by concentrating on solving tensions between different minority ethnic communities and emphasising the need to integrate into wider British society.

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