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UK regions

Regions unite to demand race recognition in equalities body

by Lester Holloway

UMBRELLA GROUPS representing ethnic minorities across Britain are demanding race is not sidelined in a single equalities body.

Naz Malik
Naz Malik: CEHR structure will marginalise ethnic minorities.

The main BME organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have come together to demand a race committee as part of the proposed Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).

They are among almost 200 organisations and individuals who have signed a statement calling on the government not to sideline the fight against racism when the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) is abolished to make way for the CEHR.

The Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM), the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (AWEMA), and BEMIS (Black and Ethnic Minorities in Scotland) are all demanding changes to plans being piloted through Westminster by equalities minister Meg Munn.


Some of the other 191 signatries to the statement include Labour MEP Claude Moraes, Doreen Lawrence – the mother of murdered teenager Stephen – and a host of organisations representing lawyers and religious communities.

Sir Bill Morris: attached the governments 'one size fits all' approach to equality.

The growing calls for a race committee will pile further pressure on Ms Munn to concede before the Equality Bill comes back to parliament early in the New Year.

Government ministers David Lammy and Dr Ashok Kumar have already spoken publicly of the need not to exclude race.

Several other black and Asian MPs, including Diane Abbott, Piara Khabra and Shahid Malik, are also hoping the government back down. Government whip Parmjit Dhanda and Tooting MP Sadiq Khan are said to be sympathetic.

The revelation that groups representing minorities around Britain regions are also squarely behind demands for a race committee removes one of the last remaining Whitehall arguments for denying the CEHR a race committee.


Ms Munn is proposing a disability committee and CEHR board commissioner, but has made no provision for race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation and human rights which will also be part of the new super-commission.

Trevor Phillips
Criticised: CRE chair Trevor Phillips

Naz Malik, from AWEMA, said: “Unless race is embedded in the body it will be even more marginalised. We have struggled to have our voice heard in Wales, and under the proposed structure we won't be heard at all.”

Patrick Yu, director of NICEM, warned that without a single equalities law to underpin the CEHR race work would “disappear” in the new body, due to start work in 2007.

Mr Malik criticised the CRE for failing to properly represent BME public opinion throughout the CEHR process.

CRE chairman Trevor Phillips is due to end his tenure in February 2006 as speculation increasing that the government-appointed 'Equalities Review' board he chairs will recommend a new 'Commission for Citizenship and Integration' to sit outside the CEHR, which would be headed by Mr Phillips.

To date almost 50 Blink readers have sent lobbying emails to Ms Munn and influential MPs calling for a CEHR race committee, plus guarenteed black representation on the board and a ring-fenced budget for race work not less than the current CRE grant.

The demand that race is explicitly recognised was also a key demand during two regional consultations on the issue which The 1990 Trust undertook during 2004 and 2005.

The government were forced to admit that black communities were overwhelmingly against the White Paper proposals, but went ahead with the Equality Bill wrongly assuming minor changes to enforcement powers would appease critics.

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