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Let battle commence

by Lester Holloway

MP'S WILL PRESS ahead with their battle to make race equality part of a new super-commission despite the government's refusal to make concessions.

Roger Berry
Roger Berry: the disabilities campaigner says race is now being left behind.

The governments equalities minister Meg Munn told a gathering of leading figures representing various equalities issues that there would be no race committee in a proposed single equalities body.

The government still refuse to give ground as black activists called on Ms Munn to show 'good grace' and make concessions. Ms Munn told an invited audience yesterday that she was sticking to her plans to only allow a statutory committee for disability, and a guaranteed place on the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) board for a disabled commissioner.

Today a prominent campaigner for disabled peoples rights, the MP Roger Berry, submitted a Commons amendment calling for a quarter of the CEHR commissioners to be from a black or minority ethnic background.


Mr Berry told Blink he had fought hard for disabilities but now felt race and gender were losing out.

Meg Munn
Meg Munn: refusing to give ground.

He said: 'Most of my time has been devoted to the disability agenda. I'm delighted that it has been recognised that we have at least one disabled person as commissioner.

'That principle is good for disability issues [and] its' got to be a good argument for gender and race. The logic for me is clear.'

Mr Berry's amendment has been tabled for the last session of the Equality Bill on Monday, before it gets royal ascent, giving life to the CEHR and rubber-stamping the abolition of the Commission for Race Equality.

Mr Berry said he supported another amendment, put down by Keith Vaz MP, calling for a race committee. That is a demand supported by an increasing number of black and Asian MPs and is the overwhelming view of ethnic minority communities.


Sadiq Khan, the Labour MP for Tooting, told Blink he wanted to see a race committee. 'I've been pushing for a race committee and a commissioner to represent the interests of minorities.

'I raised my concerns that issues of race would be lost during the two year period where the other strands were represented on the CEHR, but race isn't.

'The other strands will get their experts on the commission, all the jobs will be taken up, and in 2009 when the CRE is abolished and is amalgamated into CEHR it's too late.'

Ms Munn has given private assurances to MPs that the new body would set up a race committee on its inception in 2007, but critics say they want cast iron guarantees race would fall lose out in a 'heirachy of equalities'.

Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent South, is known to be concerned that race could be watered down in the new arrangements, with the new super-equalities body covering sexual orientation, age, gender, faith, disabilities and human rights.


With the CRE due to limp on until 2009, other MPs have expressed fears that plum jobs on the CEHR would be carved up between other equalities issues before race joins the club two years after every other strand.

Simon Woolley, head of Operation Black Vote, said today: 'We've come a long way with unprecedented support from black politicians, and this is equally true of the black community.

'Next Monday will be D-day for race relations. Will we collectively go forward or back to the dark ages of black people being so readily ignored?'

There has been speculation that Ben Summerskill, head of gay rights group Stonewall, is being lined up for the top CEHR job. The Equalities Bill legislation has been shaped by top DTI civil servant and former Stonewall chief Angela Mason with assistance from her former press chief Debbie Gupta.

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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

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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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