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CRE could survive single equalities merger

Exclusive by Lester Holloway
17/8/2004

THE COMMISSION for Racial Equality could be left alone while other equalities subjects are merged into a single body, Blink can reveal. Ministers have been forced to change plans after the CRE and Black communities gave a thumbs-down to the plans

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Pdf The 1990 Trust response to the Fairness for All White Paper
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Growing opposition to the proposed Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) from race organisations and the CRE has forced ministers to reassess their plans.

A well-placed source has revealed that Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt is considering leaving the CRE in place while disability, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and human rights are merged into the CEHR.

The developments emerged as public consultation on the DTI’s Fairness for All White Paper ended on Monday. The original deadline for responses was extended from the 6 August after complaints that the government had not given interested parties enough time.

Trevor Phillips spelt out his 'red lines' a month before White Paper was published
Trevor Phillips spelt out his 'red lines' a month before White Paper was published

Last month the CRE voted to reject the White Paper, with CRE chair Trevor Phillips describing it as “the wrong proposal at the wrong time.” Critics of the government’s plans saw the move as killing off the single equalities body.

But DTI ministers are determined to set up the CEHR and are actively looking at merging the existing Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and the gender-specific Equal Opportunities Commission (EoC), who are both in favour of the plans, with the four new strands.

A Britain-wide consultation of Black and Minority Ethnic communities on the merger plans by The 1990 Trust found over 90% of respondents “did not believe that race issues would be better served by the CEHR”.

dialogue

A series of seminars in partnership with regional race bodies in Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool, London, Leicester, Cardiff and Glasgow were attended by 370 organisations has led to 70 written responses.

Karen Chouhan, chief executive of The 1990 Trust, called on the government to begin a new dialogue with Black communities. She said: “Our extensive consultations have demonstrated that Black people up and down the country are overwhelmingly opposed to the single equalities body.

“The government cannot now include race in the new body against the wishes of Black communities and the CRE. Ministers must now go back to the drawing board and start a new consultation with Black communities to work out a way forward.”

A CRE document outlining their response to the White Paper acknowledges that “in general, black and ethnic minority groups were almost unanimous in their opposition to the proposal – to the point that we cannot identify a single ethnic minority leader speaking in favour of the proposal.”

The paper added: “Local race equality bodies, particularly RECs, were generally opposed to the CEHR as they linked the moves to a dilution of the race equality agenda.”

Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt's vision is threatened by grassroots opposition
Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt's vision is threatened by grassroots opposition

Stakeholders consulted by the CRE feared that the CRE’s programme of work on integration would be lost, and that the White Paper seems to give priority to business needs rather than meeting community needs.

There was also significant concern over a possible dilution of the CRE’s enforcement work, with a switch to soft-focus promotion, and actually discourages enforcement which is seen by government as an absolute last resort.

The CRE paper concludes: “The concern is that without the confidence and backing of the communities in serves the CEHR will not be able to deliver on the race equality agenda” and that a body opposed by the community would be “destined to fail.”

Blink has learnt that Phillips made clear what his three ‘red lines’ were to trade minister Jacqui Smith three weeks before the publication of the White Paper, but all of his demands appear to have been ignored.

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Resources:

Teeth and their use

Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: One year On

The Zahid Mubarek Inquiry

pdf Dept. for Communities & Local Government Citizenship Survey

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

pdf Delivering equality and human rights for black and minority ethnic communities

Flush the academic racism in Blunkett’s office down the pan

Jacqui Smith answers questions on the Single Equalities Body

How to Contact your MP

Links:

Race and Faith and Communities

Election Memory

Catalyst Magazine

UNITE TO PROTECT OUR RIGHTS: sign the statement against the erosion of civil liberties and human rights by new anti-terrorism proposals A Black Manifesto No 2 ID FREE FAROUQ PDP ASSOCIATES Power to the People

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