Dear Mr. Nick Clegg,
We the undersigned from the West Yorkshire Racial Justice Network are writing to you to express our deep concern at the decision of the Lib-Dem Party’s Federal Conference Committee to ditch a motion endorsing a report by a race equality task force, which was initially set up by you. The Report, which took almost a year to prepare, makes a number of recommendations for policy changes to tackle racism and discrimination.
We are disappointed because we believed that the Lib Dems were the progressive partner within the Coalition, committed to creating a just and equal society. Your party’s decision will exacerbate the disadvantage historically experienced by BME communities as a result of the deep deficit cuts imposed by the government you are part of.
As organisations working at the coalface with vulnerable BME communities we would like to set out the reasons why we believe the motion should be reinstated.
THE UNDERMINING OF THE RACE AGENDA
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination produced a highly critical Report in 2011, criticizing the Coalition government for diluting and reversing the achievement it had made in the fight against racial discrimination and racial inequality over the decades. It outlined a series of recommendations, which your government has effectively ignored.
More recently Doreen Lawrence, the mother of the murdered teenager, Stephen Lawrence, accused the government of squandering the advances made in race relations following the publication of the Macpherson Report. Her belief that the Coalition government is “blasé” about equality because “it doesn’t affect their lives” is a sentiment that resonates with the BME communities.
Since you went into Coalition with the Conservatives we have witnessed an unprecedented assault on the equalities agenda. The decision to weaken the EHRC’s role and to undermine the Equalities legislation will strip away the essential safeguards protected groups have come to rely on. It is clear that in subjecting the Equalities legislation to the Red Tape Challenge, your government is putting the corporate needs of business over the needs of vulnerable communities.
REASONS WHY THE LIB-DEM’S CURRENT POSITION IS NOT TENABLE
The 2011 census has revealed, that one-in-five (20%) of the UK’s population is now from an ethnic group other than White British, compared with only 13% in 2001. With the BME population almost doubling, many of Britain’s cities such as London, Leicester, Birmingham, Manchester and Bradford are anticipated to have majority BME populations in a decade. In view of the rapidly changing demographics of UK, it is clear that racial inequality can no longer be deemed a fringe issue and requires leadership on your part to tackle the disadvantages we outline below.
EVIDENCE OF BME DISADVANTAGE
STOP AND SEARCH (SECTION 60 AND TERRORISM ACT 2000)
An EHRC study published in June 2012 highlighted that BME communities continued to be disproportionately affected by stop and searches. Covering the period 2008-11, it found that 3/4s of all stop and searches were carried out by the Metropolitan Police with Black ethnic groups being subject to the most stop and searches. Excess stop and searches were highest for Black groups (19,756), Asian groups (9166) and Mixed groups (1785). Similar trends are highlighted under the Terrorism Act 2000.
BME groups are significantly over-represented in the prison system, with over 25% of the overall prison population being from a BME background. In 2010, Black or Black British people made up 14% of the prison population and Asian or Asian British people made up 7.3% of the prison population. The latest report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick highlights that Muslim offenders in youth jails now account for more than one-fifth of all inmates.
A study in 2011, based on an analysis of over one million court records found that Black offenders were 44% more likely than white offenders to be given a prison sentence for driving offences, 38% more likely for public order offences or possession of a weapon and 27% more likely for possession of drugs. Asian people were 19% more likely than white people to be given a prison sentence for shoplifting and 41% more likely for drugs offences.
Around two-fifths of Black people live in low-income households, twice the rate for White people. 45% of Black children are poor, 40% of pupils of Pakistani descent are eligible for free school meals and 55% of Pakistani families live below the poverty line.
Recent statistical release from the Office of National Statistics, has revealed that, nationally, 55.5% of economically active black men aged between 16 and 24 years are unemployed, and that this rate has doubled since 2008. For young Black people, the unemployment rate is 44.4% and it is 27.6% of Asian young people, rising from 22.8% in 2008. Breaking that down, 33.6% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi young people are unemployed, and 24.2% of Indian young people, which compares with 20% of white British young people.
Research also shows that Black workers are confronted with discrimination at every stage in employment, from accessing work to redundancy. They are disproportionately concentrated in lower-paying jobs and under-represented among higher occupational scales.
The unemployment rate for young Black women has risen from 26.8 % since the commencement of the recession in 2008 to 39.1 % in 2011 according to the Labour Force Survey. During the same period the position for Asian women and women of mixed race has also risen but less sharply and from a lower base from 22.9% to 26.1% and 15% to 22.6% respectively.
Data from the Black Training and Enterprise Group has shown there is under-representation of BME young people in apprenticeships: in 2009-10, only 7% of apprenticeships were taken up by young people from BME backgrounds, although the BME population represents 14% of the working population as a whole. Provisional data for 2011-12 indicates that 9.2% of those beginning apprenticeships are from BME backgrounds, although 16% of 16 to 24-year-olds are from ethnic minority groups. The data is worse for completed apprenticeships.
In a speech delivered in November 2012, The Secretary of State for education Michael Gove said that: ‘Children from ethnic minorities are being marked down by teachers who expect them to do worse than others in tests.’ Gove stated that evidence shows that Black students do better in external assessments that are marked without bias or knowledge of the pupil. The Equality and Human Rights Commission triennial review highlighted that pupils from black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnic groups did not perform well. Travellers, Gypsies and Roma people remain the lowest achieving groups. In 2011, 25% of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils achieved level 4 or above in English and Maths at the end of primary education, compared with 74% of all pupils. That is one of the largest attainment gaps for any minority ethnic group. At key stage 4 in 2011, 12% of GRT pupils achieved five or more good GCSEs including English and Maths, compared with 58.2 % of all pupils.
Gypsy and Roma children are four times more likely to be excluded, and Black Caribbean boys, are twice as likely to be excluded. Excluded pupils are four times more likely to leave school without any qualifications.
Even among groups who do well e.g. young Indian people, who are the second highest performing group educationally, are more likely to be unemployed than their white peers. Similarly, Chinese graduates can expect to earn 25% less than their white counterparts.
GROSS UNDER-REPRESENTATION OF BME PEOPLE IN PUBLIC OFFICE AND PUBLIC SECTOR JOBS
Only 2.3% of MPs, 4% of local councillors and 3.5% of senior civil servants are from ethnic minority communities. .
Only 7% of senior managers in local government are non-White.
In the police force there are 48 BME superintendents and chief superintendents in England and Wales, and six chief officers – representing 3% of all chiefs.
There is a huge lack of BME senior officers rising through the ranks of the police service is starkly illustrated by the fact that, this year, there are none on the strategic command course for middle-ranking officers seeking promotion to chief officer rank.
This lack of representation has led to a proposal by Sir Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police, to make it a legal requirement to have a more diverse police service.
The above data represents only a small proportion of BME figures that are in the public domain as ethnic recording is not always robust.
It however highlights the huge challenges confronting the BME communities in the UK. In light of the above the West Yorkshire Racial Justice Network calls on you to show leadership and restore the motion endorsing the Report by the Lib Dem Race Equality Taskforce.
We look forward to receiving an urgent response.
Members of the West Yorkshire Racial Justice Network who have signed the open letter are:
African Women’s Support Group
INVOLVE Yorkshire and Humber
JUST West Yorkshire
Leeds West Indian Centre
Ravensthorpe Community Centre
The Keighley Association Women & Children’s Centre
York Travellers Trust