Race audit could result in new laws


OBV were featured in an article in The Times newspaper today. We reproduce this below:

Theresa May brushed aside criticism of her decision to publish data on racial divides in Britain yesterday and said she would consider legislation to stamp out discrimination by employers.

The prime minister said that the findings of the first race disparity audit were not “entirely bleak” and that there had been improvements in some areas.

She told LBC radio: “This is not just about publishing a set of data and saying, ‘That’s it, job done.’ Absolutely not. This is the starting point of what we have to do.” Asked whether she would go further with changes such as name-blind applications for jobs or forms of positive discrimination, Mrs May said she was “not sure at this stage” what legislation may be needed.

Her comments followed criticism led by Munira Mirza, a deputy mayor of London under Boris Johnson, that the exercise “presented an overly pessimistic picture of modern Britain”.

Ms Mirza and a group of educationists and artists said yesterday in a letter to The Times: “All too often statistics are misused in a way that casts minorities as victims of racism and ‘white privilege’.”

The audit comprised figures from 130 data sets across public services, from health, education and the criminal justice system to housing and employment, broken down by ethnicity.

Findings included:

● Black men were ten times more likely than white men to have suffered a psychotic disorder in the past year, yet only 7 per cent of black people received medication, counselling or therapy, compared with 14 per cent of whites.

● Indian people were the most likely of any group to work in highly skilled occupations: one in ten were in manager, director or senior official roles and over three in ten were professionals.

● White offenders received the shortest average jail terms at 18 months, compared with 24 and 25 months for black and Asian offenders respectively. However, the conviction rate was highest among white defendants.

● Chinese pupils were the most likely to go to university. Indian pupils made better progress than Pakistani children, and white British pupils made less progress than average.

Last night Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote, which works to improve political representation and civic engagement of minority ethnic communities, defended the audit’s publication as an opportunity to deal with persistent race inequality in Britain.

Writing for The Times online, Mr Woolley said: “The naysayers or deniers will attempt to herd this important debate into a cul-de-sac, arguing that persistent racial discrimination doesn’t really exist, and just because there are racial disparities it doesn’t necessarily mean there is race inequality.”

He applauded Mrs May and said that the issue should be above party politics. He also called for every Whitehall department, local authority, employer and community group to stamp out discriminatory practices and promote equality.

Labour said racial inequality had been worsened by Tory spending cuts. Dawn Butler, the party’s women and equalities spokeswoman, said: “The real uncomfortable truth is that Theresa May knew that cuts to services would disproportionately affect groups with protected characteristics.”

Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, said: “Theresa May’s decision to shine a light on this issue means she can’t now shy away from tackling the causes of this inequality — including cuts to public services and a shrinking state.”

Public bodies have begun responding to disparities highlighted by the audit.

Police in Dorset, where black people were seven times more likely to be arrested than they were in Essex last year, blamed crime groups from cities outside the county who have easy access to its towns.

This article was first published in The Times