Labour pushes for details on Boris Johnson’s race commission

Black Lives Matter protestsImage copyright
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Black Lives Matter protests were held across the UK

The government must publish more details about the race disparity commission announced by the prime minister this month, Labour has said.

Shadow equalities minister Marsha De Cordova has written a letter asking who will chair it and what its terms of reference will be.

Downing Street says an announcement will be made in due course.

The commission was launched after anti-racism demonstrations, in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

In a letter to Equalities Minister Liz Truss, Ms De Cordova said she was concerned about the “lack of detail or indeed any information” on the commission.

She called on the government to “urgently provide these details so that it can be fully transparent and allow our BAME communities to be able to properly scrutinise any action that is taken”.

Some MPs have raised concern that Downing Street adviser Munira Mirza would be involved in the commission, pointing to previous comments in which she suggested structural racism was “more of a perception than a reality”.

Labour’s David Lammy said Ms Mirza’s involvement would “undermine” the commission, but the PM defended her as “a brilliant thinker”.

On 14 June, Mr Johnson announced the new commission which he said would “look at all aspects of inequality – in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life”.

Writing in the Telegraph, he said it was “no use just saying that we have made huge progress in tackling racism… there is much more that we need to do.”

His announcement came after a series of anti-racism protests took place in the UK and around the world.

The demonstrations were partly triggered by the case of George Floyd, an American man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes.

What work has already been done on racial inequality in the UK?

  • The Race Disparity Audit, published by then Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017, showed inequalities between ethnicities in educational attainment, health, employment and treatment by police and the courts
  • The 2017 Lammy Review found evidence of bias and discrimination against people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the justice system in England and Wales
  • Also in 2017, the McGregor-Smith Review of race in the workplace found people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were still disadvantaged at work and faced lower employment rates than their white counterparts
  • An independent review of the Windrush scandal, published in March, found the Home Office showed “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race”

Some MPs have criticised the establishment of a commission urging the government to focus on implementing the recommendations of past race reviews.

But speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson defended his government’s record telling MPs that “16 of the Lammy recommendations have been implemented; a further 17 are in progress; two of them we are not progressing”.

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