Tackling race inequality

Sadiq Khan speech to Operation Black Vote on tackling race inequality


Sadiq Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister and Minster for London, in a speech today said:


*Check against delivery*


Thank you Simon for that kind introduction.

And thank you to Operation Black Vote for hosting this event today

Over the last 18 years, OBV has been a powerful voice - promoting racial equality and keeping this issue at the very top of the political agenda.

And now, at 18, Operation Black Vote is finally old enough to vote itself!

So even though you are a non-political organisation - and rightly so - I'll be having a quiet word with Simon at the end about which party will get OBV's cross at the London elections a week today.

I am here today to talk about race inequality:

A problem which I believe is getting worse rather than better.
A problem that I believe we must tackle if we are to tackle wider inequality.
A problem that I believe hurts white Britons just as much as their minority ethnic neighbours.

And a problem that the next Labour Government will tackle.

But I am also here to ask for your help.

Because as wise and clever as us politicians think we are, we will never be able to tackle race inequality on our own.

So I am here to ask you to take part in Labour's Race Equality Consultation.

We need to hear from minority ethnic Britons.

About the problems you experience in your lives.

And about how we can work together to fix them.

We will then take what you tell us and use it to create a comprehensive Race Equality Strategy.

A strategy that we will embed at the very heart of the next Labour Government.

A strategy we will give real teeth - reaching across all Government departments.
So that we can tackle race inequality once and for all.
Did you know that black and ethnic Britons will represent up to thirty percent of the UK's population by 2050?

Or that Operation Black Vote's own research shows that any future majority government will only be possible with the support of ethnic minority voters?

Ethnic minority voters had the potential to decide the outcome in 99 parliamentary seats at the 2010 election.

But by 2015 this will have risen to a whopping 168 seats!

That's 168 seats in which the ethnic minority population is bigger than the current MPs majority.

It shows the amazing growth in the political power of minority ethnic Britons.

But it also makes it all the more surprising that so little progress has been made in tackling race inequality over the last four years.

My parents moved from Pakistan to London in the 1960's.

The major race issue they faced in their lifetimes wasn't inequality.

It was discrimination.

They could only have dreamed that decades later their son would be the first ever MP of Islamic faith in London or the first Asian MP to attend cabinet.

When they arrived it was not uncommon to see signs saying 'No blacks, No Irish, No Dogs' in London.

The N*word and the P*word were used in every day conversation.

But I'm proud to say that I hope these are problems that my daughters will never have to face.

We have made huge progress in tackling bigotry and racial discrimination.

When someone on television today gets caught using the N*word it makes the front page of the national press and there is a public outcry.

And even the far right of modern politics - UKIP - reject the accusation that they are in any way racist.

It's is a sign of how much things have changed since the days of 'Rivers of Blood' and the National Front.

So the fight today is a different fight to that faced by parents.

But it is no less important.

And no less challenging.

My daughters don't remember the days of open discrimination based on race.

But they are very much aware that Britain is still a long way away from racial equality.

The fact is that if you are black or Asian in Britain today:

You are significantly more likely to be unemployed.

You will earn less

And you will live a shorter life than your white neighbours.

This is both a moral and a political problem.

It's an injustice that offends our most basic sense of fairness.

But even more importantly than that, it is an injustice that causes untold economic and social damage to our country.

Many of you will have read the report released by Policy Exchange last week.

It highlighted the increasing differences between different minority ethnic groups.

It said that the challenges we face are changing.

And can no longer be treated as a single homogeneous group.

I couldn't agree more.

But there is still one thing that unites all ethnic minority people in this country - and that is that we will all experience the affects of racial inequality in our daily lives.

From the very highest achievers.

Who get a great education, succeed in their careers but then find themselves hitting the glass ceiling.

Locked out of the board room or the judiciary or political office.

To those at the other end.

Who face the traps of intergenerational poverty, high unemployment and low educational achievement.

And everyone in between.

Who are significantly more likely to be stopped and searched than their white neighbours.

Race equality is an issue that ignores class or wealth or status.
It affects us all.

But there is a particular problem with the link between race and poverty.

Racial inequality is an increasingly large part of the wider inequality that we see across Britain.

Too many minority ethnic people are amongst those trapped in poverty.

And feeling the worst effects of the cost of living crisis affecting Britain.

Ethnic minority people make up an increasingly large part of the working class communities who have been left behind over recent decades.

And have seen to little of the proceeds of growth.

Did you know that people of Bangladeshi or Pakistani descent are twice as likely to be paid the National Minimum Wage than their white neighbours?

This shows the inescapable link between race inequality and wider inequality.

And this problem is particularly acute here in London.

Asian Londoners are twice as likely to earn less than London Living Wage than white Londoners.

To put it bluntly:

We cannot tackle poverty and inequality in Britain -or close the growing gap between those at the top and bottom of our society - without tackling racial inequality.

Look - I believe that inequality is bad for everyone in society.

Bad for those at the bottom but also bad those at the top.

I also believe it is bad for our economy.

It limits growth and destroys potential.

And racial inequality is no different from any other type of inequality.

The high levels of unemployment among black and Asian youngsters is a terrible waste of human talent and energy.

These are people that should be out there setting up their own companies.

Creating growth and building business to help our economy.

But instead of creating growth, they are instead trapped in a life of welfare and benefits.

Costing the state money rather than contributing to our economy.

It's a drag on our economy and is hampering economic growth.

Getting these young people into work and unleashing their potential will unleash a wave of entrepreneurship and growth that can transform our economy and our country.

Tackling race inequality must be an integral part of a One Nation economic policy.

It will boost growth, improve living standards, tackle the cost of living crisis and reduce the deficit.

But just as inequality is bad for our economy, so it is bad for our society.

Racial Inequality in Britain has an astronomical social cost.

You don't have to have read the Spirit Level or Thomas Pikkety to see the social cost of inequality.

You can see in every community in London that it damages the fabric of our society when entire racial groups are significantly poorer, have lower educational achievements and worse life chances than their neighbours.

It causes us all to have shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives.

It increases rates of teenage pregnancy, of violence, or imprisonment and of addiction.

It destroys relationships between people born to the same society but of different races or into different classes.

My message for all Londoners- for all Britons - is that we will all win when we end this injustice.

And these huge benefits - economic and social - to greater equality - will be felt by white people just as much as they will  be felt by minority ethnic people.

So again the question we come back to is why haven't we made more progress towards racial equality?

At this point politicians would normally bash their opponents.

And it's true that this Government have taken their foot off the accelerator on race inequality.

And failed to produce a coherent strategy to tackle race inequality.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about here today.

I'm here to talk about how Labour will make things better in the future.

As a former Minister for Race, I am proud to say that the last Labour Government made achieving greater equality for black and ethnic minority Britons one of its highest priorities.

We put in place a set of legal frameworks that made huge changes.

From making it unlawful to discriminate against anyone in the workplace.

To closing loopholes that allowed incitement to religious hatred.

And the Labour party have always been at the forefront of this fight for racial equality.

From the Race Equality Act in 1968 to the appointment of Doreen Lawrence to the House of Lords in 2013.

From the fight against apartheid in South Africa to action to cancel debt, double aid and increase trade to the developing world.

Over the years we've won the argument and changed attitudes in this country.

But if we are to tackle race inequality in Government in 2015 we will need to redouble our efforts.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, we need your help.

We need you to tell us about your lives.

We need to hear your lived experiences.

We need to hear them so we can create a race equality strategy to end this problem.

A strategy that has the teeth in Government it needs to succeed.

To tackle race inequality we will have be an active Government.

Willing to intervene where no progress is being made on diversity.

We can't simply shrug our soldiers and hope the situation improves on its own.

Across all Government departments, the impact of Government policy and work on ethnic minority people will be one of our highest priorities.

Let me give you some concrete examples of what Labour will do.

Let's start with policing

We all know we need a police force that looks like the communities it protects if it is to do its job effectively.

Or to have the confidence of minority ethnic communities.

The confidence the police need to be able to do their job properly.

But little or no progress has been made on improving the diversity of the police under this Government.

As the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper has already made clear, the next Labour Government will introduce a new legal requirement for all police forces - including the Metropolitan Police - to have active recruitment policies to increase diversity.

Most significantly we are willing to change the law to allow affirmative action in recruitment if it’s needed, and are consulting police leaders on our plans.

Next, take stop and search.

We've known for a long time that there are big problems with stop and search powers.

The Home secretary Theresa May has promised to act.

But it looks increasingly like she has fluffed her opportunity.

The Government's recent proposals are a step forward but are far too limited.
Labour will go further.

As the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper has made clear, we welcome the review of training by the college of policing and the revisions to the code of practice.

But the new rules lack teeth.

Labour will put the changes to the code of practice on a statutory basis - enshrining them in law.

And we will revisit the crucial section 60 powers - about the requirement of authorisation from senior officers - which have caused so much of the resentment towards stop and search powers in ethnic minority communities.

Next - the judiciary.

As Shadow Justice Secretary I am determined that we will finally break the judiciary out of it's overwhelmingly white and male status.

It's crucial our judges and magistrates look like and have similar backgrounds to those they preside over.

It leads to improved confidence from communities in the justice system, and a broader range of life experiences enriching those who become judges.

The next Labour Government will act to ensure our judges and magistrates better reflect wider society.

Which is why I have asked Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC and Karon Monaghan QC to bring forward proposals on how we should reform the judiciary

And no option is off the table.

But Government must lead by example.

The diversity of the Civil Service must also reflect society.

The next Labour Government will have a target for the elite Fast Stream programme to comprise 18 per cent black and ethnic minority candidates - double the current level - and 24 per cent working-class candidates.

And we will expand internship programmes for people from diverse backgrounds and add a further track to the fast stream for those who successfully complete the internship programme.

Definitive action that will make a real difference.

But it is important that the private sector follows this lead.

As Trevor Philips revealed earlier this year - the number of ethnic minority members in British boardrooms is truly disgraceful.

More than half of FTSE100 companies have no non-white directors and two-thirds have no full time minority executives at board level.

If you look at the 100 largest British companies; only three of the chairman are not white, all but five chief executives were white and all but two of the finance directors were white!

It makes our businesses less competitive in the global market.

The next Labour Government will work to change this.

Businesses are on notice that they must act.

If voluntary action doesn't improve the diversity of company boards, both for gender and ethnicity, we are willing to legislate to make it happen.

What happens in the higher reaches of the business world has a profound effect.

But just as important is tackling racial inequality at the other end of our economy.

At the heart of this must be a complete dedication to ending the sky high unemployment rates amongst many ethnic minority communities.

Under Ed Miliband, Labour are determined to change this.

We will change the way the Work Programme is targeted so that it more effectively supports ethnic minority Britons into work.

We will devolve control over commissioning to the local level.

This will allow for the differences in local communities - including specific problems in minority ethnic communities - to be taken into account.

And allow us to finally get to grips with this blight.

Finally - but most importantly.

We will pull all these strands and many more together.

Including every aspect of Government policy that affects race inequality.

Into a proper race equality strategy, embedded at the very heart of Government.

It will work across all Government departments to coordinate a massive drive to end racial inequality.

It will bring together all the strands I have already touched upon, but also answer crucial questions like:

*         How do we challenge inequality and segregation in the Labour market?
*         Is there a role for equal pay audits to address unequal pay across ethnic groups?
*         How do we confront the disparity in educational achievement across different ethnicities?
*         How do we reduce the health inequalities that still exist across our country

Which again brings me back me back to needing your help.

With our race equality consultation - 'Developing a new race equality strategy for Labour'.

Which will help us answer these vital questions.

Helping ethnic minority Britons play full role in Britain's economic and cultural life will improve the lives of everyone in our country.

We know that inequality worsens the lives of those at the top and at the bottom of society.

This is about making sure all our citizens have an equal chance of building a better future for themselves and their families.

And is essential to improving the lives of everyone in Britain.

Only once we have tackled racial inequality.

And ensured the colour of your skin no longer determines how long you live, how much you earn or how successful you are.

Can we build the One Nation society that we so desperately need.



The Labour Party will place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better. Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site.  To find out more about these cookies, see our privacy notice. Use of this site confirms your acceptance of these cookies.