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Labour 'active' on race equality

A Labour government would consider legislation to force companies to recruit more woman and members of ethnic minorities to their boards, if they failed to do so voluntarily.

And Labour would take action to increase racial diversity in police forces, the civil service, magistrates' courts and the judiciary.

The proposals will be unveiled later today by shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan, who will say that the impact of Government policy on ethnic minority communities will be "one of the highest priorities" of a Labour administration.

Mr Khan will point to figures suggesting that black and ethnic minority voters could play a crucial role in determining next year's general election, with research suggesting that their votes could decide as many as 168 seats in England and Wales - up from 99 in the 2010 poll.

Describing Britain as a "hugely unequal country for minority ethnic people", Mr Khan will highlight new figures showing that, while unemployment amongst white Britons fell by almost 15% over the last year, it rose by 5.4% for mixed race people, 3.3% for Bangladeshis and 4.5% for those of a black African and Afro-Caribbean background.

Tackling racial inequality is not only a moral and political issue, but also a necessary part of boosting the UK's economy, Mr Khan will say. A Labour government will be "active" on issues of race equality and will be "willing to intervene where no progress is being made, rather than shrugging our shoulders and hoping things improve on their own", in contrast to the coalition under David Cameron, for whom the issue has been "barely an afterthought".

If it wins power in next year's general election, Mr Khan said Labour will:

:: Consider legislation to improve diversity in boardrooms if companies fail to act voluntarily;

:: Introduce a new legal requirement for police forces to have active recruitment policies to increase diversity;

:: Set a target of doubling to 18% the proportion of elite "fast stream" civil servants from ethnic minorities, as well as increasing numbers from working-class backgrounds to 24%;

:: Reform the Government's Work Programme to give more support to jobless people from ethnic minorities.

A review has been commissioned to draw up proposals to ensure that judges and magistrates better reflect the make-up of modern British society, and Mr Khan will say that Labour has taken "nothing off the table" to achieve this.

Speaking to Operation Black Vote in east London, Mr Khan is due to say: "My bus driver father could only have dreamed, as a new arrival to London in the 1960s from Pakistan, that three decades later his son would be the first Asian MP to attend Cabinet. As a country we have clearly done much to break down the barriers of racial discrimination.

"But the fact is that Britain remains a hugely unequal country for minority ethnic people. If you are black or Asian in Britain today you are significantly more likely to be unemployed, will earn less and live a shorter life than your white neighbours. This is a moral issue and political issue - an injustice that offends our basic values of fairness. But it is also terrible for both our society and economy."

Mr Khan will say that all minority groups still continue to face "inequality based on the colour of our skin", though this can vary between communities, with some facing inter-generational poverty, unemployment and low educational achievement or discrimination by police using stop and search powers, and others suffering from a "glass ceiling" which excludes them from the top jobs.

And - with Labour leader Ed Miliband making inequality a central theme of Labour's election campaign - he will say: "It will be impossible to make Britain a more equal country and close the gap between those at the top and the bottom of our society, without also tackling racial inequality.

"Ending race inequality isn't just about helping black or Asian people; it's about improving the lives of everyone in Britain. The shocking unemployment rate in ethnic minority communities limits economic growth and increases the cost of welfare. We need to unleash the economic potential of young Black and Asian Britons to grow our economy."

He will add: " Race equality has barely been an afterthought for David Cameron's Government. They have taken their foot off the accelerator and as a result, the progress made by the last Labour Government has gone into reverse.

"Unemployment in black and Asian communities has gone through the roof - ethnic minority Britons are now twice as likely to be unemployed as white Britons. There has been no progress in making our police force reflect the communities they protect. And Government cuts have disproportionately hit black and ethnic minority Britons.

"The next Labour government will put in place a clear strategy for tackling race inequality and give it the weight it needs to succeed. We will be an active government, willing to intervene where no progress is being made rather than shrugging our shoulders and hoping things improve on their own. Across all government departments, the impact of government policy and work on ethnic minority Britons will be one of our highest priorities."


From Belfast Telegraph