Race Matters

Who is dealing with race equality in the government?

Who, exactly, is responsible for race equality in the government, asks Lester Holloway.

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) used to be responsible for all equalities strands covered by the Equality Act, but is that still the case? Looking at their website you'd never know.

At the time of writing there were nine news items on their website covering gender, an invitation to take part in a consultation on gender, and a call to sign up for a newsletter specifically on the subject of... yes, you've guessed it. In fact the only non-gender item was a news piece celebrating gay pride.

Scrolling down the front page is a section entitled 'What We Do'. It mentions women, sexual orientation and transgender equality but makes no reference to race equality, or anything remotely related. As important as those protected characteristics are it begs the question: what has happened to race?

I remember the GEO website used to have a link to race equality content, but it's not there now. Even the About Us link has nothing remotely BAME. This is all rather curious, especially as the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan (pictured above) has overall responsibility for all forms of equality covered in the Equality Act.

Perhaps it's on the Department for Communities and Local Government page? Nope, not there either. So if the GEO isn't responsible for race, and there's no information on the DCLG website, which civil servants are dealing with the subject? Answers on a postcard please.

Baroness Susan Williams
Race Minister Baroness
Susan Williams of Trafford

So which government minister is responsible for race? Two weeks after the post-election reshuffle there was no word from the Cabinet Office. The Voice newspaper then set about finding out. After much chasing the answer eventually came - it was DCLG minister Baroness Susan Williams of Trafford. You can read their article here: "How To Find A Race Equality Minister".

That was almost three months ago. In all that time she has made just one speech on the subject, on 6th July. You can read it here. It touches on police diversity ("there is more to do"), BAME staff in the NHS ("we support equal access") and the armed forces ("I pay tribute to the work they did fighting for this country"). Apart from the odd tweet about celebrating Ramadan or concerns about forced marriage that, I'm afraid, is pretty much that. A pretty poor return for someone carrying the title of 'Race Equality Minister', I think.

I suspect that the minister might have more to work with if she is supported by civil servants with expertise on race. They used to be based at the GEO, but if the GEO is no longer dealing with race - as it appears from their website - then who is advising and supporting the Race Equality Minister on the subject of race equality? It just might explain why the output is so low.

Which makes me wonder whether we have a Race Equality Minister in name only? It also raises the question of why the subject of race equality appears to have zero presence on any UK government website, in stark contrast to gender equality.

I might be wrong, of course. Baroness Williams could be deeply engaged in weeks of behind-the-scenes work developing a shed-load of policies to tackle racism across public life. Civil servants might be preparing a new website on race equality which is only delayed because there is so much content to publish. But I wouldn't bet on it.

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