Conservative Shadow Minister for Equalities, Rt. Hon Theresa May MP, writes exclusively for OBV about Conservative policies for BME communities.
The Modern Conservative Party is committed to tackling discrimination and promoting equality. Too many people are failing to achieve what they are capable of and not receiving the support they need. Conservatives want action to bring that to an end.
In Britain today, there is clear evidence that race is still a key influence on individual achievement. Black pupils are permanently excluded from school at more than twice the rate of white pupils. Some 9,500 black children leave primary school every year unable to read, write and add up properly. And of the 3,000 students who started at Oxford in 2008, only five were black Caribbean in origin.
This inequality extends to the job market too, with recent research showing almost half of young black people are unemployed, well over twice the rate for young white people. Since 1997, income inequality, education inequality and health inequality have all widened, hitting the black community disproportionately hard.
We can’t go on like this. A Conservative government would take action in all of these areas to tackle inequality and create greater fairness. Through our Big Society approach we will strengthen society and ensure that public services serve the people who use them.
Equality legislation has a role to play in tackling discrimination. We supported the Equality Act 2010 in Parliament. We will replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights that is sensitive to our legal heritage and which would strengthen and better protect our long-established rights. The Equality and Human Rights Commission will have a continuing role in protecting the rights of individuals and groups. And we will do more to protect the rights of individuals, including reviewing the indefinite retention of innocent people’s DNA, that we believe is wrong, and the PREVENT programme, which has been accused by some of spying on innocent Muslims.
We want criminal justice to be fair and seen as fair. It is worrying that there has been a drop in the number of black and minority ethnic entrants to the police of nearly half in the last few years. We don’t think that affirmative action legislation is the right way forward, but we do believe that it is essential that the police build and maintain the confidence of ethnic minority communities and a representative police force is part of this. We need to encourage people from all backgrounds to apply to join the police and we will work to ensure this happens. We’ll make sure that the ethnicity of people stopped and searched continues to be recorded so that we know if police forces are stopping disproportionate numbers of particular ethnic groups. We believe that Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 has been used for the wrong reasons. That’s why we’ll review its use as part of our plan to rationalise the reams of counter-terrorism laws passed by Labour.
We are determined to reverse the under-representation of certain groups, including ethnic minorities, in our universities. However, we believe that the best way to achieve this is not to set arbitrary targets, but to increase significantly the number of opportunities available, and to provide better information, advice and assistance to help people take advantage of those opportunities. To help end the shortages of study places which currently hit disadvantaged groups particularly hard, we would fund an extra 10,000 extra university places this year. Looking at wider opportunities for young people we will create 200,000r apprenticeships and other training places and 200,000 college places and work experience ‘pairing’ placements over two years. To help young people learn about and take advantage of these new opportunities, we will redirect £180m to fund the provision of proper careers advice in every secondary school and college in the country. And to help students choose the right courses and universities, we will provide much better information online bout the options available, and the true costs and benefits of going to university. Finally, we will also tackle the problems in the schools system which prevent children developing the skills which they’ll need to make it to university.
Our plans to open many more good schools with small classes, recruit new first-rate teachers and target education spending on disadvantaged pupils will give many more young people the good start in life that they deserve. However, a disproportionate number of black children are permanently excluded from school so we need to do a lot more research on what works best for children that have been excluded from mainstream provision. At the moment there is no data at all on the vast majority of alternative provision and certainly none on the success of reintegration from different types of alternative provision, whether in-school or not. We need to start by properly registering all forms of alternative provision and then getting appropriate attainment and destination data, so we can get a better sense of the kinds of provision that deserve financial support.
To tackle unemployment, we will give unprecedented support for those looking for work through our single, comprehensive Work Programme, founded on the principles of the Big Society, tapping into private and voluntary sector expertise giving individuals specialist and tailored support. It will give help earlier to young people and straightaway for those really struggling to find work.
In addition, research has shown that almost a third of black people in England want to start their own business, compared with just 9% of the white population. However, only 4% of black people do manage to launch a startup – a level lower than any other ethnic group.So to create opportunity, we will offer substantial loans and access to business mentors to support self-employment as a route out of unemployment.
Reducing race inequality will be a challenge for the next government but we are committing to achieving this goal.
By Rt. Hon Theresa May MP,
Shadow Minister for Equalities
The Conservative party manifesto can be read here.