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Daniel Zeichner MP: Equality and growth are two sides of the same coin

Opinion | Daniel Zeichner, the Labour MP for Cambridge, writes for the Cambridge Independent.

One of the greatest achievements of the last Labour Government was the 2010 Equality Act. It’s the landmark piece of anti-discrimination law in this country, bringing together years of legislation into one Act designed to protect everyone, regardless of their background or identity.

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner at the Cambridge Gateway to India ceremony. Picture Bart Fajer
Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner at the Cambridge Gateway to India ceremony. Picture Bart Fajer

The record of this Conservative government, however, has shown that more work needs to be done. Inequality has soared since 2010. Unemployment rates are significantly higher for ethnic minorities, and living standards are far worse. Covid and the cost-of-living crisis both disproportionately affected ethnic minorities. And maternal mortality rates are almost four times higher for black women than for white women – a staggering, and devastating, inequality.

If you thought the government would take these important issues seriously, you would be left disappointed. In response to Labour’s plans for a Race Equality Act, the minister for women and equalities said that Labour prefer to focus on ‘fake problems’. That’s an insult to the all-too-real issues that disproportionately affect ethnic minorities every day – and is glaring proof that this government doesn’t intend to do anything about them.

A Race Equality Act is sorely needed, and that’s exactly what Labour would introduce. The work done on this by the shadow equalities minister, Anneliese Dodds, is exceptional.

We would enshrine into law the full right to equal pay for black, Asian and ethnic minority people.

Protections would be strengthened for people who face prejudice because of a combination of protected characteristics – this is called ‘dual discrimination’, and there was a clause in the Equality Act to outlaw it, and yet the Conservatives never implemented it.

We would place a duty on public services to collect and publish ethnicity data on staffing and pay, as well as outcomes where applicable – for example, requiring the Home Office to publish data on vehicle stop and searches.

We would require police forces to implement the National Police Chiefs’ Council Race Action Plan, which would improve the recruitment, retention and progression of black and Asian people within policing, as well as identifying and tackling racial disparities in the use of police powers.

Police officers and staff would be required to undertake mandatory anti-racism training. We would establish better ethnicity data on health outcomes and tackle awful health inequalities – requiring all Integrated Care Boards to establish and implement a Race Equality Action Plan.

In schools, we would build preparedness for teaching in multiracial settings into teacher training and review the curriculum to ensure it is rich and diverse. And when creating over a million jobs for all people when enacting Labour’s plan to deliver clean energy by 2030, we would ensure that these jobs are secure, legislating to end the scourge of zero-hour contracts and recognising the unequal impact these have on ethnic minorities.

These are all measures that would deal with real problems - if only someone could tell the equalities minister!

You’ll notice that all of those goals are inextricably linked with Labour’s Five Missions for Government – securing the highest growth in the G7, delivering clean energy, delivering safe streets for everyone, building an NHS fit for the future, and breaking down the barriers to opportunity.

And that’s because a focus on equality has to be, and will be, woven into every aspect of Labour’s governing vision. Everyone in this country deserves a government that matches their ambition, and that means taking inequality seriously.

Equality and growth are two sides of the same coin – if we want to get Britain moving, no one can be left behind.

Read Daniel Zeichner’s column in the Cambridge Independent every month.

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