“Mr Speaker, I wish to make a Statement about the race disparity audit, which the Government are publishing today through a new website—Ethnicity Facts and Figures—and a summary report, which I have ordered to be placed in the Library of the House. The audit was announced just over a year ago by the Prime Minister as part of her commitment to tackling injustices in society. This exercise has been unprecedented in scale, scope and transparency. It covers detailed data on around 130 different topics, from 12 government departments.
The first product of the audit is the website, which is created to be used by all citizens. It has been developed through extensive engagement with members of the public from across the UK, public service workers, NGOs and academics. I hope honourable Members will agree, once they have had the chance to examine it, that the website is clear and user-friendly. Each section of the website includes simple headlines and charts, and allows users to download all the underlying data.
Although the past few decades have witnessed great leaps forward in equality and opportunity in British society, this audit shows that there is much more still to do if we are to end racial injustice. In itself, that will sound to honourable Members like an unsurprising conclusion. However, the audit adds a lot more clarity and depth to that single challenge. It tells us in which public services there are the largest disparities, whether those are increasing over time or diminishing, and about the influence of poverty and gender on the wider picture. For example, black people were more than three times more likely than white people to be arrested and more than six times more likely to be stopped and searched.
There are three issues that demonstrate the added complexity of the data. First, there are significant differences in how ethnic minorities are doing in different parts of the country. For example, while employment rates are generally higher for white people than for ethnic minorities, there is a larger gap in the north than in the south. Also, if people are expecting a report that is relentlessly negative about the situation for ethnic minorities in Britain today, I am pleased to say that it is simply not the case that ethnic minorities universally have worse outcomes. For example, people of Indian and Pakistani origin have similar levels of homeownership to white people, though this is not true of other ethnic minorities. Secondly, on some measures there are very significant differences between ethnic minority groups. Education attainment data show there are disparities in primary school which increase in secondary school, with Asian pupils tending to perform well and white and black pupils doing less well, particularly those eligible for free school meals. Finally, on other measures, it is white British people who are experiencing the worst outcomes, for example in relation to self-harm and suicide in custody or smoking in teenagers.
In terms of what happens next, the data set out on the website present a huge challenge, not just to government, but also to business, public services and wider society. We hope this website will contribute to a better-informed public debate about ethnicity in the UK and support local managers of public services to ask how they compare to other services.
On behalf of the Government, I have committed to maintaining and extending the ethnicity facts and figures website. More importantly, I commit that government will take action with partners to address the ethnic disparities highlighted by the audit. We have made a start through initiatives such as the Department for Work and Pensions taking action in 20 targeted hotspots. Measures in these areas will include mentoring schemes to help those in ethnic minorities into work and traineeships for 16 to 24 year-olds offering English, maths and vocational training alongside work placements.
In the criminal justice system, I want to thank the right honourable Member for Tottenham for his recent report, and I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Justice will be taking forward a number of recommendations made in the recent Lammy review. These will include developing performance indicators for prisons to assess the equality of outcomes for prisoners of all ethnicities, committing to publish all criminal justice datasets held on ethnicity by default and working to ensure that our prison workforce is more representative of the country as a whole.
In addition, the Department for Education will take forward an external review to improve practice in exclusions. This will share best practice nationwide and focus on the experiences of those groups who are disproportionately likely to be excluded. The House can expect further announcements on future government work to follow in the coming months.
The approach the Government are taking is “explain or change”. Where significant disparities between ethnic groups cannot be explained by wider factors, we will commit ourselves to working with partners to change them. The race disparity audit provides an unprecedented degree of transparency into how ethnicity affects the experiences of citizens. It will be a resource which tells us how well we are doing as a society in ensuring that all can thrive and prosper, and I commend it to the House”.