My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating this Statement this afternoon. As he said, much more work needs to be done. It is good that we now have the Government’s race audit, although it is a shame it was delayed from its original release date in July. I am not sure why the Government made that decision to delay it.
The outcome of this race audit cannot come as a surprise to the Prime Minister. After all, in 2010 she wrote to the then Prime Minister that there is a real risk that women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and older people would be disproportionately affected by proposed cuts. But now, as Prime Minister, knowing full well the damage that would be caused by these cuts, she has said nothing to remedy the problems she foresaw as Home Secretary and has in fact made them worse.
We need solutions and a sustained effort to really tackle these injustices, and the Government are simply not yet providing those. I was pleased that the Minister mentioned the mentoring schemes. It is always good to have mentoring schemes for people, but we believe they are not ambitious enough. The closure of Sure Start centres and the closure of Connexions were mistakes made by this Government—knowing full well the disproportionate effect that these closures would have on groups with protected characteristics.
I have a number of questions for the Minister. Will he confirm how many groups and organisations were consulted as part of the race audit? Will he confirm whether there are plans to extend the audit’s analysis to devolved regions such as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? Can he confirm for the House what steps the Government will take to tackle the racial disparities exposed in this audit and other reports released recently? What is their timescale for taking action, and what framework will they be using to judge improvements?
In the last general election, Labour issued a manifesto to tackle problems of discrimination. We said we would introduce equal pay audit requirements on large employers, implement the Parker review recommendations to increase ethnic diversity on the boards of Britain’s largest companies, and enhance the powers and functions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is what we plan to do when we are in government.
I hope the Minister is able to provide us with answers to these questions today. We need a Government willing to take decisive action to tackle racial inequalities and I look forward to what the Minister has to say about how this audit will be implemented.