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Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), who is my good friend and parliamentary colleague. I fully agree with her. I did not want to interrupt her passionate flow in the debate. She talked about the local race equality councils, but from my experience as a Member of Parliament since 1983, and as a local councillor for 11 years before that, I can say that the local race equality councils stopped serious trouble in parts of our country. I note that there is no guarantee of any local institution being set up, following from this measure.

My amendment—No. 26—is about setting up a London committee, but before I talk about that, I want to praise my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) for suggesting that there should be a race
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committee. I fully support the eloquent and strong case that he made. Indeed, I have added my name to the amendments that he tabled in that regard.

I should also like to mention my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Roger Berry), who talked about the need for the commissioners to have direct experience of the discrimination strands that they are suppose to represent—that was Lord Ouseley's amendment in the other place. I referred to that on Second Reading, during an intervention, and I still do not think that that has been properly addressed. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington said, the Minister and the Government are hoping that it will come about. I should prefer that to be included in the Bill.

I was here when my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) talked about TUPE rights, which are important, and trade union rights. I saw a little bit of data from the last honours list that shows that, whereas scores of businessman got gongs, only three trade unionists did so—and two of them were from trade unions that are not in the TUC. There is a case to be made for trade union representation on organisations such as the CEHR. It is sad that a Labour Back Bencher has to argue for that.

I return to amendment No. 26 and the case for a London committee. I am arguing the case put forward, for example, by the Mayor of London, who said in his representations to hon. Members:

Just as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood has said, if this is okay in relation to a disability commissioner, if it is okay to have a race commissioner and a race committee and if that is all right for Scotland and Wales, it should be all right for London as well. London has more extensive discrimination problems, but also more positive experiences than the other regions on how to bring about solutions to the problems that we face in the discrimination streams. There is a big case for the London committee. That London context provides unique lessons, opportunities and challenges with regard to equality and diversity. London is one of the most diverse cities in the world and is certainly unique in the UK context.

Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): My hon. Friend made the point that we will be losing the race equality councils and the local connection. Bearing in mind that more than 300 languages are spoken in London, that more than 14 faiths are represented in the community and that almost 50 per cent. of ethnic minorities live in London, does not that compound the need and the call for a London committee?

Harry Cohen: Absolutely. My hon. Friend has been looking over my shoulder at the next point in my speech, which contained those important statistics. I will not repeat them, but they are important. That level of diversity is unmatched, certainly in this country. Some 30 per cent. of residents are from ethnic minority backgrounds. There are also more ethnic minority businesses in the capital—a greater concentration of them.
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There are more than 60,000 voluntary organisations, a significant number of which are involved with ethnic minority concerns and the ethnic minority sector. London is the base for the highest number of listed public bodies subject to the race equality duty, and those will soon have the disability and gender duties. London has a specific element that cannot be safely and properly abrogated or absorbed into the nationwide body.

Mr. Winnick: I am not a London Member, but I am sympathetic to what my hon. Friend is saying. I introduce what is not, I hope, considered a controversial point among one or two colleagues. Would not race relations in our capital be strengthened if a visiting cleric with notorious racist views on Jews or homosexuals was not embraced, whether by the Mayor of London or anyone else? If we are against racism, surely we are against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, presumably.

Harry Cohen: That sort of issue provides a perfect case for having a London committee. That point could not be more relevant. However, I will not get drawn into that; I shall discuss that matter with my hon. Friend on another day and another occasion.

I shall read another part of the Mayor's briefing, although it is a bit jargony. I want to read it into the record, because I think that the point is made. The Mayor's staff say:


That is a bit jargony, but when hon. Members read it in Hansard, they will see the point.

Mr. Pelling: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the points that he is making, because there is dynamic change in London's population. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) indicated that there can be many controversies within London's governance and perhaps there is value in a London committee intervening occasionally when some of the local CRE bodies get into difficulty.

Harry Cohen: I want to return to that point, which is well made. It would be better if there were a London committee that worked together with, for example, the GLA, the Mayor and other stakeholders—to use that jargon—when we have an important issue on race to discuss.

The Commission for Racial Equality sent to Members its concerns and one of them was about the location. It recognised that the CEHR will be

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All the ministries are in London. The Prime Minister is in London; the Treasury is in London; the major health authorities and bodies to do with policy making are in London; the main police force is in London; and the courts are in London. In the private sector, the City of London is the finance capital, and the stock exchange is in London. Much of business is in London and there needs to be a connection.

Meg Munn: Perhaps my hon. Friend would like to come to Sheffield to talk to the range of civil servants who work for the Government and who are based in Sheffield. Not everybody is in London.

Harry Cohen: I take that point and I agree with moving some of the ministries out of London. Why do we not have the CEHR's headquarters in London where the main ministries are and a "significant presence" outside the capital?

Barbara Keeley (Worsley) (Lab): I apologise for not being present earlier, but I have been following the debate elsewhere.

Many hon. Members and many agencies believe that it is vital that the CEHR is a new, single statutory body that can offer integrated advice and guidance, and that is the problem. Does my hon. Friend not see that the amendment and the idea of a London committee work against that aim? People who favour London rather than Manchester as the location for the main services of the new body are almost striving to split it. The key point is that it is integrated and can offer advice by working across all the disciplines. The question of the CEHR's location has been settled and the amendment would work against the key features that would make the commission work as a body.

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