Black people, racism and human rights Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Perceptions of human rights in the Black community

1.The majority (over 75%) of Black people in the UK do not believe their human rights are equally protected compared to white people. This is a damning indictment of our society and must be addressed as a matter of the highest political priority. To this end, the Equality and Human Rights Commission must undertake to run an annual opinion survey on whether Black people feel their human rights are equally protected, so that issues can be identified, and progress checked. (Paragraph 23)

2.This Committee undertakes to focus ever greater efforts on ensuring that we hear routinely from a diverse range of witnesses. These efforts will include a focus on ensuring that we hear directly from Black, Asian and minority ethnic people about their experiences in relation to human rights.(Paragraph 25)

3.Parliamentary select committees should reflect on how they ensure issues of race and racism are tackled through their work and have a regular focus on race equality through their inquiry work.(Paragraph 26)

4.The Houses of Parliament should use best endeavours to facilitate the recruitment of Black and minority ethnic staff into senior roles and report annually on progress. (Paragraph 27)

Failures to secure Black people’s human rights

5.Commissioning reports and failing to implement them intensifies disaffection and lack of confidence in the Government on race issues. Government must implement the findings of previous reports that have been commissioned.(Paragraph 35)

6.The Government has established the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities which is expected to report before the end of 2020. Previous inquiries and work of the Race Disparity Unit have identified the problems and pointed to solutions; the focus of this new Commission must therefore not be further fact-finding but on taking action to reduce inequalities and secure Black people’s human rights. This should take the form of a comprehensive cross Government race equality strategy. (Paragraph 36)

7.The death rate for Black women in childbirth is five times higher than for white women. The NHS acknowledge and regret this disparity but have no target to end it. The Government must introduce a target to end the disparity in maternal mortality between Black women and white women. (Paragraph 45)

8.The impact of Covid-19 has only served to sharpen pre-existing inequalities for pregnant Black women. The Chief Midwifery Officer has formulated a four-point action plan to better support these women during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is very welcome. These actions must be implemented as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 48)

9.The lessons learned review proposed in our recent report on the human rights impact of Covid-19 measures, and any subsequent public inquiry must prioritise consideration of why Black people have experienced higher mortality from the virus. For example, it should examine decisions taken about the allocation of PPE when it became know that those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were more at risk from the virus and look at how the employment and housing situations of Black people have made them more vulnerable. (Paragraph 52)

10.We call for the recommendations from the Lammy Review to be implemented as a matter of priority. (Paragraph 61)

11.The polling we commissioned revealed very low levels in trust in the police among the Black community. Some 85% of Black people do not believe that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police. The police must regularly poll Black people to find out their levels of confidence in the police to protect their human rights. They must publish the findings of this polling and use it to set a benchmark and a target to increase the confidence that Black people have in the police to protect their human rights. The police must also set a target to increase the number of Black police officers and publish the percentage of Black police officers in each force by seniority.(Paragraph 68)

12.Recommendations from the Angiolini Review referencing institutional racism, race or discrimination must be responded to and taken forward as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 74)

13.As we recently recommended in our report on the human rights implications of measures to tackle Covid-19, the Government should give serious thought to establishing a Commissioner or Office of Article 2 compliance, to ensure that the correct processes are followed in cases requiring Article 2 ECHR investigations, without relying on bereaved families for ensuring appropriate follow-up. Such a body should ensure that lessons are learned, and that best practice is disseminated to relevant bodies to prevent future unnecessary deaths. (Paragraph 75)

14.We expect the Government to fulfil its promise to implement the recommendations from the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, in full, as a matter of urgency. Focus must be placed on securing the cultural changes needed to ensure that people are treated with humanity and not treated unfairly because of their race.(Paragraph 82)

15.The Home Office urgently needs to rebuild trust with those communities affected by the Windrush scandal by fixing the compensation scheme, including by lowering the standard of proof for evidential requirements to “the balance of probabilities”; and ensuring that those affected receive the compensation that they are entitled to without further delay. (Paragraph 85)

16.The Government must consult on the implementation of automatic voter registration as a means of increasing democratic participation among Black people and other ethnic minorities and reducing the registration gap between Black and white people. (Paragraph 90)

Enforcement of Black people’s human rights

17.There is a perception among the Black community that the replacement of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has resulted in a weaker focus on race equality issues than was previously the case. There are currently no Black commissioners on the EHRC. This has left the Black community without a clear visible champion for their rights. At national level there is no organisation whose priority it is to champion race equality and lead the drive for progress. (Paragraph 100)

18.For the EHRC to be, and be seen to be, an effective enforcer of Black people’s human rights:

i)Black people must be represented at the top level of the organisation including as commissioners;

ii)It must have adequate resources, to which end we urge the Government to consider restoring the Commission’s budget to previous levels; and

iii)Government must harmonise the Commission’s human rights enforcement powers in line with its powers in relation to equality, so that it can undertake investigations where it is suspected that an organisation has breached the Human Rights Act and provide legal assistance to individuals in Human Rights Act cases.(Paragraph 101)

19.Even if the EHRC’s capacity to promote and protect Black people’s human rights is improved as we recommend, we nevertheless believe that a need would remain for a high profile organisation at national level, whose priority is to focus on race equality and lead the drive for progress. The UK has lacked capacity in this area since the Commission for Racial Equality was folded into the EHRC. The re-creation of a body along these lines must be considered as a matter of urgency. Such a body should also provide infrastructure to drive forward change at local level, fulfilling a similar role to that previously performed by the race equality councils that were set up in partnership with the Commission for Racial Equality.(Paragraph 102)

20.The Government should consider whether changes are required to equality legislation to make it more effective as a tool to enforce Black people’s human rights. This should include consideration of whether more focused and strategic specific duties under the public sector equality duty (PSED) are needed, as has previously been recommended by the Women and Equalities Committee. We support this and also suggest that particular consideration is given to the inclusion of a requirement for public authorities to take action to address identified racial inequalities. The EHRC must take a more proactive approach to ensuring that public bodies comply with the requirements of the PSED. (Paragraph 106)

21.The Office for Civil Society must consider what can be done to support the further development of independent Black-led voluntary and community sector organisations. (Paragraph 108)

22.While the work of the Race Disparity Audit was ground-breaking and very valuable in bringing together the available data, we are concerned that gaps in data collection and analysis remain and act as a barrier to the enforcement of Black people’s human rights.The race equality strategy we propose must have at its heart a cross-government commitment to improved data collection on racial inequality. (Paragraph 111)

Published: 11 November 2020