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Harry Cohen: I agree that the commission must be integrated and cover the whole country and that it needs to be effective. However, on the specific point of how it lobbies and gets in touch with the policy makers, I should point out that the policy makers are not in Manchester or Sheffield. They are in London. The CRE and the new commission need to be able to approach them.
Harry Cohen: I am not saying that those bodies are ineffective, although I would have liked both to have been more effective. I certainly think that the EOC would have been more effective if it had been based in London and had more ready access to Ministers. The argument that I am making is that made by the CRE itself and not just by the Mayor of London, me and other London Labour Members. The CRE is saying that its successor body needs to be in London to be effective.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) said, who will carry the
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mantle of race equalities? The establishments that he namedthe National Assembly Against Racism, Operation Black Vote and the Greater London assemblyare based in London and have regular meetings with key stakeholders. If this strand is to be effective, it must have strong, cohesive links in London.
Harry Cohen: I agree with that very well made point. That is why I think that a London committee would be extremely beneficial. Even if the other headquarters were in Manchester, a London committee would provide a focus and enable the commission to lobby more effectively.
John McDonnell: I understand the argument of London versus the regions, but many of us in London have supported measures to tackle unemployment by the devolution of decision making and administrative units to the regions. However, any such moves must take account of the impact that they have on human beings. We have many staff in the existing organisations and 60 per cent. of the CRE's staff are from ethnic minority groups, 40 per cent. of the DRC's staff are disabled and 80 per cent. of the EOC's staff are women. Many of those groups also have caring responsibilities, with their roots in London. The move that has now been determined could have been handled so much better if there had been adequate trade union consultation, which there has not been, on the impact on those people's lives.
Harry Cohen: That is a very well made point. I will not dwell on it but we have had representations from the DRC that expresses concern that its staff in London should be properly protected. On the gender argument, we know that, in the capital, many women's issues can "disappear" when it comes to addressing their needs. Such specific issues for women would be better addressed if there were a London committee.
Ms Abbott: Does my hon. Friend agree that, of course, Manchester is a wonderful city and that we support moves to create employment outside London? However, there must be the suspicion that some people in government believe that putting the new commission in Manchester means out of sight, out of mind.
I hesitate to say this because some of my colleagues might not like it, but the argument is a bit like that over schools, sex offenders and different lists. We get into a muddle when we have different lists. In London, we have the Greater London Assembly and the Mayor and they have a role in relation to race equality duties. If the CEHR does not have a London committee, it will come in from afar and make pronouncements, statements and policies on race matters. We will then get mixed messages, unco-ordinated messages and perhaps opposing messages. That would be pretty disastrous in a situation similar to the one that took place during the riots in France. The bodies need to be together and must work together, and that means that there is a powerful case for a London committee.
I return to where we started and the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington made about local race equality councils that did so well. I hope that it will come about, but there is no guarantee of anything like a representational structure at a local level. At the very least, there needs to be a regional commitment where it matters, and it matters in London. We do not want what happened in Francein the main, it was in and around Paristo occur here. We do not want riots and a festering situation in which people do not think that the injustices that they feel can be addressed. They need to be able to go to a body in London that is concerned with those injustices. Such a committee must be based in London.
Rob Marris: I somewhat disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen). I do not demur from having a London committee, but I do not think that a committee for London, as a unique region in England, needs to be provided for by the Bill. Paragraph 11 of schedule 1 makes provision for the commission to set up funded, decision-making committees.
My hon. Friend's arguments on amendment No. 26 in favour of a London committee would be better put to the commission after the Bill is passed, as I hope that it will. We could then consider a series of regional committees, such as one for the greater west midlands, which has a slightly higher population than Scotland. If Scotland and Wales are to get their own committeesI am sure that it is obvious to hon. Members why that should beI would welcome a debate on regional committees for England. We should not forestall that debate by providing for just a London committee in the Bill, especially given that paragraph 11 of schedule 1 would allow the commission to set up a London, west midlands, or east midlands committee. I would prefer to leave the matter to the commission than to accept amendment No. 26.
I hope that the Minister will give us reassurances about staff and the TUPE stuff to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) referred when he spoke to amendment No. 24. We also need reassurances about matters that are not covered by TUPE, especially pensions and relocation. I appreciate that the Minister cannot give us chapter and verse on all the details tonight, but I hope
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that she will choose to reassure hon. Members that the needs of the employees of various bodies who might be displaced, or may have to reapply for jobs when the commission comes in, will be addressed and that their continuity of employment will be assured if, as one hopes, they get jobs in the new body.
I support the concept of a single equalities commission. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Roger Berry) said, I do not want any silos. I want simplification, as I said earlier. A holistic approach has been mentioned, and although I am open to correction, there is a holistic approach to most of the strands of equality and anti-discrimination stuff that we have now. There is a holistic approach on remedies because people go to an employment tribunal. It might seem strange that people who suffer race discrimination when they are not served in a bar because of the colour of their skin go to an employment tribunalformerly known as an industrial tribunalbut I think that it is still the case. It is desirable to continue a holistic approach with a single commission and equalities body and to continue the drive towards simplification so that it becomes easier for people to assert their rights.
The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) referred to costs when she spoke to amendment No. 42, which would provide for a report to go to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. According to the Government's projections, the new body will cost less than 50 per cent. more than the existing framework. The hon. Lady first said that the costs would be many times more than current costs, and then that they would be twice as great. When she was told about the Government's estimates, she understandably said that she was sure that the overall bill for the six strands covered by the Bill would be more than twice the £48 million that the current three strands cost, or more than £96 million. Leaving aside for a minute the start-up coststhere are start-up costs for a new organisationrelocation costs and so on, I will wager her £100, payable to a charity, that the costs in the first year will not exceed £96 million.
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