February 4, 2021

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in summer 2020, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a cross-government inquiry into all aspects of racial inequality in the United Kingdom. The cross-governmental ‘Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ would look into discrimination against black, Asian and minority ethnic people in education, health and the criminal justice system.A number of people questioned why another inquiry was necessary. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, David Lammy MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice expressed the frustration of many at the lack of progress in addressing racial inequality in the UK over a number of years and he urged the government to take action and legislate rather than embarking on another inquiry:

I made 35 specific limit recommendations in the Lammy review. Implement them.There are 110 recommendations in the Angiolini review into deaths in police custody. Implement them.There are 30 recommendations in the Home Office review into the Windrush scandal. Implement them.

Writing in the New Statesman, the journalist Anoosh Chakelian echoed Lammy’s invocation noting that

previous inquiries into the ways racial discrimination plays out in the UK have produced large numbers of recommendations, almost all of which have been ignored or shelved by successive governments and counting up 375 recommendations that could be used instead of launching yet another commission on equality.

Responding to the imperative to review, recall and re-count the work of earlier commissions and inquiries into racial inequality and to assemble their findings in an accessible form, the Stuart Hall Foundation in partnership with the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) commissioned this report. It provides summaries of a selection of reports published between 1981 and 2017 and offers a thematic analysis of recommendations put forward to address racism and racial inequality in communities, education, employment, policing and the criminal justice system.The report examines 589 recommendations and draws out a number of common, overarching themes running through the recommendations including the need to address the disconnect between legislation and its enforcement; the requirement for holistic and co-ordinated approaches across government and between government agencies, employers and community groups; the requirement for further research as well as for regular, improved and standardised forms of data collection; and the need to establish accountability and responsibility at organisational and leadership levels as well as the need to establish independent oversight, investigation and review.

Established in 2015 to build on the unique legacy of Professor Stuart Hall, founding figure of British Cultural Studies, arts supporter, inspirational educator and leading voice for social justice, the Stuart Hall Foundation is committed to public education and to addressing urgent questions of race and inequality in culture and society.Throughout his life, Stuart Hall was committed to asking difficult questions about race and inequality in Britain. He contributed to a number of inquiries and commissions on racial inequality and participated directly in the Commission for the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. As Dr. Ashe writes in his executive summary,“for more than fifty years, successive British governments have tried to tackle the enduring nature of racism and the consequences of structural racial inequality through legislative interventions [and yet] in 2020, racism and racial inequality persist”. Questions have been asked repeatedly over decades and hundreds of answers have been provided as evidenced in this report.As David Lammy has written,‘it is time for action on the countless reviews, reports and commissions on race that have already been completed.”3 We very much hope that this report can make a modest contribution to galvanising such action.

Gilane Tawadros

Stuart Hall Foundation


For more than fifty years, successive British governments have tried to tackle the enduring nature of racism and the consequences of structural racial inequality through legislative interventions. However, in 2020, racism and racial inequality persist.

The first Race Relations Act came into force on 8 December 1965, outlawing discrimination on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins in public places. Amidst criticism that the 1965 Act did not go far enough, the Race Relations Act (1968) was introduced, making it illegal to refuse housing, employment and public services to a person(s) on the ‘grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins’. As John Solomos points out, the 1965 and 1968 Race Relations Acts had the ‘twin task’ of:

(a) setting up special bodies to deal with the problems faced by immigrants in relation to discrimination, adjustment and welfare, and (b) helping to educate the population as a whole about race relations, and hence minimising the risk of racial conflict developing in Britain in the way it had done in the US (2003, p.81).

Almost a decade later, the 1976 version of the Race Relations Act not only brought the concepts of ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ discrimination into law, it also led to the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) being set up. As a non- departmental public body, the CRE set out to tackle racial discrimination and prejudice, while also striving to contribute to the creation of a ‘just and integrated society, where diversity is valued’. It would be almost twenty- five years before further legislative changes were introduced.

The Macpherson Report was published in 1999 following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. With a remit that stretched beyond the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent police investigation, the Macpherson Report offered a series of recommendations relating to legislation and policies relating to race relations, racism, the police, the education system and the civil service. Macpherson’s recommendations would play a key role in shaping the Race Relations (Amendment) Act (RRAA) 2000, particularly Macpherson’s discussion and recommendations in relation to institutional racism, which Macpherson defined as,

The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people (1999, para. 6.34).

The RRAA 2000 imposed a statutory duty on all public institutions to eliminate racial discrimination and actively promote race equality.

The Human Rights Act (1988) also came into force in 2000 in an attempt to ensure that existing British legislation did not contravene the European Concern on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.Ten years later, the Equality Act (2010) merged various pieces of existing anti-discrimination legislation, including the 1976 Race Relations Act, in an effort to make the law easier to understand, while also strengthening legal protections in certain areas.

Between 1966 and 1988, a series of perhaps lesser known legislative interventions sought to tackle urban deprivation, including in multiracial settings (Solomos, 2003). For example, Section 11 of the Local Government Act of 1966 aimed to provide central government funding to local authorities so that they could meet the educational and social welfare needs of ethnic and racial minority groups. Similarly, the 1969 Local Government Grants (Social Need) Act was intended to provide financial assistance to localities where social deprivation was pervasive, including areas where ethnic and racial minority groups lived. Almost a decade later, the 1978 Inner Urban Areas Act was then introduced to address the way in which national policies might discriminate against certain areas and communities, while also addressing inner city decline and a lack of local job opportunities. Ten years after that the Local Government Act (1988) gave local authorities the power to carry out contract vetting as part of their duties under Section 71 of the 1976 Race Relations Act.

In 2017, the Conservative government’s Race Disparity Audit clearly demonstrated that, despite the various legislative interventions summarised here, there is still entrenched racial inequality in education, employment, health, housing, policing, the criminal justice system and in the public sector workforce, not to mention considerable disparities in terms of levels of poverty. For example, the 2017 Race Disparity Audit found that:

  • Poverty: ‘Around 1 in 4 children in households headed by people from an Asian background or those in the Other ethnic group were in persistent poverty, as were 1 in 5 children in Black households and 1 in 10 White British households’ (See p. 9).
  • Education: ‘Although pupils in the Black ethnic group made more progress overall than the national average, Black Caribbean pupils fell behind (See p. 9).
  • Employment: ‘Around 1 in 10 adults from a Black, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Mixed background were unemployed compared with 1 in 25 White British people’ (See p. 10).
  • Health: Black adults were more likely than adults in other ethnic groups to have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
  • Housing: ‘The households that are most likely to rent social housing were headed by someone in the African, Caribbean, Other Black, Bangladeshi, Irish and Arab groups, or the Mixed groups’; (See p. 10).
  • Policing: ‘While there has been a very large reduction in the use of Stop and Search among Black people since 2008/09, the use of these powers remains far higher on this ethnic group than others. Black men are also almost three and a half times more likely to be arrested than White men’ (See p. 11).
  • Criminal Justice: ‘White offenders consistently received the shortest ACSL [Average Custodial Sentence Length]. In 2016, the ACSL for White offenders was 18 months whereas Black and Asian offenders received the longest ACSL at 24 and 25 months respectively’ (See p. 11).
  • Public Sector Workforce: ‘Only 7% of very senior managers and 11% of senior managers were from an ethnic minority group’ (See p. 12).

  1. Key findingsThe thematic analysis of some 589 recommendations reveals nine common, overarching themes running through the recommendations put forward in reports published between 1981 and 2017.These are:
    1. Addressing disconnect between both legislation and its enforcement/implementation, and between policy and practice;
    2. The adoption of holistic approaches based upon collaboration between, and the coordination of the work being done by, various government departments at both the national and local levels, as well as collaboration between government agencies, employers and community groups;
    3. Calls for further research, as well as regular, improved and standardised forms of data collection which measures and monitors the nature of racism, racial inequality and the effectiveness of policy interventions;
    4. The introduction of, or changes to existing, training and educational programmes;
    5. Addressing racism and racial inequality through improved forms of communication and through disclosure and transparency, particular in relation to publishing data which measure, monitor, and evaluate the effectiveness of policies and actions taken to address racism and racial inequality;
    6. Proposals in relation to the recruitment, retention and career progression of ethnic minority people, and addressing the lack of representation of ethnic and racial minority people in senior leadership positions;
    7. Establishing accountability and responsibility, at both the organisational and senior leadership- levels, through the introduction of targets and performance indicators; and finally,
    8. Establishing independent oversight, investigations and reviews, particularly in matters relating to complaints procedures and reports of racism procedures, as well as handing independent bodies the power to carry out routine inspections and issue compliance notices.

You can download the full report from the following page: https://www.stuarthallfoundation.org/projects/shf-race-report/

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