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British PM’s Race Audit silent on discrimination against Sikhs by public bodies

October 12, 2017 | By

London: Sikh organisations consulted by the Cabinet Office are incensed at the failure to address data gaps and have declared the Prime Minister may have given the green light to public bodies to continue to discriminate against the minority Sikh community despite protection under race laws.

The Prime Minister soon after stepping into 10 Downing Street announced she was setting up an audit of race inequality in government. A key explanation for racial inequalities is racial discrimination. A year on the audit is eagerly anticipated by the public and those who research the field of race inequality.

One of the key concerns raised by the Sikh Federation (UK) and the Sikh Network at the outset of the audit in meetings with the Cabinet Office was that public bodies were failing to collect data regarding Sikhs, although Sikhs have been legally recognised as an ethnic group since 1983 and protected under race laws. It is important to engage with minority ethnic communities to understand their perspective on these issues and to ensure any interventions are appropriate.

However, in a damning indictment one of the civil servants leading the work at the Cabinet Office has confirmed public bodies covered by the race disparity audit “do not currently collect ethnicity data” on Sikhs “therefore there is no Sikh data.” It is understood the ethnic categories covered in the data audit are based on the Census 2011 categories.

S. Amrik Singh GIll, Chairman of Sikh Federation UK [File Photo]

A Sikh Federation (UK) spokesman said: “On the eve of the publication of the Race Disparity Audit we are extremely disappointed the Cabinet Office has failed to confirm if there will be any specific reference in the findings to the data gap with regards to Sikhs.”

“Having been consulted we will be deeply dissatisfied if it turns out there are no specific recommendations to address this serious data gap and fear it will be seen as endorsing that public bodies are free to continue to discriminate against the minority Sikh community despite legal protection under race laws for over 30 years.”

It was established in the 5:0 ruling in the House of Lords in the Mandla v Dowell-Lee case in 1983 that Sikhs were a legally recognised racial group with respect to ethnic origins. More than 15 years ago following the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 the Commission for Race Equality (CRE) in July 2002 amended its guidance ‘CRE Ethnic Monitoring, A guide for public authorities’ to make specific reference to Sikhs due to the legal position.

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “It is indefensible for all public bodies covered by the Race Disparity Audit to claim more than 34 years after the House of Lords ruling and the CRE guidance 15 years ago that none of them collect data on Sikhs as a distinct ethnic group. Public bodies should not be allowed to claim ignorance of the law and hide behind the Census 2011 ethnic categories.”

Maria Miller, the Chair of the Women’s and Equalities Select Committee wrote to John Manzoni and the Home Secretary last year following the publication of the findings of the UK Sikh Survey 2016. Preet Kaur Gill MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group has recently written to Rt. Hon. Damian Green requesting a meeting to discuss the Race Disparity Audit and data gaps with respect to the Sikh community and directly related matters i.e. Census 2021 and data held by the Cabinet Office on public appointments.

A Sikh Federation (UK) spokesman added: “The missed opportunity with the race audit will not be the first time Sikhs have been disappointed since Theresa May came to power. When the Hate Crime Action Plan was published in July 2016 after the Brexit vote we understand Number 10 airbrushed out reference to Sikhs when the case study specifically referring to a high profile attack on a Sikh dentist in North Wales was taken out.”

“The government will be judged on how they react to the findings of the race audit and the Prime Minister on actions she puts in place to make Britain a more racially-fair society. A data gap for Sikhs should and can be put right by immediately compelling public bodies to recognise their legal responsibility and collect relevant information relating to Sikhs. The Cabinet Office must insist the Census 2021 ethnic group categories to be finalised in the next six months include a separate Sikh ethnic group category.”

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