UK Politics

Nick Clegg targets racial 'ceiling' in banks and sport

  • 24 November 2011
  • From the section UK Politics
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Nick Clegg says banks and football clubs must do more to end the "racial ceiling" and offer equal opportunities to the UK's ethnic minorities.

Delivering the Scarman lecture 30 years after the Brixton riots, the Deputy PM said the private sector had to do more.

Mr Clegg said greater equality had been achieved in the public sector under Labour, but "it was not enough".

He also said that his party, the Lib Dems - who have no MPs from an ethnic minority - had to do more.

Mr Clegg said that while a "great deal" had been achieved in the years since the riots there is still a "very, very long way to go" before the "war on inequality" can be won.

"The real lesson from the last 30 years is it is not enough for a society to reject bigotry," he said.

"Real equality is not just the absence of prejudice. It is the existence of fairness and opportunity too."

While the state had been an "important engine for greater race equality" through legislation to outlaw racist practices, the private sector had failed to go nearly so far.

"The state has been used to hide the sins of the market, and the veil is now being lifted," he said.

He targeted banks, pointing out that they have been "bailed out by the British people" and "have just as much responsibility as everyone else, arguably more responsibility, to help Britain build a strong and dynamic economy. Unleashing black and ethnic minority talent is their duty too".

"Why is it that members of some of our ethnic communities want to start their own businesses, but their success doesn't match their ambitions?" he said.

"We know, for example, that 35% of individuals from black African origin say they want to start a business, but only 6% actually do. Are they having problems accessing the loans they need?

"Past evidence shows that firms owned by individuals of black African origin have been four times more likely than so-called 'white firms' to be denied loans outright. And that Bangladeshi, Pakistani, black Caribbean and black African-owned businesses have been subject to higher interest rates than white and Indian-owned enterprises. Anecdotally, we hear this is a problem time and time again."

Sepp Blatter

The business minister Andrew Stunell is to bring together finance and start-up business experts to look at the barriers preventing black and ethnic minority groups from accessing loans.

"We have to work out what is going wrong, and then we have to fix it," says Mr Clegg.

Referring to the most prestigious UK universities he said "why are there over 400 more young black British men in prison than at Russell Group universities?"

On football he said it was wrong that only two of the 92 league clubs have a black boss. He also joined in the criticism of FIFA boss Sepp Blatter accusing him of "trivialising" racism.

"In football, fans adore their heroes for their talent and character, whether they are black or white," he says.

"And when Sepp Blatter dares trivialise racism on the pitch, his comments are rightly met with public outcry.

"But how many black managers are there in the Premier League? Zero.

"And in the top four divisions? There are just two, despite the fact a quarter of all players are black.

"If you are a white player you have a one in fifty chance of moving into management. If you are a black player? One in five hundred."

Responding the the speech shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: "Nick Clegg is lecturing others before he has got his own house in order. His party has not a single BME (black or minority ethnic) MP or minister, which is lamentable in 2011.

Mr Umunna said Labour had taken action to "enshrine fairness" with the equality act and set up the Ethnic Minority Business Task Force to look at barriers to setting up businesses, including getting access to finance.

He said that Mr Clegg was not taking forward the task force's recommendations, adding: "Although he says more needs to be done, he's been in government for 18 months and has done little."

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