HC Deb 15 February 1989 vol 147 cc269-70W
Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will describe his Department's principal achievements in respect of race relations and equal opportunity since May 1979.

Mr. Ridley

Apart from the internal management of the Department itself, my Department's main involvement in equal opportunities is in housing and inner cities policy.

In 1986, we commissioned research by Brunel university into local authorities' policies and practices in combatting racial harassment in housing and expect shortly to be publishing a good practice guide as a result. The Department co-funds the local authorities race relations information exchange and funds schemes aimed at encouraging the recruitment and training of ethnic minority staff in local authority housing departments and housing associations. The Housing Act 1988 extended section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976 to cover the Housing Corporation and HATS, and gave the Commission for Racial Equality power to issue codes of practice on rented housing, which would be admissible in court proceedings. This power would be extended to all housing under a provision in the current Local Government and Housing Bill.

The urban programme enables my Department to support projects benefiting ethnic minorities and women in the inner cities. We give priority to projects designed to benefit disadvantaged minorities. Since 1980–81, around £220 million has been directed towards projects of specific benefit to ethnic minorities. In 1988–89, such projects account for approximately 11 per cent. of UP expenditure, supporting more than 1,100 projects at a cost of £29 million. Projects targeted on ethnic minorities cover a wide range of activities with expenditure being concentrated on economic development, training and health and welfare. The particular problems of women are recognised as priority issues in many local authority urban programme strategies, as is reflected in projects aimed at training and child care.

In the internal management of the Department, we have published policy statements on race relations and on equal opportunities for women; we have asked staff to participate in a survey of their ethnic origins as a basis for checking that our practices in recruitment, posting and promotion are fair; and we have taken a number of steps to help women combine a career with domestic responsibilities, including the provision of child care facilities, in cooperation with the trade unions concerned, on some residential training courses in the summer of 1987. This is to be repeated in the summer of 1989.

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