HC Deb 01 April 2004 vol 419 cc1602-3W
Mr. Donohoe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures have been taken since September 2003 to tackle discriminatory practices against the Dalit community in the United Kingdom. [164267]

Fiona Mactaggart

[holding answer 29 March 2004]: None that I am aware of. I would be willing to consider any evidence-based representations on the need for specific measures, but could not at this stage give an assurance that it would be right to take any.

The Race Relations Act 1976 protects people from racial discrimination in the fields of employment, education, training, housing and the provision of goods, facilities and services. The provisions of the Act apply equally to all people irrespective of colour, race, nationality and ethnic or national origin.

The Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 further improved the amended Race Relations Act. The Regulations relate to discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race or ethnic or national origins. It is unlawful to discriminate against another person on any of these grounds in any area covered by the legislation.

Caste based discrimination would be unlawful under current legislation if it could also be argued that the discrimination was also based on colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins (in the case of employment, education, training, housing, provisions of goods, facilities, services and most other functions of public authorities) or religion (in the case of employment and training).

We acknowledge that there have been criticisms levelled at the Hindu caste system with regards to the treatment of Dalits. However, it is not the role of Government to take a position on the rites, beliefs or practices of any particular religious faith, other than where these give rise to conflict with the law.