David Cameron has launched a double attack on racial bias: in the courts and prisons and in Britain’s elite universities. He has appointed a Labour MP, David Lammy, to hold an inquiry into why more black and ethnic minority criminals end up in prison that white offenders.
And he is planning new laws to force universities like his own, Oxford, to reveal how many black applicants and students from poor backgrounds are accepted.
“If you’re black, you’re more likely to be in a prison cell than studying at a top university,” said Mr Cameron. “There are no black generals in our armed forces and just 4% of chief executives in the FTSE 100 are from ethnic minorities. These examples should shame our nation and jolt us into action.”
“And if you’re black, it seems you’re more likely to be sentenced to custody for a crime than if you’re white. We should investigate why this is and how we can end this possible discrimination,” he added.
Mr Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, added: “With over a quarter of the prison population coming from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background, the urgency here is clear.
“I look forward to leading a team that will evaluate what works in the UK, draw on lessons from abroad and listen to a broad range of voices from the justice system and our BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities.”
UK Landmarks At present, BAME people make up over a quarter of prisoners compared to 14% of the wider population of England and Wales.
Latest figures also show they make up a disproportionate amount of Crown Court defendants (24%), and those who are found guilty are more likely to receive custodial sentences than white offenders (61% compared to 56%).
Under Mr Cameron’s plans for universities, they will be required to publish admissions and retention data by gender, ethnic background and socio-economic class.
In 2014, just 27 black students entered Oxford out of a 2,500 intake and only one in 10 of the poorest white working class boys entered higher education. “Too many in our country are held back – often invisibly – because of their background or the colour of their skin,” said Mr Cameron.
“We must be far more demanding of our institutions, do even more to raise aspirations and be relentless in the pursuit of creative answers. “I believe this new transparency duty offers a real chance to help nudge universities into making the right choices and reaching out in the right ways.”
Under this new duty, which will be introduced in legislation, wide-ranging data will be published showing the ethnic, gender and socio-economic breakdown for applications, entry, and retention in key disciplines at all higher education institutions.
The Government says analysing this data will help tackle one of the biggest challenges currently in higher education: low entry and poor retention among black groups and white working class boys.
Writing in The Sunday Times, the Prime Minister attacked Oxford University where he attended Brasenose College as a student: “I know the reasons are complex, including poor schooling, but I worry that the university I was so proud to attend is not doing enough to attract talent from across our country.
“White British men from poor backgrounds are five times less likely to go into higher education than others.”