Equality Chief Says Firms ‘Should Have Race Quotas For Workers’

The head of the new equality commission yesterday called for race quota laws that will allow employers to favour minorities. Trevor Phillips demanded that 30-year-old rules, which forbid discrimination on grounds of race or sex, should be scrapped.

He said a sweeping new equality law should allow public sector organisations and private firms to choose workers on race grounds to end ‘immovable, persistent, disadvantage’.

It should also allow the introduction of quotas to ensure firms employ set numbers of women, mothers, disabled people, the elderly, homosexuals, or members of other minority groups.

Mr Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, called for the radical ‘positive action’ law in his Equalities Review, drawn up for Tony Blair at a cost of £400,000.

It said the new rules should make it compulsory for the civil service, the NHS, councils, quangos and other public sector organisations to show bias in favour of some minority groups when hiring workers.

Many private companies supplying goods or services to the state sector would also be forced to copy their employment policies.

Mr Phillips said the rules should be policed by his quango. The report also demanded measures to help mothers, who it said suffer discrimination because fewer women with young children have jobs than men.

Mr Phillips said that this was not a matter of choice but a result of discrimination by employers whose work demands make life difficult for mothers who need to look after children. He called for laws to make employers give mothers more time off.

The call for discrimination in favour of workers from selected minority groups echoes the ‘affirmative action’ schemes introduced in America in the 1980s.

Many become intensely unpopular – in some cases incompetent workers were recruited, in others competent workers from minority backgrounds suffered because colleagues regarded them as ‘quota hoppers’.

Ministers gave the recommendations a guarded welcome. But Dr David Green of the Civitas think-tank said: ‘These people assume that every difference is a matter of discrimination and not of choice.

‘There must be some mothers who stay at home because they want to. This report foreshadowsa future in which an army of inspectors-will be going around businesses checkingto make sure they have the right numbers and the right quotas.’

The report said: ‘There are some areas where inequalities are so deep-seated, or where conventional means will take so long to make an impact, that not taking alternative action is condemning a whole generation or more to living with disadvantage.

‘We fully understand there is not a public appetite for what is seen as unfair favouring or special treatment of specific groups.’

But, it said, an Equality Act should repeal laws banning race discrimination in the jobs market so firms can take balancing measures.

Mr Phillips’ recommendations are likely to be taken with great seriousness by Gordon Brown should he become Prime Minister.