Theresa May: My plan for race equality in Britain

This election is the most important this country has faced in my lifetime. Our future prosperity, our place in the world, our standard of living, and the opportunities we want for our children – and our children’s children – all depend on getting the next five years right. Now more than ever, Britain needs a strong and stable government to get the right Brexit deal for Britain and to govern in the interests of ordinary working people. In doing so, we must take this opportunity to build a Great Meritocracy, a country where we see people able to get on through their own talents no matter what their background, no matter where they’re from.

Because for too many people in Britain, where you end up in life is still determined by where you were born, who your parents were, or the colour of your skin. As I said in my first speech on the steps of Downing Street last July, racial inequality is a burning injustice in our society that we must confront. That is why my first act as Prime Minister was to establish an unprecedented audit of racial disparity across public services, to reveal the outcomes experienced by people of different ethnicities across the country.

That audit will report in July and I am under no illusions that it will make uncomfortable reading. But the Government I lead will act on its findings. We will work across all departments to tackle these enduring divisions and legislate to change our laws when we need to. The audit will be updated regularly, so that progress can be checked and people can hold public services to account for improving outcomes for different ethnicities.

I am determined to tackle the difficult issues in our society and to address the concerns that have been raised with me by Black, Asian and ethnic minority voters.

We will act to provide highly paid, highly skilled jobs through our modern industrial strategy, ensuring that the benefits are felt by everyone across society and from every community. We will tackle the injustice of different ethnic groups are paid differently based purely on the colour of their skin, by legislating to make large employers – those with 250 staff or more – reveal the differences in how they pay people from different ethnic groups, just as we ensured they do for women.

We will improve housing for everyone, including those from Black, Asian and ethnic minority households, by building a new generation of fixed-term council houses, linked to a new right to buy, and giving people more security when renting by encouraging longer tenancies and abolishing letting agents’ fees. At the same time, we will strengthen the enforcement of equalities law – so that private landlords, buy-to-let investors and businesses who deny people a service on the basis of ethnicity, religion or gender are properly investigated and prosecuted.

As Home Secretary for six years, I took concrete steps to reduce the disproportionate use of ‘stop and search’, and the way it was targeted at young black men. I am truly proud of the progress we made. As the number of stops and searches has fallen consistently since 2011, the arrest rate has risen to the highest on record and black men are now proportionately less likely to be stopped than they once were . But we have gone nowhere near far enough. So, in the next five years, if ’stop and search’ does not become more targeted and ’stop to arrest’ ratios do not improve, we will legislate to mandate changes in police practices.

And we will learn these lessons to reduce the longstanding racial disparity across the criminal justice system. We will reduce the disproportionate use of force against Black, Asian and ethnic minority people in prison, and young offender institutions, and we will legislate here too if progress is not made.

In the last 10 years, there has been a 43% increase in the number of people detained under the three decades old Mental Health Act and black people are disproportionately affected. So we will rip up the 1983 Act and replace it with a new Mental Health Treatment Bill, which will finally confront these problems, and focus on improving treatment and early intervention across the board.

We will launch a national campaign to increase the number of ethnic minority organ donors to cut the long waiting times for patients from those groups and save more lives. People of Asian or African-Caribbean descent are three to four times more likely than white people to develop end-stage renal failure and need a kidney transplant. Yet, UK Transplant (UKT) data has shown only 3% of deceased donors are from those backgrounds.

Our education reforms will give everyone the chance to go as far as their talent and hard work will take them, no matter their background. We will change the rules on selective and faith schools and encourage universities and independent schools to get involved in running schools in the state sector to create many more good and outstanding school places. And we will transform technical education in this country through new institutes of technology and new T-Levels, putting technical education on an equal footing with our great universities.

Britain is one of the world’s most successful multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious societies. We are proud of our diversity, and the cultural and economic enrichment it brings. But we continue to have communities that are divided, often along racial or religious lines. To address this, we will bring forward a new integration strategy, which will seek to help people in more isolated communities to engage with the wider world and work with schools to make sure that students are taught pluralistic, British values and get to know people with different ways of life. And we will control and reduce immigration, while ensuring that British businesses can recruit the brightest and best from around the world and Britain’s world-class universities can attract international students.

Because our enjoyment of Britain’s diversity must not prevent us from confronting the menace of extremism, we will learn from how civil society and the state took on racism in the twentieth century to defeat the extremists. And so alongside looking at new criminal offences and promoting pluralistic, British values, we will establish a Commission for Countering Extremism to expose extremism, to support the public sector and civil society, and help the government to identify policies to unite us rather than divide us.

I want to build a stronger, fairer, more prosperous Britain. And it is essential for our country’s future, and the security of our children and grandchildren, that we get Brexit right. The next five years will be critical - our future prosperity, our place in the world, our economic security, all depend on getting the best Brexit deal for Britain.

That will require leadership from a prime minister who is strong enough to stand up for Britain, and a government that is stable enough to steer the country safely through the negotiations ahead. I want to agree a deep and special partnership with the European Union. While we are leaving the European Union, we are not leaving Europe, and we want to remain committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent. Most of all, I want to get the right deal for Britain in Europe, to strike new trade deals around the world and to make sure our economy is strong for the years ahead.

This election is a moment of huge national opportunity. Let us use it to create a country that truly works for everyone.