Nick Clegg urges ethnic entrepreneur aid


Banks should do more to help ethnic minority entrepreneurs start and build companies by giving them better access to loans, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said today.

In a speech to mark 30 years since Lord Scarman's report into the Brixton riots, Mr Clegg said progress had been made on the legal rights, political representation and public sector employment of black people since the 1981 disturbances, but "grave inequalities" remain in the private sector.

He drew a parallel with the world of football, where a racial "ceiling" allows black players to become stars on the pitch but very few to make it through into management or administration.

He announced a review into banks' treatment of businessmen from ethnic minorities and mounted a staunch defence of the Equality Act - which has faced criticism from some employers - insisting the anti-discrimination legislation is "not going away".

Economic opportunity is "the next frontier for race equality" and businesses and banks must not be "let off the hook" over their duty to offer fairness and equal opportunity, said Mr Clegg in his Scarman Lecture in Brixton, south London.

While ethnic minority men in the public sector earn slightly more than their white colleagues, in the private sector a black man earns just 89p for every pound earned by a white man, he said.

Although 35% of people from black African backgrounds say they want to start up a business, only 6% are successful in doing so.

And firms owned by people of black African origin are four times more likely to be denied loans than white-owned companies, while those owned by people from Bangladeshi, Pakistani and West Indian backgrounds have been subject to higher interest rates.

"It's time we resurrected the Scarman spirit to tackle the lack of opportunities for our ethnic communities. The barriers built into everyday British life," MrClegg said.

"The real lesson from the last 30 years is: it is not enough for a society to reject bigotry. Real equality is not just the absence of prejudice. It is the existence of fairness and opportunity too.

"Britain's banks, bailed out by the British people, have just as much responsibility as everyone else - arguably more responsibility - to help Britain build a strong and dynamic economy.

"Unleashing black and ethnic minority talent is their duty too."

Barriers to ethnic minority progress in the business world were mirrored in football, suggested the Deputy Prime Minister.

"In football, fans adore their heroes for their talent and character, whether they are black or white, and when Sepp Blatter dares trivialise racism on the pitch, his comments are rightly met with public outcry," said Mr Clegg.

"But how many black managers are there in the Premier League? Zero.

"And in the top four divisions? Just two, despite the fact a quarter of all players are black.

"In sport, as in so many other walks of life, we have moved forward, but in so many professions the ceilings still remain."

Mr Clegg admitted that his own Liberal Democrats - who have no ethnic minority MPs - are "still too male and too pale".

But he fended off an accusation from a schoolboy in the audience called Lewis who said that with their public school backgrounds, he and PM David Cameron could not understand the problems of young people living on estates and educated in comprehensives.

"If you live in a world which says because you come from different places you can't talk to each other, what kind of world is that?" replied Mr Clegg.