The Queen fails in duty to minorities

Anthony Bevins
Sunday 06 July 1997 23:02

The Queen and the Prince of Wales are ignoring a statutory, basic tool for stamping out racial prejudice in the employment policy of their own households.

Buckingham Palace and St James's Palace revealed to The Independent that neither household carried out a policy of ethnic monitoring of their staff which is the officially recommended means of ensuring equal opportunities for black people and Asians.

The Queen, as head of the multi-racial Commonwealth, and the Prince of Wales, as someone who has frequently criticised the race bias of the armed forces, might have been expected to pursue the most rigorous possible equal opportunity policies in their own households. But The Independent has discovered that neither the Royal household, which employs 550 people, nor St James's Palace, Prince Charles's office, carry out the full policy of ethnic monitoring recommended for the past 20 years by the Commission for Racial Equality. The CRE code was adopted by Parliament in 1984, under the terms of the Race Relations Act 1976.

A spokesman for the CRE refused to single out the Queen or the Prince of Wales for criticism, but he did say: "We would like all employers to follow equal opportunity practices, and ethnic monitoring is part of the code of practice.

"We issue statements about this fairly frequently but we usually do so in a general way, without picking out anyone, because plenty of other people are guilty of the problem." He added: "You work for The Independent. As far as I'm aware, the employment policy in your newsroom is not ethnically monitored. We think it should be."

Initially, a spokesman for Buckingham Palace said: "Employment in the Royal household is essentially solely based on individual merit.

"But we do observe the code of practice of the CRE and although it's not policy to provide employment statistics, the number of current employees from an ethnic background is about 5 per cent, and that is in line with the ethnic minority representation across the civil service."

When pressed, however, he said that for the last three years the Palace had monitored job applications by ethnic background - but there was no ethnic monitoring of existing staff or of black people and Asians by grade. The code suggests that an employer might employ a fair proportion of black people or Asians, but if they are all cleaners or clerks, working on the night shift, that would smack of racial discrimination.

Ethnic minority employees make up 18.4 per cent of civil service staff in Greater London, reflecting the much higher proportion of economically active black people and Asians in the area. A spokeswoman for St James's Palace would not even say that job applications for the Prince of Wales's 70-strong staff were ethnically monitored.

"We operate an equal opportunity policy and we are confident that it is fair and impartial," the spokeswoman said. About 3 per cent of the Prince of Wales's staff - two people - were from the ethnic minorities.

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