Labour launches BME manifesto with Fast Stream quota plan

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan says civil service's Fast Stream graduate programme will have 'diversity targets and quotas' to improve black and minority ethnic representation

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Labour would introduce quotas to increase the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) workers in the civil service Fast Stream graduate programme, the shadow justice secretary is expected to announce today.

Sadiq Khan will launch Labour’s black, Asian and minority ethnic manifesto at an event in Leicester later. Ahead of the launch, he told the Guardian that Labour wanted a “sea change in people’s attitudes and aspirations”, and called for more to be done to improve diversity in the graduate scheme.

“On the current fast stream civil service programme, almost everyone is Oxbridge educated and they are all white, so we will introduce a combination of diversity targets and quotas to address that – including for working-class candidates”, he said.

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According to the latest Fast Stream recruitment statistics - published in 2014 - the proportion of successful applicants from black and minority ethnic groups now stands at its highest-ever level, with 114 graduates making up 13.2% of total new entrants to the scheme.

However, there remains a gap between the success rate of applicants from the respective groups. As of 2013, 3.6% of BME applicants to the Fast Stream were successful, compared with 5% of white applicants. 

Analysis of the latest data by the Institute for Government think tank shows that while the success rate for BME applicants is the second-highest on record, they remain “only 70% as likely to succeed in the recruitment process as white applicants”.

Alongside the quota for the civil service fast stream, Khan says Labour would introduce a central government race equality strategy, which he said would be “driven forward across all departments in a coherent way” rather than relying on separate initiatives led by “well intentioned” ministers.

The series of pledges by Labour comes just weeks after the civil service announced a “refresh” of its diversity strategy in the wake of three government-commissioned reports highlighting the barriers facing officials from under-represented groups.

In response to the reports, cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood unveiled a new version of Whitehall’s “Talent Action Plan”, committing the civil service to an “intensive” two-year programme of help for departments and agencies to improve diversity. 

The plan, which will be led by a single cross-government team, would, according to Heywood, provide permanent secretaries with “clear, evidence-based objectives relevant to their department for which they will be held accountable”.

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