Thursday, January 20, 2005

Keith Vaz and the lack of government race equality

So, two entries down the page I talked about all Vaz's questions about ethnic minority appointments to governement departments. Well, that now makes a bit more sense... Asians yet to gain quango job equality in the Guardian, according to a survey published today from data compiled by our man Keith.

The results are actually quite shocking and I would encourage people to have a good read of the article.

Worst bits:

Eleven of 18 departments fail to appoint Asians in proportion to their numbers in Britain, says the survey, seen by the Guardian. A foreword written by the prime minister admits "there is still much to do".

The worst was the Northern Ireland Office, with four Asians in 1,002 quango posts available; at the the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, five out of 788 posts went to Asians, - 0.63% of the total, when Asians make up 3.96% of the population.

From the man himself:

Mr Vaz said ministers should insist shortlists for quangos included one Asian and one African-Caribbean person.

"The pool of talent is there," he said. "Whitehall departments are not taking seriously the commitment that has been shown by the prime minister that Britain is a culturally diverse society."

As for the methodology:

The survey took a year of parliamentary questions. Asian appointments could be identified by their names, but an attempt to find out how many African-Caribbeans had been appointed had to be dropped because they were not easily identifiable.

Names like Keith. But on a more serious note that points to the fact that there has been no gathering of data about ethnic minority appointments (confirmed by a spokesperson in the article).

Vaz's idea that shortlists should include an Asian and African-Caribbean candidate segue effortlessly in to discussion of whether or not there should be all ethnic minority shortlists for parliamentary candidates.

I covered Ethnic forums and affirmative action a few months ago. Yesterday I caught the tail end of a discussion on The Daily Politics but unfortunately no more details on it were to be found. In any case BBC News are reporting Malik rejects all-black MP lists. 'One of Labour's most senior Asians' Shahid Mailk wants targets, not lists.

Standing against him are Trevor Phillips, head of the CRE; the older and wiser Diane Abbot; Labour chairman Ian McCartney and, although he gets no mention in the article, Keith Vaz.

What say you? Can there be such a thing as positive discrimination? If there can be all-women shortlists why not all-BME shortlists?

Update: this story has also turned up, rather belatedly, in the Leicester Mercury: Asians not prominent - Vaz and Asians lose out in quang appointments from

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Keith Vaz in Leicester

A couple of appearances by Vaz in the Leicester Mercury for your attention.

It must not happen again - The family of a man who was stabbed to death by a mental health patient said today nobody else should go through the trauma they had suffered.

Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, said he was concerned about an apparent pattern of mental health patients committing violent crimes.

Mr Vaz said: "There is a balance to be drawn between the rights and health of patients and the safety of the community. Clearly in this case the balance was wrong."

Gujarati lessons back as fee row rumbles on - School governors have ordered the reinstatement of extra curricular Gujarati lessons after they were scrapped in a row over unpaid fees.

The governors have received backing from Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, who has offered to settle the row by paying the fee himself.

He said: "I would happily pay £169 myself because the meeting with relevant officials would run into costing much more to council taxpayers."

And oh yes, you guessed it... The game's up - An MP has "named and shamed" a list of computer games he said are encouraging violence. Guess which MP?

Time for an actual debate though, I feel. How about 24 hour drinking? 24-hour drink laws spark MPs' concern solicits opinion from all the parties.

Our Keith: "I think there's a danger in allowing unlimited licences, and I don't think it's good for the moral fabric of society."

Ross Wilmott, Labour leader of the city council: "I don't think we're ready for this yet. The staggering of closing times is sensible but you don't have to have 24-hour licensing for that."

Andrew Robathan, Tory MP for Blaby: "I think 24-hour drinking will exacerbate the problems, and make life even more miserable for residents."

Stephen Dorrell, Tory MP for Charnwood: "I'm not in favour of a one-size-fits-all policy. Different areas have different circumstances and the licensing situation should reflect that."

Edward Garnier, Tory MP for Harborough: "If the Chief Constable has to divert resources to police 24-hour drinking, the law-abiding and sensible citizens of Leicestershire will be the losers."

Alan Duncan, Tory MP for Melton and Rutland: "The idea that the relaxation of licensing laws will lead to the creation of a continental cafe culture doesn't accord with the reality of the binge-drinking culture which is so prevalent in our towns and cities."

David Tredinnick, Tory MP for Bosworth: "When you remove restrictions, the reason for breaking them disappears. I think there's a good chance if we go for this, and there isn't a battle to drink as much as you can before the end of the session, the urge to drink a lot will disappear."

Roman Scuplak, leader of city council's Conservatives: "I expect the licensing committee will have a responsible attitude and will only decide to have a limited degree of relaxation. If that is the case then I think it should be welcomed."

Parmjit Singh Gill, Lib Dem MP for Leicester South: "I support the flexibility to be able to open later. However, binge-drinking is a very serious problem and I'm deeply concerned an already under-resourced police service may have to divert resources."

I don't know how that was for you (which is what the comments are for), but I find my own personal views most closely aligned with the last three, particularly the point made by Scuplak highlighting the role of the licensing committee, which is a bit of a blow. Used to live in his ward and in fact spotted him last weekend in the big Tesco's in Hamilton. I worry that what gets lost in the hysteria is the fact that these are not compulsory 24 hour opening laws.

So you've heard what they have to say, and what Frances, confused would-be Labour voter of Evington thinks, what about you?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Keith Vaz's Recent Appearances in Parliament

Just a quick round up of Vaz business in Parliament. He has been going on a bit of an equality drive recently asking lots of different departments about their ethnic minority, female and disabled staff and how their policies reflect these concerns. There's also input in a debate on Guantanomo Bay, questions about the Nationalisation and Integration Board and a further question on violent video games.

Want to see for yourself? Go to They Work For You. Type in your postcode. Look at 'most recent appearances in Parliament'. You can also click on to see more.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Keith Vaz and Patricia Hewitt: Educating Leicester

Today Keith Vaz has been delighting in opening a new classroom block at Keyham Lodge School (Nether Hall) reports the Mercury - New class block proves to be a hit. The £130,000 classrooms replace old wooden ones. I'm especially loving the last paragraph:

ISS Windows, which installed the classrooms, say that the steel infrastructure makes it almost impossible for arsonists to set it alight and for intruders to enter the premises.

Yep, that sounds about right. Any Nether Hall-ians here?

Meanwhile, some results tables came out. Optimistically entitled A better report for city schools it reveals no surprises. All the schools you expect to achieve did, and the ones you didn't expect to achieve didn't.

Of particular concern is New College in New Parks. It has only been around a few years, and now look...

Troubled New College at New Parks, was named as one of the worst performing schools in the country for both GCSE and A-level. It came bottom in the city with just 13 per cent of pupils meeting the Government benchmark for GCSEs. It was an increase of one per cent on last year's results.

There are now plans to replace the school, which has consistently recorded the lowest results in Leicester, with a city academy.

But technically that is Patricia Hewitt's concern. Patricia Hewitt's website has not had any new news since 2nd December. As I recall, a couple of things have happened since then. Her Issues page talks about what Labour has done for the families and children of Leicester West and how Labour are driving up standards in schools. Incensed? That's not good enough. Blog her!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Keith Vaz and the Manhunt saga

Keith Vaz is continuing his misdirected tirade against violent video games with an Early Day Motion, Control of violent video games classification system, and a debate on 17th January (MPs debate video games - Leicester Mercury). This time he appears particularly upset by JFK Reloaded which has won much publicity on the back of its 'sickening premise' (Video game vice - Washington Times). Vaz claims, as is quite true, that this game is available for download on the internet. However the splash page clearly contains the following warning: JFK Reloaded contains mature content not intended for children. If you’re a parent or guardian, please review this content before showing it to your child. To be fully playable a payment of $10 is required from a credit/debit card or Paypal and even a limited free version still needs to be downloaded and installed.

Aside from this new attack Vaz and the media are still using the murder of Stefan Pakeerah to justify all this, despite the fact that Police investigating the murder of Stefan Pakeerah, 14, dismissed its influence. Manhunt was not part of its legal case (PM backs violent video games enquiry - BBC).

Previous bloggage on the subject: Keith Vaz and the Video Games with more background in Other Vaz news and Keith Vaz and Manhunt.

More news: JFK assassination game branded 'despicable', The Register. JFK shooting game provokes anger, BBC.

Regulations based on a Judao-Christian model of worship

Another Early Day Motion that caught my eye was this IMMIGRATION RULES AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE FLUENCY FOR MINISTERS OF RELIGION (excuse the caps, I just copied it from the page, couldn't bring myself to type it out). It deals with the new immigration rules for ministers of religion requiring that they have a command of English to level 4. Any know what constitutes level 4 English? I'd love to hear. Any case, the EDM notes the difficulties this may cause for certain religious practitioners - which surely was the point? The specific people are Poojari, who perform daily duties in Hindu temples and are already required to know Sanskrit, Gujarati and Hindi but, having been trained in India, not necessarily be good at English. As they do not come into preaching contact with public the EDM regrets that the Home Office would appear to have introduced regulations based on a Judao-Christian model of worship without considering the implications for other faiths; and calls upon the Home Office to amend its regulations to provide an exception to Poojaries because they do not preach.

It has thirteen signatures including Keith Vaz and Leicester South MP Parmjit Singh Gill and originated with Sarah Teather (also proxy-blogged, visit Sarah Teather is my MP) Lib Dem MP for Brent East who is learning Gujarati.

Tsunami Earthquake Appeal in Leicester

Just a little round up of efforts in Leicester.

Diners raise thousands of pounds to help - Leicester Mercury. The Ashoka and Sakonis resteraunts held fundraising days that are hoped to have raised £7000. Keith Vaz attended the free buffet and Ashoka and said "It's very important that people should be contributing to this worthwhile cause. I commend the restaurants taking part."

Business man to send aid to Asia - Leicester Mercury. A businessman who regularly sends life-saving medical aid to Pakistan has collected more than £5,000 for victims of the tsunami.

Clothes for a cause - Leicester Mercury. When Catherine McNab discovered her nephew had survived the tsunami, she decided to help other victims.

BBC East Midlands news cameras were at the Masjid Umar Mosque on Evington Road yesterday for this report: Support for Indonesian survivors.

Anything else particularly interesting or prominent can be put in the comments by my lovely readers.

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