Almost one year ago, the Conservative Government announced its plan to establish an ‘Office for Tackling Injustices’.
It was announced by former Prime Minister Theresa May and was set up in order to tackle “deep-seated societal injustices” in society. It is believed that it would build on the work of the Race Disparity Audit. There was an official announcement and press release by the Government.
The problem is, almost a year later, there is no evidence that the Office for Tackling Injustices has actually been set up. In fact, it has been reported in the Guardian that this Office has never been established and no budget or remit has ever been published.
If it were no longer a priority for Boris Johnson and the Government, you would expect them to issue a statement to say just that. But the Government has said nothing, which means there is no reason why this Office should not exist. It appears to be a promise not kept.
Over the last few weeks, it has been incredibly frustrating trying to get to the bottom of this mystery. The Government won’t even answer the most basic of questions. I recently tabled a written Parliamentary Question, “To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, when the Office for Tackling Injustices is planned to be established”.
Now you might think this is a straightforward question to ask. Yet the Government responded with “…announcements will be made in the usual way” and referred me to a previous answer to another Member, which also provided no clarity.
This type of response is the standard brush off by Government. It is frankly unacceptable. It is my belief that they do not want to properly answer my question most likely because – somewhat embarrassingly for them – they have failed to establish the Office for Tackling Injustices.
However, I will not give up looking for answers. This Government is continuing to try and subvert democracy and avoid being in any way accountable, this has to stop! The public, as well as MPs, deserve clarity about a Government body that was announced last year and was to be funded by the public purse. I have therefore tabled further Parliamentary Questions, which they have unsurprisingly so far failed to answer.
And I have written directly to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to demand answers to simple questions. Questions like, does the Office currently exist? If not, does the Government still plan on establishing the Office – and when? And what remit and budget has been assigned.
I am determined to finally get the answers I am looking for, one way or another.
I am under no illusion that establishing an Office for Tackling Injustices on its own will not solve every injustice in society. Just look at the Conservative Government’s record when it comes to racial inequality – they have failed to properly act on and implement all recommendations from the McGregor-Smith Review, Race Disparity Audit, Windrush Lessons Learned Review or Lammy Review.
The Government has also recently announced it will establish a cross-government commission on racial inequality. However, as I have told the Prime Minister in my letter when the Government fails to even set up the promised Office for Tackling Injustices, they may understand my scepticism about whether this new commission will achieve any lasting positive change. Let me be honest, I know it won’t – so I am just trying to save everyone’s time and unnecessary frustrations.
However, setting up the Office for Tackling Injustices will be a step in the right direction, a properly constituted office will be directed to take real action. And it will teach the Conservatives a very important lesson – they cannot announce something and promise action, just to get themselves out of a tricky situation and then just move on and hope that we all forget about it.
But if it is to play an important role in reducing the disparities in society over race, gender, deprivation, sexuality and disability, as planned, then it will need to be backed up by action, rather than more reviews and consultations.
So that is why I will hold the Government to account every step of the way and push for action, not words. Deeds, not words, as the suffragettes championed. And I will push for regular updates about what, if any, progress has been made in implementing the 150+ existing recommendations from various past reviews.
I will keep pushing for transparency and will update you all about the Office for Tackling Injustices, once the Government hopefully and finally answers my questions. And if you are reading this and I am not your MP, please push your MP to do the same.