Anti-terror chief Neil Basu clashes with Priti Patel as he calls for positive discrimination to make police more diverse

  • UK head of counter-terrorism policing Neil Basu calls for positive discrimination
  • He asked Home Office to legalise move to ensure ethnic minority police recruits
  • Mr Basu raised issue at National Policing Board meeting chaired by Priti Patel
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The UK’s head of counter-terrorism policing has urged the Home Office to consider relaxing positive discrimination laws to ensure police can hire more BAME recruits.

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Neil Basu raised the issue at the last National Policing Board meeting chaired by the home secretary Priti Patel, who reportedly stood firmly against the idea.

Minutes from the meeting seen by The Times revealed that Basu told the board it ‘may be worth looking at the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 around positive discrimination if recruitment is to increase diversity at pace’.

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Police Commissioner and Head of Counter Terrorism Policing Neil Basu

Recent figures reported that police forces all across the UK had failed to hire a representative number of black, Asian and minority ethnic police recruits despite a high number of BAME applicants.

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Across England and Wales only 7.5 per cent of UK police are BAME, showing an underrepresentation of the 14.5 per cent of the population from BAME backgrounds.

Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, quickly shot down Mr Basu’s suggestion during the meeting, with Priti Patel also among those who rejected the idea of changing the Equality Act 2010 in favour of ethnic minority candidates, The Times reports.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel during a foot patrol with new police recruits around Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire. January 28, 2021

Home Secretary Priti Patel during a foot patrol with new police recruits around Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. January 28, 2021

However the idea does have precedent; when the Police Service of Northern Ireland formed in 2001 a positive discrimination model saw a temporary change in the law to allow one Catholic officer recruited for every Protestant officer. 

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Under the Equality Act 2010 positive discrimination, recruiting or promoting a person solely because they have a relevant protected characteristic, is illegal in the UK.

This is also true of setting quotas to recruit a particular proportion of people with protected characteristics, meaning the police is unable to set quantitative targets for diversity. 

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A government source told The Times that they have aims to diversify policing but said ‘the whole problem about positive discrimination is it’s not the best candidates for the job. That’s why it’s illegal.’  

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