Jo Swinson
Fight for equality: Tim Farron with Jo Swinson


By Jo Swinson,
East Dunbartonshire parliamentary candidate and former Lib Dem business minister

Jo Swinson

THE last two years have illustrated what happens without us. A Conservative-only government showing its true colours: reckless, divisive and uncaring; targeting the working poor, the BBC and junior doctors.

Last autumn saw prime minister Theresa May’s government propose new rules that would force companies to record how many foreign workers they employed – a plan that even UKIP found distasteful.

This week they continued their reckless obsession with overall migration numbers, instead of standing up for what’s best for Britain.

And through Brexit, they have allowed all the good work we did to rescue the economy to be undone.

With our country facing huge challenges, from inequality and injustice to an NHS in crisis and an economy in jeopardy, we are left with a reckless, divisive and uncaring Conservative government that has taken on the vile rhetoric of UKIP.

Politicians must be clear that the referendum result was not a green light to racism and xenophobia. It must have no impact on the multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith society that Britain is and will remain.

That is why policies like mandatory reporting of ethnic pay gaps are so important.

Transparent data on the BAME pay gap will help employers focus on what they need to do to ensure equal opportunities at work for people of all ethnic backgrounds – as well as create awareness and militate against unconscious bias.

This is so important against the rising tide of discrimination.

As a Lib Dem business minister in the coalition, I was successful in fighting an uphill struggle against the Conservatives to get gender pay gap reporting into law, but the fight doesn’t stop there.

It is so sad that in 21st century Britain inequality that comes down to race still persists.

The McGregor-Smith review conducted in the last parliament argued that many companies would only take positive action when targets are set. Monitoring and reporting on the ethnicity pay gap will, first, help inform business and government and, second, motivate businesses to address pay gaps where they are found.

This legislation would not be intended as a stick. We hope organisations would use this as an opportunity to take stock, after all closing the pay gap is not only morally right, but it makes good business sense.

Change won’t happen overnight, but we have to start to address the problem now.

We hope costs like the reputation of their business and implications for staff attraction and retention will encourage the relevant organisations not only to comply but go on to address issues that come to the surface.

Of course, some of the media will choose to concentrate on naming-and-shaming but this is about making progress together. That is why we would consult extensively first to make sure the monitoring and reporting requirements work for business.

With the hardest and most divisive form of Brexit pursued by the Conservatives damaging business, organisations should be encouraged by the McGregor-Smith review’s findings that ending ethnic minority inequality would boost the economy by £24 billion a year.

Gender pay gap reporting is already making employers look again at how they attract, retain, promote and pay women and men.

Transparent data on the BAME pay gap will therefore help employers focus on what they need to do to ensure equal opportunities for people of all ethnic backgrounds.

Against the UKIP-style rhetoric of a likely Conservative government, this is so important.

Every Liberal Democrat vote and every Liberal Democrat MP elected is a therefore a challenge to Theresa May’s hard Brexit and economically reckless agenda.

We are the only party that can challenge Theresa May and provide the strong opposition Britain needs.