By Reena Kumar
INCREASING diversity in FTSE 100 boards, setting up an independent inquiry into Britain’s role in the 1984 siege on the Golden Temple and excluding international students from immigration figures are among pledges announced by Jeremy Corbyn who launched his Labour party’s manifesto today.
Describing it as “a blueprint of what Britain could be”, Labour also promised to develop and implement fair immigration rules and not discriminate between people of different races or creeds.
A Labour government will also introduce equal pay audit requirements on large employers to close the large pay gap among black and Asian workers, according to the manifesto.
The party also pledged to implement recommendations from the 2016 Parker Review into ethnic diversity of UK boards, which suggests having at least one director of colour on FTSE 100 boards by 2021 and on FTSE 250 boards by 2024.
“This manifesto is the first draft of a better future for the people of our country. A blueprint of what Britain could be and a pledge of the difference a Labour government can and will make,” Corbyn told supporters at Bradford university.
“Our country will only work for the many, not the few, if opportunity is in the hands of the many. So our manifesto is a plan for everyone to have a fair chance to get on in life, because our country will only succeed when everyone succeeds.”
In its 128-page manifesto, Labour also said it “welcomes international students who benefit and strengthen our education sector, generating more than £25 billion for the British economy and significantly boosting regional jobs and local businesses.
“They are not permanent residents and we will not include them in immigration numbers, but we will crack down on fake colleges.”
Prime minister Theresa May is under pressure from her party to exclude international students from the net migration target as the Conservatives seek to curb the hundreds of thousands of immigrants coming to the UK.
This week, the prime minister said the Tory manifesto would tackle the injustice of racial pay disparities by introducing transparency over how different ethnic groups are paid.
It would also involve gender pay gap reporting requirements extended to men and women of different ethnicities.
Furthermore, May’s plans will include the requirement to publish information on the pay gap at different grades of staff and age.
“The fact that different ethnic groups are being paid less for doing the same jobs is an injustice which cannot be allowed in twenty-first century Britain,” May said.
“My plan will deliver a fairer deal for all workers, by extending rights and protections, guaranteeing rises in the National Living Wage and delivering a strong and stable economy.”
A Labour spokesperson told Eastern Eye: “BAME communities are still over-represented in minimum wage jobs. Our plans to introduce a real living wage of £10 an hour by 2020 and ban zero-hours contracts will help close the BAME pay gap.”
Former Liberal Democrat business minister Jo Swinson criticised May’s pledge and questioned how the public could take the Tory leader seriously on clamping down on inequality and discrimination based on ethnicity given her record on these issues.
Swinson said: “She authorised the ‘Go Home Vans’ whilst at the Home Office and as prime minister is pursuing the hardest and most divisive form of Brexit while adopting the language of Nigel Farage in the pursuit of votes.”
Labour’s manifesto on Tuesday also promised a commitment to an independent inquiry into Britain’s military role in the 1984 raid on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, also known as Operation Bluestar.
Sikh extremists took refuge in Sikhism’s holiest shrine, leading the Indian Army to make their way into the gurdwara to force the militants out.
Former prime minister David Cameron asked cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood to look into Briatin’s role in the siege.
In February 2014, Sir Jeremy reported that British military advice was a one-off, that advice from a military officer had “limited impact” and that there was no training or equipment offered to Indians at the time. It remains a sensitive issue among some in the Sikh community.
The Labour party has been accused of taking the ethnic minority vote for granted; in 2010, 68 per cent voted for the party, compared to 16 per cent for the Conservatives.
However 2015 showed a very different picture when Labour’s share declined to 52 per cent, while the Tories’ more than doubled to 33 per cent.
Labour also said if it wins the election on June 8 it would increase taxes on Britain’s highest earners, introduce a levy on financial transactions and impose an “excessive pay levy” on companies with staff earning more than £330,000.