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Environment Agency in positive race discrimination row

7 August 2007


news item

The Environment Agency has come under fire this week for advertising a training programme which is closed to white English people.

The government body is advertising £13,000-per-year training posts specifically encouraging applications from "Asian, Indian, white other (eg Irish, Welsh, Scottish, European), African, Caribbean or mixed race origins".

Positive discrimination is allowed under section 37 of the Race Relations Act for training posts where it can be proved that certain groups are under-represented.

The Environment Agency says 387 of its 12,000 workers claim BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) status, which makes them an under-represented group given that roughly 10% of the UK population on the whole are of an ethnic minority.

However, The Environment Agency admitted it had no evidence that white Welsh, Scottish or Irish workers were under-represented in the Anglia region, where the training programme is taking place.

The situation came to light when 18-year-old Abigail Howarth received a letter from PATH National, the firm handling the recruitment process, telling her there was no point applying as she was English and white.

A CRE spokeswoman says:

"The Commission will be checking with the Environment Agency to clarify the current situation regarding their positive action initiatives. Positive action can only be used to encourage or train particular under-represented groups."


This document is for general guidance and research purposes only, and does not purport to give professional advice. Please check the date at the top of the article; the Workplace Law Network retains historic articles for general research.


Other Network users have commented on this resource - you can add your own comment using the form at the bottom of the page.

Robert Turner
- 18:10 8-Aug-2007

Feb 2002
posts: 1
This is PC gone mad. Where will it end?
John Blott
- 19:18 8-Aug-2007

Aug 2006
posts: 2
But it was highly enjoyable listening to the PATH spokeswoman squirm on Radio 4 this morning when the Today presenter asked if there were courses available for white English people in Scotland, where the Environment Agency will have an under-representation! Yet how sad for Abigail Howarth - an individual citizen who is made to suffer because of her association with a racial group. Isn't this just what anti-discrimination laws were supposed to prevent?
Dave Wales
- 8:09 9-Aug-2007

Jul 2006
posts: 2
It is time the Environment Agency got back to what they are supposed to be doing - protecting the environment. I was a member of one of their Committees for 18 years and have seen the EA deteriorate over the last 3-4 years where the focus has shifted to PC issues instead of the looking after the deteriorating environment. However the top of the EA is pursuing a policy where they do not want to listen to criticism so I am sceptical that anything will change.

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