PROPOSALS to monitor the ethnic make-up of companies’ boards and employees have been given a qualified welcome by East Lancashire business leaders.

They are happy for the government to collect statistics to increase understanding of the composition of the nation’s workforce, but strongly opposed to that information being used to impose quotas on firms.

Prime Minister David Cameron is working on proposals to survey the numbers of ethnic minority employees in major businesses and their managements with a view to increasing the diversity of workforces.

Mike Damms, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Businesses don’t have a problem with the government gathering information on the ethnic composition of companies’ boards and employees to increase understanding of the workforce.

“There is a problem if they start to use that information to impose quota on companies.

“It is up to firms to decide who they recruit.

“The answer is to ensure that young people right across the society have the education and qualifications to make them employable.”

His view is echoed by Tim Bullough, commercial director of rapidly-expanding Accrol Papers, of Roman Road in Blackburn which was founded by Jawid Hussain in Accrington in 1993.

He said: “We are a very ethnically diverse company at all levels, from management to workforce.

“We have no problem with the government gathering information on this.

“We would not be in favour of the government imposing quotas on firms, although they would not affect us.

“The key is making sure that all young people have the right education and qualifications.”

Will Montague, commercial director of RG Adrac, part of the Reach Global group founded by Mian Gulam in Burnley and now based in Church, said: “I think there is nothing wrong with the government gathering information on this. However, if they want to start telling companies who they should employ, then they should keep their noses out of our business.”

Blackburn Labour MP Jack Straw said: “I think this is a good idea. You often find that by making companies have a look at what they are doing in areas like this, they then start to take action themselves.”