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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 08:03 GMT
Politicians urged to make race pledge
William Hague
William Hague's remarks on policing have sparked a heated debate
Political leaders are being asked to discuss race relations responsibly, following the row over William Hague's remarks on law and order.

The Conservative leader's decision to highlight the murder of Damilola Taylor in his party's attack on police numbers under Labour has already been attacked by ministers and a church leader.

Now Gurbux Singh, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, has written to the principal party leaders, calling on them to discuss race issues in a sensitive and responsible way, and to make a pledge to that effect.

He suggested that Mr Hague's speech last Thursday, which linked the Macpherson report into the Metropolitan Police's handling of the Lawrence inquiry, reduced use of stop and search powers and rising street crime, was unhelpful.

Sensible debate

Mr Singh said: "This is not the way to achieve a sensible, helpful debate. It is a sorry contrast to the way Parliament has just delivered new legislation on race equality."

He said Britain's record on building better race relations was good, but added that "events of the last few weeks show that we are in danger of throwing it all away".

His letter was sent to the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru.

Mr Singh invited the party leaders to reaffirm their commitment to a charter, in which they promised to take a sensitive and responsible approach to discussing race issues.

But in the letter, quoted in The Times newspaper, he said: "It would only work if your signature represented your real commitment. It is something the people of Britain have a right to expect. Can you give it?"

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The aftermath

See also:

18 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Hague defends Damilola comments
18 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Support for Hague's Damilola claim
17 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Police morale 'worst yet'
14 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Hague sparks race debate
15 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Fresh attack on Tory crime figures
14 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Hague rounds on 'liberal elite'
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