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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 12:19 GMT
Campaigner attacks race watchdog
CRE chairman Trevor Phillips
The CRE, led by Trevor Phillips, initially opposed plans for the body
A leading black campaigner has criticised the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) over the lack of a race committee in a new super-watchdog.

Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote (OBV) said the CRE's lack of a clear stance on the new body had not helped.

His comments came as MPs passed the bill setting up the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) to replace a number of equality groups. The CRE said it had always stressed the importance of a race committee.

"While we have always supported the principle of a single equality body, we felt that initial proposals were not right for race.

"During the last 18 months we are pleased that the government has listened and addressed many of our key concerns," the spokesman said.

'Smart game'

But Mr Woolley said initial confusion regarding the CRE's position had hindered OBV and other groups in drumming up support for a race committee to be included.

"I think that element of confusion clearly hasn't helped galvanise politicians who might have been more supportive to our cause because they haven't known or understood where the CRE stands," he said.

The CEHR which comes into being next year is set to replace the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) immediately, and the CRE in 2009.

It was first proposed by the government in 2004 when then Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said it would bring together knowledge and experience to "overcome and challenge all types of discrimination."

Mr Woolley said the DRC and EOC had played a "smart game" by working with the government from the outset and getting tangible results from their consultations.

'Inconceivable'

When the proposals were announced, race groups expressed the fear that ethnic minority issues would not get the same attention under a merged watchdog.

Campaigners were subsequently angered by the disclosure that the bill provided for CEHR committees on disability issues and Scottish and Welsh affairs but not race.

Let me say that not only must there be black and Asian commissioners, but that there will be black and Asian commissioners
Meg Munn,
Equalities minister

An alliance of race groups, politicians and activists including London Mayor Ken Livingston and Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, backed the campaign for a CEHR race committee.

During the bill's final reading in the House of Commons on Monday the government remained firm on not legislating for a race committee or a set number of commissioners from ethnic minorities.

But Equalities Minister Meg Munn said race issues would be a central concern for the CEHR, and that it was "inconceivable" the CEHR's board would consist entirely of "white, heterosexual males".

"Let me say that not only must there be black and Asian commissioners, but that that there will be black and Asian commissioners, and there will be women commissioners," Ms Munn said.

However, the director of human rights organisation the 1990 Trust, which has been leading the campaign for a CEHR race committee, said the government had failed to listen to unprecedented concern of the black community.

"Without concrete changes to recognise and include race equality within the structure of the new body it won't have the confidence of the black community which the government acknowledges it needs," Tanuka Loha said.




SEE ALSO:
Mayor fights plans to scrap CRE
21 Nov 05 |  London


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