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EDITIONS
Monday, 27 May, 2002, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Riot report is 'flawed'
Oldham riots
The independent report was chaired by David Ritchie
A report into the Oldham riots has been criticised for "blaming" ethnic minorities instead of far-right racists, it is claimed.

A year on from the riots, a member of the independent panel which looked into why Oldham erupted, says government pressure skewed the report's focus.

Waqar Azmi says the review was flawed by being forced to focus on language, social mixing and integration and not on the real causes of the riots.

The claims have been dismissed by the chair of the review team, David Ritchie, and Angela Eagle, the government minister responsible for race equality.

Mr Azmi, who at the time of the riots was the national convener of the British Federation of Racial Equality Councils, said: "If anybody reads this report they will see it is a report for social mixing and integration and not for riots."

He claimed ministers also steered the review towards language and citizenship, instead of the growing influence of far-right groups such as the British National Party (BNP).

He said: "The subject of language was something that David Ritchie did put forward.

Ministerial interference

"He said this was something very hot on the agenda of the government and ministers and something we should be looking at.

Angela Eagle
Angela Eagle: Oldham had problems
"I certainly argued very forcefully that language was not an issue as to why the riots started."

David Ritchie denied any ministerial interference, saying: "We had discussions with them (ministers), but only for me to report what we were finding.

"It was very clear from very early on, as far as I and other panel members were concerned, that the English language was a crucial issue in dividing communities in this town when it ought to be a unifying factor."

Angela Eagle said: "The report was independent. We didn't appoint any of the people who served on the Oldham report.

'Very segregated'

"The fact is Oldham had a series of problems. The communities were very segregated.

"The thing that struck me in talking to the communities there, were the things they had in common with each other but also how isolated they were from each other.

"The climate in which the report was drawn up was an investigation into the disturbances that happened in Oldham.

"The language issue did come up and it is something the government has been dealing with in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill."


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See also:

04 May 02 | UK Politics
03 May 02 | England
01 Mar 02 | UK Education
28 Feb 02 | England
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