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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 January, 2005, 14:06 GMT
Home Secretary visits chess event
Charles Clarke
Charles Clarke is a chess fan and visited a tournament
New Home Secretary Charles Clarke carried out his first official visits to Sussex and Kent on Thursday.

Mr Clarke met members of the Safer Hastings Partnership, in East Sussex, who have helped cut crime in the area.

But before heading for Dover, in Kent, where he is due to visit immigration facilities, the keen chess fan made an unofficial stop at a chess tournament.

Dover MP Gwyn Prosser had invited his predecessor, David Blunkett, to see the impact of new immigration policies.

'Progress pleasing'

The 80th Hastings International Chess Congress bills itself as the world's most historic chess tournament and takes place not far from the police station in Horntye Park, which Mr Clarke had earlier visited.

During his tour of the station he was shown mobile CCTV equipment and chatted with officers and community wardens.

David Furness, manager of the Safer Hastings Partnership, said: "We are honoured that Mr Clarke decided to travel to Hastings for his first visit as home secretary."

Mr Clarke said: "I am pleased to see the progress Sussex Police is making in helping to deliver a modern service that puts the community at its heart."

Mr Prosser said he believed abuse of the asylum system had "all but eliminated" and the problem had ceased to dominate "local headlines".

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