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Home Office minister, Charles Clarke
"His actual analysis is wrong and not based correctly in fact"
 real 28k

Shadow Home Secretary, Ann Widdecombe
"Police must not be afraid to do their job"
 real 28k

Lawrence family solicitor, Imran Khan
"Police are still operating in a discriminatory fashion"
 real 28k

Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 15:24 GMT
Hague rounds on 'liberal elite'
Stephen Lawrence and William Hague
Stephen Lawrence: his murder prompted racism inquiry
Conservative leader William Hague has rounded on a "condescending liberal elite" for creating an atmosphere of political correctness which has allowed crime to flourish.

The Macpherson report has been used to brand every officer and every branch of the force as racist

William Hague
But his comments during a speech on law and order about the impact of the inquiry into Stephen Lawrence's murder have provoked a race row.

Mr Hague said that since the Macpherson report described the police as "institutionally racist", officers have been reluctant to stop black suspects for fear of being branded as racists.

Labour has responded by calling Mr Hague's remarks "desperate and disreputable".

The party says the Conservatives have misrepresented the content of the report.

'Growing crisis on the streets'

Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old A-level student, was stabbed in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths at a bus stop in Eltham, south east London, in April 1993

William Hague and Ann Widdecombe
William Hague and shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe met police officers in Brixton on Thursday
Mr Hague told an audience at the Centre for Policy Studies in London that he deplored the murder.

He went on: "The Macpherson report has been used to brand every officer and every branch of the force as racist, it's contributed directly to the collapse of police morale and recruitment and has led to a growing crisis on our streets.

"The people who are suffering most from the post-Macpherson collapse in police morale are members of the ethnic minorities themselves.

"The next Conservative government will tackle this post-Macpherson crisis head on," he said.

Macpherson anger

The Lawrence family's solicitor, Imran Khan, described Mr Hague's speech as "disingenuous".

He questioned the assertion that a decline in the number of stop and searches had led to an increase in street crime.

Sir William Macpherson
Sir William Macpherson accused Hague of lack of courtesy
Mr Hague's speech has angered Sir William Macpherson, a former High Court judge who spent two years chairing the Lawrence inquiry.

He said he recommended the police should use stop and search in a "non-discriminatory fashion" rather than do away with it altogether.

"I am simply most surprised that the Tory Party should change its view, because at the time the report was written they, in common with the government, accepted the report," he said.

"I thought William Hague might have had the courtesy to contact me beforehand."

Hague crime proposals
Extra 3,000 police officers
End early release for prisoners
Indefinite tagging for some paedophiles
Stiffer penalties for paedophiles who lure children via the internet
Permit retrial for same offence
Prisoners work to pay compensation
More custody for young offenders

Mr Hague used his speech to set out a series of law and order measures which he said would be a top priority for a new Conservative government.

"A Conservative government will make a bonfire of police red tape and regulation.

"We will challenge and replace the decades of liberal thinking on crime that has brought our criminal justice system to its knees."

He said a Conservative government would not let "political correctness get in the way of law enforcement".

Many of the measures he outlined have already been put forward.

But in a clear effort to seize the anti-crime initiative, Mr Hague made some fresh pledges.

Electronic tagging

On the issue of tackling paedophiles he said: "We will also seriously consider the use of electronic tagging for an indefinite period after release."

But Labour said the Conservative leader was merely "casting around to get himself noticed".

I hope this is not a sign that Mr Hague intends to play the race card

Lee Jasper, National Assembly Against Racism
Home Secretary Jack Straw said a campaign was being waged by those on the extreme right of the Conservative Party to undermine and misrepresent the report.

He said Mr Hague's figures about police leaving the force were out of date.

"Only today we are publishing statistics which show that recruitment to the police service is now outstripping wastage.

"The 11% increase in the recruitment of minority ethnic officers is also very encouraging," Mr Straw said.

Lee Jasper, of the National Assembly Against Racism, said he had found Mr Hague's remarks racist.

"I hope this is not a sign that Mr Hague intends to play the race card."

After the speech Mr Hague flatly denied that he had any intent to score political points by raising race issues.

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See also:

14 Oct 00 | UK
Lawrence payout 'excessive'
25 Mar 99 | Stephen Lawrence
The Lawrence inquiry
13 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Tories are 'underdogs' - Hague
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