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Home Secretary Jack Straw
"It has been approved by both houses of Parliament..and I hope that means there will be a very broad welcome for it"
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 04:44 GMT
Views sought on new race laws
black and white pupils at school
Schools will be prosecuted for racism under the act
The Home Secretary is to launch a consultation document on Thursday aimed at further strengthening the laws governing racial discrimination.

The Race Relations (Amendment) Act comes into force in April.

Under the act, for the first time, public organisations such as hospitals, prisons, police forces and schools can be prosecuted if they are found guilty of racism.

On Thursday, Jack Straw will also take the opportunity to report on the progress on recommendations made in Sir William MacPherson's report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

'Campaigners angry'

Anti-racism campaigners have been waiting for years for the current race relations laws to be strengthened.

Under the act, the Commission for Racial Equality will have new powers to inspect organisations' race policies without a complaint having to be made.

The BBC's social affairs correspondent Barnie Choudhury says he understands Thursday's consultation document is a chance for public organisations to give their views on the changes.

But he adds that one question remains - as the act is due to come into force in April, there are doubts about how much difference the organisations' opinions will make.

He says some campaigners are also angry that little effort has been made in making minority ethnic communities aware that a new law affecting them is about to be launched.

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See also:

20 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Hague accused of race 'opportunism'
17 Nov 00 | UK
Racism behind bars
23 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Row over UK 'racism'
19 Jul 00 | Education
Ofsted 'failure' over school racism
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