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Monday, September 13, 1999 Published at 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK

UK Politics

Race chief 'quit over Straw'

Sir Herman Ouseley: "Frustrated"

The chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality has reportedly revealed that he decided to leave his post early because Home Secretary Jack Straw rejected his calls for legal reform.

Sir Herman Ouseley is to give up his £81,670-a-year post in January 2000 after a seven-year stint, having completed only half of a renewed four-year term.

When he announced his resignation in July, he said that the new millennium was "an appropriate opportunity for someone else to take up the reins".

But in a blistering attack, he has now apparently claimed that he quit the race equality watchdog because he believed Mr Straw was putting party politics ahead of action to tackle racism in society.

However, a CRE spokesman, speaking on Sir Herman's behalf, has downplayed the comments published in an interview with People Management magazine.

The magazine quoted Sir Herman saying that he had "several rows" with Mr Straw over the former's demands for reform of the Race Relations Act.

[ image: The CRE is the government's race discrimination watchdog]
The CRE is the government's race discrimination watchdog
Sir Herman said he told the home secretary the government needed to adopt "an interventionist role across government" to tackle racism.

But he said, Mr Straw "looked at me as though I were from a different planet".

Sir Herman added: "I thought, he hasn't got a clue."

He went on: "I was frustrated and told [Mr Straw] so to his face and publicly, but I knew the government wouldn't reform the act.

"It had an agenda of getting re-elected in 2002."

'Knives in the back'

Sir Herman was also quoted saying that he was fed up of having "to pull countless knives out of my back" in his struggle for reform.

He also said that he clashed with Mr Straw over his support for Nigerian-born Ben James, who last week finally won a long court battle against deportation by the Home Office.

However, the CRE spokesman later gave the impression that Sir Herman wanted to distance himself from the article.

"He sees himself as leaving on good terms with the home secretary, about whom he has continued to say, both publicly and privately, a number of positive things," the spokesman said.

"There have been a number of policy differences with the Home Office but we work very closely with the home secretary.

"This is a home secretary who has delivered an enormous amount."

Mr Straw has said that he will be sorry to see Sir Herman leave his job.

"I have greatly admired Sir Herman Ouseley's leadership of the CRE," he said in July.

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