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Gurbux Singh, Chairman, CRE
discusses the issues with Gerald Howarth MP
 real 28k

Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Row over race crime figures
Stephen Lawrence
Stephen Lawrence case fuelled the debate over racial crime
The Tories have accused the Commission for Racial Equality of stirring people up after figures revealed a massive increase in recorded race crime.

Metropolitan Police figures showed recorded racial incidents in London more than doubled in the last year, indicating a soaring trend across the country, said the CRE.

The reason it has doubled is quite simply because there is a new definition

Gerald Howarth MP
Gurbux Singh, the new CRE chairman, is urging the police and the government to do more to fight racism and protect to ethnic minorities, describing the rise as "unacceptable".

But Tory MP for Aldershot in Hampshire, Gerald Howarth said Mr Singh was merely "getting people excited" about the increase which he said was due to a change in the way police record racial incidents.

"There is no evidence of an increase the figures completely contradict him," Mr Howarth told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

He said: "The reason it has doubled is quite simply because there is a new definition.

"If somebody says 'I am the victim of a race crime' then the police now have to say they have reported a racist crime."

Zero tolerance

There were 23,346 recorded racial incidents in the capital in 1999/2000 - 63 incidents a day - compared to 11,050 the previous year, according to the Met.

We need to send a clear message to the racists

Gurbux Singh
Speaking on Tuesday in his first week as CRE chairman, Mr Singh said: "My job is to make sure that the police never again place a lower priority on catching those who victimise other human beings just because of the colour of their skin."

He called on police to take racist incidents seriously, listen to local communities and utilise modern surveillance and intelligence-gathering techniques against offenders.

"We need to send a clear message to the racists that they will be caught and prosecuted," he said.

Calling for a "zero-tolerance policy" against racists, Mr Singh said lenient sentences "send out a message that it is all right to be a racist".

Among his first engagements Mr Singh will visit the London Borough of Newham on Tuesday, where the number of recorded racial incidents has trebled from 393 in 1998/99 to 1,338 in 1999/00.

He will warn police chiefs, including the Met's Deputy Commissioner Ian Blair, they must make fighting race crime their main priority.

Asylum 'race card'

Earlier, Mr Singh used a debate with Mr Howarth on the Today programme to call for a balanced debate on the asylum issue, accusing the parties of using the asylum issue as a political football.

But he backed away from reports that he had said he believed most asylum seekers were genuine, saying merely that most "believed they were genuine".

He said: "There needs to be a balanced political debate about asylum and asylum seekers.

"The political parties should not be using asylum seekers as a race card and scoring cheap points."

But Mr Howarth said: "The fact is that asylum is not a cheap race card. It is a matter of very great concern to the British people.

"It is a very great concern to the authorities who have the responsibility of dealing with a flood of asylum seekers into this country. It is perfectly clear that many of them are economic migrants."

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