Labour Party Conference: Reform of race laws faces delay

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MEASURES TO improve race relations in response to the proposals of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry are likely to be delayed until next year, Jack Straw said yesterday.

In a public dispute with Sir Herman Ouseley, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Home Secretary said the Government "might not be able" to introduce legislation in the forthcoming Queen's Speech in November.

The disclosure will disappoint campaigners who have argued for a fully reformed Race Relations Act since the recommendations of Sir William Macpherson of Cluny's report into the death of Stephen Lawrence were published earlier this year. Speaking at a fringe meeting, Sir Herman said much of the Government's commitment "appears to be piecemeal". He said the Race Relations Act should be simplified and his commission reformed to end its status as an "ineffective, resources-guzzling enforcement agency".

There have been suggestions that Sir Herman has cut short his second term as the commission's chairman because of his frustration. But Mr Straw underlined at the meeting his determination on the issue.

He pledged to achieve a "racism-free society" by the "first decade" of the new millennium. "We might not be able to introduce legislation next year but should be able to do it in the following year," he said.