Fast-track route to tackle racism

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A SERIES of measures to combat race attacks and discrimination, which were recommended by the Commission for Racial Equality almost two years ago, were rejected by the Government yesterday.

Labour condemned the Home Office's response to the commission's review of the Race Relations Act as 'woefully inadequate'. The commission said it was 'disappointed'.

The Government, however, did announce the introduction of a new fast- track system to tackle discrimination at work without having to go through lengthy inquiries and tribunals.

The commission made 26 recommendations in September 1992 following its second review of the 1976 Act.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, speaking at a race relations conference in London, revealed that his department had accepted one of the key suggestions to provide a quicker, cheaper way of resolving discrimination disputes against companies. In future, firms accused of bias in areas such as holidays, dress, and work conditions, can enter into a legally binding agreement with the commission and promise to change their practices.

Currently, the commission has to carry out a costly investigation, which usually takes about a year, before an industrial tribunal takes place. This procedure can drag on for years.

Other key recommendations, such as the introduction of compulsory ethnic monitoring, specialist industrial tribunals for cases of alleged racial discrimination, and anti-racist European Union legislation, were turned down because they were said to be too expensive, impractical or inappropriate.

Mr Howard said: 'Good race relations is not just about legislation to penalise those who transgress. It is as much about promotion, advice, information, help and education. Measures that build confidence, trust, and mutual understanding.'

While welcoming the new fast-track scheme, a spokeswoman for the Commission, said: 'It's just one small step in the right direction. This is a relatively disappointing response. Michael Howard believes the Race Relations Act is OK as it is - we have to convince him otherwise.'