European Elections: Conservatives challenged to disown use of race question

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TORY LEADERS will be challenged today to disown the race card in the forthcoming European election campaign by a European group for immigrants.

Cabinet ministers were accused by Tara Mukherjee, president of the European Migrants Forum, of preparing to use the race card against Labour, a charge the Government will strenuously deny.

He said John Redwood, Secretary of State for Wales, had alleged in the BBC On the Record programme on 8 May that Labour would refuse to use Britain's power of veto on immigration.

The Forum believes the Conservative attack on Labour in the European elections will whip up concern over immigration.

It has challenged the leaders of the four main parties to sign a declaration today at the House of Commons disowning the use of immigration as an issue.

The parties have been urged to include a section in their manifestoes, to be published next week, giving an assurance that they will not use immigration to obtain votes. Candidates in Belgium, Germany, France, and the Netherlands are also being urged to disavow racism in the face of growing concern at the rise of fascism in Europe and the BNP in London, which threatens to become a European election issue.

The Forum is campaigning to extend the citizenship of the European Union, contained in the Maastricht treaty, to all 9 million legally resident non-community citizens, offering rights of residence, movement and voting in member states. It would include 1.8 million Turks in Germany, some of whom have been subjected to racist attacks.

It also wants to use the example of generous rights granted in Britain to Commonwealth citizens to other member states.