HC Deb 05 March 1981 vol 1000 cc410-1
10. Mr. Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will take steps to ensure that the Commission for Racial Equality is balanced in its representation of all ethnic communities, including the ethnic majority.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Timothy Raison)

Commissioners are appointed not as representatives of particular ethnic groups but for their experience in those walks of life which are relevant to the work of the commission.

Mr. Marlow

If the Commission for Racial Equality is to remain in existence, does my hon. Friend agree that it would be more effective if it were more even-handed in its activities and did not appear as a pressure group, paid for out of taxpayers' money, looking after the vested interests of one part of the community only, and against the interests of the vast majority of people who have to pay for it through taxation?

Mr. Raison

I do not accept that the commission appears solely in the guise of a pressure group concerned with one section of the community. It is obvious that as part of its responsibilities it has to ensure that the views of the ethnic minorities are understood and their problems dealt with.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Was not the point of the supplementary question of the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) that a number of members of the commission were sacked precipitately by the Government and Conservative nominees put in their place? Is it not now time to consider whether the CRE should devote itself completely to enforcement of the law against racial discrimination, and give the rest of its activities to local authorities?

Mr. Raison

It is untrue to say that members of the CRE were sacked precipitately, as the hon. Gentleman suggested. Certain members left at the conclusion of their term of office, which applies to any body of this sort. As for the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, the issue was debated fully at the time that the commission was set up. Experience so far has not led us firmly to the conclusion that there should be two bodies rather than one.