The Commission for Racial Equality

01:00 Thu 08th Aug 2002 |

Gurbux Singh
The Commission for Racial Equality has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Former chairman Gurbux Singh has resigned after he admitted using threatening behaviour at a cricket match at Lord's last month. He said he regretted the matter - but his £115,000 severance package has infuriated critics.

So what does the Commission do

Their remit as a statutory body since being created by the Race Relations Act 1976 is "to tackle racial discrimination and promote racial equality".

That involves encouraging equal opportunities and fair treatment (at work, in the media and elsewhere), offering advice in harassment cases, running and backing campaigns and instituting legal action against racial discrimination. They also publish a considerable amount of literature and have an extensive library with over 30,000 books and journals.

What is racial discrimination

The CRE and the Race Relations Act differentiate between racial discrimination and racial prejudice. They focus on "people's actions and the effects of their actions, not their opinions or beliefs." In other words, discrimination can be proven without having to prove that the other person intended to discriminate against you. Such discrimination can be direct or indirect. But the CRE can only act in areas for which it has powers: the likes of employment, education and housing.

And what isn't covered by the CRE

Criminal offences - racist attacks and violence, assault, grievous bodily harm, and criminal damages, threatening, abusive or insulting language or behaviour - should be reported to the police rather than the CRE, and should then be dealt with under the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) or the Public Order Act (1986).

How is the CRE run

Starting at the top: one chairman, 15 commissioners and around 200 staff in six offices (in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and Cardiff). The commissioners, all appointed by the Home Secretary, are drawn from public service, business and academia. The CRE, funded by and accountable to Parliament, also works closely with, a network of local Racial Equality Councils.

And are they doing a good job

Racial inequality and discrimination still exist - but it seems clear that things have improved in the last 25 years. No-one, least of all the CRE, is being complacent.

86% surveyed for the CRE by MORI agreed that you do not have to white to be British while 78% agree that it is important to respect the rights of minorities. Those numbers may be far higher than they would have been before the Race Relations Act, but there is still a way to go. As they say in their ads, "56million people, over 300 languages and at least 14 faiths make us what we are today."

How can I get in touch with the Commission

Via the website:

by email:[email protected]


Head office
Elliot House
10-12 Allington Street
London SW1E 5EH

Tel: 0207 828 7022
Fax: 0207 630 7605

And who is likely to replace Gurbux Singh

His deputy Beverley Bernard has taken over as acting Chair, but the post may not be around for long. The government is considering a merger of the gender, disability and race commissions into a single equalities organisation.

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