Posted on September 7, 2006

New Integration Panel Is Labelled A Political Fix

Roya Nikkhah and Melissa Kite, Telegraph (UK), September 3, 2006

The government’s new “independent” commission appointed to investigate the problems of multicultural Britain has been partly “hand-picked for ministers’ purposes”, say critics.

At least four of the 14 members of the Commission for Integration and Cohesion are in the Labour Party, The Sunday Telegraph has discovered, while the Conservatives were not invited to take part.

The commission, launched with fanfare by Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, will look into ways of countering segregation in society. It has been officially described as an independent body.

Members of the panel include Ebrahim Adia and Nargis Khan, who are Labour councillors in Bolton and Hackney, respectively. Other members include Michael Keith, the former leader of Tower Hamlets council, and Frank Hont, an official of Unison, Britain’s biggest union.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “This is such a massive issue — it is far too important for people to play partisan politics with. I hope the commission — even though it looks hand-picked for ministers’ purposes — will be able to show the independence of mind necessary on this difficult subject.”

The commission was suggested by Tony Blair last year in the wake of the July 7 bombings. It will meet for the first time this month and is due to report by next June suggesting ways to “tackle extremist ideologies” and ease racial tensions.

Critics dismiss it as a “talking shop”. Sir Andrew Green, of the think-tank Migrationwatch UK, said: “The Government will never make any real progress [on integration] until the policy of unchecked immigration is addressed.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “These are all people with strong track records in making a practical difference to unite our communities. That’s why they were selected. The commission will consult with a wide range of organisations and individuals from a variety of backgrounds to ensure everyone has the opportunity to contribute to its work.”

Members of the commission