Dominic Grieve 'sorry' for minority corruption remark
- 23 November 2013
- From the section UK Politics
The government's chief legal adviser has apologised for any offence caused when he said corruption was "endemic" in some ethnic minority communities.
Attorney general Dominic Grieve told a newspaper the problem was not restricted to "any one community" but he was referring mainly to Pakistanis.
Some Asian commentators have described Mr Grieve's remarks as "divisive".
Later, Mr Grieve said he was wrong to give the impression that there was a problem in the Pakistani community.
In a statement, he said: "It is not my view. I believe the Pakistani community has enriched this country a great deal as I know full well from my extensive contact with the community over a number of years.
"I'm sorry if I have caused any offence."
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph which was published on Saturday, Mr Grieve said the corruption problem was growing because some communities are made up of those who "come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic."
Mr Grieve said he would be "wary" of painting it as solely a Pakistani problem and pointed out that corruption was found in the "white Anglo-Saxon" community too.
But asked by the newspaper if he was referring to Pakistanis, he said: "Yes, it's mainly the Pakistani community, not the Indian community."
MEP Sajjad Karim, one of Mr Grieve's Conservative colleagues, said the intervention would be seen as "purely populist".
"As a member of the British Pakistani community myself, I've found these comments to be offensive [and] divisive," he told the BBC.
"I do think they were ill-advised."
He later tweeted that he had accepted Mr Grieve's apology.
The remarks also drew criticism from political opponents, with Pakistan-born Labour MP Khalid Mahmood saying they were designed to "divide and conquer".
The MP for Birmingham Perry Barr added: "This is the law officer who's made this statement and I think the prime minister now needs to make clear whether this is his understanding of what's going on."
Liberal Democrat Qassim Afzal, chairman of the party's Friends of Pakistan group, pointed to what he called Mr Grieve's "loose language".
"I'm profoundly disturbed at a statement from such a senior Conservative MP against the British Pakistani community," he told BBC Radio 5 live.
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said the Pakistani community in Britain was "well-respected and established".
He told the BBC: "I don't agree that pinpointing one community over another is the right thing to do. Actually corruption is something which, wherever it is, this government wants to root it out.
"If it's in voting, for example, then we have already passed a piece of legislation which means that people have to individually register for votes in the future. That will solve that problem."
In the interview, the attorney general referred to ethnic minority communities coming from places "where they have been brought up to believe you can only get certain things through a favour culture".
He was talking in particular about electoral fraud and cited as an example a case from 2008 in Slough, Berkshire, where Tory councillor Eshaq Khan was found guilty of fraud involving postal votes and jailed a year later.
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said: "Mr. Grieve's mentioned one incident in Slough which was dealt with by the courts and had not produced any further evidence of an endemic problem with corruption.
"I think the attorney general should consider his comments again and either withdraw them or apologise for them."
In a statement Mr Grieve said later: "I am absolutely clear that this problem is not attributable to any one community, as I know very well from my many years promoting community cohesion."
And he received support from another Conservative colleague Andrew Stephenson.
The MP and chairman of a cross-party group on Pakistan said: "I think this is a valid concern, shared by a number of politicians across the political spectrum."
Mr Grieve, the Conservative MP for Beaconsfield, was echoing comments made by Tory peer Baroness Warsi in 2010.
She has talked about problems of electoral fraud being "predominantly within the Asian community".