The British National Party's new membership rules are likely to discriminate against non-white people, a judge has ruled
The BNP voted to scrap its whites-only policy after a legal threat from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. A judge at Central London County Court has ruled the party's new constitution is still indirectly discriminatory. BNP leader Nick Griffin said the ruling was "appalling" but he had now made the changes demanded by the court.
Judge Paul Collins ordered the BNP to pay costs and said its membership list must remain "closed" until it complied with race relations laws. Delivering his ruling, he said: "I hold that the BNP are likely to commit unlawful acts of discrimination within section 1b Race Relations Act 1976 in the terms on which they are prepared to admit persons to membership under the 12th addition of their constitution."
BNP leader Nick Griffin said the party thought it had made the changes needed to comply with forthcoming equality legislation and was "amazed" by the ruling. He told the BBC News Channel: "I think it's appalling. The court have opened a huge can of worms here, they have given a government funded, a taxpayer-funded body the right to interfere with the aims and objectives of political parties.
"That's not just an attack on us. It's an attack potentially on any political party. It's a bad day for democracy from that point of view."
But he said the party had complied with the ruling and was now "open for business".
A spokeswoman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said it "had to take this action" and was "not concerned with the political outflow" of the ruling. She added: "As long as they comply with the court order then that is fine but obviously we are going to be looking carefully at the new constitution when it is issued if we still think it is racist in any kind of way, we will either be bringing this matter back to the court, under contempt of court proceedings or we will be issuing new proceedings."
The constitution rejected by the court asked members to sign up to the BNP's principles, including a duty to oppose the promotion of any form of "integration or assimilation" that impacted on the "indigenous British", and a requirement to support the "maintenance and existence of the unity and integrity of the indigenous British".
It also stated that members have to agree to two party officials - one male and one female - visiting their home for up to two hours. A lawyer acting for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said this could be used to enable potential members to be intimidated, although there was no evidence it had been used in that way.
Mr Griffin said this was an "entirely normal" procedure to prevent the infiltration of people who wanted to sabotage the party and "find out what sort of people wanted to join the BNP". But he said it would now be scrapped to comply with the ruling, adding: "You don't have to agree to a home visit in order to be a member of the BNP."
He claimed there were 7,000 people on its membership waiting list, including a "handful" of people "from each of the main ethnic groups in Britain" including Sikhs, West Indians and "two Chinese ladies".
"We certainly won't put them to the front of the queue, that's for the Labour Party to put ethnic minorities to the front of the queue, we won't do that, but we will treat them fairly," he said.
Speaking earlier, he said if the party was forced to pay £60,000 in costs, it would have "some effect" on the general election campaign "but not a huge amount".