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Mr. Straw: I think that that applies to Members of this House as well.

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks, and I pay tribute to his work as Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, and that of his colleagues. We would not have been able to bring forward the changes in respect of police discipline on 1 April this year without the Committee's important report. We are looking forward to the Committee's report on police training, which should provide an agenda for changing the way in which we train officers, both initially and during their service--not least in the nature of our multiracial society.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield(Sir N. Fowler) talked about the past. He was right in saying that this country has higher standards of policing than many other European countries, and--as I implied in my statement--we have much higher standards in terms of race relations than some other European countries. However, one of the dangers of that recognition is that we can become complacent. If one looks at police training on race relations in the 1980s--following the Scarman report--one sees that people went through rote learning without understanding that what was required was significant cultural change right through the organisation, and an openness and accountability that the police service

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did not enjoy at that stage. I hope that all the changes that we are making will help to change the environment in which police officers operate, for their benefit as well as for the benefit of the rest of society.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): Does the report not tell an horrific story of incompetence, bad management and ignorant racial stereotypes, which together ensured that the perpetrators of this murder and of other violent racial attacks have escaped justice? The people who emerge with the most credit and dignity from the report are Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, whose terrible grief was compounded by the dreadful way in which they were treated. Few people can have achieved so much for race relations as that family have by the tremendous qualities that they have shown.

Is it not of great concern that the report concludes that throughout the United Kingdom there is a lack of trust between police and minority ethnic communities? Is not the disproportionate use of stop-and-search powers a clear cause for concern? Does the Home Secretary agree that, although blanket condemnation of the police would be unfair and unproductive, there can be no excuse for the failings outlined in the report? Does he accept that calls for the Commissioner's resignation are a distraction from the real issue? The question for Sir Paul and other chief officers is whether they have, in the words of the report,

and whether they are going to take decisive steps to deal with it.

Britain has always prided itself on policing by consent, but the report clearly shows a failure to establish that consent in minority communities. Is the Home Secretary aware that we welcome his decision, for which we called, to extend the full force of the Race Relations Act to the police and all other public services? I wonder whether that includes the armed forces.

Will the Home Secretary implement in full other key recommendations in the report that represent a change in Government thinking? Recommendation 6 says that the London police authority should have the full powers available to other police authorities to hold the Metropolitan police accountable. That goes beyond what the Government are proposing. Recommendation 9 says

Recommendation 58 says that serious complaints against the police should be investigated independently, not by another police force. Does the Home Secretary accept that, throughout society, there should be no compromise on racism and no hesitation in implementing the recommendations of this landmark report?

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments about the report and, above all, for his comments about the Lawrence family. It is important to point out that the report says that the legislation on stop-and-search powers should not be changed, but goes on to make four recommendations about how the police should use those powers better so that there is not the gratuitous discrimination against black and Asian people that comes through graphically from the statistics. I shall deal with that.

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The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the Race Relations Act would be extended to cover the armed forces. The answer is yes. Race relations legislation already applies to public service employees--so it already applies to soldiers--but not to those who receive the services of public institutions. Civilian services such as the police, the immigration service and the national health service are more often in contact with members of the public and British citizens than are the armed forces, although the armed forces also come into contact with the public from time to time.

The London police authority will have the same powers as police authorities outside. I shall set out our view on that in the detailed response that I provide before the full day's debate. That was one of the few recommendations for which I did not entirely understand the factual basis. We intend to give the police authority for London the same powers as other police authorities. The only difference will be that the Home Secretary will have some involvement in the national security functions of the MPS. I do not think that that is unreasonable.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about freedom of information. The White Paper made it clear that the police would be subject to a freedom of information regime with a harm test, save in respect of the investigations of crimes. I ask him to await the publication of the draft Bill to see what we have proposed.

Recommendation 58 proposes an independent investigation of serious complaints, as the Home Affairs Committee proposed last year. I have always been sympathetic to that in principle. I said last year, and it stands, that we will wait to see how the initial changes bed down and consider the costs and consequences of setting up an independent system. Northern Ireland is there already. It will have an independent police ombudsman to investigate serious complaints from April, I believe, and we will take account of the experience there.

Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham): I thank my right hon. Friend for listening to the call from Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence for the inquiry to be set up, and I welcome his statement, and especially his commitment to a strategy for implementing the recommendations as soon as possible. I urge him to proceed without delay and enable the House to have a full debate on the issue. Does he agree that the recommendations represent the minimum that we should do to tackle the racism in our society and improve race relations, and that there is now an opportunity for every Member of Parliament to unite, go back to their communities and play a leading role in tackling that racism, in order to create an equal society in which people are not discriminated against on the basis of their skin colour?

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. We will produce that strategy as soon as possible. A fair amount of work has been done in the past week, since I received the report on Monday, nine days ago. He is right to say that every Member of Parliament has responsibilities. As I said, implementing the report is not somebody else's responsibility; it is the personal responsibility of each of us.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (South-West Surrey): In a world in which all too many countries are blighted by

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racial tension, we have long been proud of a tolerant attitude which is intermittently shattered. At the time of the Brixton riots 18 years ago, I was chairman of a juvenile court, and I remember the anger, despair and sense of horror at the events, and the anxiety that was spread throughout the country. I thank the Home Secretary for identifying the real progress made as a result of the Scarman report; but, once again, the anger and despair that have arisen from this case have permeated us all. I simply hope that we will be able to emulate the dignity and determination of the Lawrence parents in the search for results: not for a witch hunt and for scapegoats, but for practical change.

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for saying that: we do not want scapegoats; we want action and change, and scapegoats will not help us to achieve either.

The interesting thing about the Scarman report, which I recently re-read, is that it was implemented more within the police service than outside, and therefore in something of a cultural vacuum. For that reason, much of the initial impetus behind the change that it should have initiated was lost. I hope that we can achieve a much wider agenda with the new report and that there will be constant monitoring, so that, in a year's time, when other issues have overtaken us, we have not forgotten that we must ensure continued progress if we are to avoid similar trauma in the years ahead.

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham): First, I want to pay tribute to the Lawrence family, their friends and supporters, for the stalwart nature that they have shown. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on sticking to his promise, made before the general election, that we would have a public inquiry, but may I also warn him about the situation?

We have been here before. I remember being very optimistic in 1981, after the Scarman inquiry. We thought that it was a watershed and that things would change, but 18 years later--I have read both reports--we are back to almost the same recommendations that the Scarman inquiry made. This is a last chance for British society to tackle racism and to push for racial equality. The black community is giving British society a last chance. Although I agree with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that institutional racism occurs throughout society, the police have the power to remove one's freedom and we have to be especially careful about how they operate.

Although I agree with almost everything my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said today, I do not agree with his conclusion on the position of the Metropolitan police Commissioner. The black community does not have trust and confidence in Mr. Condon. I do not say that he should be sacked or that he should resign--I am not a bad-minded person. However, Mr. Condon should take early retirement, because we cannot move into a new phase with the same old faces.

We appear never to be able to tackle the supervising officers of the rank and file police men and women. My feedback from the street is that the attitudes of rank and file police officers have changed dramatically, probably

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because of graduate recruitment and race relations training. However, the attitudes of desk sergeants and those behind them remain the same. Those are the attitudes that permit institutionalised racism. We have to begin to call to account the actions of some of those detectives, superintendents, chief superintendents and police commissioners. I ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider that question, because the black community is watching closely what happens to those posts. I shall leave the rest of my observations to the debate.

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