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Mr. Straw: I am afraid that I have not read my copy of Tribune this week, but I normally do and I look forward

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to it. I shall refer to stop-and-search powers in a moment, if my hon. Friend can await my remarks, without commenting specifically on the figures that he has given. I should be surprised if one third of the ethnic community had been arrested, but it is possible that at least one third of them have been subject to stop and search. I shall look at the figures carefully.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): As the Home Secretary knows, we welcome the creation of the Greater London authority and the transfer of policing functions to a more democratic body. As someone who lives in south London when he is in London, he will know that the pressure on the police caused by racism and serious crime in recent years has been horrendous. When those two factors are combined, the pressure has been awful. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, if the inspectorate's report makes it clear that the police in London need more resources to investigate unsolved murders, to deal with serious crime and to combat racism, the Home Office will not restrict the GLA from raising the money needed for London policing?

Mr. Straw: I shall not get into a debate about the budget of the Metropolitan Police Authority two years before it is established. We have properly funded the Metropolitan police service for this year, and I shall set the budget for next year after the usual consultation. I am sure that the new Metropolitan Police Authority, when it sets a budget for 2001, will fully take into account the needs of the Metropolitan police service.

I do not subscribe to the adjectives that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) used about the Metropolitan police service. Of course there have been pressures on the police, but I believe that the Metropolitan police service has shown great skill in dealing with crime in London. That is reflected in its output. Speaking from memory, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that burglary is now down to an 18-year low in London, and street robbery is down to a nine-year low. There is a major agenda for the investigation of serious crime, but if the hon. Gentleman is talking about that, I refer him to the point that the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) just made. These days, a significant part of the investigation of serious crime, which by its nature takes place in the capital, is undertaken not by the Metropolitan police service directly but by NCIS and the National Crime Squad, which are separately funded.

I am conscious of the time, given the previous debate, so I shall move on to deal with the issue of freedom of information. Openness has a very important role to play in restoring public confidence in the police service and in increasing public confidence in other public services. I hope to publish a draft Bill and consultation paper on freedom of information in May. Under our proposals, all aspects of policing will be covered by freedom of information legislation.

We have made no secret of the fact that our proposals include two specific categories of information--information relating to informers and information relating to an investigation or prosecution--which will be exempt from disclosure under the legislation. There will be no statutory right of access to such information under the freedom of information legislation, but it is important to

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point out that, under separate legislation already passed, information relating to an investigation or prosecution is already disclosed to a defendant--and self-evidently has to be--when a case comes to court. However, information relating to the conduct of any such investigation--for example, how many officers are on the case, whether a computer system is being used, or what training and experience officers have in relation to similar investigations--will be disclosable subject to the appropriate harm test.

There is much more to freedom of information than legislation itself. I accept that there is a substantial amount of work to be done to ensure that there is a real cultural change towards greater openness in all public services--and that includes the police.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): I am sorry that I missed the beginning of my right hon. Friend's speech, but I was late arriving in the Chamber because I was delayed at another meeting. He may have dealt with this point, but will he give us an assurance that the reports of Police Complaints Authority investigations will be published in full? It is now almost 18 months on, and we have yet to receive the full publication of the report into the investigation of the case of my constituent Ricky Reel.

Mr. Straw: I cannot give the precise guarantee that my hon. Friend seeks, particularly in the case of Ricky Reel. I know that he has been very concerned about that case, as I have. He and I have had many discussions, and I have met Ricky Reel's family. We are seeking to ensure that Police Complaints Authority investigation reports can be published, provided that it is safe to do so. As my hon. Friend will be aware, sometimes it may not be safe to do so if it would prejudice a successful prosecution or compromise other investigations. Subject to that, we want as much openness as possible.

Effective race equality training is another crucial issue that we have to deal with if the police are to be equipped to operate fairly and effectively in today's society. I agree with the inquiry that all police staff, including CID and support staff, need such training. Ethnic minorities themselves must be involved in the development and delivery of the training.

Ms Tess Kingham (Gloucester): Will my right hon. Friend ensure that any training about the needs of ethnic minorities and racism in the police does not leave out Romany gypsies and gypsies in general, who are given protection under current legislation but who are often forgotten in training? They tend to be regarded as an open target for racism.

Mr. Straw: I will certainly ensure that my hon. Friend's point is taken on board when the training is developed.

National Police Training is already working with the Association of Chief Police Officers to develop a comprehensive programme to deal with the training issues highlighted by the inquiry. The programme involves review and revision of existing provision, setting clear standards for the design and delivery of training and identifying the best delivery methods.

The Home Affairs Committee is conducting an inquiry into the whole matter of police training and is expected to report to the House shortly. Her Majesty's inspectorate

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of constabulary has meanwhile been conducting a thematic review of police training. Once I have received and considered both reports I will announce further measures of reform.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington): Will my right hon. Friend ensure in his discussions that the important issue of independent validation of training carried out both by National Police Training and by the individual forces is right at the top of the agenda? It is one thing for officers in the Met or elsewhere to be given training, but it is another thing entirely to validate the impact and effect of that training in the carrying out of their day-to-day duties.

Mr. Straw: I accept entirely that external validation of all training that involves public money is absolutely essential. That applies to the police service as it does to any other public service.

There is widespread agreement in the House and throughout the country that we must have a police service which fully reflects the racial diversity of the communities that it serves. I have already announced that I will set targets for forces on the recruitment and retention, and promotion, of ethnic minority officers. The targets themselves will be published next month and forces will be required to report on progress. I will be chairing a national police conference in mid-April to develop and spread good practice in this area.

Operationally, we know that there has been significant under-recording of racist incidents and a lack of understanding by some police officers of what such an incident is. One reason is that the police are used to gathering evidence to put before a court, so they apply an evidential test before deciding whether to record an incident as racist. Recording racist incidents is not about only that: it is about monitoring the level of perceived racist activity in society.

I hope that we can tackle the problem by accepting the inquiry's simplified definition of what constitutes a racist incident. The definition recommended by Macpherson is not in substance a new one. It is a simplified revision of one recommended by ACPO. As the inspectorate says in "Winning the Race, Revisited",

Some have criticised that definition on the grounds of its subjectivity, but it is a definition for the reporting and recording of such crimes, as the starting point of any investigation. Whether such crimes are the subject of a subsequent conviction is of course a matter for the judgment of the court on objective tests. The House will be aware that, to assist the courts, under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, we have established new offences of racially aggravated crimes.

We accept the need identified by the inquiry for a co-ordinated response by the police and other agencies at a local level to racist incidents. The Racist Incidents Standing Committee, chaired by the Home Office,has published a good practice guide on effective multi-agency working.

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Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, crime and disorder partnerships come formally into force this Thursday. They can play--and have already been playing--a major role in dealing with racist crime.

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