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Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire): Has not my right hon. Friend observed that Sir William

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Macpherson prefaces those particular recommendations by saying that consideration should be given to them? That is not the phraseology that he uses in respect of some other recommendations. He simply says that the matter should not be left alone but should be considered further. Thus he does not make the recommendation in the precise terms that my right hon. Friend described.

Mr. Maclean: I accept my hon. Friend's point. On double jeopardy, and on extending the criminal law to deal with offensive weapons and language in one's own home, Sir William used the word, "consider". However, he did not use it for his definition of a racist crime, with which I have problems.

Sir William has discredited parts of his report by failing to produce reasoning and recommendations, and by producing in other parts of the report recommendations that do not stand up. His definition of a racist incident is unenforceable. It says that a racist incident is one if the victim or any other person says that it is.

Ms Oona King rose--

Mr. Maclean: I know that the police service has accepted it. It has been kicked around so much in the past few months that it would believe any hostile propaganda used against it. It is terrified of opposing any political correctness and will accept anything thrown at it. I give way to the hon. Lady.

Ms King: I have entirely forgotten the point that I wished to make as the right hon. Gentleman did not look up. I am sorry, but I shall come back to him.

Mr. Maclean: If I continue my speech, I might provoke the hon. Lady into remembering.

I should be happy to be corrected if I have got this little example of a racist incident wrong. Let us suppose that four men are having a drink after work; they come out of the pub and find that their car windscreens have all been smashed. One man is black and says that the smashing of his windscreen is a racist incident. Am I right in understanding that the police would be obliged to record it as such in his case? Even worse: the black man does not complain to the police that the smashing of his windscreen is a racist incident, but others who spot the incident on the news that night or in the local paper the following week go to the police and say that it was a racist incident.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): I can confirm everything that my right hon. Friend says because I have a little booklet that is being issued to every policeman, which says in large letters:

That will be sufficient.

Mr. Maclean: We need more information because we will get to the absurd position where the Government discredit what they are trying to do, which is to deal with the under-reporting of racist incidents. I have no doubt that there is a tremendous under-reporting of racist incidents, but goodness knows what awful contortions of policing priorities will come about if we have a massive over-reporting of racist incidents, which is what will happen with the definition in the report.

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Let me make it clear once again that I am not suggesting that all of Sir William's recommendations should not one day be implemented. They may be good for this country and our society. However, we do not know; and we do not know from the report, because it does not contain the evidence to justify all the changes that Sir William wishes to bring about. We should not stand this country on its head just because of an inquiry report that has not considered in depth all the wider repercussions of its recommendations.

Mr. Rowe: Is it not extraordinary that the deputy chief constable of Kent, who was charged with the task of carrying out an investigation, was never asked to give evidence to the Macpherson inquiry, despite making himself available to do so? Does not that cast doubts on some of the findings?

Mr. Maclean: I was not aware of that point--or if I was, it had slipped my memory. It brings me to the point that I wish to make: there is a series of issues that goes much wider than the appalling murder of Stephen Lawrence. The correct approach should have been for the Home Secretary, when he saw Sir William's recommendations and the lack of evidence to back some of them up, to refer the matter to a proper body of experts, which could have considered them in detail. The previous Government set up a royal commission on criminal justice, which was well respected and supported by the then Opposition.

If every institution in this country is racist--if the entire civil service and our education and health services are deeply steeped in institutional racism, and if all the other organisations and individuals, including the BBC and the media, have institutional racism--it requires a much better analysis than that carried out by Sir William and his inquiry team if we are to get to the bottom of that awful problem. If huge and fundamental changes must be made to the way in which everyone in this country thinks, we must build those changes on better foundations than Sir William's flimsy recommendations. Moreover, those foundations must be agreed by the vast majority in this country.

The Government and the Home Secretary have saidthat they will start to implement all of Macpherson's recommendations--but they will do so without an analysis of some of the real wrongs to be righted. I accept that there are the real wrongs of the murder of an innocent victim and the mistakes of that murder investigation. They must be righted. However, is it right to start to change the curriculum for primary schools in Penrith because of failures that Sir William has found in the Metropolitan police murder squad investigating a particular case?

Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence deserve a better investigation of their son's murder, but my constituents deserve an infinitely better investigation of the Macpherson recommendations before they are asked to change their lives. They do not deserve to be branded as institutionally racist just because of a failure by a Metropolitan police murder investigation squad. They deserve to have infinitely better evidence of their wrongdoing if they are to be re-educated Orwell-style. Nothing less than a royal commission will suffice before we take the road down which the Government are now rushing.

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I believe that the vast majority of people in this country are decent, honest and law abiding; they are not racist--not even unwittingly. They deplore what happened to Stephen Lawrence, just as they deplore any innocent person, irrespective of race, colour, creed or religion, being murdered by vicious thugs.

The Government should not, on the evidence of the Macpherson report alone, accuse the people of this country of being racist reactionaries in need of re-education. Let the Government first establish a proper, authoritative and impartial royal commission. Let them get the facts. Let there be a proper detailed analysis, and let us get to the real truth before the "1984" re-education programme begins.

7.20 pm

Mr. John Austin (Erith and Thamesmead): After months of taking and sifting evidence, the Macpherson inquiry came to the inevitable conclusion which the Lawrence family and all those around them had known: that the Metropolitan police investigation into the murder of their son was palpably flawed. A combination of incompetence and racism has allowed brutal racist killers to remain at liberty. As the Macpherson report clearly says, that is an affront both to the Lawrence family and to the community at large.

The inquiry has not only brought the wholly justifiable complaints of Doreen and Neville Lawrence to the attention of the public, but highlighted what Macpherson described as the hitherto underplayed dissatisfaction of minority ethnic communities--not only with the handling of the Lawrence case, but with other cases across the country and with their treatment by police.

Undoubtedly the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) would say that black people's actual experience is not evidence; I believe that it is. We often see references to black people's perception of the police, and to the need to change it--as though their perception is something wrong with those black people. By using the word "perception" we suggest that black people's treatment by the police is something imagined by the black community. I believe that it is time that we recognised that their perceptions are drawn from their experience. Their attitudes are based on reality, not perceptions.

The Macpherson report has identified colossal and unbelievable incompetence on the part of the Metropolitan police. It is a catalogue of mismanagement and failure, which clearly must be dealt with. However, those failings should not deflect our attention from the need to tackle the insidious evil of racism, not only in the Metropolitan police and in police forces across the country but in society as a whole.

Today, it comes as a disappointment to me that the Police Federation's briefing to hon. Members accepts the Metropolitan police's incompetence and mismanagement, but says that the report lacked sufficient balance. Later in that briefing, it declines to accept the report's definition of institutional racism.

I draw it to the attention of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border that an accusation of institutional racism is an accusation not against individuals but against the way in which the system operates.

In response to the comment of the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes), I say that, yes, we have a conscious choice. When the institution in

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which we operate is racist, we have a choice consciously to challenge that racism and that discrimination. I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) about the press's portrayal of the people of Eltham. In our part of south London, we have had more than our fair share of racist murders and attacks. I live a few hundred yards from the spot on which Rolan Adams was murdered; I used to live a street away from the Lawrences' family home. Rohit Dugal was brutally slain near the spot where Stephen Lawrence died. He was also my constituent.

Those are not problems particular and peculiar to Eltham, Woolwich or Thamesmead--racism is an issue that affects us all. Racism is an issue across London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. It is also an issue in Harrogate, Cheltenham, Tunbridge Wells, Sutton Coldfield, Folkestone and Hythe, Ryedale--and, yes, in Penrith. Let us not forget that the Metropolitan police may well recruit officers from the right hon. Gentleman's constituency.

In May 1993, a month after Stephen Lawrence's death, in a debate on racial violence, my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) and I called for action by the Government. Regrettably, those calls fell on deaf ears. In that debate, I drewthe attention of the then Home Secretary to the recommendations of the Commission for Racial Equality, in its review of the Race Relation Act 1976, for an independent review of the law on incitement to racial hatred.

The CRE, my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington and I had urged the Home Secretary to make racial harassment a specific criminal offence, to make racial harassment a ground for eviction, to place public authorities under a statutory duty to monitor complaints of racial harassment, to establish a separate tort of racial harassment, and specifically to consider criminalising racial violence.

Earlier that year, I had visited the then Ministerof State--the right hon. Member for Fareham(Sir P. Lloyd)--with representatives of the Society of Black Lawyers to discuss draft legislation on those issues that had been submitted to the Home Secretary. All the demands fell on deaf ears. However, since that time, the current Home Secretary has already moved on many of the issues. I hope that publication of the Macpherson report will push the agenda even further forward.

When it became clear that the whole investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence had been flawed, several of my colleagues and I made repeated requests to the Home Secretary of the day--the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard)--for an inquiry, but we were appealing to a closed mind.

Prior to publication of the Macpherson report, and--in the case of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), today--some Opposition Members attempted to divert attention from the real issue of racism by concentrating on the leak of part of the report toThe Sunday Telegraph and on the Home Secretary's handling of that matter. After publication of the report, much of the Opposition's attention was focused not on the report's contents and recommendations, but on inclusion in the appendices of the names and addresses of sensitive witnesses and informants.

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I made my view on that matter quite clear to the Minister of State when he made his statement, and my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham also has clearly stated his views on it. But I want to say, here and now, that if it had not been for the courage and determination of the current Home Secretary, we should not have had the report. For years, the Lawrence family and their supporters and several hon. Members had made demands that, as I said, fell on deaf ears and closed minds.

On 24 June 1997, shortly after the general election, my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) and I accompanied the Lawrence family and their advisers to see the Home Secretary. The fact that he had assembled the whole of his ministerial team indicated the seriousness with which he viewed the situation. After the meeting, and after having had a discussion with Neville and Doreen Lawrence, the Home Secretary both was deeply moved and welcomed the opportunity of discussing not only the tragic circumstances of their son's death, but broader issues on racially motivated crime and the relationship between police and minority ethnic communities.

The Home Secretary described the legal difficulties in establishing an inquiry. However, that day, as I left the Home Office, I had the feeling--and I sensed that the Lawrences shared it--that, for the first time, someone in a position of authority and someone with the ability to take action had not only listened to the Lawrences, but had actually heard what they said. I only wish that some Opposition Members, including the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, would listen to and hear what black people are saying, and heed what their real experiences are.

Scarman has been mentioned. Some will say that we have been here before. Some will recall the hopes that were engendered by Lord Scarman's inquiry into the Brixton uprising, in 1981, which were followed by such disillusion.

I believe that there were essentially two problems with Scarman. The first was his total failure to recognise or accept the existence of institutional racism. Without that acceptance, any attempts to tackle racism in our society will fail. Secondly, the Scarman report failed to live up to expectations because there was no comprehensive national co-ordinated programme of action with timetabled outcomes. We are not going to make the same mistake again.

Macpherson has overcome that first failing by providing a very clear definition of institutional racism, to which I hope we can all sign up. Prior to publication of the report, I wrote to the Home Secretary, asking him to reconsider the position of the Commissioner in view of his comments that he did not believe that there was institutional racism in the Met.

The Commissioner has now accepted the report's definition of institutional racism. Although I called for his position to be considered before the report was published, because he has accepted the report's recommendations and the definition, I believe that, at this stage, calls for his resignation would be tokenistic and not particularly productive. However, I reserve the right to reviewmy position on the matter in the light of evidence of Sir Paul Condon's willingness to implement the report's recommendations.

I recognise that the Greater London authority and the Metropolitan Police Authority will need to be consulted over the appointment of a new Commissioner, but we

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cannot wait until the current Commissioner retires before we consider his successor. The appointment should be made as early as possible to give him or her some time working in tandem with the current Commissioner on implementing the recommendations.

The Macpherson inquiry also expressed concern about institutional racism in all the agencies that make up the criminal justice system. Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 requires criminal justice agencies to monitor their operations by ethnic group, but the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, the Prison Service and the probation service have generally failed to provide the information on which action to eradicate institutional racism depends.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) and the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) have mentioned the contentious area of stop-and-search powers. Information on the use of those powers is publicly available under section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. That information raises many questions, but the experience of black people goes beyond the formal stop-and-search figures recorded under that Act, as the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed has said. People can be stopped under traffic legislation or drugs legislation, as well as by so-called voluntary stops. The inquiry report reaches a clear conclusion that the perception and experience of minority communities is that discrimination is a major element in stop-and-search problems. Black people are more likely to be stopped and searched and to be arrested than their white counterparts. Evidence suggests that, when tried and convicted, black people are more likely to receive a custodial sentence than their white counterparts.

I hope that the pilot projects that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary intends to set up on stop and search can be established speedily and will lead to the full implementation and acceptance of recommendations 61 to 63. I also welcome his acceptance of recommendation 11 to bring the police within the scope of the Race Relations Act 1976 and his decision to go further by bringing all public services within the scope of the Act.

However, like my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow, I do not believe that those changes are sufficient. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will bring proposals to the House to strengthen race equality legislation, including the monitoring of practice. I raised the issue in the debate on the Queen's Speech in November 1994. Governments of both parties have recognised the need to monitor employment practices in Northern Ireland and the importance of contract compliance in the legislation against religious discrimination. If that need is recognised for religious discrimination in Northern Ireland, it should be recognised for racial discrimination in this country.

My right hon. Friend made comments about inquests and the information that is made available to the families of the deceased. He also referred to the police ombudsman to be created in Northern Ireland. I should like to draw attention to the prisons ombudsman and the issueof deaths in custody. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister will be aware of the death in Belmarsh prison of my constituent Kenneth Severin. When his family tried to take a complaint to the

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prisons ombudsman, they were told, "Sorry, I can't accept that complaint. I can only take complaints from prisoners." Of course, the prisoner could not make the complaint because he was dead. The same was true in the cases of Alton Manning and Dennis Stephens. Having met the families of all three, I believe that their experiences were on a par with those of the Lawrence family in their dealings with the police following the death of Stephen Lawrence. Following the meeting that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Ms Corston) and I had last year with the then Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Ms Quin), about those deaths in custody. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will meet a delegation from those families to talk about their experience.

As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, the parliamentary ombudsman has found in favour of the Severin family on all their complaints, including the failure to disclose the contents of the internal investigation and report into Kenneth's death. The parliamentary ombudsman recommended in February that even at this late stage the report should be made available to the family. Why has it still not been made available?

There were many other comments that I wanted to make about education and the role of other organisations in combating racism. In view of the shortness of time, I shall conclude by referring to the comments of Doreen Lawrence, which were also quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham. She said:

We owe it to the Lawrence family and to the memory of Stephen to act to ensure that that gap is bridged.

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