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Mr. Beith: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howarth: I will not, if the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me. Time is short and not many people have had an opportunity to put the kind of argument that I want to put to the House tonight. [Interruption.] Some may say that that is a good thing, but there we are.

The failure of the police to catch and convict the murderers of Stephen Lawrence may owe something to the decision not to arrest the suspects immediately, but to found on that error of judgment a charge that the police were insensitive and racist--and to build on that avast raft of new, draconian laws and procedures--is unwarranted and wrong. The Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, whom I believe to be an extremely dignified and capable officer, has been pilloried and abused in a manner which would have resulted in charges if meted out by non-blacks. He has expressed reservations about bringing the police within the remit of race relations law, and I believe that he is right to do so.

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The chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation said:

That is a very serious charge and the Minister of State has to take it into account.

It is fair to say that some unpalatable truths have to be faced, one of which is the fact that no Government have ever received a mandate to turn the United Kingdom into a multiracial society. Despite the warnings given in the 1960s and 1970s about the inevitable social consequences of large-scale immigration to Britain, successive Governments have ploughed on regardless.

There are those who will use the report to try to advance a cause that I do not believe to be in the interests of good race relations in this country. I regret that some who have come here freely and others who have sought refuge in this country appear no longer content to learn and accept our native customs and traditions, but wish to assert their own. Some of the minority even want to dictate to the majority.

I believe that the report makes chilling reading in places. Not only does it contain the quite frightening suggestion that the thought police should be allowed to invade the home of a free-born Englishman; there is the threat of indoctrination in our schools to make children "value cultural diversity". My right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) described that as Orwellian. Although some people welcome cultural diversity, others see it as a threat and there is no point in this House being other than aware of that fact. It strikes some people that the homogeneity of the United Kingdom is somehow under threat.

This country is Britain, and the best service that we can do for all our children is to give them a thorough knowledge of the history and cultural heritage of these islands. As for the police, they deserve far better than this report and the public humiliation to which the Commissioner has been subjected. Britain is a tolerant country. We need to keep working at good race relations, but it is time that those with ethnic minority backgrounds, who represent just 6 per cent. of the population, tried to be more understanding of us and our centuries-old culture.

9.10 pm

Mr. Iain Coleman (Hammersmith and Fulham): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this interesting debate. Given the lack of time, my speech will be brief.

It is crucial that, above all else, we learn the key lessons from Stephen's tragic death. We all have a duty, particularly those of us in public life, to examine our

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conduct and consciences to ensure that we have done so. Are we certain that our actions are consistent with the desire of all right-minded people to build a decent society, free from the discrimination, hatred and prejudice that breeds the attitudes that we all witnessed from the five young white men caught on video tape proclaiming their vile and disgusting opinions?

When I was first elected as a local authority councillor some 13 years' ago, the relationship between my local authority and the Metropolitan police was appalling. The level of mutual distrust bordered on hostility and it was the widely held view of most Labour councillors, including myself, that the Metropolitan police was an organisation riddled with racism, which was to be challenged at all times and treated with contempt and disdain. Any suggestion that a constructive dialogue should take place between our two bodies was regarded almost as tantamount to appeasement with the enemy.

On reflection, I believe that the fault for that near-complete breakdown in trust and communication should be apportioned to everyone involved, including those of us in the Labour party who adopted an inflexible and inappropriate approach. Those who suffered at the time were not the police or the policy makers at the council, but the local communities that we were elected to serve. It has taken more than a decade for us to turn that situation around. We have gone some way to achieving that objective.

Having worked closely with local senior police officers over recent years, I am convinced that they are now genuinely committed to an anti-racist police strategy. In January this year, Chief Superintendent Joe Kaye, who was until recently stationed at Hammersmith police station, accepted an invitation to speak at a local ward meeting. In the 1980s the idea that the Labour party would offer an invitation to a senior police officer to discuss his vision of a community police strategy would have been absurd. We opened up the meeting to residents of a deprived housing estate and the large audience sometimes gave Chief Superintendent Kaye a hard time. However, the fact that he was prepared to listen and respond to the views and criticisms of a local working-class community is further proof of how the relationship has changed in the past decade.

Welcome though the change at the top of the local police structure is, there remains much distrust and suspicion among my constituents about the Metropolitan police. Far too often, my black constituents are the individuals who are stopped for no good reason when driving their cars at night. It is still regular practice in my constituency for young black men to be pulled up and searched when all that they are doing is peacefully walking home. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the black community continues to be resentful and sceptical about the police's commitment to root out the discrimination that has scarred their service for far too many years.

I particularly welcome, therefore, the suggestion in the action plan, which the Home Secretary has drawn up following the Macpherson report, that all stops, including non-statutory ones, be recorded and details given to the individual who is stopped.

It is important, as I said, that we should all examine our own behaviour to ensure that nothing we do could in any way encourage or tolerate the spread of

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racist attitudes. I am sure that all hon. Members will therefore welcome, as I do, the all-party statement on the principles of good practice for the debate on the Immigration and Asylum Bill. The document was signed by all the leaders of parties represented in the House, and calls on all Members of Parliament, all Members of the European Parliament and all councillors to ensure that, in any dealings with the public, no words or actions are used that may stir up racial or religious hatred or lead to prejudice on grounds of race, nationality or religion.

It was therefore a very sad disappointment that, in the very week in which the Immigration and Asylum Bill--the legislation with which that all-party document was drawn up to deal--was published, a leaflet entitled "Fulham Homes For Fulham People" was distributed in some parts of my constituency. The authors of that propaganda are two young white Conservative councillors who were elected to the authority less than a year ago. Currently, one of them is challenging for leadership of the Conservative group in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Among the statements made in the leaflet are that more housing points should be given

whatever that might mean. It goes on to say that the Labour council

    "couldn't care less whether you've lived 5 minutes or 20 years in Fulham."

The leaflet also states that the Labour council grants

    "75 bonus points for certain categories of homeless people, including asylum seekers",

and ends with the charming expression "Stop the rot".

Those statements are dangerous and completely without foundation. They are also a disgrace. Hon. Members will judge for themselves whether they are consistent with the all-party agreement signed by all the party leaders, including the Leader of the Opposition.

One of the young men involved in publishing the leaflet is the chairman of the new youth wing of the Conservative party--an organisation that I believe is called Conservative Future. I am sure that we shall all beeagerly awaiting the recommendations of the internal investigation into the publication of that leaflet, which was announced yesterday by Conservative central office, after a complaint made by the national Commission for Racial Equality.

Stephen's tragic death has highlighted the prejudice and discrimination faced daily by the United Kingdom's black and ethnic minority communities. It must therefore be incumbent on all of us in public life ruthlessly to stamp out any behaviour that could in any way feed that prejudice. The time for words is over. Only by our actions will we demonstrate our commitment at last to build the fair anti-racist society that the people of the United Kingdom deserve.

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