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Mr. Rowe: Will my hon. Friend do a kindness to the Kent police? At least one speaker today has suggested that the Kent police inquiry was incompetent. In fact, the report said that it was painstaking, thorough and fair. It is only right to put that on the record, especially as the leader of the Kent police inquiry was never asked to give evidence to the Macpherson inquiry.

Mr. Greenway: My hon. Friend makes his own point extremely well. There was a thorough Kent inquiry, although some of its conclusions were not shared by Sir William Macpherson.

We should avoid the mistake of thinking that nothing has been done before to tackle the problems. Macpherson may well be a defining moment in police and community relations in our country, but the report and its recommendations are not revolutionary in all respects. Indeed, the report is at its best when building on and developing reforms and processes already under way.

I was a member of the Home Affairs Committee when, in 1994--after Stephen's murder, to which we referred in the very first paragraph of our report--we wrestled with many of the issues tackled in the Macpherson report. Too often, Select Committee reports are prepared, published and then forgotten. They seem to have a very short shelf life.

Many of the issues that Macpherson considered--definition of a racist incident; the scale of racial harassment in our country; the need to reform the law on incitement to racial hatred, to which the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Mr. Austin) referred; the recruitment, retention and advancement of ethnic minority officers; and police training in racial awareness--were central to the Select Committee report. Work has been on-going since those recommendations were made. That was very much the agenda that we have been debating today.

The Opposition will take a constructive approach to Macpherson, with the aim of ensuring that we reach the right conclusions about what went wrong and why; that our analysis is accurate and clear; and that the changes the Government seek to make, with Parliament's approval, will properly address the problems and issues while also securing the right balance of interests, effects and causes.

I shall summarise some of the more important points about which we have genuine concerns. In the main, they relate to the police service. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) said, it is crucial that the police's determination to meet the

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challenge of the Macpherson report is not undermined by low morale arising from falling manpower or over-fussy bureaucracy. While the definition of institutional racism, which gave rise to such controversy and has been mentioned during the debate, is important, it is also important that we again place on record the fact that Sir William himself confirmed that accepting the definition of institutional racism does not entail accepting that all police officers in London are racist, nor that the policies of the Metropolitan police are racist. Once that judgment has been accepted, it is time to move the debate forward and to concentrate on implementing those measures that tackle head on the racist behaviour of the swaggering bigots mentioned by the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford).

Given the need to challenge the behaviour of individual police officers, we feel that disciplinary procedural changes are generally to be welcomed. Indeed, Metropolitan police initiatives in that area are already well advanced. However, we share the concerns of the police about the implication of the recommendation that calls for disciplinary action for up to five years after retirement. Discipline in the police service is surely about determining fitness to hold the office of constable or higher rank in the police service. It never was about seeking redress or apportioning blame. If that is what is now required, a different approach may be necessary. We do not believe that an extension of pension forfeiture, about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield spoke in some detail, would be a just option.

Disciplinary action, more often than not, arises as a result of internal investigations, but complaints from the public and other bodies are also significant. There would probably be an increase in such complaints if the police service were brought within the terms of the Race Relations Act 1976. We accept the principle, for the reasons my right hon. Friend outlined, but before the primary legislation needed to achieve that is introduced, we need to consider carefully the implications. For example, would complaints under the Act be permissible if they were based not on racial motivation, but on outcome? If so, there would be serious implications for the potential cost of meeting compensation claims. It is unlikely that there would be a ceiling on such claims. Our support for the Race Relations Act extension is also dependent on ensuring that the ability of the police to fight crime effectively and to uphold the rule of law is not undermined.

We welcome the fact that Sir William supports the retention of stop-and-search procedures, but we agree that research needs to be done to establish the extent to which discrimination affects the use of those powers, a point referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) and by the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead.

The new disciplinary code restates the tradition of policing with fairness and impartiality, and the police service must be free to meet that requirement without fear or favour. Whether or not, and to what extent, the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976 are eventually applied to the police, the most practical solution for improving racial awareness lies in improved training.

There have been many new developments in that area, and the police are ready to take them further in the light of the report. Too often in the past, important training initiatives--in racial awareness, but in many other areas

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too--have been undermined by demands for greater cost-effectiveness. We look forward to seeing the current report into that matter of the Select Committee on Home Affairs.

We accept the fresh definition of racist incidents. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) said, it is likely to lead to a significant increase in recorded figures for racist incidents. We need to be careful in dealing with that.

I have strong views about the need for a significant increase in recruitment and retention of police officers from ethnic backgrounds. Anyone who has experienced policing in some of the major cities of the United States of America cannot escape the contrast between amultiracial, multicultural police force policing a multiracial, multicultural community and what still happens in the United Kingdom. There has been progress, but we need to do more. The biggest increase in ethnic recruitment occurred when recruitment of additional officers was at its height, not in the 1990s, as the Home Secretary said, but in the 1980s.

There is a huge contradiction in Government policy in this area. It is absurd for the Home Secretary to set targets for ethnic recruitment, but to disclaim any possible influence or responsibility on recruitment levels or on the ability of police forces to maintain adequate numbers of officers.

I should refer briefly to the handling of the report, which has also been referred to by the hon. Memberfor Eltham and the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). The hon. Member for Eltham spoke forcefully about the strong sense of outrage and incredulity felt by his constituents, many of them young people, when their names and addresses were published. What adds insult to injury is the clear knowledge that, just when Ministers and officials should have been taking greater care to prevent that grave error, they were busying themselves in blocking publication of what appeared to everyone to be a deliberate leak of the report. Will the Minister of State tell us when he expects the leak inquiry to be published?

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

Mr. Greenway: I will not because I must finish.

The police cannot be expected to deliver this important programme of reform unless proper resources are provided. The acid test of the Government's commitment to reform will be their capacity to provide those resources. The Government's pronouncements, which we have heard again today, must be matched by a willingness to ensure that the police have the resources to do the job that we all expect.

The signs are not encouraging. The Macpherson report has generated huge expectation of change and reform. The blueprint is clear, and it is widely supported. The police service is eager to deliver change and to restore its battered pride. However, I say with all sincerity, that Ministers must recognise that unless they reconsider their stance on resources, the greatest obstacle to success will rest with them.

9.45 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Paul Boateng): Our race, our culture, our history, in all the richness and diversity now happily represented in this

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House and reflected in this debate, are very important to each and every one of us in our different ways. However, they do not, and must not, on their own define us, because we are all, each and every one of us, much more than that. Whether in Peckham or in Penrith, we share a common humanity that we must recognise and upon which we must build. In this country, we share something else: a common home and a history of empire and Commonwealth. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) should recognise that, because his past constituents had a role in ensuring that. We must now build on that shared history and humanity.

The great evil, and it was an evil, of what happened to Stephen Lawrence is that all his murderers saw was another black boy. All they saw was another nigger, and they were going to get him. All too many, but not all, the police officers only saw another black boy suspected of being a street fighter, and they treated him as such. They only saw yet another black family with a sense of unjustified grievance, and they treated them as such. That should be a matter of shame to each and every one of us.

What I sensed on both sides of the House today was exemplified by the speeches of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and, particularly, the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley) and my hon. Friends. They recognised that, whatever happens, whatever we have said, we all, in our different ways and from our different perspectives, believe that what happened to the Lawrence family must never happen again. No family, no matter what their colour, should have to go through again what the Lawrences have suffered over the past six years. That unites us all, and thank God that it does.

Reference was made in the debate--sometimes, from various perspectives, critical--to the definitions of institutional racism and racist incident suggested by Sir William Macpherson and his team. The Government accept both the report's definitions because we see them as working definitions that have a practical purpose. I am sure that we could all find something in them, or underpinning or underlying them,with which we might take issue to a greater or lesser extent, but I think that the overwhelming majority of hon. Members recognise their value because they enable us to move forward. Institutional racism is defined in such a way as to enable us to identify better and to come together to address a problem that we know exists.

I must stress to right hon. and hon. Members thatno black person in this country needed Sir William Macpherson to tell us about the nature of racism. No black person in this country needed to be told about institutional racism in the Metropolitan police or any other police force or in the wider institutions of our society. We recognise that it is there, as do many white people, and we are only too cognisant of the fact, as are many white people, that something must be done about it. We must address that problem if we are to move forward. All of us surely require not breast-beating, semantics, self-flagellation, the donning of sackcloth and ashes, or diversionary quibbling, but change in order to address better the reality and perception of unfairness and injustice. We seek equal not preferential treatment, not for one race but for all. No one is asking for--or wants--any favours. We seek fairness and equal treatment under the law because it is the law that is important. That must be at the forefront of our consciousness when we consider these matters.

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I well understand--what lawyer would not?--the concern about the definition of a racial incident. Thehon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) referred to stop and search from his perspective as a lawyer. All lawyers have a thing about definitions, and the definition of a racial incident might give the lawyers among us pause for thought. It is essentially an entirely subjective definition, and that always starts alarm bells ringing in any lawyer's ears.

However, the definition has a practical purpose: as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, it is a tool that enables us to record better an event that the victim clearly feels displays racial motivation. The Crown Prosecution Service must determine whether the evidence justifiesa matter coming before the court. Sir William Macpherson's definition does not require the matter of racist motivation to be accepted by the CPS or to be brought before the court. It is for the court to determine in the ordinary way whether such a motivation is made. No one of our fellow citizens should be left feeling that his or her concern about a racial motive was not at least recorded. It is not unreasonable to ask that of those whose duty it is to record such matters.

We now need not rhetoric or sentiment but practical measures to ensure that this tragedy does not happen again. The action plan seeks to introduce practical measures: it is a task for everyone with benefits for everyone. The action plan must not be viewed as being only for black people. Every victim of a crime and every member of the public, whatever his or her colour, will benefit from the improvements that it sets out. They will benefit in terms of the competencies that are necessary in a murder investigation, because the events that occurred in the immediate aftermath of the Stephen Lawrence murder should never have happened. Those benefits will accrue to everyone in terms of the way in which bereaved families or the families of victims will be treated by the police.

There are resource implications, but, as my right hon. Friend has said, in this instance fairness and justice have no price; we recognise that. Benefits will accrue to everyone from the fact that basic first-aid skills will be improved. Confidence in the police is vital for all black and all white people--whether in Handsworth or Hemsworth--and it must be strengthened and kept in good repair, because the police have special responsibilities. We put particular burdens on the police. That is why, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) said, we must not forget the community dimension. He has shown the way ahead for recruitment and retention through the cohort project in Tottenham, which sought to bring people into the police from a diverse range of backgrounds.

There is a community responsibility and there will have to be a community involvement. All of us must be committed to working together to build strong, civic communities in which every member feels that he or she has an equal part to play. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) rightly reminded us of the significance of young people in all that work. We must bring them on board because they must be part of the solution, rather than remaining part of the problem.

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The hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) is correct to point out the work done by the Select Committees. The police have been moving to embrace the diversity agenda, but other public services and institutions must do the same. That is why it is important to extend the Race Relations Act 1976 across the public services. We must all recognise our responsibility in these matters.

It is true that there have been many causes for concern in the past. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) mentioned the victims of the New Cross fire. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) referred to the case of Blair Peach. Those campaigns have helped to bring us to the point that we have reached today, but they are part of the past and we must now move forward. We need to move forward on the basis of a greater degree of accountability, and in that context the proposals made in relation to the new Metropolitan Police Authority are most important.

We must also acknowledge the important role that we shall play in this House. The right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) correctly reminded us of the importance of evaluating what we do, of pushing projects forward and reporting back to the House. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made it clear that we shall do just that. We must build on the consensus that exists in this House; a consensus acknowledged in the contributions made by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), by the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley) and by my hon. Friends the Members for Erith and Thamesmead (Mr. Austin) and for Eltham (Mr. Efford). My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham has had to deal with these matters day in and day out and rightly makes the point that no community deserves to be castigated or written off as racist.

Good people, black and white, are working together to build practical strategies for change. Those strategies need to be taken forward. Yes, existing injustices are a cause for concern. Some of my hon. Friends have asked us for replies on specific matters and the ministerial team will be only too happy to meet them to discuss those matters.

Today, this House is challenged to make a new beginning in which we are united in this country--our country, our home--to build a society that is inclusive and in which people are judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. That is a fitting memorial to Stephen Lawrence. That will make a reality of all that his parents have striven for: not rhetoric, not sentiment, but a positive strategy for change; a strategy for change that will deliver us the sort of society in which we can take genuine pride and that represents the best that this House can stand for. We have seen that reflected here today. Yes, there will be differences, but at least now we can talk about them openly and move forward. That is progress.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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