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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but she is straying outside the bounds of the Bill. On Third Reading, she must confine her remarks to the content of the Bill.
The Bill accepts that many strands contribute to the poverty of British Muslims. They are more than four times more likely than white households to live in poverty. More than 60 per cent. fall below the poverty line;
No debate on the issue would be complete without a tribute to Doreen and Neville Lawrence. We have heard many tributes from both sides of the House. It is fitting that the Government have changed the race relations legislation in this country largely as a result of the enormous dedication and commitment that the Lawrences have shown. The Bill is truly a fitting memorial to their son, Stephen.
I welcome the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) on behalf of the Conservative party. I listened with interest to the words of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), and I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King).
Stephen Lawrence would have been 26, were he still alive. I congratulate the Government on setting up an inquiry into his death. Richard Stone, one of the assessors, made a comment that influenced me enormously. He said that we should not expect the victims to overcome injustice; those who have greater influence or power, or are more established members of the community, are responsible for putting things right.
I accept that responsibility, and I shall continue to pursue it until the colour of my skin is as important as the colour of my eyes or my hair. People may notice it, but it tells no more about me. I may have no hair left soon, so only the colour of my eyes and that of my skin will remain.
The Bill is important. However, it is more important that people act in the spirit of the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Bill, which amends it. I welcome the fact that the police accept that the responsibility will fall vicariously on chief officers' shoulders, but that by itself is not enough. Chief officers have senior officers, middle-ranking officers, managers, sergeants and others beneath them. A high proportion of police officers already do their best to treat people fairly and equitably. I believe that, in five years, the police will be able to look back to this year and appreciate the progress that they have made since the Bill was enacted. They can look back now at the progress that they have made in the past five years. Of those two statements, one is true and one will be true.
Much baggage hangs over the police, and not only the Metropolitan police. I was pleased that the inspector of police and the Minister were present at the first meeting of the Black Police Association in Birmingham. At the meeting, it was clear that some senior officers, who had ethnic minority officers with them, treated them as a normal part of the police service. I suspect that others believed that, while they were not undergoing a charade, they were playing a role to show, "We're all equal now." Yet I do not believe that that is true in all parts of all police services in this country. It is true of the majority, and of a growing number of parts of the police service, but it is not generally true.
Let us consider three examples in the Metropolitan police area. I am glad that the police resolved the matter with Detective Inspector David Michael without having to go through a tribunal. That was wise of both sides. In such a case, the relevant officer might have done better in monetary terms by fighting it out, and I have no doubt that the Metropolitan police could have made various comments in an open forum. They wisely came together. That could apply to outstanding cases when the Bill changes the current Act.
Without going into the details or the merits of the different claims and hearings in relation to Sergeant Gurpal Virdi, or those that may arise in relation to Police Constable Manmohan Sandhu, it would be wise for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to look through the outstanding cases and ascertain the number that can be resolved by agreement with the relevant officers or employees.
Perhaps the Minister will say that, had I been present earlier, I would have heard his comments about people outside the police rather than the police dealing with their employees. I accept that. However, the police should be able to draw a line on both outside and inside complaints and, when possible, to resolve them by agreement. I believe that, in the case of former Sergeant Gurpal Virdi, and other cases around the country, it would be possible to reach a satisfactory, honourable agreement, which could sweep away much of the past and allow people to move forward without tying up police time and action.
I believe that I was chosen to represent Worthing, West partly because, when asked what was effectively a race question, I gave the sort of promise that I made at the beginning of my speech. I outlined my determination as a Member of Parliament to try to help to put matters right. When people accuse the Conservative party of being racist, I would say that, in one of the safer Conservative seats--one of the whiter constituencies, if I may put it that way--people want to embrace a modern Britain and the sort of inclusiveness that is shown by an extended story that I shall abbreviate.
In one of Dorothy Sayers' essays, a man whom she calls Budgery is asked, "Are you English?" He replies, "Yes, of course." He is then asked, "Did your ancestors arrive with William the Conqueror?" "Oh no" he replies, "There were Budgerys here before Billy the Conk. But of course, there is some Norman blood in us, and Sir Gilbert brought back a Saracen wife from the third crusade, and so-and-so married a daughter of Pocohontas, and Robert Budgery was black. He came from south America--no one knew who his mother was. The Cornish branch was, of course, Spanish--the Armada, you know." It goes on. The character unrolls Britain's history as he introduces more people. He concludes, "I am of course English, although my mother's father was perhaps Irish and my mother's mother was Scottish." People can accept that sort of inclusiveness with pride.
When people talk about the cricket test, I do not understand why I cannot cheer for the Irish because of my Irish ancestry, just as my wife may cheer the English because her great uncle captained England before the first world war, even though she was born in Scotland. Such mixtures will become increasingly common and need to be made increasingly open.
We are talking about setting standards, which no doubt could have been set in the past. I think that we all now treat people in the spirit of the legislation that has been introduced, and I think that the police will too. I commend the Bill and welcome the response of the police to it. I do not underestimate the responsibilities that chief officers of police have taken on for themselves.
Mr. Mike O'Brien: With the leave of the House, I should say a few words in response to a couple of points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King), who asked about enforcement of the Bill. The Bill will empower the Commission for Racial Equality to issue a compliance notice to any public authority that fails to fulfil a specific duty imposed by order to promote race equality. If necessary, the CRE could seek a court order to enforce that provision. Audit bodies such as the Audit Commission would also be subject to the duty to promote race equality. They will be able to report on the issue, and that will help to underpin the duty.
I hope shortly to publish the results of research undertaken by Derby university on the extent of religious discrimination and the results of other research into legal issues, which may involve considering possible legislative options. I can take the matter no further than that now.
I join all colleagues in paying tribute to Doreen and Neville Lawrence. The death of Stephen Lawrence was a tragedy, but it has resulted in changes to the law. I hope that it will make this country a better place for us all, no matter what our race or background.