Previous SectionIndexHome Page


8. Mrs. Helen Brinton (Peterborough): What steps his Department is taking to combat racism in the public sector. [99683]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien): We have now published a Bill to bring all the public sector, including the police, within race relations legislation. Last week,

6 Dec 1999 : Column 547

we also published an equality statement that set race equality within a wider strategy to ensure that the public sector promotes equality and leads by example.

Mrs. Brinton: I thank the Minister for that welcome reply. As he will know, the case of a constituent of mine has recently given me cause to look in depth at the role of race and racism in our mental health service. I was shocked to discover that everything from the first diagnosis to drug administration and the control and restraint methods employed can be directly or indirectly affected by racism. What reassurances can my hon. Friend give to the thousands of black and Asian men and women in the mental health system that racism will be tackled by the race relations Bill, which was recently announced in the Queen's Speech?

Mr. O'Brien: The Bill covers mental health patients in the same way that it covers others. Direct discrimination and victimisation of a mentally ill patient by any specified public authority in the performance of its functions, which are currently covered by the Race Relations Act 1976, will become unlawful. Discrimination against mentally ill patients in sectors already covered by the Act, such as the provision of goods, facilities and services, will of course remain unlawful.

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury): Have the Government reached a final conclusion on the proposal from the Commission for Racial Equality that the burden of proof should be reversed in cases of alleged racial discrimination? Does not the Minister agree that to implement such a proposal would risk severely damaging, not improving, race relations in this country?

Mr. O'Brien: We will obviously take account of what the hon. Gentleman has said in reaching our conclusions. We have considered the third review of race relations legislation by the Commission for Racial Equality. It contains several proposals that we strongly support, and we are still considering other proposals, including the one referred to by the hon. Gentleman. In due course, we shall introduce our proposals on how to proceed. The key point is that the House should take a lead, both with the Bill that will shortly come before the House and with later legislation, to ensure that we create a successful, multi-racial society in Britain.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough): Is the Minister aware that, although welcome, the Bill's limited proposals will not necessarily tackle institutionalised racism--so powerfully identified by the Macpherson report--in some of our public services, especially the police? Has he considered whether ensuring that public services generally have the duty to promote good race relations which we have already given to the Greater London Authority might result in a better piece of legislation?

Mr. O'Brien: I do not agree that the Bill will not tackle some of the issues of institutional racism identified by the Macpherson report: the Bill is a direct response to it. However, I agree that we should consider imposing a statutory duty on public authorities to promote race equality. Indeed, last week, we announced that, in due

6 Dec 1999 : Column 548

course and when parliamentary time allows, we shall ensure that public authorities have a duty to promote race equality.

Lancashire Constabulary

9. Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): What assessment he has made of the impact on police numbers in Lancashire of his projected financial allocations to the county's force for 2000-01. [99684]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw): The provisional funding allocation for the Lancashire police authority for 2000-01 is £185.3 million. That is an increase of 3.9 per cent., which is more than the average increase for England and Wales of 2.8 per cent. Within the overall budget set by the police authority, it is for the chief officer to determine staffing levels.

Mr. Jack: I am grateful to the Home Secretary for his response, as is the Lancashire force for the additional money it is to receive for next year. However, as a Lancashire Member of Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the additional money will barely cover the additional costs--increases in pay, prices and the police pension fund--that the force has to bear. There is no guarantee that the crime-fighting fund will provide Lancashire with guaranteed extra resources to expand the force and recruit new officers. In the light of that financial position, will the right hon. Gentleman spell out to his home force how it is to recruit additional police officers to carry out its duties?

Mr. Straw: I will take lectures on resources for the police service from almost anyone other than those who supported the previous Administration and who now support the current Opposition Front-Bench team. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he cannot say one thing in Lancashire and another down here. He and his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench have criticised and damned our spending as reckless, but they speak with a forked tongue on the issue of police funding.

Let me give the right hon. Gentleman the good news regarding Lancashire police spending. First, figures with which I was provided before coming into the Chamber state that officer numbers in Lancashire are now at an all-time record level. Secondly, thanks to excellent work by the chief constable and her colleagues, crime in the area fell by 10.1 per cent. compared with a national average of 1.4 per cent.--a record that many forces would do well to emulate. Thirdly, to answer the right hon. Gentleman, I can do no better than quote the chief constable, Mrs. Pauline Clare, who said:

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): Although the figures show a small real-terms cash increase for Lancashire police, next year, the people of London and of Gloucestershire face a cut for the fourth year in a row--

6 Dec 1999 : Column 549

Madam Speaker: Order. I respectfully draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that the question is about police numbers in Lancashire. Therefore, he must speak only about Lancashire, not about other areas.

Mr. Hughes: It was just how I started. Although there is to be an increase for Lancashire police for the coming year, there are many other forces that will not receive that increase and, indeed, some that will experience a fourth cut in four years. Given that the Police Federation estimates that the crime-fighting fund will not even replace countrywide--

Madam Speaker: In Lancashire.

Mr. Hughes: In Lancashire and countrywide, those who are retiring will not be replaced. Will the Home Secretary make sure that the Government concentrate less on ending the north-south divide and more on ending the divide between what they promise and what they do?

Madam Speaker: I do not require the Home Secretary to answer a question which is not related to the Question on the Order Paper. The Question is about Lancashire. We shall move on.

Crime and Disorder Act 1998

10. Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden): What consultations he has held with the Magistrates Association on the implementation of the orders made available by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. [99685]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw): We have consulted extensively with the Magistrates Association and individual magistrates on the implementation, in particular, of the youth justice provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Courts are participating in the pilots of the Act's new measures, to identify effective practice ahead of national implementation. As at 31 October, mainly but not exclusively in the pilot areas, I am pleased to tell the House that there have been 5,000 reprimands issued, 2,500 final warnings, 900 reparation orders, 533 action plan orders, 178 parenting orders, 10 anti-social behaviour orders and two child safety orders.

Siobhain McDonagh: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree with me that it is essential that we encourage magistrates, the police and local authorities to consider making anti-social behaviour orders, as they provide one of the only ways of solving many of the problems that my constituents face in areas such as Pollards Hill?

Mr. Straw: Yes, the introduction of anti-social behaviour orders was not only widely welcomed but widely requested by the police and by local authorities of all political persuasions. The effectiveness of the orders, where they have been used, is striking. I quote:

6 Dec 1999 : Column 550

    That was the view of Chief Inspector Royston Smith, of Derbyshire police, after he had successfully secured an anti-social behaviour order against appalling behaviour in his area.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): Given that the Crime and Disorder Act was one of the Government's flagship Bills, will the Home Secretary tell us why, on the Jimmy Young show recently, he was forced to admit that he might have to consider amendments to the Act because only 10 anti-social behaviour orders and two child curfew orders have been made? Is that an example of an Act working properly to reduce crime?

Mr. Straw: The Act is indeed one of the Government's major flagships. I repeatedly meet police officers of every rank who say of the Act that it is the most welcome piece of legislation that they have been asked to implement in the whole of their careers.

The record of anti-social behaviour orders needs to be set against the outstanding success of the Act overall, including 900 reparation orders, 533 action plan orders and 178 parenting orders. The hon. Gentleman needs to explain to his constituents whether or not he is in favour of, or against, taking tough action of this kind against anti-social neighbours. If the former, he should be doing what many of my right hon. and hon. Friends are doing and asking the authorities behind the action to come forward and seek orders against the sort of appalling anti-social behaviour about which the previous Administration did nothing.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): Is my right hon. Friend aware that in my constituency so far one anti-social behaviour order has been implemented? When I first discovered that, I was somewhat disappointed that more use had not been made of a very important measure. However, wider research, confirmed by my right hon. Friend's answer, shows that my constituency is somewhat in the vanguard. When I discussed the matter with my local police and the local authority, I found that they were keen to use the orders but had not always found the other bodies and agencies involved as helpful as they might have been. Will my right hon. Friend pursue that with those other bodies? The one order that has been implemented is extremely successful and is widely supported by the public. That is the way people want us to go.

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We are doing everything that we can to encourage local authorities, magistrates and the police service to follow the example of the authorities in my hon. Friend's constituency in Derbyshire--and in Blackburn as well--where the obtaining of anti-social behaviour orders has proved extremely effective. I have asked my noble Friend Lord Warner, who is also chair of the Youth Justice Board, to take a particular interest in the problems faced by some authorities in seeking such orders.

Before Opposition Members sneer and get on the wrong side of the argument about dealing with anti-social behaviour, I should remind them of a number of the new offences that they trumpeted at the time the relevant legislation was going through Parliament, including the Public Order Act 1986 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994; however, 13 years and five years

6 Dec 1999 : Column 551

later, respectively, the number of such convictions has been fewer than five, despite all the Conservatives' bluster at the time.

What we see now, on the part of Government and of the police forces and local authorities that are in the vanguard, is a determination properly to use all the orders in the Crime and Disorder Act. The overall figures show already that the Act has been an outstanding success.

Next Section

IndexHome Page