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Religious Discrimination

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to introduce legislation to outlaw discrimination on the basis of religion and faith; and if he will make a statement. [8476]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 18 October 2001]: The Government are tackling religious discrimination in a number of ways.

I have recently introduced proposals to widen the law to make incitement to religious, as well as racial hatred, a criminal offence, as part of the Government's measured response to tackle terrorism and those who exploit fears it raises.

The Government are committed to implementing the Article 13 EC Employment Directive outlawing discrimination in employment and training on grounds that include religion by 2 December 2003. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will consult widely later in the autumn on proposals for implementation.

The Census Act 1921 was amended to include a question on religious identity in this year's census. This will provide central and local government with reliable data on our faith communities, which will help inform the planning and delivery of services sensitive to the needs of faith communities.

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The Human Rights Act 1998 also provides protection against religious discrimination.

But legislation alone is not enough, as research participants recognised. They favoured a comprehensive approach in which education, training and a greater effort to teach more in schools about the diversity of faith would all play an important part. We are looking at how best to do this.

Police Stations (Essex)

Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police stations in Essex have (a) closed and (b) restricted their opening hours in each year since 1997. [6223]

Mr. Denham: The information is set out in the table.

Reduced hours50505
Increased hours00030

Figures for 1999 and 2000 include the closure of detached beat offices in rural areas that were sold as a result of the force's rural review. These were houses with a police office attached (one room dedicated as a police office or front counter) staffed by one officer when on duty. Proceeds of sales are being invested in rural police station facilities.

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Police Numbers

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what the (a) establishment and (b) recommended number of police officers is; and how many vacancies exist for police officers in England; [7195]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 15 October 2001]: The Government do not set recommended levels of strength on a force by force basis. It is for individual chief officers of police to determine their staffing levels. We expect numbers of officers in England and Wales to reach record levels by 2003.