Select Committee on Home Affairs Sixth Report

2 Community relations: existing problems and policies

4. Concern about community relations did not begin with 9/11. The growth of international terrorism, and the Government's response, has had an impact on what was already a complex issue. Whilst Britain is rightly seen as having a relatively successful record in tackling racism and promoting strong community relations, and whilst some minority communities were becoming increasingly successful and prosperous, others continued to suffer higher than average levels of deprivation. The Stephen Lawrence inquiry had emphasised the progress that still needed to be made in tackling institutional racism in public institutions.

5. In the summer of 2001, before the twin towers attacks, a series of disturbances had hit northern cities. Subsequent inquiries highlighted a number of underlying problems and tensions that were seen as relevant much more widely than the towns directly affected. In the same summer, public concern about asylum reached unprecedented heights following widespread publicity about the Sangatte camp near Calais.

6. It is clear the Britain would have faced difficult challenges in building better community relations even without the terrorist attacks and the necessary responses to them. Our report has focussed on international terrorism and its impact on community relations. It is difficult however to separate these issues entirely from the wider background problems. Indeed, the concern expressed by many witnesses about the common if irresponsible media association of Muslims, asylum seekers and terrorists underlines how intertwined these issues have become in public discourse.

7. For this reason, we have begun with a brief history of the major events of the past five or six years, including the Government's analysis of the riots and its subsequent response; the development of asylum policy; racism and diversity in the police; and the reaction to 9/11, new terrorist legislation and its subsequent use. We also recall statistics on minorities in the UK, focusing in particular on the Muslim community and the disadvantages they suffer.

The Cantle report

8. The first outbreak of serious disorder in 2001 was in Bradford on Sunday 15 April. This was followed by similar disturbances in Oldham, on 26-29 May and Burnley, on 24-26 June, and finally by a second outbreak in Bradford on 7-10 July. Serious disturbances also occurred in Leeds on 5 June and Stoke-on-Trent on the weekend of 14-15 July. The disorders involved hundreds of mainly young people, inflicted injuries on over 400 police officers, and caused millions of pounds worth of damages.

9. Some areas, such as Oldham and Burnley, established local enquiries to find out more about the particular circumstances in their own communities which gave rise to these events. The Home Secretary's response was to set up a Ministerial Group on Public Order and Community Cohesion to examine and consider how national policies might be used to promote better community cohesion, based upon shared values and a celebration of diversity. He also established a Review Team, led by Ted Cantle, previously Chief Executive of Nottingham City Council, to seek the views of local residents and community leaders in the affected towns and in other parts of England on what the issues were that needed to be addressed to bring about social cohesion, and also to identify good practice in the handling of these issues at local level.[1]

10. Among the main themes of the report was the separation between communities:

"Whilst the physical segregation of housing estates and inner city areas came as no surprise, the team was particularly struck by the depth of polarisation of our towns and cities. The extent to which these physical divisions were compounded by so many other aspects of our daily lives, was very evident. Separate educational arrangements, community and voluntary bodies, employment, places of worship, language, social and cultural networks, means that many communities operate on the basis of a series of parallel lives. These lives often do not seem to touch at any point, let alone overlap and promote any meaningful interchanges."[2]

11. The report identified a number of contributing factors, including lack of leadership and of readiness to confront issues and find solutions. It also noted that "where high levels of poverty and unemployment were found community cohesion was unlikely to be very evident", but observed that correlation with disaffection and social unrest was not always straightforward.[3] Another factor was under-representation of black and ethnic minorities, particularly in supervisory and managerial posts, in some local authorities and police forces.[4] The role of schools in breaking down barriersor failing to do sowas also underlined. The report made 67 recommendations to tackle the problems it had identified. At the top of the list was the need for clear identification of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, based on an honest and open national debate.[5]

Report of the Ministerial Group on Public Order

12. The Ministerial Group reported soon after the Cantle report and the other local enquiries noted in paragraphs 9 and 14, setting out action already taken by the Government and ways in which existing programmes would be refocused to promote more cohesive communities. Drawing on the analyses in the other reports and additional sources, it concluded that the most important factors had been:

13. We believe that the analysis in the Cantle report remains valid. Key issues in the report, such as the importance of leadership, especially at a local level, the need to overcome segregation, the role of schools and the importance of opportunities for young people and the need for clarity over what it means to be British, are central to the problems discussed in this inquiry. The threat of international terrorism brings a new dimension to existing issues, and perhaps makes their resolution even more pressingit does not change them.

Developments in policy on community relations

14. Community cohesion has been the subject of a number of reports and inquiries since the summer of 2001. As well as the Cantle report, discussed in paragraphs 9-11, Lord (then Sir Herman) Ouseley reported on inter-community relations for Bradford Council,[7] David Ritchie on Oldham[8] and Lord Clarke on Burnley.[9] The Home Office also lists as key documents on these issues the report of the Ministerial Group on Public Order,[10] the report of the Community Cohesion Panel[11] and the Local Government Association's action guide to community cohesion,[12] in addition to guidance on housing asylum seekers and refugees, community cohesion education standards for schools, guidance on measuring cohesion and on building a relationship with the media and a Home Office/ODPM action plan aimed at mainstreaming community cohesion in Government policy on housing.[13] The Select Committee on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has reported on social cohesion,[14] while in January this year the Government set out their strategy to increase race equality and community cohesion.[15]

The Community Cohesion Panel report

15. The independent Community Cohesion Panel was set up in April 2002 to work with and advise Ministers on the development of community cohesion at national and local levels. Its final report, published in July 2004, made a number of recommendations, covering a wide range of issues, which were summed up in the introduction to the report:

"We need more integration, but we also want each community to feel proud of its heritage and traditionsin other words we need a type of multi-culturalism in which everyone supports the values and laws of the nation, whilst keeping hold of their cultural identity.

"To achieve this everyone must have a real sense of belonging and they must share common values. […] much more needs to be done to make this a reality, though we applaud some of the recent efforts to develop citizenship at a national level and the actions of local authorities and their partners to create more unity locally. We now need to step up a gear and particularly to overcome some of the tensions created by wider international divisions. All citizens, whether by birth or naturalised, White or from a Black and minority ethnic (BME) group, whatever their faith, need to be able to see themselves as 'British', whether or not they add their cultural identity to the term.

"Citizenship is not just an issue for newcomers. Some form of new ceremony or event should be used to mark every 18 year old's transition to democratic participation. The heritage of all communities - including the host community - should be celebrated.

"The Government should audit progress on building cohesion and take action to fill in the gaps. It must also ensure every central Government department sees community cohesion as a Government priority and not 'just a Home Office issue'. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) should monitor the concentration and segregation of communities and use the information to inform policy."[16]

The ODPM Select Committee report

16. The ODPM Committee's inquiry into social cohesion, and in particular into progress since the disturbances of 2001, was announced in May 2003, and the report was published in May 2004. The Committee stressed the over-arching nature of the issue:

"Social cohesion should be seen as a long term issue to be considered by all agencies. It has been brought to prominence by the disturbances in 2001 but it should not be seen predominantly as a law and order issue. Social cohesion requires the securing of improvements in the quality of life for all citizens and should be addressed in all policies and services developed by public agencies."[17]

Other recommendations made by the Committee covered local services, regeneration programmes, education, youth provision, the needs of vulnerable people, the role of the community and voluntary sectors, and central government, including the ODPM, the Home Office and the Department of Health.

Current government policy

17. The Government's strategy is described in the most recent strategy paper as being based on a vision of Britain in which:

18. The Home Office also say that a cohesive community is one where:

  • there is a common vision and a sense of belonging for all communities
  • the diversity of people's different backgrounds and circumstances is appreciated and positively valued
  • those from different backgrounds have similar life opportunities
  • strong and positive relationships are being developed between people from different backgrounds in the workplace, in schools and within neighbourhoods.[19]

19. Current policies focus on reducing race inequalities through a comprehensive cross-Government Public Service Agreement target to monitor and reduce race inequalities between 2005 and 2008, including specific goals to reduce perceptions of discrimination in a wide range of public services, reduce employment inequalities and monitor the progress of minority ethnic communities across major public services, from education to housing.

Regional Development Agencies

20. The eight Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) set up in the English Regions are non-departmental public bodies. According to the DTI, their primary role, along with that of a ninth RDA, the London Development Agency, is as strategic drivers of regional economic development in their region. The RDAs aim to co-ordinate regional economic development and regeneration, enable the regions to improve their relative competitiveness and reduce the imbalance that exists within and between regions.

21. Under the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998, each Agency has five statutory purposes, which are:

22. The RDAs' agenda includes regional regeneration, taking forward regional competitiveness, taking the lead on regional inward investment and, working with regional partners, ensuring the development of a regional skills action plan to ensure that skills training matches the needs of the labour market.[20]

23. The Regional Development Agencies' mission is "to transform England's regions through sustainable economic development" by improving their relative economic performance and reducing the deep-seated social and economic disparities within regions. Their work plays an important role in the government's efforts to promote community cohesion because they identify and address the issues that cause communities and individuals to be dissatisfied with where they live and the quality of their lives.

24. This is done by developing a Regional Economic Strategy (RES) with partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors, which sets out a plan for the development of the region over a 10-25 year period. The RES is owned by the region and identifies the priorities for investment and regeneration activities. The RDAs' Corporate Plans demonstrate what the agencies themselves will do to contribute to the implementation of the strategy.[21]

25. The London Development Agency, South East of England Development Agency and Yorkshire Forward have successfully piloted the use of an Equality and Community Cohesion Impact Assessment framework, which identifies the effect funding policies and strategies will have on community cohesion before projects are fully developed. The report on the pilot and recommendations for taking this work forward will be shared across the RDA network.

Asylum in the United Kingdom

26. The number of people seeking asylum in the UK increased in the late 1990s and peaked in 2002, at 84,130. The number has now fallen for several successive years (the figure for 2004 was 33,930).[22] The Government has reduced asylum applications by taking various measures including stricter border controls (involving use of new technology to detect illegal entrants, closure of the Sangatte refugee camp, and closer working with other European countries), fast-tracking of certain applicants, restriction of benefits to failed asylum seekers, and increasing (albeit from a very low base) the number of removals of failed asylum seekers.[23] The Government has also recently announced policies aimed at integrating successful asylum seekers, i.e. those who have been granted refugee status, within the national and local communities. Two white papers issued in March 2005 "set out the rights and responsibilities of refugee status and put an emphasis on gaining the skills to give something back to the community".[24] However, public concern about asylum remains high.

27. The alleged involvement of failed asylum seekers in terrorist activities in the UK and elsewhere and suggestions that some extremist Islamic preachers have also entered the country by seeking refugee status have undoubtedly led to wider and unjustified public concerns about a more general link between asylum and terrorism.

28. Further concerns about migration have been linked to the growth in economic migration. In combination with measures to combat illegal immigration, the Government has sought to make the case for managed legal migration as being beneficial to the nation. In a speech in 2003 the then Home Secretary, Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, pointed out that legal migrants made up 8% of the UK's population but generated 10% of its GDP. He argued that "effectively managed legal migration is vital to Britain's economic and social interests".[25]

29. Concern was expressed in the press in early 2004 as to the likely consequences of EU enlargement on 1 May 2004 in terms of economic immigration to the UK. Home Office statistics show that just under 91,000 nationals from the eight EU accession states registered for work in the UK between May and September 2004. The Government noted that up to 45% of these had been in the country before 1 May, and that their presence as legally registered workers "alleviat[ed] recruitment difficulties in sectors such as hospitality and agriculture, and legalis[ed] those who had previously not been paying taxes".[26]

30. Whilst there have been no suggestions of a link between economic migration and terrorism, this issue adds a complicating factor to community relations.


31. The police investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence by a group of white youths in April 1993 was the subject of an inquiry led by Sir William Macpherson. The report, published in February 1999, criticised the Metropolitan Police Service for 'institutional racism', which it defined as:

"The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people."[27]

32. One of the issues underlined by the Lawrence inquiry was the gap between the police's view of their own activities and perceptions of those activities by minority communities. Commenting on a series of public hearings in London and around the country, the report noted:

"Wherever we went we were met with inescapable evidence which highlighted the lack of trust which exists between the police and the minority ethnic communities. At every location there was a striking difference between the positive descriptions of policy initiatives by senior police officers, and the negative expressions of the minority communities, who clearly felt themselves to be discriminated against by the police and others. We were left in no doubt that the contrast between these views and expressions reflected a central problem which needs to be addressed."[28]

33. In January 2004, the Metropolitan Police Authority launched an independent inquiry, headed by Sir Bill Morris, into professional standards and employment matters in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). The report noted that extensive work had been undertaken in developing the policies of the MPS in the area of diversity and in trying to implement them across the organisation. But it expressed concern that there was no common understanding of diversity within the organisation and that it was not embedded in the culture of the MPS. The report also noted evidence that managers lacked confidence in managing other issues of difference, whether of gender, disability, sexual orientation or faith, and that insufficient priority had been given to differences other than race.[29]

34. A formal investigation by the Commission for Racial Equality into the police forces of England and Wales reached similar conclusions in March 2004. Sir David Calvert-Smith, the former Director of Public Prosecutions who led the investigation, observed that there was no doubt that the Police Service had made significant progress in the area of race equality in recent years. But he believed there was still a long way to go to a service where every officer treated the public and their colleagues with fairness and respect, regardless of their ethnic origin. He also observed that willingness to change at the top was not translating into action lower down.[30]

35. We are aware that the police, and particularly the Metropolitan Police Service, have made significant efforts to overcome the institutionalised racism criticised in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. But we are concerned by continuing gaps between the police and minority communities in perceptions of police work and by evidence that there is still much work on diversity to be done in the police. We have made recommendations on diversity in the police in our recent report on Police Reform.

1   Home Office, Community Cohesion: A Report of the Independent Review Team Chaired by Ted Cantle, December 2001 (the Cantle report) Back

2   The Cantle report, para 2.1 Back

3   The Cantle report, paras 4.5 and 4.12 Back

4   Ibid, para 4.7 Back

5   Ibid, Chapter 6 Back

6   Home Office, Building Cohesive Communities: a Report of the Ministerial Group on Public Order and Community Cohesion, December 2001, para 2.6 Back

7   Community Pride not Prejudice - Making Diversity Work in Bradford, Sir Herman Ouseley, July 2001. Back

8   Government Office for the North West, Oldham Independent Review: One Oldham, one Future, December 2001 Back

9   Burnley Task Force, Burnley Speaks, Who Listens? Burnley Task Force Report, December 2001 Back

10   Home Office, Building Cohesive Communities: A Report of the Ministerial Group on Public Order and Community Cohesion, December 2001 Back

11   Home Office, The End of Parallel Lives?: The Report of the Community Cohesion Panel, July 2004 Back

12   Local Government Association, Community Cohesion - an action guide, November 2004 Back

13 Back

14   Committee on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Sixth Report of Session 2003-04, Social Cohesion, HC 45 Back

15   Home Office, Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society: The Government's strategy to increase race equality and community cohesion, January 2005. Back

16   Home Office, The End of Parallel Lives?: The Report of the Community Cohesion Panel, July 2004, page 8 Back

17   Committee on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Sixth Report of Session 2003-04, Social Cohesion, HC 45-I, para 13 Back

18   Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society, pp 11-13 Back

19 Back

20 Back

21   Both the strategies and the Corporate Plans are available on the agencies' websites: Back

22   Home Office, Asylum Statistics: 4th Quarter 2004 United Kingdom, published 22 February 2005, p 1 Back

23   For more details on these policies, see Home Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2003-04, Asylum Applications, HC 218-I. Back

24   Home Office, Integration Matters: The Home Office's Refugee Integration Strategy and Department of Work and Pensions, Working to Rebuild Lives: the DWP's Refugee Employment Strategy, published 9 March 2005 Back

25   Home Office press notice 309/2003, Effectively managed migration is good for Britain-Home Secretary, dated 12 November 2003 Back

26   Home Office press notice 351/2004, New figures show accession workers working for the UK, dated 10 November 2004 Back

27   The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, CM 4262-I, February 1999, para 6.34 Back

28   The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, para 45.6 Back

29   The Case for Change: People in the Metropolitan Police Service, December 2004, paras 1.20 - 1.25 Back

30   CRE press release, 8 March 2005 and The Police Service in England and Wales, Commission for Racial Equality, March 2005 Back

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