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Lord Whitty: My Lords, I suspect that I could send the noble Lord a list of nearly 4,000 sites, all of which differ as regards wildlife, vegetation, geology and habitat in general. There is a whole range of considerations, some of which apply to some of the sites and some to others. As the noble Lord implies, wildlife is only one such criterion.

The Earl of Iveagh: My Lords, will the Minister acknowledge the success of the environmentally sensitive areas scheme as administered by MAFF which has improved the condition of SSSIs up and down the country? Will the Minister consider developing that scheme to cover 100 per cent of the country?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am not entirely sure what the noble Earl means by covering 100 per cent of the country. Certainly I commend the efforts of my

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colleagues in MAFF in this respect. But of course a significant number of these sites are not on agricultural land.

Lord Elton: My Lords, given the intrinsic scientific interest of endangered species, will the noble Lord consider recommending Westminster as an SSSI?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that that is business for tomorrow.

Greater London Authority Bill

3.8 p.m.

Further considered on Report.

Clause 269 [Establishment, membership and duty to maintain police force]:

Lord Dholakia moved Amendment No. 535ZA:

Page 154, line 21, at end insert--
5BB. The Metropolitan Police Authority shall be subject to section (Discrimination) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 535ZA I will speak also to Amendment No. 556A.

I welcome the Government's commitment to a strong and effective partnership between the police and local authorities working with local communities to fight and prevent crime. The amendment seeks to provide a framework which will deliver a permanent improvement in eliminating discrimination in the area of policing and in the rest of society. After all, this is precisely what the Home Office reported in the 15th United Kingdom periodic report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.

The amendment is designed to assist the GLA and the police publicly to reaffirm their commitment to investing in good community and race relations as a core function of policing. It will also assist the police and the GLA to undertake the community and race relations audit on a regular basis. The Scarman Report on the Brixton disorders in 1981 and now the Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry described a wide range of detailed measures to relieve institutional racism within the police service. The purpose of the amendment is not in doubt. It is to ensure that the Metropolitan Police Authority provides an appropriate and professional service to all sections of the community. The amendment will ensure that while those in a position of power and influence have a special duty and responsibility to provide leadership, everyone in an organisation will understand what they are expected to do. The evidence which was submitted to both inquiries painted a picture of lack of confidence in the police among ethnic minority communities.

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The Government have pronounced that at some stage the Race Relations Act will be extended to bring police activity within its scope. But hopes for a far-reaching improvement to race equality legislation have been dampened to an extent by a cautious government response to the CRE proposal to reform the race relations legislation. I was delighted when during Questions the Minister said that the Government have something in mind in terms of taking a cautious approach.

I mentioned during the Second Reading of the Bill--and it is worth repeating--that it remains the view of the Commission for Racial Equality that extending the scope of the Race Relations Act is not sufficient. We do not know when this will happen. The CRE can be truly effective when challenging discriminatory practices only if there is a duty on all public bodies to promote racial equality and eliminate racial discrimination and all other forms of discrimination on improper grounds. No organisation can afford to put off tackling discrimination merely because the new legislation is not in place.

The Government have relied so far on Section 71 of the Act, which states:

    "It shall be the duty of every local authority to make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that their various functions are carried out with due regard to the need--

    "(a) to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and

    "(b) to promote equality of opportunity, and good relations, between persons of different racial groups".

This provision in the 1976 legislation has not had the effect and impact that Parliament intended at that time. The permanent indicators on racial equality in the local authorities annual report to the Audit Commission show that despite Section 71 there are areas of local government employment practice and service delivery which remain wholly outside the equal opportunity programmes. The confirmed high level of complaints of racial discrimination of local authority employees--in 1996 they accounted for approximately 15 per cent of all cases decided by industrial tribunals--shows that, even where there are such programmes, there is a substantial gap between promise and performance.

So what do we see in the GLA Bill? The same old, tired and failed provisions. We shall miss a golden opportunity if we continue to put faith in Clause 71 of the Race Relations Act. It has not worked effectively.

The new clause applies to the GLA, the MPA and the Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. The proposed new clause differs from Section 71 in the following ways. First, the duty is a more direct one; it builds positive duties in regard to anti-discrimination and equality of opportunity for all into the functions of the GLA, the MPA and the Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. The experience of the Commission for Racial Equality is that the wording in Section 71 is sufficiently vague as to have enabled some local authorities to pay lip service to racial equality but to do little or nothing else over the past 20 years.

Secondly, the amendment proposes that the duty to promote equality of opportunity should apply to all of the areas identified in the EU treaty, Article 13, rather

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than racial equality alone. Thirdly, it refers to all kinds of unlawful discrimination. At the present time discrimination is unlawful on grounds of race, sex and disability. Again, the amendment goes beyond the scope of the Race Relations Act. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that in future, possibly in response to directives, discrimination in other areas will also be subject to statutory provision.

Fourthly, the third duty, to promote good relations, recognises that for London racism is an issue that must be directly addressed within the functions of the new authorities. It also recognises that people in London meet hostility and violence where there are differences of religion or sexual orientation. The recent London bombing campaign bears this out.

If the Government were to give an indication that they are prepared to accept the amendment, take it away and bring it back at Third Reading, I shall be delighted to withdraw it. I hope that serious consideration will be given to the new powers in terms of the GLA, the MPA and the fire authorities. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the amendment raises important issues, and perhaps I would say that having raised similar points in Committee. In moving his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, has highlighted key areas where the amendment adds to the existing provisions of the Race Relations Act. In particular, I welcome the inclusion in the new Clause 338 proposed in Amendment No. 556A of the need to promote and secure equality of opportunity for all persons irrespective of age and religion. Those are important matters for Londoners.

I am conscious that at times within London there has been an undercurrent of discrimination on grounds of religion. That is not adequately reflected in existing legislation. It is important that the new authority and its subsidiary bodies are seen to take a lead on this issue.

The other powerful provision in the amendment is the responsibility to promote good relations between persons of different racial groups, religious beliefs and sexual orientation. I hope that the new mayor and the new authority will be seen to be very much a force for good in promoting positive and harmonious community relations between all Londoners, whatever their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. The placing of a positive responsibility on the mayor, the authority and its subsidiary bodies would be a welcome addition to the Bill.

Lord Desai: My Lords, I, too, welcome the amendment. I am not a specialist on these matters-- I very seldom speak about race relations--but apart from the obvious necessity to improve race relations in the light of what we have seen in the past two or three years, we have to recognise that in London, being a global city, there will be a much greater variety of religions and races among the people who have recently moved here than is normally the case with other cities. We have to cast a very broad net and

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define tolerance in a much broader sense than we have so far. We shall need a much more positive attitude from the new GLA.

The situation is much changed from 20 years ago. People of other races and other colours--if I may put it that way--are, on the one hand, very deprived and very poor; on the other hand, there are highly skilled people coming to this country. At both ends of the spectrum they deserve a much more tolerant, fair and positive discriminating attitude than we have seen so far.

The most important issue concerns young people. I speak as the father of children who are now in their 20s but who were teenagers in London. They do not like the police attitude towards them. That is a very simple fact. Unless the police can convey to the young people of London that they will not be suspected a priori because of the difference in their character, personality, colour or whatever else, we will not have good race relations. I very much welcome the noble Lord's amendment which seeks to place a positive duty on the GLA and the MPA to ensure good race relations.

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