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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I thought that I answered the Question perfectly with my previous answer, when I talked about what the British Chess Federation would produce—specifically, a handbook showing how chess can be used to raise levels of motivation and achievement and how schools can work together. These things are very important in terms of children's development. We know, too, that studies in New York indicate that students learning chess have improved significantly in other curriculum subjects. We would be keen to see if that were the case here.

Lord Boston of Faversham: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that I was taught to play chess at the age of 11—whilst evacuated—by my religious instruction master during periods of religious instruction? That blessing enabled me later, during national service, to win a very modest competition, as a result of which I now possess the station's chess set. Far from having affected my religious beliefs, I think, if anything, it probably enhanced them, and I have continued to offer thanks for that and the many other blessings I have received over the years.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I feel very unqualified to respond to the noble Lord. Perhaps I might refer his remarks to one of the right reverend Prelates.

Lord Addington: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that chess is not and should not be regarded as a substitute for sporting activity in schools on any future occasion? It should be regarded as a game that should be integrated into the curriculum, not a substitute for any form of sporting activity.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, under the 1937 Act, chess is not regarded as a sport, and there are

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no indications that it should be. Schools regard it as a leisure activity, an opportunity for children to stretch their minds. It is critical, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, knows, that we continue to push for 75 per cent of our students to have two hours of PE and sport in schools to enable them to have a healthy lifestyle. That deals with some of the issues affecting our children, particularly lifestyle and obesity, and ensures they get the fitness and fun they deserve.

Police Force: Racism

3.9 p.m.

Lord Parekh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to respond to the recent revelation of racism within the police force.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, racism in any public service is unacceptable, unequivocally so in the police. In conjunction with forces, we have introduced new recruitment processes for police officers. These processes are already in place in 13 forces and are being phased in across the remainder of the service. Candidates' attitudes towards race and diversity are tested at least seven times across all exercises in the new assessment centre, including at interview. Those who do not meet the standard are not recruited, regardless of performance elsewhere in the assessments.

Lord Parekh: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Although only a small percentage of our police forces—I am told between 5 per cent and 7 per cent—have engaged in racist behaviour, does the Minister not think that it is very striking that in recent years racism has taken on rather vicious and venomous forms, particularly targeted against the Asians, who all seem to be reduced to "Pakis"? Is she aware that we need to do a lot more? In spite of the fact that so much has been done over the past few years, racist practice has gone on and has taken vicious forms. Should we not therefore be thinking in terms of more imaginative and fresh measures, such as covert monitoring of training, or even perhaps sting operations, in addition to more effective selection of recruits and more sensitive training?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend when he says that racism of this nature is and can be venomous. However, it is right that he should emphasise that a small proportion of police officers is thus affected. We have taken energetic and imaginative steps to change the issue. For that reason, we have introduced assessment centres and are considering carefully, with others, how we might further improve the system to ensure that those who wish to make improper use of their power are not given the opportunity to do so.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, will the Minister please explain why those who were training those police officers had no idea that this sort of behaviour

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was going on—or, if they had an idea, why they did not stop it? It is the trainers who should have known that that appalling behaviour was going on; they should have stopped it right in the bud, but did not. The fault goes much higher up the line of command than the poor, wretched, ignorant, repellent oafs who made those jokes.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can tell the noble Earl that of course we—or, rather, the police—are reviewing all the circumstances that arose as a result of the programme. However, it is right to tell your Lordships that these things were discovered as a result of covert filming, and it is clear that many of the comments that were made were made in private. That is by no means to take away from the horrendous nature of what was said or done, and it has absolutely been taken on board that the training and those who trained have a responsibility. Together with the police, we shall consider how to address that issue with a greater degree of particularity.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, does the Minister accept that this recent exposure by the BBC has created considerable unease among the black and Asian minorities in this country? More importantly, it has caused much hurt to Mrs Lawrence and has damaged much of the good work that the police have been doing.

How is it possible that, despite all the attitudinal indicators in the recruitment process, we still have sympathisers of the British National Party finding their place in the police force? Will she encourage whistle-blowing within the police so that such recruits are identified at a much earlier stage? In the mean time, will she use the full force of the police disciplinary system against the officers who have been identified and ensure that the victims are suitably compensated?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I join the noble Lord to say that one of the most distressing aspects of this matter is the unease felt among many black and Asian people. Indeed, I had the privilege of meeting Mrs Lawrence shortly before coming into the Chamber. I share with noble Lords the horror that has been expressed by many who have worked so hard and diligently to make the system better and who have succeeded in doing so. They are devastated that the programme has demonstrated that there are still those who wish to behave in that way.

As I said earlier, the introduction of the new selection process is being rolled out right the way across the field. That is an important initiative. Since May, 1,822 candidates have gone through the new assessment process. Of those, 79—that is, about 4.5 per cent—have failed due to their attitudes to race and diversity. In addition, all candidates are advised that their behaviour will be observed throughout their time at the assessment centre. ACPO has agreed that all forces should implement the new assessment processes, and we expect all to have done so by the summer of 2004. Thirteen forces have implemented new procedures already, and 21 more are implementing them before April 2004.

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I want the House to know that we are energetically pursuing the matter, and there are some very good results. We will not be put off by what we have discovered but will continue and work even harder to ensure that those people are eradicated from our forces.

Lord Laming: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, although these are very important issues for the police service, they are also important issues for us all and for all the organisations with which we are associated? Is it not the responsibility of us all to ensure that our culturally diverse society works well for everybody?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I absolutely agree with every word that the noble Lord has said.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, will the Minister join me in expressing her confidence in the many excellent police officers who risk their lives patrolling Britain's streets and deal impartially with those involved in crime and disorder? Will she also undertake to stamp out racism whenever and wherever it occurs in the Police Service, to ensure that public confidence in the police is not eroded?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. There is nothing between the noble Lord and myself. One of the tragedies of these things coming out is that many police officers who have worked so hard and diligently feel besmirched and discouraged that they are all going to be targeted in the same way. They are not; they are fighting with all of us to make our streets a better place for all citizens, irrespective of race, religion or culture. I have no hesitation in saying that we shall continue to give those officers all our support.

Crime (International Co-operation) Bill [HL]

3.17 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.—(Lord Filkin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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