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Racial Discrimination: EC Legislation

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have sought information from contacts in the European Commission and have received responses in respect of the following countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden. A summary of the responses is as follows:

In Belgium the directive is rendered verbatim, i.e. without mentioning colour, but in a recent amendment (25 February 2003) to the Belgian law on discrimination, "colour" is included next to race and ethnic origin.

In Denmark, a new proposal for a law was put forward on 22 October by the Minister for Employment implementing Directives 2000/78/EC and 2000/43/EC. This Danish law concerns equal treatment on the labour market only, but this Bill does mention colour of skin. The Bill is an update of existing legislation, which already mentioned colour of skin in the text.

The Finnish transposition of the Race Directive makes no mention of colour. It refers to discrimination on the grounds of ethnic or national origin.

In France a law against discrimination of 16 November 2001 transposes the Race Directive into national law. This law makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of physical appearance, surname (implying a particular ethnic origin) and belonging or not belonging, whether real or supposed, to an ethnic group, a nation or a race.

Germany is in the process of drafting a Bill to transpose EU legislation on ethnic origin, sex, and age through one portmanteau law. Germany plans to follow the wording of the EU directives.

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The Irish Government failed to meet the 19 July 2003 deadline for the implementation of the Race Directive 2003/43. Ireland has not included colour in its ground for discrimination to date.

In Italy the word colour was not included in its grounds for discrimination when the Race Directive was transposed into Italian legislation.

The Netherlands refers to "race" and not to "colour" in legislation. However in the explanatory memorandum with the implementation Bill it is mentioned that "race" implies also colour, descent or national or ethnic origin.

Portugal has not yet transposed the Race Directive. Sweden includes colour in its definition of ethnic affiliation. The law is not necessarily a direct (or complete) translation of the directive as Sweden has used this opportunity for a wider review of this area.

Police: Racism

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the five allegedly racist police officers who were exposed in the BBC programme "The Secret Policeman" were allowed to resign, rather than being sacked.[HL5102]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is for a chief officer to decide whether or not to accept the resignation of an officer who is suspended. All three forces concerned advise that, in all the circumstances, they felt the public interest was better served by accepting the immediate resignations of the officers concerned.

Under the police misconduct regulations, there is no means of instant dismissal for alleged gross misconduct, no matter how overwhelming the evidence. To pursue this route would have entailed the officers remaining suspended on full pay pending disciplinary procedures, which would have involved a formal investigation and a hearing before a misconduct board. This process, which would probably have taken some months to complete, also carries a statutory right to a review by the chief officer concerned and then an appeal to an independent police appeals tribunal.

Faith Communities

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the answers by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 22 October (Official Report, cols. 1609–12)

    (a) what is the justification for creating a high-level steering group of Ministers from six government departments exclusively to consider the most effective means of achieving greater involvement of the faith communities in policy-making and delivery across Whitehall;

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    (b) what is meant by the reference to "developing and implementing policy"; and

    (c) whether they envisage that the group or any successor body will be involved (directly or indirectly) in consultation on Government policy; and[HL5116]

    Further to the answers by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 22 October (Official Report, cols. 1609–12\, in relation to the Jewish community, what response they made to the recent report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (David Graham, Secular or religious? The outlook of London's Jews) indicating that the majority of respondents to a survey of the Jews in London and the south-east "located themselves on the secular side of the secular-religious continuum"; and[HL5117]todd

    Further to the answers by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 22 October (Official Report, cols. 1609–12), whether they consulted representatives of the reform and liberal sections of the Jewish community before deciding to invite only the Chief Rabbi to represent the interests and views of religious Jews; and[HL5118]

    Further to the answers by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 22 October (Official Report, cols. 1609–12), whether the 76.8 per cent of the United Kingdom's population referred to as regarding themselves as "having some religious affiliation" is regarded by the Government as equivalent to their having some religious belief; and, if so, upon what evidence this is based.[HL5119]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government have a manifesto commitment to "look at Government's interface with the faith communities". This was prompted by the success of the Lambeth Group at the time of the millennium celebrations. A great many people in Britain are members of faith groups which to a greater or lesser extent guide their values and beliefs. Providing a mechanism to bring faith perspectives into the development of social policy is therefore a good way of engaging with many citizens and improving the sensitivity of the Government's policies. The steering group includes not only Ministers from departments with a particular interest, but representatives of the faith communities and others with an interest.

The aim of the review is to ensure that issues raised by different faith communities are given full and proper consideration when departments are developing policy that affects them. Also, places of worship and faith-based organisations are themselves engaged in a huge range of voluntary activities which benefit the wider community, and the Government wish to take advantage of their networks, people and buildings in seeking to build more cohesive, active communities.

It would not be appropriate to predict the conclusions of the steering group by suggesting at this point what its recommendations for future consultative arrangements will be. The steering group itself will disband once a report is produced at the end of the year.

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In forming the steering group to take ahead the review we recognised that as wide representation as possible was needed, while keeping the group small enough to allow productive discussion. For that reason the steering group was formed with an expert panel of advisers to assist it and a working group to carry out much of the work. In discussion with the Inter Faith Network, Inner Cities Religious Council and other government departments we invited individuals to join these different bodies who were considered representative of their faith community and had a proven record of providing well-informed advice to government.

The Chief Rabbi was chosen for the steering group as the most senior Jewish leader, but representatives of the liberal and reform traditions within the Jewish community feed their views into the review through other routes. The executive director of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain is a member of the panel of advisers and the director general of the Board of Deputies of British Jews is a member of both the panel and the working group.

The Government do not intend to issue a formal response to the recent report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, Secular or Religious? The Outlook of London's Jews.

We appreciate that there are varying degrees of religiosity among the members of different faith communities. It is not for the Government to judge how many of the 76.8 per cent of the population who declare themselves to have "some religious affiliation" have an active religious belief. We are aware that within that percentage there will be those who only identify culturally with a religion as well as those who are firm believers and regularly worship. Nevertheless, it is important for the Government to improve the way they engage with faith communities, however the members of those communities define the extent of their affiliation.

Prisons: Visitors' Centres

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which prisons do not yet have a visitors' centre (whether on prison service land or not); and how long they estimate it will take to provide such centres for all prisons.[HL5150]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: In Northern Ireland only Hydebank Wood Young Offenders' Centre does not have a visitors' centre at present. However, building work has already commenced on a new visitors' centre and contractors have estimated that this will be completed by April 2004.

In England and Wales the provisions on a visitors' centre is a matter for each governor or director, who is best placed to assess the facilities required locally. All newly built and contracted-out establishments are required to have a visitors' centre under the terms of their contract. We aspire to provide such centres at most prisons across the remainder of the estate, in due course, but the considerable financial and other

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resources required, as well as the many competing priorities, have prevented some establishments taking this forward. It is estimated that around 90 establishments have a visitors' centre. However, details of the number and distribution are not routinely collected and there is some doubt about the accuracy of the information that we have on this matter. The Prison Service is shortly to conduct an exercise to establish the current position and I will write to the noble Lord when it is completed.

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