§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Thompson.]
§ 4.2 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. William Whitelaw)
It is just 15 days since Lord Scarman's report was published and was welcomed on both sides of the House. I am very glad it has been possible to provide a day for this debate so soon.
When I presented the report to Parliament, I accepted the general principles that it set out for policing policy; I accepted the need to develop formal arrangements in every police force area for consultation between police and community at different levels; I accepted the need for more effort to be put into training; and I accepted that the procedure for handling complaints against the police must be substantially reformed. In the compass of a short, intitial statement on publication of a major report, the House could not have looked for firmer guidance of intent.
Today gives me—and my hon. Friend the Minister of State—the opportunity to develop those subjects and to cover others. Later in my speech I shall come to the themes of racial discrimination and racial disadvantage. But I shall follow the order of the report itself by speaking first about the police.
Since making my statement I have heard two criticisms of the philosophy of policing which the report presents. Both are misconceived and thereby dangerous. The first is that the emphasis on consent and balance is an invitation to the police to go easy on crime. I reject that completely. It would not provide the balanced policing which Lord Scarman himself recommends. He spoke with stern realism about street crime and mugging. I fully agree with him that there will be circumstances in which the use of saturation policing, and stop and search operations, is essential. As he says, the special patrol group has been criticised in some quarters because of its successes rather than its failings. It is the job of the police to deal with crime, and it has been my commitment as Home Secretary to help the police improve their effectiveness, for peaceful streets and an effective police service are what all law-abiding citizens want, whatever their ethnic group.
In terms of pay, conditions, numbers of men, training and, therefore, efficiency, great progress has been made. But the environment in which the police have to operate has become more diverse and more complex, and they cannot successfully enforce the law without the support, and thereby consent, of the community. The point about consultation is that it will produce more effective policing, and with Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary that is the overall purpose I shall continue to pursue.
The second misconception is that Lord Scarman wants one law for some and a different law for others. It is quite unfair to suggest that. He goes out of his way to say that the law is the law, and that it must extend to all.
I should like now to deal with some of the report's specific recommendations. First, on recruitment, Lord Scarman says that vigorous action is required if the composition of the police service is to become more representative of the community it serves. I agree. He rejects quotas or a lowering of standards. I also agree. We need to look closely at why candidates from the ethnic minorities have dificulty with the entrance test. We need to be sure that these tests are free from cultural bias. New 1002 tests will, therefore, be scrutinised by independent experts before they are introduced. We must also ensure that where candidates fail the written English tests, but would otherwise stand a good chance, they do not for ever lose the opportunity to join. Therefore, the provision of English courses by the ILEA is being examined by the Metropolitan Police.
Some progress in recruitment of ethnic minorities has been made. The number of police officers from the ethnic minorities in England and Wales increased steadily, though slowly, throughout the 1970s. In 1970 there were 33 in England and Wales, including eight in the Metropolitan Police. By the end of October this year there were 334, including 134 in the Metropolitan Police. But we must encourage more candidates to come forward. We shall also explore how best to help forces improve selection procedures so that we can be confident that recruits have the qualities of character, ability and impartiality needed for policing in the next two decades.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
As many right hon. and hon. Members wish to participate in the debate, I shall serve the House better if I give way very sparingly.
§ Mr. Aitken
My right hon. Friend has said that less than 1 per cent. of the regular Metropolitan Police is drawn from the ethnic minorities. Is he aware that 8 per cent. of the special constabulary of the Metropolitan Police is drawn from the ethnic minorities? Is there not a lesson to be drawn from those percentages? Should we not use the special constabulary as a bridge for future recruitment for the regular police?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
That is one of the valuable points in Lord Scarman's report. Whether it will lead to extra recruitment without some of the other measures that I have announced is another matter, but it is, of course, important.
I fully accept the importance that Lord Scarman gives to training. Indeed, since the Government fully implemented the Edmund-Davies recommendations on pay the manning position has improved dramatically, and that puts us in a better position to concentrate on training and efficiency. With the assistance of the Police Training Council, which advises me on all training matters, we shall make further improvements on the basis of Lord Scarman's recommendations.
In relation to probationer training, my aim is to extend the present initial course at the police training centres and to improve the quality of the subsequent probationer training in individual forces. It would be unrealistic to accept a target of six months without knowing what that six months will contain. The details will depend upon a close study of the practical needs of probationers. On this I shall be advised by the Police Training Council, which meets next month, and which must examine the distribution of existing effort. Improvements in the practical training of probationers have already been made. In provincial forces there is increased use of tutor constables to instruct and supervise young probationers. The Metropolitan Police have introduced street duty courses to instruct young constables how best to deal with the public, including ethnic minorities and to carry out the practical aspects of policing.
Lord Scarman points to three other particular areas in which he believes, and I accept, that training should be 1003 improved and increased: race relations, public order, and supervision and management. In all these areas we shall re-examine our present arrangements with a view to common programmes and minimum standards. We shall also need to judge the balance between classroom instruction in training centres, and training on the job in forces, and between recruit training and the training of those already in service.
Across the range of Lord Scarman's recommendations, particularly on police training, there are implications for resources. I fully acknowledge the importance of this issue and the responsibility of the Government. But I am not, and nor is the House, faced by a simple, single overriding priority on resources. I propose, as a first step, to reassess existing expenditure priorities, and I shall need to have in mind the overall position of all the law and order services that are my responsibility.
Lord Scarman gives further emphasis to the need for senior police officers to monitor continuously performance as a check against which policing policy can be judged. I accept and welcome that.
Lord Scarman recommended that racially prejudiced or discriminatory behaviour should be included as a specific offence in the police discipline code. There is, of course, a declaratory value in proceeding in that kind of way, even though the conduct may be covered by the existing range of offences. The vital objective is to ensure that the public can see that the police themselves regard discriminatory and prejudiced behaviour in the course of their duties as something that they will not tolerate.
I look to the support of the police organisations in making that clear and in determining the most effective and fair way of demonstrating publicly that that is so. To that end I shall discuss proposals with those concerned. I must add, however, that I cannot endorse an automatic penalty of dismissal. To do so would be to prejudge each individual case in advance.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
On the same principle, I shall give way again. I shall allow only another two interventions after this one.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for having been so generous in giving way. Did not Lord Scarman also recognise that the police discipline code already covered the offence of discreditable conduct, which should apply in this context? If there are to be changes, does my right hon. Friend intend to ensure that legislation covers other public servants, so that there is no discrimination against the police? If the police are to reflect society as a whole, those higher standards must apply to society as well.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Lord Scarman pointed out that the offence of discreditable conduct would certainly cover any racially prejudiced conduct of that sort. In his report he also made it clear that he found that chief officers of police, at all levels, were extremely keen to ensure that there was no racially prejudiced conduct within their forces. He made that abundantly clear, and I strongly endorse that. I said that we should consider the other recommendations that he made alongside that, and I have agreed to do so with the organisations involved.
Lord Scarman has some important comments on the complaints procedure. In his words:
1004The objective of a complaints procedure which is fair both to the complainant and to the accused police officer is as easy to state as it is difficult to achieve.But I have made it clear to the House on previous occasions that we do not intend to allow the difficulties that exist to divert us from the task. Lord Scarman's report provides ample further evidence of what I have often said, and what many of us have always recognised, that a fair and effective complaints system is one of the essential ingredients for good relations between the police and the public.
I welcome the examination of this subject by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, to which both I and my Department are ready to give evidence. I hope that the report of the Committee will provide a sound basis on which I can put forward detailed proposals to the House as a whole.
Lord Scarman also suggested that lay visitors should have the right to visit police stations at any time, and the duty to report on what they see. I welcome that as a constructive and positive suggestion for bringing the community and the police closer together. The Government will—with the help of the House and others—work out how best to carry forward Lord Scarman's suggestions.
I welcome the recommendation that police authorities and chief constables should co-operate immediately in establishing local liaison committees, at divisional and sub-divisional level. I do not regard this as irrelevant to the effective policing of crime in this country: it will help to promote it through consent. I do not rule out either a statutory framework in London or a duty to co-operate in establishing consultative arrangements outside London if the work that I now put in hand, and the views of those whom I consult, point firmly in that direction.
The first step is to discuss this nationally with representatives of police authorities and chief officers. In some areas, consultation below police authority level already exists. We can extend and formalise it. But I also want to find out more about how to carry this forward in many different parts of the country through local consultation. Such discussions will be helpful in considering how the liaison committees might have a role in conciliating on some complaints, or in providing lay visitors to police stations. We can draw up guidelines on the procedure and best practice of consultation; we can then fully consider whether a statutory basis is right, and what it should comprise.
In the Metropolis, I shall take forward my responsibility to do this with the Commissioner. He and I are able to build on the recent successful discussions that we have had with the London boroughs. I should like, in particular, to underline the good work of all those in Lambeth who have worked patiently from the time of the disturbances in Brixton to re-establish liasion between the police and the community. As those hon. Members who represent the Lambeth area are aware, my hon. Friend the Minister of State has started to discuss with them how this process can be taken forward so as to put it on a firm footing for the future. I shall invite a wide range of representatives for statutory and voluntary agencies, and as individuals, to discuss with me, as police authority, how to build on the good work already in hand.
§ Mr. Palmer
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Is he aware that often, when public representatives, including Members of Parliament, raise complaints with chief constables, they take a long time to sort out, although they are usually dealt with conscientiously? The essence of success is a speedy answer.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. When the House considers the new complaints procedure it should bear in mind the need for conciliation, which would in many cases stop a great deal of bureaucracy and long-winded writing to and fro. I hope that we shall be able to do just that.
§ Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Scotland Exchange)
As regards voluntary organisations, is the Home Secretary aware that the Liberal-controlled council in Liverpool has cut the budget by £500,000 this year? Surely that is bloody nonsense in the circumstances.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
That is another matter, and I shall not refer to it now. I should make it clear that I shall not give way again, other than to the Opposition spokesman, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), in accordance with practice. Apart from that, I shall serve the House better by not giving way further.
Closely related to these recommendations are those about the re-examination of methods of policing by chief officers with their police authorities and with local community leaders. I welcome that. In the coming months I shall aim to produce guidelines that will set out the special needs of particular areas in the context of a national approach.
If many aspects of policing policy and practice need to be re-examined in order satisfactorily to meet the special needs of communities, that is especially true of the inner cities of our country and of the needs of the ethnic minorities. It is to those problems that Lord Scarman devotes the rest of his report, and to those that I now turn.
Lord Scarman endorses the valuable report on racial disadvantage by the Select Committee of the House. The Government will be replying to the Select Committee report in a White Paper which we shall publish early in the new year. I thought it right to wait until we could also consider Lord Scarman's own report and the views expressed in this debate. I do not want to foreshadow our detailed response to the Select Committee's recommendations, which will be positive and forward-looking, but I believe it would be helpful if I were to highlight some of the main themes which are raised in the reports of both Lord Scarman and the Select Committee.
First, let me repeat the Government's full commitment to an equal and just society. It is, as I and my right hon. Friends have repeatedly emphasised, the policy of the Government to ensure full equality of opportunity and responsibility for everyone in this country irrespective of race, colour or religion.
I should like to try to clear up some of the confusion that appears to have arisen following Lord Scarman's call for positive action as a means of combating racial disadvantage. It is quite clear from Lord Scarman's report—he has made it very clear in subsequent interviews and broadcasts—that we are talking about responding to 1006 special needs. We are not dealing with what is often called affirmative action or programmes of reverse discrimination, which may involve compulsory job quotas, lower standards of recruitment, and so on. Lord Scarman has confirmed to me that that is not what he is recommending. Nor, as it has made quite clear, is the Select Committee recommending that. What is commended is positive action to recognise and to deal with more effectively than at present the special needs of ethnic minorities where they exist in education, employment and housing.
There is nothing revolutionary about this concept. It has long been recognised that where a section of the population has needs that are different from, or significantly greater than, those of the majority population, special measures may be called for. We are not talking of giving black people a favourable advantage over white people. What we are saying is that everyone in our society should have equal opportunities, and that those who start from a disadvantaged position may need special help to provide them with similar opportunities to those enjoyed by the majority of the population.
The case for special measures to meet the particular needs of the ethnic minorities has long been recognised through the provision of grants, currently amounting to about £50 million a year, under section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, which is specifically directed towards combating racial disadvantages. That provision has a number of defects to which the Select Committee has drawn attention.
My Department has recently completed its review of section 11, and I can inform the House that we shall be able, by administrative means, to accept many of the Select Committee's specific recommendations. In particular, the so-called "10-year rule" will be abolished, and grant will be paid to local authorities in respect of special services for all first-generation Commonwealth immigrants, including those born in Pakistan before that country left the Commonwealth, no matter how long their residence. The children of first-generation Commonwealth immigrants will be eligible throughout the period of their schooling. Existing posts funded under section 11 will be subject to review by the Home Office to ensure that they are properly directed towards ethnic needs. Further details of our conclusions will be set out in the reply to the Select Committee's report.
To help in the attack on racial disadvantage we must place greater emphasis on what is generally known as ethnic monitoring in order to measure more accurately the extent of the problem. I appreciate the concern that is often expressed among the ethnic communities and elsewhere about the possible misuse of this information. But only if the relevant information is available can we take the necessary steps to remedy racial disadvantage.
We accept the need for the Government to give a lead in this area. I can therefore tell the House that we shall be accepting the Select Committee's recommendations in support of ethnic monitoring in the Civil Service. My noble and right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster intends to seek the co-operation of the Council of Civil Service Unions, the Commission for Racial Equality and bodies representing local ethnic minorities in setting up an experimental census of the ethnic composition of some non-industrial grades in a limited area. Its purpose would be to establish a sound statistical method for monitoring the Civil Service.
1007 The results of the experiment will be published and will, we hope, be helpful to other employers in both the public and private sectors who are considering undertaking statistical monitoring of their work force. We regard this move as an indication of our determination to give a lead in combating the twin problems of racial disadvantage and racial discrimination, and we hope that other large employers will be encouraged to follow our example.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is to consult the Merseyside county council and the Liverpool city council about the possibility of an appropriate initiative of this sort in the local authority field in Merseyside. I know that both councils are already well seized of the need for action.
On the more general problems affecting the inner areas of our older cities, Lord Scarman has made two main recommendations: first, that there needs to be a better coordinated and directed attack on inner city problems; and, secondly, that local communities should be involved fully and effectively in planning, in providing services and in carrying out projects. He also says that the private sector and the police must be effectively involved.
The Government believe that these propositions are right. It is the main aim of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, in the work on Merseyside which the Prime Minister has asked him to undertake, to seek new methods of tackling the problems of inner cities in ways that will benefit not just Merseyside but other conurbations with similar problems. He will, in due course, be making recommendations to the Government as a whole about changes in policy and practice that are needed.
It would be irresponsible to pretend that there are any quick solutions to the problems of racial disadvantage or inner city decay. The solutions are long-term ones, which depend on determination and attitudes of mind and the better direction of the resources of main programmes—education, employment and housing—as well as special measures like section 11 and the urban programme. In this connection, my right hon. Friend has already informed the House that he will be considering the distribution of urban programme funds against the background of Lord Scarman's report. He announced yesterday an increase in the urban programme allocation of £55 million, from £215 million in 1981–82 to £270 million in 1982–83.
The urban programme is not directed solely to the needs of ethnic minorities. Nor is it the main source of funding for inner cities. It is tempting for people simply to advocate more and more resources for inner cities. But, as Lord Scarman has pointed out, funding has already been made available on a substantial scale, and it would be unfair to criticise central or local government—past or present—for lack of effort. Solving the problems of the inner cities depends on the best use of the very substantial resources which, as Lord Scarman recognises, are already deployed in these areas through the main programmes. Local authorities have a key part to play.
We shall also be commending to the local authorities and their associations the recommendations which the Select Committee put forward relating to local authorities and their services.
To develop all these themes in greater detail today would detain the House unduly. I pick out one final point from the report. The Government firmly believe that Lord Scarman is right to say that the banks, building societies 1008 and other business communities are not sufficiently involved in the process of inner city regeneration. Business in the Community, an organisation established earlier in the year by a group of big firms with active Government support, is a very important step forward. So, too, is the generous response of the major financial institutions which have made available to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment some of their best managers to help find ways of improving cooperation between the public and private sectors.
This afternoon I have reported to the House on how the Government intend to implement my immediate acceptance of various recommendations in Lord Scarman's report. I have also made further positive responses in order to help the House in what I understood was to be an opportunity for general debate in which right hon. and hon. Members could give their broad reactions. However, I understand that the Opposition may be considering dividing the House tonight. If they do so, they will be voting against one of the most immediately positive reactions made to an inquiry report by any Government, and they will divide the House at a moment when it needs to be united. I therefore invite the House to endorse the Government's prompt and far-reaching response to Lord Scarman's most admirable report.
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
When the Scarman report was published two weeks ago I welcomed it on behalf of the official Opposition in wholly enthusiastic and unequivocal terms. I repeat that welcome today. I described the report as the foundation on which we could—and I believed we should—build a better relationship between the police and the public throughout the United Kingdom.
I still hold that view and I reiterate my belief that if the Scarman report in full is acted upon and implemented it can make a dramatic improvement in two areas of desperate concern. The first is the confidence that the police enjoy among the ethnic minorities. That confidence has diminished dramatically and must be restored. The second is the policy of policing within the decaying central area of old cities, where the policeman must once more become a visible, regular presence known to the local community and regarded as what he and she must be—a part of the local community.
There is much in the report that is to the credit of the police in general and to the Metroplitan Police in particular. I gladly add my congratulations to those that they have already received for the parts of the report that describe their behaviour and commend it in a way that is wholly appropriate, but the report also included many matters that must cause the police considerable disquiet. I do not believe that any of us do the police any service by sidestepping the issues and talking as if the difficulties that the report brings to light can be overcome by pretending that they do not exist.
The best way in which the House and the community as a whole can demonstrate their desire to see some of the burdens lifted from police shoulders is to take the necessary steps to bring the police and the public closer together. I repeat, for the second time, that the Scarman report, if implemented, offers that prospect. Our concern is to see the report implemented—both its specific recommendations and its clear implications. Although the Home Secretary is right to say that we propose to divide 1009 the House tonight he is wholly wrong, and must know that he is wrong, to suggest that we divide against the contents of the report. We divide to show our concern lest the Government should not implement it with the determination and enthusiasm that we believe it deserves.
I must tell the Home Secretary that nothing that he has said today gives me any confidence that he would implement the report in its entirety. Indeed, he barely mentioned some of the most important aspects of the report. I propose to do so, having performed one other task, which is to say that I have a major reservation about what the report says. I enter that reservation now, not to emphasise the Oppositions's criticisms but to dispose of them at once before I pass on to the much larger areas of agreement. I regret that the report does not recommend a radical revision in the governance of the Metropolitan Police. I wish to see a democratically determined police authority to which the police are genuinely accountable.
I have never read a better argument for such a policy than that which appears in paragraphs 5.57 and 5.58 of the Scarman report. I read parts of those two paragraphs, where Lord Scarman states:Accountability is, I have no doubt, the key to successful consultation and socially responsive policing … for it renders the police answerable for what they do. Thereby it prevents them from slipping into an enclosed fortress of inward thinking and social isolation".That is a great argument for accountability, and I wish that the logic of the point had been pursued into a recommendation of accountability in its real form.
However, the proposals for consultation that Lord Scarman suggests are
>perfectly feasible without undermining the independence of the police or destroying the secrecy of those operations against crime which have to be kept a secretare in my view an important step in the right direction.
I am not clear about whether the Home Secretary proposes to implement all of the three recommendations that Lord Scarman believes necessary to bring about such local consultation. The Home Secretary does not need me to remind him that the proposal comes in three parts. One is a statutory duty imposed on police authorities and chief officers to co-operate in consultation arrangements. The second is a statutory framework for such arrangements in the Metropolitan Police area. The third is more energetic action within existing powers to set up voluntary consultation arrangements.
I have no doubt that the Home Secretary will support the third. It was not clear from his speech whether he supports the first and the second. Indeed, those who followed his speech with the care that it deserved and the care that I attempted to attach to it will notice changes in language between "warmly welcome", "carefully consider" and "examine all the details". My fear is that when we reach the third level of acceptance it will turn out to be not acceptance but slow rejection. It is to show our disapproval of even the possibility of that happening that we propose to divide the House this evening.
If the Home Secretary does not move towards the statutory framework that Lord Scarman regards as essential—we also believe that it is necessary—he will be capitulating to those forces who wish the police to slip into an enclosed fortress of inward thinking and social isolation. In our view, that would be a reckless rejection of an opportunity to demonstrate that the police and the 1010 people of London should be closer, need to be closer and that that can be achieved by the police force becoming more responsive to the consultation procedures, which will only come about if the proper statutory framework is created.
When the inquiry was set up under section 32 of the Police Act 1964, Opposition Members expressed fears that it would be prevented by its terms of reference from going either wide enough or deep enough to deal with the underlying causes of the Brixton riots. No one who reads the report can have any doubt that Lord Scarman has gone as deeply and as widely as he possibly could within the terms of the Act, but inevitably and properly he concluded in paragraph 6.2 and elsewhere thatas a judge, conducting a quasi-judicial Inquiry, it would be inappropriate for me to make specific suggestions or proposals in the field of Government financial or economic policy.This morning he made the point more bluntly when he told me that he could not make recommendations about Government spending.
The Home Secretary's quotation from Lord Scarman's report concerning the resources already allocated to the inner cities was—I must use the word again, as I did when he last quoted from the report during his statement on the day of publication—at best, a little selective. In the paragraph that he quoted, Lord Scarman went on to say:The underlying national economic decline is no doubt one important reason"—for too little being spent—not just a factor limiting the total of resources which Governments have felt able to spend on the inner city, but in reducing the effectiveness of what has been spent.Notwithstanding our rival quotations as to what Lord Scarman may mean, were he not required to be professionally agnostic, there can be no doubt in the minds of Opposition Members that the problems of inner cities will not be resolved until adequate resources are spent on inner cities. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) is fortunate enough to catch your eye as the debate develops, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will deal with that question. Unless we are assured that the money that is essential for the right development will be forthcoming, we shall be reinforced in our determination to divide the House to show that we, at least, believe that to be necessary.
Because of the nature of his inquiry and the nature of his post, Lord Scarman could not comment on Government spending. But there can be no doubt that he made some significant pointers in the general direction. He commended the Select Committee on Home Affairs report on racial disadvantage as a masterly document. I hope that that means that he, together with the Opposition—and, more important, the Home Secretary when he makes his observation—will regard it sufficiently right to justify the additional resources that make its implementation possible.
Lord Scarman made two general but universally wise points about two other crucial areas—housing and education. The Home Secretary described absolutely the need for special resources for disadvantaged groups. But he did not tell us that the resources necessary in either of those areas would be forthcoming. I think of the schools in my constituency where there is a desperate need for additional teachers and classes to teach English as a second language to children who, while as British as anybody in the House, are brought up in households that do not use English as the first language. Until that facility is provided 1011 we shall not meet the aims of the Scarman report. We called for the debate today to press home that point, and to emphasise it we intend to divide the House.
There is another major area to which we wish to draw attention by our vote at 10 pm. On the day on which the inquiry was established the Prime Minister—unfortunately not here today—on independent television that night dismissed the suggestion that unemployment was a major cause of the disturbances. That was not Lord Scannan's opinion. He wrote two things. He said about general unemployment:Whatever the special employment problems of black people, and of young black people in particular, unemployment remains … an evil that touches all of the community.He then made a more specific comment about the effects of unemployment. He said:There can be no doubt that it was a major factor in the complex pattern of conditions which lies at the root of the disorders in Brixton and elsewhere.The Opposition do not argue with that opinion.
When we debated these matters in the spring, and whenever the subject has been raised by either side of the House, we have said that until the prospect for unemployment in such areas improves the despair that breeds violence is bound to increase. I hope that by reading the Scarman report the Prime Minister will revise her opinion. I hope that she will have learnt at least two things. First, today's debate about inner cities, the summer riots and the tragic prospects of them happening again are inextricably linked with Tuesday's discussions about the slump caused by the Government—a slump that will continue. Secondly, I hope that the Government understand, and that the Prime Minister has learnt, that nothing will so dispel the despair and desperation that turn into riot and disorder than an economic policy that offers the real prospect of jobs for young blacks.
I repeat my remarks during the debate on the disorders on 16 July. Here, in the comfort of the House, we rightly call for an end to violence, arson, looting and assault. But is we say to a young black man in Brixton, who is as British as anyone here, that Britain has a proper constitutional means of solving his grievances and remedying his problems, we should not be surprised if he looks at us with a degree of scepticism. A black school leaver in that area today finds that life all too often offers three things—unemployment with no end to it in sight, a summer spent without unemployment benefits because of the new Government regulations, and unemployment benefit that will deteriorate in real value because of a Government decision. Until those problems are solved, despair, and the violence that it brings, will continue.
Nothing could so help the areas that we are debating today than a general economic decision that ensures an economic upturn and helps all the ships to rise in the water. That is what President Kennedy said about the need to increase the level of economic activity to help the least advantaged in American society. He was right. When the economic upturn arrives, help for the areas that we are debating today will come only if special powers are taken and special provision is made to find jobs in the inner cities in general and for the young blacks who inhabit them in particular. The report, unlike the Home Secretary, was admirably specific about both those points.
Paragraph 6.29 offers special proposals for inner city employment. If we heard a word from the Home Secretary about that, it was only in passing. The more important area of employment that we must face and must see as an 1012 obligation on us all is the employment prospects of the ethnic minorities. Lord Scarman is clear about the matter in paragraph 6.32 when he states:It is clear from the evidence of ethnic minority deprivation … that, if the balance of racial disadvantage is to be redressed, as it must be, positive action is required.He made it clear that a special programme should be adopted in areas of acute deprivation—geographical areas covering the inner cities and ethnic urban areas covering the younger members of the ethnic minorities whose employment prospects are clearly limited.
I wish to make it absolutely clear that I have no doubt whatsoever that those special programmes must include what has come to be called "affirmative action" or "positive discrimination", especially for the promotion of employment prospects for ethnic minorities. I ask for special and specific action. I do not ask for young black workers to be given better employment prospects than their white contemporaries. I simply ask that they be given the same prospects and opportunities. I recognise that unless special action is taken they will not enjoy the same prospects and opportunities. We need special measures so that they will achieve the level that is theirs by right—the level that they are currently being denied.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Is it not better to avoid the dangerous phrase "positive discrimination" which has come to mean giving quotas to people who are not qualified? That is not permitted in this country. It is not intended by any of us in this country. Yet it was seized upon by the newspapers following Lord Scarman's report as though he had recommended that.
§ Mr. Hattersley
There are always two difficult arguments to resolve. One is by using language that is carefully calculated to avoid any offence and controversy. The other is to say as positively as is within one's power that something needs to be done and must be done. I take the second course. I share my hon. Friend's view that quotas are not the answer. If a longer speech were possible, I would describe in some detail what I believe to be the right policy—a race relations board with different powers and similar to the institution that was originally created, with the power to examine individual employment records and ask companies to explain why they had not used their best endeavours to promote a proper racial mix within their employment.
There are many answers to the problem, but I reiterate that, in my view, unless some positive action is taken to promote the employment prospects of the younger members of the ethnic minorities, their employment prospects will remain cruelly reduced. I take two examples of that. One is in Brixton, where 53 per cent. of young black school leavers are unemployed, as they were unemployed on the day of the riots. I take another example from Mr. Anthony Rampton, writing this year in theSecondary Education Journal, who reported that in Liverpool out of 26,000 local authority employees only 169 are black. That must be wrong by any standards. I warmly welcome the Home Secretary's decision to encourage monitoring in that and other authorities in the belief that the innate desire of the people of one area to see fairness and the absence of discrimination will in itself, once the problem is exposed, lead to the problem being solved, at least in part.
Here, I compare Liverpool with Lambeth. It is not often that the local authority in Lambeth is congratulated in the 1013 House, from either side of the Dispatch Box, but it is complimented in Lord Scarman's report for the work that it has done to attempt to ensure that the minorities in the area are given reasonable prospects of local authority employment. I add my congratulations to those that it has already received.
I have already given the figure for employment in the local authority area of Liverpool. That involves the constituency of Toxteth, where the second of the series of summer riots occurred. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), speaking in the House the day after the riots occurred, referred to his genuine belief that, not only in the black community but in the community at large, law enforcement, which had not been even-handed, was the main cause of the disturbances in his area. I persist in my belief that the general level of deprivation and unemployment must have had a significant effect. What the hon. Gentleman said then about the police and what Lord Scarman has said about the way in which they are organised and conducted had a material effect on the tragic events of the summer.
I have always believed, and I still believe, that it is totally unreasonable to blame policemen for the despair that comes from deprivation and for the resentment that is caused in the areas by the feeling of people that they have been forgotten and rejected. Police behaviour may sometimes be the fire that sets the tinder alight, but the tinder is rarely of the police's making. To ascribe the causes of the summer's disturbances to police conduct in general and to the police rules in particular would be both to over-simplify the matter and to place blame where blame should not properly be placed.
Clearly all that happened in the summer, in Brixton in particular, and in the other areas where trouble flared was an indication that the proper relationship between the police and the public had broken down. Nothing could be a more dramatic example of that than the incident that is said in the report to have perhaps begun the entire desperate occasion, when the police, pursuing their duty to protect a wounded man, were assumed to be acting in a way that was contrary to his interests. The fact that that can happen demonstrates the tragic deterioration in the relationship that the Home Secretary, in his capacity of the authority for the Metropolitan Police, has a clear and obvious duty to overcome and to improve.
I make five points about recommendations that we had hoped the Home Secretary would speedily implement and which seem to us to be the right way of establishing the relationship that must be created. First, Lord Scarman asks for a careful watch to be kept on the Criminal Attempts Act to ensure that it does not turn into a new "sus" law by another name. That is exactly what my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) said at the conclusion of the debate on the Bill. I hope that that point, which was made by the Opposition throughout the Committee proceedings, will be looked at with great care, and that we might have a response to it from the Minister of State when he winds up.
Secondly, Lord Scarman recommends lay visits to police stations, where random checks should be made on interrogation and detention practices. For that system to work, there must be a statutory regulation governing interrogation, a penalty for the regulation being broken, 1014 such as the inadmissibility of evidence that is obtained in any other way from that which is covered by the code. I hope that as the Minister of State warms to his winding-up he will tell us whether the two prospects can be divided and if, in supporting one—as I think the Home Secretary did in words as warm as any that he used for the proposals—the lay visiting proposals can be successfully accomplished without a statutory code of investigation. Will he say whether the Government are prepared to support that?
Thirdly, Lord Scarman could not be more categorical in his call for the reform of the police complaints procedure. He rightly spoke of lack of public confidence in the existing system. He calls for an early—I emphasise "early", it being his word as well as mine—introduction of an independent element in the investigation of complaints and the establishment of a conciliation process. We all agree that there is much to be said for conciliation in order to avoid the full rigours of the complaints machinery. I hope that we can be given an answer to the question that I asked the Home Secretary at Question Time two weeks' ago, which he did not answer then and he did not answer today.
Whenever we urge an independent investigation process on the Home Secretary, he always says two things. First, he asks us for time, and, secondly—I think he managed to avoid it today—he says that he did not vote for the present system when it came before the House. I have heard him say that so often that I looked up the debate, only to discover that he voted against it because he thought it went too far. The debate today concerns its not going far enough. I hope that the Minister of State will make it clear that, notwithstanding the proper consultations that none of us wants to short cut, and notwithstanding the technicalities that must be got right if the system is to work properly, it is the Home Secretary's intention to introduce a system of investigating complaints against policemen which is not carried out simply by policemen and by no one else. That is the essential factor and that principle should be laid down in response to Scarman.
The Opposition also believe that a revision of section 3 of the Public Order Act 1936 is necessary in the way that Lord Scarman recommends—a revision that enables selective bans to be placed on racist marches. It is still not clear to me how selective the Home Secretary is able to be under the present Act. What we need today is a firm assurance of the Government's intention either to act under existing powers or to introduce new powers that will enable them to take action against racist gatherings without at the same time banning wholly innocent processions and marches. I ask the Minister of State to deal with that matter in his reply.
Lord Scarman recommended the inclusion in the police disciplinary code of a clause that prohibits racially-prejudiced behaviour and the prescription of dismissal as the usual—not the invariable, as the Home Secretary said, which makes a significant difference to the argument—penalty for that offence. I regard that proposal as right and necessary in every way. If it were implemented it would be a visible and practical sign of our wish to create an unprejudiced society.
§ Mr. Hattersley
Those things are possible not only in my opinion but in Lord Scarman's opinion. As my conversation with him this morning was in no way private, but was intended as preparation for the debate, I may tell the House this. As I expected that there would be scepticism from Conservative Members, I asked whether, with his vast experience of these matters, he believed that such a proposition could be implemented and made effective. It was his view and also my own that it could. More important than my view is the simple fact that if that prospect, having been put forward by an authority as eminent as Lord Scarman, were then rejected, incalculable harm would be done because it would appear that the Government did not want a society in which such conduct was automatically categorised as making a person unworthy to serve in the police force.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
For the avoidance of any doubt, will the right hon. Gentleman say plainly, first, whether he believes that the offence of racial prejudice should apply uniquely to policemen or whether it should apply also, for example, to prison officers, immigration officers and other members of society? Secondly, does he intend that the offence of racial prejudice applied to police officers should be in any way justiciable?
§ Mr. Hattersley
The hon. Gentleman's second question can be answered very simply. It must, of course, be connected with the general disciplinary regulations. If the system of regulations that many of us wish to see is introduced and provides for appeal, it may be justiciable.
The hon. Gentleman's first question astounds me. Of course I wish racially prejudiced behaviour to be an offence if it is carried out by any public servant. Of course I wish it to be a disciplinary offence in the prison service. But the hon. Gentleman must turn his mind to this point. We are not merely debating the police today. We are attempting to rehabilitate their reputation with the ethnic minorities. It will be in the interests of the police to make it absolutely clear that the entire service, including every policeman on the beat, disapproves of such conduct and that the authorities that govern the police will punish anybody guilty of such conduct. I fear that if the proposal is rejected the reputation and relationships of the police will be taken back in a way that would not have occurred had the idea not been mooted in the first place and then rejected, with all the disappointment and disillusionment that such rejection is bound to cause. In a very real sense, that is the problem of reaction to the report.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I have given way four times, and I wish to follow the Home Secretary's arguments.
The real problem of the report is this. If it is acted upon, it will encourage hope. If it is rejected, it will deepen despair. People will feel that the Government and Parliament are indifferent to injustice and are prepared to tolerate prejudice. I must tell the Home Secretary that, with the best will in the world—which we all believe that 1016 he possesses—he has not shown the determination to implement that we had hoped for from him. That is why I have offered the criticism that I have offered today and that is why I propose to divide the House on this matter.
§ 5.3 pm
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
This must be one of the most disturbing reports ever to be presented to Parliament. It is a frightening account of what happened in Brixton last spring when, as Lord Scarman said, only the police stood between our society and the collapse of law and order. I hope—and I am sure that my hope is shared on both sides of the House—that the report will frighten as many people as possible throughout our society into thinking again about what happened in Brixton, why it happened, and what we can do to ensure that it never happens again.
In my view, the report is not only a sensitive but a highly accurate summary and analysis of the facts, and it bears the stamp of authority of one of our great judges. I hope that I shall not he misunderstood if I say that when one turns away from the analysis of the facts as such one is entitled to ask, and indeed must inquire into, whether the accuracy of the analysis of events is reflected in the attempts to guide the Government and others into some action that will help race relations in the future, because undoubtedly the report is, in effect, a plan for racial peace in Britain. That is why I regard this debate as so important.
In my view, the subject is too sensitive and fragile and too dangerous to be made the subject of the kind of tactic to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred. A debate that is supposed to be about racial harmony will end with a Division, thus displaying not our accord, which would be helpful, but our discord, which must discourage anyone considering these debates.
I find myself opposed to one aspect of the report. I am particularly concerned about Lord Scarman's proposal that consultative committees should be set up by legislation. The history of Brixton over the months and years appears to have been one of misunderstanding between the police and the people living there. The report makes it clear that the April riots began with just such a tragic and dangerous misunderstanding. A young police constable was trying to help and to dress the wounds of an injured black youth while awaiting an ambulance. The crowd misunderstood his intentions, and before the end of the day they were throwing bricks and bottles at the constable who had been trying to help one of their number because someone in the crowd had said that the police were killing the youth.
Where misunderstandings of that kind exist, or are likely to arise, the danger must be met by a positive recommendation for action. I believe that voluntary consultation is the answer to the problem. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and the chief constables of Manchester and Merseyside have all agreed that they must improve consultation. Indeed, consultation between the police and the people of the area has been a prominent feature of the policing of Lancashire for years.
If there is to be consultation, it must be based upon good will. Without good will between the people consulting, there can be no real benefit as a consequence of that consultation. It is legitimate to ask in all seriousness how one can compel the police to consult local politicians who are fanatical Marxists, pro-IRA and anti-police. What 1017 kind of legislation would be required? What form would such legislation have to take to achieve the required consultation?
Nothing in the report gives authority for the belief that the police have a duty to consult everybody or that they must become friends with everybody. Their duty is to fight crime and criminals; to have enemies and to recognise their enemies as criminals. Nobody in his right senses, and certainly nobody who has looked at the report for assistance and guidance, could possibly interpret it as recommending that the police should consult criminals.
The report has no authority to suggest that the standards of the police in imposing and maintaining law and order should in any way be varied by reducing them in one part of the country as distinct from another. Those high standards of impartiality, fairness and effective policing have been the fame of our country and of our police force.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
I do not believe that the general run of comment on the Scarman report in the fortnight since it was published has been fair to that report or a just assessment of what it contains. I gather that in that I am in line with the opinion of the Home Secretary.
Whatever else we learn from the report, we learn a good deal about Lord Scarman. No one could read the report without realising that he was in the presence of the working of a very powerful mind with a great capacity for accurate perception and vigorous expression. The reader would also be aware that he was in the presence of someone who, in the face of what he found and of the evidence which was tendered to him, was capable of modifying whatever strong opinions or views he might have held at the outset.
Some of us—I do not believe that I can have been the only one—were alarmed when, immediately after the appointment of Lord Scarman, we saw reports in the press suggesting that he might have made up his mind at the outset on the question to which he was to address himself.
I have in mind, for example an article inThe Times of 15 April, in which it was reported that Lord Scarman said of the events:It was the relationship between the police and all the youth of the area, not just the blacks … Certainly black is merely an accident".I do not believe that when he said that he was using the word "accident" in the common or vulgar meaning of an unforeseen occurrence—a street accident or the like. He was clearly using it in the Aristotelian or logical sense, which I find defined as:A non-essential accompaniment, an attribute not of the essence".If that was the point of view from which his Lordship set out on his inquiry, it was not the conclusion at which he arrived. Lord Scarman's conclusions were certainly different from any impressions that might have been given by those early reports.
The last of his seven conclusions on causation states:The riots were essentially an outburst of anger and resentment by young black people against the police.That is directly opposite to the view attributed to Lord Scarman at the commencement of his inquiry.
Lord Scarman also concludes:The disorders were communal disturbances.1018 Words mean what we cause them to mean; but there is a definite meaning of the word "communal" in the context of disturbances—a meaning that was fixed in the experiences of "communal disturbances" in India.
Again, conclusion (2) on page 45 states:There was a strong racial element in the disorders; but they were not a race riot.That statement is not as self-contradictory as it appears: I believe it means that there was not a race riot in the sense of the population of one race being lined up against the population of another; nevertheless,There was a strong racial element in the disorders".Lord Scarman over the period of his inquiries—no one can read his account of what happened without being moved and impressed—had looked into the realities of Brixton on 10 to 12 April. I quote again the words quoted by the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner), where Lord Scarman said of the police:They stood between our society and a total collapse of law and order in the streets of an important part of the capital.So,In an important part of the capitalthere had been a nearcollapse of law and ordercharacterised by battles between "young black people" and the police, which were "communal disturbances" and in whichthere was a strong racial element.Lord Scarman had something more to say of the nature of the racial element, and it is that something more which forms the link between, as it were, the two parts of the report; for, in a sense, this is two reports rather than one. It is a report of findings as to the events and their immediate causes; it is also a report which responds to the indication in Lord Scarman's terms of reference that he was at liberty "to make recommendations". I allude to paragraph 6.30, where he states:It is essential … that if alienation among the black community is not to develop, there should be a more ready recognition of the special problems and needs of the ethnic minorities than hitherto.That sentence exposes the gap in reasoning which exists between the two parts of the report and which is dangerous for the deliberations of the House and of the Government following the riots and the report.
Lord Scarman found that what he calls "the black community" was alienated. He found also that the black community suffered a number of disadvantages: in a period and in areas of special difficulties—economic, occupational, environmental—it had more than its fair share. The assumption—it is not argued; it is not even explicitly stated: it is an assumption—is that the black community is alienated because it is disadvantaged. That is a dangerous gap in the reasoning; for it is by no means self-evident, and by no means necessary, that the two facts should be connected as cause and effect.
There is another possible explanation of the alienation. It is that the community, being of that size and composition and in those circumstances, is alien: alienation can be a manifestation of being alien. It can be the self-perception and the being perceived by others as different and distinct; and, in the case of a black community—I notice that we tend now to use the words "ethnic community" or "ethnic minority" in a sense which relates only to colour, for I am not sure that many of the statements made in these debates and in common parlance about ethnic minorities would be applicable to, or accepted 1019 by, the Jewish community—it is a difference which is instantly and mutually visible and which produces mutual coherence or repulsion.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
Does the right hon. Gentleman use the word "alien" in relation to the Jewish community? Does he say that the Jewish community is also incapable of absorption into our society?
§ Mr. Powell
No. I referred to the Jewish community in the context of "ethnic". Remembering that the consciousness of being an ethnos—or, rather, of being the one race which is not an ethnos—is the fundamental mark of the Jewish people, I was pointing out that we now tend to use this term only in a context where the differences are visible—where the alienness is visible.
§ Mr. Powell
In case the hon. Gentleman should ask me another question, I am obviously not using "alien" in the statutory sense—which produces, in this context, an argument in a circle. I am using it in the sense in which another eminent judge, Lord Radcliffe, used it in his famour phrase "the alien wedge".
It is impossible to use the word "alienation" of a community without regard to numbers. Of course we can talk about an individual being "alienated", but then we are talking about something very different indeed from what we mean when we talk about "alienation of the black community". The other thing which is lacking in this report, besides identification and resolute analysis of what is meant by, and what is the cause of, "alienation", is the failure to assess the dynamic factor. To discuss "alienation" and "the black community" in isolation from numbers, from relative size, not merely present but future, is to talk nonsense and to misdirect oneself. If that might seem a harsh observation, especially in the light of what I said at the outset, I believe Lord Scarman's necessary preoccupation with what had happened on a specific past date diverted his attention from the dynamic and changing features of the scene which he was surveying.
Nevertheless, as part of the background, in paragraph 2.15 of his report, he had given the relative proportions of white and "non-white"—that is his term—in Lambeth and Brixton. The proportion was 25 per cent. "non-white" in Lambeth as a whole; in Brixton it was 40 per cent.; and in two wards of Brixton the proportion rose to 49 per cent. Incidentally, he was using 1978 figures, the latest available for his purposes, and it should be remembered that they are already three and a half years out of date.
Another vital fact was also recorded there by Lord Scarman. In Lambeth as a whole, where the non-white population was 25 per cent. overall, the proportion under-15 years of age was 39 per cent., and of secondary age it was 40 per cent. In Brixton, similarly, there was the same large concentration at the lower end of the age-scale, the same increase of the percentage as one went down the age scale.
There would be no difficulty for any person with the age analysis of the population of Lambeth and Brixton—the Government have at their disposal statisticians enough—in producing a picture which would at any rate be accurate at the minimum, of what will be the proportions in Lambeth or in Brixton 10, 20 or 30 years ahead; for those facts are present already in the age structure and composition of the population of the borough.
1020 A factor which can never be left out of account when one is contemplating the alienation of the black community is the fact that its position in the surrounding community will change—in its own eyes and in the eyes of the community as a whole—radically, fundamentally, in numerical terms, over the coming generation; and it is a change which is known, foreseeable and foreseen.
For many years, and most recently in the debate which took place on 16 July this year, I have addressed one plea to the Government. It is the plea that they should come clean with the people of this country as a whole, and with all concerned, about what are the facts of the future. There is no contradiction in the application of the words "facts" to "future" in that context.
§ Mr. Powell
In the last debate, I asked that the projections and the statements which I have made, upon the basis of the known statistics, should be affirmed or denied by the Government. It is one thing for a Back-Bench Member of Parliament to say "Here are figures which I find in the report of Lord Scarman, or which I have found in various publications of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. Now I believe—and the following are my reasons—that they have the following implications for the future." It is an entirely different thing—and this is what is required—for the Government to come before the country and say "What we have to face, the future which we have to be thinking about, the background against which we must consider the Scarman report"—
§ Mr. Powell
—"is a Lambeth in which the size of the black community 30 years ahead will be double what it is, and an inner London"—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)
Since the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to lecture us both on what the situation will be in the borough of Lambeth and on what is a fact, surely he is aware that one cannot simply extrapolate from present growth rates in any demographic future study. Secondly, surely he is aware that alienation does not simply refer to aliens per se, but refers also to his problem more locally in Northern Ireland, where there is alienation between two communities of the same colour and the fundamental cause of problems is based much more on unemployment and its related effects than in any way on colour.
§ Mr. Powell
Lord Scarman found that those other factors were present; but he said at paragraph 1.7 that what had happened in Brixton was because the factorsbeset the ethnically diverse communities".There was no ambiguity about his finding in that respect. The conditioning condition—thesine qua non—was the ethnic composition of the population
As to the first part of the intervention by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland), it is ironical that I am complained of on the one hand by him for making unverifiable projections and, on the other hand, by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), for wasting the time of the House by inviting the Government to confirm deductions which are self-evident. Whether the deductions are self-evident—as according to the hon. Member for York—of if by any chance—as according to the hon. Member for Vauxhall—they are subject to any doubt, 1021 argument or qualification, I will address to the Government again the demand which I put to them on 16 July. That was paraphrased by the Secretary of State for the Environment, who said about me:He wants everyone to have the figures so that they know the scale of the problem and have a full debate"——the sort of charge which any hon. Member can hear levelled against him with equanimity.
However, I was not given the figures. My projections were neither affirmed nor denied. Yet if my projections could be denied, nothing would be easier than for the Government with their statistical resources to do so. They could annihilate a mere Back Bencher, if his results were not substantially sound, in the attempt at demographic projections, the attempt to show what the present age composition of the population portends 10, 20 or 30 years ahead. However, the Government—and this is what was new in July—did give a reason why they would not answer. The Secretary of State for the Environment said thatthe consequence—the right hon. Gentleman knows this as well as I do—of the projection of the figures. … is to ferment the very anxieties and tensions that he is forecasting."—[Official Report, 16 July 1981; Vol. 8, c. 1502.]The Government know the facts. They dare not say that the facts are other than I assert. At least, they have not said that yet. The reason why the Government will not affirm my projections is that they know the alarm and anxiety which would be caused if the people were confronted with the magnitude and true nature of the problem which will have to be faced in the coming generation, in London and in the major cities of Britain.
The biggest omission and defect in the background which the report has given to the House and to the Government is its failure to grasp the full ambit and nature of the alienation which it identifies and its failure to see that that alienation is not alienation in a static or fixed situation, demographically unchanging, but in a dynamic situation which will transform again the population and the aspect of inner London and other towns and cities more than they have been transformed already.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
There is much to praise in the thorough way that Lord Scarman has tackled his brief and given us a report which is vivid, readable and very commendable. However, I confess that I also find contradictions in it. For example, the report finally rejects on page 11 the contentionthat Britain is an institutionally racist society.Yet on page 79 it says:It is unlikely, however, that racial prejudice can be wholly eliminated from the police so long as it is endemic in society as a whole".The report praises the actions of the police on page 74, in my opinion rightly, yet it blames the police to an extent for the disorders. The report states on page 113 that the sus lawis necessary to combat street crimes".Yet on page 65 the report connects the sus law with police harassment and appears to feel that it is a power which should not be used.
Lord Scarman rightly goes on to say that the sus law has been repealed. Several hon. Members, at a time when crime has never been so rife or rising in Britain, think that we should not strike from the hands of the police methods 1022 by which they should control it. Perhaps the examples that I have given are not so much contradictions as evidence of balance. That may be so and I am prepared to give the report the benefit of the doubt, but what I am not prepared to do is to support the suggestion that there should be positive bias in favour of ethnic minority groups and against the indigenous population of Britain.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was at pains in opening the debate to say that positive bias was not what was meant. He was clearly conscious of the sensitivity of that point but I regret that I have to draw his attention, in his absence, to what the report actually says on that point on page 135:A policy of direct co-ordinated attack on racial disadvantage inevitably means that the ethnic minorities will enjoy for a time a positive discrimination in their favour".That is clear, and I am afraid that it is simply not acceptable. The British people are very patient and tolerant. The overwhelming majority are certainly not racist, although it is true that some are bitter. However, if we want a public backlash that would certainly put black and brown people in a dangerous situation. There would be no better way to bring about such a backlash than announcing that the indigenous population were to be put at a disadvantage in their own land. Nowhere in the world would a Government act in that way against their own people. Fair is fair: I do not want discrimination against black people but nor do I want it against white people. Following the sentence that I have already read out, the report says that positive discriminationis a price worth paying if it accelerates the elimination of the unsettling factor of racial disadvantage from the social fabric of the United Kingdom".Lord Scarman has not looked far enough, in my opinion, because I am certain that people would not be happy with the suggestion that they should be disadvantaged in the land in which they, their parents and their grandparents have lived. It is not good enough simply to consider the Brixton riots and to say that, if we act to make the situation better, there will be no other trouble. There will—I am afraid that the trouble will be very bad.
The Home Secretary also mentioned ethnic monitoring. He suggested that it was not harmful and that it would simply stop there. But how could it stop there? What is the point of it if it stops there? If there is ethnic monitoring of jobs, it will inevitably lead to employers being told "You have not enough people from the ethnic minority. You must get more in." What is the objective of the operation otherwise?
I ask the House to consider carefully that the very behaviour that the report condemns—looting, burning and rioting—will be proved to have gained what looters, arsonists and rioters want. I fear that if that sort of gift is made it will be an open invitation to others to break the law to gain what they want. I do not for one moment suggest that that is what Lord Scarman intends to happen, but I suggest that it is natural that it may happen.
The police have a responsibility to protect the persons and properties of our citizens and I am worried about the suggestion that the powers of the police to do that should be curtailed. Hon. Members must appreciate that that is what the report suggests.
People are desperately worried about street crime, muggings and violence and it is a major worry in my heart that, although we said in our manifesto at the last election 1023 that we would do whatever we could to stop the rising tide of violence, it has not even been checked, let alone stopped.
I assure the House that in the mail that I and, I am sure, other hon. Members receive there is ample evidence of the worry in people's hearts and minds over crime in our land. We cannot tell the police that they must use kid gloves when tackling the problem.
The report suggests that "street saturation" to combat crime should be prefaced by consultation with community groups. The Home Secretary said that that would not interfere with the ability of the police to control crime, but how are the police to know when they are supposed to consult community groups and when they may go ahead and act as they should to protect the public?
I know that it is far from easy to know who speaks for communities. I remember that five people once approached me, each claiming to speak for the ethnic minority in my constituency where trouble had arisen. I did not know which one to listen to and in the end I listened to all five. Are we suggesting that before tackling crime the police should have to go through the rigmarole of asking "Does the Home Secretary mean me to stop and ask, or can I go straight in?"
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
The police did that in Handsworth and cut the rate of mugging by half. That is all that the Scarman report says. Community policing would be better and not less effective policing.
§ Mrs. Knight
As a Birmingham Member, I know a little more than the hon. Gentleman about the situation in that city. In Birmingham, as elsewhere, a number of people set themselves up as spokesmen for the ethnic minority and they often quarrel among themselves over who should be the spokesman.
§ Mrs. Knight
It puts the police in a difficult position. They may not know who are the community leaders, especially since many of those involved are self-styled leaders.
Lord Scarman says that the public demand a reform of the procedures for complaints against the police, but I am not sure that there is such a demand. As a child I lived in the country and I remember coming to London by train and seeing beside the track poster after poster saying "Beer is best". If there was one thing that I was sure of by the time I reached London it was that beer was best.
It is continually said that the public demand a reform of the procedure for complaints against the police and people are beginning to believe that it is true, but I have not seen any solid evidence that the public strongly back reforms in that procedure.
Even if there were such a demand, I wonder whether the public would press it if they had any conception of how much the reform would cost. Some will say that one cannot cost justice, but have we any proof that the existing cheaper and simpler system is unjust, or is it merely that people think that it is unjust? Will we get more justice if the arrangements are changed? If not, what is the point of reform?
When discussing the cost of justice, we should consider what has happened to the legal aid system, which all of us strongly support. In terms of costs, the system has gone out of the window and it cannot be said that every pound spent has improved justice for our people.
1024 I support the suggestion in the report that the media must be made to act with more thought of the consequences of showing scenes of looting and disorder. The horrible scenes of rioting shown on those fearsome nights encouraged some people in other parts of the country to indulge in copycat riots. The report rightly says that the media must be made to understand that they have a responsibility in that area.
I wish to refer to a few actions that must be taken. We must certainly concentrate on educating disadvantaged young blacks. The Home Secretary underscored the fact that equality of opportunity is his aim. I agree that we must give disadvantaged young blacks a better education, but we must not force employers to take on young people who cannot read. Recently, a meat firm was hauled over the coals by the Commission for Racial Equality for not taking on three people who could not read. If those people had worked near dangerous machinery they would not have been able to read the warning signs and it would have been dangerous to employ them. Let us educate young blacks, but let us not force employers to take on those who are unable to do the job properly.
I agree with the idea of improving bad housing. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) was a little unfair to the Home Secretary. Apparently the right hon. Gentleman did not even hear what was said yesterday about the urban aid programme. Much money has been, and is being, spent on improving bad housing and I agree with that.
It is a pity that the Opposition do not support the Government's efforts to bring the country back to prosperity. Nothing would help young black people more than for the Opposition to encourage all that the Government are trying to do to make us prosperous again. It is no use thinking that we can pull rabbits out of a hat. We have to make the country prosperous so that jobs become available.
I support the proposal for more black policemen and I ask the Home Secretary to look at the riot training given to police in other countries. Some places, notably Hong Kong, do a good job on riot control. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shoot the rioters?"] It is a question not of shooting rioters, but of containing riots.
Important points are made in the report about outside involvement in the riots. It was not stressed and Lord Scarman said that he did not have a great deal of evidence about it, but that what he had was "persuasive". Outside elements certainly stirred up trouble and evidence was given that some teachers in some schools teach children to involve themselves in subversive activities and riots. That was given as evidence.
There is much to support in the report, but I cannot support any suggestion that the indigenous population should be placed at a disadvantage. With that and the other reservations that I have made, I welcome the opportunity to discuss this report.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) at this stage, because later I want to take up one or two of the issues that she mentioned.
One part of the Scarman report says that British society as a whole is no better than any other when it comes to prejudice. We have not yet come to terms with ethnic diversity. I am sad when I hear some of the speeches in 1025 the House. It is surely time that we came to terms with that diversity. Unless we do, we shall find that what happened last summer will continue to happen.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said that he disagreed about the basic reason for the Toxteth riots. Everyone is entitiled to his own opinion. However, I am sure that the Secretary of State for the Environment, who made extensive inquiries in the area, and possibly the Home Secretary, might subscribe to my view that, rightly or wrongly, both black and white members of the Toxteth community felt that they were not receiving equal treatment before the law. That was the reason for the first night's riot. As I have said on other occasions, the others were copycat riots by people who had discovered how easy it was to break into television shops, and so on. The initial riot was one in which the anger of both blacks and whites was directed against the police.
I do not to want to dig up stones to discover what happened in the past, but there are one or two issues that I must mention. Lady Margaret Simey, who was chairman of the police board, said that, had she been in the rioters' position, she would probably have rioted with them. She received much bad publicity. I have known her for many years. She is a person of great integrity and dedication. She served as my deputy chairman on one of the Liverpool city council's committees. She should not have made that statement. No one is entitled to make such remarks. As I have said before, in a democratic society no one is entitled to riot. However, when people, such as deputy chairmen of police committees, are unable to get information, because it is operational and not the committees' concern, and when some of the inquiries relate to people who die in police custody, and the information is still operational, their frustration is understandable.
I am sorry that there will be no statutory obligation for consultation. We shall get nowhere without consultation. We talk about policing with the consent of the public, but without consultation and dialogue there cannot be consent. It can only be what the police believe should happen. We have put the police in an intolerable position by reason of many of the laws that we have passed. The police do themselves no service when they say that they ought to investigate complaints which are made against them. Two or three weeks ago the Police Federation said that it was in agreement with a completely independent investigation of such matters. We now understand that the investigation is not to go quite that far. Apparently any complaint which might involve a policeman in a criminal charge is not to go to an independent investigation. All that will be left will be the trivia of complaints against the police.
Some years ago I went to see the then Home Secretary when the legislation for investigating complaints was being introduced. I told him about the danger of riots in Toxteth if we continued along the lines that we were going. I said that unless the public could see that justice was being done in those investigations, they would not be satisfied, and that it would be a disservice to the police force not to bring the matter out into the open.
I have mixed feelings about what the Home Secretary said this afternoon. Both he and the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is taking such an active interest in Liverpool, know what is required. They know that things are wrong between the public and the police. When I say, 1026 as I have said, that this is a situation out of which the Government will not buy or bury their way, as was reported last time, I mean that there seems to be great emphasis on development corporations, and so on.
I disagree with the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook in one respect. Of course unemployment can make its contribution to riots. When people are at street corners eight or 10 hours a day, unemployment is bound to make its contribution. If those people were at work all day, they would not feel discontent, either imagined or real. We deceive ourselves if we think that giving employment to an area, while disagreement continues between the police and the public, will produce a peaceful solution.
I should like to read an extract from a report about young immigrants and the youth service. The committee, set up by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), was chaired by Sir John Hunt, now Lord Hunt, who has done tremendous work in this connection. The report, published in July 1967, stated:We subscribe to the view of the Brixton YMCA in their survey. If England is not to be the scene of race riots the time for action is now. The second and succeeding generations of coloured Britishers will rightly expect to be accepted on equal terms and to have the same opportunities as the rest of us. Within 10 years, there will be enough of them to make their voices heard. Will each one be accepted on his intrinsic merits as one of us?That was in 1967. Yet people say that they were amazed that these riots could happen. In my view, it is amazing that they did not happen earlier, bearing in mind the relationship between the different sections of our community.
I come back to what the hon. Member for Edgbaston said. I cannot look into Lord Scarman's mind, but, knowing the type of man that he is, I know that when he talks about positive action he is talking about ensuring that we give not privileges but justice to the black community. Justice, not privileges, is essential. I do not believe that the blacks want privileges. They want to be treated as equals before the law and in industry.
I was surprised to hear about the quota system. I am against the quota system in jobs. The hon. Member for Edgbaston talked about positive discrimination. We have had positive discrimination in education in inner cities for years for blacks and whites who were disadvantaged either by their environment or other means. Has anybody objected when we have tried to bring people—even whites—who have not had the advantages of life up to the basic requirement to be able to go on to the market to get a job? Is anybody going to complain about that sort of equality? If so, they will build up a whole heap of trouble for themselves in future generations. In my political life I have been emphatic about education, because I believe that we must prepare people to go out into the world of work and, having done that, and given them a reasonable opportunity of doing so, letting them stand on their own feet. I believe we have killed generations by spoon feeding them.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
Would the hon. Gentleman see positive discrimination in education if in order to give equal opportunity to all children we had to give less able children less help than we gave able children, whatever their colour, their IQ, and so on?
§ Mr. Crawshaw
That is the discrimination to which I refer. There should be equal treatment for all—black, 1027 white or yellow—if we are to have a happy community. Anybody who says that education is equal for all in our society has not been into a downtown school to see how those children are educated.
I welcome the fact that the Home Secretary accepts what is said in the Scarman report, but we have not heard anything about hard cash. That is why I am a little worried as to how I and my hon. Friends should vote this evening. We want to support the Government. We want to support the Scarman report. We talk about building up the forces of law and order. I do not know whether they are correct, but I have had figures given to me indicating that the rate support grant cuts on Merseyside may lead to a reduction of 2,000 in the police. I hope that is wrong. I hope that the Home Secretary will tell us what the reductions in the police force will be. With the cutting of the rate support grant, there are bound to be economies. I know that the Home Secretary is wedded to putting the police stations back into local areas instead of having massive ones miles away from anywhere. But they will not be built unless money is provided. We have heard nothing about that. This point was brought out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) only the other day. If we are to get local police stations back, where will the money come from to provide them?
I come now to the question of a multi-racial police force. Educational requirements for entry into the special constabulary are not so strict. That is why many areas have managed to increase the numbers of black policemen in their police forces. We shall not get a fair sense of justice among the people in Liverpool until the day they see a black inspector in that area. When we had our colonies, we always agreed that they should be able to look after themselves, but we did not do much to help them to do that. I hope that the Minister will tell us how we are to get a multi-racial police force, because at present the ratio of black policemen to the number of black people the country is ridiculous.
I want to close on the question of getting the police back on to the beat. It is a case not of getting policemen, but of getting the right policemen back on to the beat. The whole of our society, including hon. Members, has racial prejudices, and the police force is not immune. Some of the harshest comments about what the police really say about the black community behind the scenes come from civilians working within the police force. One can only imagine that, if that is the voice behind the scenes, when the crunch comes the language that is often reportedly used—coons and all the rest of it—will come to the fore. Do we take policemen as they come and send them out on the beat in areas where the majority are black people? Are we going to train a special section of the police force to act as community officers? I do not believe that anything less than that will solve our problems. Merely putting policemen on the beat—policemen who may have a certain prejudice—will only aggravate the situation. The training of special policemen for these areas is of the greatest importance.
I said that I would conclude on that matter, but I want to refer to the banning of marches. The first time the Whip was removed from me in Liverpool was when I refused to vote for the denial of a public hall for a Fascist meeting. I did that because the Communist Party was to be allowed to have it the following week. I do not believe that we should continue to ban marches. It is possible to bring incitement, and incitement to public disorder, within our 1028 legal framework, so that people who organise marches make themselves criminally responsible if the sort of march that they organise causes racial troubles and tensions within an area. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility for this to be done. I urge the Home Secretary to set about altering the wording of the legislation. I do not want individuals to be left with the discretion to decide which marches should or should not take place. Some hon. Members would stop every Fascist march. If people have a specific political doctrine, they are entitled to march provided they do not cause civil unrest or antagonise a particular section of the community. There are those who want to proscribe and stop the Fascists marching. There could be a day when a Labour Party march is stopped. However, I do not want to see that any more than I want to see any other march banned.
I think that we are going down the wrong road if we do not bring in legislation to deal with the people who organise marches in circumstances which are bound to cause trouble within the community.
I hope that tonight we shall receive affirmative remarks about where the money is to come from to do the things that have been suggested this afternoon. Money is required for some of these things. The Home Secretary knows as well as anybody that the Police Federation and the police force as a whole are a powerful body, and necessary to a Home Secretary who has not yet finished his tenure of office and still wants to do things which he has previously been unable to do. The House controls the police force.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
It should control it and I believe that it does. The Home Secretary is held in great respect inside the House and outside. When he leaves the House this evening, I ask him to ask himself how many of the measures that have been agreed at the Dispatch Box can be implemented. Pressures will be brought to bear from vested interests that will not want to see reforms introduced. If there are measures that he finds he cannot implement, I hope that he will have the honesty to tell us. I ask him to bear in mind that some of us will probably he supporting the Government on his reputation. I hope that he does not let us down.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)
It is a great pleasure to be called immediately after the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw). The hon. Gentleman is held in high regard in Liverpool and what he has said needs to be pondered. He has touched on many important issues.
I shall deal with one and a half pages of the Scarman report. The part of the report with which I am concerned—it bears on the inner cities—appears on pages 101 and 102. I shall direct my remarks to only one and a half pages of a 153-page report, but they deal with a matter of great importance.
What does the term "inner city" mean? Where is the inner city area and what are its parameters? The inner city is where the factories were built in the nineteenth century and where the workforce lived in the terraces and back-to-back houses. It is the area immediately surrounding the city centre and the business district. The advent of electricity, the telephone and the motor car resulted in 1029 decentralisation and the growth of suburban sprawl on what were then greenfield sites immediately outside the inner city ring. These areas have gradually become known as the middle city.
Following the massive demolition of the inner cities in the 1950s and 1960s, new public housing estates were built beyond the outer suburbs on what was then agricultural land. That area has become known as the outer city. There is no hard and fast demarcation of where the inner city ends and the middle city begins. In some cities it is clearer than in others.
To consider the inner city, as Lord Scarman does, as an isolated and separate area from the rest of the city is mistaken. The inner city is an integral part of the city as a whole. Lord Scarman seems not to have touched on the effects on the middle and outer cities of the problems of the inner city.
No parts of our towns and cities are watertight compartments and the majority of the problems that are manifested in one area cannot be considered in isolation from the surrounding areas. What happens in the inner city inevitably spills over into the middle city. What goes on on a city's periphery may have a direct and profound bearing on life in the centre.
In many inner industrial areas those who live in the inner city area work in industrial estates in the outer city. Many of the middle income groups and professional classes living in the middle city work in the inner city. It is wrong to presume that inner city problems have arisen because of successive Governments' neglect. They have not. The inner city has long been recognised as posing special economic, political and social problems. That recognition resulted in increasing sums being pumped into inner city areas. It was believed that that would provide the answer. It did not. It merely led to further problems because of a mistaken diagnosis of what created inner city problems in the first place.
It is the level of local and central Government intervention which has created and aggravated the problem. Planners and politicians have created the decline of inner city areas. I shall take Glasgow as an example. In the past 15 years 70,000 houses have been bulldozed and demolished. Nearly 40,000 houses in the inner area of Manchester have been demolished while nearly 30,000 have been demolished in the centre of Liverpool. All this has driven the population from the inner city areas—21 per cent. in Glasgow, 22 per cent. in Liverpool and 18 per cent. in Manchester.
That movement means that the inner areas are no longer inhabited by the majority of the population, who now live in the middle and outer areas. However, those left behind in inner city areas are the poorest, the unemployed, the unskilled and the elderly. The problem of the inner city is the high concentration of the least mobile and of those most dependent on the State. The problem lies not with the sort of person who lives in the inner city but with the number of people who live there.
Toxteth, as the hon. Member for Toxteth will know, is not deprived of good housing or community facilities. It has a great number of those in Parliament Street. I think that there are 14 community centres, all financed by the Government or local authorities. The problem is that the 1030 vast majority of homes are council homes. They were built by the State and very few of those who live in the area own either the land or the housing in inner Liverpool.
The problem is not a shortage of funds. Since 1968 at least £100 million a year has been spent on social provision for the inner city areas. An urban aid programme was started in 1968. We have had the community development project, the educational priority area project, the quality of life programme, the neighbourhood project, the urban deprivation unit, the comprehensive community programmes, the partnerships, the inner area urban Acts—name it and there was public finance and they were doing it.
Yet inner city communities, far from being neglected, have had a searchlight on them for the past 15 years. There have been more social and community workers, more research workers and more community supports in inner city areas than anywhere else in the country, yet those who live in the area have become more and more deprived. That is because they have not been integrated into the city. They have been separated and in many ways they have been given the wrong things.
I agree with paragraph 6.7 of the Scarman report on page 101, which urges that local communities should have a greater chance to become involved. We should give people greater opportunities to create their own work. We should encourage them to create their own employment and the Manpower Services Commission should provide funds for starter firms so that people can create their own collectives and co-operatives.
I agree with Lord Scarman that the banks must lend even where there is little collateral. They should set aside specific sums to provide risk capital for those in inner city areas who do not have collateral. That is done in the United States, and there is no doubt that it is profitable. Far from being a charitable exercise, it is very good business.
If the Government hand over to the people the running of their council blocks, for example, they will be given a stake in the areas in which they live. The problems for the inner city have been created by central Government and local authorities. An important aspect of the Government's approach is yesterday's confirmation by the Home Secretary of a major shift from social engineering to economic engineering. Urban development corporations and enterprise zones are an attempt to give priority to rekindling economic life and hope in inner city areas and to create employment there. Yesterday's statement was all about urban revitalisation by bringing in public as well as private money. That approach is different from what has been done in the past.
Lord Scarman is right to draw attention to the inner city. Milner Holland, Ingleby, Plowden, Seebohm and others also did that in the 1960s. However, they all made the same mistake of ignoring the rest of the city. We ignore at our peril those who live in the middle and outer city, because if people are not prepared to live in future in the middle city—where the rate income is—rates will continue to rise and people will become more deprived. We must keep the professional and middle-income groups in the middle areas. Again, we must realise that the major problem in most of our cities is not even the inner city or the middle city, but the vast, soulless council estates. They will be the cause of the real social unrest that will hit us in the years to come.
1031 In many ways, last summer's riots were the embers. The real fire is still to explode on those vast soulless council estates on the outskirts of our large cities. Therefore, we must look to the city as a whole. We must recognise that our principal provincial cities are the main arteries of the country. We must wake up to the needs and aspirations of the urban voter, not just in the inner areas, but throughout the urban areas.
§ Mr. John Tilley (Lambeth, Central)
I shall not take up the comments of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen). I shall refer to one of the points made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight), who kept distinguishing between black people and indigenous people. The majority of black people in my constituency, particularly youngsters, are indigenous. They were born in Britain. That also goes some way to answering the points made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).
The issue is not one of numbers. There is a substantial minority of black people in most of our inner city areas now, and will be in the foreseeable future. The question that we must answer is what we, the House, and the Government intend to do about that. Black babies are not born alienated because they have black skins, as the right hon. Member for Down, South seemed to suggest. They are alienated because of a process. What matters is the number of white racists who are allowed to get away with such discrimination, and the number of us who let them do so.
There are matters that I wished to see in the Scarman report that are not there. I am sorry that Lord Scarman did not call for the Metropolitan Police to be made accountable to a locally elected authority. I suggest, with respect, that Lord Scarman misunderstood what was meant by those who complained of institutional racialism in our society. For that reason, he concluded that it did not exist.
A handful of omissions should not be allowed to overshadow the dozens of excellent recommendations and the overall effect of the report's analysis. In particular, Lord Scarman agrees with many of the criticisms that community leaders in Brixton have made of the police for a long time. It is a matter not of incidents of racialist harassment on the streets, but of a consistent inflexibility and lack of sensitivity at higher levels of command.
That siege mentality was eroded a little even during the Scarman hearings, when senior policemen admitted that young police recruits were being sent out on to the streets insufficiently trained to deal with the community of which they had become a vital part. Last week, after the publication of the report, the local police commander in Lambeth made an unprecedented public admission that the police had made mistakes.
That admission is to be welcomed but there is also a view—more sceptical than cynical—that this new flexibility and openness is only tactical and temporary. There is a fear that when the heat is off, and the Scarman report is safely on the shelf, everything will return to the old ways. Our task is to ensure that that does not happen and that the momentum for change generated by Lord Scarman is maintained. At a local level, I am involved in trying to maintain that momentum.
The Government have two major responsibilities. First, they are responsible for providing resources. For example, it will cost a lot of money—at least twice as much as at 1032 present—to double the period of police training. The Home Secretary made it clear that he was not committing himself to providing further resources, He said only that he would re-examine the budget of the various law and order sections of the Home Office. He gave no sign that there would be any more money.
Secondly, we need legislation along some of the lines recommended by Lord Scarman. Several different pieces of legislation are required, but I shall concentrate on one facet—liaison with the community. In Brixton, measures are already in hand to set up quickly some liaison machinery between the police and the community leaders. As hon. Members have pointed out, such a measure will depend upon the good will and trust of those involved. That point applies particularly to the comments of the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner).
Our experience in Brixton tells us that trust and good will are not enough. Machinery that is based on trust and good will breaks down when those attributes are strained to breaking point. Lord Scarman calls for a "statutory liaison machinery", which no one—on either side—can ignore or boycott. I was glad that the Home Secretary did not rule that out. However, we shall continue to press him to ensure that he introduces legislation as soon as possible. In the last few days, since the publication of the report, I have received letters, particularly from local church leaders, saying that statutory liaison machinery is vital if we are to make progress.
I should make one point crystal clear. Here I disagree with the hon. Member for Edgbaston. I am not saying that the police should tone down their fight against crime to improve their relationship with the local community, but only by improving that relationship will they be able to improve their record of combating crime. Good community relations or a reduction in crime are not an alternative for the Metropolitan Police to choose from, but are inseparable parts of an effective policing policy.
Lord Scarman writes not only about the police, but about the economic conditions found in inner city areas. He points out that unemployment, overcrowding and a lack of recreational facilities are not an excuse for crime. However, no hon. Member would deny that the possibility of further outbreaks of violence has increased, because the number of unemployed youngsters in Lambeth today is 62 per cent. higher than it was a year ago and 40 per cent. higher than it was a few months ago, when the riots broke out.
It is no coincidence that the first outbreaks of violence in 1980 and 1981, in Bristol and Brixton, took place in April, in the week before Easter, at the end of the spring term, as the first crop of the year's school leavers found themselves outside their classrooms and on the dole queue. We must consider what we are offering the "class of '82."
Lord Scarman picked up the point made by the Select Committee report in emphasising the link between racial disadvantage in employment and racial disadvantage in education. Yet this very week the Cabinet is finalising legislation that will cripple the efforts made by the Inner London Education Authority to expand its multi-ethnic education programme. It is ironic that the Home Secretary should say that police training may involve English classes within the ILEA. However, the ILEA's ability to carry out the work that it is doing is under a severe threat as a result of the Government's proposals. Teachers in schools in Lambeth have learnt how to help the youngsters who suffer from inner city disadvantages.
1033 This week's edition ofThe Times Educational Supplement pays tribute—as hon. Members may have seen—to the excellent work done at the Santley Street and Robert Atkins schools in my constituency. In its editorial it asks:will ILEA be able to continue with the work which Scarman commends if Mr. Heseltine's proposals to cut back its spending mean that the authority must abandon the small classes, and cut back on the work of the multi-cultural inspectorate and the in-service training which are an essential part of it.I hope that the Minister of State will answer that question. I am not talking about vague hopes for the future or the "throwing of money" at the inner cities. I am talking about a community resource in the sense of an educational service that already exists in Lambeth and which parents, black and white, are determined to defend.
Lord Scarman's report says that racial disadvantage is not an excuse for violence. There can be no doubt, however, that that is a major cause of the desperation, the lack of hope and the sense of futility among young people in trying to find a worthwhile place in a society that rejects them. That is the real meaning of institutionalised racism. It is not that the institutions of British society have an agreed but secretive purpose of discriminating against blacks, but that however much our institutions proclaim their commitment to equality of opportunity, and however free from racialism individual office holders may be, the system, habits, procedures and assumptions of our major institutions somehow put black British applicants at a disadvantage. If hon. Members want an example, I suggest that they look at our own institution of Parliament.
The essence of what Lord Scarman says is that the three sources of the inner city problem—insensitive policing, economic deprivation and racial disadvantage—are linked. The solving of one problem is pointless unless the other two are tackled. No police force, however flexible, well-trained, sensitive and communicative it becomes, can keep the lid on the inner city dustbin into which an increasing number of youngsters, black and white, are being thrown.
There has been warm praise for Lord Scarman from the Home Secretary, but very little commitment to carry out specific recommendations. Hon. Members heard a little more today than they did a fortnight ago, but this is still nowhere near enough. I remind hon. Members of what I said in the House in April 1980, following the Bristol riots., I asked the Home Secretary:Will the Government take what has happened at Bristol as a warning that unless they reverse the cuts in the inner city programme they are taking a risk that in all our cities, including London, we shall have a British action replay of the American inner city tragedy?"—[Official Report, 3 April 1980; Vol. 982, c. 666.]This year we have seen the first act of that tragedy. I believe that the remaining acts will unfold in the years to come if the Government do not act more firmly, more swiftly and more decisively than they have done so far. Lord Scarman, in his report, has given the British people and the House a golden opportunity to heal the wounds of our inner cities. I believe sincerely that it is a last chance before those wounds become fatal.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
The most important thing about the Scarman report is that it is completely fair. Where he believes that the police deserve 1034 criticism, Lord Scarman is critical, and rightly so. Where he thinks that the police deserve praise, he is unstinting. He has accepted some of the general criticism of Brixton police methods but he has rejected most of it. Yes, he says, a few police officers have shown racialist attitudes. Yes, there has been some harassment. Yes, senior officers were partly to blame for the breakdown in confidence between the police and one section of the community. Yet, overall, Lord Scarman's conclusions are much more favourable to the police and particularly to the Metropolitan police than most of their critics expected or in some cases actually hoped.
Lord Scarman defines clearly the difficult, indeed the virtually impossible, position in which the police can be placed. He says that their problem ishow to cope with a rising level of crime—and particularly of street robbery (in the colloquial phrase, `mugging')—while retaining the confidence of all sections of the community, especially the ethnic minority groups.That states the matter well.
It might help the House if I put some numbers to the police problem. In Brixton, the police were accused of over-policing. It was said by some who gave evidence to Lord Scarman that the police numbers deployed were approximately 13 per cent. per head higher than in other parts of the metropolis. That may be so. Hon. Members should, however, bear in mind that although Brixton is not even big enough to qualify as a separate London borough, the number of muggings in Brixton is two thirds of the number for the whole of Greater Manchester, which has a population of 2.65 million. The number of robberies in Brixton is nearly three quarters of the total in greater Manchester. In the London borough of Lambeth, which includes Brixton, there are more muggings and more robberies than in the whole of the Greater Manchester metropolis. It is important that the charge of over-policing should be seen in that context of these appallingly high levels of crime.
The police service at every level has accepted and, indeed, welcomed the broad thrust of the Scarman report. Most hon. Members who have sat in the House for any length of time have read reports that have criticised one part of the public service or another. Nearly always, those who are criticised immediately condemned the report and produced justifications. This has not happened in the case of the police service. On the contrary, the police have accepted the broad criticisms and are now working constructively with the Home Secretary on ways and means of putting some, if not all, the recommendations into practice.
I wish to deal with five specific points of a more or less professional nature. The House will know of my interest with the Police Federation.
I start with the need for more coloured police officers. That, of course, is right. It was sought by the Police Federation long before the instant experts began demanding such a policy. The police have been seeking to achieve this for a long time. It must be more than 10 years ago that the Police Federation organised the first meetings—I was present—with representatives of the immigrant community. On the table in front of us was the specific question "How do we obtain more black and brown policemen?"
More recently, I met, together with the federation, all the principal leaders of the Asian community in London. The question on the table was "How can we achieve more 1035 Asian police officers?" There is no doubt about the wish of the police service in the matter, but I want to say clearly to the Minister of State that I would reject any suggestion of a quota of coloured police officers. I would also reject any proposals that led to the lowering of entry standards.
Lord Scarman was impressed by the relatively low standards of entry already applied in the police service. It would be wholly wrong in any way to reduce standards in order artificially to increase the number of black or brown police officers. I agree nevertheless that it must be right to give young Asians, West African and West Indian immigrants particular opportunities for educational training if it is clear that they are seeking to make their way into the police service.
On consultation and liaison, once again I agree with Lord Scarman. There should be more consultation. But this is rather like agreeing with motherhood. Everyone is in favour of motherhood but one does not want too much of it.
The question about liaison is, how is it to work? Where crime and public order are concerned the police must be able to take action on their own judgment. There is no effective way in which a consultative body can tell a chief officer, who is on the spot and required to enforce the law, what to do. Liaison is a good thing if it involves general understanding, frequent meetings and a two-way exchange of information, ideas and judgment, but it cannot work if it creates a mechanism whereby the police are prevented from taking action in urgent situations in order to maintain the law.
In areas where the police are required to act immediately, such as in incidents covered by the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 or where the Special Branch must deal with gunmen or bombers, I hope there will be no suggestion that the need for the police to take action—for example, at the Iranian embassy siege—will be compromised by the encumbrance of liaison machinery trying to become involved in the operational problems of the police service.
I also wish to draw the attention of the House to one of Lord Scarman's harsher conclusions. He said that the gap between the police and sections of the community in Brixton was "deepened and widened" by the final report of a working party on community-police relations set up by Lambeth borough council. That report described the police as an "army of occupation" and Lord Scarman says that it did harm to the cause of police-community relations in Brixton. Of course it did. That sort of liaison or consultation does no good at all.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not have it here, but I shall certainly do so.
As for training, the sad fact is that the British police service receives less professional training than any comparable police service in the industrial world. The present position for constables and sergeants is, as it has been for a long time, deplorable. Inspectors have seen their in-service training treated as a poor relation of higher training. In too many cases the authorities have been obsessed with the needs of future chief officers. I do not complain about that, but it is nonsense to pretend that after 10 weeks at a district training centre a boy or a girl—for 1036 that is what they are—is qualified to go out on the streets and carry out the entire range of the duties and responsibilities that fall upon a police officer.
Many of those young men and women could be the sons or daughters, or the grandsons and granddaughters, of hon. Members. Most of them do not enter the police force with racial chips on their shoulders. They go in believing that they will be serving the community. To push them out within 10 weeks to face the ferocity of a riot, with all the noise, violence and injuries—15,000 police officers were injured last year in the course of their duties—comes as a shock to many of those young people who are performing a task that we have placed upon them. Ten weeks at a district training centre is hardly enough to equip them for that task.
I and the Police Federation have said this for some time. It is therefore slightly galling now to have so many instant experts—and some chief constables—falling over themselves on television to say how much they welcome the proposal for longer police training. A few years ago, when the police service was desperate for manpower, the same chief officers and the same officials in the Home Office believed that a whole 13 weeks of initial training for recruits was far too much, so they cut it down to 10 weeks. I protested about that in the House, the Police Federation protested about it, but we were on our own.
The previous Government cut the training period from 13 weeks to 10 weeks and, not satisfied with that, the Home Office also called for the joining age of police officers to be reduced to 18½ years. Again, I and the Police Federation objected, but we were overcome. The federation indeed was attacked by the chief officers, the police authorities and the Home Office because they stuck out for as long as possible insisting that recruits should at least be kept off the streets until they were 19, but again we lost that battle. The chief officers and the Home Office were desperate to get young people in police uniforms on to the streets, no matter how ill-trained or inexperienced they were.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) will remember that the argument was that a probationer spent most of his first two years in training of one form or another, so it did not matter whether he got a basic training at the training centre. It was thought that he could pick it up on the streets—yes, pick it up on the streets. I hope that we have now learnt that lesson.
I put some questions on training to my right hon. Friend. Does he propose to implement Lord Scarman's proposal for a full six-month training period? I hope that he does, but he will find it very expensive. There are three aspects, the first of which is facilities. I doubt whether there are sufficient facilities in Britain to increase the training period to six months. There are, however, too many examples of duplication between areas and far too little standardisation. Too many police forces do their own thing, so that tactics, equipment, communications and command training are different in the various forces. If we now lengthen the period of training, there will be an opportunity to standardise and improve it. I hope that my right hon. Friend will grasp that opportunity.
Secondly, where will my right hon. Friend get the instructors? The best instructors are shrewd and experienced police officers who are taken out of the force and sent to training centres, but the shabby treatment that at present is dealt out to instructors, both in the central service and at the local training centres, is not an incentive 1037 for experienced and shrewd police officers to come forward, leave their normal duties and enter the training system. There must be more incentive for them. I hope that my right hon. Friend will deal with that.
Finally, there is the question of cash. Training costs money. From an answer to a parliamentary question that I put down this week, I discovered that legal aid, which cost us £17 million in 1970, last year cost £151 million. Possibly that is justified, but in terms of public expenditure my right hon. Friend would do well to divert at least some of the tens of millions of pounds that go into legal aid to improving the quality of training of our law enforcement officers.
On race, Lord Scarman said two things that I believe to be important. Of racialism in the police, he said in paragraph 542:I am satisfied that when racially prejudiced behaviour is found it is stamped on by severe disciplinary action.It cannot be much clearer than that. He also said in paragraph 5.4:Racially prejudiced or discriminatory behaviour is not … a specific offence … although it is almost certainly covered by the Code's general offence of discreditable conduct.He is right.
There is no room in the police service for racially prejudiced policing. The Police Federation believes that if there are officers who act that way they should be asked to leave, but the initial proposals put forward by the Home Office to the police associations are not acceptable. I object strongly to them. First, I object because the existing disciplinary code does, as Lord Scarman accepts, cover the whole area of racial discrimination. Secondly, nothing would be more discriminatory against the police than to subject them to a new offence of racial prejudice that would apply to no other section of the community. The police would be made less equal than others.
For example, no prison officer, probation officer, social worker, ambulanceman, fireman, civil servant or teacher would be caught in the new disciplinary offence of racial discrimination—only the police would be caught. The implication is that the police service, uniquely, is shot through with racial discrimination. I reject that proposition. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary rejects it. Lord Scarman rejects it. There is no ground for selecting the police service alone for such a new offence.
The practicalities of the new offence also make the mind boggle. A person arriving at London airport is faced with two public servants—one is the Special Branch officer who checks his passport and the other is the immigration officer who stamps it. Should a complaint of racial discrimination be made, then, if this new offence is created, the police officer but not the immigration officer would be subject to it. That is a perfectly monstrous suggestion. In our country all men should be equal before the law. There is no ground on which the police should be picked out selectively.
If Parliament wills that there should be created a new general offence of racial prejudice, to which all would be subject, the police—by definition—must be subject to it—indeed, it would be their duty to enforce it—but to suggest that that this one group of our fellow citizens should be picked out is to play into the hands of those who wish to damage, not improve, race relations.
I speak from personal knowledge. Frequently, when a young constable goes into a melee at a football match or 1038 apprehends a law breaker, the first response of the man he arrests is a simple English phrase, "You do me, chummy, and I will do you." In goes the complaint of assault or incivility. With the new offence, in would go the complaint of racial prejudice. What about the occasional drunken Scottish football fan, arrested in London by a black police officer? In will go a complaint of racial discrimination. My right hon. Friend must get rid of this proposition, quickly.
I wish now to deal with the complaints procedure. Reference has been made to the views of the Police Federation. I do not always support its views. I listen to the joint central committee. I advise it of my views, but if I disagree, I disagree. In this case, I agree with the federation. Its proposals reflect the fact that over the years its members have become sick and tired because, however the system is tinkered with—it has been tinkered with seven times—it still cannot meet its critics. So the federation, perhaps emotionally, has said that it wishes to be shot of the whole procedure of complaints against police. It wants an independent investigation system.
At no time, however, has the federation proposed—it could not and would not—that crimes should be investigated by any outside body. Crime is crime, whether committed by policemen or Members of Parliament. It must be investigated, as the law requires, by the police service. What the federation has said is that complaints by the public against the police—which in most cases do not involve crime—should be investigated by an outside body. That is entirely right.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary knows, the problem is that frequently a complaint against a police officer involves both crime and the possibility of insubordination, incivility or unprofessional conduct. The right procedure in that case must be that the crime continues to be investigated by the police and goes in every case to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but that all the matter that pertains to professional conduct should be investigated by an independent body.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will come forward quickly with his proposals in that respect, but I remind him that the federation will wish the civil rights of police officers to be safeguarded. That is why it has suggested that, if there is to be a statutory requirement for outside independent investigation, policemen who are complained against should have full legal representation, the full protection of the judges' rules during the investigation, the right to elect to have a hearing by an independent tribunal composed of persons from outside the police service and a power of appeal to the Crown court in place of the present right to appeal only to the Home Secretary. All this is designed to protect police officers whose careers, futures and reputations are at risk. The federation wants the outside investigation that so many hon. Members on both sides of the House have sought. I back that, but it is only right that the police officer, as well as the complainant, should enjoy his full civil rights.
We must hope that what happened in Brixton, Bristol, Lambeth and Toxteth will not happen again. I fear that it will. If it does, it will be all our faults—not simply the fault of the police and social conditions. Riots take place in the great cities of America in far better social conditions. Nor will riots be the fault only of unemployment. In the end they will be the fault of us all.
It is galling that, during the public debate on Scarman—notably among parts of the media—there has 1039 been a tendency to make our younger, inexperienced police officers the scapegoats, as though it was all their fault. Rightly, there has been much talk about the need for better supervision of these young constables, about the need for greater maturity and less authoritarian attitudes on their part. Very good—but I thank God for these young police officers. Some of them may be immature, most are badly trained, and of course they are inexperienced. They have never seen anything like this before. But those young policemen, in Lord Scarman's words,stood between our society and total disaster this summer.I remind the House finally of who it was who let the police service almost bleed to death in the 1960s and 1970s, when we lost thousands and thousands of men who, if they had remained, would now be the mature, experienced, seasoned officers that we require. Edmund Davies came several years too late to prevent a situation in which a young, inexperienced police force faced the biggest crisis in police history in this country. All of us were responsible for that and it is on our shoulders that the main burden should lie to ensure that it does not happen again.
§ 7.2 pm
§ Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)
First, I thank the Home Secretary because he courteously met me at Brixton police station to talk about events in my constituency while the riots were taking place. He set up the inquiry urgently and he arranged for the debate to be held only 15 days after the publication of the report, when normally a longer time would elapse. I am grateful to him for that and I hope that he pursues on the last lap of the course the same degree of urgency and vigour that he has so far employed.
Secondly, I thank Lord Scarman. I do not believe that anyone would dissent from the praise that has been given to the broad approach of his report. Operating in Lambeth, he earned not only respect, but affection, and that is a considerable tribute to a judge. He expanded his report imaginatively to deal with the underlying causes of the riots. Because it is a quasi-judicial report, he could not go into the resources in as much detail as some people would have wished. His report is written starkly and clearly, but not in any simplified sense. He has gauged well the complexity of the matter, without creating difficulty in understanding what happened or any obscurity.
At the end of the day Lord Scarman reaches clear and bold judgments and makes recommendations, some of which would have been regarded as revolutionary or extremist only three weeks ago. For example, in paragraph 8.37 he says that the normal penalty for racially prejudiced behaviour by a policeman should be dismissal. He says that, not because he believes that racialism is widespread throughout the police force, but because he understands how much damage can be done by a policeman expressing racial discrimination in his dealings with the public.
In paragraph 8.20, Lord Scarman says:Racial prejudice does manifest itself occasionally in the behaviour of a few officers on the streets",and in paragraph 8.21 he says thatthere is evidence of harassment of minorities by some policemen".One of the conclusions that one draws from the report is that when criticisms are widely expressed by a minority community they cannot be lightly dismissed. There is a lesson there for every Government of every party, and it extends to other aspects of social policy.
1040 The disturbances that took place during the weekend of 10–12 April were among the most harrowing and disturbing of my political career. I had always feared that happening, but I hoped against hope that it would not happen. When it happened, it exemplified a degree of hatred, destructive attitudes and alienation that was difficult to imagine. Lord Scarmann described it vividly in paragraph 3.62 of the report when he said:The destruction, quite apart from the financial loss, was devastating in human terms".It took a huge emotional toll of people, as well as taking a toll in terms of money and damage to property. The riots gave a greater shock to the Government than did the failure of their economic policy. In a sense the riots were a part of the failure of their economic policy, and they have shaken the Government out of their complacency in a way that trenchant criticism of their economic policy might not have done.
Now that we have Lord Scarman's report and know about some of the criticisms, the underlying causes and the policing operations, I hope and believe that we can try to substitute for recrimination effort towards stopping the causes of that recrimination, because we must look to the future. It is no use just crawling over this report to find justification for what was said in the past, no matter how pleasant that might be. The Home Secretary and the Government must act quickly, because there is a danger of the matter blowing back on itself. If there is not urgent and vigorous action as a result of the report, cynicism will reflect itself in further antipathy towards the police, because the police are visible symbols of authority. If authority fails the people now because the report is not dealt with sufficiently vigorously, and if there is inadequate reaction by the Government, the police, as the visible symbols of authority, will have to take the backlash even if no blame attaches to them. It is important that the Government act urgently on the report.
I put forward three suggestions: first, a speedy and full-blooded implementation of Lord Scarman's recommendations on policing; secondly, an increase in resources; and, thirdly, an increase in the number of jobs. I know that it may not have been the only cause of the riot, but the relations between some of the black minority and the police, whether they were justified or not, were an indispensable underlying reason for the disturbances. Lord Scarman recognised that in paragraph 3.110 of his report, when he said:The riots were essentially an outburst of anger and resentment by young black people against the police.I repeat that one of the fundamental and indispensable causes of the riot was the relationship between some young blacks and the police force.
The opening sequence of the riots demonstrates that. A young black had been stabbed in the chest, his lung was punctured and blood was oozing from his body. Did he turn to the police for help? No. When he saw the policeman, he tripped—as people always do in these sequences—and the policeman fell on top of him—as policemen always do in these sequences. The policeman attempted to help him, but the young black escaped—with a punctured lung—not once from the police, but, with the help of the crowd, twice. That is not a reflection on the police, but it is a reflection on how young blacks feel about the police force that circumstances so bizarre should occur at the beginning of the riot. It is extremely important that improving that poor relationship between young blacks 1041 and the police should be at the top of the Home Secretary's agenda, particularly in view of the figure given by Lord Scarman that 50 per cent. of young people of the 19 to 21 age group in that area are black.
In what particular ways should the Home Secretary act? First, he must act on accountability and consultation. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley), I believe that the recommendations about accountability to the local community and local councillors do not go far enough. Nevertheless, let us deal with what we have.
There must be a statutory duty to set up consultative arrangements with the local community. I am convinced, as was Lord Scarman, that this will not work unless it is on a statutory basis. If it is not statutory, it will be only too easy for the police on the one hand to ignore the arrangements, perhaps even believing that they are doing so in the best interests of the public, and for the community on the other hand to boycott the arrangements. Boycotting has become one of the weapons used in confrontation with the police. If there is statutory authority, there is a mutual and reciprocal duty to make the arrangements operate. I hope that the Home Secretary will make this statutory.
Secondly, I emphasise, almost above all else, the necessity to change the pattern of policing, particularly with regard to home beat officers and the use of more street patrols. Again, as Lord Scarman said, operational officers must get to know their community. I know that that will mean more resources. The police tell me that it is more expensive to put officers on the beat because greater numbers are needed. A policeman on foot cannot quickly reach the scene of a crime a mile away if he is without transport, but I believe that the very presence of police on the beat will prevent crimes from being committed.
I know that more resources will be needed, but all my consultations with constituents—not just in the Brixton area—lead me to believe that people want more policemen on the street and are prepared to pay for this. Even if more resources are required, that must be done because it is part of the secret of obtaining the consent and support of the public.
Blacks and whites alike are deeply concerned not only about the level of crime in the borough—30,000 crimes in Lambeth last year—but about the fact that most people seem to get away with it. In Lambeth last year, only one crime in five was cleared up. Even that does not mean that somebody was actually apprehended for the crime. As the list of offences "taken into consideration" adds considerably to the clear-up rate, one realises that the rate of detection is disturbingly low. Most people believe that the mere presence of more policemen on the streets would prevent crimes from being committed. By getting the cooperation of the community and getting to know local people they might also help to improve the clear-up rate.
The Home Secretary must also take steps to ensure that any prejudice within the police force is eradicated. Although the findings in this regard apply only to a limited number of police officers, they are extremely disturbing. The right hon. Gentleman must also use every ingenuity at his command to increase recruitment of black police officers. I know that this is not easy and that the failure to recruit reflects the alienation between young blacks and the police. Nevertheless, more effort must be made to 1042 recruit black policemen and, as Lord Scarman says, to get ethnic minorities to become more involved in police-related activities.
I believe, too, that a change must be made in the complaints procedure, because this will be to the advantage of the police as much as the public. There are two principal kinds of complaint. There is, as it were, the professionals criminal's complaint about the police, which is used to inhibit an inquiry. I do not think that any of us would wish to say much about that, although some continuous investigation may be justified if there are complaints of serious criminal behaviour by the police.
Most of the complaints that concern me, however, are made not by professional criminals but by people with no criminal record who complain about incivility, rudeness, and so on. If a criminal allegation, such as assault, is contained in the complaint, it is often an ancillary aspect. If complainants were asked whether they wanted an investigation into what actually happened, or whether they wished to allege a criminal offence such as assault, I am sure that most would say that they wished to ensure that the act of rudeness, incivility or whatever that occurred on the occasion in question would not happen again.
In my view, complaints of that nature are better dealt with by an independent element, together with an element of conciliation, so that at the end of the day the police are not defenceless. An element of conciliation and friendship might emerge from the investigation and lessons for the future might be learnt by both parties. I attach great importance to that.
I have singled out those five matters with regard to police policy and practice, although the Scarman report contains many others and I believe that the Home Secretary must pick them all up.
I wish to say a few words about resources. Of course they must be spent effectively. I suppose that the best test will be how many jobs are created as a result. My local authority has been castigated a great deal for the way in which it has raised rates and been involved in confrontation with its ratepayers, but the figures tell a ghastly tale. The rate support grant for 1979–80 was £50 million. It rose, largely due to increases in interest rates and the like, to £55.5 million in 1980–81, but in the current financial year it fell to £49.17 million. Lambeth is an inner city area with crucial problems, yet its rate support grant—its main funding from the Government—has been cut by 24 per cent. in real terms over three years.
On the housing investment programme, I give just two figures for comparison. In 1980–81 the allocation was £54.1 million. For the current year it is £39.73 million. I realise that that is the highest figure in London. Nevertheless, it is a substantial cut in a single year. If that trend continues, in two or three years' time there will be no new houses being built at all, because those started now will by then be finished and no others will have been started. Moreover, the housing subsidy, which was £34.5 million in 1980–81, has fallen to £31.6 million for the current year. It is extremely difficult for a local authority to provide simple recreational facilities, so badly needed by the young unemployed, without money from the Government.
Finally, while relations with the police are a crucial factor, if I had to rate the causes of what happened in order of importance, unemployment would rank second. The figures are extremely high. They had increased 1043 dramatically before the riots, and they have increased dramatically since. As unemployment rises, crime will also rise. What worries me, however, is that unemployment so corrodes the attitudes of young people in particular that when the level of unemployment falls there may be no corresponding fall in crime and anti-social behaviour. The young people cursed by long-term unemployment may have their entire lives destroyed rather than just the period of loss of income.
Unemployment also leads to the loss of any kind of moral sanction. One used to be able to tell people that if they worked hard, gained their educational qualifications and were prompt in their attendance at work, the rewards would come. But people no longer believe that, because even the highly qualified find it difficult to obtain a job. Therefore, disillusion creeps in. It even creeps into the schools, because there, too, it is widely believed that even if a pupil achieves something in his final years it will be of no use to him when he leaves. I do not endorse that attitude, but it is understandable that the corrosiveness creeps back into the education system.
Above all, apart from a change in relations with the police, a change in the economic policy and the creation of more jobs are vital if we are to prevent such events from happening again.
On the 11 April, the worst day of the rioting, something happened in Britain that had never happened before. What might have been a quite unremarkable arrest acted as a detonator for a mixture of events and there was then an explosion and immense damage in our borough. It is significant that the rioting in Toxteth seemed to start under similar circumstances. Brixton was an explosion of frustration, pent up pressures and injustices, both real and imagined. It does not matter, when it comes to the crunch, whether the injustices are real or imagined. The consequences are the same.
My fear is that it might happen again. I travel, as I did today, through the half demolished and sad streets where the events occurred. Today, they are not so populated. There are not many shops open and there are not as many houses. The streets are snow covered and frozen. Eartha Kitt might describe them as being as pure as the driven slush. They are quiet, but I am afraid that within a few months, instead of being frozen, the streets could be burning again; if not those streets, others like them. Then the American ghetto nightmare will have come to stay. There is the danger that, as Lord Scarman said,disorder will become a disease endemic in our society.There is need for urgency, because those things might occur quickly. Time is short and not on our side. The Home Secretary and the Government must be as vigorous and urgent in their reaction to the report as they were in setting up the inquiry.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
I do not share the general approbation of the Scarman report. I believe that it has given a false impression of the problems that the Brixton riots caused us to investigate. Perhaps the false impression was started by the choice of Lord Scarman to investigate the causes. I respect Lord Scarman as a great judge, but I doubt his qualifications as a politician.
Lord Scarman I am sure has produced a good report on the facts but in his conclusions and judgments he was 1044 actuated too much by political considerations. After all, he is one of our most politically conscious judges, and for that reason his judgment was faulty.
The report is flawed and it is not of as much assistance to us in forming our future policies as most hon. Members seem to believe. The question is essentially about the maintenance of law and order. The importation of the racial element, from whichever side, does a disservice to those of us who are trying to obtain the impartial administration of justice and a rise in the standard of life for all our people.
I say that because the impression given by the report is that racial disadvantage is so terrible and so much deplored that there is some excuse for what happened in Brixton. Some people detest racial prejudice so much that they feel that they can justify almost any infringement of individual liberty to combat it. I do not share that view. We should get ourselves into great trouble if we adopted it.
Unfortunately, the report tries not merely to defuse the tensions arising from the incidents in Brixton, but to divert attention from the real problem. Are we justified in condoning lower standards of conduct for certain citizens because of their colour? It is a dangerous line to take. It is wrong, yet Lord Scarman adopts that view in his recommendation for positive discrimination to improve the advantages and position of coloured people in employment, in their social lives and in their environment. He also wishes to punish the police for racial prejudice. He singles them out, which is totally wrong.
Lord Scarman has, indeed, exposed the futility of that approach by his pious hope that the measures that he recommends can drive out racial disadvantage. They will not. Racial disadvantage comes from racial prejudice, and we are never likely to drive that out. We must be honest with ourselves. We have no more chance of driving out racial disadvantage than of driving out sin by measures that we take in the House.
In general, Lord Scarman's conclusions are wrong. He placed the wrong emphasis on the facts. His emphasis was on race. Wittingly or unwittingly, directly or indirectly, he also chose the wrong target in the police. He gave no emphasis to the wickedness of the wrongdoers and their criminal activities, which caused the violence, damage and suffering. In the report, the blame, if any, rests not with those who did the damage but with a faulty approach by the police in policing areas with a coloured minority.
The recommendations for positive discrimination will only make the problem worse. Reverse discrimination breeds resentment among those who do not receive the privileges given to the minority. If a white man saw a job for which he was eligible and qualified given to someone less qualified, he would feel just as much resentment as we recognise that a black man must feel. Presumably, the race relations legislation recommended would reverse the position and mean that there would be discrimination. To say that on occasions discrimination can be justified is to destroy our system. Such a move would be bitterly resented by the majority.
As a result of the rioting and of the report, it appears that more money is to be made available to ease the problems of inner city areas, especially where immigrant communities live.
The fact that there was a racial element in the Brixton riots should be enough for us to look again at our immigration laws and to consider whether we are justified in pursuing our liberal immigration policy. If we cannot 1045 reduce the size of this problem, at least we should avoid increasing it—and we are increasing it—by maintaining the rights and entitlements given under our law.
Our overall policy should be dictated by what is good for the British nation as a whole—for every member of it. I do not disagree with those who talk so much about race relations in saying that every person, irrespective of his origin, colour creed, and so on, should have equal rights. I have no doubt about that. I depart from those people when they say "But some should be more equal than others. They are generally the ones who are coloured. Because they find it difficult to work within our system, to adopt our standards and, if not to conform, at least to harmonise with our way of life, they should have special consideration." That is lacking in common sense and will only perpetuate the divisions and differences between elements in our society.
§ Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, West)
Does my hon. Friend share the concern that was shown inside the House and by many outside after the Bristol riot trial when the Director of Public Prosecutions, in effect, withdrew cases against two accused in the interests, as he put it, of racial harmony? Is that not an insult to those of ethnic and those of indigenous origin?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I accept that. We are all of ethnic origin. The trouble is that there is a sort of language about race relations which, more often than not, serves only to confuse and to obscure the realities. I deplore the adoption of different attitudes towards problems according to their racial content wherever that occurs, but especially in the enforcement of the criminal law. I agree with my hon. Friend about that.
Whenever we talk about race relations in the House—and now, when we are talking about an eruption of violence—we too often ignore the fact that some areas of this country are inhabited by people who are unwilling to accept and openly reject lawful authority. What is our reaction to that? Often we say that we should excuse them and reduce our own standards; that we must adjust our law to make it possible for such people to conform. Instead, we should say that this is all the more reason for applying the law indifferently to every person, whatever his origin, religion or race.
Everyone should be expected to live up to the standards involved in being a British citizen. There should be no excuses—certainly not with regard to breaking the criminal law—for anyone on grounds of origin, poverty, defective education, inability to speak English, and so on. We should not lower our standards to accommodate such people. We should not give them privileges. The problems of poverty and unemployment are with us all. They are not different in kind simply because some of us are white and others are black. They are problems which we share equally. We shall resolve them quicker and more successfully if we accept that everyone should be treated in the same way and that the same standards should apply to us all.
§ Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Scotland Exchange)
I should like to deal mainly with the Toxteth riots. No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton) will deal with the Moss Side riots.
1046 I represented part of Toxteth between 1970 and 1974, particularly the Granby ward, which is where nearly all the riots and disturbances took place. The tragic death of a young man who was killed by a police vehicle and the serious injury of another young man took place in my constituency. I hope that the inquiries into those two incidents will be expedited, because it is now nearly six months after the events.
I was not surprised by the riots in Toxteth. Over the last couple of years I have raised on the Floor of this House, at Question Time and in debates—it is recorded in theOfficial Report—the whole problem of the danger of riots in Liverpool. I have raised the matter with the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Employment and with the Home Secretary. It is unfortunate that my warnings were ignored.
The warnings of the community relations council were ignored. Long before the riots, the council raised the matter with the Home Secretary and the chief constable of the Merseyside police, explaining the deep tensions between the coloured community and the police. These tensions were caused mainly by police harassment and some allegations and cases of police brutality and of the police using strong force against young coloured people.
During the four years for which I was the Member representing the Granby area, I had various dealings with the police on behalf of constituents. I had a meeting with the then chief constable, Sir James Haughton, and meetings with a medical doctor, a magistrate and a social worker, who brought complaints of police brutality and police harassment. I took up several matters with the chief constable. Following the receipt of some apologies, the police started harassing me. Twice they tried to frame me for motoring offences. I won the one case in court, but if a Member of Parliament dealing with constituents' cases can be dealt with in that manner one wonders how a young coloured man would be dealt with in similar circumstances.
The Government are well aware of the level of unemployment in the inner areas of Liverpool. I think that in some areas of Toxteth—the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) may have more information on this—unemployment is about 50 per cent. Some figures show that unemployment among coloured youth could be a staggering 60 per cent. or 70 per cent.
Paragraph 2.27 of the Scarman report states:Turning to Toxteth and Moss Side, while, as noted earlier, there are differences between those areas and Brixton, many of the features of deprivation and decay which characterise Brixton are there repeated. InToxteth, for example, the number of unemployed registered at the Leece Street Employment Office fluctuated from 1976 to 1980 between 17,000 and 18,000, but in the twelve months from June 1980 to June 1981 the number had risen by 3,000 to over 21,000. Unemployment again appears particularly to have affected young people, and within that group, young black people.The Leece Street employment office is in my constituency, about half a mile from Toxteth. The figures show the massive level of unemployment among the young people in that area.
The question of new housing in the inner areas, particularly in Toxteth, should have been pursued by the local authority. It is interesting to note that in the past two years the Liverpool city council, which is controlled by the Liberals, has not built one house for rent. In Liverpool we suffer the worst of both worlds: a Conservative Government in Westminster cutting public expenditure in 1047 the inner areas and a Liberal city council refusing to build any houses for rent. There are no such houses in the pipeline for the next two years. We have a demolition programme for the pre-war tenement blocks of flats, but where will the people from the inner areas such as Toxteth move to when the city council is building only houses for sale? With the present unemployment level in Liverpool, how can people hope to buy houses?
A report was published recently on the failure of the Liberal leader of the city council to declare an interest in a scheme, affecting his company, which turned a private housing area into an industrial estate. I understand that the matter has been raised with the Director of Public Prosecutions so I shall say nothing more about it, but that is indicative of Liverpool city council's housing policy.
I mentioned earlier the massive cuts in voluntary services imposed by the city council. I received a letter from the Catholic Council of Social Services expressing its grave concern at the massive cuts which affect the areas we are discussing. I also received a letter which gave an indication of the severity of the cuts that the Dehon centre—a Roman Catholic youth club in the heart of Toxteth which caters for white youngsters, Chinese and half-casts—is in danger of closing. The Methodist club in Princess Park in the Toxteth area is also in danger of closure. I understand that Lady Simey, the chairman of the Merseyside police authority, recently stated that if the Princess Park Methodist club closes, it will mean another 400 young black youths on the Liverpool streets. I am certain that no hon. Member wants that.
I was born and bred in the inner areas of Liverpool—my home is three or four miles from Toxteth—and I want to see more positive discrimination in education, particularly in areas with high numbers of ethnic pupils. I want to see a positive attempt to provide real jobs for the young coloured people. We do not want the YOPs because the black kids are not interested in such projects. I want to see a major building programme of houses to rent in the inner areas, and the Government should put back in the kitty of the housing associations and the housing co-operatives some of the cash that they have taken away.
The return of the policeman to the beat has been mentioned. The hon. Member for Toxteth mentioned the great need for the return of the small neighbourhood police station and I fully agree that we need local police stations in inner areas that have so much deprivation, and we need local policemen who are identified by communities.
Let us hope that the attempts being made by the chief constable to build bridges among the community will work and that positive attempts will be made to maintain law and order without harassment and force. There is no doubt that the severe police harassment over a long period—perhaps over several decades—played a major role in the Toxteth riots, as did a small number of racist policemen.
Paragraph 5 on page 153 of the Scarman report states:Lord Scarman then visited Church House where he met the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend David Sheppard, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Reverend Derek Worlock. In an informal conversation, the two religious leaders spoke of the constructive role the Church had tried to play before, during and since the disorders. The two leaders referred to the long-standing relative deprivation of the Liverpool 8 area, particularly the extent to which it suffered from unemployment, and to the problem of relations between the police and the community.I wish to place on the record—
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman's comments, as he comes straight from the area. Can he tell me whether either the Anglican bishop or the Roman Catholic archbishop condemned the riots as sin and evil?
§ Mr. Parry
The archbishop and the bishop of Liverpool expressed their concern from the beginning of the riots. The archbishop chaired a meeting at the request of the chief constable immediately following the riots, and, as I understand it, is to chair another meeting in the near future, again at the request of the chief constable.
The Liverpool church leaders have, over the years, been much involved in making public statements about multiple deprivation and the massive unemployment in Liverpool. They both took part in a march against job losses in Liverpool some years ago. We are fortunate to have two such church leaders in Liverpool.
I hope that the Government will take on board the Scarman recommendations in total. If they do not, I fear that there will always be the danger of another round of riots; if that happens, I fear that they could be far more severe than the last.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
The debate has been characterised by the personal experiences of hon. Members of the areas where the riots took place. I shall draw the attention of the House to an area of rioting which has not yet been mentioned but which is adjacent to my constituency—Southall. The events there have rightly been described as different from those of Brixton, Toxteth and other areas, but they were of equal importance.
Much emphasis has been placed on the need to improve educational provision for black children as well as for all others. I ran a school of more than 2,000 pupils, including 700 black children, for seven years. There is no other way of running a school than to say "There shall be equal treatment and equal opportunity for everybody". I particularly agree with those hon. Members who have emphasised that aspect and I know that many Lambeth schools—I was in the London education service for 22 years—have good head teachers and staff and that they would agree with me that when one is at the coalface—we are at some distance from it in the House—one must take a realistic view. Equal treatment means equal opportunities in curriculum and teaching, and equal treatment in discipline for everybody.
When people talk of positive discrimination in teaching, they ought more properly to say—the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) agreed with me on this—that in order to give equal opportunity to all children we must provide more resources for some than for others. That is what giving equal opportunity means, and that is much more acceptable to taxpayers and ratepayers than is talking loosely in terms of positive discrimination.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) referred to education, but he mentioned only one aspect of it. When he was pressed to say what he thought could be done, he said that much more money should be spent on teaching English as a second language. In London, and in many parts of Birmingham, which I know because I lived there for many years, that is a diminishing requirement and one on which we can now 1049 save money. Some schools that I know have classes of one child learning English as a second language. Such classes should be amalgamated to save money.
If my right hon. Friend wants ideas about how money thus saved could be spent on education, particularly for black children, he should consider sporting, recreational and cultural facilities. I know from my own experience that when such extra-curricular activities are provided black children come flooding in to take part, as well as whites. It is a good way to get them together in a relaxed way outside the classroom, and it is a positive way of using resources. It is something that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook did not mention. About four years ago he came to talk to the head teachers of London, but all that he could say then was that we needed more money for education. He was unspecific, and we were unimpressed.
When we talk about equal opportunity in schools, we need to think in terms of more resources going to the disadvantaged of all races—poor blacks, poor whites, and the under-achievers. Moreover, we must not forget the bright ones, who are increasingly under-achieving in many ways, and they can be black or white.
A school of 2,000 pupils, like any community, cannot be held by force. That concept is fundamental to this debate. Schools, communities and the country must be run by consent. That has not been stressed in the debate.
There has been, and there continues to be, a massive failure in moral and religious education. That is central to this issue, but it has not been mentioned. If children had some concept of what the brotherhood of man was about—man respecting his neighbour in all aspects; his property, his being, his right to his own opinion, the freedom to move—they would not take part in violations of communities and individuals of the kind that we have seen this year. It is a tragic and wicked fact that in a quarter of all comprehensive schools after the third year there is no religious or moral education. What standards can we expect those children to have when they grow up? How can we expect them to respond to the sort of morality by which every nation must live? This matter requires urgent attention.
I strongly support those who have spoken about the need for more black policemen. In fact, I called for that a long time before there was any rioting. I based that call on the experience of black teachers coming into the schools, particularly in London. It is sometimes difficult for white teachers to handle black children who are in a state of what I shall call disorder. That can mean many things, but basically it means bad behaviour. Sometimes those children do not easily take discipline from a white teacher. A parallel situation may exist among the police. It is something that the white teacher and the white policeman have to overcome if they are to gain acceptance by black children and black adults.
It was a great help to me in my position of responsibility when black colleagues came to the classroom. They brought a new outlook on the way that we should operate. For the same reason, the more black policemen that we have, the better. I know that the Home Secretary has made every effort to do that, but I ask him to redouble his efforts. Every hon. Member should support those efforts.
I cannot leave the subject of people who are responsible for leadership in the community without referring to race relations officers. Many of them should make a more 1050 positive effort than they do at present. Often, when they talk to schools, they are completely negative in the way that they talk about our society. They should have a positive attitude to the society that they are discussing with the children. They should make every effort to bring out points of common interest between races, ethnic minorities and the indigenous population. They should not dwell on the differences. I do not say that the differences should be ignored, because they are there, but one must look for growth points. Too often they do not do that.
In Southall, race relations are admirable and can be seen to be admirable. Cricket teams sometimes contain up to nine nationalities and two indigenous whites. Sometimes it is the other way round. There are cultural facilities of all sorts which contain people of all races. For years the Southall police have laid on an admirable reception once a year, and sometimes more often. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) is here. He has always attended that reception, as I have, and so has the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell). Community leaders mingle with leaders of ethnic minority groups and many other groups. It is a great occasion, and it involves a constant interaction between sections of the community and the police.
Constant interaction is what is needed. In schools, interaction among teachers, heads, and visitors brings about integrated growth in the children. The same is true of all communities. It is an admirable happening in Southall, and I congratulate the police on their constant initiative in promoting it.
The problem arises in Southall when the National Front has a procession or meeting and the Anti-Nazi League, which we know is Communist-dominated, almost immediately sets up in opposition to it. As a result, there is the threat of a great row. I do not excuse either group, but I have always felt, as the hon. Member for Toxteth said, that democracy can handle the problem. If there is tolerance, the extreme Right can hold its wretched meetings, so can the exteme Left, and the ballot box can take care of the situation. Violence comes when one side decides to have a meeting and it is disturbed by the other side.
Lord Scarman's report specifically deals with the Brixton riots, but he says that the circumstances surrounding the Southall riots were different. As my constituency neighbour is Southall, I feel especially concerned. I have received many letters from, and spoken to, constituents who were disturbed at the disruption of the community there. They were upset at seeing police officers being bashed about, without judging who had been right and who had been wrong.
Lord Scarman says that the disorders in Southall appear to have been a response to what the local Asian community saw as an intrusion into its area by a racially hostile group of white youths. I think that that is true, but I believe that it stemmed from white youths being stirred up by members of the extreme Right coming in—they did not belong there—and then being opposed by hostile white youths and others of the extreme Left. That was the tinder for the situation that upset the Asian youths, and so we had that terrible trouble.
The orchestration of riots by outside groups of extreme political allegiance, both far Left and far Right, is very worrying. We need to make a fundamental stand on law and order. Those who can be proved to have broken the law must be brought to justice, whoever they are, not only 1051 to give protection to the community, but to maintain the standards of behaviour required to maintain a healthy and working democracy.
The difficulties facing the police are enormous, and Lord Scarman must be praised for understanding their dilemma so thoroughly. This very dilemma is one, as he puts it, of how to cope with a rising level of crime while retaining the confidence of all sections of the community, especially the ethnic minority groups.
We should all support Lord Scarman in praising the police for their handling of the riots, and we should not forget the fire service and the ambulance services, which did a splendid job during these difficulties. It is easy to criticise from a cosy distance, but that cosy distance should be made a necessary distance for schoolchildren.
The pressure on schoolchildren in areas such as Southall from extreme political groups worries me and is unfair and democratically damaging. In my view, it is necessary to forbid—I would forbid—the distribution of leaflets and stickers of a political nature outside schools. The present law is unsatisfactory, because children can be importuned and pestered as they go into school and come out of it by extreme political groups of the Left and the Right, and there is nothing that the school or the police can do. One cannot move these people down the road. They have the right to do what they do, but it must be seen as unfair to children of school age. Extremely unpleasant literature is often distributed and that can make things difficult for the school. It is unhelpful to everybody, and I should like to see something done about it.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
I have been listening with the greatest care and interest to what my hon. Friend has been saying. Would he advocate that the distribution of political literature from all sources should be disallowed in schools, except at certain times? He has to go either the whole way, or none of the way, and I do not yet know which way I want him to go.
§ Mr. Greenway
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. It takes me further than I want to go. I want to stop extremist literature being pressed on to children outside the school gates. It is damaging to school discipline and it is unfair to children. If people are not allowed to distribute such literature within half a mile of the school, fair enough.
I should not want to say that there should not be political education in schools, but for that there must be proper material. I rely on the professional judgment and competence of teachers to provide a fair balance. Schools should be, and in many cases are, a protective environment that allows every child to realise his or her full potential.
Lord Scarman rightly praised the ILEA—and I would add to that the Conservative-controlled London borough of Ealing—for its multicultural work and the fact that within its schools it sets out to see that each child is valued. If each child is allowed his individuality, whatever his colour or race, he will be a happier child than if the reverse is the situation.
For the good of our whole future as a happy working society we need to engage the interest and involvement of the black community in every aspect of life. The implicit message of Lord Scarman, as I read him, is that attitudes are at the root of our inner city problems. Some blacks genuinely feel that those who run the institutions 1052 governing their lives are unsympathetic to them. Black children will think only in terms of offering themselves as leaders in adulthood if they can identify with those who lead them in childhood. In a position of leadership, especially with children, but not only with children, one has to try to establish a rapport between teacher and taught, between leader and led, so that the led are inspired to make their own contribution when it comes.
I believe that to talk of "positive discrimination" is to use a dangerous term, for the reason that I have given. It is also an expression that alienates both groups—both those who are discriminated in favour of, who do not want to be patronised, and those who are discriminated against, who take up an anti-attitude against a favoured group. It is a dangerous situation. To achieve healthy attitudes in a community, all must feel equal in it.
I recently had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Mauritius, which is a multicultural society. One finds Portuguese, French, British and a whole range of white and black races there. In terms of the distribution of faith, there are 52 per cent. Hindu, 17 per cent. Muslim, about 24 per cent. Roman Catholic and about 7 per cent. Anglican and others. There are some with none, naturally enough. That is a democratic society in which our country has played a happy and leading role and in which all cultures and races live together happily and in a contented way. There are 1 million people and only 4,000 policemen to look after them. Perhaps my visit was too short to judge, but I saw there a society in which multiracialism was a fact. That shows that it can happen, and I believe that our own society can be equally contented.
§ 8.8 pm
§ Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)
There are clearly many positive aspects to the Scarman report, which is wide-ranging in key respects. It is important—this has been recognised by the Greater London Council in its reaction to the report—that it recognises the ethnic diversity in our society. It recommends positive action to deal with the specific problems of the inner city area; it makes recommendations in relation to the area of training and selection of police, and for the screening out of racially prejudiced recruits at an early stage; and also to make racial prejudice a disciplinary offence. These are aspects of the report which have rightly been widely welcomed and acclaimed. What I am concerned about is that there is considerable difference between what one might call the soft edge of Scarman and the hard edge of Scarman.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said earlier in this debate that the Home Secretary's reaction to the report ranged between "strongly endorse" and "seriously examine" to "consider in detail". What I am concerned about is precisely what will be considered in detail and seriously examined, on the one hand, relative to what will be strongly endorsed.
In the report itself there are many recommendations which explicitly amount to a call for a further study of the problems. For example, paragraph 8.28 refers tostudy of ways of improving ethnic minority recruitment into the regular police",but does not specify any ratio to the ethnic minorities in the community which would have been a guideline against which the actual performance of police authorities could have been judged. Paragraph 8.29 uses the words 1053to identify scientific ways in which evidence of racial prejudice can be identified".On the other hand, the Scarman report, in paragraphs 5.38 to 5.40, rejects the recommendation of the Commission for Racial Equality of precisely those methods which could give evidence on which a more scientific evaluation could be made in an area which in itself, of course, is extremely difficult. The recommendation from the Commission for Racial Equality states:An officer not below the rank of Chief Superintendent and not based at the material station shall:To recommend a study to identify scientific ways of determining prejudice without in the report endorsing such a recommendation from the commission for the means by which the evidence could be gained is a very weak recommendation indeed.
- (a) monitor the stop and arrest statistics of every station and
- (b) where the statistics so require, investigate, and
- (c) where the result of the investigation warrants it, lay a disciplinary charge of discrimination".
Further, in crucial areas, especially paragraph 8.38, Lord Scarman recommendsthat in consultation with their Police Authorities and with local community leaders, Chief Officers of Police should re-examine the methods of policing used … with particular reference to:rather than different ethnic origins—
- (1) the pattern of patrolling …
- (2) the role of the Home Beat Officers …
- (3) the provision of opportunities for operational officers
- (4) ways of ensuring greater continuity and a balanced spread of officers of different ages"—in more sensitive inner city areas.These are crucial matters for better relations between the local community, in the wider sense, and the police. But we are told that "Chief Officers … should re-examine", rather than being able to have an effective structured relationship. That is cause for concern. It is therefore crucial that the overall recommendation of a statutory obligation to consult should be followed through. It is crucial that we should hear from the Home Secretary tonight that this is not just going to be "seriously examined" or "considered in detail" but that it will, in effect, be "strongly endorsed".
Further, I turn to a point made in the debate and which I endorse—that there has been no solution to what amounts to "the London problem" in police relations. There has been no recommendation of a new police authority for the London area. Problems clearly arise from this. There is a difference between the intervention by the Home Secretary in the day-to-day management of the police and the limits of his present powers, which amount to strategic overall intervention, or an overall responsibility for what is done.
I say this in particular in relation to the raids that occurred following the April and May events in the Railton Road area. I witnessed the damage done to property in what was perceived in the local area as highly provocative police action. I was able to say to the Home Secretary that, if the message could not be got on the streets that night to the effect that there certainly would be an investigation, then in my view and that of other Members for Lambeth constituencies there was a high probability of serious disorder following that night. The response which I got from the Home Secretary was that he was not responsible for the day-to-day running of the police.
This is a major problem. If there is no overall political accountability when a grave miscalculation has been made 1054 in a sensitive area at a sensitive time—as is now widely admitted in the Railton Road raids—then no one can effectively intervene to prevent foreseeable riots and disorders.
Of all the Scarman recommendations, it is that on the London police authority which is critically weak inasmuch as Lord Scarman's report specifically relates to the Brixton disorders, and new relations with such a police authority are implied by the premises of his argument. It really is a non sequitur to maintain, in paragraph 8.40, that there should not be a change in the Home Secretary's special responsibility in London.
All that we have again in this respect is the recommendation of further study. It is once more the soft edge. Lord Scarman states:The possibility of an Advisory Board or other consultative arrangements between the Home Office, the Commissioner and the London Boroughs at force level should also be studied.By contrast, a very hard edge in Scarman, and one that is likely to be used, relates to the use of CS gas, plastic bullets and water cannon. There is no doubt that in overall terms of reference the Scarman report is, as many of us expected it to be, remarkably progressive and liberal; none the less, when I make the distinction between soft recommendations and the hard recommendations, this is a very hard recommendation indeed. Lord Scarman says:Many of these are already in hand. I recognise the importance, and necessity, of your"—that is, the Home Secretary's—decision that such equipment as water cannon, CS gas, and plastic bullets should be available in reserve to police forces. I recommend that such equipment should not be used except in a grave emergency—that is, in circumstances in which there is a real apprehension of loss of life—and then only on the authority of the Chief Officer of Police himself.Chief officers of police are bound to be likely to consider that life is in danger if events like those in Brixton, Toxteth and elsewhere are repeated. The key policing decision is whether the use of, for example, CS gas and rubber bullets will provoke far graver disorder than policing by other methods. I am here simply talking about dealing with the symptoms of disorder rather than with the basic causes, for on those basic causes Lord Scarman again makes recommendations but disclaims the right to make specific proposals.
Attention has been drawn to this before. In paragraph 8.43 Lord Scarman says that, asa judge conducting a quasi-judicial inquiry, it would be inappropriate for me to make specific suggestions in the fields of Government financial or economic policy.I draw the attention of hon. Members to the fact that this is precisely why some of us were not supporters of the Scarman inquiry in the first place. I for one did not give evidence to the Scarman inquiry following my realisation that many hundreds of young people in the Lambeth borough, including my constituency, were concerned even about the nature of a judicial inquiry.
The fact that the inquiry was undertaken by a judge rather than by a committee acted as a deterrent to many of those young people. Scarman did a remarkably good job in overcoming that barrier and difficulty and in persuading many members of the community to take part, but he could not do the job that had to be done within the wider terms of reference of the complex economic, social, policing and policy implications of the events. He has admitted in the report that he was, in effect, barred from doing so.
1055 Unless we tackle the underlying problems of multiple deprivation in our inner city areas—which are concentrated among the ethnic minorities—we shall deal only with the symptoms of events with hard recommendations about the use of CS gas, rubber bullets and water cannon, instead of dealing with the basic underlying causes. Lord Scarman made recommendations that imply the spending of resources. However, those with real knowledge of the problems of inner cities—in the United States of America as well as in the United Kingdom—should be involved by the Government, from now, in a far wider ranging analysis of, and offensive on, the problems of the inner city areas.
At the local level, we should be talking about more direct involvement of councillors, community workers, law centres, day centres, tenants' associations, neighbourhood councils, social workers, housing officers and those who have to face the problems of maintaining cohesion within a local community. As Scarman admits, that is crucial if we are to cope with the problems posed by the Brixton disorders. If there is to be a community policing response, it should involve not simply policing of the community but involvement by the community in the nature of policing. For instance, if the liason and consultative committees emerging from the Scarman report do not reach down to the level of housing estates, fundamental problems will remain unresolved.
One estate in my constituency is only a few hundred yards from Railton Road. It is a modern, new, low-rise estate of precisely the kind that many people want, instead of high-rise, high density housing. On that Myatts Fields North estate, major problems, not only of vandalism but of law and order, already exist at one end of the estate, even though the other end of the estate is not yet fully occupied. There is de facto pressure for vigilante groups, and stray dogs roam the estate. Some people will not go out after dark, partly in case they are assaulted by dogs rather than by people. Why? Because sufficient police resources cannot be committed by Lambeth "L" division, despite major pressure from local councillors and myself to put a police substation—as a focus for police action—on that major estate. The key test of community policing demands the allocation of police resources at a local level.
Also expenditure of £250 million alone on the urban programme is woefully inadequate compared with the basic inner city problems. There has been an almost theoretical debate today about whether we should be spending the money. There is not one major urban area in the United States of America that is not losing money today, because it did not spend money effectively on urban renewal in the 1960s and early 1970s. Indeed, £250 million is less than one tenth of 1 per cent. of national income and that is the Government's economic response to a problem that—some hon. Members have said—could affect the nation's security if our inner cities go out of control, if the situation becomes critical and if order cannot be maintained, as it should be, for citizens on our streets.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) argued that race and "aliens" were the cause of our problems. He said that race was the basis of the community's alienation. That contrasts strikingly with the lack of racial difference between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. The striking thing about Northern Ireland—and now about Lambeth, like other inner city areas—is that in Northern Ireland for 20 years since the war there has been double the level of overall 1056 unemployment compared with anywhere else in Great Britain. In Northern Ireland there has also been almost double the level of unemployment among semi-skilled and unskilled workers compared with skilled workers, and Catholics have tended to be concentrated in the unskilled category. In addition, unemployment on estates" in various areas and, in particular, in inner city areas that are parts of Belfast forms the seed beds of the Province's problems. The problems are in large part caused by unemployment and deprivation.
Hon. Members well know that in Northern Ireland some people have been out of work for two generations. If we cannot see the relevance of that, we shall face grave social tension in this country. We do not need a crystal ball to forecast what is likely to happen in any urban area that suffers permanent deprivation with no hope of resolving it, or of being able to achieve the minimal standards of living, self-expression or widened choice. Unless we attack the economic and social problems of deprivation in such areas on a massively greater scale than the Government have so far proposed, events such as those that occurred in Brixton will be likely to occur again. In that respect, Scarman's positive elements are but a very small step in the direction of combined and radical reform.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
At this rather late hour, I shall deal with the aspect of the report that concerns law and order and the police.
We are an extraordinary people when we come to examine ourselves. The report was initially commissioned as a direct result of the riot. Yet, from the report, it now appears to many that it is not the rioters—who, I gather, were not condemned by local Church leaders—who are in the dock, but the police—the very people who exist to defend us, the people. Would any country in the world, except England, behave in this way?
I should like to support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), who deplored the lack of religous and moral teaching in many of our schools. That factor is vital in trying to understand the background to the riots and the failure of parents to control their children. I wish that Lord Scarman had paid some attention to those important matters.
The more I study the report, the more worried I become. The reporting of the riots was brilliant, but many of the conclusions are wrong and dangerous. I am worried about the gap which I fear is widening between many of the opinions expressed by hon. Members and opinion in the country.
I visited a number of public houses in my constituency two nights after the publication of the report. I could not help noticing the strength of feeling against much of what is in the report. The report was regarded by people as a typically trendy and liberal viewpoint that took into account all opinions, except those of ordinary English people, who, despite massive brainwashing by some hon. Members and by the media, still cling stubbornly to their deep-felt views and beliefs.
The report poses several fundamental questions, of which I suppose the most important is "Do people in this old, civilised country have to riot before their grievances are remedied?" There is unemployment in many areas of the United Kingdom apart from the riot areas. Yet many of those areas have remained calm and law abiding. I think particularly of my constituency where unemployment is 1057 high, but where there is an absolute horror of riot and violence. It would be monstrous if taxpayers' money were to be poured into the riot areas. Evil then, indeed, would have been rewarded. I hope that assurances that I received yesterday that that is not so will be fulfilled. There is great bitterness among law-abiding people, both black and white, in some of the riot areas that they were not interviewed by Lord Scarman. Did they count for nothing? Why were their views ignored?
The greatest damage caused by the report is to the police. Lord Scarman praised the police for their conduct during the riots, but the proposals affecting the police would have far-reaching and dangerous effects. He suggests that police officers should get the sack for racialism. Apart from being difficult to prove, that would have appalling consequences for police action and for the magistrates in the courts. Would not the police hesitate before arresting a black man if both black and white criminals were involved? Would not a magistrate hesitate to convict a black man in similar circumstances? Both police and the Bench would fear inquiries and reprisals from race relations bodies. I recently experienced this kind of follow-up after dealing with the problems of some of my constituents.
The difference between black and white people under our present discriminatory laws is that, unlike the blacks, white people have no redress whatever in these matters. I fear that the main effect of the report will be to undermine the authority of the police and injure their confidence in carrying out their difficult task of trying to root out crime. The whole trend of the report, as Peregrine Worsthorne said in theSunday Telegraph on 29 November, is to make the policego easy on the blacks.Is there any reason to suppose that the blacks will respond by committing less crime as a result of the report? The danger is that senior police officers, feeling that their promotion prospects may be damaged by too stern action, will act less and less in the immigrant areas so that, in time, these will become no-go areas. The young muggers will become more assertive and the police less confident.
There is an old saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." No longer, it appears, as a result of this report, is it "When in England, do as the English do." The newcomers seem to be told "Do as you please and there will be special laws to protect you." That is a dreadful end to 1,000 years of keeping the Queen's peace in England.
The police have to go to areas, such as Brixton, sometimes in large numbers because there is so much crime. There is appalling crime in the streets. It is mostly mugging—often against old women, young women, the disabled and those unable to protect themselves. There is also extensive drug-peddling and drug-taking. These crimes have increased enormously in number since the riots. The riots, with petrol bombs and bricks hurled at almost defenceless policemen, were heinous crimes. I know that the liberal element in England chooses to ignore criminality, but a judge ought to know better. If a judge lets us down, ordinary people will be left utterly unprotected.
Lord Scarman seemed to write from an ivory tower when, at the beginning of his report, he said that he watched with horror and incredulity the awful and terrifying progress of the rioting. My constituents were not 1058 incredulous about the riots. They expected them, they feared them, and they were exceedingly angry that the riots were not repressed more quickly and ruthlessly. Those are the law-abiding people that we in the House should protect. After all, we regularly pray that we may be godly and quietly governed.
If we must accept parts of the report, I fear that large areas of our bigger towns and cities will become lawless deserts, no longer properly policed, where innocent people, especially white people, will go at their peril. I hope that the House will have none of those aspects of the report, but will back the police fully in their difficult task of dealing with crime in those troubled areas.
§ Mr. George Morton (Manchester, Moss Side)
I shall not follow the argument of the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), who I believe differs from nearly everyone in the House—
§ Mr. Morton
I do not need the advice of the hon. Gentleman to do that.
I welcome Lord Scarman's recommendations, which are highly relevant to the position in Manchester. I point out to the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge that there is no argument in the report that black people or any other people should be treated differently if they are criminals. Our worry is that some black people are regarded as criminals whether they are or not.
Last July, in Manchester, we had one day on which disturbances horrified us and a subsequent day on which police action resolved the matter but gave cause for equal worry. The police showed their authority and since then there has been apparent calm. The basic reasonableness of Manchester' asserted itself and the atmosphere in Moss Side is now much as it was before.
That is a two-edged argument. It is not a complacent argument, because many people were anxious about the conditions and remain anxious because of the lack of conviction of Government action and response. It is worrying to many of us that it appears that recent arguments about the problems of the inner cities, such as unemployment and racial disadvantage, had been ignored before the outburst this year. It was only after the eruptions at Brixton, Toxteth and Moss Side that the Government appeared to respond to the problem. Perhaps because the disturbances at Moss Side were less violent, the people there believe that to some extent they have been overlooked.
The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) referred to the importance of attitudes rather than immediate methods. That is the basic problem that we must tackle. There is an urgent need for real contact and understanding between the police force and the local people and it is to that need that the recommendations about the training of recruits, in-service training and the supervision of new officers are most relevant.
The responsibility of the police to the community can be seen only on the street. Contact must exist on the street as well as in consultation at divisional level with, I hope, political responsibility at county level. We are still worried that the lack of communication leads to blanket descriptions of unknown antagonists. Some policemen 1059 appear to regard all black youngsters as potential criminals. They give people criminal records by presenting cases on which, in other circumstances, they might not take action. Equally, youngsters regard all policemen—quite wrongly—as authoritarian and oppressive.
There is a tendency in Manchester for the police to accept the problems of youngsters but to see the people employed in the youth and community service as political provocateurs. That is a case of killing the messenger who brings bad news. Lord Scarman rightly says that in the inner city areas, and elsewhere, policemen require methods that do not destroy the human factor. It is essential that the police be seen as part of, and responsible to, the community they serve.
I am glad that there is a greater acceptance of the defects in the complaints system. A better system would produce savings. Currently, the great majority of cases involve a vast amount of police time, but produce a result that does not satisfy the complainant and, in general, irritates the officer concerned. I hope that an independent element can be used so that there is the informal discussion about the introduction of cases that was recommended by both Lord Scarman and the tribunal committee in Manchester.
It would be an offensive play on words to say that the problem of the police in Moss Side is a black and white issue. In many ways it is not a racial issue, but one in which too many people see absolute opposites and fear groups that they do not understand, rather than differentiating among individuals whose personal good or evil and respect for law and order is in various stages of grey.
The issues to which we should be paying most attention are those of social deprivation. Scarman's three major areas were housing, education and unemployment. Unemployment must be the top of the list in Manchester. Its appallingly high level, especially among youngsters in Moss Side, cannot be solved in isolation from the remainder of the conurbation. While Manchester is losing jobs at such a disastrous rate, it will not be possible to generate new jobs for those in the inner city. It is necessary to develop local initiatives for local jobs. People are looking for new enterprises on a local co-operative basis, but unemployment on its present scale cannot be overcome without changes in national policy. It is hard, in present conditions, to give strength to new initiatives.
While one welcomes the statement by the Secretary of State for the Environment yesterday about increased resources for the urban programme—any increase is to be welcomed—that welcome is tempered by the knowledge that he has removed, on a far larger scale, resources from inner Manchester through the reduction of the rate support grant and by the change in the balance between the Metropolitan and shire county areas. I would be more impressed by a proposal that did justice to the inner areas of the country as a whole. It is clearly too much to expect that from this Government.
I am glad that the increased finance will go towards constuction because unemployment in the building industry is an appalling waste of resources when so much needs to be done. I cannot understand the obsession with low-cost ownership. There is a pressing need for houses to rent in Moss Side and little money for the local authority or the housing associations to do anything about the problem. There is a need for a regeneration of the 1060 improvement programme for older houses, which will give a far greater opportunity for most people to own a house than does new building.
Lord Scarman recommends not just a small adjustment to the system but a basic change of priorities to overcome the problems of unemployment and the underlying racial discrimination. The inner cities are the extreme example of the unfairness of our present society, and the Government have failed to do anything but increase that unfairness. Lord Scarman pointed out the urgency of dealing with these problems. This year's riots shocked us out of our complacency. I hope that we shall not now settle back into it.
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
Like other hon. Members, I share the admiration for the succinct and excellently written way in which Lord Scarman has given us an opportunity to concentrate our minds on some of the fundamental problems that confront British society. I do not have the time to discuss some of the alleys along which he has led us, but I should like to examine the question of discrimination.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) set out, yet again, some of the causes, as he sees them, of the tensions within our society arising from the alienness of its new members. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) identified their number as being about 3¼million. The right hon. Member for Down, South was right to say that we require information on the nature of our society and that we should be given the projections for the character and shape of our cities in the years to come. I agree with that, but not for the same reasons as the right hon. Gentleman.
One can identify people of a different skin as alien, but many, if not all, those people were born citizens of the United Kingdom or are British citizens in the sense that they were citizens of our colonial inheritance. In the days of our splendour and greatness we were only too eager to attest to their Britishness. Many have now come to this country, but those who have not share with me the same cause of my citizenship in that they were also born here. That observation is open to us all.
Underlying our problems of identifying where we are going in the next 10 or 20 years is the need to ascertain with confidence who we are as a people. I can distinguish from my neighbour by virtue of his colour, but that does not make him any less virtuous as a citizen or any less entitled to the protections, the enjoyments and the rights of membership of my country.
What is it that has given to those people who are of a different colour from me a lack of confidence that this society accepts them and regards them as having the same rights as ourselves? In following the pathway of the right hon. Member for Down, South, I can see only the counsel of despair. I did not wish that we were here, but we are here. I am the inheritor, as are most hon. Members of my age and generation, of a country of about 50 million whites and 3¾ million blacks. Rather than regret that, we must move forward and try to ascertain with confidence that we have pride and pleasure in the nature of where we are today. Only from that can we make some form of advance. If we do not face the challenges successfully, we shall be driven asunder, even more than we are today. I shall not 1061 go much further down that road, except to say that we have a responsibility to the community to demonstrate our confidence in the equality of treatment of all citizens.
In a characteristic moment of wisdom, my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State set out inThe Guardian last July some of the principles by which we have extended our confidence in ourselves and in all people of this nation. He said:Fourth, we want to see them—that is, immigrants—playing an even fuller part in the community. The more some succeed, the more others will see that it is possible to do so.It is a fundamental observation that many coloured people in this country do not see open to them the avenues of success. When they look at the professions, at broadcasting and the Civil Service, they see no attestment, even after two generations into living or being born in this country, that they share in the governance and good order of this community. A striking quality of the sadness and tragedy of police action and the failure of central guidance over the past year has been the obvious fact that there are no policemen, black or coloured, at the highest levels of our police force. That may be a reflection on our universities or our schools.
The other ingredients, that I wish to see come about is an even more positive assertion from the centre that these people—our people, our fellow citizens—have an equal role in our society. I welcome the Secretary of State's comment today that the Civil Service will now monitor the situation and produce some kind of statistical base. I believe that the Tavistock Institute set out the parameters of this action well over a year ago. Why has it taken so long to bring it about?
I hope that the Minister, in replying to the debate, will tell us how many blacks there are of the rank of principal or above in the Home Office, outside the immigration service. Perhaps he will also comment on the number in the Civil Service in general. I do not believe that we can extend confidence in our intentions to what is a significant proportion of our people without showing from the centre that they have a full role to play at the highest levels of our society.
TheSunday Telegraph, on 8 November, itemised some of the achievements of blacks in public life. For 20 years, it is a very poor showing. That is a reflection not necessarily upon them so much as on our own lack of confidence in giving them responsibilities and responsible roles in our community. As a member of the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service, I find it extraordinary that no black or coloured person has come before the Committee. Searching my memory of those employed at the higher levels of the Civil Service, I can think of only one person—a chief statistician at the Cabinet Office—who might fulfil the description to which I refer. I shall explore that avenue no further than to ask the Minister to comment upon what positive action the Civil Service can take to give a demonstration and a lead in these matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) said all that my father could have said, and he said it honourably. I appreciate that he grew up in an age when he looked at his fellow man and saw 1062 a commonness of colour. That is a fact of history, and it is extremely difficult for nations to make the transition from one age to another.
I should like to think that there was indeed an Augustan age which was all that it is made out to be, but we have to appreciate that those days of splendour have gone. We do not live in that age any more. We must build from where we are today, and we must make progress. I cannot believe that merely to cite the divisions which are possible and which already exist constitutes a future that we can explore with confidence.
We must try to ameliorate the circumstances which make people feel alien by virtue of the colour of their skin. I have tried to say in these few words that generations to come will not know of our Augustan past—we cannot go back. We must build a new age of confidence and commonality of citizenship.
§ Mr. William Pitt (Croydon, North-West)
Having sat through the debate, sadly I am left with little time to put the view that the Liberal Party would have wished. I speak in these closing minutes not from academic knowledge or a passing knowledge gained from a rapid reading course or predigested prejudices, but as one who worked for six years in the London borough of Lambeth—in Brixton, at the sharp end. I worked for two and a half years in the housing advice centre and for three and a half years in the very streets where the riots took place—Mayall Road and Railton Road. I worked in the area until I was elected to the House.
The problem is a practical one and there are three solutions. The first is cash. There are no stresses such as those in Railton Road in prosperous areas. The leafier suburbs of my constituency, for example, have never faced the tensions of Brixton. We have to have a programme from the Government of positive investment in and encouragement of employment and house building across the spectrum and in education and health. That is the first part of the programme.
The second solution, quite naturally, is to pay more attention to the police. I could not agree more with everything that Lord Scarman says. There has been an almost total breakdown in the relationship between the police and the community in Brixton, which is not totally the fault of either. Sadly, it has happened, and we must have radical change. We must move away from the old attitudes of policing and the idea of an authoritarian force bearing down, which is how many people in Brixton see the police. We must look into community policing and we must have a more responsive attitude to police complaints.
It is no good saying that we must look at policing carefully and move step by step. We could already do that, if we wanted to. There are already provisions under the Police Act 1964 for so doing. If we wanted to, we could organise pilot schemes within inner city areas to start on 1 January. The question must be examined, and examined with speed, if we are to go through the winter and the spring and summer of next year without a recurrence of the riots.
If any hon. Member had gone down to Brixton the morning after the riots he would have seen not just remains but something similar to the results of the bombing raids of the blitz which I witnessed as a child. That is the effect of the riots on Brixton.
1063 Last night I drove up Mayall Road and Railton Road on my way home from the House. I saw the snow-covered and frozen ruins of people's shops, lives, possessions and aspirations. To prevent this from happening again we must take a more constructive and radical attitude to changes in policing the community and a more sensitive attitude to police complaints.
We must also have a more constructive attitude to the answerability of the police. It is no use saying that the Metropolitan Police is answerable to the House. We must, once and for all, perhaps by stages, make the Metropolitan Police answerable to a police committee, in the same way that other police authorities are, albeit on a two-tier policing system. I appreciate that operational needs must be paramount in many instances. I would not advocate discussions with the police about searching for IRA bombs or when they are on Special Branch activities. That idea is ridiculous. It is a red herring from the Conservative Benches.
The third and perhaps the most important factor in the equation is that we must have a moral commitment from the Government to a multiracial society. This must be shown in more than mixed cricket teams or ethnic concerts with music and dancing, or in saying how much the influx of Commonwealth immigrants has enhanced our culinary achievements. We must give the people who have come from our former colonies to become British citizens a sense of justice. We must give them the feeling that they can have faith in the police force and in the forces of justice and order. They must know that their questions will be answered, their complaints dealt with and their problems looked into on absolutely the same basis as their white brethren.
At the moment many people, not only in Brixton but in other inner city areas, do not and will not believe that until there is a total and absolute moral commitment from the Government to a multiracial society.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant and Waterloo)
I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's comment about a moral commitment by the Government. Throughout the ages, from the middle of the nineteenth century, if not before, successive Governments have expressed the most powerful commitment to a multiracial society. However, there have been practical problems in achieving it in the conditions created in Britain in the past 20 years. The problem is not a lack of moral commitment.
§ Mr. Pitt
I could not agree more, but we need a moral commitment reinforced by the other two requirements that I mentioned. Until we get that, and until the Government are prepared to act—for example, against racially prejudiced policemen, which they can do within the law at present—we cannot make sure that everyone, black or white, has absolute equality before the law.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
In general, the House has welcomed the Scarman report. It is interesting that the only attacks on certain aspects of it have come from two Conservative Members—the hon. Members for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) and for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight). The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) answered both arguments in a fine and decent speech, on which I congratulate him.
1064 The Scarman report will long be regarded as a classic document of our times. Not only does it describe the riots with all the vividness of a great war reporter; it sets them within the context of the urban deprivation from which they were born. Without presuming to offer definitive solutions, it places the problems firmly on the national agenda. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) firmly brought home to the House, if we do not try to find the solutions, the blame will be ours and people in future will have the right to condemn us. They will be justified in saying "They knew what was wrong. Why did they not put it right?"
The report clearly categorises the ailments that afflict our inner city areas. Lord Scarman points to the lack of amenities which, as he puts it, turns the street corners intothe social centres of people, young and old, good and bad, with time on their hands.Again and again Lord Scarman returns to the problem of bad housing. He shows that thegeneral picture of housing provisionin the borough of Lambeth and in Brixton in particular is "one of considerable stress". He states:Despite a declining population, it was estimated at the time of the National Dwelling and Housing Survey in 1977/1978 that there was a shortage of about 20,000 dwellings in the Borough compared to the number of households requiring a separate dwelling. The local authority's waiting list alone currently numbers some 18,000 households. 37 per cent. of homeless households, compared to 20 per cent. of households overall in the Borough, are black. According to the NDH Survey, 10 per cent. of households in the Borough are overcrowded, ie. one or more bedrooms below standard, compared to 9 per cent. for Inner London as a whole: but 13 per cent. of households in Brixton are one or more bedrooms below standard. Altogether Lambeth Borough Council has estimated that some 12,000 households in the Borough live in overcrowded conditions.He quotes the words of the Department of the Environment, which confirm thathousing stresshelps toprovide a pattern of deprivation in Brixton and Lambeth which is severe".The Department's evidence is that other London boroughs, such as Brent, Hackney and Haringey,face similar and, in some respects, worse housing problems.Those conditions do not sap only life in London. Lord Scarman reports that in Moss Side in Manchester6 per cent. of households are overcrowded and 15 per cent. of households lack exclusive use of basic amenities.My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton) confirmed those facts from his knowledge of his constituency, and also emphasised the grave problems of unemployment. Lord Scarman's report stresses that unemployment and poor housing bear heavily on the ethnic minorities.
In Brixton, Lord Scarman seems to have been particulary struck by the Stockwell Park estate. Repeatedly he refers with revulsion to what he describes as thoselow-rise blocks of flats with exterior walk-ways, and interconnecting bridges.He talks about the estate as a planner's dream which has become a nightmare. This is the world of "A Clockwork Orange" become a reality. Just as those planner's dreams have created a Clockwork Orange environment, so they have spawned the Clockwork Orange nightmare of crime and violence.
1065 What Lord Scarman discovered in Brixton he found repeated in the other places that he visited. This, for example, is what he was told by leaders of the ethnic communities in Wolverhampton:Racial discrimination, urban decay, unemployment, inadequate education and insufficient funds to tackle the problems of ethnic minorities combined to provide a feeling of hopelessness, frustration and a foundation for civil disorder.Again, in Birmingham Lord Scarman found that unemployment and urban decayhad combined to produce a feeling of hopelessness"—that word again—among the residents of the inner city.We all know what happens in districts such as this. As conditions worsen, the neighbourhood has an ugly label pinned on it. In Manchester, many people simply will not move into Moss Side, even when the council tries to persuade them that it is now called Alexandra Park. Those who can manage to move out of such districts do so, and those who move in to take their place are, by their very nature, often less able to cope with the circumstances that they find. So the dismal spiral of hopelessness continues. Existing problems are compounded and generate further and more intractable problems. As Lord Scarman puts it:It is believed by many that the bad name which some areas have got is itself a factor in preventing their regeneration and improvement.However, because the people are defeated so often, this certainly does not mean that they cannot win. Lord Scarman again sums up the position in these words:Inner cities are not human deserts: they possess a wealth of voluntary effort and good will.He goes on:It would be wise to put this human capital to good use.It would indeed. But how is that to be done? That human capital needs to be given a start. It needs help from other individuals and from the community.
One major lesson of the Scarman report is that this help must not consist of condescending acts of charity imposed on the people of the inner cities by outsiders who are confident that they know better. Not only consultation with those who live in the cities is needed. Their full participation is essential in formulating the decisions that will affect their lives. The Scarman report emphasises repeatedly the need for consultation and participation, and it is significant that the Hytner report on the Moss Side riots, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side referred, which was commissioned by the Greater Manchester council, makes the very same point when it says:There does seem to be a general desire for consultation before facilities are provided or areas redeveloped and we express sympathy with this view.Local authorities do not know best. They may know better than Ministers and civil servants, because they are nearer to the people thay serve, but no local council knows better than the people who live in an area what is good for that area. That is why Lord Scarman is right to insist that local communities should be more fully involved in the decisions which affect them. A from-the-top-down approach to regeneration does not seem to have worked. Local communities must be fully and effectively involved in planning, in the provision of local services and in the management and financing of specific projects.
If those in authority do not believe that the people can be trusted, who can blame the people if their actions 1066 confirm that lack of belief? Not only can local people participate in making the decisions; they can do some of the work that stems from the decisions. That is why Lord Scarman was right to make the important point in his report:It has been suggested to me that young people could be encouraged to participate in projects to clean up and regenerate the inner city. There is attraction in projects which could use the idle labour available in the inner cities to tackle the physical decay which is there so evident. It should not, I suggest, be too difficult to devise satisfactory schemes for such sorts of activities in place of current unemployment and social security programmes.All hon. Members who represent inner city constituencies can think of areas in their constituencies where unemployed boys and girls could do useful work for the community if they were given the opportunity to do so.
Lord Scarman describes how local people on the Tulse Hill estate in Brixton, when given the responsibility, can even enhance law and order themselves. I quote again from his report:There was now an elected tenants' council on the estate, which had made special efforts to ensure that ethnic minority groups were represented on it, and a home beat officer had also been appointed.Through the efforts of the tenants and the home beat officer, crime on the estate had been reduced. In 1979 reported break-ins had been averaging 15 a week, but these were greatly reduced and there had been none between the end of April 1981 and the time of the visitin July.The tenants' council was helping to tackle the problem of mugging.That is one way to do it and is not necessarily the course of action recommended by the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge.
While local people can and should help, they need help as well. Lord Scarman emphasised the need to assist West Indians to open businesses and most hon. Members would agree with him and the support that the Commission for Racial Equality added to his remarks. However, the local authorities must act to make that possible. One of the saddest developments of recent years in our cities has been the disappearance of small family corner shops and their replacement by ghastly, soulless and barn-like Asda stores and Arndale centres. The main reason for them is that urban development inexorably leads to high commercial rents. Family businesses simply cannot afford to pay them. Such businesses would come back if they were assisted by controlled or subsidised rents, and I also believe that that would more than pay for itself in urban stability and the enhancement of community life.
We need the diversity of people in inner cities. One way to achieve that would be the active promotion of owner occupation—I do not mean by the compulsory sale of council houses, but by making it possible for working people to buy small privately owned houses in their own areas which they could then rehabilitate and improve. I am glad to hear that Conservative Members approve of my remarks and I take it that the Government will now do something about the mortgage rate. Building societies could at a stroke make a major contribution to urban regeneration if they abolished their restrictive red-lining policies which drive people out of the inner cities who would like to plant their roots by means of owner occupation.
If inner cities are to achieve a richer community life, private initiative and partnership with private ventures can play a part, but in the end regeneration must principally 1067 be achieved from public investment. That does not mean that spending public money will in itself solve the problems of inner cities. The soulless Stockwell Park estate and the Manchester forts and crescents prove that public money, misguidedly spent, can make a bad situation even worse.
However, public money well spent can make all the difference between hopeful regeneration and despondent demoralisation. It can do that by providing all sorts of necessary community facilities—facilities whose importance Lord Scarman repeatedly emphasises, facilities that would draw those knots of young people away from the street corners, facilities that would foster the play groups, nurseries and organised child-minding services to which Lord Scarman refers and which are especially important in communities where there is an exceptionally disproportionate number of one-parent families.
Above all, public money is needed to tackle the desperate housing crisis of our inner cities, which is highlighted by the Scarman report—the necessity, as the report puts it, fora co-ordinated approach … to rehabilitating housing in inner city areas.One of Lord Scarman's principal recommendations is coordinated action to tackle inner city troubles, but such action is impossible without the necessary resources. The Secretary of State for the Environment is aware of the need for additional public expenditure in our inner cities. He made that clear in his impressive speech to the Conservative Party conference two months ago which showed that even his relatively brief exposure at first hand to the problems of Merseyside—I know that he will readily agree that it could not be anything more than that—had had a searing and unforgettable effect on him.
The right hon. Gentleman restated that belief in the need for public expenditure in his statement on inner cities in the House yesterday. I do not doubt his sincerity, but doubt the will of the Government to back up the Secretary of State's sincerity with hard cash. What worries me even more, and what worries my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser), is that the Secretary of State may simply not be aware of the damage that his housing and rate support grant policies are inflicting on the inner cities—damage that the relatively small sums allotted to the urban programme have little chance of repairing.
Yesterday, the Secretary of State announced an increase of £55 million at current prices in the urban programme, in a package that added about £95 million at current prices to public expenditure. However, when we look carefully into the contents of the package we find that at constant prices, compared with last year, the increase in the urban programme is far less—about £16 million. The extra funds are, of course, welcome, especially in the light of the cuts that the Secretary of State made in the urban programme for this year—Lambeth, for example, suffered a reduction of 4 per cent., Liverpool a reduction of 5 per cent. and Manchester-Salford a reduction of 9 per cent.—but yesterday's increases are far more than cancelled out by the sums that he is simultaneously removing from the inner cities.
In the current financial year the right hon. Gentleman has withdrawn £205 million from the partnership and programme authorities in reduced rate support grant alone. That represents an 11.4 per cent. reduction in rate support 1068 grant—much higher than the 7.7 per cent. reduction for the country as a whole. The areas that need the money most are losing most.
In addition to that reduction, the Secretary of State has taken a further £9 million from six local authorities in penalties for alleged overspending last year, together with other sums in another penalty package. Although he told me in the House yesterday that he was in discussing how to rectify the position for the six London authorities that won a court action against him in October, the authorities have informed me this week that they have no idea what he intends to do and that little more than three months of the financial year remain in which they can make constructive plans to spend whatever they get back from the right hon. Gentleman in the end.
The sums that the Secretary of State is removing from the inner cities add up to far more than the items I have mentioned so far. Seventeen partnership and programme authorities are to have yet another £44,666,000 removed from their rate support grant in additional hold-back as a penalty for alleged over-budgeting during the present financial year.
Then there are the reductions in the housing subsidy. In the current financial year, the 29 partnership and programme authorities have lost £144 million in housing subsidy. As a result of the Chancellors's announcement last week, 12 of those authorities calculate that in the next financial year they will receive no housing subsidy at all, while all but two of the rest estimate that they will suffer massive further cuts.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd
Before the right hon. Gentleman goes too far down this rather diverting cul-de-sac, perhaps he will recall that in the United States, from 1968 on, a series of major urban riots in Los Angeles, Detroit, and elsewhere led President Johnson to the "great society" programme to deal with urban deprivation, as a result of which tens of billions of dollars were spent on the problem of urban deprivation in the United States. As Banfield said in "The Unheavenly City Revisited", which I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will read, that programme was almost totally without success. Will he address himself to this problem: what proof is there that a similar allocation of additional real resources in the United Kingdom will solve the problem which it failed to solve in the United States?
§ Mr. Kaufman
First, I do not accept that I am going down a cul de sac; I am going down the main road. Secondly, I do not accept the analysis of the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) of what took place in the United States, or the analysis which he quoted.
§ Mr. Kaufman
The fact that the hon. Gentleman disclaims the analysis immediately I attribute it to him shows how little confidence he has in it. Thirdly, I repeat what I said earlier in my speech, that spending public money of itself will not solve the problems; it is the way in which the money is spent. To withdraw the money that is available cannot help but exacerbate the problems that already exist.
As I was saying, the cut in housing subsidy in the forthcoming financial year for the partnership and programme authorities could be as much as £115 million, and that would be on top of the £144 million that they are losing this year.
1069 Overall, in this financial year, the Secretary of State is removing from the inner city areas, in grants and subsidies, the enormous sum of £394 million. As my hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side said, that is why we greeted the Secretary of State's statement yesterday on the inner cities with only modified rapture. The extra amount that he announced yesterday he was awarding to the partnership and programme authorities is only 4 per cent. of what he is taking away from them at the same time.
That affects the policing of these areas, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) said. The cuts in rate support grant will affect the efficiency of the police service in inner city areas. Nearly every provincial police authority in those areas will be hit by the hold-back penalties that the Secretary of State still insists on imposing. Metropolitan counties are having money bled from them, and at the same time they are being told to give priority to law and order by the very same Government who are reducing their ability to do so.
The Secretary of State, by removing money from those areas, is causing enormous damage to the authorities. The effect of the cuts can be seen most dramatically in the impact on the housing programme. In his statement yesterday, the Secretary of State laid particular emphasis on the importance of stimulating the construction industry. That industry is probably harder hit by unemployment and the recession than any other industry in this country. In spite of that, the Secretary of State has cruelly reduced the programmes in the inner cities. For the current year he has reduced the housing investment programme of all local authorities by 27 per cent., but the reduction for the partnership and programme authorities, the areas which are demonstrably in greatest need, is even greater—no less than 29 per cent.
The effect of the cuts in housing investment can be demonstrated by national statistics for the housing programme for this year. Lord Scarman, in his report, pointed repeatedly to the importance of rehabilitation of the housing stock, yet figures that I was given only yesterday show that housing improvements so far this year are down more than 23 per cent. on last year. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry) drew attention to the cut in funds for housing associations.
Recently, on Merseyside, in company with my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), I visited a street which Merseyside Improved Housing had begun to improve. The houses that it had improved were a testimony to the admirable work of that organisation, but I say that Merseyside Improved Housing had "begun" to improve that street because funds had run out a quarter of the way along the street. The rest of the street was screened off by boards. The conditions for vandalism had been created, and the weapons for it were there ready to hand next time there was an outbreak.
If improvements as a whole are down 23 per cent., as I said, local authority improvements are down much more seriously—by more than 35 per cent. As for new builds, we shall be lucky if the number of new local authority starts this year goes beyond 20,000, and even last year it was 27,000.
The effect of other financial cuts can be seen in every inner city area. This, for example, is what Lord Scarman was told by Wolverhampton council: 1070The restraint on local authority expenditure has seriously affected the authority's ability to maintain funding for ethnic minority projects.In Lambeth, where the borough council has been hit again and again quite deliberately by Government penalties, many important community projects have had to be cancelled. Lambeth, given the chance, has many positive achievements to its credit. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said at the beginning of this debate, Lord Scarman goes out of his way to bestow high praise—his words—on Lambeth council for the work that it has done to relieve racial disadvantage. Yet projects that Lambeth council has had to cancel because of the Government's penalties include a swimming pool, a recreation centre in Brixton itself, a family centre not just in Brixton but at the heart of the riot area, a nursery centre, additional street lighting and open space improvements.
Is the country really any better off as a result of those cancelled projects? Are riots more likely or less likely as a result? Last summer's riots were a danger signal for the whole country. The subterranean rumblings which surfaced here and there—in Brixton, Moss Side, Toxteth and elsewhere—were an ominous warning of what, unless we take preventive measures, could be a disastrous earthquake that might shake our whole social fabric. The Home Secretary's appointment of Lord Scarman to inquire into the Brixton disorders was an imaginative initiative, for which the whole House will commend the right hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Gentleman may fairly point to any objections, but I think the House tonight has shown that, whatever its views on what the Government are doing, the appointment of Lord Scarman has created an important initiative—if it is followed through. The report lights the way forward for us if we have the good sense and resolve to follow that path. The Government are now aware of the imperative, and Lord Scarman has indicated the means that are needed.
It is in the profound disappointment that the Government lack the will to provide the means to fulfil the imperative that we shall be voting on at 10 o'clock tonight.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Timothy Raison)
In his concluding words the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) said that the appointment by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of Lord Scarman was an imaginative initiative. On that at least I can agree with him. I agree that his report lights the way. It is a document of real and lasting significance and it is right that the House has devoted today to what has been, on the whole, a careful analysis.
The debate has been carefully conducted and has been listened to carefully. I shall try to deal with a fair number of the issues that have been raised, but I cannot hope to answer them all.
I begin by extending sympathy to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Lyell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stevenage (Mr. Wells), who have spent the day trying to get into the debate. They have not had the chance to do so, but they have shown the House the courtesy of following the debate closely.
I am sure that the House has been impressed by the deeply expressed opinions on this subject, sometimes from 1071 quarters from which we would not necessarily expect to hear what we did. I was not quite sure, for example, what my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) would say, but, as the right hon. Member for Ardwick said, he moved the House by his sincerity.
If I have time, I shall turn to some of the features that my hon. Friend embodied in his argument. He contended that one of the most important tasks before the House is to ensure black success, to put it crudely, to ensure that the ethnic minorities, especially West Indians who predominate in the areas where for the most part the rioting took place, ascend the economic ladder. That is a contention that I am sure the House will echo.
I was asked about ethnic monitoring in the Civil Service. We have yet to undertake the monitoring exercise to which my right hon. Friend referred, but I am sure that the Government, like the House, will be prepared to accept that there is still a long way to go.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) used a phrase which, in a sense, sums up the attitude of most hon. Members towards the Scarman report. He said that the report was a plan for racial peace in Britain. If that is so, and I believe that it is, it is difficult to imagine anything more important than a plan for racial peace in Britain. The House has turned its attentions to the debate in recognition of the importance and the scale of the discussion today. I assume that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) shares that view. I judge from the way that he endorsed the Scarman report that that was his interpretation, and if I am right it is all the more surprising that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends should choose to divide the House.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the essence of his position was that the Scarman report should be implemented in full. Paradoxically, he called for a radical revision of the governance of the Metropolitan Police. Lord Scarman does not recommend any change in the law. He does not seek to substitute some other body for the Secretary of State as the police authority. It seems an odd way of fully implementing the Scarman report to pick out so controversial a dissent from the report as that which he apparently gave us today.
Uncertainty is not perhaps a characteristic that is usually associated with the right hon. Gentleman, but it seems to me that his response today showed some uncertainty. He seemed to be trying to turn this debate into a party battle, when to treat it in that way is against the mood of the House. His attempt to show that the Government's response to the report has been inadequate does not stand up to examination. He even seemed to be ambivalent with regard to positive discrimination. He called for affirmative action in stirring tones, but when he was asked what he meant by that he fell curiously silent and it was left to the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) to make what I thought was a good point.
The vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members feel that there is a strong case for doing more for those who are disadvantaged. There is a strong case for getting them equal to the starting point. When it comes to affirmative action to reverse discrimination and to quotas, bussing and so on, the American experience and our own instincts tell us that that is not the path to follow.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) expressed her doubts about positive discrimination. I hope that she will think carefully about that—as I am sure she will— and accept that we are 1072 not talking about giving unfair advantage to members of the ethnic minorities. That is not what it is about. The idea is to give people a fair and equal chance in life, but not at the expense of disadvantaging anybody else.
I come to the specific points to which the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook sought a reply. Our position on the statutory consultation system and policing, to which Lord Scarman referred, is that we do not accept that the Home Secretary's response on a statutory arrangement is in any sense unclear. My right hon. Friend has not ruled out a statutory framework for consultation in London or a statutory duty to co-operate in establishing arrangements elsewhere. However, we must work out how such arrangements would operate before moving in that direction.
As my right hon. Friend has made clear, we shall want to hear the views of all hon. Members on how that should be done. Lord Scarman recognised that there must be full consultation with those concerned at a local level. The role, responsibilities and powers of the liaison committees need to be defined closely, especially if they are to have a part in dealing with complaints or in providing lay visitors for police stations.
It is important that the arrangements should have the full support of all parties involved, and that is why we must look first at the different types of local liaison arrangements that already operate in some forces—thus building on practical experience. There is no point in imposing a statutory duty to consult without being sure that it will both command public confidence and work in practice.
The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) referred to a statutory duty or provision as a way of compelling people not to boycott discussions. That is a little naive. I would add that I and many other hon. Members appreciate the constructive work that the hon. Gentleman has done in his own constituency. I hope that we can continue to work together on this. I hope that, at the very least, he and other hon. Members will see that entering into a statutory arrangement cannot be contemplated on the basis of imposing it from on high. If an edifice of consultation is being built up, surely it is right to have consultations first about how to create that particular system.
§ Mr. Nicholas Lyell (Hemel Hempstead)
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the matters that troubles many people is the notion of control of the police by a local body? That has to be distinguished from consultation. As Lord Scarman said, the object of consultation is not to preempt judgment, but to inform judgment. That is a good reason for having local consultation, which is different from local control.
§ Mr. Raison
I accept what my hon. and learned Friend says. I am sure he is right.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook concluded his speech by asking me to answer five specific questions, and I shall deal with them in the order in which he asked them.
On criminal attempt, the Government accept Lord Scarman's recommendation that a close watch should be kept on the working of the offence of vehicle interference in the new Criminal Attempts Act and on how the law develops. I hope that that is categorical enough for the right hon. Gentleman.
In the right hon. Gentleman's reference to lay visitors to police stations, he reminded us of the recent debate on 1073 the report of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that we would engage in consultations about how to carry forward Lord Scarman's suggestion, which he welcomed as constructive and positive. The link with the areas covered in the Royal Commission's report will have to be discussed in the consultations. At this stage, I emphasise only that the thrust of Lord Scarman's suggestion is towards strengthening the flow of information and the trust between the police and the local community. The essential answer to the question asked by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook about the complaints procedure is that my right hon. Friend has already given the Government's view, which is that the present procedure must be substantially reformed. As the House knows, he has made that absolutely clear on several recent occasions. To go into the details now of how that will be worked out would be to pre-judge the work of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, to which the Home Office will give evidence.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook called for more selective bans on racist marches. The Government deplore the National Front's efforts to hold provocative marches in areas where they are certain to give deep offence to the local community and pose a threat to public order. My right hon. Friend has today given his consent to a banning order—made by the Commissioner—prohibiting marches in the London boroughs of Brent and Harrow this weekend. By limiting the time scale of the ban and the area to which it applies, I do not think that any other marches will be affected by the ban.
In recent months my right hon. Friend has shown time and again that he will readily consent to a ban when chief officers are concerned that planned marches by extremist Right-wing groups pose a threat of serious public disorder. Of course we do not want the scope of the ban to be unnecessarily wide. There are limits to what can be achieved under the present law, and Lord Scarman recognised that there might be practical difficulties in the approach that he discussed. Changes in the law are being considered in the public order review and Lord Scarman's observations are helpful in that context. My right hon. Friend intends to make known his conclusions on the whole Public Order Act later this Session. However, his recent actions are surely ample evidence of his present determination to make full use of existing legislation.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook asked about an offence of racially prejudiced or discriminatory behaviour in the police discipline code. Again, my right hon. Friend was clear. The proposals will be discussed with those concerned to find the best way of showing publicly that prejudiced behaviour will not be tolerated. On the other hand, we do not accept that an automatic penalty of dismissal should be laid down in advance as being appropriate. We firmly accept the philosophy underlying Lord Scarman's recommendations—so do chief officers, and so does my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). It is for chief officers and the Home Secretary, as the appellate authority, to put that philosophy into practice while ensuring that individual cases are treated fairly and justly. That is part of what must be done.
I hope that I have met the specific points raised by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. Once again, given what my right hon. Friend said at the beginning of the 1074 debate, I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that his case for dividing the House has been shown to be insubstantial. My right hon. Friend's response to the Scarman recommendations has—as my right hon. Friend said—been as rapid and full as anybody could have expected. It is sad that the Oppostion should suggest a Division.
I come to some of the other important points that have been raised. The debate has been marked by the deep sense of concern expressed by both sides of the House. It has also been marked by a sense of seriousness. That was reflected in many admirable speeches. For example, my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) said things about moral standards in our society, which we all recognise have a part in any discussion of the problem. Many other hon. Members spoke in the same vein.
Points were made again and again on the subject of policing. Several hon. Members, including my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde, my hon. Friends the Members for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), and for Edgbaston and the hon. Members for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) and others representing parts of Lambeth discussed the crucial question of policing. Whatever one may say about the underlying, longer-term context, it is abundantly evident that, in the short term, it was the problems of the relationship between the community and the police that seemed to trigger off the incidents that led to these appalling conflagrations.
The House will recall that Lord Scarman said thatstreet crime was a grave matter in Brixton, upon which the silent law-abiding majority of residents felt very strongly.He also said that probably a majority of the communitysupport police operations designed to reduce street crime and to enforce the law.Although many other parts of the whole conundrum have been raised, it is important to remember that that is what Lord Scarman had to say.
I should like to refer to Lord Scarman's quotation from the words of counsel for the Council for Community Relations in Lambeth in his closing address in phase 2 of the inquiry. The words were:If there be any person—and there may be—who believes that crimes should go unpunished because they are committed by persons of a particular shade of skin, the Council are not of their number. If there are any who believe that some of the violence to person and property which accompanied the Brixton disturbances were the legitimate self-expression of an oppressed minority, the Council do not share those beliefs.Those words of the Council for Community Relations in Lambeth are accepted, I believe, by all hon. Members. There can be no shrinking from law enforcement and from condemning the brutal violence that took place. I firmly believe that any readiness to accept or to turn a blind eye to crime will damage no group more than the ethnic minorities. They, after all, need the protection that the law offers. They can all too easily be the victims of crime, as we have seen so sadly in recent racial attacks. If the idea were to get abroad that the law did not operate among black people, others of evil intent could all too easily ask why they should be subject to it.
There is another important point to make. To say that the law should not be fully applied to particular sections of our society because they are different, disadvantaged or whatever the reason is condescending and even insulting. 1075 It is saying that the people about whom we are talking are in some way inferior and are not capable of observing the law. That is a false trail to follow and, indeed, a cruel one.
What, then, does Lord Scarman mean when he says:The law is the law. It extends to all and it must be applied firmly and fairly. But it must also be applied sensitively: and the existence of the discretion, which the law has always recognised as possessed by the police, enables them to police with sensitivity as well as fairly and firmly."?That passage in the report has raised some questions and I should like to comment on it.
Lord Scarman, in his answer, turns to the evidence of the chief constable of Greater Manchester. I do not think that, in current terminology, Mr. Anderton would be regarded as a wet or soft on crime. He said:It is right that the integrity of the law should be preserved but the means to achieve this can be different … it is patently obvious that when various social pressures and tensions exist within any particular community, it is imperative that police officers on duty in the area adopt a sensible and sensitive approach. This is not to say that they must negate their basic duty under the law or act otherwise than totally impartially.How that is to be translated into practice on the ground is primarily a matter not for Ministers like myself generalising in Parliament, but for the police on the spot. Clearly there cannot be "no-enter" areas or havens for criminals. Sensitivity in enforcement on the streets is easier to discuss than to put into practice. It should mean that before exercising his powers of stop and search a police officer satisfies himself that there really is sufficient reason for doing so. It should mean being sure that obstruction is really taking place before breaking up groups of young people hanging around on pavements. Should it mean simply a polite approach? Anyone who has seen the problems of policing on the beat knows that it can be far from easy, especially if the overall rate of crime is high or the atmosphere difficult. Patience and good humour, as well as firmness, are needed and these qualities usually come only with experience.
Therefore, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is determined to ensure that the training system, on the streets at least as much as in the classroom, and the arrangements for supervision and management in police forces are designed to foster those qualities. Policing on the ground is just as important as other apparently more sophisticated operations. We must get it right, but of course we shall not do so unless the communities are equally committed to the growth of good relationships and the eradication of crime, because policing by consent is a two-way process.
We all know that the riots represented one of the greatest problems of law and order that we have seen. It is a problem to which we have made our response absolutely clear. However, as well as the policing aspect, there is what one might call the racial dimension. The disorders were not race riots. Happily, they were not battles between black and white communities, but they did occur primarily in areas with significant black populations.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, although it seems that the disorders in my constituency of Southall were sparked off because of racial problems, in content they differed from the other disorders? Will he also accept what Lord Scarman says about the Asian community in Southall—perhaps he knows from his own experience as a Minister with responsibility for 1076 immigration—that they are law-abiding people, but that they were under serious provocation that night in a racialist sense?
§ Mr. Raison
I do not dissent broadly from what the hon. Gentleman says. I cannot condone the violence that took place in Southall, but I realise that there was provocation from people who, quite frankly, went there to stir up trouble. We cannot duck that.
We must acknowledge that the riots took place in areas where there are significant black populations. However, that should not lead us to the path trodden by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). Once again he quoted despairingly the phrase "the alien wedge". The answer to that does not lie in wishful thinking or fantasies about massive repatriation. The answer is quite simple. We know that we live in a country where there are people of many different colours and ethnic origins. We must face that fact and make our society work. We can do it, and notions that the problem can, somehow or other, be repatriated are illusions.
Lord Scarman left us in no doubt that racial disadvantage is an important element that we must face. I have no doubt that he is right. Equally, we cannot and do not shrug off the links between racial disadvantage and inner city problems. However, we must consider again what we have been doing about the problem. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary told the House, we shall shortly be responding to the important report on racial disadvantage by the Select Committee on Home Affairs. That will enable us to spell out more fully our policies on the matter.
I remind the House of some facts. The first is the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that he is stepping up the urban programme for next year by a substantial sum. Part of the urban programme is related to ethnic minority projects. The bulk of it, as the name implies, is related simply to urban projects, but even there, because of the heavy concentration of ethnic minorities in the cities, they will inevitably benefit substantially from what my right hon. Friend is doing.
I also remind the House of the decision this week by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to introduce a pioneering scheme for ethnic minorities in the Civil Service. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills asked how many principals, senior and middle-grade civil servants come from the ethnic minorities. If we knew the facts, I expect that the answer would not be satisfactory. What matters is that we must find out the facts, and this is a step in that direction.
I also remind the House of the considerable improvements that we are planning to bring into operation under section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966. That is the principal means by which the handicaps of Asian and other immigrants can be met in a realistic way. The Select Committee recommended that it should be retained as the major vehicle of Government financial support for local authority programmes designed to combat racial disadvantage. As the House knows, the Government already contribute about £50 million to that programme, with local authorities adding a further 25 per cent. of expenditure. We shall fill out the details of that before long.
1077 Many hon. Members have argued that more should be spent in that area. Obviously, if there were no financial limitations, no one would dispute that, but the facts show clearly our special responsibility to combat racial disadvantage—not in the sense of affirmative action, quotas and bussing, but by giving a fair start in life to those who need it. Lord Scarman himself said that it would be unfair to criticise the Government for lack of effort. He said that funding under section 11 for the urban programme and inner city partnership schemes has been substantial—and so it has. He raised an important point when he said that the real question was whether the undoubted effort had been properly directed. That is what the Merseyside exercise of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is partly about.
The local authorities are beginning to get to grips with their duties under section 71 of the 1966 Act to make arrangements to eliminate discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations. We in the Home Office are carefully examining our role in the light of the Select Committee's comments. We know that we carry the can in that area—not for those main programmes that rightly belong to certain Departments, but for the overall direction and climate of race relations. We know that when things go badly wrong, as they did in Brixton and elsewhere, we must pick up the pieces and account for what is happening. I assure the House that we shall not duck our responsibilities.
The House has heard complaints about the problems of discrimination among black business men. We have noted the comments in the report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry has taken a worthwhile initiative by organising a well-attended meeting of the United Kingdom-Caribbean chamber of commerce. It was not only a sell-out, but an overflow meeting, which produced points that we shall unquestionably follow up. There is a fundamental problem for West Indian business men in the absence of management skills. However, from my experience recently in visiting the United States, I know that with determination that problem can be tackled. That is one thing that we can put right.
When the debate began, I hoped that we would achieve a consensus in the House. I believe that we have done that. I did not expect that everybody would agree about everything—there are areas of controversy where patient thought and discussion are needed before we reach the final answers—but overall I have no doubt that Lord Scarman gives us a basis on which we can proceed, whether in the actual handling of disorders, in the development of our traditional policing by consent or in our approach to the disadvantages of some minorities. In all honesty I must say that consensus has not been the overt order of the day. The Opposition have decided to vote against the Government. Frankly, I believe that the Division is for show rather than for reality.
I do not accept that this country or this House cannot work together on what must be done. I do not accept that we cannot secure peace on our streets, tackle the crime that disfigures that peace and, above all, give a sense of fairness and equal opportunity to those who live here. I say again that Lord Scarman has given us a working text and 1078 also an inspiration in these matters. We have shown that we will tackle them. Why try to undermine that in the Division Lobby tonight?
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 140, Noes 216.1080
|Division No. 23]||[10 pm|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Lyon,Alexander(York)|
|Booth, RtHonAlbert||MacKenzie, RtHonGregor|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||McMahon,Andrew|
|Brown, Hugh D.(Provan)||McNamara,Kevin|
|Clark, Dr David(S Shields)||Maxton,John|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M.(B'stol S)||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Meacher,Michael|
|Cook, Robin F.||Millan,Rt Hon Bruce|
|Cox, T.(W'dsw'th, Toot'g)||Miller,Dr M.S.(E Kilbride)|
|Crowther,Stan||Mitchell, R. C.(Soton Itchen)|
|Cryer,Bob||Morris, Rt Hon A.(W'shawe)|
|Cunliffe,Lawrence||Morris, Rt Hon C.(O'shaw)|
|Cunningham,Dr J.(W'h'n)||Morris, Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil(L'lli)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Davis, Clinton(Hackney C)||Newens,Stanley|
|Davis, T.(B'ham, Stechf'd)||O'Neill,Martin|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Rees, Rt Hon M(Leeds S)|
|Edwards, R.(W'hampt'n S E)||Richardson,Jo|
|Faulds,Andrew||Roberts, Ernest(Hackney N)|
|Foulkes,George||Rooker, J. W.|
|Fraser, J.(Lamb'th, N'w'd)||Ross, Ernest(Dundee West)|
|Freeson,Rt Hon Reginald||Rowlands,Ted|
|Garrett, John(Norwich S)||Sheerman,Barry|
|George, Bruce||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Silverman,Julius|
|Graham,Ted||Smith, Rt Hon J.(N Lanark)|
|Hamilton, W. W.(C'tral Fife)||Spriggs,Leslie|
|Hardy, Peter||Steel,Rt Hon David|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Stott,Roger|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Strang,Gavin|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Straw,Jack|
|Holland,S.(L'b'th,Vauxh'll)||Taylor, Mrs Ann(Bolton W)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D.||Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)|
|Hoyle,Douglas||Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||White, Frank R.|
|Jones, Rt Hon Alec(Rh 'dda)||Whitlock,William|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Wilson,Gordon(Dundee E)|
|Kerr,Russell||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)|
|Lewis, Arthur(N'ham NW)||Woolmer,Kenneth|
|Wright,Sheila||Mr. Hugh McCartney and Mr. Frank Haynes.|
|Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Aitken,Jonathan||Edwards, Rt Hon N.(P'broke)|
|Alison,Rt Hon Michael||Eyre,Reginald|
|Aspinwall,Jack||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Atkins, Robert(Preston N)||Fisher, SirNigel|
|Bendall, Vivian||Fletcher, A.(Ed'nb'gn N)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic(T'bay)||Fletcher-Cooke,SirCharles|
|Benyon,W.(Buckingham)||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Bevan,David Gilroy||Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh|
|Biffen,Rt Hon John||Fraser, Peter(SouthAngus)|
|Biggs-Davison,Sir John||Fry, Peter|
|Blaker,Peter||Gardner, Edward(S Fylde)|
|Bonsor,SirNicholas||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir lan|
|Boscawen,HonRobert||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bottomley,Peter (W'wich W)||Goodhew,Victor|
|Bowden,Andrew||Grant, Anthony(Harrow C)|
|Bright,Graham||Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm 'ds)|
|Budgen,Nick||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Cadbury,Jocelyn||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Carlisle, John(Luton West)||Heddle,John|
|Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clark, Hon A.(Plym'th, S'n)||Holland,Philip(Carlton)|
|Dean, Paul(NorthSomerset)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Dover,Denshore||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Lester, Jim(Beeston)||Shaw, Giles(Pudsey)|
|Lloyd, Ian(Havant& W'loo)||Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)|
|Macmillan,Rt Hon M.||Speller,Tony|
|McNair-Wilson, M.(N'bury)||Spicer, Jim(West Dorset)|
|McQuarrie,Albert||Spicer, Michael(S Worcs)|
|Marten,Rt Hon Neil||Steen,Anthony|
|Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus||Stokes,John|
|Mellor,David||Taylor, Teddy(S'end E)|
|Miller,Hal(B'grove)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Mills, Peter(West Devon)||Thorne,Neil(IlfordSouth)|
|Monro,SirHector||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Morris, M.(N'hampton S)||Vaughan,DrGerard|
|Morrison, Hon C.(Devizes)||Viggers,Peter|
|Morrison, Hon P.(Chester)||Waddington,David|
|Myles, David||Walker, B.(Perth)|
|Neale,Gerrard||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Page, John(Harrow, West)||Wells,Bowen|
|Page, Richard(SW Herts)||WellsJohn(Maidstone)|
|Pattie,Geoffrey||Whitelaw,Rt Hon William|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Wilkinson,John|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Winterton,Nicholas|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Wolfson,Mark|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Rhys Williams,SirBrandon||Mr. Peter Brooker and Mr. Alastair Goodlad.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.