HC Deb 18 March 1982 vol 20 cc465-6
4. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of the Merseyside constabulary is recruited from ethnic minorities; and how this compares with the national average.

Mr. Raison

On 31 January 1982, eight Merseyside police officers—0.17 per cent. of the force—were members of the ethnic minorities. The number in England and Wales was 343—0.29 per cent. of the total police strength.

Mr. Alton

Does the Minister of State accept that that is a pathetically small number of people from the ethnic minorities who are actually involved in policing our communities? What steps will he take to improve that position? Does he accept that, until the height restrictions are removed, many Asians who have applied to join and have been turned down will continue to be refused admission into our police forces?

Mr. Raison

We accept that the numbers are too low. A national group is examining the problem. We are conducting a recruiting campaign in both the ethnic and national press.

As regards height restrictions, it is possible for chief constables to lower the height limit, if that is desired, but as a general principle we do not believe that it is right to lower the standards of policing to meet the point that the hon. Gentleman made.

Mr. Stokes

Is it not essential to have the highest possible standards of recruiting to the police force? Therefore, percentages for certain minorities are not of prime importance.

Mr. Raison

We should like the percentage of members of the ethnic minorities to be increased. We do not believe in quotas. However, I entirely accept what my hon. Friend says. We want the best possible policemen. Happily, the standard of recruits to the police force is improving.