HC Deb 25 May 2000 vol 350 cc1106-7
31. Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon)

If he will make a statement on the findings of Ms Sylvia Denman in her interim report on racism within the Crown Prosecution Service. [122433]

The Solicitor-General (Mr. Ross Cranston)

Sylvia Denman presented her interim report on race discrimination in the Crown Prosecution Service to the Department on 10 May 2000. The report recognises that some of the most glaring deficiencies in race equality in the CPS have been remedied recently, but concludes that there is evidence that some forms of race discrimination and institutional racism have operated to the disadvantage of black and Asian staff within the service. The report recommends various areas for future work, which will now be addressed by the CPS in consultation with Sylvia Denman and the Commission for Racial Equality.

Mr. Dismore

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for his reply and recognise his personal commitment to dealing with racism in the CPS. Does he agree that Ms Denman has clearly identified a trend within CPS management to downplay the possibility of racism, look for innocent explanations when those may not exist, and indeed, on occasion, blame the victim? Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that something must be done to change the culture at the top of the CPS so that it recognises that there is a real and immediate problem to address?

The Solicitor-General

As I have told the House on previous occasions, we take the matter seriously. A number of steps have been taken, which I have explained to the House. One matter that I have not mentioned is the fact that all CPS area plans must now set out clearly what is being done to address issues of diversity. There is no doubt that the report makes uncomfortable reading for those at the top of the CPS and those in senior management positions. Something must be done. There is not a sufficient number of black and ethnic minority persons at senior management levels. Now that benchmarks have been established, the CPS must meet them and ensure that the problem is remedied.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

Can the Solicitor-General confirm that Ms Denman's final report will review the impact on the CPS of the change in the burden of proof imposed by Labour MEPs voting in the European Parliament last week?

The Solicitor-General

That has nothing to do with the law in this country. We operate under the Race Relations Act 1976. We have made it clear that internally, the CPS must lift its game. With regard to the external behaviour of the CPS and the prosecutions that it undertakes, the recently published Mhlanga report showed clearly that there was no racial discrimination.

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