§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they have made in implementing the recommendations made by Lord Scarman in his report on the Brixton disorders of April 1981 (Cmnd. 8427 of 1981).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. The report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, on the Brixton disorders of April 1981 was dated 30th October last, almost exactly a year ago. If I may so with some diffidence, this was a remarkable report which deservedly won high esteem, except perhaps in the Monday Club, even though there may be differences of view on some of the conclusions. The Government very promptly announced their acceptance in principle of a number of the main recommendations. When the report was debated in another place 426 on 10th December last, and in this House on 4th February, however, the Home Secretary, and the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, not surprisingly, explained that the details were still undergoing study and consultation, and there are at least three major recommendations on which we are still awaiting the government's conclusions.
§ Since the report was published, I cannot discern that there has been an over-abundance of relevant legislation. Nor as far as I know has there been any comprehensive statement on what was being done, and it seemed that the time had come to ask for some account of progress. I am grateful to other noble Lords and to the right reverend Prelate who have put down their names to speak. I rather think the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is going to have quite a formidable questionnaire to answer when he comes to speak at the end. Perhaps I may say that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, had a speaking engagement just about now which was arranged a very long time ago, but that he hopes to be back in time to take his part in the discussion.
§ Lord Scarman was appointed under the Police Act 1964. I think that, for my part, I am bound to talk mainly about the police. It is right to say at the outset that we have gone through this summer, in London and elsewhere, without violence of the kind which led to the setting up of this inquiry, that police recruitment in general has been going well, and that, although the police have had their problems—what with all the allegations of corruption, which have been flying about and their almost incredible ineptitude at the Palace—they clearly continue to hold a high place in the regard of the community. All the same, no one believes that the problems pinpointed by the Scarman Report have been solved and that we can all just do nothing and hope that they will quietly go away.
§ I should like to pose some questions in the three particular areas of police recruitment, training and consultation within the community. First, on recruitment, I feel that there is some risk of attaching perhaps a little too much importance to the results to he expected from recruiting members of the ethnic minorities, but it is plainly desirable that the service should become more representative of the community it serves than it is at present. I see that the Metropolitan Police saw fit to announce for today's papers the modest success they have had in recruitment from the ethnic minorities. Perhaps the Minister will, in addition, be able to give us the national figures, both for recruitment and for the present numbers in the police service, and, if he does happen to know it, I think we should be interested to know what is the highest rank which a coloured officer has so far achieved in the police.
§ Lord Belstead told us in the debate that, so far as the Metropolitan force was concerned, discussions were going on with the Inner London Education Authority about courses for promising candidates who narrowly failed the entrance test because their English was not quite good enough. Have those talks prospered? If so, have any results so far been achieved?
§ There is another aspect to recruiting which I think is important, and that is to keep out of the service applicants—I speak of non-coloured applicants—who are likely to show racial prejudice. Lord Belstead told 427 us that entrance tests were being looked at to see whether they could be made better at identifying cultural bias, as he put it. Has anything been achieved there? What steps are taken during the probationary period and, in particular, in the training schools, to detect signs of racial prejudice among recruits who have survived the initial entrance tests? I am sorry to go on about this, but my fears about the matter and its importance were not assuaged by the behaviour of the Metropolitan Police Federation last Wednesday evening.
§ I come now to training. The Home Secretary accepted that more effort is needed to be put in and said that the Police Training Council was being consulted, in particular about improving instruction on race relations, public order, and supervision and management. I confess that over the years I have listened with rather wry detachment to some of the comments about the defects of police training. I recall that before the war not only was there no national staff college but also it was not unusual, by any means, for a newly recruited constable to go out on the streets with an experienced but probably rather cynical colleague and with no other formal training whatever. It was a major innovation after the war to set up the regional training centres at which all recruits had to take a 13-week course, as it then was. Be that as it may, I sometimes doubt whether that initial impetus has been kept up and I believe that the Scarman recommendations on training were among the most important in the report.
§ I know that a number of individual forces have done quite a lot. I believe that the Metropolitan force has put in a considerable effort on training in what they are pleased to call human awareness. Outside London I have had, for example, an impressive report from the Chief Constable of Manchester about training in his force. However, I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us something of developments on the national scale as regards both recruit courses and advanced instruction at the Bramshill Staff College.
§ Thirdly, I come to consultation. The Home Secretary said straight away that he accepted the need to develop formal arrangements in every force area for consultation between police and the community at different levels. I believe that guidelines were issued during the summer about making such arrangements. But how widespread has the response been to these suggestions? What sort of pattern is emerging about the make-up of consultative committees? Do the Government consider that they are achieving worthwhile results and, in particular, gaining confidence among the ethnic minorities? Finally in this context—and this is one of the missing pieces—have the Government decided whether provision should be made for them by statute?
§ There is much else that can be said—for example, about equipment, and the use of plastic bullets and water cannon. There is also the whole question of police accountability and the powers of the police, especially to stop and search, and the handling of complaints, on which we have just had a White Paper, which seems to me to be slightly oddly timed. But we know that the last two of these topics are likely to feature in a Bill early in the new Session, thanks to the modern practice of disclosing forthcoming legislation 428 well in advance of the Queen's Speech, and anyway, I have pretty well exhausted my quota of questions about the police. Before moving on, though, perhaps I may just slip in a couple more.
§ First, have any conclusions been reached about amending the Public Order Act 1936 or has it been found that, after all, the drafting of that Act, in which I am bound to say I had some slight concern all those years ago, is perhaps more adaptable than had at one stage been supposed? Secondly, have the Government come to a final view on making racial prejudice a specific disciplinary offence?—on which I admit I have some difficulty in going along with the Scarman recommendations.
§ The Scarman Report was bound to touch on matters going beyond the police and I am sure it would be a great over-simplification to put the whole blame on them for the riots. The police may have provided the spark which lit the fire, but the combustible material was already there. It seems to me that high unemployment, particularly among coloured youths, along with problems of housing, education and urban decay, must have served to create feelings of despair, deprivation and hopelessness.
§ It would unduly widen the discussion on an Unstarred Question to go into all those issues, and I know that other noble Lords are anxious to ask questions about Part II of the Scarman Report on social conditions. However, perhaps I may put in a plea for us to be told a little about plans for tackling the problems of the inner cities, including the involvement of the private sector, on which a certain amount was said at Brighton, and ask whether there is any feeling in the Government that what has already been done in, say, Brixton, is having an impact upon community relations?
§ In a short speech of this kind it is not possible to do more than just touch on some of the issues and I am conscious that, for example, I have said nothing about the excellence of much of the work of the police and the widespread sympathy for them in their difficult tasks. But I feel I have gone on long enough and I conclude by saying this. Racial disadvantage is still a fact of life in this country and stands high in any list of social problems. The Scarman Report cast a brilliant light on some of the more important aspects of this problem. Although no one expected the situation to be transformed overnight, we know that some action has followed the report—indeed, in some respects more than Lord Scarman himself had hoped for.
§ However, we are still awaiting legislation and it is a shade disappointing that in one or two respects matters have not moved a little faster—for example, on lay visits to police stations, on which, as I understand it, the consultative paper has only just been prepared. But any feeling of disappointment I might have in this context is overshadowed by my feelings about the reaction of the Metropolitan Police Federation, at the meeting to which I have already referred, to the policing plans of the new Commissioner. That is especially so when I think that among those present must have been some of the very officers who patrol the streets where the main difficulties occur. I fear that there is still a long way to go.
§ I well recognise the difficulty for the Minister of assessing objectively whether what has already been done on central and local initiative has, indeed, made 429 for a livelier appreciation of the problems by all ranks of the police service, by a heightened sensitivity and by a quicker response at signs of trouble. But I hope that tonight he will be able to give us some reassurance both as to what has already been achieved and also as to what lies ahead.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Lord Elystan-Morgan
My Lords, the riots which occurred in the spring and the summer of last year were undoubtedly the very worst challenges to law and order that our community has experienced in this century. What they signified and what they might, indeed, portend in the future, was of such nature as to send a chill of horror into the heart of every responsible citizen.
The report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, received as universal an acclamation as, indeed, could have been expected. It was rightly acclaimed as in incisive and accurate analysis both of the fact of violence and disorder, and of the menacing factors which led to them. The Scarman Report gave hope; it showed that the problems were not insurmountable provided we were prepared to pay the price of safeguarding our stability.
We knew that, if the challenge was to be met, then bold, decisive, indeed, drastic action was necessary. The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, has once again placed the House and the community heavily in his debt by raising this crucial issue at, if I may say so, a crucial time. Eighteen months have elapsed since the first riot erupted. The Scarman Report has been with us now for very nearly a year. In turning to the content of the report itself, I appreciate that I shall in almost every case be turning to ground that has been very well harrowed over by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale. Perhaps that is not altogether a coincidence, for I spent a few happy years at a formative stage in my life as a very junior Minister in the Home Office when that Department was presided over by his massive personality.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Allen, I turn to three headings: police and policing methods; a few issues of law reform; and some of the wider considerations raised by the Scarman Report. I deal first with police and policing methods. The noble Lord, Lord Allen, has already referred to the question of police training, and I wholeheartedly commend his attitude to the House. This must surely be one of the most fundamental matters raised in the Scarman Report. The question of training decides the question of what sort of police officer we wish to mould in the United Kingdom. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, ridicules the idea—in his most restrained and balanced language, of course—that a period as short as 10 weeks in provincial forces and 15 weeks in the metropolitan force (raised, I think, to 16 weeks in April of this year) is sufficient training for the most complicated and demanding tasks to which our police officers have to turn. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, came to the conclusion that there was a very strong case for a period of 12 months, but, realising that there were inevitable resource implications tied up with such a revolutionary proposal in terms of time, he came to the conclusion that the very minimum that he could recommend was a period of six months.
430 When the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, replied to the debate which this House had in February of this year on the Scarman Report, he was, in my judgment, extremely vague on the question of any change in the basic structure of training. I am sure that the House will scrutinise very closely the words of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, when he replies to the debate tonight on that very question.
There is then the question of consultation and accountability. I understand that the Home Secretary has shown clear commitment in relation to this matter by already setting up a number of consultation groups in relation to London boroughs. But as yet, as I understand it, Her Majesty's Government have not committed themselves to setting up a statutory framework for the creation of consultation groups. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, himself, in an important speech last Sunday to the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen, said on this question that:it was necessary for Parliament to act on his recommendations and make consultations between the police and local communities statutuory. Without that consultation, 'We cannot be sure that it will survive the rough times. It is for the rough weather that such machinery is required'... He could not see that the public would have confidence in such consultative machinery unless they knew that it was their right to use it and to make proposals for improving it.Therefore, we should be most grateful if the noble Lord in reply can state categorically whether or not the Government are unequivocally committed to a statutory structure for these consultative bodies.
The fact that the Government rejected the recommendation in relation to making racial prejudice a specific offence under the police code caused disappointment to very many Members of this House, I know. It was argued of course that it was not necessary, that the general provisions in relation to the standards of conduct were sufficient to cover this. I doubt whether any Member of this House was taken in by that rather thin excuse. It is a challenge that has been thrown down to Government on more than one occasion by the Police Federation. It happened in the late 1960s as well when my own party was in Government. On that occasion also, the minority—the small raucous, bully-boys minority which is undoubtedly there in the Police Federation and, which manifested itself a few days ago in the meeting referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Allen, in what was described by the Prime Minister (and we wholeheartedly agree with her) as "disgraceful conduct"—managed to get the Home Secretary to fudge this particular issue.
Is there any sense at all in saying that a police discipline code which enjoins a police officer to keep himself clean and tidy, not to indulge in corrupt practices and to deal, indeed, with a number of specific matters such as those, should not contain a provision relating to racial prejudice? It is not a question of dotting the i's and crossing the t's in the police code. The whole issue is whether the United Kingdom is prepared to show the whole world that, as far as its police officers are concerned, racial prejudice is regarded as a very, very serious offence. The Government have already gone so far as to say that they accept the recommendation in relation to weeding out those who are racially prejudiced when they are candidates for membership of the police. Why in the name of logic and consistency, therefore, do they not 431 say that proper sanctions should fairly be applied when such a trait manifests itself in a serving officer?
§ Lord Somers
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord for a moment, I agree with him, of course, that it is most important to get rid of racial prejudice, but when he uses that term does he mean racial prejudice in both directions? In other words, does he mean racial prejudice not only on the part of white people against the coloured, but on the part of coloured people against the white?
§ Lord Elystan-Morgan
My Lords, undoubtedly I do. In the terms of the force I see no reason why it should not apply equally in both directions. Of course, by "racial prejudice" I mean not so much what might be harboured in a person's mind—that can never be made an offence—but the overt acts of that particular officer.
I want to turn very briskly to the question of the wider issues of law reform. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, paid particular attention to the stop and search law and, indeed, recommended that much greater study should be made of some of the anomalies which exist in relation to the test of whether a police officer is acting reasonably in relation to such a situation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in fact referred to the report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure and I think indeed that it would be a matter upon which this House could well spend some time looking in some detail at the reforms which are clearly called for in this particular quarter.
Then there is the question of strengthening the power of chief constables in relation to Section 3 of the Public Order Act 1936, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale. In my submission it is important that a chief officer of police should have the authority, not to ban all marches over a period—that might, indeed, be very counter-productive and an extremely blunt instrument—but selectively to ban marches of a deliberately provocative racist character, and, indeed, if not to ban the marches completely, to ban them from certain areas of high volatility. I should have thought that that was a reform which would commend itself to the vast majority of Members of this House.
There are issues in relation to complaints against the police which are far too complicated to raise in the very limited time that I have left. I merely ask this rhetorical question. Despite all that has been attempted over the last few years, is there any Member of this House who is satisfied that the vast majority of the public are impressed by the machinery that is set up and regard it in any way as being wholesome, or is it not, indeed, the contrary that is the case—that the vast majority of the public are thoroughly dissatisfied with this machinery and regard it as wholly inadequate?
There are then certain issues that go well beyond the scope of the Scarman Report, particularly the question of racial disadvantage. I do not think that one can improve upon the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in paragraph 9.1 of his report, where he says:The evidence which I have received … leaves no doubt in my mind that racial disadvantage is a fact of current British life. It was, 432 I am equally sure, a significant factor in the causation of the Brixton disorders. Urgent action is needed if it is not to become an endemic, ineradicable disease threatening the very survival of our society.Housing undoubtedly forms one of those very special areas of disadvantage. The situation in relation to housing in Britain generally at this moment is most unsatisfactory. The number of housing starts last year—1981—was by far the lowest in any year since 1960. In the last two years, by changing the rate support grant, the Government have deprived inner city areas—a point that was made in the debate that we had last February—of some £600 million.
Although substantial monies have been deployed to some of the areas of disturbances, the question that I would wish the noble Lord to deal with specifically in reply is this. Bearing in mind the continuous deterioration that has occurred in the 18 months or so since the troubles first manifested themselves, is he satisfied that, despite all the money that has been poured into those areas, that has done anything more at best than retrieve the situation which existed in April last year? For example, in Lambeth in the 12 months since the riots, unemployment has doubled by 50 per cent.; in Brixton in the 12 months since the riots, unemployment among young blacks between the ages of 19 and 24 has increased by 71 per cent. Indeed, for all that has been invested, is the situation in net terms any improvement whatever upon that which was extant at the time of the riots themselves?
Sufficient time has now elapsed since the riots and the report for the Government to have decided upon firm outlines of policies. The time has surely arrived for the Government now to publish a White Paper in schedule form setting out their firm proposals in relation to each and every recommendation. We It is a polarisation made up of many ingredients—employed and unemployed, police and cynicism and to despair. Edmund Burke says somewhere:For evil to triumph it is necessary only for men of virtue to do nothing".For the disasters of Brixton, Toxteth and Moss Side to be repeated again and again in our society it is only necessary for Ministers to languish in complacency, and to be willing to turn to superficial measures rather than to deal with the challenges that confront them in the bold, radical way which the situation clearly demands.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, I think that I agreed with nearly every word that was spoken by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, on the policing aspects of the Scarman Report. I only want to add that I was delighted to see that the noble and learned lord, Lord Scarman, noted in the speech to the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen—to which the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, has referred—the fact that there had been substantial progress in the last year: in fact, more than he had expected. One is very glad that the noble and learned Lord saw that there were signs of optimism, bearing in mind that inevitably the two speeches which we have just heard have focused on the enormous amount of work there still remains to do. We should he under no illusion that there is a very substantial task to be undertaken before there can be any real improvement in the image that the police 433 have in the eyes of the black community. Apparently, as we have heard, there are still some officers who do not think that this is a matter of any importance.
But I should like to focus, not on the aspects of the noble and learned Lord's report which deal with the police, but on the analysis he made of the social conditions and their place in the aetiology of the disorders. I put it that way because, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, pointed out, the features that he looked at cannot be regarded as causes of the disorders, but taken together they are such as to create a predisposition towards violent protests. He says;where deprivation and frustration exist on the scale to be found among the young black people of Brixton, the probability of disorder must, therefore, be strong.Although there were variations in the mix of background factors between the several areas in which the disturbances took place last summer, most of them were inner city areas which shared some of the features of Brixton, and those were a high ethnic minority population, high unemployment, a declining economic base, bad housing, lack of amenities, social problems, including family breakdown, a high rate of crime and heavy policing.
It is fashionable for everybody to say that they agree with the Scarman Report, whether or not they have read it. That means that the Government have to accept the critical importance of racial deprivation, as has already been mentioned, and the imperative need to attack it with a far greater sense of urgency than we have seen from them in the past. The Home Secretary recognises this. In the debate in another place he commended:positive action … to deal with more effectively than at present the special needs of ethnic minorities where they exist in education, employment and housing". [Official Report, Commons, 10/12/1981; col. 1006.]To measure the extent of the problem he said that ethnic monitoring was necessary. He announced that monitoring was necessary. He announced that monitoring would be introduced on an experimental basis in the Civil Service and he hoped this would be helpful to other employers, both in the public and private sectors. I have to return to the question of ethnic monitoring later.
The first point that has to be made is that, having identified the extent of deprivation, for which monitoring is useful as a means of gaining in the precision of one's knowledge, the only weapon which is at present available for countering it directly is Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966. That provision, as I think all your Lordships would agree, has been woefully in need of repair and, so far as they go, we welcome the changes announced by the Government in the White Paper on Racial Disadvantage. That is to say, the abolition of the 10-year rule; the extension of the definition of Commonwealth immigrant for the purposes of grant calculation; the abolition of the requirement that local authorities had to have at least 2 per cent. Commonwealth immigrants on their school rolls to be eligible, and so on.
However, as we said when we introduced the Local Government Grants (Ethnic Groups) Bill, which had lapsed because of the 1979 General Election, we believe that the scope of direct action against racial disadvantage ought to be widened and that all ethnic 434 minorities should be covered and not solely those linked with the Commonwealth and Pakistan. Our proposals then were rejected by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, on the grounds that we were asking for additional resources. This is precisely the difference between us and noble Lords opposite, because we do not believe that the problems discussed in this part of Lord Scarman's report can be solved without additional funds, and noble Lords opposite seem to believe that in some miraculous way they can.
I am aware that the urban programme funds help ethnic minorities indirectly, and I very much welcome the small increase in these programmes from £210 million last year to £270 million in 1982–83. But this increase has to be seen, as the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, has already said, in the context of cuts in the rate support grant and in the housing investment programme which in many cases have hit the authorities with the biggest problem of racial deprivation, and Lambeth is a good illustration of this. The need for better co-ordination is just as great as ever.
Sir George Young, for whom I am sure everybody has the highest respect, was appointed as Minister of State in the Department of the Environment to consider ways in which the urban programme can be used more effectively to combat racial disadvantage. But having no executive power I am afraid that his achievements are going to be limited. I am not aware of any reshaping of the urban programme as a result of the Minister's work. But in any case I very much doubt whether the redistribution of these fairly small resources could have had more than a marginal effect.
Mr. Heseltine has spoken of the need to involve the private sector in his department's urban programme. This is obviously to be welcomed as far as it goes, but the fact has to be faced that most of the work that needs to be done in this area is not profitable by its nature, and to ask commerce and industry to put money into projects that are for the general benefit of the community is certainly worth a try but the response is likely to be fairly minimal when many companies are finding it hard to earn profits at all and dozens of them are going out of business every week.
The Secretary of State did have a worthwhile success, and I pay tribute to it, in persuading industry to finance some of the information technology centres established in Merseyside. I should like to be told, if the Minister could reply to this at the end of the debate, what results have been achieved so far through these ventures. Do we even know how many young black people have been given a chance to learn about electronics and computer technology, and how many of them have gone on through these centres to land a permanent job afterwards?
Lord Scarman recognised unemployment as a major factor in the social conditions underlying the disorders. I believe we ought to accept that there is never going to be a return to full employment as it was known before the first oil crisis of 1973. I believe mankind has reached a stage of technological development when the needs for shelter, food, clothing and consumer goods can be met with only a fraction of the labour force available if everybody, say, between the ages of 20 and 60 works for 35 hours a week. That is outside the remit of the noble and learned Lord's report, but I consider we are deluding ourselves if we believe that only an upturn in the world economy is 435 needed to bring about a return to the conditions of full employment we enjoyed for 25 years after the war.
To avoid the permanent division of society on new class lines between those in work and those on the dole for life, with black people disproportionately represented in the under-class of the unemployed, we must cut out overtime, reduce the length of the working week, encourage early retirement, make job-sharing easier, and extend the notion of sabbatical years to the non-academic community. But in the meanwhile, and assuming it is going to take some time for the establishment to adjust their thinking in this direction, strenuous efforts have to be made to see that minorities get a fair share of the jobs that are still going: and this is certainly not happening yet.
The noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, quoted some figures of unemployment among young black people in Lambeth. I was informed that the Lambeth Council reported in March that unemployment among the young blacks between 19 and 24 in Brixton had increased by 71 per cent. over the previous year. The leader of the Council, Mr. Robin Pitt, was reported as saying that 78 per cent. of black youngsters between the ages of 16 and 19 were out of work. And, by the way, the Home Office analysis of the arrests during the disorders of last summer make the point that between 40 per cent. and 60 per cent. of those taken into custody, depending on the area, were young adults between the ages of 17 and 20.
I do not know whether the Prime Minister still considers that the disorders had. "nothing whatever to do with the dole queue", as she told another place on 9th July last, at column 576, on the basis of the observation that many of the rioters were still of school age, as she put it. I think it is quite likely that the youngsters who are still at school looking at older siblings and seeing how difficult they find it to obtain work realise that it is quite hopeless for them to expect anything better when their turn comes.
The Department of Employment has expanded YOP, and the Community Enterprise Programme, and claims, I understand, that ethnic minorities will benefit considerably from this expansion. May I ask the noble Lord how many young black people are off the dole queues at the moment and how many off the register in Brixton itself as a result of these programmes? Do we know the answer to that question? The new training initiative announced in December 1981, particularly the youth training scheme, was expected to benefit ethnic minority unemployed greatly. Has it? The Manpower Services Commission was going to try to make existing programmes more responsive to black people's needs, to encourage them to use these programmes to the full and monitor their use. Where can we find the results published?
The Department of Employment and the Manpower Services Commission were joining with others in developing special programmes at local levels in the main areas affected by social unrest. While I do not expect the Minister to provide a complete account in the course of this debate, can he undertake to provide your Lordships with lists of the projects undertaken at regular intervals and the results achieved by them? The MSC was looking into the level of participation by minorities in its business and 436 management courses. What was the result of this study, and if the number of black people on the courses was unsatisfactory, what steps have been taken to increase it? Finally, on the question of employment, what positive action are the Government taking to bring minorities up to a common starting level in those skill areas where they are under-represented, as is provided for under Sections 37 and 38 of the Race Relations Act? I believe that my noble friend Lady Seear will be saying more about this later.
I now turn for a moment to housing, and I need not remind your Lordships of the stark picture painted by the Department of the Environment of the conditions in Brixton and Lambeth which they characterised as severe deprivation. Lambeth does at least try to carry out its responsibilities under Section 71 of the Race Relations Act of ensuring that, in the delivery of its services, regard is paid to securing racial equality and, in the allocation of houses, it gives one-third of lettings to ethnic minority families on the basis that one-third of the households in the borough are of minorities.
But this is far too crude a policy because the needs of different minorities vary considerably according to the size and structure of their families, and it is necessary to monitor the ethnic composition of the queue of applicants and match it to the accommodation available. An analysis also has to be made of the ethnicity of the tenants and the houses they occupy so as to ensure that members of a particular group are not being less favourably treated than others, not because of any racist intention to discriminate against them but because of the kind of institutional racism to which Lord Scarman refers.
I was glad that the Home Secretary came out as strongly as he did in favour of ethnic monitoring because I think it is the only way of making sure that the policies which are supposed to achieve racial equality are in fact doing so and, if not, demonstrating where corrective action needs to be taken. We need a fully monitored equal opportunity policy in the Civil Service, and not just the pilot survey which is being undertaken. It is not reasonable to expect local authorities, let alone private industry, to embark on monitoring when even the Government are adopting such a cautious approach. The Home Secretary tacitly accepts that very little will happen in these centres until the results of the Government experiment are published because, he says, he hopes publication will,be helpful to other employers in both the public and private sectors who are considering undertaking statistical monitoring of their work force".Perhaps the Minister will say when the results of the experiment will be published. Is there nothing the Government can do in the meanwhile to encourage local authorities to start monitoring, not just their labour forces but the services they are providing for the people in their areas?
On education, Lord Scarman says the time has come for a Government initiative and he lists four priority areas: under-fives, teacher training, language, and home-school liason. He endorses the Select Committee's view that failure to act, now that the facts are generally known, will cause widespread disappointment and ultimately unrest among the ethnic minority groups of our society. Unfortunately, very little seems to have happened since your Lordships debated the Rampton Report last 437 December. I ventured to suggest then that, with falling school rolls in the primary sector, we had a unique opportunity of redeploying the human and capital resources of the educational system towards the comprehensive provision of education for the under-fives, which, it was widely agreed, would be of particular benefit to the West Indian community.
On teacher training, the main development of which I am aware in the last year has been the proposal to close the Polytechnic of North London, which has a proud reputation for training teachers in multi-racial education. I wrote to Sir George Young drawing his attention to the dismay felt by many people over the proposal and he was good enough to promise to raise the matter with Dr. Rhodes Boyson when he saw him at the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton. I asked if he would let me know what Dr. Boyson's reaction was to the representations. Is the Minister able to say anything today about the outcome of those discussions?
The DES has adopted the traditional method of departments that want to avoid taking any positive action in respect of the Rampton Committee's recommendation. It has embarked on a very wide exercise in consultation with about 100 organisations, whose views have been sought, because the issues that were raised by Rampton, by the Home Affairs Select Committee and in the Education Select Committee's report, in so far as it dealt with the secondary school curriculum and examinations, were all interrelated, and I suppose it will wait until the last comment has been received on the last of those three reports before deciding what to do.
In the meanwhile, some local education authorities have taken important initiatives which should be considered. The notion cot having a policy for multiracial, multi-cultural education has taken firm root, though the variations between different authorities seem to indicate that there has been very little interchange of ideas between them. The most comprehensive appears to be the policy of the ILEA, which contains several elements which might be considered by other authorities: explicit confrontation of racism, mother-tongue teaching, the use of literature from other cultures and the employment of specialist staff.
Somehow, the discussion of these topics must be kept going at all levels when there are no disturbances to bring them before the attention of the public. It was an Irishman who once said: "Violence is the only way of securing a hearing for moderation", and the most law-abiding members of the West Indian community might be forgiven for thinking, first, that if it had not been for the riots of 1981 there would have been no Scarman Report and, secondly, that because there have been no riots during 1982, the establishment has gone to sleep again.
One of the best ways of ensuring that our inner cities remain peaceful would be for the Government to announce a major new assault on racial disadvantage now, when things are quiet. We should do that anyway, not to protect property and make things a little easier for the forces of law and order, but because we believe in justice and equality of opportunity for everybody living in this country irrespective of colour, creed or national origin.
§ 5.27 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark
My Lords, Brixton lies within the Diocese of Southwark. In the past few days, within the limited time available, I have sought the views of a number of people who live and work in Brixton or who know it well. Many, but not all of them are involved in the life of local churches there. Some of what I say will inevitably reinforce points that have already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Allen, and in the subsequent speeches, but I think it is helpful to us to learn something of local comment.
If I had more time, I would obviously have liked to speak to more people, but I doubt very much whether I should have achieved a consensus however hard I tried. In attempting to assess the situation, I have been struck very forcibly by the wide divergence of views there are about the follow-up of the Scarman Report, and I have been asking myself why: and a number of background reasons are worth mentioning here. One is the kind of expectations which the Scarman report aroused—evidently, if one is to judge by the quotations from his recent speech, greater expectations than he himself had. The specific recommendations are not, after all, very numerous and deal mainly with the role of the police. Since the inquiry was ordered under Section 32 of the Police Act 1964, that is hardly surprising. But the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, said:Much could be done to achieve a better co-ordinated and directed attack on inner city problems",and recommended action to achieve it. He also recommended full involvement by local communities, by the private sector and by central and local government. I think it is fair to say that people were not very clear what that might mean, but they had their hopes raised and they are still wondering and waiting.
One finds people who say there has been significant progress in improving police and community relations, and others who say very firmly that there has been little or none. The gulf between, say, the attitudes contained in the Greater London Council report on policing London and the views of police working in Brixton is considerable, to put it mildly. This reflects something of the deep polarisation which has occurred and to which the Scarman Report drew attention. It is a polarisation made up of many ingredients—employed and unemployed, police and community, black and white. Government and citizen.
Whenever there is such polarisation, it is always hard to build bridges, and the people who try are constantly under attack from one side or both sides. I should like to pay tribute here to those who do try to build bridges and have been trying very hard to build them in the last 18 months, and to the witness and leadership not least of local churches, small in number and in membership, but vigorous in their concern about the kind of problems that we are talking about this evening. All these people need the support and understanding of the rest of us.
The third difficulty—an obvious one—concerns timing. As we have already heard, legislation takes time, in particular in a democracy. The processes of change are not always open to view, especially where the police are concerned. The ordinary person in Brixton therefore sees only a little hit of the whole, and 439 his or her bit may be very different from another bit. I say that because I have had letters telling me that nothing has happened as a result of the report, and I have had other letters describing some of the positive changes which have occurred and even expressing a cautious optimism about the future.
One way or another though the importance of action—visible, specific action—is therefore enormous, because that is what people actually see. Only in this way can we begin to achieve some sense of working together for a more hopeful future—a sense of barriers being overcome.
As we know, in his conclusion in Part IX of the report, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, identified three main strands: racial disadvantage, the role of the police, and social conditions. Much has already been said, and I have no doubt will be said, about the role of the police, and I do not want to add to this greatly, except again to underline the point of view which I have heard locally expressed. There is total agreement that consultation must be statutory and not voluntary—that is, consultation between the police and the community. I was also made sharply aware of the perceived difference between consultation and what was called liaison. Consultation, it was said to me should mean, "The community having a say in the way in which they are policed".
The Government have already begun the process of introducing legislation for a new method of handling complaints, through the White Paper that has been published. The need for some independent element, and the establishment of a conciliation process is certainly seen as urgent in Brixton. The present system is far too cumbersome and secretive, and is certainly not seen as impartial, though it may be. But it is not seen in that way, and I do not see how it can ever again be so seen. Everyone was agreed on that point, and I hope that we can be told whether such legislation will come before us soon, because I think that the timing factor is so important here. I believe that it will help the police as much as the public in their relations with one another.
There seems to be some resistance to the idea of lay visitors to police stations—a resistance which local people certainly as yet do not understand, and I hope that if the problem exists, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will explain what it is. It is a curious fact that before 1974 at Brixton Police Station there used to be a scheme called Help on Arrest, which involved volunteers going in on request, and which had some similarities to what is now recommended. It is said that the scheme foundered through a drying up of the supply of volunteers, but I rather guess that it also depended too much on simple good will. Again, this underlines the need for a statutory system in future, and I hope that we shall hear whether that is likely.
As we know, considerable changes have already taken place in the method of policing used in Brixton since the riots, and these include elements of training along the lines adumbrated in the report. The overall impression that I have received is that tension has lessened but, one must add in honesty, at a cost in terms of the prevention and detection of crime. But behind that rather bald generalisation lie much more difficult issues. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, rejected the idea of "institutional racism", 440 but he accepted the fact of racial disadvantage and of racial discrimination and racist attitudes by individuals. But what is institutional racism? Is it—as I think it was understood by him—only a conscious policy by an institution to discriminate against black people or indeed any particular ethnic group within? If it is, then it is true that there is indeed little direct evidence of it in this country, and there is legislation to prevent it.
But many people in Brixton, as elsewhere, do not perceive it so at all. They see it as the way in which white people, for the most part, continue to hold the levers of power in society and in fact—though not always deliberately—prevent black people from securing promotion or jobs commensurate with their abilities, or from having leadership in their community. As I say, it may not be conscious policy, but that is what is actually happening: and I may add that it is seen as happening in the Churches, as well as in other institutions.
The abolition of jus soli, for instance, or the current opposition to proposed, apparently minor, changes in the immigration regulations, or the cost of delay in processing registration applications—all those things have the effect at ground level of undermining confidence in political leadership. Therefore, they reinforce the fear that there is some kind of institutional racism around, and that nothing very much will actually happen to tackle the underlying problems which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, so powerfully indicated in his report.
I have received many reports which underline the kind of things that have been said, in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and I hope so much that the way forward, and the questions that he put before us, will be thought about very seriously in relation to housing, unemployment, and education, because they certainly are at the very root of the difficulties that are felt in the Brixton community.
The Brixton riots were a warning, and a very terrifying one, too. The Scarman inquiry has certainly helped us to focus attention on some of the factors which seem to have contributed most to that and other conflagrations. I think that this debate has already shown, and will continue to show, that significant progress has already been made in a number of ways which affect the role of the police—and that is to their credit—and we shall look forward to further legislation to reinforce this.
But of course that is not all that is required; and the fear that I have repeatedly heard expressed is that the polarisation of our society will in fact continue to grow worse in places such as Brixton. It is at this point more than any other that Government reassurance and positive leadership are most needed, both in terms of showing recognition of the fundamental problems and in offering firm, generous, and wide-ranging action to meet them. What (dare I ask?) will it profit us if we have so quickly won the battle against inflation—I certainly want to see that battle won—if we have reaped another harvest of bitter despair?
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I think it is common ground that we are deeply indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, for having 441 initiated this debate, which, quite apart from anything else, has given us the opportunity of listening to the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark—an outstanding speech, if I may say so, and I found myself in almost total agreement with what he said. I think, again, it is common ground that what took place in Brixton 18 months ago were among some of the most serious incidents that we have experienced in this country. Taken together with the disturbances which subsequently took place in Southall, Toxteth, Moss Side and, indeed, elsewhere, they represented, and still represent, a very grave threat to our society.
I would say at once that, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, said at the week-end in his Sir George Bean memorial lecture, it is clear that some progress has been made. Indeed, I think the right reverend Prelate who has just resumed his seat said that by and large that was his view, too. In Brixton, the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office have taken, I think, a number of useful initiatives to improve relations between the local community and the police; and I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will be dealing with this in the speech which he is going to make at the end of this debate. I think it is also right to acknowledge the very substantial amount of work done by many private citizens and, indeed, by many in the private sector.
However, today our principal responsibility is to assess the Government's response to the noble and learned Lord's report. The noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, has directed so many questions at the Government (and, indeed, so have subsequent speakers) that I propose to deal with only a relatively limited area—three issues, two of which are in the area of the police. First, I welcome the fact that the Government have now announced their proposals for dealing with complaints against the police. These have already been sharply criticised by the normal coalition that always exists in matters of this sort. Both the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Police Federation have indicated their total opposition to them; and I am afraid that this coalition of opposites always exists when in fact we are discussing complaints against the police.
I do not think it is sensible to go into this matter in any detail tonight. The Government's reply to the Fourth Report of the Home Affairs Committee in another place was published only last week, and I do not think it is sensible to make instant comments on matters of this degree of complexity. All I would do is to say that, broadly speaking, I welcome the fact that the Government have accepted the recommendation of the noble and learned Lord that there should be a conciliation procedure for dealing with complaints. I hope, however, that the Government will ensure that this section is going to be drafted, so far as the legislation is concerned, with particular care. Of course, there are, indeed, many complaints which appear at first sight to be minor but which can in fact prove on subsequent investigation to relate to far more serious questions. I think it is important that this is recognised and dealt with, in so far as it can be, in the legislation.
I am glad, too, that it is proposed that some of the less serious allegations of criminal conduct by police officers should be referred to the Police Complaints 442 Board rather than to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I know that that view, if I may say so, is very strongly shared—at least, I suspect it is—by the Director of Public Prosecutions, because the workload in the DPP's office in dealing with large numbers of relatively minor allegations of criminal misconduct is, I think, beginning to assume overpowering proportions. This, I am sure, is a sensible recommendation, and I welcome it.
Secondly, I turn to the issue of police training. I spoke at some length about this in our debate last February, and I make no apology for returning to it tonight because I think, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, this is indeed one of the most important single recommendations in the report, and I know that that is the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, himself. Let me remind the House again of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, recommended in paragraph 518, when he said:I am satisfied that the length of the present period of initial training for recruits is insufficient. It cannot he right—and it is no criticism of them if I say so—that young men and women of 19 and 20 are enabled to exercise the powers and responsibilities of the office of constable after a period of initial training which lasts only 15 weeks in the Metropolitan Police and only 10 weeks in the training centres which serve the provincial forces.As I reminded the House last February—indeed, I do not have to do so again this evening because it has already been done by the noble Lord, Lord ElystanMorgan—it was made quite clear by Lord Scarman that what he wanted was not the six months which in fact he recommended in his report but a far longer period—that of 12 months' initial training. This recommendation—that is, the six months' recommendation—was supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers (who already had been looking into this matter because of their own anxieties, as the professional heads of the Police Service, about the inadequacy of the period of training), by the Superintendents Association and by the Police Federation. It was backed by virtually everybody who spoke in the debate we had last February, and it has been backed by virtually everybody who has spoken today.
We then turn to what the Government's response has been. We were told by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, on the last occasion—and I quote from column 1398 of the Official Report of 4th February last:... we fully accept the importance given to police training by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman".I suppose that was a start of a kind, but it did not in fact go particularly far to indicate that the Government, quite apart from recognising the importance of the issue, were in fact going to accept without qualification the central recommendation.
We were told by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that the Police Training Council had met in January and that they had set up a number of working parties and would be meeting again in the autumn to review progress, and I know that that meeting is soon to take place. We were informed with something approaching pride that the Metropolitan Police training courses were being extended from 15 to 16 weeks—by precisely one week; in other words, an increase of less than 10 per cent. of what the noble and learned Lord, 443 Lord Scarman, indicated was the absolute, irreducible minimum, so far as he was concerned, for the period of training in an initial training establishment.
Quite bluntly, I believe that this approach has been, and remains, too leisurely. We cannot run the risk of continuing to send young men and women out on to the streets as police officers trained for as brief a period as this. Particularly is this so when we see, as we saw only at the end of last week, the inexorable rise in serious crime and (and we appreciate that this has been dealt with in virtually all the speeches which have been made today) the complexity of the task of being a policeman or a policewoman in our multiracial society.
I hope that, today, we are going to hear something far more satisfactory from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, than we heard from his noble friend Lord Belstead when we last debated this issue. I have no doubt, of course, that the Police Training Council, which consists of a number of very senior and responsible officers in the Police Service, academics and many others, will produce some valuable ideas: but nearly a year after the report by the noble and learned Lord what we want to hear from the Government—and I put this matter in the clearest terms to the noble Lord—is that the Government are prepared to make the resources available to make the six months training period recommended by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, a real possibility. That is the question, and I hope we are going to get a clear answer today on that particular issue.
I turn now, if I may, lastly, to the wider issues involved in the Brixton disturbances and those in Toxteth, Moss Side and elsewhere. First. I think we should register an emphatic view about what happened last year. We should not encourage anyone to have sentimental feelings about rioters—about people who hurl bricks at unarmed policemen, about looters who destroy the businesses of small shopkeepers and those who throw petrol bombs at passing motorists. I deplored then, and I still deplore, the statement made at the time by the chairman of one of our police authorities that, in some mysterious way, such atrocious conduct in some circumstances, can be justified. It cannot.
But it is equally absurd to ignore what is actually happening in our inner cities—the rotting housing, the poor schools and, above all, the remorseless rise in the length of the dole queues, particularly those affecting young men and women. In no way do I excuse criminal conduct by people simply because they are unemployed or otherwise under-privilaged. Countless thousands of such people live decent and honourable lives. But we simply deny reality if we ignore the helplessness and despair which is now arising in many of our inner city areas. There are hundreds of families, as we all know, where the father has lost his job, the mother may have a part-time job, two children in the family have never had a job since leaving school and two more still at school who know that almost certainly they will be going on to the dole queue as well.
We discuss that in the context of today's unemployment figures where it is once again demonstrated that there is yet another rise in the 444 seasonally-adjusted figures for unemployment and where 60 per cent to 70 per cent. of young blacks in Brixton do not have jobs—as bad a figure as exists in some of the great cities in the North-East of the United States.
§ Lord Somers
My Lords, does not the noble Lord agree that it is very misleading to give the number of black unemployed without at the same time giving the number of white unemployed which, I should suggest, is quite comparable?
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, youth unemployment in this country is a very serious matter but I do not believe that figures of 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. as the right reverend Prelate suggested today, is a situation which, grave though the existing situation is, applies to young whites in many parts of this country. I would find it astonishing were that to be so.
The Secretary of State for Employment told us the other day that if unemployment continued to run at a figure of well over 3 million, it would damage the fabric of our society. I think that most of us would agree with that. But, unhappily, there appears at the moment to he absolutely no prospect whatever of a downturn in future levels of unemployment. I think that it is simply silly for us, in any circumstances whatever, to persuade ourselves that with this degree of gravity of the situation obtaining in inner city areas, in some way this can he dealt with by the police alone, however capable they may be.
The noble Lord, Lord Scarman, said in his report that while good policing can diminish tension and avoid disorder it cannot remove the causes of social stress where, as in Brixton and elsewhere, they are so deeply embedded in fundamental economic and social conditions.
A decade and a half ago, the United States experienced similar widespread disturbances. Just as in this country, indeed, just as in Brixton, it started as a simple, isolated incident. It was in Tampa, Florida, where a policeman was involved with a young black named Martin Chambers. There were riots and these were accorded widespread television coverage. Within 24 hours, there were riots in Cincinatti, six days later there were riots in Atlanta in Georgia and three days later in Newark, New Jersey. President Johnson then appointed the Governor of Illinois to head a national advisory commission to investigate these disturbances. They made a substantial number of recommendations, many of which were implemented. There are, of course, many substantial differences between the situation which then obtained in the United States and the situation in our city areas today.
But, having said that. I think that it behoves us all to consider what was said to Governor Kerner's commission by one of its principal witnesses, Dr. Kenneth Clark, then the President of the Metropolitan Applied Research Centre in New York. What he said was this:I read that report of the 1919 riot in Chicago, and it was as if I were reading the report of the investigating committee of the Harlem riots in 1935 … the Harlem riots of 1943 and the report of the McCone Commission in the Watts riots in Los Angeles".He continued:I must again say in candour, to you members of this Commission it is a kind of Alice in Wonderland—with the same moving picture re-shown over and over again, the same analysis, the same recommendations and the same inaction".445 This country, unlike the United States, has not experienced the same degree of turmoil with so many acts of savage violence over a period of so many years. But, last year, most of us witnessed scenes in our cities that we did not believe we would ever experience in this country. I think that in such a situation it is essential for us to recognise that what is needed in dealing with this is a major national effort to ensure that there is no repetition. We cannot, as a society, tolerate the complacent acceptance of the present levels of unemployment and decaying public services that we see around us in so many of our inner city areas. I believe that if this situation is not reversed, whatever the police may do, the very cohesion of our society will be threatened.
But, of course, I recognise that it would be equally mistaken to say that the state and the apparatus of the state can, by itself, do everything. One of the most notable consequences of the disturbances which took place in the United States in 1967 was the decision by many large private corporations to become more actively involved in the regeneration of their own cities. What I think we need in this situation is a real partnership between the local communities, the local authorities, the public agencies, Government and the private sector. That, I believe, is the only way in which urban decay can be checked and then reversed and in which new employment opportunities and a more positive co-operative atmosphere can be created. I hope that we will receive some message of hope on just that area from the Government tonight.
§ 5.59 p.m.
My Lords, I rise to be brief and I would like to back up the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, because I think that the questions he has raised this evening are so important. But, against this background, what are we now to think against what happened last week when we had a demonstration on the other side of Parliament Square and we had the Secretary of State and the Commissioner shouted down at a police meeting? Apparently, that has passed overlooked by many: I think it is a very, very important indication. But not noise. What I wish we had had was a little more original thought under caps with chequered bands instead of just noise during that meeting.
I have often followed the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, on the list of speakers. We have both studied and had contacts with the police. He has had more contact at the level of the top of the ladder and I have had probably more contact with police constables. But the two together have made quite a good mix.
As to the questions which we have in the main report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, I have worked out that there are 13 main recommendations. One cannot speak to more than one or two of them and at this time in the debate I must indeed be very brief. I want to speak again—as have so many others—about consultation. Consultation is not in the nature of many senior police officers. Trained by university men to use our minds in quite a different way, we have been trained in quite a different way from many, many police officers. There are very few police officers who are really good at consulting when 446 they have mixed committees put together from local authorities and others. They are not so flexible or tolerant and many senior officers are kept for far too long in the same appointments.
There is one point which I hope that the noble Lord in the Home Office will study. It is wise for us to see some of the things that develop in other police forces in neighbour countries. It does not naturally or easily happen that police officers become aware of this. There is a great deal of consultation in certain forces which developed in what we used to call the British zone of Germany. It is very interesting that a lot of what was developed in those days was a British worked-out plan which they felt was going to be a great help to those regional police forces which were hived off from the German national police service.
Today we still have some such consultation mandatory in certain parts of North West Germany. Some is permissive and some has disappeared altogether. I should like to hear from the noble Lord (in a letter if he cannot do more) how he considers that this particular consultation has developed. Consultation is very difficult to organise and carry through. In Britain little consultation as yet has happened, and little has happened in London where it is most needed. It is not only the politicians with whom the police are expected to consult. Individuals could be so valuable because they are not just delegations of particular communities. As vet we have heard very little about what is happening in the Metropolitan forces and in our county forces. If you speak to senior police officers they always say, "All sorts of things are going on. A lot is happening". It is very, very difficult to find out exactly about their organisation and the amount of consultation which they have started.
Now may I say a word about training and take up perhaps two minutes? When we talk of extending the periods of initial training from 15 to 16 weeks, we do not know so much about the quality of that training. I would far rather have higher quality than to see just one week added.
It is very different in many ways on the Continent, and there are, both ways, advantages and disadvantages. Most police forces on the Continent are much more serious about initial training. Their periods of training are very much longer and they put far more emphasis on group training and not just on individual training. In Britain we put much more stress on individual training whereas others, the Germans for instance, start with group training which is much easier and then they move on. We have for a long time paid much less attention to group training.
Then there is the question of our equipment. Until a very short time ago we had very little equipment compared with that of many other forces. We also have too few civil instructors for our initial training. I went round certain forces a few years ago and I found that the police in this country were scornful about training and scornful about equipment but things have been changing. They realised then that when they have trouble to face dustbin lids alone are not now sufficient.
The last point that I should like to intrude here is that the noble and learned Lord's report made no reference to the training of special constables. I would have thought that they could have been a great help. A better trained body of special constables would be a 447 great advantage. Many of them are at least as able as normal regular constables.
Tactics have hardly been studied. Some of the less successful among our inflexible seniors could have really slipped away. Over the past two years it is remarkable—how unsuccessful we were in Bristol and in London—I do not think a single senior police officer slipped quietly away. What we want is supervision by the brighter, rising officers who are much more sensitive and much quicker in the uptake. We want to see these young officers with their sights on the higher appointments.
I should also like to see serious examinations in the Home Office. At the present moment the stereotyped examinations which are taken by junior police officers are laughable. There is not a single sentence of English in some of these examinations—just a tick in the box. I like to think that the Home Office overlooked this examination, which might have reached the table of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elton. What we want is common sense all round, and instructions for younger police officers, and, most of all, a true sense of integrity.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, for introducing this debate. I apologise that I missed the first couple of minutes of his speech because I did not think the debate would come on as quickly as it did. I am personally grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark for his speech, which was very good. I want particularly to underline the point he made about expectations. It is possible for us to delude ourselves about that. What has happened is the problem which confronted us last year was successfully defused by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. The country should be very grateful to him for that. The consequence of that is that there have been expectations and if these expectations are not fulfilled then the reaction may be something that we shall all regret. I think it is fair that we ought to recognise this. I am grateful again to the right reverend Prelate for pointing out the importance of action because it is action that is required; it is action that will deal with these expectations.
I want to comment on a few points, and I want to start with a question of consultation and accountability. It is absolutely essential—and I use that word advisedly—that we should have statutory consultation machinery. As noble Lords know, I was with the Community Relations Commission for nine years. Therefore, I know what I am saying when I say that there have been liaison committees all over the country, but they break down at the first fence. The first time there is a problem they break down, and one of the problems about all these liaison committees is that they are only able to discuss what the police want discussed. Therefore, we need to have consultation committees which have certain powers that are delegated by Parliament and therefore the need to consult on those issues. There should be no problem about separating the question of policy from the question of day-to-day operation. That can be done. What is required is that when there are difficult situations the fact of the consultation committee being 448 a statutory one makes it obligatory on all involved to continue to use the committee. That is the first point, and I hope that the Home Office will take it on board.
I have attended meetings of various kinds and I have the impression that the Home Office have not made up their minds as to whether or not they are going to have these committees given statutory powers. I think they are fooling themselves because they think they have done well, for instance, by setting up a good committee in Lambeth. But Lambeth had a committee before; Haringey has one now; and there are committees all over the place. Let us not fool ourselves about it. What we need are committees that have statutory powers and which have the underpinning of the law with them, so that they can actually function.
While on that, I want to say that the noble and learned Lord also recommended that the question of an advisory committee for the metropolitan force between the Home Office and the local boroughs should be considered. I should like to hear from the Minister that that is being considered, because none of the discussions I have heard since the Scarman Report has suggested that it is being considered at all. What we have in London is definite polarisation between the GLC, who are insisting on establishing a police authority for London and encouraging everybody to establish a committee which would fit into their framework, and the Home Office, with its nice consultative committee about which it has not made up its mind as to whether or not it will be statutory. I should like to say to the Government that they need to take on board the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, that an advisory committee along the lines he suggested might be a very useful additional instrument.
I should like now to turn to the question of recruitment. The noble and learned Lord raised the question of the importance of recruitment from the ethnic minorities. I wonder to what extent the police have liaised with the Army and the Air Force with a view to getting members of the ethnic minorities who are in the forces and who are leaving to join the police force. I speak with a fair amount of knowledge because several of my patients—chaps I knew when they were in their mothers' wombs—are now in the forces and some have already done their 12 years. They come out of the Army well trained, of course. Something was said earlier about having training in electronics and technology, and I can assure you that some of the boys I know are first-class, from the point of view of electronics and technology, when they leave the Army. Then they can get jobs which in effect they would never have been able to get if they had remained in civvy street. They have had training in the Army which they would never have got in civvy street. I know what I am saying when I say that liaising with the Army is very important for the police to be doing. The chaps I am talking about, of course, would not join the police force because they can command greater salaries and better conditions elsewhere, but there are a lot of others and I believe that quite a few of them would in fact consider a police career and would be very useful.
I should like also to comment on the cadet scheme. My information is that it is being wound up because most forces are now up to requirement. The cadet scheme is a second way through which I see a fair 449 amount of recruitment taking place from the ethnic minorities. Therefore, I should like to hear from the Minister that what I have been told about winding up the cadet scheme is not true. I should like also to say just a word on training. I would merely suggest that, during the course of their training, if officers are made to spend a period of time working with local community relations councils, they would benefit tremendously. I hope that is one of the things the Government have in mind in their training programme.
I have been very interested in all that I have heard about the various methods now being used to make sure that people who are racially prejudiced are not admitted to the police force. Be that as it may, once an officer is admitted, it should be quite clear that if he behaves in a racially prejudicial manner the punishment must be of the severest. Therefore, I am not able to understand why there is this hesitancy on the part of the Government to endorse the recommendation of the noble and learned Lord that racially prejudiced behaviour—it is behaviour we are talking about—should be a serious offence under the police disciplinary code and the police should understand that the consequences of that would be dismissal.
A gain, I should like to hear from the Minister some information as to how far the discussion on whether or not the Public Order Act needs amendment has gone. My own view is that it should not be so difficult to make it possible for marches that are obviously prejudicial to public order to be banned. I cannot see why, in order to stop marches that are prejudicial to public order, every other march should be stopped. Therefore, I hope this discussion has got some way, so that the Government can tell us that they are satisfied that, under the present law, this can be done or, if not, that they are proposing to change the law to make it possible.
I should like to make just a last remark on this question of racial disadvantage. I grew up in Grenada in the 'twenties, and in Grenada in the 'twenties there was racial prejudice. The black middle class was developed through the teaching profession, through the professions of medicine and law and through the Civil Service. That was how in those colonial territories the black middle class was developed.
I have never been able to understand why it is so difficult for a Government who have ruled colonies for all those years and who have seen how these things have happened to stop them here. The truth is that what is required is some activity from central Government to make themselves a model employer, so that they can not only by edict, but by example, encourage equal opportunities in employment throughout the country. Also, by having blacks rising in the Civil Service they can demonstrate that blacks who are capable of making their presence felt can rise to the top. That is something which the Government can do.
In fact, discrimination in employment is the one thing which the Government can really deal with, because it is not only the Civil Service; it is the nationalised industries, it is their influence upon local authorities and it is their influence as a contractor. In a funny sort of way, some local authorities are doing better than Central Government in this matter. That is the way in which it is working out, because the Government are so afraid to do what is right and what 450 can have really good consequences.
The other point I want to make, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, concerns the North London Polytechnic. I wonder whether there is any kind of cohesion in Government on issues of this kind. The North London Polytechnic was doing a specific job in helping to train a particular type of black teachers, who were already mature, and they were having tremendous success with it. Yet they received a memo from the Department of Education and Science, suggesting that that should be wound up. I find these things quite incredible and I am unable to understand the thinking that goes on in Government when issues of this kind arise. I have spoken for long enough. I hope that I have put a sufficient number of questions to the Minister and that when he replies I may have favourable answers to some of them.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, whom I first met several years ago just across the river during the final year of the old London County Council. I am sure that the whole House will have listned with close attention to his very thoughtful speech.
When we debated the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, last February, I mentioned the Rastafarian dimension of West Indian life in this country. I argued that we should give to Rastafarians the respect due to members of a genuine religion, in the same way as we respect the diet or the sabbath of the Jews or the dress of the Sikhs. I asked that considerate treatment should be extended to Rastafarians in prison. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, was able to tell me that instructions had already then been given to detention centres to respect the well-known dreadlocks. Later, in a characteristically helpful letter to me, the noble Lord said that Prison Circular Instruction No. 60 of 1976 was being reviewed with regard to Rastafarianism.
I should like to ask tonight: has the revised instruction already gone out or, if not, when will it be issued? Now that the loss of liberty is widely regarded as the true purpose and penalty of imprisonment, I am sure that no one would wish to deprive Rastafarians or members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church of spiritual ministration from approved members of their churches while they are serving sentences. If the noble Lord, Lord Elton, could comment on this proposition I should be most grateful.
I turn now to a more general aspect of West Indian society in Britain. The West Indian age structure may not yet have been very much studied. Adult West Indians, who arrived in Britain during the 1950s and 1960s, will be reaching retirement age by, or before, the year 2000. As well as there being a young and middle-aged population, we shall then find ourselves with numerous West Indian pensioners. There is time available now to make plans for this rather novel situation, but it is essential that serious thought should he given to this without further delay.
On the question of pensions and welfare, I believe that reciprocal agreements already exist between this country and both Jamaica and Bermuda, and I understand that the High Commissioners of the other Caribbean islands are at present considering the negotiation of similar arrangements. It seems that 451 some difficulties are likely to arise concerning the smaller islands, which have somewhat less evolved welfare systems. If these difficulties should prove substantial, I urge the Government to consider making augmentable pensions available, even without full reciprocity. I say this because I believe that it will be in the best interests of all that West Indians who have contributed much to Britain, often in difficult circumstances, should be enabled to retire to the islands if that is their personal desire.
I conclude by mentioning the views of a West Indian friend of mine who has already given evidence to the inquiry of the noble and learned Lord, and who is the director of Caribbean House in Hackney and also an organisation called West Indian Concern. He stresses, particularly, the importance of culture. We English sometimes take culture a little lightly, or even tend to dismiss it altogether. Our own problems in understanding the Scots and the Welsh and, above all, perhaps the Irish show how peoples who share the same language can have very deep mental differences in their culture. It can, I think, be shown that West Indian culture exists in Britain today and that it has slight variations as between one island and another. A further distinction may be made between the culture of West Indians born in the Caribbean and of their children who have been born in Britain. This increases the normal generation gap and aggravates the possibility of teenage rebellion.
If all this is correct, one begins to see that institutions designed and adapted for 20th century English people may not necessarily be suitable or satisfactory for people of a very different culture. I believe that this is true not only of school and technical colleges, but also of penal institutions, courts and police forces. One cannot assume that the standard solution will work automatically. Perhaps the most dramatic instances of unsuitable treatment have been seen when local authorities in Britain have taken West Indian children into care. This. I suggest, should not be done on purely Engish criteria. The social services should learn to work with and not against the grain of the West Indian extended family.
I would urge that in all fields we should be prepared for cultural and institutional innovation. For instance—here I come to the question of the recruitment of police which has been mentioned by so many previous speakers—would Her Majesty's Government explore the possibility of enlisting mature adult West Indians into the police on short service contracts of, say, three to 10 years? I am thinking of men and women, perhaps between the ages of 30 and 50, who have shown a stable record in their previous jobs and who are perhaps already known and respected in their local communities. These are the kind of people who can best understand and respond sentitively to the anti-social behaviour of some young West Indians. It may well be that such mature people would he easier to find, and more effective when found, than recent school-leavers. Figures published in today's edition of The Times on the recruitment of West Indians by the Metropolitan Police were modestly encouraging. It is clear, however, that continued and greater effort is needed in this direction, together with a willingness to try new and different methods of recruitment.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I want to concentrate on one particular aspect of this problem and on one facet of that problem. It is the issue of unemployment. In the Scarman Report the point was made that at that time—and we have been told this evening that the figures have worsened since that date—55 per cent. of young blacks in Brixton were out of work. Many speakers have deplored this in our debate today. However, I want to underline that this is not only a problem for the present (and not only in Brixton but in many other parts of the country where the same figures could be repeated) but that it is building up a tremendous problem for the future. Not only are these young men out of work, but they are among the unskilled. Because they have not had work, because they have not had training they will continue to be unskilled.
All we know about future employment prospects tells us that the position of the unskilled is going to be incomparably worse than the position of any other particular group in employment. If we have a very high percentage of ethnic minorities who are both out of work and unskilled and who pass into the adult labour force as unskilled, in all those areas where we have high densities of ethnic minorities we are going to continue to have a large proportion of the total labour force of those minorities who will probably never get regular work. So I want to underline that this is not only an immediate problem but a problem of great future importance over which drastic and systematic action needs to be taken—and taken on a much larger scale than has been contemplated until now.
There is another point about leaving so many of the ethnic minorities without a skill. Even if they get jobs in the difficult competition for jobs of that kind, what kind of a labour force inside industry or other areas of employment are we going to have in the future? There will be a divide, with the coloured population in the lowest grades of jobs, supervised and managed by whites. If we are asking for a dangerous, explosive and very unjust situation inside industry, a recipe for it is to have not only the inevitable conflicts, with which we are all so familiar, between management and employees but for them to be reinforced by the fact that there is an ethnic difference, and a difference of colour, as well as a difference of status and grade inside industry. This, therefore, is a problem of long-term importance of, I submit, the very highest order.
In Section 37 of the Race Relations Act there is provision for discriminatory training in favour of groups under-represented in particular occupations. They are designated training schemes. I want to ask the Minister—perhaps I should have given him notice of this question in advance and I apologise for not having done so—how many applications there have been to the Department of Employment for designated training schemes in favour of ethnic minorities (because such schemes can also be provided for women), how many schemes have been submitted, how many schemes have been sanctioned, and whether the Government can take steps to give much greater publicity to the fact that there is availability to undertake these schemes. Perhaps I should declare on interest. I speak as chairman of a small organisation, Charta Mede, which is working on the problems of employment for ethnic minorities.
453 We have found great ignorance of the existence of Section 37 and of what can be done to help to improve the skill levels of ethnic minorities by the use of that section.
I should also like to ask what the Government have done—I am sorry to be saying these things in the absence of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, who I know has special responsibility for what goes on inside the Civil Service—regarding terms of employment in the Civil Service. Section 37 can of course be used, and surely could be used with very great advantage, by the Civil Service for its own employees. In the strongest words possible I should like to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, has said. If one is trying, however modestly, to work in this field it is the very greatest handicap when you are talking to employers in the private sector if' you cannot point to the Government and say, "Look what the Government are doing in terms of their own employees". It is very understandable that the hard pressed private sector employers, cutting down on staff and with all the problems of survival which many of them are facing, should not be introducing Section 37 designated training courses when they do not see the Government giving a lead. May I therefore ask the Government whether they have introduced any Section 37 training courses inside the public sector and, if not, whether they are prepared to consider courses of that kind?
Secondly, in relation to what the Government could do to give a lead in this field, there is that other very ill-understood section of the Race Relations Act 1976, Section 1(1)(b), about indirect discrimination. In connection with such little work as I have done in this field I have often asked (when I remember I always ask) seminar groups what indirect discrimination means. I have found only one group which understood what it meant. Most people believe that it means a particularly underhand and devious kind of discrimination. It is, I believe, one of the most powerful sections of the Race Relations Act. It is not understood, it is not known about, and therefore there is not the faintest hope of its being used. It is extremely easy, without any deliberate intention but simply because of one's customary assumptions, to be guilty of indirect discrimination without any intent so to he.
Again, I should like to ask the noble Lord the Minister what the Government themselves are doing to explore their own employment practices and discover whether they are guilty of indirect discrimination—if "guilty" is the right word when it is an act which you perform unaware that you are performing it. So long as you are unaware it is, of course, in a sense not to be condemned. But surely it is to be condemned if no steps are being taken to find out whether you are committing it.
The noble Lord the Minister will recall that it is now over three years since the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations produced a report on the Government's policies regarding their own employees in matters of race relations, which said that, while they had not detected discrimination, they did consider that there were hazards of fairness in Government practice. Surely that should have been a warning light to the Government—that they must be aware that in their own practice there are hazards to fairness. I am aware that there have been difficulties in following up 454 that report, but it is over three years ago and the detection of indirect discrimination is surely one of the most important lines of advance if the Government really want to be sure that there are no hazards to fairness left in their practices.
I can fully understand that it is not easy for the Government to tackle the whole of the Civil Service at one time; this would be a very large undertaking. But a narrow front approach is possible. Surely it is possible in some Government departments where it is easy to make a start—one cannot make a start everywhere—to see what is happening under Section 1(1)(b) and what scope there is for designated training under Section 37. If the Government could be seen using their own legislation in their own practices and giving great publicity and support to designated schemes outside Government service, this would be a very practical advance in the short term. It would also do something to avoid the very serious long-term consequences of having so high a proportion of the ethnic minorities condemned to unskilled levels of work—or rather, because they are unskilled, to continuous unemployment.
§ 6.42 p.m.
My Lords, in adding my thanks to my noble friend Lord Allen of Abbeydale for giving us this opportunity to review the progress made on the Scarman Report since we last debated it in February, I should like to say how delighted I am—and I am sure your Lordships are—to note that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, has managed to arrive in time to make his contribution to this debate. Perhaps we all owe ourselves a pat on the back for keeping this debate going long enough to enable the noble and learned Lord to arrive in time. I say that, and I am sure he will understand, not in any sense of what little benefit there may be for him in listening to me but because we all want to listen to him.
I hope that this will he only the first in a series of reviews which will take place at the initiative of Members of your Lordships' House because it is extremely important that we should continue to ask the Government for progress reports on the Scarman Report. If no one else is disposed to do so, I give notice that I shall raise this subject again after an appropriate interval.
What we must insist upon—and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark and the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, underscored this—is action. My own questions will relate to the social background to the disturbances in Brixton as depicted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in Part II of his report, and the recommendations stemming from it. My first question to the noble Lord the Minister is this: what progress has been made in mobilising local resources, in generating local initiatives and in co-ordinating them at local level so as to bring to bear the optimum impact on the social problems in the inner cities—and not only in Brixton? This is the burden of paragraph 6.6 of Lord Scarman's report and of recommendation 8.50, which I ventured to suggest in my speech of 4th February was the most important single recommendation in the whole report. I daresay that others will have their own favourite recommendations but that is certainly mine because it 455 goes to the root on the matter. I recognise that for the noble Lord, Lord Elton, this is a very widely framed question, but I believe it is quite fundamental.
I have some notion of the problems which arise between local groups in great need of resources and in great need of support who find themselves in competition for resources and who are starved of encouragement; dog tends to eat dog. I wonder whether sufficient efforts really are being put into this essential mobilisation and correlation of all possible initiatives to deal with the social circumstances and social disadvantages in our inner cities which constitute what Lord Scarman described in his concluding remarks in page 135 as "a potent factor of unrest". My second point is this. I have some notion of the problems faced by and the courage required of people living in deprived areas in standing up and collaborating with, rather than opposing, established authority. So my question to the noble Lord the Minister is this: what signs are there of the emergence of authentic and responsible ethnic minority leadership—those bridge-builders to whom the right reverend Prelate referred, who are prepared to work with the police, the social services and everyone else, rather than persist, rather understandably, with a "them and us" attitude?
My third and closely related question is this: what progress is being made in the recruitment of ethnic minorities into the social services and probation services as well as in to the police? As I pointed out on 12th February, in my view, it is just as important that the ethnic minorities should be proportionately represented in the former as in the latter. After all, the probation and social services are the services most closely and frequently in touch with ethnic minority families and with young people. What steps are being taken to recruit members of the ethnic minorities into both services, and with what result? My own information on this question is somewhat discouraging. For instance, in the Merseyside probation service, the chief probation officer tells me that there are only two ethnic minority officers in his force of 250 officers—that is less than I per cent. in a city where the black population is several percentage points greater than that. I believe it is significant that at the annual conference of the National Association of Probation Officers only five black probation officers were present, in a delegate conference of some 1,000 people—0.5 per cent. This seems to me to say something about the lack of adequate representation in the probation service countrywide.
Fourthly and lastly, I made the point earlier that Brixton and Toxteth are only two among areas where trouble has occurred, and the problems in those areas and the potential for further disorder in protest against social disadvantage and discrimination exist in Manchester, in Bradford, in Peterborough (as we saw on "Panorama" last night), in Bristol, in several cities in the Midlands, and in a number of other London boroughs. The equivalents of Brixton's Railton Road are to be found in most of those inner city areas. The appointment of Mr. Heseltine to report on Toxteth, his report and the action stemming from it have been very properly acclaimed—in particular his energy and commitment to the question of putting things right. But, as my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich has 456 pointed out in different words, we do not want to await further disorders elsewhere to be followed after the event by another Scarman Report and another Heseltine Report.
My question is this. Understanding as I do the prerogatives and sensibilities of local authorities, is there nonetheless a strong case for extending the Heseltine-type inquiry into other potentially unstable areas, to pre-empt future disorders? I come back to Lord Scarman's Recommendation 8.50; is there not a powerful case for the appointment of a Minister of Cabinet rank with overall inter-departmental responsibility for overseeing inner city problems as a whole—a Minister who would not be burdened additionally with the responsibility for a particular department of state, let alone a huge department like the Department of the Environment. Is not this precisely the model required for co-ordination of effort all the way down the line to deal with this crucial, this terribly difficult and potentially disastrous situation?
Finally, I just say this: the message that I get—and I had this message from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, who asked me to say how sorry he is not to be here to take part in the debate, and from a number of my contacts in the probation service—from both Toxteth and Brixton is that, with a malady so chronic and of such long standing as are the social situations there and elsewhere, progress is bound to be painfully slow. The need is for a great deal of patience combined with unremitting persistence. I, too, understand that the climate locally is showing signs of improving, that there is a growing predisposition to collaborate towards creating racial harmony. It is perhaps only a straw in the wind, but a couple of months ago when I was in Toxteth, Liverpool 8, I saw the most encouraging single example of total collaboration between police officers, social workers, probation officers, teachers and a number of volunteers working with young people in a very rundown community centre and a comprehensive school—just one example which we need to be exemplified and multiplied everywhere. I also understand from the chief probation officer of Merseyside that, of his community assistants working with his probation officers, a majority are now black voluntary workers. These are good signs.
So the message to all. I suggest, is the need to work together, to persevere, to exercise restraint, not to be provoked by the rude boys or to be prejudiced by statistics which appear to show that one group is more blameworthy than another. Good precepts such as these can be dubbed platitudes; they trip easily off the tongue. I readily accept that. In another forum I would probably be receiving a slow handclap. But they happen to be true, and they are apposite to the situation in Toxteth, in Brixton and in all the inner city areas with large ethnic minority populations. They place a premium on courageous leadership; they place a premium, as my noble friend Lord Harris has stressed, on police training; they present a challenge to everyone who is living and working in the front line of this campaign to create a more tolerant and a more equitable society.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I returned less than 24 hours ago, late last night, from spending most of the 457 last two years in the country of Zambia. It is, therefore, natural that my contribution to this debate should have a somewhat different dimension from that of previous speakers. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I intended to deal with the details of the report of the noble and learned Lord I would have withdrawn, because I think they have already been fully and amply covered. But there is another dimension to the situation which Lord Scarman was asked to investigate and also to the effect of the report which he published.
It so happens that I left this country a day or two after the Brixton riots to return to Zambia, and I was met in Zambia with headlines, "Race riots in Britain". I am quite sure that those headlines could be duplicated right across the Commonwealth. If they had been true, if they had been an accurate representation of what was taking place in Brixton, then in my view the Commonwealth would he dead. I knew that they were not true; that, although there was a racial content to the riots in Brixton and the later riots in different parts of the country, the riots themselves were much more complex than simply racial riots. They were partly social, they were partly generational, but they were not solely racial; and if they had been solely racial, then, as I say, I believe the Commonwealth would be dead.
It took a great deal of persuasion by the British High Commissioner and his information staff in Lusaka, with a little influence from my side, even to get the Zambians to consider that these might not be racial riots. The High Commissioner and his staff worked very hard indeed, and I pay great tribute to their efforts. But their efforts had been only partially successful when the report of Lord Scarman appeared, and that was the crucial impact on opinion so far as Zambia was concerned; I believe that this is very common across the Commonwealth. That report at least forced Commonwealth citizens to ask questions which previously they had not asked. It was quite natural for them to assume that these were racial riots. They knew of the discriminatory immigration laws passed by Administrations of both parties over the past 15 years. They know—it is widely publicised—when speeches are made by prominent politicians that incite racial hatred, racial bitterness, racial suspicions, and the kind of discussions going on right now, about the minor amendment of the Immigration Acts so far as the admission of husbands and fiances is concerned, tend to convince members of other Commonwealth countries that this country is becoming a racialist country. That conviction—I am not going into this in detail tonight—is, of course, hardened by the constant attitudes that are taken towards racialist Governments like those of South Africa.
The publication of the Scarman Report caused Commonwealth citizens to pause. As has been vigorously pointed out by my noble friend Lord Pitt and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, that report caused people to stop and think, but then to ask, "When are the recommendations of this report going to be put into effect? We will wait and pause, and we will give you the benefit of the doubt if we see that action is being taken by the British Government in order to outlaw the racialist discrimination which we believe is becoming a character of your country". But 458 that has got to he seen in practice, not just in the report of the noble and learned Lord and not just in the praise given to that report. It must be in legislative and administrative form.
As my noble friend Lord Pitt pointed out and as was also vigorously supplemented by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, the Government have an opportunity here. The Government themselves, as an employer, have the opportunity and the responsibility of showing that in this country the skin colour of the employee is of no account. Indeed, in certain fields there should be a reverse discrimination so that skin colour gives an added opportunity where there is a meagre number or an absence of employees today. One of those major fields is in Government employment.
It seems strange to some of our former colonial subjects that we find integration so difficult in this country, and that it is a matter that has to be debated. They find it strange that there are sections of our community opposed to the employment, the integration and the acceptance as equal human beings, of people of different coloured skins. I shall give one small instance of why it seems strange. Just two days ago, on Sunday, which was not only United Nations Day but also the eighteenth anniversary of the independence of Zambia, I was in State House with President Kaunda. With us were Humphrey Mulemba, the General Secretary of the Party, Mr. Mundia, the Prime Minister, and old Harry Nkumbula, who some people in this Chamber will remember. After the investiture we were having a little party and an informal discussion. I saw that there was one other white person there. Do your Lordships know who he was? He was John Roberts, who used to be the leader of the white party that was attempting, consistently, and made no secret of it, to keep the black majority Zambians out of government. He is now accepted as a farmer in Zambia. He supplies the President with oranges. He is accepted socially as a friend and a colleague. That is the normal attitude towards people of different skin colours in a country like Zambia, despite the experiences they have gone through when a small minority of whites attempted to rule them permanently.
That is by no means the only example one can give of how ex-colonial countries have shown that when they have got their independence they welcome the continued presence of people of different skin colours, including white or pink, as equal citizens and as friends and colleagues. That can be done after the experience of the colonial empire, so can that not be done in what is still known as the motherland of the old colonial empire? What is the problem? Why is it that this causes so much anguish in this country, whereas in countries where there have been long years of suffering through discrimination it can be put aside on the basis of "We are all human beings"?
Therefore, I put to the Government, and to the Minister who is to reply, two final practical points. Before I do so, may I make a distinction that I think has caused a certain degree of confusion in this debate. There is a distinction, and we should make a distinction, between prejudice and discrimination. We recognised this destinction when we were debating the Race Relations Act. One cannot legislate against prejudice, but one can legislate against discrimination, and prejudice leads to discrimination. The Minister 459 has been asked many questions on discrimination. I should like him to address himself to prejudice. In the noble and learned Lord's report there is a clear suggestion that a part of the problem, only a part, is that of what is called racial prejudice, although I believe it would be better described as colour prejudice. Here I charge the Government with having a responsibility. Proposals have been made for legislation on discrimination—that is, action activated by prejudice. I am concerned about prejudice, about the feelings of people, and I do not agree with those who suggest that the Government can do nothing about prejudice. I believe that they can and from my own personal experience, and the experience of other members of our two Houses, I believe that it is possible for the Government to do something about prejudice. They have a responsibility to do so.
First, I refer the Minister to an article in The Guardian this morning which suggests that the way in which geography is taught in most of our schools is, in itself, a stimulus to racial discrimination and to a lack of understanding of the culture and the history of peoples in other parts of the world. This critical report has been suppressed although it is available, if I may advertise, at an address given by The Guardian.
Following that, my second point is that the previous Government did try to deal with prejudice. They tried through the Ministry of Overseas Development and tried by setting up a committee to assist the voluntary organisations in this country, including educational institutions, church institutions, and a whole set of voluntary institutions. They tried to educate the people of this country against prejudice and give them an opportunity to know something of the cultures, the problems and the difficulties of peoples of other countries.
The previous Government accepted that as a responsibility of the Government themselves. They set up the Development Education Fund; they set up a committee to administer that fund and that fund was to help the voluntary organisations and, if necessary, to take initiatives itself in order to get rid of what is partly a sickness and partly ignorance and very largely a mixture of both—namely, feelings of racial prejudice. This Government should take the same responsibility. Let me remind the Minister, if he does not already know, that within a few weeks of this Government being elected they had abolished the Development Education Fund and abolished the committee, although the committee has refused to be abolished and still exists but only unofficially. This Government stopped the work that we had been trying to do under the previous Government, of educating the people of this country—not of overseas country countries, but of this country—about the needs of people in the developing world in particular, the needs of people who are very often our customers, our trading partners and who very often have been in the past our colonial subjects.
I would ask the Minister to look at the matter again and to consider with his colleagues whether there is not an unanswerable case arising out of the report of the noble and learned Lord, for the need for Government initiative in removing that slur of prejudice which has begun to attack our country, to be attached to the name of our country and which, if it is allowed to 460 continue to fester and to develop, can destroy not just this country but the Commonwealth itself.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Lord Scarman
My Lords, I must begin with an apology to the House and to the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale. It was a great sadness that I could only arrive at a very late stage of the debate on this Question. I am sure that the House will understand that it was extremely important business—it could not have been anything else which kept me away. Perhaps the House might like to know what the business was. Strangely enough it was closely related to one of the subject matters of this debate. I was talking in another part of London to the London branch of the Royal Town Planning Institute, to the members of the planning profession who are members of that institute who are concerned with the decay and the deprivation of our inner city areas. I was attempting to persuade them of the immense importance of tackling the decay and deprivation of the inner city areas such as Brixton. Since my apology has led me to mention that, I will in the few moments during which I shall detain the House, ask as my first question of the Government what is being done or what is contemplated for establishing and developing a co-ordinated programme at every level of government—central, local and below that in the communities—to tackle the physical and social environment in which unfortunately so many members of the ethnic minority groups of this country have to live.
I have attended enough of this debate to appreciate how profoundly the House feels on this problem. I shall not cover the matters which I have discussed in my report, but I did for the purposes of talking to these planners just elicit some facts about Brixton. I think that they do make one wonder how far we have to go to get some co-ordinated programme going. Railton and Mayall Roads have been in a broken down, boarded-up condition ever since the end of the war. In 1975 the Secretary of State of the day rejected his inspector's recommendation for a comprehensive redevelopment of that area. The Secretary of State said, with a good deal of justification, that a gradual renewal on traditional lines would be better. Indeed; but did we see any signs of it?—no, the comprehensive redevelopment was rejected: the gradual renewal never came, at any rate never started to come until after the riots. There have been, as anyone knows who has recently visited Railton and Mayall Roads, some improvement since the riots and, I suppose it is fair to say, since the publication of the report.
One of the themes of the report on the social side, was that unless we get the inner city problem settled, we shall not solve the problems of the frustrations and hopelessness of some of the younger members of the ethnic minority groups. Following a hint which I noticed in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, it will not only be black people who feel these frustrations and who feel isolated from an established society which is indifferent to their plight. Indeed, in the Brixton riots themselves there were plenty of young white people in the predominantly black crowds that were engaged in the disorders. The inner city problem includes the ethnic minorities, but goes beyond them.
461 Much has been done, and this is what troubles me. Brixton is an inner city partnership. In Brixton there is a housing action area. There are many people and organisations of goodwill working in an uncoordinated way there and no doubt elsewhere. But I do ask—and here I leave the social policy side of the report—what are the Government doing about developing the type of co-ordinated programme and policy covering activities at all levels of our society which I think emerges as one of the major recommendations of the report?
I turn now very briefly to policing. I should not like this House to he misled by undignified goings-on at a Police Federation meeting into the view that the police do not care and have done nothing. I said it over the weekend and I say it again in your Lordships' House, the police have done a lot. Indeed, if one may be mischievous, I think it is fair to say that they have done very much more than the Government. Their senior direction have taken hold of this report vigorously. They have analysed it and many of its recommendations they are, so far as they can, putting into effect. If the senior direction of the police force can take that amount of trouble over a report which was in some respects critical of them, I do not think that your Lordships or the public need have too much concern about the quality of our police.
There are specific problems associated with the police about which I should like to ask some questions, and no doubt some of these problems have been covered in the debate of which I had the misfortune to hear so very little. But, if I may, I shall put the questions again. I do not wish to take up time; I merely wish to end on various notes of interrogation.
First, recruitment. I, like others of your Lordships, saw the figures published in the press today, and on a visit to Brixton last Friday I obtained some unofficial information which would indicate that in certain areas of the Metropolitan Police the increase in black people offering themselves as recruits for the police service is very much greater than those figures would indicate. But, be that as it may—I do not wish to get into a statistical exercise—it is quite something that in the first nine months of 1982 there should be 532 black applicants contrasted with the figure of, I think, 240 for the whole of 1981. But of course, this is not enough. I am sure your Lordships have been saying that repeatedly in the course of this short debate. More has to be done.
But do not think that the solution lies wholly with Government or police. I know that there is goodwill in the police now in pushing forward a recruiting programme for young black men and women. But I also know that neither they as a force nor we as a people have yet overcome an almost instinctive hostility towards the police force among young black people. Indeed, as I have heard mentioned since I have been here, these riots were of course not race riots. They were riots by young people, predominantly black, not against white people but against the police. The causes for that are complex and I can leave their analysis to the report. So I ask, what is being done to develop recruiting from the ethnic minority groups beyond the very small beginnings which we are now able to observe?
I come now to complaints procedure. I have read the recent white Paper, but I cannot yet claim to have 462 studied it carefully. All I would say to Government, based upon my experience last year, is that they must get it right and they must legislate. What is needed in principle is simple enough: a credible independent element—and by "credible" I mean not credible to your Lordships, but credible to the woman whose son has been rough-housed by a policeman in Leigham Court Road. That must be done.
Secondly, they must handle the minor complaints. I was delighted to see some proposals for conciliation at that level. One of the troubles with the current complaints procedure is that, if someone makes a complaint, it has to go into this formidable machine of formal investigation with such terrifying figures as the Police Complaints Board and the DPP at the end of it, when all they really want is a confrontation with an individual policeman, perhaps an apology, certainly an explanation and nothing that will do him or them any harm in the future. So I ask that the complaints procedure be most carefully looked at.
Associated with that is the proposal in the report that there should be lay visitors to those parts of police stations where suspects are interrogated. I think that this is most important. They should, of course, be random and, again, I find a good reception for this idea among senior police officers. I should like to hear that it is coming.
Finally, I would ask whether the Government intend to put community relations—in so far as community relations with the police depend upon consultative machinery—upon a statutory basis. I am quite unrepentant: mere administrative alternatives, such as the police, to their credit, are trying out in Brixton and elsewhere, will not do. I expect that some of your Lordships know what is going on in places like Brixton and elsewhere. Local people are not wholly satisfied with the administrative liaison committees and with the other apparatus that is being developed for consultations. They are forming, and they are being assisted with funds from certain sources in forming, what they call monitoring groups. It is quite unofficial. If one gets into this sort of rank development, the real plant of community relations will be stifled by all sorts of competitors and people will be confused. Have a statutory basis for the consultative obligation of the police with the community and people will know that it is part of the law of the land that this machinery be kept in being and be used, and they can clamour in and outside Parliament if the machinery is not used. I implore the Government to recognise that there is much to be said for legislative backing of consultative machinery.
On other matters, I think it is indeed for the Government to decide whether to do it by administration or by statute. I can see the advantage of using administrative methods where administrative methods will do. But in the really sensitive matter of community relations I think that the communities of the inner city areas are entitled to see that the Government of their country attach such importance to this matter that they are prepared to put it on the statute book.
One other matter—I do not know whether it has been discussed in the course of this debate; it is rather apt to slip under the carpet—is the problem of law enforcement. You cannot achieve social justice unless you enforce the law and maintain public tranquillity.
463 You have to attack street crime, and bring the culprits to justice, if you can. You have to suppress—and suppress rapidly—public disorder when it arises. Therefore, we must remember the dilemma of the police at all times. I am heartened by what I have read in the press—I have no other knowledge—of some of the tactical and strategic ideas of the new Metropolitan Commissioner, Sir Kenneth Newman: avoiding, if possible, such confrontations as arose in the disorders of last year, and going in for the precision targeting of ringleaders, and so forth.
I end on this note because law enforcement is important. You can put it this way: without law enforcement there will be no social justice. But, of course, without social justice you are going to put law enforcement at risk too. The two horns of that dilemma are crooked and intertwined, and unless you grip both of them the bull will have you.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, has done a great service to the House by bringing before us a matter of great importance and attracting to that matter a range of expertise and perception which will enormously benefit those whose task it is to tackle the problems with which he is concerned. The debate has demonstrated, if it were necessary, the very wide range of issues covered in the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, who I am most glad to welcome to your Lordships' House on this occasion—the inflection there was unintentional!
Your Lordships have between you set me an impossible task. I have tried to anticipate in my principal script the points that I expected your Lordships to raise, and I have interpolated a great number of other replies to the points your Lordships have since raised. There will, however, be questions and appetites unsatisfied at the end of this debate which I shall detect with my usual combing of Hansard tomorrow, and I apologise in advance to those of your Lordships who, for one reason or another, I have not been able to reply to before I sit down. Even so, your Lordships will find that I sit down a little later than you had expected, and a great deal later than would have been necessary had your Lordships not been so assiduous in putting questions to the Government.
When my right honourable friend the Home Secretary presented the report to Parliament he made it clear that he recognised it as one of great significance and gave a firm declaration of intent in response to many of its recommendations. Since then I believe we have made considerable progress. The matter is not closed, of course, and my right honourable friend will receive the views which your Lordships have so cogently expressed tonight with great interest and they will be of particular relevance to his further consideration of this report, which is no less important today than it was on the day it was published.
The report set the events in Brixton very properly in a wider social context. That context was the problem of our inner cities and their impact in particular upon members of the ethnic minority communities who are disproportionately concentrated in them. I shall be saying something more about that background later.
464 However, the noble and learned Lord reminded us that against it the role of the police is critical, and let me therefore first consider that aspect of the report.
It gave us a timely reminder of several fundamental principles of policing in this country: that effective policing depends on consent and on the full support of the community; that there is one law for all which must be firmly and fairly enforced; that those who enforce the law must he aware of the pressures and tensions within the community which they serve and be responsive to them. The Government have examined the noble and learned Lord's recommendations on policing as part of our overall strategy to improve police effectiveness.
That effectiveness depends on a number of factors. One of these is the actual strength of the police service, and your Lordships will know that this Government have increased that strength by some 9,000 men and women since they took office. Another factor is the level of active deployment. The result both of this high recruitment and of turning over to civilians work which has to be done within the service but for which police skills and training are not necessary has been to put more men back on the beat.
It has also made possible a number of other changes. My right honourable friend has consistently encouraged police authorities and chief constables to work in partnership (within the sound framework of the Police Act 1964) to develop police effectiveness. We recognise and endorse also the message of the report that there must be partnership too between the police and the community in controlling crime and preventing disorder. We therefore welcome the central recommendation for developing local consultation arrangements—in which the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, expressed a strong interest at the beginning of this debate—as a means of harnessing community support.
As police authority for the metropolis my right honourable friend gave priority to re-establishing the liaison committee in Lambeth, and it is already providing a forum where the police, the local authority and the community in Lambeth can exchange views and explore solutions to local problems. In addition, he invited each London borough to join with their local police to prepare joint proposals for consultation arrangements in their own areas, or for developing any that already exist. We gathered views on this from all police areas in England and Wales. There were visits to many areas to see what was already going on there and there were discussions at both local and national level.
Two things as a consequence became very clear. The first was that there was a very general realisation that the community and the police had to work together if local difficulties were to be resolved. The second was that no single structure could possibly suit every one of the wide range of different circumstances up and down the country. Community problems come in a large variety of shapes and sizes. If they are to be properly fitted out with consultation it cannot be bought off the peg. It has to be tailor made. Nevertheless, the guidance issued in June on the role and construction of consultation arrangements emphasises the importance which my right honourable friend attaches to regular and effective consultative machinery in each area.
It also reflects his understanding that consultation is a two-way process. It is not designed simply so that the 465 police can be informed of a wide range of local views. It must also enable the community to understand the problems which the police face and the procedures by which they operate. Like the right reverend Prelate, we believe that it will assist both parties. The guidance makes clear that operational decisions are the responsibility of the police. Neither a consultative group, nor a police authority, nor my right honourable friend himself, can direct the police in the enforcement of the law.
There are, I think, some who would like it to be thought that consultation is meant to soften the edge of policing, That attitude was not much evident in your Lordships' debate but it is found outside this Chamber. That is entirely to misunderstand both the purpose of consultation and the nature of policing itself. The purpose of consultation is to establish a mutual confidence and understanding between a police force and its community. With that confidence we can achieve a secure, harmoniously law-abiding society, and perhaps straighten out the twined and interlocked horns of the dilemma to which the noble and learned Lord referred in his concluding speech.
The police will continue to tackle crime and respond effectively to disorder where it occurs. But we, and they, intend that they shall do so as a part of their communities and not apart from them. That will have a preventive effect as well as a creative one—and crime prevention is something which we have long believed is a duty of the whole community and not just of the police alone. To that end we recently held a seminar at Bramshill to study this subject. It was attended by senior members of local authorities and government departments as well as the Home Office and the police, and briefly, by myself.
Community liaison was not, of course, invented by the noble and learned Lord and he would not claim that it was. That is why we were able to react quite quickly to his message that it was being neglected. We had good precedents to build on, and new initiatives have already been taking place in many areas. In the Metropolitan Police district, for instance, consultative groups reflecting the guidelines are already operating in six boroughs, and agreement in principle to set up similar groups has already been reached in 13 other boroughs and districts. This is very welcome progress.
One central question remains to be answered, and the noble and learned Lord, almost predictably, asked it. That is the question whether or not this should be placed on a tatutory basis. As I have already said, my right honourable friend will take careful note of this debate, and of this issue, and he will take notice of the authoritative opinions expressed in a range of your Lordships' House extending, if I may so put it, from the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman.
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend to make it clear that the Government really want to see consultation machinery in operation in other parts of England, or is it—as appears from what he has said—to be only in the Metropolitan Police area?
§ Lord Elton
If I gave that impression, my Lords, I deeply regret it because it destroys what faith I had in the speech I had written. We are certainly in favour of 466 consultation throughout the country. We do not believe it will be of exactly the same sort in every case; it must be tailor-made to the different conditions of different places, and my right honourable friend will be considering what has been said in this debate as to whether or not it should be a statutory requirement.
My noble friend Lord Inglewood asked me two questions in his intervention. I will write to him on the first. As to the special constables, I can tell him that the numbers have increased between January and June this year by 285. I might suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that that might be the better area in which to deploy the constables he envisaged as holding short contracts. As I see it, training using scarce training resources to introduce a different, a third, type of policeman into the force for a short period is not the best way forward. However, there is plenty of room in the special constabulary for that sort of service.
In passing, the noble and learned Lord referred to his anxiety about unofficial monitoring groups. I share that anxiety, especially when it is funded by bodies which overtly set about discrediting the police by searching only for their shortcomings. I entirely agree that there should be proper consultative processes to establish confidence between the police and the community where that is lacking.
I have spoken of the strength and the deployment of the police and of the good relations which it is essential to establish between a force and its community. Another critical area highlighted by the report and by your Lordships is that of training. At its meeting on 28th January, the Police Training Council decided to set up sub-committees to look specifically into probationer and community relations training; and on training for public order and for supervision it decided to proceed initially by a review of existing arrangements. All groups will be reporting progress to the Police Training Council. The working party which has looked at courses designed to install a sound understanding of good community relations has made good progress. It will in fact be submitting its report to the council tomorrow. I only regret it could not have been yesterday so that I could have quoted from it. I understand, however, that it contains substantial recommendations for improving the community and race relations training given in the police service. It will, of course, be for the council to consider it and form a view. What they will have before them is a report based on a wide review of existing community and race relations training, both here and abroard, accompanied by practical suggestions for the improvement of present practices.
What I do not expect to find in that report is a specific objective test by which innate racism can be detected in probationers, as I think some of your Lordships hoped might be the case. Work done both in this country and in the United States suggests that no such tests exists and that the best method lies in the careful observation of the developing attitudes of young policemen as they proceed through their probationery years, and that of course is what we intend.
The noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, among others referred to the extreme difficulty of accomplishing a complete and satisfactory training programme within the confines of a probationary course, and I quite see the difficulty to which he alludes 467 and I have been looking at it myself. Perhaps I might at this point make the general observation that to arrive at the right solution—which, as the noble and learned Lord has already reminded the House, is in many respects vital if a policy is to succeed—often takes very painstaking and ramifying inquiry and consultation, and the process which I have described in the educational and training world is typical of this, and I would not want your Lordships to think the Government are dragging their feet. What we are trying not to do is to push people in front of us so fast that they fall flat on their faces.
Training is, in any case, a matter not just for the probationary years but for frequent renewal. The supervisory role is crucial to the police, as in most other enterprises, and it must be given adequate training support. Courses run at regional level for sergeants and inspectors have considerable managerial and supervisory content. And courses at Bramshill are now giving attention to the implications of racial discontent and the social, psychological and economic factors which contribute to it. The Police Training Council will he considering how management and supervision training can be enhanced. They are also looking afresh at the work being done by the regional training centres to see if the very heavy syllabus given in the probationers' foundation course needs to be revised.
Having, as it happens, mulled over the examination papers only last Sunday—to which I think my noble friend Lord Inglewood referred in relation to the question whether anything was written in English or whether it was just a matter of ticking boxes—I assure him that there are some multiple choice papers to be taken, but by no means are all of them such papers, and there are some quite tricky questions to answer in an essay and current account form.
The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, is right in suggesting that there is less pressure for places in cadet training than there was as a result of the fact that the forces are generally reaching their establishment. On the other hand, he is wrong to think that cadet training is being wound up. It is very much alive. In fact, I had the pleasure of taking a passing-out parade at Hendon last summer and was glad to note not only the very high standard of achievement but also that the police are providing places for youngsters on Manpower Services Commission work experience courses.
To interpolate another point raised by a number of noble Lords on the Public Order Act, the Government have—
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, as the Minister is apparently moving off the subject of police training, may I remind him that I specifically asked whether the Government were or were not going to accept the recommendation of the noble and learned Lord that the minimum period for initial training should be six months? Is the answer, Yes or, No?
§ Lord Elton
The answer to that question, my Lords, is wait and see, because, as I tried to tell your Lordships a few moments ago, the preliminary views on the content of training and its duration are only now coming forward. I again undertake to write to noble Lords to whom I have not replied during the debate.
468 The Government have noted the noble and learned Lord's belief that there should be a national requirement to give advance notice of an intention to hold a procession, and we are taking full account of that, together with his recommendation that the test for the exercise of powers under the Public Order Act should be reduced to the test of public disorder, in the context of our review of the Act and related legislation.
We appreciate the importance of his contribution to the continuing debate about the framing of banning orders and we are studying this very carefully. The noble and learned Lord himself is alert to the political and constitutional difficulties involved in proposals to prohibit one specified procession, and he noted that there might also be practical difficulties in framing the kind of order envisaged in the report; and any amendment to the Public Order Act would of course need to be related to the review of the Act as a whole.
The noble and learned Lord linked his concern about racist marches with the current public order test. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has readily consented to a number of banning orders sought by chief police officers on the grounds that proposed marches would have threatened serious public disorder. But in considering any change in practice or in the law we must also bear in mind that we should beware of letting extremists force us to made inroads into our democratic freedoms.
I think that we all accept—the Government certainly do—that a police force must be part and parcel of the community that it serves. That is a central message in the report. But if we accept that, we must accept also that it must in general terms resemble that community. That is why my right honourable friend was anxious about ethnic minority recruitment to the police—an anxiety shared by many of your Lordships. Accordingly, a study group, with members from the Home Office, from local authority associations, from the police staff associations, from the Metropolitan Police, and from the ethnic minorities, was set up. Its task was to examine the measures which had already been taken nationally to increase the recruitment of black and Asian officers and to consider what more might be done.
The Home Secretary received the study group's report in July. It was clear that a number of forces were taking positive steps to attract more black and Asian recruits, and that the number of police officers from the ethnic minorities was increasing. The group found that encouraging, but it found that there were no grounds for complacency. The group made a number of detailed recommendations for ensuring that selection procedures did not present unnecessay obstacles to such recruits. Arrangements had already been made for the standardised entrance tests to be independently examined for possible cultural bias or indirect discriminaiton before they were introduced. But the group also noted that nothing had been done to overcome the possibility of unintentional bias during the selection interviews. Therefore, it recommended that the Home Office should introduce short courses for officers in charge of recruitment in multiracial areas to enable them to assist officers involved in interviewing black and Asian candidates.
The group endorsed the view of the noble and learned lord, Lord Scarman, that there should be no 469 lowering of the entry qualifications for candidates from the minority communities. However, it recommended that chief officers of police should exercise their discretion to accept otherwise suitable candidates who did not meet the minimum height requirements, but who possessed other qualities or skills; and that is not a new discretion.
The group also identified positive steps that could be taken by forces to help candidates who narrowly failed to meet the educational requirements. I should like to pause to make it clear that the group's recommendation—which we support—was to enable new candidates to be brought up to existing requirements, not to make new requirements fit substandard candidates. There has been some misconception about that. The group also recommended that Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary should be invited to monitor the progress made by individual forces with a review of selection procedures to eliminate discrimination.
The Home Secretary has accepted those recommendations which call for action by the Home Office. He commended the others to chief officers and to police authorites when copies of the report were sent to them in August.
To be more precise and practical, I would say that in December, 1971 there were only 47 black and Asian police officers in the whole of England and Wales. On 30th June, 1982 there were 386; of those 47 had been recruited in the first six months of this year. I can tell your Lordships, and the noble and learned Lord, that the latest total figure that I have is 418. It is not enough, but it is progress, and it is measurable progress, in the right direction. The highest ranking ethnic minority police officer of whom I know is an inspector in the Metropolitan Police. When your Lordships consider the narrow base of recruitment from which he must have proceeded up the ladder, you will think that not insignificant.
In passing, I should like to say a few words on Rastafarians in prison, which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised, and which I have slipped in because there was a blank space on the paper before me. The Home Office is continuing to review its policy towards Rastafarian inmates and is giving particular attention to the desirability or otherwise of the recognition of minority customs and beliefs even when the faith cannot be accorded formal recognition as a religion. The review may lead to a revision of the 1976 circular instruction, but it is too early to say what conclusions we shall reach on this sensitive and complex matter. The noble Lord already knows that Rastafarians can keep their dreadlocks, under a decision made earlier on by my noble friend.
All the measures that I have mentioned so far are aimed directly or indirectly at securing effective policing. The end result of effective policing should be public satisfaction. Of course no police force will ever satisfy the whole of the public all the time. As noble Lords have recognised, a fair and impartial complaints procedure is an important element in securing public support.
The noble and learned Lord concluded in his report that, if public confidence in the police complaints procedure is to be secured, the early introduction of an independent element in the investigation of complaints and the establishment of a conciliation 470 process are vital; and, after having said that he had not studied our White Paper too closely, he was kind enough to welcome the latter step. Your Lordships will know that in the White Paper we have accepted both of those recommendations.
The new arrangements would substitute for the present uniform procedures a three-tier system to operate according to the seriousness of the complaints. I shall not delay the House by describing the system, since I think that those of your Lordships who are interested will have read the White Paper. But I would say that the introduction of the independent assessor would he an important development. We believe that in cases where serious allegations are made it would provide further reassurance to the public that everything possible is done to arrive at the truth. The assessor's function will be to ensure that investigations carried out under his supervision are conducted expeditiously, thoroughly, and impartially, and he will have the necessary powers for the purpose. In view of the importance of this proposal, our intention is to appoint as the assessor a person of standing and independent judgment, who can command the confidence of the police and the public alike. The other changes described in the White Paper also represent valuable improvements upon the present system. The legislation necessary to give effect to the new arrangements will be brought before Parliament at the earliest opportunity, when I shall commend it to your Lordships for your support.
I think that this might be a convenient moment to raise the matter of the specific offence of racially prejudiced behaviour. Of course, it is important not to view this as an isolated matter standing or falling on its own. It must be seen in the context of the general thrust of the recommendations of the report and the progress that it has been possible to make on them as a whole, in particular those relating to local consultation and the means by which the public can more directly put their expectations to the police.
As my predecessor the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, informed your Lordships, when the recommendation was discussed by the Police Advisory Board all concerned—the police staff associations, the Association of County Councils, and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities—agreed that there could be no question of such behaviour being tolerated in the police service. But noting that this could already be dealt with under the police discipline code, they were unanimous also that it would not be appropriate to proceed by way of creating a new, specific offence. I merely put that before your Lordships because it is in the light of those circumstances that my right honourable friend is at present considering the matter.
On the question of lay visitors, we indeed agree that suspicion and mistrust about what goes on behind the doors of police stations are an unnecessary impediment to the development of community support for the police against crime and hence of effective policing. Everyone would wish such impediments to be removed, and several noble Lords have advocated lay visitors as a means of doing so.
However, there are important practical problems which must be addressed before we embark upon this. Lay visitors to police stations would be a substantial innovation, and there are outstanding questions concerning the need to safeguard the position of 471 persons suspected of crime, some of whom will never appear in court or on a charge, and may not wish actually to be seen by anybody but the police when they are there. To avoid hampering police operations, and to preserve the independence of lay visitors themselves, bearing in mind the fact that everything in which they become involved will be sub judice, also requires close consideration. I am not saying—and I emphasise this—that such questions cannot be answered, or that the practical difficulties which have been identified cannot be resolved, but they do exist, and consultations are already in progress with interested bodies, including local authority associations, as part of the assessment of them. When they have been completed my right honourable friend will want to inform Parliament, and therefore your Lordships and in particular the right reverend Prelate, of his conclusions.
I have spoken in some detail (your Lordships may think in too much) of what the effects of our initiataives have been and are likely to be upon our police service and upon its relationship with the community it serves. But the report must, as we all recognise, be seen in the context of contemporary conditions. If I refer more briefly to the social context of those problems and our responses to them, it is not because I see them as less important but because my time is limited and the greater part of my own experience and knowledge lies with the police rather than with the community aspects of the problem.
The Government, first and foremost, are wholly committed to the principle of full equality of opportunity irrespective of colour or race. That commitment underlies many of the initiatives that the Government have taken in the field of social policy following the noble and learned Lord's report. The Government are seized of the acute problems inherent in our inner cities and the disproportionate pressure they bring on ethnic minorities who live there.
Our immediate answer to these problems has been the Urban Programme. This will amount to £270 million in 1982–83, and that represents an increase of 28 per cent. over 1981–82. Guidelines issued to inner city Partnerships and Programme authorities set out the Government's views on how these very considerable resources can most effectively be deployed. Collaboration between central and local government and other agencies is an integral part of the operation of the programme.
We have sought, moreover, to increase its effectiveness by breaking down barriers between the public and private sectors, and to involve the private sector fully in the programme, as the report suggested. A good example is the Merseyside Task Force, which has concentrated on developing more contact and improved working relationships between all the various agencies involved in dealing with urban decline. This is, I think, the sort of co-operative effort that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, was urging upon us. In our guidelines we endorse the recommendation that local communities should be more fully involved in the decisions which affect them. The activities of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment in this respect will hardly have escaped the attention of your Lordships.
Even before the noble and learned Lord reported, 472 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment had set up the Financial Institutions Group. It comprises 26 managers seconded from banks, building societies, insurance companies and pension funds. Their remit is to help in developing new approaches to urban regeneration. The Merseyside Task Force has also benefited from the secondment of personnel from Merseyside companies. That involves the private sector, and is an answer, at least in part, to the first of the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.
In recognition of the key role of the voluntary organisations, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has appointed Mr. Ed Berman as special adviser on inner city matters, with particular reference to the role of voluntary organisations.
Inner city conditions do place—and I have said this twice—disproportionate pressures on ethnic minority communities. My honourable friend Sir George Young, who has special responsibility for race matters at the Department of the Environment, is now looking at ways in which the Urban Programme can be used still more effectively to combat racial disadvantage. Within the Urban Programme the Government are providing a substantial increase in the level of support for projects which bring specific benefit to ethnic minority groups. New projects are receiving about £7 million this year. Total support is of the order of £15 million.
Local authorities play a crucial role in combating some of the problems of racial disadvantage, both as employers and as deliverers of services: the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was eloquent on this subject. Earlier this year the Government set up a joint working group with the local authority associations to identify and disseminate good practice in this field, and it is hoped that it will report by the end of this year.
My Lords, an important way in which the Government help local authorities to tackle racial disadvantage is through the provision of grants payable under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966. The report urged us to reform the arrangements for the payment of these grants. We shall shortly be introducing a number of changes which were set out in the White Paper on Racial Disadvantage published earlier this year. We shall also be issuing new administrative guidelines to local authorities within the next few weeks.
An inescapable feature of the social context of the Scarman Report is, of course, unemployment. That is a sufficient topic for a debate of its own. The eventual success of our economic policies will bring a long-term reduction in this evil. In the meantime, we must take the steps necessary to enable our young people to become better prepared to meet changing employment requirements. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, quoted the Services as an example of how to do this. Last December my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment announced what he described as,the most far-reaching and ambitious set of proposals for industrial training ever put before Parliament".It includes the proposed £1 billion Youth Training Scheme, which from the autumn of 1983 will 473 guarantee any 16-year-old school-leaver who does not have a job a full year's training in the kind of basic skills needed by employers.
Over the next 12 months it will progressively replace the Youth Opportunities Programme. Meanwhile, the programme is being expanded to cover some 630,000 entrants in 1982–83, including 100,000 new-style training places. The Government are determined that as soon as possible every 16-year-old school-leaver shall be either in work or in further education or have a genuine opportunity of a year's training.
The ethnic minorities will also be assisted by the Community Programme. This started on 1st October and incorporated the Community Enterprise Programme. This will provide up to 130,000 places, mostly part-time, for up to a year, and assistance will be given with training if required. Not only will the unemployed he able to raise their living standards: they will be given useful jobs with a real wage and a chance to gain experience, and in many cases training, so that they will be better able to compete for permanent jobs.
There is great interest in counting the effects of these steps. Ethnic record-keeping by local authorities, which the noble and learned Lord's report specifically mentioned, is among the matters being considered by the joint working group with the local authority associations to which I have already referred. The Government will also be looking at the possibilities for collecting ethnic data in education. Some effects are, however, already measurable. We know, for instance, that the annual rate of increase for minority group unemployment has for the first time in recent years fallen below that for total unemployment—10 per cent. as against 12 per cent. That is cold comfort, but it is comfort in a relative sense.
Through these measures and others the Government will continue to combat the problems of the inner cities and the disadvantages of some in our society, and to promote the conditions in which violence does not flourish and in which partnership will develop between the police and the community in dealing effectively with crime. May I say to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, whose eloquent and moving speech I listened to with the closest of interest, and which will be read by my right honourable friend and others equally closely, and say also to those people overseas to whom the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, referred, that the party to which I belong is founded on the concept of One Nation. It is both the duty and the wish of the Government to sustain that ideal.
At the end of his speech the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, was judicious enough—I was going to say, kind enough—to give what he called a mischievous commendation to the work of the police by saying that they had done better than the Government. May I accept that, with my responsibilities for the police, with all the gratitude which it deserves, and treat it with all the disdain that it deserves as a member of Her Majesty's Government.
The noble and learned Lord has produced a humane and perceptive report, and he has embellished it for us tonight with a humane and perceptive speech. Our answer to the noble and learned Lord's report and to his speech is by no means yet complete. It cannot, on the other hand, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord 474 Allen of Abbeydale, be given overnight, but I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, that good men are not doing nothing and Ministers are not, in his words, languishing in complacency. Our reply already comprises quite a formidable list of initiatives and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, for giving me this opportunity, at a little too great length, to expatiate upon them to your Lordships.