HL Deb 15 April 1999 vol 599 cc841-905

3.38 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn rose to move, That this House take note of the report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (Cm 4262).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when my right honourable friend the Home Secretary published the report of the inquiry into the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence on 24th February, he promised to publish a detailed action plan. He fulfilled that promise on 23rd March. He set out in detail the Government's response to all 70 recommendations. I am glad that we have the opportunity today to debate this vital report. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, will remember that he raised a question on the issue. I believe that it was generally agreed by all sides of the House that we should have as prompt a debate as possible. Perhaps I may say on a personal basis how much I look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, whose interest in and care and scruple about these matters is well known to all of us.

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Home Secretary's Action Plan provides a framework for a major programme to bring about significant and long overdue improvements. Much of the programme of work has already begun. Most of the recommendations should be in place by the end of this year, and the remainder within three years.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is taking personal responsibility for the delivery of that programme. He will chair a steering group to oversee and monitor progress. The group will include members from the Race Relations Forum, the Commission for Racial Equality, the Black Police Association, the Association of Police Authorities, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Police Federation, the Superintendents' Association, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

I know that my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland are themselves considering carefully the implications of the report for those parts of the UK.

I hope that your Lordships have had the opportunity to look through the action plan. I do not believe that it would be a useful exercise to go through it line by line. I shall deal with the main elements of the plan. First, openness, accountability and the restoration of confidence. Restoring confidence in the police among all sections of the community and increasing openness and accountability—those concepts are not separate—are crucial. It is only through mutual trust that our Police Service will be able to work effectively for our community in all its aspects. The ministerial priority to improve trust and confidence in policing among ethnic minority communities will ensure that issues of central concern to those communities are given proper attention. Police performance in this context must improve and will be systematically assessed, as in other areas of their work.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary will be conducting a full inspection of the Metropolitan Police to review their community and race relations strategy. It will also involve a focused examination of unsolved murder investigations. It is right to note that nothing of this size and complexity has been undertaken before. The preparatory work is well underway and the inspection teams will start their work later in the month.

New police discipline arrangements took effect from 1st April. Key elements of change include introducing the civil standard of proof (referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dholokia, on a number of occasions in this House), a fast track procedure which will deal swiftly with officers caught committing various criminal offences and, for the first time and long overdue, separate formal procedures for dealing with unsatisfactory performance.

We have accepted the inquiry's recommendation to consider an independent complaints system. Work in fact was already underway on this following the Home Affairs Select Committee report. A detailed feasibility study is being carried out and will be completed by April next year.

The inquiry raised concerns about the accountability of the Metropolitan Police in comparison with other police forces. The establishment of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) will profoundly change the accountability of the Metropolitan Police to the communities it serves. The Greater London Authority Bill, which recently passed its Committee stage in another place, will establish the MPA with virtually the same structure, functions and powers as police authorities outside London. The differences are legitimately explained on the basis that the Metropolitan Police will continue to have national and international functions.

I turn to freedom of information. Openness has a very important role to play in restoring public confidence. We hope to publish a draft Bill and consultation paper on freedom of information in May. Under our proposals all aspects of policing will be covered by freedom of information legislation. We propose that there will be two specific categories—information relating to informers and information relating to an investigation or prosecution—where information will be exempt from disclosure. There will he no statutory right of access to such information, although information relating to an investigation or prosecution is, of course, disclosed to a defendant when a case comes to court. However, information relating to the conduct of any such investigation—for example, how many officers are on the case, whether a computer system is being used, or what training and experience officers have—would be disclosable subject to the appropriate harm test.

There is much more, I readily recognise, to freedom of information than legislation. There is a substantial amount of work to be done to ensure that there is real change towards greater openness in all public services, including, but by no means limited to, the police.

Effective race equality training is another crucial issue. The Government agree with the recommendation that all police staff, including CID and support staff, need such training. Ethnic minorities must be involved in the development and deli very of this training, otherwise we shall have no acceptable appropriate or workable systems.

The National Police Training organisation is already working with ACPO to develop a comprehensive programme which addresses the training issues highlighted by the inquiry. It involves review and revision of existing provision; setting clear standards for the design and deli very of training; and identifying the best delivery methods. The House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs is conducting an inquiry into the whole area of police training and is expected to report soon. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has meanwhile been conducting a thematic review of police training. Once my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has received and considered both reports he will announce further measures of reform.

We all want a police service which fully reflects the racial diversity of the communities it serves. We still have a long way to go. As your Lordships will have noted, yesterday the Home Secretary chaired a national conference attended by all chief constables and police authorities to tackle the issue of recruitment. The issue of recruitment is too simplistic a measure for us to rely on. Apart from recruitment, we must put our minds seriously, consistently and deliberately to retention and proper promotion. That issue is not limited to the Police Service; it obtains similarly in the Prison Service and the Probation Service, for which I have personal responsibility.

The Home Secretary set targets to increase the recruitment of minority ethnic officers and to improve their career progression. Those targets are challenging but achievable and forces will be required to report on progress. What came out most powerfully from the conference is that the Police Service, when it fails to recruit a fair and proper share of young black and Asian people, is itself the loser because it misses out on the considerable talent which is available to be tapped.

We want to raise standards by attracting good recruits. Yesterday the Home Secretary published Home Office research on the career progression of ethnic minority police officers. Key findings showed the following results: ethnic minority applicants are less likely than white applicants to be offered an interview, receive a formal offer of employment or to be appointed on probation; retention figures for ethnic minority officers have deteriorated over the past four years, while those for white officers have improved; ethnic minority officers are twice as likely as white officers to resign from the service; and the rate of dismissal for ethnic minority officers is two to three times higher than that for white officers. Therefore, if there ever were the instinctive response that Sir William Macpherson's language was over-vigorous, I would suggest to your Lordships that that immediate response was misplaced.

We know from the findings of the research that, on average, the progress of ethnic minority officers through the promotion process is slower than that of their white colleagues. That is why we include targets for retention and progression as well as for recruitment. We need to show those in the ethnic minority communities that joining the Police Service is a very worthwhile career arid that their service, loyalty and commitment will be valued in future.

I suggest that only two rational alternative conclusions can be drawn from those figures: first, that our friends and colleagues from the ethnic minority communities simply lack talent; and, secondly, that they are discriminated against. I believe that the latter is undoubtedly the case.

I turn to racial incidents and crime. We know that there has been significant under-recording of racist incidents and a lack of understanding by some police officers of what such an incident is. One reason is that the police are used to gathering evidence to put before a court, so they apply an evidential test before deciding whether or not to record an incident as racist. Recording racist incidents is not only about that; it is about monitoring the level of perceived racist activity in society. In accepting the inquiry's simplified definition that a racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person, I hope that we can tackle that This definition is not in substance a new one; it is a simplified revision of one recommended by ACPO, as Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary stated in Winning the Race: In essence, an incident has a racial element if anyone says it has".

Some have criticised the definition on the grounds of its subjectivity. But this is a definition for the reporting and recording of such crimes as the starting-point of any investigation. Whether any such alleged crimes are to be the subject of conviction is a matter for the court's objective judgment. Noble Lords will remember that under the Crime and Disorder Act, with general support from all corners of this House, we established new offences of racially aggravated crime.

We accept the need which Sir William Macpherson identified for a co-ordinated response to racist incidents. The Racist Incidents Standing Committee, chaired by the Home Office, has published a good practice guide on effective multi-agency working.

Crime and disorder partnerships—a key aspect of the new Act—can also play a major role in addressing racist crime. The Home Office guidance to such partnerships emphasises the great importance that we attach to involving minority ethnic groups in the formulation, implementation and monitoring strategies to reduce crime and disorder. We intend to ask the Audit Commission and the Inspectorate of Constabulary to consider in particular how well partnerships have dealt with the issues raised by the inquiry.

On the issue of stop and search, we strongly believe that the powers of stop and search are important for the prevention and detection of crime in appropriate circumstances. We accept that there may be a disproportionate use of both powers against ethnic minority communities and that therefore discrimination on racial grounds is likely to be one of the factors. We have commissioned research within the Home Office to gather information on current practices within different forces to assess the practical implications of the inquiry's recommendations. I welcome the five pilot projects in the Metropolitan Police—Tottenham, Brixton, Hounslow, Plumstead and Kingston—which are developing strategies to use these powers effectively. Following evaluation, we will review the recording of such stops and, if necessary, introduce new arrangements by the end of next year.

I turn to prevention and the role of education. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education, Mr. Blunkett, is taking a number of steps to promote cultural diversity and to prevent racism in our schools. Citizenship education, which will foster an understanding of cultural diversity in Britain (from which we all benefit and have done historically) has a prominent place in the revised national curriculum.

We are determined to prevent children being tormented by racist bullying. The DfEE will ensure that all schools have effective anti-bullying policies to deal effectively with incidents of racial harassment. Further steps will be taken to ensure that all racist incidents are recorded and that parents and governors are informed of the nature of the incident and the action taken to deal with it.

There were other recommendations to which I turn. We accept the recommendation that consideration should be given to permitting prosecution after acquittal where fresh viable evidence is presented. I stress that the recommendation was only to consider that; that is all that has been accepted; and we have asked the Law commission to consider this recommendation. I suggest that that is the proper way to look at such a fundamental change: to put it to an expert body which is not swayed by partisan opinion or public agitation.

We will accept the recommendation to consider amending the law to allow prosecution of offences involving racist language or behaviour and offences involving the possession of offensive weapons in the home.

The Home Secretary has made it perfectly plain that we have serious reservations in this context about going beyond the law as it stands. Nobody who has seen the videos recently could fail to have concern, but we need to balance what the law can do and what it is capable of bringing about; and to bear in mind the right to privacy in family life, particularly for those whose conduct we detest and despise. We hope to come to conclusions on that matter by the end of this year.

As regards race equality in Britain, we look to an inclusive society where people are treated equally, regardless of race; where equality of opportunity is key; and where, as a society, we celebrate diversity. The nature of our country—to use a phrase which I still respect, our Britishness—has been shaped by many different peoples over the centuries who have broadened our languages, our customs and our culture. I do not say that the Norman invasion was immediately welcomed in Wales, but we have managed to adapt and adopt, and I dare say that everyone who pauses for a moment and looks at what a great country ours is and could better become, recognises that there is no one stream that contributes to the diversity, quality and value of our life here.

The inquiry recommended that the Government should extend the Race Relations Act to the police. We agree, but we will go further and extend that Act to all public services.

It is time for the public service to put its own house in order on race equality, something which is long overdue. As employers, our track record in the Home Office could be much better. Therefore, Jack Straw is setting targets in the Home Office and its services for recruitment and progression of ethnic minority staff. We expect colleagues in other departments to do just that.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, the noble Lord rightly recognises that the problem is substantially greater than that merely of the Police Service. It relates, as far as the Home Office is concerned, to the Prison Department and the Immigration Nationality Department. Will there be a study of career progression similar to that which he identified in relation to the Police Service, and will the Home Office publish the results?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I can certainly speak for the Prison Service because I spoke to the Prison Officers' Association Race Relations Committee yesterday on these matters. I can also speak for the Probation Service. My belief, as the noble Lord recognises, is that if one has research material, it is pointless hiding it. It is essential that it should be published for a number of reasons: first, those who know that research material is going to be published have a very powerful incentive to improve their own performance; secondly, unless someone publishes such material, one cannot sensibly monitor; thirdly, my belief is that it is public property.

Eighteen years ago we were thinking together how to take forward Lord Scarman's recommendations. Why, almost 20 years later, are we confronted with the findings of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry; and, even more powerfully, are we to contemplate joining together in a similar debate in 10, 15 or 20 years' time, wondering why we failed so abysmally?

I do not pretend that this is easy work. The research is not difficult; the conclusions are not difficult; nor is the monitoring. It is coaxing, encouraging and making—if one has to—people change that is the difficult task. I have often said—I do not apologise for repeating it—that very often the most dangerous person in our society is the person who says, "I haven't a racist bone in my body". Such people are dangerous because they believe it; they are dangerous because they are extremely nice people; and they are dangerous because they do not know what they do not know. That applies to all of us, creatures as we are of upbringing and prejudice. Therefore the changes which are due to the Lawrence family will work only if they are systematic and are embraced by a changed culture in the Police Service as well as in its practice. They are therefore not capable of being regarded as an optional extra.

The core task of policing is to provide a police service in which all sections of society can have trust and confidence. No police service can work in a civilised society without that trust and confidence. We are determined not to be distracted this time. We will take forward all the recommendations as a package. For each of the areas covered by the recommendations, the action plan sets out, first, the main programme of work; secondly, who will have lead responsibility for taking the work forward; thirdly, the milestones for progress in each area; and, fourthly, how we will review and assess outcomes. The steering group will meet for the first time in early May. As a moral obligation, we must keep up the momentum. Reverting to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, we will publish an annual report on progress.

This is a comprehensive programme of action. Some might say that it is over-ambition which has brought us to this. I repudiate that. It is a matter of simple fairness and duty. We must build a society where everyone, irrespective of colour, race or religion, has a fair, decent, equal opportunity to succeed. It is worth looking at the action plan. Every recommendation is addressed either "Accept", "Accept in principle" or "Accept in part". When one sees the recommendation which is set out on the left of the page, one also sees on the right of the page "Lead responsibility"; and all the detail is there set out. I say quite objectively that this is a very considerable, very heartening and remarkable piece of work. We have to look for the fundamental change which I have outlined. It is a very difficult task indeed. It is a very long journey upon which we have all embarked. I hope and trust that everyone in the House will think that we owe nothing less. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House take note of the report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (Cm 4262).—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

4.2 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I welcome this timely and important debate. It has given the Home Office an opportunity to give your Lordships the considered opinions to which it has come on the Macpherson Report and the measures it is setting in train in response to the recommendations. We are all particularly looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, whose contribution today—I am sure to all our deliberations—will be most valuable.

The Macpherson Report's detailed explanation of what happened in the tragic case of Stephen Lawrence and how it all went wrong is clear, authoritative and appalling—appalling to read, let alone to have lived through, as the Lawrence family has done. The family has all our sympathy for its agony throughout this whole process. Although the report is based on this one case, it has much more general messages for the police, for other parts of the public sector and for our society. Nothing can bring back Stephen Lawrence. Whatever the police have done, that was the case from the time he was attacked. But society's response to this report—by "society's response" I mean the response of government, Parliament, the police service and the whole public sector—is crucial to the future harmonious life of this country. The implementation of the report has to go much wider than the Metropolitan Police and the whole police service, a point which the Minister rightly made at intervals throughout his speech. Nevertheless, the police are the starting point and the focus of the report.

I wish to say at the start that the police in this country do a good job—better than most police forces in the world. Their success over the years, despite their relatively small numbers by international standards, is traditionally based on mutual trust. But that trust—which most of us in your Lordships' House, being of a particular generation and upbringing, tend to take for granted—does not exist between the police and large numbers of our fellow citizens from the ethnic minorities. That mutual trust is at the core of British policing and at the core of the issues in the report. I do not think it can ever be taken for granted with any section of the population. It has slipped away to some extent in recent years, partly with the advent of cars, radios and so on, which offer more efficient ways of using policemen and policewomen than having them on the beat on foot. Many of the policemen portrayed on television over the years have been bad role models and bad examples for the public to see. Above all, the lack of mutual trust with the ethnic minority members of our community reflects the failure to recruit, train and promote sufficient policemen and policewomen from the ethnic minorities.

In that matter it is difficult to distinguish between cause and effect. The difficulties with recruitment are the effect of the lack of mutual trust, just as much as they are the cause of subsequent lack of mutual trust. In seeking ways to ensure that the situation improves, the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary is right to focus on the numbers in the different forces. But it is one thing to talk about recruiting more police from the ethnic minorities and quite another to achieve it. It is not a novel idea to say that we need more police from the ethnic minorities. Police chiefs—notably in the Metropolitan Police—have struggled to achieve just that. Indeed, they have had some success, particularly in the past four or five years in the case of the Metropolitan Police. That should give us hope that the circle of cause and effect can be broken, provided that there is—as there inevitably will be—greater emphasis on solving the problems and changing attitudes where necessary.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I am very much in line with what the noble Lord has said, but does he not agree that part and parcel of the task of building up confidence, particularly among ethnic minority communities, lies in grappling with the problems when they arise, not seeking to kick them into touch and hoping that they will disappear? I fear that was very much the case in relation to the events that preceded the Macpherson inquiry.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

Yes, my Lords, it is both. It is trying to see what one might call the strategic position and making long-term changes. It is also reacting to individual incidents when they occur. No one can be proud of the way in which this tragic incident was reacted to.

The number of ethnic minority policemen and women who are recruited, promoted and retained will be vital performance indicators in the future. I am an accountant, for my sins (which must be great), and accountants like to watch numbers to measure success. I believe that it is right to measure recruitment in this case rather than absolute numbers. That would be realistic. The absolute numbers will follow more gradually once recruitment improves, provided that retention and promotion are also addressed.

However, without additional resources, recruitment will be difficult. Many of the recommendations in the report come back to the question of resources. It will obviously be easier to recruit more police from our ethnic minorities if the overall number in the police is rising rather than falling, as it is at present. The question of resources is considered right at the beginning of the Home Secretary's action plan, on page two. That is not surprising. However, I am sorry that it is not considered in a more positive way. The Minister emphasised the problems of retention and, as I have said, I agree with him on that. Tackling the problems of recruitment, retention and promotion is the key to mutual trust.

There are many other recommendations in the report. I do not believe that it is necessary for me to go through all of them. They are covered in detail in the document. I agree with most of the recommendations and the proposed actions. As the Minister stated, there is to be an annual report which will provide opportunities to consider the progress of the good intentions. I shall refer to one or two of the detailed recommendations in a moment.

The report begins with a devastating description of the incompetence of the investigation of the Stephen Lawrence case. It is easy to ascribe blame in general, and sometimes in particular. However, it is not so easy to attribute motive. The Macpherson Report reached the conclusion that the only possible explanation for the incompetence was racism. More precisely, it concluded that the downgrading of the priority of the investigation and the lack of vigour shown was because of the race of the victim. On reading the report, I was not quite as convinced of that fact as were members of the inquiry; but, they have obviously considered the matter most carefully and in great detail. However, it bears on the question of institutional racism and the difficulty of dealing with unconscious racism. As the Minister rightly said, that is the most difficult and dangerous kind of racism.

In explaining any event—not just the kind of events described in the documents—people may see it in different ways. It has been my observation in life that when somebody is promoted and others are not, the reasons for the promotion are frequently thought by those who are not promoted to be invalid and the result of some sort of prejudice. That applies extremely widely. Those of us who, from time to time, have experience of choosing people for promotion, as well as being on the receiving end of the process, know just how difficult that process is and how easy it is to misunderstand. As Scotsmen will appreciate with a name like "Johnny Cope", I am always cautious about quoting Robbie Burns who wisely pointed out the rare value of the gift of being able to see ourselves as others see us.

People sometimes see racism where it does not exist, as well as seeing it where it does exist but is unconscious and, of course, where it is conscious and deliberate. We must recognise that the new definition of racist incident that is to be used will mean an inevitable leap in the reporting and recording of racist incidents. Because, as the Minister described, it is a rather different definition, it should be seen for what it is; that is, a leap in the recording rather than necessarily a leap in the incidents. It will only be after a year or two, when the recording has been carried out on the new basis, that the significance of the numbers rising or falling will be seen.

Incidents of deliberate racism, wherever they occur, must be dealt with most strongly. Incidents of unconscious or unintentional racism call for education and training. That is rightly emphasised in the report, the recommendations and in the reaction of the Home Office to them. Incidents of perceived racism call for understanding and, particularly, explanation. That aspect is also important.

I have mentioned the incompetence in the investigation. I have to say that there was also some incompetence in the Home Office over the publication of the report. I am fortunate to live far enough away from London, at least at the weekends, to have received a copy of the Sunday Telegraph which published the leak of the report unlike the subsequent copies received by those who normally read the last editions. I repeat the observation I made at the time that I believe the leak to be inexcusable. The Treasury, of which I have some experience, does not leak Budget secrets over months because it takes great care not to. Both Ministers and civil servants attach great importance to the matter. The Home Office had the document for only a few days and there was this leak which did not look like an accident. A Home Office official was quoted in the Sunday Telegraph in connection with it. The leak seemed deliberately designed to destabilise the Metropolitan Commissioner of Police.

However, the immediate point is that the leak inquiry has now been continuing for some seven weeks. One of the messages from the Macpherson Report is that in investigations, leads quickly go cold. It seems to me that we should be informed of the progress of the inquiry. The distribution of the report within the Home Office was apparently limited to very few people, each of whom could presumably have been interviewed by the inquiry for days by now.

The leak was followed by the injunction. The horse had been let out, but the Home Secretary was still busy closing the door, and that is not very effective in a stable. David Pannick, QC, the well-known commentator, said that it was wrong to grant the injunction, let alone to ask for it. After all that, the wrong version of the report was published. I refer to Appendix 11 in particular. In my judgment, the responsibility for that lies within the Home Office just as much as with the inquiry team.

I turn to the individual recommendations. There are important recommendations on the subject of police complaints and police discipline. We shall have the opportunity to return to the subject of complaints because the system is to be further considered. As regards discipline, new procedures came into force on 1st April. It is obviously too early to say much about those but we need to keep them under review in practice.

The action plan also states, politely, that the Home Office is reviewing the question of forfeiture of pensions. I am not sure whether that is not just pushing it into the long grass. I suspect it may be and that that may well be right. The action plan states that forfeiture of pensions is available at present in limited circumstances. However, great caution is required on this matter if unfairness is not to result. It seems to me to be much more important to consider the ability of people to retire early while under investigation rather than to reconsider the matter after they have been allowed to retire early in that way.

The report contains an interesting recommendation on prosecution after acquittal. That recommendation has been "accepted" in that the Law Commission is to look at it and I have no doubt that it will do that thoroughly. But I should be grateful for the Minister's confirmation that the Scottish Law Commission will also be involved because I understand that the position is slightly different there and the matter needs to be looked at jointly.

One of the most difficult recommendations concerns the creation of an offence relating to racist words spoken in private. The Home Office accepted that in the sense that it has been taken on board for consideration, but it clearly recognises the difficulty of the proposal. It is not clear to me how the current law could be improved with advantage. For the moment we must wait to see what the review produces.

I started by saying that on the whole our police do an excellent job of the greatest difficulty and complexity, particularly in modern times, on behalf of the whole of our society. The report rightly criticises them and makes recommendations for essential improvements. But it is right also for us to recognise the problems that they face. We must not be overwhelmed by those problems, but tackle them realistically and efficiently.

The police are already subject to a lot of scrutiny and will be subject to even more. They come under police authorities, and before long we shall be considering the London police authority in connection with the Greater London Authority Bill. They are daily in touch with, and have to answer to, the courts for a lot of their activities. Parliament studies them more or less continuously with the Select Committee on Home Affairs and ourselves. They are inspected by the Chief Inspector with additional powers. They are examined by the Audit Commission. They are subject to the Police Complaints Authority, also now to be stepped up, and they are now to be subject to the Race Relations Board—rightly, although clearly, as has already been said, that must apply to other public services as well.

In the midst of all that it is important that the police do not develop an inferiority complex and defensive reaction to those reports, and that they are not distracted from the actual job of policing by having to answer those reports. If they are to handle continually being examined by all those bodies, they will need to divert resources to answering all their inquiries, let alone implementing the recommendations of the Macpherson Report. In all the notes of the bodies responsible for implementing bits of this report, as the Minister said, the department which has the lead responsibility is cited on each page, but nowhere do the words "Her Majesty's Treasury" appear as the department with the lead responsibility. However, the Treasury will be as important as any other department in ensuring that the recommendations of the report are carried out and that the police are able to respond to them properly.

This is not a report with messages for the police alone. It is sometimes said that these British islands are not big enough to accommodate different ethnic groups. In my view, the reverse is true; that is, these islands are not big enough to allow us to live separate lives in isolated groups or parallel cultures. I believe that fiercely with regard to Northern Ireland and to race in all parts of the kingdom.

We British have always been a mixed lot. The Minister referred to the Norman conquest, but we English were mixed before then—the very words "Anglo Saxon" indicate that—and that was before we got mixed up with the Celts. Over the 900 years since then, many more have come, including those in recent years, and formed part of the mix. It is right to point out also that many of our people have gone and settled in other parts of the globe. We must respect our fellow citizens equally. It is their birthright as humans, their birthright as children of God and their birthright as British citizens, white or black.

4.24 p.m.

Lord Dholakia

My Lords, I welcome this debate. I am delighted that we shall have the opportunity to listen to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Imbert. I knew him well when I worked at the Commission for Racial Equality and he was the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. He made a point of attending meetings of many of the ethnic minority organisations during his time there. He made it clear at that time that consultation meant consulting all the diverse communities. It is to his credit that as part of the Government's strategy on Macpherson's report we are today advocating once again the need to dismantle barriers and consult our diverse, multi-racial communities.

We welcomed the report of Sir William Macpherson's inquiry when it was published; we also welcomed the Statement of the Home Secretary when it was read out in your Lordships' House. It should therefore come as no surprise that we broadly support the action plan setting out how the Government will take forward the recommendations contained in the report. To talk about leaks, about injunctions or for that matter about whether or not the inquiry should have been held is simply diverting away from the conclusions in the report.

Yesterday I attended the Home Secretary's national conference on recruitment, retention and progression of black and Asian police officers held at Southampton. The participants were chief constables and police authority chairs. I did not get the impression from any of them that they were under pressure. My impression was that they all wanted to get along and to try to implement almost all the recommendations that were put to them. Also, I was delighted to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, making one of the major keynote speeches at that conference.

The objective, rightly, was to lay an agenda to ensure that police forces reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. I was delighted to see the Government's current thinking on targets relating to this crucial area of policing in our multi-racial society. There is a lot of misunderstanding about setting targets in recruitment. I say that having sat in this House and heard again and again people talk of targets as quotas. Your Lordships' House is therefore no exception when we confuse setting targets with positive discrimination in favour of black and Asian recruits. That is not so. Positive discrimination is unlawful under the Race Relations Act. Moreover, black and Asian communities resent any implications that they are being recruited simply to make up the numbers or that their appointment would lower the recruitment standards set by public bodies. I hope that that will be a clear message from your Lordships' House.

Targets are not and never have been quotas. They are not unlawful as long as they are not achieved by racially discriminatory methods. There is no reason why the percentage of ethnic minority employees should not be significantly raised in many organisations and I look forward to similar initiatives in other government departments and public bodies to ensure that they also have clear targets to make sure that the diversity is reflected in all walks of life in this country.

There have been adversarial contacts between the police and the black community for a long time and there is therefore a need to take positive action. That means taking a series of measures to encourage and train applicants to help them fit jobs or posts in which they have been underrepresented. That will also help to arrest the pernicious racism that seems to have affected the police and policing decisions which was so clearly identified by the Macpherson report.

It is clear that targets alone are not sufficient. We need to develop a strategy to ensure that all members of society are able to compete from the same starting line—or, as we so often say, we need to establish a level playing field. Positive action, not positive discrimination, means recognising and developing potential which has not been used before because of past discrimination and disadvantage. It is about encouraging applications from suitable ethnic minority men and women so that they can be considered equally with other candidates. It is about providing training for ethnic minority men and women to help fit them for particular work so that they can be considered equally with other candidates. Positive action does not mean selecting a certain number of ethnic minority employees irrespective of merit to give the organisation a good image while ignoring action to remove racial discrimination in general.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, was right when he said at the time of repeating the Home Secretary's Statement that, the ethnic minorities … are filled with anger, distress, bitterness and fury that we cannot even begin to guess at: and they are right".—[Official Report, 24/2/99; col. 1166.] We need to convert these factors into a confidence-building exercise. That will come with targeting and positive action in the recruitment of black and Asian people. The police have made a start, but could we say the same about other institutions?

What about the Government? We have now had a settled black and Asian community in this country for over 50 years. What about the record of the Home Office? I was not surprised that the Minister did not defend it. Why is it that most of its black staff are at the bottom of the promotion ladder? When will we see senior appointments in the Civil Service which will reflect our multi-racial society? To put it even more bluntly, when can we expect to see the first black chief constable, the first black chief probation officer, the first black chief Crown prosecutor or for that matter the first black chief prison governor or a chief black fire officer? Perhaps I may cite an example. When I worked for the Police Complaints Authority, at least 18 per cent. of the complaints against the police came from persons of ethnic minority origins. I visited many forces across the country, but I never came across a single black officer who worked in the police complaints department.

I am pleased to note that the Home Secretary will take personal responsibility for bringing about the changes which have been identified. I welcome the setting up of the steering group about which the Minister talked. However, even at this late stage I would urge him not to miss out the valuable contribution that some of the key voluntary organisations make in this country. Indeed, we should make sure that they are part of this particular group. Of course, I have a vested interest in this respect as I am chair of NACRO.

No sensible person would ignore the definition of "institutional racism" which was provided by the report. I do not intend to quote it again. However, we must never forget that there are many decent, hard-working men and women who contribute positively to good race relations in this country. Indeed, as I have said before—and I repeat it—we have a police force which is the envy of the world, but that does not mean that it could not be better. It is the action of a few who taint their good name. Police officers should realise that they have far-reaching powers over the lives of ordinary people. Therefore, there must be effective safeguards against their misuse. It is the duty of every police officer to root out those who give the force a bad name. Failure to do this means that the force will be perceived as institutionally racist. The proposed reform of the police discipline procedures is to be welcomed but we should also develop a determined culture which will not tolerate racist officers whether in the streets or in police canteens.

We must not allow ourselves to be deluded that by sorting out our policing problems we can put our hands on our hearts and say that all will now be fine. That is a recipe for disaster. The reason why pernicious racism filters through many of our institutions is that we fail to arrest this at every level in our society. It is not just the police who failed in the case of Stephen Lawrence; indeed, we must all share the blame for what happened on that dreadful night. We have failed to arrest racism, which is endemic in our society and which has affected our lives, our attitudes and our society.

It is for those reasons that I welcome the contribution of the Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Julie Mellor, who said: Macpherson's recommendations are clearly focused on the issue of racial equality. However, it also raises the broader social justice issues about how we create public services that meet the needs of all of our citizens. It prompts us to think about how we can create services that are relevant and are accessible for all and treat all with dignity and respect". I am delighted that the Home Secretary has recognised that and that his action plan sets out the necessary strategy.

However, perhaps I may spell out six crucial areas where there ought not to be any compromise in its implementation. The first is about responsibility. Acting on this report—the most important development for race and criminal justice since the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman—is the responsibility of the whole criminal justice system and not just the police. The CPS, the courts, the legal professions and the prison and probation services must work with local authorities and communities to guarantee justice and equality for all. The Criminal Justice Consultative Council must give a clear lead to the 23 area criminal justice liaison committees to make this their top priority for the coming months. They must play a crucial co-ordination role across national and local government agencies. The Government must give top commitment to implementation, which must be sustained over many years and not forgotten after a year when the media interest dies down.

The second area is about repairing the damage. This is an opportunity to repair the damage done to community relations and to redress unfairness and discrimination in the criminal justice system. It is an opportunity which must not be wasted. Confidence in the justice system must be restored. Justice and fairness in action must be demonstrated, every day and in every situation for everyone. Responses to racially motivated crime must be seen in the context of overall police operations. PACE, stop and search and other police powers have a disproportionate impact on the life of black communities and must be investigated urgently. Again, I welcome a very clear stress on this from the report of the inquiry.

The third area relates to accountability. Accountability and consultation with local communities must be restructured, strengthened and properly resourced. Community police consultative groups must become more dynamic, effective and widely representative in a way that they have not been so far. Greater involvement in local criminal justice systems—for example, by expanding the lay visitor model to other aspects of police work and by using lay user groups as we do with other agencies—must be part of a statutory requirement. A two-way dialogue between young people and police officers is crucial.

A realistic debate is needed on problems of local crime and police responses which involves local communities in establishing the problems and the strategies needed to tackle them. Local authority and police crime prevention forums (established by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998) must ensure that local crime audits and strategies include views from and services for minority communities.

My fourth point relates to training. We welcome the report on this point. Joint training across criminal justice agencies should be introduced to promote a co-ordinated and consistent approach to fairness and equality in the delivery of justice. Training must have a direct impact on daily operations and working practices. It must tackle the stereotyping and assumptions that lead black people to be perceived as suspects rather than as victims, witnesses, professional colleagues or partners in tackling crime.

The report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has pointed to disturbing evidence of racist banter and discriminatory behaviour directed by police at their minority colleagues. Add to these massive financial settlements in cases where civil action is brought against the police, and this would demonstrate that, despite considerable investment in training, the point at which police come into contact with black people is still an area of concern. This does not help ethnic minority recruitment into the police forces.

My fifth point is about education. There is a fundamental need for education—from primary school to higher education—about the harm of racism and discrimination. I hope that my noble friend will talk later about this aspect.

Finally, the Minister mentioned the review of the Race Relations Act, which I welcome. However, what we cannot tolerate are exemptions granted to the police and criminal justice agencies. We shall certainly support the Government in this measure, but we shall also want to know how serious the Government are about accepting a number of proposals to strengthen the Race Relations Act which have been proposed by the Commission for Racial Equality. These include a more straightforward power enabling the Commission for Racial Equality to conduct formal investigations; a new power enabling the commission to secure legally enforceable agreements to eliminate discrimination; a duty on all public bodies to promote racial equality; a clear and more comprehensive definition of indirect discrimination, ethnic monitoring and improved enforcement procedures. We need a clear timetable as regards when and in what form the Government will introduce the extended race relations legislation.

The Bishop of Croydon, the right reverend Wilfred Wood, in a recent article wrote: My personal belief is that a Macpherson type enquiry into Lily of the professions—education, trade unions, political parties, Parliament, law, medicine, broadcasting, the Church, Civil Service, etc. would have revealed much the same state of affairs—in similar devaluing of black people". At the 1997 Labour Party Conference the Prime Minister Tony Blair said: We cannot be a beacon to the world unless the talents of all the people shine through. Not one black High Court judge, not one black Chief Constable or Permanent Secretary; not one black army officer above the rank of colonel. Not one Asian either. And not a record of pride for the British establishment. And not a record of pride for Parliament, that there are so few black and Asian MPs". Let us hope that we do not have to wait for another tragedy to occur or another 50 years for this situation to change. The Government can count on our support as regards many of the Macpherson recommendations.

4.41 p.m.

Lord Imbert

My Lords, I stand before your Lordships today proudly but humbly on this first occasion that I have had the privilege of addressing your Lordships. I speak on a subject which I think we all agree deserves our most serious attention. I shall, of course, beg your Lordships' pardon and understanding if unknowingly through my lack of knowledge of the proprieties and conventions of this House, I should trespass into forbidden territory. As I entered the House this afternoon I was reminded that two decades ago I spent six days talking with some terrorists and that I must stop speaking after six to eight minutes today!

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and all that surrounds it is a most serious matter. I take this opportunity to make my first contribution to the House because it would be remiss of me if, with my background, I did not offer some comments to your Lordships. Although I do not agree with every recommendation in the Macpherson Report I believe it has provided the catharsis for the police service, and indeed for many other organisations, to build a better and more trouble-free future for all citizens of this country, whatever their racial origin, religion, or colour of their skin.

It is important in any debate like this that every time we mention the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report we should be reminded that the report is not just a neatly bound bundle of papers but it is about the callous and gratuitous murder of a young man by racist thugs. It is a murder which will leave deep scars not only on the police service which has received severe censure, and on society which has witnessed the aftermath of the murder, but particularly it has left a deep and irreparable wound on Stephen's parents, his friends and members of his community which can never be fully healed. As Sir William Macpherson said, Stephen Lawrence's murder was … the deepest tragedy for his family. It was an affront to society". I add that we all share the shame and the grief.

But it might be asked, "What do I know of such matters; that sense of desolation and imposed loneliness which is bottomless and overwhelming?" because only those who have experienced the awful suddenness of the death of a loved one in such barbaric circumstances will know the utter despair experienced by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence.

There were other dimensions to this horrific murder that Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence had to suffer; namely, the knowledge that it was racist, committed simply because Stephen's skin was black. The death of a young man in one's community is wholly tragic; the fact that the murder was committed because he was from that community is doubly horrific. The community itself must have felt beleaguered by the spectre of racism and seemingly ignored by those who should have been its protectors. The Macpherson Report deals at length with this latter point, and I shall touch upon that in just a moment or two.

I asked the question a moment ago, "What do I know of such matters?". I recall just a few years ago, within what seemed just a few short months, I had to visit and attempt to comfort a number of widows of officers who had been murdered while on duty, four children who had been cruelly orphaned, distraught and perplexed relatives and friends, and colleagues who had to continue to police the areas where their colleagues had been murdered.

One of the most harrowing times was when Police Constable Keith Blakelock was hacked to death. I met Mrs. Blakelock and her children, and I can see parallels in the depths of despair and anger with those experienced by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. There was, and still is, that chasm of frustration, of abandonment and understandable anger that no one stands convicted of these awful murders, that invisibly binds them together.

I know that the Metropolitan Police Service sincerely regrets it has not brought the killers to justice and has committed itself to continue its attempts to do so. In so far as the murder of Stephen Lawrence is concerned, the involvement of Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve and the recently created Racial and Violent Crime Task Force is an indication of this commitment.

Sir William Macpherson in his report has made many recommendations. The whole tragic matter and now the report itself must be seen, in the words of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, as a defining moment in the history of the Metropolitan Police. It must also be, on the basis of Sir William's definition of "institutional racism", a defining moment for so many organisations and professions throughout the length and breadth of this country. But the world looks back on defining moments with different eyes. Will we in 10 years' time be able to say we learnt the lesson and moved forward, or will we have failed to accept the criticisms for one reason or another and moved only to another defining moment, another crisis, another tragedy? I hope not.

The springboard for progress must be the Macpherson Report recommendations but, like so many reports which provide so much opportunity for us all to move forward, it also contains those seeds within it that, unless interpreted in a way that is understood by all, may damage the great majority of those upon whom we rely to build a new, better and non-discriminatory service. I have read the report in depth and believe I understand the meaning of the term "institutional racism" as now defined by Sir William. But as he himself says, the phrase has been the subject of much debate". Although finally settling on its definition of "institutional racism" which at first sight seems to brand all officers, of whatever ethnic origin, as racists, the inquiry report adds, It is vital to stress that neither academic debate nor the evidence presented to us leads us to say or to conclude that an accusation of institutional racism exists in the MPS … No such evidence is before us. Indeed the contrary is true". The report continued, we say with emphasis that such an accusation does not mean or imply that every police officer is guilty of racism". We must all be grateful to the inquiry team for making this clear. But the fact that it does so acknowledges not only the commissioner's early misgivings about the phrase but it seems that the drawn-out explanations of what it really means is a recognition that the phrase is likely to be misinterpreted.

My concern about the term "institutional racism" comes from what it implies. I ask how many people across the length and breadth of the country have read the complete definition and the qualifying comments given by Sir William.

The reason for my concern over the sweeping and simplistically interpreted expression stems from what this could now be doing to our police service and those whom it is endeavouring to serve. It is pleasing that within our country the basic unit of policing is a lone unarmed constable on vehicle or foot patrol. We must ensure that with all the definitions we create, we do not produce an environment in which those lone constables feel that they cannot execute their duty.

Having expressed my concerns about the possible difficulties that the definition will bring—and I sincerely hope that my fears are proved to be entirely misplaced—policing and life must go on. Your Lordships will be aware that the commissioner and the Metropolitan Police have, to move things forward, genuinely and fully embraced the new definition and are using it already as an agenda for change. However, it is vital that similar change must be embraced across society as a whole. 'There are many forms of racism within this country of ours.

Before I conclude, I must mention one of the most recent developments of the recommendations within the report. I refer to the conference held yesterday in Southampton on recruitment, retention and progression of ethnic minority officers into the police service, when targets under those headings were set. That has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. One of the most important parts of the Metropolitan Police Service's statement of common purpose and values—its mission statement—are the words: We must respond to well founded criticism with a willingness to change". The commissioner and the Metropolitan Police have accepted and responded to criticism and their energy and commitment to desirable and necessary change—in particular, the Home Secretary's action plan—and the vigour with which that is being approached is significant.

The Metropolitan Police already has 865 ethnic minority officers, almost as many as the total establishment of some other police services. Some 13.9 per cent. of its special constables are from the ethnic minority community, as is nearly 14 per cent. of its civil support staff. The Metropolitan Police has taken note of the recent research on career progression of ethnic minority police officers, referred to already by the Minister. That is now reflected in the Metropolitan Police's own "policing diversity" initiatives and in the publication by the Ethnic Minority (Recruitment and Advancement) Working Group which contains recommendations on how to achieve a police service for all the people. Credit for that must go to the chair of the working group, Mr. Kingsley Peter, and all the hard-working and forward-looking members or that working group. Credit must go also to Mr. Indah Uppal, a member of the Metropolitan Police Committee, for the lead he has given and continues to give in supporting the drive to recruit more ethnic minority officers.

Those initiatives demonstrate most clearly the way in which the Metropolitan Police, under the leadership of its commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, and with the full and enthusiastic backing of that great majority of non-racist, courageous and fair-minded officers, special constables and civil staff of the Metropolitan Police, has taken full note of every aspect of this whole affair and the inquiry's conclusions.

As pleaded in the inquiry report, acceptance of the reality of the problem was the first arid foremost requirement. That has been achieved. The next was the hope that the impact of the case and the inquiry was such that everybody's conscience will ensure that the fundamental problems which have been exposed are treated radically so that there can be real change. I believe that we are seeing real evidence of that.

The Metropolitan Police is already championing and leading change which all other public bodies and large institutions will have to follow. It will show that the trust and confidence which we must have in our police service is not misplaced.

I conclude by repeating the words of Mr. Neville Lawrence when he spoke at an inquiry meeting in Birmingham in November 1998. He said: This is a very small place, this world of ours, we have to live together and we now have to say; let us put the past behind us. join hands and go forward". That, as the report said, should be the spirit in which the future is approached. I have every confidence that it will be and believe firmly that there can be no other way.

4.55 p.m.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate

My Lords, I start by saying how delighted I am to follow the noble Lord, Lord Imbert. I have known him for many years and I hold him in great regard. He has tremendous experience which speaks for itself. I know that he is very well respected and loved, I suppose is the word, by the officers of the Metropolitan Police as an extremely compassionate commissioner. I congratulate him on an excellent maiden speech. I am sure that the whole House will share those sentiments with me. He mentioned his dealings with terrorists and the Balcombe Street terrorists. That reminded me of the chap who asked me the difference between a terrorist and a chief officer. Of course, the answer is that you can negotiate with a terrorist.

I declare an interest as a fully paid-up member of the National Association of Retired Police Officers. I apologise to the Minister for having to leave the House before the end of the debate. I have a speaking engagement in the north of England this evening, but I shall be more than happy for the Minister to write to me on the questions which I pose in my speech.

The findings of Sir William Macpherson in the Lawrence inquiry present a challenge to us all, although they present no short-term fix. Indeed, there is not one. We have made good progress in improving racial attitudes and understanding since the report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, on the Brixton riots in the 1980s.

Society has changed during the intervening period with those in authority being challenged more and more, quite rightly, particularly by the young. Time does not permit a comprehensive review of the 70 recommendations in the Lawrence Report. Therefore, I shall concentrate my comments in my short speech on those particular areas which I consider to be the most important and, in some respects, the most controversial.

Before coming to that, perhaps I may make a general point. The work that we ask the police to do is becoming more and more demanding. I am sure that there is common agreement in this House on that. In addition, we now set operational performance targets which, quite naturally, officers on the streets are pressured into trying to achieve. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, admitted—and I do not use that word pejoratively—to being an accountant. He would agree with me that there is a tendency with performance indicators to treat as important the things that can easily be measured rather than measuring the things that are really important.

The things that are important and difficult to measure, in my judgment, are extremely germane to the Lawrence inquiry: good community relations, quality time spent with victims, the value of foot patrols. The easy-to-measure things, which I describe as perhaps the ingredients of "macho policing" include, for example, the time taken to respond to incidents. Indeed, we had a debate in the House recently about police accidents which was extremely relevant as regards speeding police cars. Other easy-to-measure matters are, for example, crime detection and drug seizures. I do not criticise those areas of policing but simply indicate the points to which we drive officers if we are not careful.

I turn to the specific recommendations of Sir William Macpherson. First, Recommendations 55 to 59 deal with discipline and complaints. As the Minister mentioned, the recent changes came in on 1st April. He mentioned lowering the standard of proof in discipline cases to the civil standard; allowing double jeopardy so that an officer acquitted on a criminal charge can be dealt with under the discipline rules on the same facts; and a fast-track procedure to deal swiftly with the commission of serious offences in order to prevent long suspensions at public expense. Those measures are to be welcomed.

May I suggest to the noble Lord the Minister another measure not mentioned in the Lawrence Report? I refer to the abolition of the right to silence in discipline matters on exactly the same basis as for criminal matters, with a suitable caution. I believe that no police officer could justify hiding behind a shield of silence when the service, quite rightly, campaigned for its abolition in criminal cases.

Controversially, Macpherson called for disciplinary action for up to five years after retirement. This was taken by some—the noble Lord, Lord Cope, referred to it—to mean an attack on officers' pensions. The report did not specifically call for that and I believe that such a stark measure would be wrong. Morale in the police service is absolutely crucial to an efficient and effective force. Officers pay 11 per cent of their salary throughout their service into an unfunded pension scheme.

The Home Secretary has the power, where an officer is imprisoned for a serious criminal offence and consequently brings the force into disrepute, to reduce that officer's pension entitlement. How many times over the past five years have those powers been used? In any event, I believe that it would be wrong to attack an officer's pension in discipline matters. It would simply encourage the police to go for private schemes in order to avoid the risk, and that would be undesirable. I believe that it would be seen as a devastating attack on the police service alone.

Perhaps I may suggest another way of satisfying the clear public disquiet about officers escaping serious discipline matters scot-free by retiring. I read of a case recently involving the US military where an army officer—I forget his rank—was called back to duty within five years of retirement and dealt with under the disciplinary proceedings. Of course, he was dealt with accordingly. That may well be the solution. In serious discipline cases, officers should perhaps be allowed to retire on licence, subject to recall within five years. If that were accepted, there would need to be safeguards. Perhaps such a decision would need to be approved by the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Home Office. I am certain that it should not be left to the whim of a possibly vindictive chief constable to make the decision. I leave that for the Minister to consider as a possible solution.

Before leaving discipline, perhaps I may comment on the culpability of chief officers themselves. There is at the present time an unprecedented number of chief officers suspended or being investigated. In particular, following a shooting in Sussex, a constable has been charged with murder. I believe that he is only the second serving officer in history to be charged with such a serious offence while on duty. Other officers in Sussex are suspended and charged with the ancient common law offence of misfeasance in public office, and for a while the Chief Constable of Sussex was suspended. However, after giving an unpublicised explanation to his police authority, he was reinstated following "strong written advice" being given to him.

The Minister has mentioned that the thread running through the action plan is openness. The importance of openness and freedom of information is absolutely critical in this regard. I ask the Minister why, in these days of freedom of information, the reason for the suspension of that chief constable has to be kept secret when those under his command face the ultimate public censure for their actions. What was the "strong written advice" that the police authority felt necessary to give him? Are the people of Sussex not entitled to know why their chief constable was suspended? We really cannot have one rule for the chiefs and another for the indians.

A similar thing happened in Cleveland Police in the North East. The deputy chief constable, who personally suspended Superintendent Ray Mallon (of zero tolerance fame), suddenly retired two years into a five-year contract amid speculation and rumour. He cannot therefore be held accountable for his actions should they be questioned at some future time. Again, the police authority refused to publicise the details. I found out today that the deputy chief constable concerned has, since he retired, taken up an appointment as Assistant Commissioner in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Such public authorities must be far more open with the ratepayers who pay their allowances and whom they are appointed to represent. Will the Minister take steps to secure more openness in these matters and give us an assurance that Recommendation 9 of Sir William Macpherson's Report, that a freedom of information Act should apply to all areas of policing, will deal with such situations?

I will now deal with Recommendation 38 which has been subject to much criticism both outside and inside the Palace of Westminster. This recommends that consideration should be given to the Court of Appeal to permit a prosecution after acquittal where fresh and viable evidence is presented. I again declare an interest. I raised this very point in a speech to the present Home Secretary at his first Superintendents' conference in 1997, and I have to tell your Lordships that, as a lawyer, he was not comfortable with the suggestion.

Let me share with your Lordships my argument for such a proposition. I remember many years ago, probably in the 1960s, reading in a Sunday tabloid about the murder of a man called Stanley Setty. The murderer of Mr. Setty wrote an article, for payment, in a tabloid newspaper. He had previously been tried and acquitted of the murder. He described in graphic detail how he had killed Setty, chopped his body into small pieces and dropped them into the sea from an aircraft. Because of the ancient rule of double jeopardy the authorities could not do a thing about it. The article was an obscenity in my judgment and, to add insult to injury, the criminal actually profited from his criminal act. On top of that, the man went on to murder yet again. He shot a taxi driver in Switzerland and was imprisoned for life.

Is that not a miscarriage of justice? It is no less a miscarriage than those wrongfully convicted, such as the Guildford Four or the Birmingham Six, for which the law provides a remedy. In my view, it would happen infrequently. That might be because of advances in forensic science, such as DNA testing. The main criticism of such a proposition is that it would allow the police continually to have bites at the same cherry. Not so. Such a decision to prosecute following a previous acquittal would be authorised only in very special circumstances, perhaps by the authority of the DPP or the Attorney General. Indeed, a retrial can happen now if there is evidence of interference with witnesses. In my judgment, justice demands that that rule be extended to clearly wrongful acquittals.

I am pleased that the Commissioner of Police did not resign. He is an honourable man and has done much to improve ethics and integrity in the police of London. He must continue that work in the time that he has left. The criticism of the Metropolitan Police in the report must be balanced by the positive achievements. Where is the credit for all the excellent anti-terrorist work over three decades? We now have an arch-exponent on the Cross-Benches: the noble Lord, Lord Imbert. Where is the credit for the vast improvements in the policing of sensitive events such as the Notting Hill carnival, and the many major state events that are regularly policed without a hitch?

I, for one, am grateful for the fact that we live in a society that can hold a Lawrence-style inquiry, which calls the police to account and demands better of them. It is an example, in an imperfect world, of the development of genuine democracy and the importance of individual human rights. I still take great pride in the fact that when the Soviet Union broke up in the late 1980s, the emerging democracies of the old Soviet bloc turned in the main to Britain for a model of excellence in policing.

We must continue to strive to do better, but the time to worry is when we do not have inquiries such as Macpherson, and when other countries cease to beat a path to our door.

5.10 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham

My Lords, first, perhaps I may join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, on his most impressive maiden speech, springing as it did out of a unrivalled fund of knowledge and experience of the policing of London. I am sure that your Lordships look forward to hearing him speak on many other occasions.

Like others, I very much welcome this debate. It is about far more than the terrible death of Stephen Lawrence and all that ensued; about far more than the Metropolitan Police, or policing in general in this country. It is about an issue that affects all of us, because it affects the whole of British society: the cancer of racism. The basic moral question before us is this: are we ready to own up to that cancer, not as someone else's responsibility, but as ours?

I wish that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark were here to speak instead of me because he is the Bishop who is primarily concerned. Unfortunately, he had a previous engagement which he could not break.

While speaking of Bishops, I must also mention the role of Dr. John Sentamu, the Bishop of Stepney, as one of the advisers to Sir William Macpherson. He is well known as one of the Church of England's two black Bishops. But perhaps few of your Lordships know that, as a young judge of integrity in Uganda before he came to England, he was victim of the regime of Idi Amin.

But above all, in speaking of the Church's contribution, the Christian contribution, to the Macpherson inquiry, I must pay tribute to Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence as living witnesses to the Christian virtues of perseverance, fortitude, forbearance, hunger for righteousness, and hope. I was moved almost to tears when I read Neville Lawrence's words to the final meeting of the inquiry (paragraph 4.12). He said: I have … had quite a few interviews and one of the things which I have said is before people can go ahead and make changes, we have to admit what is wrong. It is no use people blaming each other for what has gone wrong in the past. We have to look forward … This is a very small place, this world of ours, we have to live together and we now have to say: let us put the past behind us, join hands and go forward".

Response to the inquiry has naturally focused on the police. Sir William is right: progress will be possible only if, starting at the top of each police force, there is an unequivocal acceptance of the problem of institutional racism. But we have to recognise the particular problems of large institutions with a deeply ingrained culture. Any one of us who has ever run an organisation of any size knows how little we know at the top about what is really going on at the bottom. We also know the difference between the issuing of orders and the changing of attitudes. There is a whole world between the grudging acceptance of an order from a remote authority, which is assumed to know nothing of life on the ground, and the willing and wholehearted understanding and implementation of a fresh policy.

But we miss the point if we stick with the police. Chapter Six of the report, the chapter on racism, is a chapter for the whole of British society.

I do not exempt the Churches. Let us look, for instance, at the number of Bishops who are present today, and compare it with the number, led by the right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, who were present on Tuesday evening. The contrast says something about our institutional priorities. I include myself. If I had not been on duty this week, I think it very likely that some other previously existing obligation would have kept me away. There are lots of understandable and more or less conscientious decisions; but cumulatively, they indicate collective attitudes and priorities. That is what institutional racism is about.

The story has often been told of the arrival in the 1950s and 1960s of people like and including the Lawrences—committed, faithful members of the churches; the story of how they were not welcomed here by their fellow believers, members of the same churches; of how many of them left the mainline churches, and of how those who remained were still frozen out on the fringes.

But it is also a story of people like the Lawrences who persevered and stayed with the Church. I am repeatedly amazed by such people, by the depth of their faith, their prayer and their charity, as well as by their perseverance. In a city like Birmingham, many of our inner-city churches would not exist any more if it were not for the black and Asian Christians who sustain them.

In recent years we have tried in the Churches, and in a more or less blundering way, to own up to the mistakes of the past. In the diocese of Birmingham, out of nearly 200 lay readers, nine are black or Asian; that is, nearly 5 per cent. It is not many; but it is more than 10 years ago. We have many black churchwardens, church council members and lay ministers of Holy Communion. But (and this is serious) among 200 active parochial clergy only three are black or Asian. That is a mere 1.5 per cent. Even with two more who are retired but still active, that illustrates the problem of the so-called "glass ceiling" in the Church as much as in any other institution.

Of the black clergy who are in active parochial service, only one is young and male. Yet when I meet young ministers from majority black churches, I meet young men of ability and zip, and I say to myself, "What is it about the Church of England which means that young people like that evidently feel that it is not a space in which they can breathe, flourish and exercise a professional ministry?"

And then I notice that my diocesan office has not a single black or Asian employee—in Birmingham—except for my professional adviser for black and Asian ministries. We had a black secretary once, but she did not stay. Why? I have inquiries to make, and questions to answer: questions about an institution and about a culture.

That brings us back to the central issue of institutional racism. Reading the report of the debate in another place, it was clear to me that, despite the positive response to Sir William's report from all sides of the House, as there has been in this Chamber today, it was still the case that not all honourable Members understood or accepted what was being said. They understood the term "institutional racism" as labelling each and every member of an institution, in this case the Metropolitan Police, as a racist—as if people could be abstracted from the society or culture in which they live and move.

But there is the rub. None of us exists in a vacuum; none of us exists apart from the culture we inhabit, with its norms, its assumptions, its attitudes and its collective priorities. If we take white English attitudes for granted, whether wittingly or not, we are institutionally racist. This affects the way we think, the way we talk, the attitudes that we know our colleagues will find acceptable and will not complain about, and the priorities we adopt.

To say that is not to label each and every member of an institution as a racist, but neither does it exempt individuals from their responsibility. Taking responsibility is part of being a grown-up human being. Each of us, in proportion to our capacity and our position, has the duty to open our eyes and act on what we see, taking responsibility for our actions and our collusions. If we shut our eyes or turn away from the light, we are morally culpable.

I am a Bishop, so let me use a theological analogy. What is required of us all is nothing less than a process of repentance and conversion. Institutional racism is like original sin, a blindness which affects us all, in one way or another. Repentance is a process of letting the eyes be opened, of growing up and of taking responsibility.

That came home to me in a new way last month. On the fifth Sunday in Lent I found myself having to preach on the story of the man born blind, in John, Chapter 9. The story begins with the disciples asking Jesus: Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered: It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him".

Then the process of healing begins, the work of God in the opening of the blind man's eyes, which is a kind of metaphor or parable of the process of repentance and conversion—the opening of the eyes, the heart and the mind. But at the end of the story there are those who will not believe what is there before their eyes—the fact that the man born blind can now see. The story ends with Jesus saying: It is for judgement that I have come into this world—to give sight to the sightless and to make blind those who see". Some Pharisees who were present asked: Do you mean that we ate blind?". Jesus said: If you were blind, you would not be guilty, but because you claim to see, your guilt remains".

5.22 p.m.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

My Lords, my chief reaction to reading the Lawrence Report was dismay and surprise at the sheer incompetence displayed by many of the officers concerned, especially in the early stages of the inquiry. I deeply regret, however, that the racist attitudes displayed by some of the officers throughout the inquiry came as less of a surprise to me.

We pride ourselves in this country that kindness and tolerance are prominent national characteristics, and perhaps it is true that these qualities are widely practised. However, they are accompanied by a singular lack of imagination about the lives of those who are disadvantaged by reason of gender, ethnicity or social class. As the right reverend Prelate said, we live in a racist society. Assumptions are frequently made (and not only in the police service) that behaviour that is acceptable in relationships between groups of equal power—between the English and the Scots, for example—is also acceptable where the relationship is one of inequality of power. Thus, it may be acceptable to tease a Scot about his parsimony, but it is not acceptable to make jokes about the jungle to a black citizen. I have heard as many racist comments in your Lordships' House as I have in police canteens, so it is not something that is unique to the police service.

The importance of unequal distribution of power in relationships, however, is particularly acute in hierarchical organisations such as the police service where some officers have power over other officers. It is also extremely important in a service where officers have power over ordinary citizens. This is especially true if racist attitudes are, as has been suggested, institutionalised in an organisation such as the police service. I had some doubt about this definition initially, but, on the definition given in the Macpherson Report, I accept that institutionalised racism does exist in many of our organisations, including the police service. But it is not just the police service: disproportionate numbers of black children are excluded from our schools and disproportionate numbers of black youths end up in our prisons. Racism is extremely widespread in our society.

The main theme of my speech today is that the recommendations in the Lawrence Report are part of a long continuum of efforts to deal with racism m the police service and that, as the Minister said, there are no simple or quick solutions.

Over the past 30 years I have been involved in many initiatives on this front. My extra year at university in 1970 was granted on condition that I conducted research in the race relations field. In the mid-1970s I was in the Metropolitan Police management services department, where we carried out research aimed at eliminating racist applicants for the police service. For two years all applicants—about 10,000 in all—took a psychological test intended to identify tendencies to fascism. Very few applicants fell outside the mid-zone of a normal population. Jobseekers are, of course, unlikely to express extreme views.

In 1972 the Metropolitan Police appointed community relations officers in all divisions. There was a lively debate at that stage as to whether, by creating specialist officers, other officers would feel absolved from having to do anything on the community or race relations front.

In 1981 the Brixton riots were sparked off by the insensitivity of police methods. The Scarman Report reinforced trends that were already being introduced in police training and which have been developed since.

When I was responsible for police training in the late 1980s there were some excellent training programmes, and some of our instructors went on specialist courses, where they stayed with black and Asian families. This was a salutary experience for them, but, of course, such intensive training is not available to all officers, and many police officers meet black and Asian people only in confrontational situations.

One of the most important recommendations in the Macpherson Report is that the police service should be subject to the Race Relations Act. Because the police service is subject to the Equal Opportunities Act. the Equal Opportunities Commission spent several years as part of a working party in the Metropolitan Police, taking a close interest in the position of women, and made an enormous difference with regard to the entry of women to specialist departments, their promotion and the monitoring of their progress throughout their service. There have been many other initiatives on this front under successive commissioners, such as Sir Kenneth Newman and the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, who has been a friend of mine for many years and whose speech I much enjoyed.

During my last year in the police service I took part in the Bristol seminars where the Metropolitan Police's 400 ethnic minority officers (in groups of 100 at a time) had the opportunity to meet in workshops and talk about their experiences. For those few white officers who were there, the descriptions of being a black minority in a predominantly white organisation were deeply shocking. We were presented with vivid accounts of bullying and discrimination. That is why I was not surprised by Macpherson's account of institutional racism in the police service.

There have, however, been one or two encouraging signs in the past eight years. Out of the Bristol seminars the Black Officers Association was born, and it has grown in strength and authority. It was involved in yesterday's conference of senior police officers and police authorities which was addressed by the Home Secretary.

The number of black and Asian officers in the Metropolitan Police has nearly doubled in the past eight years. But that is not nearly enough, and I welcome the Home Secretary's targets for the police service. One problem in our class-structured society is that the police service is still seen as lacking in social status. It therefore has difficulty in recruiting the best young people from all backgrounds.

Great damage was done to the police service by the consequences of the Sheehy Report and the reduction in the starting pay of all police officers. The present Commissioner's very first speech five years ago to his senior officers was on the need to eliminate racism from the force. It is tragic that that message was not heeded with sufficient enthusiasm to prevent the shambles of the Stephen Lawrence investigation. As my noble friend the Minister said, there are still serious problems of recruitment, retention and promotion, as shown in the Home Office report published yesterday.

The report of Sir William Macpherson contains 70 recommendations. I support almost all of them. I am puzzled by one or two that merely repeat what has been settled police policy for many years, such as the definition of a racist incident. I do not support the idea of making racist language in private a criminal offence. I believe that that would be a gross intrusion on people's liberties and would place the police service in an impossible situation. In particular, I support the general recommendations on prevention and education. Racism is not a problem for the police service alone; it is endemic in our society. We are all guilty of using stereotypes about other groups and of not treating people with sensitivity and imagination.

If the death of Stephen Lawrence and the Macpherson Report can act as catalysts for the initiatives proposed by the Home Secretary's action plan, we can perhaps look forward not only to a police service but to a society that treats all of its members with respect and humanity.

5.31 p.m.

Lord Tope

My Lords, rather unusually for me I begin by congratulating the Government. I thought that would attract the Minister's attention! First, I congratulate the Government on their very brave decision to hold the inquiry in the first place. I believe that all of us now agree that that was the right decision, although some may have had doubts at the beginning. Secondly, I congratulate the Government on their response to the recommendations of the inquiry. Although I have some detailed concerns, I acknowledge that it is a prompt, clear and positive response. The Minister rightly described it as an ambitious response. He is also right to say that so it should be. I believe that I speak for my colleagues on these Benches when I say that the Government have our support in seeking to implement those recommendations.

The report is far-reaching. Speaking as a Londoner and a London politician, there are a lot of things I should like to say about the findings of the report and the Metropolitan Police Service, but time does not permit. All I shall say is that I have been impressed by the response of the Metropolitan Police Service to what has been for that service an extremely difficult report. I include in that not just its leadership, important though that is, but the lower ranks where some quite important difficulties must be faced and lessons learnt. If we are ever to achieve policing by consent in London, the Metropolitan Police Service will need and deserve all the support and help that those of us in public office can give, even if occasionally it is the support of a critical friend.

I confine my remarks tonight to my two roles, one outside this Chamber and the other within it. I begin with my responsibilities outside this Chamber. I speak as a London borough councillor for the past 15 years and a leader of a London borough for the past 13 years. As the report makes clear, although it is concerned primarily with the police service, it has many important implications and recommendations for all public organisations, not least local government.

Speaking as a council leader, I found the definition of institutional racism extremely helpful. One of the first things I did having read the report was to say to my chief executive that it applied to the council and we must look at it. I am certain that next week the policy and resources committee will accept that, according to the definition in the report, our council can be said to be institutionally racist. I say straightaway that that does not mean that the members, officers and staff of the council are racists. The right reverend Prelate dealt with that point extremely well, and he is right. Nor does it mean that we have ignored these issues; indeed, the opposite is true. Community safety was a top priority of my authority before the term was even invented. The Government have now deemed it fit to make my council a pathfinder authority in terms of their crime and disorder strategy. We have achieved real reductions in crime and, perhaps more importantly for an outer London borough, even bigger reductions in the fear of crime, which is very much more real than actual crime in my area.

There are those on my council who still say that it is wrong to attach priority to this matter, that it stirs up trouble and that it creates problems that it currently does not have. I could not disagree more strongly with that view. Most likely, it will demonstrate to us that we have problems and perceptions that we did not know we had. I speak of an outer London borough with the lowest ethnic population of all the London boroughs. This is an important issue for us. A Bangladeshi woman on one of our housing states is in a very isolated position and in many ways is invisible. I do not debate whether that is a better or worse problem than that experienced by someone who lives in an area with a higher ethnic population, but it is a very real problem and often one that is not recognised simply because it is invisible.

Therefore, this is an important issue for my authority. I do not say that because I believe the London Borough of Sutton to be in any way unusual, rare or exceptional. I hope very much that it is not and that every local authority in this country is doing exactly as we are: examining how this definition applies to it and, even more importantly, drawing up an action plan to tackle that problem, as we are. That is probably the case—I hope that it is—for those local authorities in areas with high ethnic minority populations, but, if anything, it is even more important in areas like mine with a relatively low ethnic minority population where people perhaps have the perception that everything is all right, there are no problems, and so there is no need to pay any attention to it.

I come to my last word as a local authority leader. I hope that the Government will seriously consider giving local authorities the duty to promote racial harmony. I do not believe that that is in the response of the Government. If it is, I missed it. The Government will have an early opportunity in the coming months when we shall be spending most of our time considering the Greater London Authority Bill. That will be the Government's first opportunity to require such a duty of a local authority.

I turn to my other responsibility as my party's spokesman on education in your Lordships' House and respond to Recommendations 67 to 69, which deal specifically with education matters. I welcome those recommendations and, for the most part, agree with the Government's response to them. Recommendation 67 deals with the national curriculum and, rightly, says that these issues should have a higher priority in it. The Government's response refers, among other things, to the teaching of citizenship and they commit themselves—not for the first time—to that issue having a higher priority in the revised national curriculum. I welcome that and have spoken on that matter before.

It is right that these issues are dealt with in that context, but I do not believe that that is enough. These issues need to be (in the words of the CRE) "threaded" throughout the curriculum, not just in citizenship teaching or any other pocket. I also look forward to hearing how the Teacher Training Agency will respond to the whole issue of training teachers to deal with such issues.

Next, Recommendation 68 deals with racist incidents and exclusion in relation to schools. I welcome the Government's response. They have decided not to accept the recommendation that data on racist incidents should be published on a school-by-school basis. It is absolutely right that such data should be collected and published in a collective form, but not on a school-by-school basis. The latter would almost certainly have been counter-productive and potentially dangerous.

I have a problem with the definition of "racist incident" in the context of schools and school discipline. I understand and wholly share the objective of a clearer and better definition in the context of policing. However, speaking as a school governor, never mind as leader of a local education authority, I worry that a school may be in a situation where any incident can be termed a racist incident because someone believes that it is. The implications for school discipline and for teachers are serious.

I do not have a better or more positive definition to put in its place. However, I urge the Government to recognise the potential difficulty. They have committed themselves to accepting the definition and to its application in this area. I plead with them to work with the Local Government Association, professional bodies, and so on, on clear and sensible procedures. Otherwise our schools, head teachers, governors and indeed the LEA will find themselves in a difficult situation. I say that as someone who wholeheartedly supports the objective but worries about the route chosen to achieve it.

It is well documented that African and Caribbean boys are disproportionately represented among exclusions. The problem of exclusions may be greater than we think. Temporary exclusions are not recorded or included in the figures. If they were, I believe that we would find a worse situation. The Government have a target for reducing exclusions. Will they set targets for reducing exclusions of ethnic minority pupils? My noble friend explained rightly what targets involved. Unless we have those targets, an almost inevitable effect of reducing the number of exclusions is to increase the proportion of ethnic minority pupil exclusions.

The last recommendation—it is the final issue with which I wish to deal—relates to Ofsted inspections of schools, including how well schools are addressing these issues. The Government have supported it They have said that inspectors should be trained to do so. That is right, but is it enough? Are most Ofsted inspection teams equipped to do that job? I believe—I should like to think that the Minister could deny it, but I suspect that he cannot—that the overwhelming majority of Ofsted inspection teams are white and middle class. By definition, are they in a position to be able to judge these issues? Can the Minister tell us later whether we have any knowledge of how many registered Ofsted inspectors would describe themselves as being from ethnic minority groups?

What do the Government propose to do to increase the proportion of registered inspectors from ethnic minority groups? We have described the necessity as regards the police service, the Church and other organisations. If Ofsted is to do the job that we wish, that is just as necessary in regard to school inspections. As part of the inspection, I hope that the team would talk with the ethnic minority pupils of the school and their parents to gain their perceptions of the school in this context.

I believe that the Macpherson Report will be seen as a landmark report. It behoves all of us in public office to ensure that it is.

5.44 p.m.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, it is always a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Tope, in debate, particularly on this occasion when he expressed much of what I felt about the report in terms which I need not cover and inevitably less prolifically.

The Minister has once again put us greatly in his debt. It leads us to take all the greater pleasure in his elevation to the Privy Council which gave us so much delight when we heard it.

The subject of our debate today is a shameful one. A young and promising life has been cut off criminally and no one has been brought to justice because an important institution of government was blinded by prejudice against a particular part of society for which it was responsible.

Before I deal briefly with the main matter, perhaps I may refer to three peripheral issues which have arisen. The first is the leak to which the noble Lord, Lord Cope, referred. A matter caught my eye in relation to it. A report in the Evening Standard states: Such leaks come week in and week out, many of them from members of the Cabinet". The report noted, well-sourced suspicions that the culprit is a junior Home Office Minister. I complained much in the former Parliament about the leaks from government sources. This is one of the most serious because until its publication the report had such little currency. The passage to which I have just referred mentioned "well-sourced suspicions". The press rightly claims privilege on the basis that the public are entitled to know. But the public cannot know and judge unless they know the source of the information. The press says that it cannot disclose its sources; otherwise it would not obtain the information. I used to hear such an argument when I was campaigning to liberalise the rules of what was then called Crown privilege, now public interest immunity. It was said that, unless the immunity and privilege were maintained, the civil servant would not give honest, open and frank advice. I never believed that, and it has been disproved ever since your Lordships' House gave the important decision in Conway and Rimmer. It is no more true in the case of the press. If such an authoritative source is to be quoted, it should be openly canvassed.

The second peripheral matter is that the names of informants were disclosed erroneously in the appendix to the report. Sir William Macpherson took responsibility for that, although a great many others ought to have spotted what had gone wrong. I referred to that because in some quarters it was alleged that that was the kind of mistake which Sir William was criticising in his report on the part of the police. But the two are not at all comparable. The criticism he made so cogently and, I believe your Lordships have accepted, so convincingly of the police was of quite another order.

The third peripheral matter is the recent television broadcast. Again, I saw a newspaper reference: TV charade that backfired". It concluded: Any lingering doubt about who killed Stephen Lawrence will have been dissipated by this last ghastly performance". It seems that if that broadcast gave the police some extra lines of inquiry after the kind of comments to which I have referred and all the other publicity, it will be virtually impossible to vouchsafe a fair trial. Once again, I venture to protest against trial by television.

Turning to the report, institutional racism has already been described by a number of your Lordships and, as has been convincingly emphasised, it is not confined to the police. Your Lordships will remember that when the late Mr. Enoch Powell made a speech which was considered to be inflammatory from a racial point of view, in which he referred to the rivers foaming with blood, the dockers in the East End of London marched in demonstration in his support. I am sorry that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham and the noble Lord, Lord Bach, are not in their places, because I am sure that they will confirm that in large areas in the Midlands there is virulent racism which is endemic.

I do not suggest for a moment that this is a class matter. A few years ago at an Eton and Harrow cricket match at Lords, the Harrow captain, who was of Jewish origin, was subjected to anti-Semitic taunts from the boundary. One can also think of the Foreign Office minutes during the war. The truth is that, as has been said, institutional racism extends throughout society.

That is not to say that this country is especially guilty. On the contrary, one can think of the National Front in France, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's use of anti-Semitism against Trotsky and the other people put on show trials and so on. Nor are only the white races concerned. In India, there exists the caste system. At its worst, a high caste is contaminated if the shadow of an out caste falls in his path. In China, the people in the west were considered as barbarians. The Ugandan persecution has already been mentioned today.

Although this country is nothing like the worst, there is sufficient to put us very much on our guard. It is highly undesirable that society should be fragmented and that any part of it should feel alienated or persecuted.

I certainly shall not go through the whole of this masterly report. I shall mention only three specific recommendations. I admire the Government's response. The first specific matter relates to racial conduct of private premises. The Home Office has rightly been very cautious about that and I hope that nothing will be done to implement the suggestion. The Government were rather chary when we referred to privacy in the Human Rights Bill, so I am glad to see they are showing caution as regards Recommendation No. 39.

As regards Recommendation No. 40, I am glad to see that the Government have accepted the recommendation that private prosecution should continue. I have been on record many times about that and I will not trouble your Lordships with further argument.

The final matter is prosecution again after acquittal. The Government have rightly been reserved about that. They have said that they would consider it and have italicised the word "consider". It can safely be left to the Law Commission. It would be wholly undesirable to accept that recommendation. Society benefits by litigation rather than violence, but that is not to say that prolonged litigation is itself desirable. On the contrary,Jarndyce v. Jarndyce represents something real and Miss Flite, her wits overturned by the strain of litigation, does, too.

It is a rule of the civil law and adopted wholesale by our common law that it is in the interests of the commonwealth that there should be an end to litigation. In the civil sphere, as early as 1623, we had the Statute of Limitations. A great American judge described that as an "Act of oblivion"; a great English judge described it as an "Act of mercy".

The criminal law is rather different, although in its early stages it did show signs of discouraging prolonged disputes in society. En the early criminal law many societies relied on the vendetta for policing. Gradually, as central authority became more powerful, the number who could visit vengeance was limited, and the degree of vengeance that could be visited was limited. Then the whole function of policing was taken over by the state, but we did not, unfortunately, set any limit to the time at which activity could be taken.

Amnesty International was started by Peter Benenson from my chambers. We should remember its title: amnesty is to be greatly valued. However tragic the drama, in the end the curtain should descend on it. However complicated the account, a line must be drawn. Here, too, let the dead bury their dead.

6.5 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I have always listened to the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, with care. He speaks with passion and clearly revulsion about bigotry, racism and hatred, all of which beget further bigotry, hatred and racism. We see it everywhere in the world today. It is not confined to, or even practised to the maximum in, our own country, but we should observe the warning signs. It is not confined to any single group of people, white or black, Jew or Gentile. It is especially important that we take note of it when people in whom others place great trust and confidence, or seek to, betray that trust and confidence. It is in that respect that the lessons of this report are so important.

We have heard powerful contributions from people who served in the police force with great distinction. The maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, will remain in our memories for a long time. He speaks from remarkable experience. During the period that he was Police Commissioner for the Metropolis he did one thing that was tremendously important, and that was to reach out to people and listen to what they had to say. He showed that he was prepared to listen and was not unprepared to take flak from time to time. The message that he preached was of great importance in areas where those I once represented lived, in Hackney in east London.

My noble friend Lady Hilton speaks with enormous experience as one of the most senior women police officers. I have listened to her twice this week arid I have found her speeches utterly compelling arid convincing—but I started on the basis that I agreed with her!

This has been a sad chronicle of events and has been fully recorded in a masterly way, as the noble arid learned Lord, Lord Simon, said. Some people have emerged with great credit. The positive result is that the report has produced a series of recommendations on which the Government have acted very promptly indeed, and carefully, as explained by my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn.

We must not forget that the Lawrence family have emerged with enormous distinction and dignity out of this terrible tragedy which has befallen them: the death of their extremely talented son, who had so much to look forward to. We will always remember the words of Mr. Neville Lawrence that have been quoted today.

They are a family who have been denied justice and fairness for too long. To add insult to injury, it is deeply sad that one of the most senior police officers, Deputy Commissioner Osland, should have advised police officers to sue the Lawrences for accusing them of racism. How far does insensitivity have to go?

Some very senior police officers treated that family with disdain, patronised them and were insensitive towards them. There was a great deal of preconceived stereotyping. Yet they have emerged with great dignity and have fought courageously to break down obstacles in their path in seeking the equity, fairness and justice that I have spoken of.

There were two bungled reviews, the internal review and the Kent review. The Lawrences would not have been human if they had not believed that those were deliberate obstacles placed in their way. It is not surprising, therefore, that they felt that racism was a key issue which had been missed.

I pay tribute to Sir William Macpherson and his team for the diligence and scrupulous manner in which they undertook this inquiry and for the way in which they have framed their recommendations. I do not agree with a number of the recommendations touched on by my noble friend Lady Hilton and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon. I worry more than a little about making fundamental changes in the law, but we await the examination of the issues by the Law Commission.

It would be wrong not to pay tribute, too, to the notable courage of my right honourable friend Jack Straw for his approach. He set up the inquiry. He has responded positively to the recommendations. He has acted in a way which should have been pursued by his predecessor much earlier.

Finally in this context, I underline what has been said in the report—something which has not been mentioned today—about a number of police officers who did their service and the community proud, who emerged with great credit, in contrast to those who have been severely criticised. I refer specifically to former Detective Superintendent Mellish, who was the nephew of Lord Mellish, a former friend and colleague in another place as well as in this House. I think Lord Mellish, if he had lived, would have been very proud of his nephew. The report stated that he did all that he could during his time as a senior investigating officer, and he was thanked by Michael Mansfield, QC, who represented the Lawrences, for the way in which he had conducted the investigation over which he presided.

Commander Perry Nove had been involved in the investigation of the terrible killing of Police Constable Blakelock. The report says that it was entirely to his credit, with Assistant Commissioner Johnston, that he was able to do so much to salvage the situation which confronted him in May 1994. It is right that one should pay tribute to those and many other police officers who are not marked by the stain of institutional racism and who try very hard to rebuke those in the police force who are so blemished.

I look at the way in which young Duwayne Brooks was treated. He was the best friend of Stephen Lawrence and had actually witnessed the whole miserable tragedy. He was, not unnaturally, deeply moved by what he saw. He perhaps was not wholly in command of his faculties at that time—who would be? He formed the view that he was treated more as a potential prisoner than somebody who had actually witnessed such a terrible crime.

I do not intend to go into the misdemeanours and aberrations of the police officers. I do not believe that they should ever have been in, or remained in, the police force because of what they have stood for.

I have been a practising solicitor now for rather a long time, since 1953. I practised in the criminal courts—with one or two long exceptions when I was in government or the European Commission—and I also practised in the magistrates' courts for rather a long time. When I was a young man in practice I was deeply upset when I went into the police room at the back of the court and heard some of the racist abuse. It upset me much more than hearing that racist abuse—which, when they got to know who I was, tended to be stilled when I came into the room—that I never heard a single word of rebuke from another police officer. Perhaps they were afraid—I do not know. The police force today must undertake to rebuke those who abuse their position. They must not be afraid to stand up and be counted.

Of course it is true that it is not only the overt expression of racism that is heard and observed; it is much more the unconscious; it is much more the kind of thing that a number of your Lordships have adverted to, particularly the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon. When I was a young boy, being Jewish I suffered from racism. I grew up in the days when Mosley was beginning to thrive in that part of London from which I was not very far removed. Children in school repeat what is said in their homes and racist comments are picked up from there. What kind of atmosphere were these five young men brought up in? I entirely agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, that they should not have been dealt with on the television the other day. It did not do the possible case against some of them any good at all. They were brought up in an atmosphere of thuggery and crookery, and clearly racism. That is what they have brought to the society of which they form part.

The noble Lords, Lord Tope and Lord Dholakia, emphasised with great force the importance of education. Education is critical—not just the education and training of the police but going into schools and making sure that part and parcel of the understanding that we have to communicate is that we are living in a diverse culture, that people do make different and often very positive contributions.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, referred to 1968 and Mr. Enoch Powell's prophesies about rivers of blood, which happily have been confounded in the main by what has actually happened in society. There is no doubt that in those days—I saw it in my own constituency—fear masked the faces of so many people from the Caribbean and the Indian sub-continent and so on because of what they heard. It was something they associated with the days of Adolf Hitler. They heard it in the streets of east London from the Mosleyites still, and there is no question that the meat porters and the dockers behaved outrageously in support of Mr. Powell at that time. If black people felt, as Jewish people did before them, that these forces were against them and were intolerable, and sometimes they railed against society in consequence, it is not altogether surprising.

None of us can afford to be bystanders like the police officers who failed to react to racist comments in those backrooms of magistrates' courts. They were bystanders. By being a bystander and never offering a rebuke to something that is said that is so deeply offensive, or even drawing attention to something which is not necessarily meant to be offensive but is, we are doing society no service whatsoever.

I shall not go into the recommendations in detail—I have spoken for long enough—but I welcome most of them. It is right of course that there always has to be a balance. The old "sus" laws were hopelessly abused and, for the most part, black people suffered from that. The present laws of stopping and searching must be carefully monitored because again they give rise to a disproportionate number of black people—vulnerable young black people in particular—being stopped. There is so much more that is good that comes out of the report. I hope that we will not allow it to slither into the sands of time but that we shall remember what was said, certainly by Mr. Neville Lawrence. We must also remember the more negative aspects because that is part and parcel of it too. Mrs. Lawrence has been mortally offended and deeply hurt by what has happened. At paragraph 4.4 she says: Basically, we were seen as gullible simpletons. This is best shown by Detective Chief Superintendent Ilsley's comment that I had obviously been primed to ask questions. Presumably, there is no possibility of me being an intelligent, black woman with thoughts of her own who is able to ask questions for herself. We were patronised and we were fobbed off'. And it is not always a question of race either. Women have been patronised and fobbed off. Too many people in our society have been patronised and fobbed off. That is the message that Doreen Lawrence has imparted. Just as her husband's message is so clear and vivid, it should never be forgotten.

6.18 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Warwick

My Lords, my father was born in Jamaica in the West Indies. After serving in the British Army in the Second World War he was proud to sign for Warwickshire as a county cricketer. Life was good: he was scoring runs; he was taking wickets; he was a star in the making. Then came tragedy. After just two seasons he had a serious arm injury; his career was over. No longer a star, for the first time he had to experience the reality of life as a black person in 1950s Britain.

I remember him telling me, with some emotion, that although he was a qualified accountant, the only work he could get was sweeping a floor in a factory. No longer able to stay in one of the houses provided by the county cricket club, he had to face landlords openly displaying signs in their window saying, "No Blacks". My father could have become very bitter and angry but he refused to give up. Maybe he was an exceptional person. He studied and trained to be a cricket coach. Eventually, Warwickshire decided to give him a temporary contract. It lasted 32 years. Ironically, he went on to discover many players who went on to play cricket for England.

The reason why I tell that story is that he tried at any rate to instil in me, as a young black boy growing up in Birmingham, a certain philosophy. He warned me that there would be times in my life, due to the colour of my skin, when I would feel that life was totally unfair. He said, "Don't give up when that happens. Look for solutions, not just problems". That is why, in the main, I welcome the Macpherson Report.

That is an attitude I tried to keep firmly in mind during my eventful time as a parliamentary candidate in Cheltenham during the 1992 general election. In Britain, I believe we have come a long way since the racial tensions in the 1950s and the inner-city riots of the early 1980s. I was one of the barristers involved in the Handsworth not trials. I have to say that at that time, the future seemed bleak as far as race relations were concerned. But now, in the 1990s, many of Britain's heroes are black, especially in the realms of sport and show business. There are a number of Asians on the so-called "Rich List". However, it must also be said that these high profile successes have tended to mask the unfortunate experience of many black and Asian people in this country.

It is a disgrace, quite frankly, that it has taken the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence and then 69 days of public hearings, 88 witnesses and over 100,000 pages of documentary evidence to expose what black and Asian people in this country already knew. The Macpherson Report speaks of institutionalised racism in Britain. That finding may have come as a shock to middle England but it came as no shock to the ethnic minority communities in this country.

It is clear that, through a combination of incompetence and racism by certain officers, the Metropolitan Police failed Doreen and Neville Lawrence. The brutal killers of their son are still at large. The Macpherson Report clearly will not bring Stephen back, but it might prove to be the most significant milestone in race relations in this country since the Scarman Report.

In my view, the report's most important message is that there is a need to restore confidence in the police among all—I stress all—sections of the community. The police, as an organisation, look insular and outdated in today's multi-racial, multi-cultural society.

I welcome the formation of a steering group to oversee and monitor the progress of police reforms. I understand that the Home Secretary has pledged to chair it himself. I believe that an annual report and a debate in Parliament is certainly a way of evaluating the progress of such reforms. We await the effectiveness of the new police discipline arrangements. Clearly, what is required is more transparency and faster procedures for dealing with guilty officers. I hope also that the establishment of the metropolitan police authority will improve accountability because here accountability is a key word.

The system whereby complaints against the police are investigated by the police clearly is no longer acceptable. Yes, I support also effective race equality training and targets—not quotas—for recruiting ethnic minority officers. There is no intrinsic reason why a black or Asian person cannot aspire to be and become a top-rate officer, indeed, a chief constable. There are black and Asian police officers all over the world. My own grandfather was the Chief of Police in Jamaica.

This Government will fail in their plans to increase the number of ethnic minority officers if they do not follow up this drive with more effort to retain those officers. If black and Asian officers are denied equal opportunities for promotion and continue to be victims of the police canteen culture of racial taunts and abuse. they will leave, and who can blame theme' That would cause further damage to the image of the police at a time when they are being scrutinised more closely than at any time in their history.

Extending the Race Relations Act to cover the police and all public services is right and long overdue. However, I say to the Government that at ground level more community police officers are required. A good rapport with the local community cannot be achieved by a police force which primarily patrols in cars or waits to respond to 999 police calls.

There needs also to be an improvement in police-family liaison skills. The report criticises the insensitive ways in which certain officers dealt with the Lawrence family. In a sense, that is nothing to do with racism but to do with pure, good manners to a grieving family.

It is also clear that the police have used their stop-and-search powers disproportionately against the ethnic minority community. However, as with the recording of racist attacks, the stop-and-search figures need more research and clarification. There seems to be some confusion here. The recording of a person's ethnicity varies around the country from police force to police force.

One weekend recently I returned home having spoken at a conference. It was about 8 p.m. and dark. I decided to take some exercise. I put on my track suit and went for a jog. After about 15 minutes, I heard a car coming up from behind me. It was a police car. A uniformed officer called out to me to stop. This was a new experience for me. The officer said that he had had a report of a dark man wearing a track suit running from a nearby house. I turned around. I gave him my name and explained that my home was just around the corner.

The reaction of that officer was quite telling. He was embarrassed, spluttered apologies and started to back away from me. I stopped him and said, "Officer, no. As long as you are acting with integrity and within the rules, I support what you are doing". As a black person, I emphasise that point. As long as they act with integrity and within the rules they will be able to protect us all.

The other major finding to emerge from the Macpherson Report is the conclusion that racism exists in other institutions, not only the police force. The report obviously could not do justice to these other areas but it at least signalled the need for further in-depth research; for example, into our education system, the armed services, the National Health Service, the Civil Service and the media.

Dealing with the wider ramifications of the report, I wish to emphasise one particular area in terms of institutionalised racism; that is, corporate Britain. I believe it is relevant to mention that in the context of this debate. The Macpherson Report has required Britain to look at itself in terms of race. Britain is not only composed of the public sector. The spotlight should also be shone on the private sector. The issue was raised recently by none other than Sir John Browne, chief executive of BP Amoco. He listed diversity as one of the biggest challenges facing his company. He said that talent must be drawn from all sections of society to access the widest, most creative range of new ideas—an essential part of competitive advantage, especially in a global market place.

In Britain alone it may not be widely appreciated that the ethnic minorities now have an annual spending power of £14.9 billion. I have the privilege of being president of an organisation which represents Britain's fastest-growing business sector. It is not Asian, but Afro-Caribbean. The irony is that, faced with racism as employees, many of these black Britons went off and started their own companies. So in many ways the firms they left have been the real losers.

In my work also with the Warwick Leadership Foundation—a charity dedicated to promoting leadership—I am finding that many British companies still do not understand that diversity is not just about equal opportunities; it is about making the whole organisation, whether it is in the public sector or the private sector, stronger and more innovative.

There are elements of the Macpherson Report which I find less compelling, such as the observations about the double jeopardy rule and racist comments in the home. But the report's main recommendations have given us a real chance to be more honest and more positive about race relations in Britain. It is time to recognise diversity as a strength, not a weakness. In practical terms we need to build bridges between our communities, not walls.

6.31 p.m.

The Earl of Rosslyn

My Lords, I begin by adding my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Imbert on his maiden speech. I know that he is still remembered with very great respect and affection throughout the Thames Valley and his former colleagues there will enjoy reading his speech as much as the House, I know, enjoyed hearing it.

When I joined the Metropolitan Police in 1980 I was posted, after initial training, to serve as a constable in the London Borough of Lambeth. Less than four months later I saw for myself the ultimate consequences of allowing confidence in the police among one section of the community to be so seriously undermined that there existed in its place only an indignant and resentful atmosphere of mutual suspicion. The subsequent inquiry into those events by my noble and learned friend Lord Scarman referred to the "determination and persistence" which would need to be shown by the police if they were to gain the, approval of all responsible elements in our ethnically diverse society". While I feel that some commentators may have been a little grudging in their acknowledgement of the progress which has been made—for example, in the arrangements for public consultation with the police or the introduction of lay visitors to police stations—it must nevertheless be a matter for profound regret that 18 years later many of the findings of the current inquiry replicate those of its predecessor and that they do so in so bleak a context. I do, however, believe that police officers overwhelmingly recognise the gravity of the issues raised and even a superficial reading of the report would disabuse the most complacent of the notion that all is wholly well.

In my current role as a superintendent in the Thames Valley Police I have command responsibility for an area which includes the borough of Slough, about 30 per cent. of whose residents are members of ethnic minority communities. In my area and throughout the force we, together with key community partners, are reviewing our ways of working against the recommendations of the report and are confronting, sometimes uncomfortably but with a positive commitment to action, our own shortcomings. These may be of a personal or institutional nature and the prescription for change will therefore vary, but we expect to be held to account for what we now do, and indeed the Home Secretary's action plan has set out in detail some, though not all, of the ways in which that will happen.

But for all that this collective endeavour is necessary in order that policing operates fairly and without discrimination, and the capacity for improvement is self-evident, we do have something on which to build. It is possible to reflect on the recommendations of the inquiry and then to note many examples, throughout the country, of people striving honourably to make those aspirations a reality.

In our community, Slough Against Racial Attacks is a multi-agency panel very much of the Macpherson model. It consists of police, the race equality council, housing, social services, youth and community, Victim Support and others working in a multi-disciplinary fashion. This allows racist incidents to be reported to any of the parties, thereby encouraging maximum recording and enabling all agencies to monitor the progress of an individual case. Such comprehensive collection and systematic analysis are essential for effective intervention and prevention, as indeed is the opportunity for practitioners to support and learn from each other.

Last year the panel also delivered training to 200 of my officers, a process which not only helped to challenge any racial and cultural stereotypes which may have existed, but also made clear that equity in policing is not, paradoxically, always achieved by treating people in the same way. The panel has also prepared an education pack to raise awareness of racism, bullying and discrimination in schools. This seems particularly relevant in the light of the research referred to during the inquiry in which half of all racist incidents considered by one race equality council were committed by people under 16 and, of those, one-quarter involved children between the ages of six and 10.

Together with our local authority we also established in 1998 a project through which, to date, 20 young people have received training in conflict resolution techniques and have used these in schools, colleges and on the street to reduce a significant level of inter-racial tension which had developed in the town. The project was indeed a joint winner of this year's Philip Lawrence award.

We are also in the second year of an initiative with Thames Valley university to increase recruitment to the police service from minority ethnic groups. This involves challenging our procedures and practices to check that at no stage do they discriminate inadvertently against the very people whom the service is seeking to attract, and also seeks to identify other obstacles to recruitment and retention. In November 1998 our area also signed up to the Leadership Challenge, a national campaign by the Commission for Racial Equality to encourage employers to take a lead in promoting the principles of racial equality through practical action in the workplace.

I give those examples not in a spirit of defensiveness, but simply to assert that at least some of the infrastructure which will be required to bring about these desired changes is indeed already in development or in place. I believe that there are two other key determinants of success—the internal culture and values of the Police Service. and the corresponding external environment.

We, I believe, must work hard to ensure that the internal culture and values of our organisation are ones in which these sometimes difficult issues can be discussed without fear of reprisal and in an atmosphere where measured criticism is not thought to be disloyal. At the same time, those outside the service can support this endeavour, for the morale, commitment and effectiveness of all police officers will be undermined if they themselves are unfairly subjected to a version of the stereotyping which this report so properly deplores.

This, I believe, is important, for the compassion, commitment to public service and, on occasions, valour of so many of my colleagues should not, even in the context of this often troubling report, be forgotten.

6.40 p.m.

Lord Bach

My Lords, it may seem an odd thing to say when dealing with this genuinely awful subject, but I believe that some praise is in order: first, to the Home Secretary, as my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis mentioned a short while ago, for having the courage to set up the judicial inquiry—an announcement made, it should not be forgotten, within three months of his coming into office and in the face of previous refusals to do so. Secondly, praise is due to Sir William Macpherson and his advisers for the report that they have produced. Some have criticised the language of the report; but I do not. It is direct, forceful and clear, leaving no room for ambiguity, with no attempt made to avoid difficult and awkward findings. I believe that the linguistic criticisms are petty and completely beside the point.

Thirdly, and obviously most importantly, as so many other speakers have already said, praise is clue to Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence for their courage and persistence in pursuing this matter so that the lessons for the future of all of us can be learnt. They have done so even though they have had to relive time and time again the recounting of the story of the murder of their son.

The Lawrence case and the report have brought on to centre stage so that everyone has heard of it not just the issue of police attitudes and culture towards racist crimes but also the whole issue of racism and, again, culture in our country. As was said in a notable speech in the other place: The police merely reflect the society from which they recruit". That seems to me to be plainly true.

I have practised law for many years in Leicester, a city with a high proportion of ethnic minority citizens. It is a city where, in 1981—we have already heard reference to that year—there were disturbances, perhaps in some ways copycat disturbances, following the Brixton riots. Indeed, it is a city where I have prosecuted and particularly defended in many cases with a racist element. It is a city where second and third-generation British citizens, often of Asian origin, are now growing up whose cultural identities and attitudes are far different in many ways from those of their parents and almost unrecognisable in some ways from those of their grandparents. I am happy to say that it is also a city where the police force—the Leicestershire Constabulary—seems to me at least to have made a special effort over the years to deal with some of the problems of racism. Yet, even in Leicester, there is so much further to go.

The Government are to be congratulated on the action that they have already taken. The setting up of target figures for ethnic minority recruitment—in Leicestershire's case, an extra 104 within the next 10 years— is to be applauded. The emphasis placed not just on recruitment but particularly on retention and promotion is very important. I support it unreservedly.

However, it is individual attitudes that matter just as much as institutional attitudes. It is the everyday, matter-of-fact secret, almost hidden, racism—the culture of racism—that must be faced. I believe, perhaps over-optimistically, that it is to some extent being faced in society. Attitudes are changing for the better. One cannot be at school with someone for many years; one cannot work alongside someone for many years; and, indeed, one cannot live close to someone for many years without it having, in my view, some sort of beneficial effect. For example, young people in a city like Leicester, take it for granted that they will have friends of different races. Indeed, it is hardly worth mentioning as far as they are concerned because it is so natural.

Perhaps I may strike a personal note for a moment. My son plays football for a Sikh football club called Khalsa FC every Saturday in the local football league. The important point that I am making is that there is nothing unusual about that; indeed, there is nothing special about it, and my son will probably be annoyed that I even bothered to mention it. So there is progress, but the reality, whether in the police or in society, is that there is a very long way to go.

Perhaps I may turn to one of the report's recommendations and make what may be a controversial point but one which is not meant to be provocative. I have in mind Recommendation 39, which has already been mentioned by many noble Lords. It recommends that consideration should be given to amending the law to allow prosecutions for offences involving racist language or behaviour in private. My view is the conventional one on this; namely, that we must tread very cautiously and that it is almost certainly wrong for the criminal law to intrude into people's homes and private lives in that way.

However, I have to say to your Lordships that some of those who most obviously attack the possibility of introducing any such law against private racist language or behaviour are precisely the people who support the existing law as it affects private consensual homosexual behaviour between 16 and 18 year-olds. I believe that to be a point worth making. Of the two moralities, which is the more serious? Is it the attitude of mind that allows parents to talk in front of children in racist terms or is it consensual homosexual activity between 16 and 18 year-olds? I think that there is room for consistency here.

I sincerely believe that more and more people understand that we are living in a multi-racial society and, more than that, that we are lucky to be doing so. The diversity and opportunities that that brings are wonderful and life-enhancing. I last lived in London some 25 years ago. The difference and improvement in London as a thriving city is just obvious to me because of its multi-racial status.

I believe that the twin evils of this century have been nationalism and racism. I say "twin" because these two evils have hunted together. Indeed, we can see on the Continent of Europe at this very time those twin evils and the effect that they can have. Racism is not just evil; it is also absurd. The notion that I am better than you because my skin is a different colour from yours is patently ridiculous. Yet it was that evil absurdity that led directly to the brutal murder of an 18 year-old boy with his whole life ahead of him in the streets of this city of London in this decade, the 1990s—a murder, as so many noble Lords have said, compounded by the dreadful fact that no one has yet been brought to justice for it.

I end, I hope justifiably, by quoting what I consider to be a most moving speech. It was made by the local Member of Parliament in another place during the debate on the Macpherson Report. Mr. Efford, the Eltham MP, said the following at the conclusion of his speech. It is how I would like to end mine because it seems to me to be extremely accurate and well said: At the time of his murder, Stephen had a split second in which he could have chosen to run. He was an excellent athlete, as well as an excellent student, and it is possible that he would have outrun his attackers, but he did not run. The fact that to run was not Stephen's first instinct is a powerful statement to us all. He had done nothing wrong. He had been brought up to understand the difference between right and wrong. A few moments in the company of his parents would enable anyone to understand why that is the case. Stephen could not have known that what would happen to him in the next few moments would be fatal, but he knew that he had right on his side, and he did not run. He saw nothing from which he should run, and for that he suffered an enormous injustice that his parents have continued to experience in their campaign. It is up to us now to demonstrate the leadership that will prove right the instinct that Stephen had on that road in April 1993".—[Official Report, Commons, 29/3/99: col. 781.]

6.49 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, in all our debates we hope to see more people entering the Chamber but when I think of the packed Benches on Tuesday I feel disappointed at the attendance today because we all owe the Lawrence family a debt for the opportunity of this debate. This appalling crime and the sacrifice of one young man have enabled a whole society to re-examine itself and find its institutions, as well as its individuals, sick and in need of healing, as the right reverend Prelate has already said. We must not be surprised by this because as a nation we are still timid and defensive about race. Despite our imperial past and our support for humanitarian missions to other countries we are—especially the English, the majority race—afraid to welcome and embrace other cultures and minorities too warmly. We have to acknowledge this. It is, I regret, a fear which we all have in us and which cannot be neatly ascribed to small groups of clearly identified racist hoodlums.

I happened to work in Brixton in the 1970s and early 1980s and vividly remember the resentment and violence which led to Scarman. I see Lawrence as another necessary stage or watershed in terms of the divisions in our society. We have to have these periodic seismic moments in our social and political life if we are to shake ourselves and our ruling elites into a new era of understanding.

The Macpherson Report revives the term "institutional racism" but it was first used by Stokely Carmichael in the United States in the 1960s. It was also referred to by Scarman in 1981 who did not exactly dismiss it but said, perhaps too obscurely, that it was, an allegation which deserves serious consideration and, where proved, swift remedy". It never got it. We are now 18 years further on and we have moved on, but relatively little has changed. Over 100,000 pages have been devoted to evidence on Lawrence, and probably as many more have appeared in the media, so perhaps one fat report condensed into 340 pages is not as heavy as it looks, even without appendices.

It was refreshing to hear of practical actions in the Thames Valley and elsewhere, but are all these words and recommendations just repeated lip service to a new orthodoxy, or will they genuinely transform the climate of disbelief (as it is called) in our institutions—the entrenched conservatism of the Civil Service, the police and other Home Office bodies and of our centres of education, learning and religion? I have read through the action plan and I believe this will occur in time, and that this Government have a real chance to influence attitudes, recruitment and training. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said, making people change is the difficult task.

I was one of many who were relieved that the Metropolitan Commissioner, in spite of criticism, was allowed to pursue what he had already clearly identified as the central problem. I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said about "targets not quotas", provided that that does not become an excuse for inaction. I still hear the chilling words of the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, when she said that many police officers only meet those of other races in situations of confrontation.

If we are to forge a genuinely more equal society we have to go much further back—as Macpherson recognises—to the institutions which mould our earlier years and our "cowboys and Indians" mentality which can so quickly turn into prejudice. I will not refer to the general issues of education which were well covered by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, with regard to racism in schools and exclusions. However, I refer only to Recommendation 67 in the report which states, That consideration be given to amendment of the National Curriculum aimed at valuing cultural diversity and preventing racism, in order better to reflect the needs of a diverse society". As the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said, it is a weak recommendation bolted on to the important Home Office ones, but at least it is there in the report. I have also read in the action plan the promise from the DfEE that it will, develop a statement of values and aims … which will reflect the curriculum's role in developing pupils' knowledge and understanding of different beliefs and cultures, including an appreciation of diversity". This comprises more words and reassurances, but not a lot of commitment. What about the, set of principles … incorporated into the agreed syllabuses of local education authorities", recommended by the Runnymede Trust in its 1997 report on "Islamophobia"? Has the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority really taken on board the case for citizenship education made by the Crick Report? We have yet to learn all that when the Secretary of State for Education announces his proposals for the national curriculum in England in a few weeks' time.

Three years ago I introduced a debate in this House on awareness of international development issues, including racism. I drew attention to the work of aid agencies and other organisations in schools, churches and colleges. There is an army of teachers, aid workers, clergy and volunteers, including many refugees and others with direct experience of other cultures, engaged in what is called development education. However, they need more encouragement and more resources to do their work properly. They are well placed to help children to confront the issues of race and nationality in ways which are not possible in daily television programmes about, say, genocide or ethnic cleansing, many of which distort the true picture.

I quote Douglas Bourn, the director of the Development Education Association (DEA), one of the specialist bodies in this field, who said: Combating racism is a global phenomenon, as we see from events in Kosovo and Rwanda. Promoting cultural diversity should be an integral part of school education, reflected in such subjects as English and the sciences as well as History and Geography. And there is considerable evidence that it is from the ages of 4 to 7 that children's views about the world around them are formed We are talking here of ourselves and our families, not just of a few misguided youths and unconvicted alleged criminals whose names happen to be in this report. We are talking of all of us, of all cultures. This is a fundamental question which should not be a party issue, any more than our debate on the age of consent should have been a party issue.

This report sets out a common programme. I hope that the Conservative Party has listened, or will listen., to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who spoke movingly just now, in spite of the lack of colleagues on his Back Benches. It was refreshing to hear also from Virginia Bottomley in the debate in another place on 29th March. She has much experience of race relations. She said that she would like to hear more Afro-Caribbean music at party conferences. That is important, but there are many other ways of including all our nationalities in the centre of our United Kingdom culture which I certainly cannot: list now, but we all have our preferences. I personally warm to the inclusion of "Fidelio" among recommended freedom songs and music in the latest DEA human rights handbook for teachers.

I simply end by asking the Minister whether he will seriously undertake to consult his DfEE colleagues, including the noble Baroness on his own Bench, on Recommendation 67 to see whether it can be given more status, more priority and more flesh on the bone to ensure that global awareness and not just citizenship has a prominent and permanent place in our national curriculum and thus, in the end, in our national life.

6.58 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones

My Lords, this debate has rightly in the main concentrated on the policing aspects of the Macpherson Report. Some powerful and moving speeches have been made. However, in the light of some of the conclusions of the Macpherson Report, I want briefly to consider its implications for other public services and in particular for the NHS.

It is worth reminding ourselves that Sir William Macpherson concluded in broad terms as follows: It is incumbent upon every institution to examine their policies and the outcomes of their policies and practices, to guard against disadvantaging any section of our communities". I believe that that is as true of the NHS as it is of our policing services.

A recent article in the British Medical Journal of March pointed out that there is considerable evidence in recent times of the NHS of poorer access to, and use of services by, ethnic minority patients and considerable differences in treatment experienced, especially in terms of waiting times and satisfaction with the outcome of consultation and treatment.

A study published also in the BMJ last October by Professor McManus demonstrated conclusively the discrimination at work in admissions to medical schools. It was highly significant that Christine Watson, the president of the Royal College of Nursing, made the point in her recent speech to the Royal College conference that, racism in the NHS still exists". She and the RCN are only too well aware of reports in the past—for example, that of the Policy Studies Institute in 1995—which demonstrated clearly that the grading and promotion prospects of black nurses and midwives compare unfavourably with those of their white colleagues. That is despite formal equal opportunities policies being in place in most hospital trusts.

There is particular unfairness caused by the fact that many black nurses are former state enrolled nurses who have been left to languish on a lowly grade C, only three from the bottom, when, in some cases, they may have as many as 18 years' experience.

The problem is also acute in the appointment of consultants, as a Commission for Racial Equality investigation showed in 1992. Black and Asian candidates were consistently less likely to be shortlisted for or appointed to senior registrar or consultant posts than white applicants. The Secretary of State pointed out recently the difficulty of recruiting nurses from ethnic minority communities. That is hardly surprising in view of those facts and the history of treatment of black nurses and midwives in the NHS over many years.

It is no wonder that the RCN president said: we need to change the trend. We need to challenge the racism and change the culture". The BMJ article which I mentioned earlier rightly concluded, in my view, that understanding the concept of institutional racism is the key to understanding why the Lawrence inquiry team has used it to plot a way forward for the police and why it may be the key to the development of a truly equitable NHS.

As is clear from the definition of "institutional racism"—many noble Lords have mentioned this—there may well be no racist individuals involved; there may be no intent; it is simply that the culture itself is discriminatory. That is not to say that valiant attempts have not already been made to try to correct the discrimination against both black patients and employees in the NHS. The current Secretary of State for Health and the NHS Executive have clearly demonstrated their commitment. They have done that in terms of setting "Recognising and Dealing with Racism" as a key priority in their health White Paper of 1997 and following that up with the launch, last December, of a campaign to tackle racial harassment in the NHS as part of its "Working Together" human resource strategy.

Good work is being done by others—for example, the Council of the Heads of Medical Schools in conjunction with the Commission for Racial Equality—to ensure that selection and admission procedures are fair and open. Progress has been made also in addressing inequalities in the distribution of merit awards. I welcome the new NHS equality awards. They help to shift the NHS culture. I welcome also the roadshows which the NHS Confederation has been organising with the NHS equal opportunities unit. Those are all important elements of the positive action which needs to be taken and developed to change NHS culture and practices.

The fact is, however, that the best intentions do not always produce results. The former Conservative Secretary of State for Health, Mrs. Bottomley, with very good intentions, published an eight-point plan in 1993 to promote equal opportunity within the NHS. It included a duty to work towards increasing the number of black nurses at G grade, which is one of the senior grades. Yet the results were not monitored systematically and it does not appear that the initiative had much effect at the end of the day.

As a result, I agree strongly with those commentators, not least the Commission for Racial Equality, who, both in their review of the Race Relations Act and in their response to the Macpherson Report, advocate a statutory duty on public bodies to promote racial equality.

During the recent passage of the Health Bill in this House, we debated the imposition of a duty to promote equal opportunity on certain parts of the health service; for example, the new commission for health improvement and the primary care trusts. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, gave considerable encouragement to the principle but, in the end, no amendment on that point was tabled by the Government. However, we were given some encouragement that that would appear during consideration of the Bill in another place.

At the time, the Minister said that she believed it would be wrong to lay an amendment before the House before we have made a searching examination of the issues facing the NHS both as an employer and as a provider of services. If that delay is needed to formulate a broad, over-arching duty for the health service rather than just elements of it, I can understand and support the reasons for the delay. However, without such a duty, together with a duty to monitor and report regularly, I do not believe that institutional racism will be eliminated within the NHS and we shall continue to have reports such as those from the Policy Studies Institute, the Health Education Authority and UNISON which point up discrimination of every kind within the NHS.

Sir William Macpherson and the CRE together pointed the way forward and we should readily follow that path as a matter of urgency. In publishing the Lawrence action plan, the Home Secretary rightly made clear his view that the challenge presented by the inquiry was not just for the police but for society at large, and he undertook to set out a plan in the coming months on how to realise a broader vision of an anti-racist society. I very much welcome that commitment, but I hope that we shall not miss the opportunity to make those necessary amendments to the Health Bill in another place to ensure that the NHS is genuinely—in the words of the Minister—inclusive in all its dealings.

7.6 p.m.

Lord Knights

My Lords, first, I crave your Lordships' indulgence regarding the convention in relation to thanking maiden speakers and add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Imbert. I do so because some years ago I tried to persuade him to apply for the post of Chief Constable of the West Midlands, which I was about to relinquish. I failed and I am sure that London is very grateful that I did.

This evening we have heard many powerful and impressive speeches and at this late stage I propose to confine my comments solely to a few of the detailed recommendations made by Sir William.

It is clear, and, indeed, has always been clear, that the killing of Stephen Lawrence was a racist murder and a particularly horrible one. It was a particularly terrible example of the violent conduct which occurs far too often on the streets of our major cities. It is clear also that the investigation by the Metropolitan Police which followed was quite inadequate. There is clear evidence in Sir William's report of professional incompetence and a failure of leadership by senior officers.

The implication is that those faults sprang from institutional racism. However, they may have been due also to other faults and for other reasons. They may have been due to inadequate training or lack of experience in handling an inquiry of that magnitude. Perhaps too, bearing in mind the frequent incidents of violence which occur today, the officers had become less sensitive to the demands of the situation; had perhaps become blasé. There are some who would claim that the current police policies relating to tenure of office may have led to an inadequate performance on the part of those directing and managing such major crime incidents.

In a Statement to Parliament last month, the Home Secretary referred to Recommendation 4 of the report and indicated that Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary would be conducting a formal examination of unsolved murder investigations in the Metropolitan Police area since the Lawrence murder. I understand that there are something like 160 undetected murders. It will be interesting to see whether that professional examination of what has gone on reveals any incompetence in the investigation of those other offences and whether it is more general than perhaps Sir William Macpherson's report indicates; and whether there is any difference, indeed, in the way that investigations are conducted into ethnic minority murders as opposed to the generality of such inquiries.

Much play has been made of the extent to which institutional racism as defined by Sir William exists not only in the police service but also in society generally. Certainly the figures of stops in the street must lead to the conclusion that ethnic minority youths at least are treated in a different way from those of the host community. As the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, indicated, the same is true of the way in which the criminal justice system operates. Research has clearly indicated that ethnic minority prisoners are disadvantaged in so far as bail and methods of trial and sentencing are concerned, and I believe that this has been largely ignored for far too long. One wonders why the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in his report of 1981 that, the attack on racial disadvantage must be more direct than it has been", have not been followed through.

I welcome therefore the setting up of the Home Secretary's steering group to oversee and, more particularly, to monitor progress in the delivery of the programme set out in the recent report from the Home Secretary. One hopes that that will ensure that current efforts are continued, that there will be a sustained approach to all these recommendations and that their effect is carefully watched. Perhaps the direct attack of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, on racial disadvantage will then be realised.

Whether or not poor training in investigative techniques or practices played a part in the original murder inquiry, there is clearly much work to be done in the field of racial awareness training, not only at all levels in the police service but also in all the other public and indeed private services. It was heartening to hear recently from the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, of the work that is being done in the National Health Service. That is the sort of work which needs to be done throughout our public services.

So far as the police are concerned, following the Scarman Report and recognising that it did not possess the necessary experience and skills itself, with the Home Office the police service set up a unit at Brunel University to train the trainers in the field of racial awareness. Clearly that approach was not successful. I welcome the new contract entered into with the Ionann Consultancy which I understand will work with individual forces to design and develop training programmes for identified staff. In particular, I believe the police must trust the trainers. But unless they are ready to receive that which the trainers are offering because they believe the trainers have really got something to offer, the whole exercise will be a waste of time.

I do not, however, welcome the recommendation that disciplinary action against police officers should be available for at least five years after they have retired. It seems to me that if an officer's misconduct is so gross that it is felt disciplinary proceedings after retirement are justified, it would be equally possible to prosecute him in the criminal courts for the common law offence of misconduct as a public officer. If convicted, consideration could then properly be given to a reduction in his pension in accordance with the current regulations. In this context also it is worth mentioning that when a complaint of misconduct is made against an officer, before it has even been investigated the chief constable can suspend him from membership of his force and from his office as constable, which effectively prevents the officer seeking to resign or retire, and therefore any discipline action could be taken before he left the force.

Finally, I refer to Recommendations 64, 65 and 66 about the recruitment and retention of ethnic minority staff. This has been a long-standing concern with the police service, long before the Scarman Report in fact. Many police forces were trying very hard to deal with this apparently intractable problem. Some progress has been made. The noble Lord, Lord Imbert, gave your Lordships the figures for the Metropolitan Police. In West Midlands there were 42 ethnic minority officers at the time of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. It is interesting to think that the earliest of those are now eligible to retire. The figure now is 315, or 4.19 per cent of the force—still a long way short, some 862, of the target which I gather was set yesterday by the Home Secretary. That would amount to 16.11 per cent of the force to be achieved in the next 10 years.

I am surprised however that no mention has been made in this context of the civilian support staff. West Midlands, for example, has 224 ethnic minority employees, 6.74 per cent. of that particular branch of the service. These too should have been taken into account in arriving at the recruitment targets which have been set. Whether Mr. Straw's target for individual forces will stimulate and increase the success in this field remains to be seen, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said, I hope that it will not lead to a reduction in standards in order to reach his figures. That would be unfair to other members of the force and to the ethnic minority recruits themselves. They wish to be accepted, I am sure, on their own merits and as recognised equals.

Earlier this year, when speaking in the debate in your Lordships' House following the presentation of the Home Secretary's original Statement in another place on the Lawrence Report, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred to a screen separating communities. If that screen is to be removed it will require action by the whole of our society, and the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, earlier this evening were relevant to that aspect. If we wish to develop the trust and confidence which are so essential to remove this evil, it must be trust and confidence not just between the police and the community but within the community itself. Unless this happens we should not be surprised if the police develop a defensive reaction which could only be to everyone's detriment. I believe the police are as much aware of the problems as anyone else and as anxious as anyone else to arrive at a solution. It will only be successful, however, if we all work together to do it.

7.18 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford

My Lords, I adopt the word "shameful" that was used by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, earlier today in relation to the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Murder may be committed during a family dispute, during a robbery or as a result of a sexual attack or a fight that may break out between two people, and it is usually not too difficult to decide who has committed the crime. Motive, however, does not have to be proved on any criminal charge. It helps to characterise and to identify potential suspects.

In this case the very first information given to a woman police officer by Duwayne Brooks at the scene was that there was an attack by a group of white youths who were calling out racist abuse, including the word "nigger". There was an eye witness called Joseph Shepherd who knew Stephen Lawrence and went straight from the scene, on the bus, to the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, and described exactly that same type of attack.

And yet page 1 of the policy file that is contained in the annexure to the report sets out the annotation of Detective Superintendent Crampton on that day, 23rd April:"Murder, identity of suspects unknown, possible racial motive". There was the clearest evidence from eye witnesses that a racist attack had taken place. The very first task for the police would be to identify just such a group in the area who might carry out an attack of that sort. The next day, names were brought forward and just such a group was identified as the kind of people who would, for no reason other than the colour of a person's skin, carry out an attack of that sort.

I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, that no one with practical experience of police investigations into murder cases can be anything other than deeply concerned at the extensive failures in the Lawrence investigation to follow ordinary police procedures. There was no scene log, no incident log, no immediate co-ordinated search, no record of house-to-house inquiries, and inadequate control of operations. Information was not properly collated or communicated. The fatal error was the delay in arresting the suspects, which lost the potential for obtaining scientific evidence, tracing weapons and interrogating suspects early in the case. Such investigations are so routine, so usual, that when they do not take place suspicions are aroused. I fully understand the concern of the Lawrence family and their lawyers who sought a deeper motive and reason for those failures.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Knights, should recall that the inquiry team concluded that they could not accept that institutional racism was universally the cause of the failure of this investigation. They did not put these failures down entirely to institutional racism. While they did identify areas of the investigation that were affected by racism, in the main those were aspects concerned with the interviews with Duwayne Brooks and with the treatment of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence.

Further, the inquiry did not believe that any discrimination or disadvantage shown by the police towards witnesses or anyone else was overt. I have no doubt that overt racism exists within the police, as it does within the general population. I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham that it goes way beyond the police and that overt racism does exist and must be attacked. So far as the police are concerned, it must be rooted out by disciplinary means. I am pleased to see that this is an issue which the Home Secretary has tackled in his action plan.

But institutional racism exhibits itself in a more insidious form in racial stereotyping. In my experience, assumptions are constantly made about the way in which ethnic groups act or react, not just by the police but throughout the criminal justice system—by the lawyers, the judges, and indeed by juries. It is a fact that an accused, a victim or a witness is an individual, with his or her own personality and way of behaving. That fact is so frequently overlooked.

It is quite wrong for any police officer to claim in his dealing with people that he is colour-blind. Institutional racism is blind altogether, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out. The police must, on the contrary, have their eyes opened. They must be trained to recognise the differing modes of speech, attitude, cultural mores and background of the different ethnic groups and to look beyond those differences at the individual person with whom they are dealing. I am pleased that the Home Secretary has announced targets for police forces. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Dholakia that they should not be quotas. I hope that when the Home Secretary announces those targets he bears in mind that all the police forces and the policemen who serve in them must have their eyes opened to cultural differences and the consequences of those differences.

But whatever the root causes of the failures of the police in the Lawrence case, the result was that there was wholly insufficient evidence to bring a successful prosecution against the suspects. Any lawyer would have recognised that. Indeed, the inquiry eventually concluded that there was no greater evidence against the five suspects after the inquiry had taken place and all the witnesses had been called than there was previously. The inquiry team said that if they thought it right to indicate even a probability that the suspects were involved in the attack, they would not hesitate to do so, and no further evidence had emerged.

On a consideration of the findings of the inquiry as to the evidence available to the CPS in June 1993, it is obvious that a conviction could not be sustained virtually on the identification evidence of Duwayne Brooks alone. That evidence was weakened by comments he had made to Detective Sergeant Crowley immediately after the identification parade that he had been prompted by a friend as to who the suspects were, and he agreed ultimately with that evidence. All those problems are in the report and are fully set out in the subsequent ruling of Mr. Justice Curtis at the Old Bailey. However, discontinuance of the prosecution by the CPS left it open to bring further proceedings against the suspects if further evidence came to light in the future.

The decision to bring a private prosecution in the light of the subsequently obtained surveillance tapes was characteristically for Mr. Michael Mansfield a bold and courageous decision. No doubt he appreciated the difficulties that faced him, and no doubt he advised his clients to that effect, but they must have been driven on by despair. The report reveals that the Branch Crown Prosecutor of the CPS, a Mr. Youngerwood, who had discontinued the original prosecution after long and anxious consideration with his team and with counsel, informed Mr. Khan, solicitor for the Lawrence family, that although the CPS would co-operate to the full, the private prosecution was in his view hopeless.

In the light of that conclusion, it is surprising that the Attorney-General of the day did not step in to take over the prosecution as was his right, and issue a nolle prosequi, which would have brought the proceedings to an end but would have reserved the position for the future. The inquiry refers briefly to the power of the Attorney-General to do that, but takes the matter no further. It would undoubtedly add to the completeness of the inquiry if the Minister could inform me, either now or at some later stage, whether a nolle prosequi (the procedure for stopping a prosecution) was ever considered. It is my view that the overall public interest required that procedure, although it may have been embarrassing to the government of the time and opened them up in the short term to allegations of bias and racism. The result of that prosecution continuing and failing in the way that it did is that the three suspects who stood trial cannot be tried again even if fresh and viable evidence emerges against them.

The obvious injustice which might arise in this case as a result of the private prosecution has led to a call by the inquiry to debate and reconsider the law on "autrefois acquit or convict", or the law relating to double jeopardy, a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, referred. Although the inquiry raised this question, it gave no argument in support. Paragraph 7.46 of the report simply reads: Both we and others during our Part 2 hearings have considered, in the context of this case, whether the law which absolutely protects those who have been acquitted from any further prosecution for the same or a closely allied offence should prevail … We simply indicate that perhaps in modem conditions such absolute protection may sometimes lead to injustice. Full and proper safeguards would be essential". The opening up of this question, as a result of a case which is highly unusual and which the alteration of that law could in no way affect—because it could not be made retrospective—is an invitation to attack a fundamental constitutional safeguard. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, pointed out, it is an ancient and established principle of the common law, set out in Hawkins' and Hale's Pleas of the Crown, adopted by the Americans in the Fifth Amendment to their Constitution, their Bill of Rights, in 1789 and in the subsequent written constitutions of many common law countries.

The rationale is that we must have absolute finality to a jury's verdict of acquittal, no matter how erroneous its decision may be. Who is to say that it is erroneous? If in a subsequent trial a person is found guilty when he has previously been found not guilty, which verdict is correct? Should there be a third trial to determine, two to one, which verdict is correct?

The system we have in this country is that the prosecution has the opportunity of presenting its whole case; the magistrate may refuse to commit the case; and the judge may withdraw the case from the jury if he concludes that the prosecution evidence, taken at its highest, cannot sustain a conviction. But ultimately there has to be finality. Your Lordships only have to consider the shadow that would follow for the whole of his life a man who had been acquitted if a reopening of his trial were to take place. The basic principle of the presumption of innocence would be undermined.

These principles have been developed over many centuries as a result of abuses by arbitrary government. The double jeopardy rule is a major reason why we have sustained democratic government in this country since our own Bill of Rights of 1688. That is just one of the principles that is called into question here.

The principle of the presumption of innocence is for everyone. It may be grossly offensive that the suspects are given a platform on television and radio for softball questioning, but there is still a presumption of innocence. These are principles to which we must cling. We cannot allow them to be eroded by a case of this kind.

Those are comments on only two of the matters which emerge in an otherwise fine report. I think the whole House will congratulate Sir William Macpherson on all the efforts that were put into the inquiry itself and the preparation of the report and on his considered conclusions. Unusually for me, I have to congratulate the Home Secretary on setting up the inquiry, on carrying it through and on bringing forward his action plan with positive steps to implement the report's recommendations.

7.34 p.m.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, on his maiden speech. He had a distinguished career in the police force and was a highly regarded Metropolitan Police Commissioner. I am sure that I speak for all of your Lordships when I say that we look forward to hearing many more speeches from him in this House in the future.

The debate has been remarkable because it has included contributions from four former senior members and one current senior member of the Police Service. That has given the debate a unique perspective on the report and on the police service in general. There have been some exceptional speeches, none more so than that of my noble friend Lord Taylor of Warwick.

The original cause of the debate was the murder of Stephen Lawrence, a boy doing his A-levels, similar in many ways to thousands of other boys in this country. What was different was that he was black, and this was a racist murder. That started a chain of events that caused the police investigation to proceed in a way that none of your Lordships would ever have dreamed would have happened.

To me, what stands out in the report is the dignity and bravery, in the face of terrible adversity, of the Lawrence family. Their conduct, I believe, should be an example to us all.

I next pay tribute to Sir William Macpherson and his inquiry team. His report is a very good one, which has provided your Lordships with a basis for discussion of the changes that are needed in this country. It is a report which will be debated not only in Parliament but also outside Parliament.

Your Lordships have expressed differing views this evening on the inquiry's recommendations. The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, and others were concerned about the proposed offence of people uttering racist words in their own home. That concern is shared by the Home Secretary.

There was much that your Lordships agreed with. All seemed to agree that the police should be subject to the Race Relations Act. But other issues, such as prosecution after acquittal, are of concern to your Lordships.

I do not intend to go into all the recommendations this evening. Noble Lords have chosen the ones in which they are interested. I simply say that we on this side of the House broadly support the recommendations. Nor do I intend to comment on the details of the case, which were the subject of the speech of the previous speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, who very eloquently dealt with some of the legal aspects of the case.

Perhaps I may turn to institutional racism. Yes, it does exist. But I share the concerns highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, with regard to its definition, meaning and effect.

The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Birmingham said that institutional racism was like original sin. With all humility, I disagree with the right reverend Prelate. I do not believe that children are born racist. I do not believe that small children have any racist attitudes at all. It is only when they start to grow up and absorb the influences of their family, school or society that racist attitudes can start to appear. I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Rosslyn, is right that such attitudes can appear at the depressingly early age of six years.

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham

My Lords, I used original sin only as an analogy. I did not say that it was original sin, but that it was like original sin.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate. That is the point with which I disagree with him. I said that I disagreed with his analogy of original sin. However, I do not want to turn this into a debate on theology because I am quite sure that the right reverend Prelate will do much better than I can in that respect.

We are also concerned about the definition of a "racist incident". The Minister said that the proposals in the report were a simplified version. My concern is that perhaps we are making it too simple and not just clearer. The report says that it should be simple and clearer. This is an area that must be closely monitored by the Home Office to ensure that incidents that are not necessarily racist in nature do not become so classified just in case they may be racist. That certainly would not help either the collection of statistics or the police in dealing with such circumstances.

Education was mentioned by a number of noble Lords, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. Education on this is important and is part of the Home Secretary's recommendations, which we welcome. If we start such education at an early age, we can do a lot to combat racism in this country.

I believe that noble Lords should also pay a tribute to Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. I believe that his force does a very good job. As has been claimed by some, particularly in another place, it is not a force that is institutionally corrupt or incompetent. I believe that the majority of officers in the Metropolitan Police do their very best to serve society in very difficult circumstances. We must pay tribute to Sir Paul Condon's commitment to pushing through the recommendations and to bringing his force up to the standards that he wishes to achieve.

There were major failures of the police in the investigation of this murder. Those failures were compounded the more senior the officers who became involved in the case. As the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis said, it got worse the higher up one got. One senior officer behaved in an extraordinary way, suggesting that his officers should sue the Lawrence family for racism. By any standards, it was an extraordinary saga.

Lessons have been learnt by the police. We welcome the fact that the Police Federation, the Superintendents Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers accept the need for independent investigation of serious complaints. We also welcome the improvement in training on race matters, and improvements with regard to building trust in the community and relationships with ethnic minorities, together with an increase in the availability of family liaison officers. But this must mean an increase in budget. The response paper provided by the Home Secretary states that money must be provided but it is somewhat opaque as to how that is related to current Home Office spending.

We must support the Home Secretary's plan to recruit an additional 8,000 officers from ethnic communities. I agree with the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, about the setting of targets. However, if this is to be delivered within the three years announced by the Home Secretary, how is the money to be provided? Will the Treasury provide the money to the police? If not, it will perhaps become an increasing burden on the police service. Local authorities may also be put under pressure.

I return to one particular recommendation: the confiscation of pension in whole or in part. This matter was raised by several noble Lords. It must be treated with great care and caution. One aspect of the Police Service that I always found particularly strange was the fact that policemen under investigation could escape any form of sanction by retiring on the grounds of ill health. It was almost a scam. No one else had that unique ability to escape the investigation of improper or perhaps illegal behaviour. I welcome the fact that that is no longer the case and that the police are treated on the same basis as everyone else in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, favoured the abolition of the right of silence for police officers as for any other member of the public. I shall listen with interest to what the Minister says about that. Allowing the police to be placed in a worse position regarding their pension rights than is any other civil servant seems rather bizarre. As one noble Lord said, its only effect will be to make police officers seek private pensions.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, was concerned about the television programme and the fact that a fair trial might not be possible. I believe that that view is shared by many in this country. However, we should not look solely at television coverage. I believe that television and the press as a whole must consider their behaviour and the effect of, frankly, inflammatory headlines on all the families involved. Did they help or, as I suspect, prejudice the possibility of a fair trial?

The noble and learned Lord was also concerned about the inquiry into the leak. So are we. Leaks are always serious. However, what makes the matter more serious in this case is that it was not a casual leak but an attempt to effect acceptance of the report by Parliament and the public. I look forward to the Minister telling the House when we can expect the Statement on the leak that the Home Secretary has promised.

I should also like to ask the Minister about the witnesses who gave evidence and whose details were, extraordinarily, included in the annex to the inquiry. How many families have had to move? Will they be able to return to the areas from which they originally came? What help are they being given now and in the future? The Government must not lose sight of people who came forward in difficult circumstances to give evidence and who are now forced to leave their community.

As my noble friend Lord Cope said at the beginning of this debate, we must all strive to build mutual trust between the ethnic communities in this country and the Police Service. However, we are not concerned solely with the Police Service. It is a matter of building confidence in the institutions of government in this country. The attitudes of the police reflect those that are prevalent in other institutions of government, central or local, whether local services, social services, the Ministry of Defence, the National Health Service or perhaps institutions that include membership of the Church. We must use this not only to improve the police and policing in this country, but to get rid of racism in any of the institutions that everybody in this country has a right to trust.

7.49 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, this has been a good debate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, on his contribution. The last time we appeared together in a public place was in a debate at Durham University not too long ago. I note that he has lost none of the skill that I admired on that occasion.

Many noble Lords have contributed notably to the debate. It is difficult to select. However, perhaps I may mention the considered and careful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick. I hope, too, that his brothers in the Church of England might study what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said. A number of noble Lords, among them the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, pointed out the extraordinary difference in numbers between the hundreds of noble Lords present on Tuesday to express at some length what some thought might have been a powerful prejudice and the few who have been present today. The noble Earl is right. It is somewhat disappointing and rather a reproach to this House. The noble Earl was not alone in making that point; it is a powerful one.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, put his finger entirely on the point at the beginning of his remarks, with which I entirely agreed. He said that the police in this country, by and large, do a good job—better than most elsewhere. I think that that is a fair summary despite the blemishes that have been disclosed in the report.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, is extremely generous, as were other noble Lords, when speaking about the Home Secretary, Jack Straw. Two dates are worth bearing in mind. Stephen Lawrence was murdered on 22nd April 1993 because he was black, and for no other reason. Despite the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, there was no inquiry until July 1997. If Jack Straw does nothing other than this in the whole of his tenure as Home Secretary, he will go down notably in the history of modern times as regards the setting up of the inquiry, the publication of the report and the immediate response of the action plan.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that the report is a most significant milestone. I entirely agree. I think that it will be more significant than what happened after the Scarman Report. I congratulate Sir William Macpherson. I did so at the first opportunity when we had a brief statement on the report. It is a notable piece of work. Not everyone agrees with all of it, but most people agree with most of it; and that is quite an extraordinary achievement.

Undoubtedly, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence are deeply decent and dignified people. I shared a platform with them recently and it is quite humbling to see how they behave in continuing adversity—not least the mindless stupidity of defacing even the memorial at the place of their son's death.

We have taken some steps already. It has been of continuing concern for me that at inquests, in particular of those who died in circumstances in which the state may have some responsibility, the one class of persons denied advance disclosure of information is those who I believe have the greatest moral claim; namely, the families. That has stopped now. Fortunately, not only do I have oversight of the coroner's system but now the prison system. Therefore since 1st April of this year families will have advance disclosure of information on those who died in prison custody. By the end of this month, they will also be in a position to have advance disclosure as regards those who died in police custody. That requires no expense of any consequence. All it requires is determination.

I was grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and others said about Jack Straw. As the years pass and as we remain longer in Government, I hope that we shall not lose the decent impulse to respond in a proper way—as opposed to the notoriously defensive way in which the Home Office was previously run, politically, not by the civil servants.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, asked specifically about the witness protection scheme. There is a witness protection unit. It has worked closely with the Home Office and—I pay tribute to it—the local authority, Greenwich Council, to ensure the safety of those affected. I do not think it is right to go into specific detail. The long-term plans of families who may have had to move, or feel uneasy, I think should be private to them at this stage.

A number of questions were raised about the leak inquiry. There was a leak. I dealt with that on the last occasion. The reason that we did not want leaks was as a matter of decent conduct towards the Lawrences. I should have thought that most people would have come to the conclusion that they have suffered enough and were entitled to first sight of the report. That is water under the bridge now. Whether or not the injunction was rightly applied for, I do not think will assist us on this present occasion. The report was published in full. Sir William Macpherson took full responsibility for that and—I am not putting this in any partisan way—he said in his letter to the Home Secretary at the beginning of the report, I take personal responsibility for all that is set out in the Report". Everyone regrets that material was included which should not have been, but that in no way takes away from the long-term effect of which the report is capable.

In respect of the Kent inquiry, in fairness to the Kent officers, Sir William Macpherson commented that the Kent review was described as thorough, painstaking and fair. So this is not a story of continuing incompetence; and I believe that that needs to be put on record.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked me about the widening of the curricular aspect of anti-racism. I paraphrase. I undertake to be in contact with my noble friend and colleague Lady Blackstone, who is always extremely open minded and receptive when these matters are put to her.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, asked about the specific targets for reducing the ethnic minority exclusions from schools. I can confirm that that target has been accepted. It follows the social exclusions report on truancy and schools exclusions which was published last May, and we have accepted that.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, also asked about the requirement in law which might put a duty on local authorities to promote equality. One finds that at present in the Race Relations Act 1976. Local authorities are required to discharge their functions to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups. I recognise that the noble Lord may say that that Act has been on the statute book for a while. It is a good reminder that local authorities can perhaps return to those powers and review their internal structures and workings.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, asked about the Scottish Law Commission. We are discussing with the Law Commission here the timescale and terms of reference for its review. But I understand that there is no intention to involve the Law Commission in Scotland because of the role that the Lord Advocate has in the conduct of prosecutions in Scotland. That is my best understanding.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, to whom, as always, I am grateful for his approach, asked about training in the Home Office. The new Home Office contract to which the noble Lord, Lord Knights, referred, focuses on the issue of training. The new consultants—Ioanann Management Consultants—are working with individual forces to develop training along those lines. I said in my opening remarks that the Home Office, as with other government departments, has no grand story to tell. We must examine what we do internally. That is what the Home Secretary has promised to do.

I cannot give a specific date on which the leak inquiry will conclude. Quite a lot of what I read in the newspaper about the leak inquiry is utterly and completely 100 per cent. wrong. It stated that I was carefully cross-examined. That is untrue. It stated that with other colleagues I was under suspicion because I had a copy of the report. That is completely untrue. So yet again, even when your photograph is in the paper, do not believe everything you read.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, spoke about more money. One sees in the action plan that we are already committed to an investment of £1.24 billion over the next three years. Returning to the fundamental point I made earlier, that is not an optional extra. One cannot run an efficient police force except on the basis of trust. One will not have that trust unless one goes towards those targets. Therefore it will be obligatory. It is not an option; it has been an option for far too long.

The Home Secretary has given an undertaking that for the first time the Race Relations Act will apply to all public services. That is extremely important, specific questions having been put to me in particular as to whether the Immigration and Nationality Directorate will be covered. The answer is yes. I can give no wider commitment about the further extension of other legislation relating to equality. The Home Secretary's present conclusion is that it is easy to kick things into the long grass and even if we bring about things imperfectly we ought to do so as immediately as we can.

The Home Office has a departmental race equality action plan. The management board is taking positive steps to address the issue. I believe that we should return to it in this House at regular intervals. That is why the annual report, which is mentioned in the action plan, is so very important. I know that I am waiting for the boomerang to come back, possibly to strike me on the back of the head, but that is a useful risk to run. I welcome all scrutiny and questions in your Lordships' House because sometimes I am enabled to nudge gently and cajole officials to say that if we do not have a decent story to tell it is I who will be rebuked by your Lordships.

What has happened here is that a British family have been denied justice. Apart from the cruel incident of the murder of their young boy, they have been monstrously let down by the whole system. So, as a conclusion upon which to ponder, we have a British citizen doing nothing wrong, going home of an evening to parents who are waiting, and who is murdered by racist thugs. Incompetence and institutional racism provide them no remedy.

I return to the disparity between the number of Members present the other evening and today. I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence think about that when they look at the figures—but then he was only a black young man! It is a job for everyone. It is worth saying, even if there is dissent from those opposite me, because if we all say that we must examine our own hearts and minds and I ask an uncomfortable question, does that not underline the point that everyone has made, although not perhaps as personally and as disagreeably as some people may find it?

The police are in a very difficult position because they are in constant contact with the public, often in disagreeable circumstances. I am not able to answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, because I had not anticipated it. However, I shall research it and write to him about the Attorney-General's involvement or non-involvement and the question of nolle prosequi. But he and I have both prosecuted and defended over the years. We know perfectly well that the good police officer is in the majority and that he or she is a pearl beyond price in our society. It is a very difficult job. When your house has been burgled, or you are terrified that your house will be attacked, or your relatives have been murdered, the first people you go to are not Members of this House or another place but the police. Terrible damage has been done to the police service and the mutual trust between the public and the police in consequence, first. of the occurrence of Stephen's death, thereafter the incompetence which followed, and thereafter the damning conclusions of this report.

I believe that there is a new tide in our society. I believe that Sir Paul Condon was rightly retained as Metropolitan Commissioner not least because of the work he has done in rooting out racism and corruption in his own force, which is a very difficult and isolated situation to be in. I believe that the Metropolitan Police are learning the lessons. That is not intended simply to be a cosmetic remark. They need assistance, public support and informed constructive criticism. Above all, they need the action report and the detailed, structured plan which has been set out by the Home Secretary.

A number of your Lordships have said that this is nothing simply to do with the police. I absolutely agree. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, I touched on a number of other services, including the Probation and Prison Services. A number of your Lordships spoke about education and national health. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, in a powerful speech, said that we find institutional racism in all parts of our society and in all other societies. That is true. I return to the wider community in which reside, or resided, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, Sir William Macpherson, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and myself. I am not sure what marvellous tale we could tell if there were an inquiry into the various aspects of the legal profession in this country and how it organises itself in its various arcane ways. I do not believe that we would come out of it enormously well and we might come out of it rather badly, to put it at its most neutral.

We have all been saying many of the same things for far too long. We have all been saying that we must do better and how wrong and wicked racism is. That is no good to the Lawrences, no good at all. Therefore, by way of beginning, I believe that setting up the inquiry was a courageous step. Getting on with the action plan and publishing the report within a matter of weeks is absolutely critical. It will be a long journey and I believe that we should focus on the issue year in and year out. Although I can commit no one in terms of the usual channels, perhaps when the annual report is published we should spend some time considering it with perhaps rather more of our colleagues present.

On Question, Motion agreed to.