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Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: They are attacks. They make it sound as if we live in a police state. We have heard incidents recounted by Members on all sides of the Committee. They are quite right to recount those incidents if they have occurred. However, I am worried that police officers who read this debate may think that a sweeping generalisation has been made. We are talking about stereotyping, but it sounds as if there has been some stereotyping of the police. The Committee should appreciate that the vast majority of police officers carry out their functions in the proper
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: I am grateful for that. It is important to state that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provides some guidance to police officers in relation to stop and search. This issue has been raised time and time again. The guidance states that the police have a right, and in fact a duty, to question anyone about a crime that has been committed and the citizen has a duty to help the police in the course of their inquiries. If we give police officers the impression that the Committee does not agree with that statutory provision, whether or not one wishes to do so one will deter police officers from carrying out their duty.
I have been stopped by the police on several occasions and I did not say who I was. Obviously if I had been mistreated or dealt with in an incorrect manner they would soon have found out who I was. That occurred when I was a serving police officer. Therefore Members of the Committee should not run away with the idea that they are being picked on and discriminated against. The police are doing their job. One must remember that the "Yorkshire Ripper", Peter Sutcliffe, was arrested as a direct result of being checked in the back of a car with probably his next victim. That was simply a routine check. It was not a search; a stop and search is a different matter. We are simply talking about stopping someone in the street and questioning him or her about an offence, or a suspected offence. If ever the police stop doing that, I am afraid that Members of this Chamber would suffer and the community would also suffer because there would be a massive increase in crime.
When Members of the Committee attack the police in the way they have done, they should try to remember that they are talking about a minority of police officers. The police are drawn from all sectors of society. Police recruits may include racists and people who act in a crass way. I believe that part of the problem is that police officers often deal with angry members of the public and are often in conflict with the community for various reasons. I suppose that that wears down police officers and perhaps they are not always as civil as they might be. I believe that much of the problem is due to insensitivity rather than to positive discrimination in the way that the Committee has described. I mention that simply because I feel that we have heard a totally unbalanced account of incidents. People outside who read the debate may well think that your Lordships feel that the police service is not doing its job. There is a danger in putting that message across. I rest my case.
The Earl of Onslow: Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may remind him that I specifically said that I quite accept this was an isolated case. I think the noble Lord will find that remark was read into Hansard. Like him, I have also been stopped by the police--perfectly legitimately--and treated with complete and utter respect.
Earl Russell: Also before the noble Lord sits down--if the noble Baroness will forgive me--I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, said what he did. For the purposes of the record, I said that some Peers may be criminals; I did not intend that as an attack on the Peers. Some police may be; I do not intend that as an attack on the police. I think most of them do an excellent job. But all of us have to do some adjusting to the fact that we now live in a multi-racial society, the police just like all the rest of us.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: I am grateful for that. I shall finish by saying that I do not want to give noble Lords the impression that I am simply being defensive. I am not. I agree with everything that has been said. I am the first to criticise crass police actions in any respect. I spent my life, from a PC right up to chief superintendent, doing just that and trying to correct officers who had perhaps gone off the rails. I was worried that it sounded like a very one-sided argument. I was trying to correct that and to bring some balance to the debate. I am grateful for your Lordships' comments.
Baroness Lockwood: Like my noble friend Lord Mackenzie, I had not intended to speak. I start by saying that the debate is not about the police but about the inclusion of the concept of indirect discrimination in the Bill, in particular in relation to public services and public authorities.
I must say to my noble friend the Minister that I was very disappointed to read the Home Office brief on this matter. Although accepting the many good things that the Home Office intends to do to try to combat racism--as distinct from including the concept of indirect discrimination within the Bill--I do not think that that will be sufficient.
My experience is based on the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Commission, of which I was the founder chair. A section of that Act puts responsibility on local education authorities to provide equality in the provision of education services. That has not prevented cases of discrimination against local authorities. So the declaration itself is not enough.
We need the concept of indirect discrimination within the Bill, for two reasons. The first is that, in my experience, indirect discrimination is really the key to discrimination. When the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was passed, we thought that we had a great deal of knowledge and experience of discrimination. It was not until we tried to interpret that Act that we began to find out what it was about.
In the course of the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, gave an example of what he thought could be possible indirect discrimination, and the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Taylor, have given their interpretations of situations where they feel that indirect discrimination has applied. In my experience, it is impossible to foretell the circumstances that will produce indirect discrimination. It is for that reason that we need the concept within the Bill.
The very first case under the Sex Discrimination Act talked about an age limit. I must confess that as chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission--as I was at that time--I was not at all sure that an age bar was indirectly discriminatory against women. It was not until we became involved in the case and began to argue all the implications that the principle of indirect discrimination was fully appreciated.
Once this Bill becomes an Act and is on the statute book, we will begin to see new aspects of indirect discrimination. The Government cannot possibly foretell every circumstance and make provision in advance for them. So that is one reason why I feel that the Government should have second thoughts about the Bill and should accept the amendment.
The second reason is that we should have some cohesion in the law. As the noble Lord, Lord Lester, indicated, there will be conflicting circumstances under different Acts. When the Race Relations Act 1976 was passed, it was in many ways almost a replica of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975; in other words, there was an attempt to establish a common code that could be applied to discrimination.
Since 1976 we have moved on. We understand our obligations under European law and we have incorporated the convention on human rights into our domestic legislation. It is important that the various Acts of Parliament should all speak with the same voice so that there is no conflict between them. Therefore, from the point of view of cohesion of the law and a better understanding of one's situation under different laws, again it is important to incorporate this concept into the Bill. I appeal to my noble friend the Minister to make very strong representations to his colleagues to accept the amendment.
Viscount Colville of Culross: I am happy to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, back to the more general principles with which the amendment is concerned. I wish to pick up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, about the international dimension. In March of this year the United Kingdom Government will appear in front of the Human Rights Committee in New York to deliver their report on the
The noble Lord, Lord Lester, is quite right to say that there is a right not to suffer discrimination. That is stated in Article 2 of the convention and is repeated in Article 26. From what I have heard of the arguments being put forward by the Home Office in defence of the Bill as it stands, I must tell the House that I do not believe that the Human Rights Committee will understand for one moment the distinctions and minutiae being put forward to justify the position currently taken by the Government.
Of course, I would never take part in the consideration of a presentation being made by the United Kingdom Government, but by this time I do know how my colleagues will think. I believe that one result of this legislation will be that on this occasion the United Kingdom Government find that they are severely criticised for breaches of the convention as a result of the way in which this legislation has been drafted. I cannot believe that that position is one in which the Government wish to find themselves. Furthermore, it is certainly not one I would rejoice to see. I hope that the time for turning back is still with us and that this may be the opportunity to do so.
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