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Lord Elton: My Lords, would this be an appropriate time to ask the Minister whether he has taken on board the concern of many noble Lords that something further should be done about the case of Mr Tomlinson.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for reminding me of the case of Mr Tomlinson. I shall certainly study Hansard very carefully. I was impressed that the noble Lord raised that issue in reflection of what the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, had said earlier. Yes, I shall ensure that we look at that case urgently; it deserves to be looked at more closely.

I said earlier that I had a profound disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. It relates to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report. That report will be seen in future years as very much a watershed. Critics on the right of our political culture see it as being something which has undermined, or acted to undermine, the police in the very difficult job they do. I take an entirely different view, as does the Home Secretary. We see it as a watershed in the sense that it will have a profound impact on improving police and community relations, and, in particular, police relations with black and ethnic minority communities.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, said that, in part, the Macpherson report commented on the sheer inefficiency of the police in dealing with that particular

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tragedy, that horrible murder. Far from having had an adverse effect on police morale in the context of dealing with street crime, it has enabled us to take time and take stock of police and community relations, and the whole relationship with ethnic minority communities.

As a government, we have been right to put in place training and measures which ensure that we have a police force which properly reflects the composition of what is now a multi-ethnic and diverse community. Over the months in which I have been a Home Office Minister, I have been impressed by the way in which the police service has begun to respond very fully to the implications of the Macpherson report. I pay tribute to it for that. I do not believe that over time the report will undermine its work; I think that it will help it. It will encourage policing by consensus, something on which many Members of your Lordships' House have laid particular emphasis and stress.

The Home Secretary has taken a very keen interest. He has made this very much a test of the way in which we modernise our police service. He has established a ministerial priority for all police forces to increase trust and confidence among minority ethnic communities, and he has set targets to ensure that the police service properly reflects the composition of our communities.

Many noble Lords focused on crime and crime reduction. We are making a significant investment in that sector and we believe that, over time, it will pay off. Crime statistics published in January show that, while crime rose nationally, it is not all gloom and doom. Those forces which are putting in place policing plans and tackling the important issues--such as burglary and non-domestic burglary--in a focused way are continuing to show falls in recorded crime. We think that that is the right way to proceed. Making sure that the criminal justice system works in a focused, purposeful and cohesive way will bring long-term benefits.

Yes, there are problems. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, ably described some of the difficulties which police forces--particularly in the Home Counties--are facing in terms of recruitment. The announcement that the Home Secretary made today, again reinforcing the need to bring in more police officers and better training, and increasing the ability of chief constables to recruit, will make a long-term difference.

The noble Lord is right to remind us of the issue of police pensions. It is a matter that we are urgently reviewing.

I have spent many minutes on my feet. It is right that I should conclude by thanking all Members of your Lordships' House who have made important

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contributions to this long--and perhaps long-awaited--debate on crime, crime reduction and the problems of law enforcement. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, made the point that there are no quick fixes to the problems of crime and disorder. Crime increased significantly under the previous government; we have set our sights on reducing crime. We have put in place a number of important changes to the legal framework and reforms of the criminal justice system in order to tackle crime more effectively and to restore public confidence. We have fully supported the police in their efforts to fight crime and disorder on our streets, and we will continue to do so.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for introducing this debate, and I thank again your Lordships for making it so interesting. It has ensured that we focus on this most important of all public issues.

7.40 p.m.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, the debate was remarkably short of political partisanship; that is, until the Minister read his departmental political rant. However, I am grateful to him for his presence throughout the debate, although I am disappointed that he has not answered my question as to whether the burglars in the Martin case in Norfolk have yet been charged.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I apologise for not having given a response. I am quite happy to provide the noble Lord with that reply.

The two burglars were charged with conspiracy to burgle. One burglar was sentenced to three years' imprisonment and the other, who did not enter the building, was sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment.

Other noble Lords have also asked questions to which I have not responded, but I undertake to reply in writing.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. We have listened to two maiden speeches, both of which I shall certainly remember. I shall also long remember the Liberal homily on racism, which ended with the statement: "I have never met an integrated Englishman."

I was most encouraged by the general concern expressed by noble Lords on all sides about the weakness in the moral and social pillars of our defences against crime and disorder. We should build on that consensus. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

        House adjourned at nineteen minutes before eight o'clock.

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