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Lord Avebury: My Lords, what happens if the litigant is successful in getting his or her claim against an immigration officer for discrimination upheld, but his or her substantive case for remaining in or entering the United Kingdom is turned down? How can he or she then seek damages in the county court if he or she is back in Lusaka or Hyderabad?
The second main purpose of the Bill is to increase the accountability of chief officers of police in race discrimination cases by making them vicariously liable for the racially discriminatory acts of individual police officers. This is covered by Clause 3 of the Bill.
In the Act as it stands, employers are held vicariously liable for the discriminatory actions of their employees. That means that where an employee racially discriminates against an individual, the individual can bring proceedings against both the discriminator and against the discriminator's employer. The employer has a defence if he took reasonably practicable steps to prevent employees from doing the act or acts of that description.
Police officers are office holders, not employees. Under the Act as it stands, special provision is made to enable them to be regarded as employees in respect of their own treatment, but no provision is made in respect of the exercise of their police functions. Although Section 88 of the Police Act 1996 and
So there is a clear anomaly here that needs to be addressed in order to bring the police in line with other organisations and with its own general practice. Both the Stephen Lawrence report and the Commission for Racial Equality have made recommendations to this effect. Clause 3 of the Bill, therefore, provides for chief officers of police to be made vicariously liable for acts of discrimination carried out by officers under their control.
The Race Relations Act provides that an act of racial discrimination is not unlawful if done for the purposes of safeguarding national security, and that a ministerial certificate is conclusive evidence that an act was done for precisely that purpose. As far as we are aware, the power has been used only once in almost 25 years.
The power to issue such conclusive certificates has been found by the European Court of Human Rights--in relation to equivalent provisions in a different piece of legislation--to be incompatible with Article 6(1) of the ECHR. The Bill removes the power in the Race Relations Act and amends the national security defence so that it will no longer be a complete defence to show that an act was done for the purposes of national security. It will also now need to be shown that the act was justified for that purpose.
The Bill also provides for courts to adopt certain special procedures when dealing with cases under the Act that raise national security issues. These provisions are based on similar provisions for tribunal rules made in Schedule 8 to the Employment Relations Act 1999.
I am sure that your Lordships' House will agree that it is absolutely essential that we get race relations issues right. I know that this will be reflected in the comments of noble Lords during the debate today. I very much look forward to listening--and responding constructively--to the points which will be raised. In particular, I look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids.
I hope that we shall be able to maintain a constructive approach throughout the passage of the Bill. If any points which would benefit from further consideration arise during the debate, I am happy to invite your Lordships to enter into correspondence with me or with my officials. I am also happy to invite noble Lords to attend meetings and to have further discussions on points of particular difficulty.
It has been a rare privilege for me, as Minister, to lead off the debate. It is not often that new Ministers have the opportunity that I have had today of playing a fundamental part in leading off legislation to which they feel so committed. I know that many of your
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing the Bill in such detail. I look forward to further debates. In particular I look forward today to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids. I am sure that her specialist knowledge and experience will inform our debates a great deal, not only today but in the future.
I have read the Bill carefully and studied quite a lot of what has been said and written about it. My view at the moment is that it is a sham. The Bill achieves a little, but it does not achieve what Ministers said they intended to achieve. It does not respond in full, as they said, to the Lawrence case, and it does not fulfil the expectations of the Commission for Racial Equality, even in the limited areas that it covers.
If the Minister had said that the Government had decided that it was unwise for the law to be extended very much, we could have respected that view and discussed it. But this Bill pretends to do things that it does not achieve. We are not going to oppose it today because we remain resolutely opposed to racial discrimination wherever it occurs. It is wrong in principle and appalling in practice. I am sure that everyone agrees with that.
The law has an important part to play in combating racial discrimination. It sets the climate and provides remedies for proven cases. It also gives power and authority to the Commission for Racial Equality so that problems can be identified and appropriate action taken, whether that is court action, education or persuasion. So the Bill should have a Second Reading, but it will also receive a thorough Committee stage to see exactly what it achieves, and how and why. We shall also need to look at what the Bill does not achieve, and why not.
I shall start with policing. The Minister's speech made it clear that this part does not by any means comprise the whole of the Bill, but it is an important element. Furthermore, as has already been said, it forms an important part of the origins of the Bill, flowing from the shocking Lawrence report. Of course, I recognise at once the dilemma of the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary. Like us, he is thoroughly against racial discrimination. However, he also needs to recognise that, as Home Secretary, he has a duty to support the forces of law and order which are in themselves essential to a fair society. In particular, like us, no doubt he attaches great importance to the operational independence of
However, so far as the Bill is concerned, the issue is how to make these different propositions compatible with one another. Should we subject the police, during their everyday work of enforcing the law, to scrutiny of their actions from the point of view of race and ethnic origin? It is not that the police are insulated from outside examination. On the contrary, they are some of the most elaborately supervised and scrutinised people in the whole of our public service. Each force is subject to its police authority, comprising councillors, magistrates and so forth. Forces are regularly inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary. The police receive Home Office instructions and guidance on all kinds of detail in their work. The Audit Commission does not only study and report on the accuracy and probity of the finances of the police, as would the auditors for a company, but it also scrutinises the effectiveness of their general operations. The independent Police Complaints Authority takes up individual complaints over and above the internal disciplinary code. Above all, the police are subject to the law itself, and the most obvious and essential part of their work concerns presenting the results of their efforts to the Crown Prosecution Service and to the courts to try to bring offenders to justice. Furthermore, their day-to-day work is also subject to detailed particular laws directed at them, such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
On top of all that, their efforts are also the subject of constant scrutiny and interest from Members of both Houses of Parliament, from councillors, the press and numerous voluntary bodies, and of course television portrays policemen, both real and fictional, more than any other profession in our society. When I thought of making that point I took the trouble of looking through the television listings to see whether they stood up to my perception. Doctors run the police fairly close, but nevertheless, in my judgment, the police win. God and His priests come quite high up on the list in one way or another, and that group has some reserve slots. However, even then, the police are some way ahead. Politicians fill a good deal of the news and current affairs programmes, and occasionally are to be seen on the fictional side as well. But once again, it is clear that policemen, both real and fictional, are the subjects of more television coverage than any other group.
Given all this statutory and non-statutory interest and supervision of the work of the police, Parliament should be cautious about adding to their overhead burdens in responding to scrutiny. Perhaps that is partly what held back the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary. We do not want our police to get into the habit of deciding their actions in a defensive manner. We do not want them unnecessarily restricted by a wish to avoid even more time and energy-consuming explanations of their detailed actions to outside bodies.
That is not to say that the police should not be examined. However, it is the pattern that matters most. The most damaging charge made in the Macpherson report was that of institutional racism, however defined. Of course, investigation into the pattern of policing decisions cannot be done without considering individual decisions--second-guessing with hindsight the minutiae of daily operating decisions. However, the pattern that emerges is what matters most.
Such decisions are to be examined from only one primary aspect; namely, that of racial discrimination. At the time decisions are taken, they involve all kinds of other considerations, including the priorities of different events taking place at the same time, different investigations that are continuing, the resources available and the legal complexities of bringing cases to court. A policeman of almost any rank starting his shift of duty has less idea of what he will have to do before his shift ends that day than almost any other person I can think of. The police have to react to events as they occur, as anyone who has spent time with the police knows very well.
The right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary could have said that, given all these considerations, we should not subject the police to further oversight of their actions; or, as does the Bill, we should at least very much limit that oversight. Conversely, others can--indeed they do--ask how it was that, given all this scrutiny, such a tragedy as reported by the Macpherson inquiry into the Lawrence case could still happen. If the Home Secretary had said that, given the circumstances, he would propose only a partial extension of the Race Relations Act, we could have considered that proposition with sympathy for the dilemma. However, the Government pretend that the Bill will apply the law so as to make unlawful the discrimination pointed out by the Macpherson report. I believe that to be a pretence.
Criticism of the way the Bill is framed has been forthright and very widespread, and we shall want to explore that criticism in Committee. It is a Bill of considerable complex detail, as was made clear by the speech of the Minister when he introduced it. Nevertheless, I shall today outline some of the areas that we shall want to explore.
The first, and much the most significant, is the limitation of a large part of the Bill to direct discrimination and victimisation; in other words, the omission of indirect discrimination. The Macpherson report indicated that what went wrong was primarily connected to indirect discrimination rather than direct discrimination and victimisation. However, it is also arguable how far what went wrong was due to sheer incompetence. In any case, as a supposed reaction to the report, it seems to me that the Bill fails, or certainly it falls short.
In practice, these days, most racial discrimination is indirect. Employers do not say, "I am not employing you because you are black". They know better than that. It is all much more subtle and indirect. Similarly,
Clearly, the pattern of stopping and searching should mirror the likelihood of offences and the chances of success in preventing them or of bringing offenders to justice. It is those considerations which should make a policeman stop and search a particular suspect, not a fear of later arguments based on other factors.
The Home Office very helpfully published last week some statistics on race and the criminal justice system, including the use of stop and search powers. The statistics covered up to the year 1998-99. Among other things the statistics allow us to see the effect in terms of arrests of the stopping and searching of white people by comparison with black people or those of Asian or other ethnic minority groups. That is not the whole picture, but the statistics help us to understand the reality. There is considerable variation across the country between the different forces, but in England and Wales as a whole, there were just over 1 million stops in 1998-99. Of those, roughly 865,000 were white people. Of those whites, 11 per cent were arrested and followed up. Of the 95,000 black people who were stopped, 13 per cent were arrested. Of the 51,000 Asians who were stopped, 12 per cent were arrested. Of the 10,000 other ethnic minority groups, 14 per cent were arrested. In the Metropolitan Police the number of arrests of white and black people who were stopped was the same for both categories, at 13 per cent. In the West Midlands a slightly higher percentage of whites who were stopped were arrested--13 per cent, compared with 12 per cent for black people.
I find those figures, as far as they go, somewhat reassuring by comparison with some of the points that are made on this subject. But my point today is that I cannot see the Bill improving the situation, or the appreciation of the situation by the people involved.
The next point that we shall wish to probe is the definition of "public authorities". It is clearly, and quite rightly, much wider than the police. They should not be singled out. But the definition in the Bill is differently worded from the definition in the Human Rights Act. I am not clear why that is. We shall also wish to probe the effect of the difference in the definitions.
I am interested to know why private prisons are left out of the Bill. The Explanatory Notes tell us that it is the Minister's intention to extend the provisions to private prisons, among other institutions, in a similar position. So why not put them in the Bill straightaway, instead of leaving it to yet more secondary legislation? I am among those who think that the Government's obsession with ministerial orders and regulations is not a desirable way to legislate if it can be avoided, although it is necessary sometimes. It is much better to put provisions before Parliament in Bills. In this case that could evidently be done.
National Health Service trusts seem to have been left out in England and Wales but included in Scotland. Perhaps there is some deeper devolutionary reason for that. Certainly it looks odd on the face of it, if I have read the Bill correctly.
In the part of the Bill dealing with immigration, which is to be Section 19C of the principal Act, it is proposed to be lawful to discriminate by reference to someone's ethnic origin as well as their nationality and national origin. It is suggested that this will increase lawful discrimination in this particular. That requires an explanation.
Under what will be Section 19D, acts leading to a decision not to prosecute are to be exempt. That means that a failure properly to investigate some available information, which failure led to a decision that no prosecution could succeed, would be exempt. That, too, sits oddly alongside the Macpherson report and what happened in the Lawrence case, and requires further explanation.
Another puzzling subsection is the proposed new subsection (4A) to Section 57 of the 1976 Act. The idea seems to be that an award of damages during a criminal investigation could not prejudice later criminal proceedings, but another remedy, such as, presumably, an injunction, might prejudice proceedings. That seems to me to be a very odd contrast. We shall certainly need to find out what is the reasoning behind that.
As some of your Lordships may know, I pay particular attention on these occasions to what is said about the anticipated costs of the proposed legislation. That is probably because of my background as an accountant. But the expected costs of legislation are a guide to the Government's view of just how effective it is likely to be. In this case, the extension of the Race Relations Act is said to be likely--not certain--to lead to increased costs. Changed procedures, we are told, "may" give rise to costs: in other words, they may not. There may be no change in procedures as a result of the Bill which costs anything at all. In any case, all the costs, whatever they are, will be contained within existing expenditure limits. If I may put it this way, they will not register on the Treasury's scale of values as additional expenditure. Similarly, there are to be no significant effects on public sector manpower. All this gives me the impression that the Government expect that the Bill will have little, if any, effect on public authorities and the way in which they behave.
No doubt it will have an effect on the courts. Additional court and legal aid costs are expected, but again comparatively small ones. A peak of £600,000 for legal aid costs in five years' time does not sound likely to buy much legal advice when spread over all the cases involved. The Macpherson inquiry into a single case--it was admittedly a complicated and detailed inquiry--cost more than £3 million, which is nearly four times the anticipated expenditure in a whole year for all the cases under this Bill in five years' time when it is fully in operation.
All in all, this is an unsatisfactory Bill. It does not satisfy those who want to see a remedy for the tragic events of the Lawrence case, and it does not satisfy the aims of the Bill as originally indicated by the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary. We, on these Benches, want to play our part in practical, effective measures to combat racial discrimination wherever it occurs, but so far this Bill does not seem to achieve that. It is a sham.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his generous remarks about my role 25 years ago when I was at the Home Office serving a Labour Government with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, as Home Secretary. Like other Members of the House, I much look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids.
We on these Benches welcome the Government's decision to introduce this Bill to extend the Race Relations Act 1976 to all listed public authorities, and to make chief officers of police liable for racially discriminatory conduct by police officers. We also welcome the decision to forbid direct and indirect racial discrimination in making recommendations and giving approval for appointments to public office or posts outside the employment field. That presumably includes appointments as Queen's Counsel and judicial appointments. I ask the Minister to confirm that that is so.
Like the Commission for Racial Equality, the Society of Black Lawyers and representatives of other ethnic minority organisations, and like the Conservative Front Bench, we are dismayed that the Bill is marred by serious flaws. We hope that the Government will agree to remove those defects. We hope that the Government will also give urgent attention--I emphasise "urgent"--to the much needed wider reforms of the hotchpotch of anti-discrimination legislation to produce a comprehensive, coherent, user friendly equality law, with more efficient equality compliance and enforcement machinery.
I shall explain some of the main defects in the Bill from the perspective of an architect of the Race Relations Act 1976 with long practical experience as a discrimination lawyer. In winding up, my noble friend Lord Dholakia will view the Bill from the perspective of potential victims of racial discrimination and will deal with the Bill's provisions relating to policing, prosecutions and criminal investigations.
The Stephen Lawrence inquiry recommended that the full force of the race relations legislation should apply to all police officers. In his action plan, the Home Secretary stated that the Government had accepted that recommendation, and went further, saying:
By creating an exception for indirect racial discrimination by public authorities, including the police service, the Bill discriminates between the public sector and the private sector. Indirect racial discrimination is, as the Minister has explained, unfair treatment resulting from a rule or practice applied equally to everyone, in a formal sense, but which has a disproportionate and unjustified adverse impact upon a particular racial group. Instead of having a greater responsibility because of the public nature of its vital functions, under the Bill much of the public service is to be less legally responsible. It is to be immunised from the statutory duty to justify indirectly discriminatory practices to individuals affected, the courts and the CRE. A building society, a bank, a professional organisation, a security firm, a local authority or, in some circumstances, a government agency has, under Section 20, read with Section (1)(1)(b) of the 1976 Act, to justify indirectly discriminatory practices where they are concerned with providing services or facilities to the public or a section of the public.
But under the Bill it will not be unlawful for Ministers, their officials, the police and immigration services, Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, the Inland Revenue, the Benefits Agency and other public authorities to operate practices and procedures which have a disproportionate adverse impact on ethnic minorities and which cannot be justified.
The victims of indirect discrimination by the public sector will remain unprotected. For example, British Muslims, who cannot obtain a remedy for religious discrimination, will not be protected against indirect racial discrimination by public authorities in providing services stemming from hostility to Islam.
The CRE will be unable to use its strategic law enforcement powers to tackle indirectly discriminatory practices and procedures in key public sector functions, because, unless such discrimination is direct, it will be outside the scope of the Bill. That is a particularly serious defect. The CRE has conducted several important formal investigations into unlawful indirect discrimination covered by the 1976 Act. Its practical experience demonstrates the value of the CRE's power to issue non-discrimination notices; for example, in the allocation of local authority housing in Tower Hamlets and in my own borough of Southwark, or in threatening to issue a non-discrimination notice unless an unlawful discriminatory practice is eliminated. The CRE has no such power unless a practice is unlawful. Under the Bill, indirect discriminatory practices by public authorities are not made unlawful, so the CRE will continue to lack a crucial investigative power in that area.
Because of the immunity to be given to indirect discrimination by public authorities, there will also be much legal uncertainty and unnecessary litigation about opaque distinctions between what is direct and what is indirect discrimination by public authorities, about what discrimination (direct or indirect) by public authorities is already forbidden by Section 20 of the 1976 Act; and about the effects of the Bill on the
Both the Race Relations Act and the Sex Discrimination Act already apply the concept of indirect as well as direct discrimination, not only to the employment field but also to public authorities and private bodies, in education and housing, and in the provision of goods, facilities and services to the public or a section of the public. We are not aware of any complaint that has ever been made that the operation of the concept of indirect discrimination in any of these areas is unworkable or unfair. I should be grateful if the Minister would tell the House whether he and his department have any evidence that it has operated in a harmful way.
Section 20 outlaws direct or indirect discrimination in the provision of certain services by public authorities. If a service falls within Section 20, it must be provided without direct or indirect discrimination. If it falls outside Section 20 but within the proposed new Section 19B, it must be provided without direct discrimination but it will not be unlawful if it is indirectly and unfairly discriminatory in its impact on ethnic minorities.
Unless the Bill is amended, much needless confusion and costly uncertainty will arise, both because of the inevitable overlap in many cases between direct and indirect discrimination and because, by not applying the law to indirect discrimination by public authorities, it will remain necessary to revisit complex case law based on obscure and elusive distinctions as to whether a public authority is or is not providing services to the public within the meaning of Section 20 of the 1976 Act.
Perhaps I may give some examples. In the case of Savjani [1981 QB 458], the Court of Appeal ruled that the Inland Revenue was providing services within the scope of Section 20 when deciding whether to enable taxpayers to obtain tax relief. It is unclear what other revenue functions fall within Section 20.
In Re Amin [1983 2 AC 818], the Law Lords decided by a 3:2 majority that the goods, facilities and services provisions of the anti-discrimination legislation apply only to acts done by the Crown if they are of a kind similar to acts that might be done by a private person, and did not apply to the Immigration Service. I respectfully disagree with the majority and agree with the dissenting judgment of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Scarman, and Lord Brandon. I believe that if Re Amin were reconsidered today by the Law Lords, it would be overruled. It is a precedent of doubtful authority, especially since the Law Lords were not referred to the relevant body of international human rights law.
In Alexander v Home Office [1988 1 WLR 968], it was accepted by the Home Office that the allocation of work to prisoners is within the scope of Section 20. But prison disciplinary practices and procedures probably fall outside.
In Farah [1997 2 WLR 824], the Court of Appeal decided that Section 20 applies to the police in giving assistance to the public and protecting the public, as distinct from pursuing and arresting or charging alleged criminals. The borderline is vague and uncertain.
It is entirely fortuitous whether a function of a public body falls within or outside Section 20. It is quite ridiculous--I understate my indignation--for the concept of unlawful discrimination to depend upon making such an artificial distinction based upon an uncertain legal test in circumstances where the factual issues about purpose and effect will often be tangled together.
It is difficult to imagine how vulnerable people--the alleged victims of institutional racism by the police, prison, immigration or social services--could reasonably be expected to untangle the legal and factual knots. Disentangling those knots will simply add to the legal costs of employing counsel like myself.
By clothing themselves and their departments with the immunity from liability for indirect racial discrimination, Ministers are judges in their own cause. They seek to be immune, not for reasons of principle but for administrative convenience. The problems suggested by the Minister about policy-making are, with respect, fanciful and unreal. There is no reason whatever why regional policies and policies related to a person's age cannot be objectively justified. If, under the Bill, decisions about national security need to be justified, why on earth should other less serious policy decisions not also need to be justified?
As the CRE points out, another serious defect in the Bill is the absence of a clear and legally enforceable positive duty upon public authorities to secure that their functions are carried out without racial discrimination. In his press statement on 3rd December, the Home Secretary,
I turn to Section 19C, which creates a blanket exemption for any directly discriminatory act, in relation to any of the wide range of immigration or nationality functions, done against another person on grounds of nationality or ethnic or national origins by
If an exemption is needed for discriminatory treatment based on nationality or residence, a wide exemption is already provided in Section 41(2) of the Race Relations Act 1976 to cover such treatment. No further provision is needed for this. What is novel and objectionable is the blanket exemption for discrimination on grounds of ethnic or national origins.
Unlike discrimination on grounds of nationality or place of residence, discrimination based on ethnic or national origins is as much racial discrimination as is discrimination based on colour or race, as the definition of racial discrimination in Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination 1966 makes crystal clear. Such discrimination involves treating one individual less favourably than another for what is not chosen by them but for what is innate in them at birth--their genetic inheritance--whether as ethnic Jews, Roma gypsies or Hong Kong Indians. It is as invidious and unfair as is discrimination based on the colour of a person's skin. That is why the Race Relations Act 1976 forbids direct discrimination on any of those racial grounds, apart from a range of clearly defined exceptions.
The sweepingly broad exception in Section 19C is incompatible with the very principle of non-discrimination which the legislation is intended to secure. If the Home Office wishes to make special arrangements aimed at providing protection to particular groups seeking shelter in the United Kingdom, such as the Bosnians and Kosovars who were granted exceptional leave to remain during the recent crisis in the Balkans, it is difficult to understand how that would require an exception. The reason for affording favourable treatment to some of those groups is surely not their ethnic or national origins but their well-founded fear of persecution, the urgency of their humanitarian needs and the need to comply with the UK's obligations under the refugee convention. The policy is not based upon or caused by their ethnicity. It does not involve discriminating against anyone on the grounds of their ethnic or national origins.
I go further. Even if it were appropriate, for the avoidance of doubt, to include an exception to cover situations of that kind, the exception to the fundamental right to equal treatment without discrimination would need to be prescribed in legislation in a way carefully tailored to what is necessary to give effect to the Government's legitimate aims, with adequate judicial safeguards against the abuse of this extraordinary power, to ensure that the doing of a discriminatory act is justified by its purpose, as with national security.
The functions covered by Section 19C include decisions to deport, exclusion directions, leave to enter or remain, the grant of asylum, exceptional leave to remain, and even naturalisation as a British citizen. Section 44 of the British Nationality Act 1981 provides that any discretion vested by that Act in the Secretary of State, a governor or lieutenant governor, must be exercised,
As it stands, Section 19C authorises breaches by a future populist illiberal Home Secretary, or by a prejudiced administration, of the various international human rights conventions by which the UK is bound: notably, Articles 2, 5 and 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In 1975 the previous Labour government's White Paper, Racial Discrimination, observed that legislation was the essential pre-condition for an effective policy to combat discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and treatment. I quote that White Paper:
I speak to two issues that apply to the NHS. I seek the Minister's assurance that the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill will be used to remedy the discrepancy in the treatment of small partnerships under the Race Relations Act 1976 and the sex discrimination legislation. The Sex Discrimination Act 1986 amended the 1975 Act to remove the previous exception which allowed discrimination in partnership arrangements where there were fewer than six partners (Section 11 of the 1975 Act, as amended). However, the Race Relations Act continues to make discrimination in partnership arrangements unlawful only in respect of firms consisting of six or more partners (Section 10 of the 1976 Act).
Representation was made by the British Medical Association, which has briefed me, to the Home Office to change that. The association is committed to giving high priority to combating racism in the NHS and to bringing about the necessary changes. At a conference in February 1997 attended by representatives of all the major health organisations in the country, a number of themes emerged on which action should be focused. They included: monitoring data; ensuring compliance with racial equality policies; and amendment of the
There are still some practices in the selection of medical staff which do not promote equal opportunities. Trusts, health authorities, health boards and general practices need to improve recruitment and selection practices. Thousands of citizens from ethnic minorities work in the NHS. The NHS would collapse without them. The biggest numbers are in nursing and medicine; for example, in medicine 24 per cent of the workforce--nearly 27,000 doctors--come from non-EU countries. Often they feel that they are discriminated against because they get mostly junior posts; promotion is difficult; recognition of their work is low and the vast majority work as locum doctors in many specialties where there are vacancies in permanent posts.
This discrimination, including that relating to admission to medical schools of even second-generation young student doctors, is not direct discrimination. The discrimination lies in their inability to get on to short lists for appointments. They are appointed to junior posts below their ability and are rarely given senior positions. They gain less recognition, for example in merit awards. This results from indirect discrimination--hence my concern about the omission of this form of discrimination from the Bill.
Policies of employment and promotion operate within the NHS which cannot be justified on non-racial grounds. The omission of provisions to deal with indirect racism seriously inhibits the ability to challenge institutional racism. What I have described is a daily occurrence for many individuals. I hope that the Minister will consider a plea to include indirect racism in the Bill. I have heard about the problems that this may create in the legislation, but indirect racism, including institutional racism, exists and good words may not get rid of it.
Baroness Howells of St Davids: My Lords, it is a great honour to be a Member of the House and to address your Lordships in this my maiden speech. I express my sincere thanks to the many friends and Members on both sides of the House for their support, encouragement and kindness during my first few months. I pay a special tribute to the staff. This House is very fortunate to have very many hard-working and helpful staff. They have provided me with the right information at the right time and have pointed me in the right direction. They have led me out of cupboards posing as rooms, ejected me from the Benches opposite and spared my blushes. I thank them for their generosity and courtesy.
Today we debate a Bill that tackles prejudices. I admit to your Lordships that before I came here I too held prejudices about this House and some of its Members. However, like all prejudices these were proved wrong following first-hand experience of the individuals concerned.
I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I share with them some of the prejudices that I held about this House. I felt that it was out of touch and out of date. I also feared that I would feel a little out of place. After only two months I can say that your Lordships' House is not as out of touch as I had once thought. I have been very impressed by the many conscientious Members who work tirelessly on behalf of numerous causes and use this House to speak up for people who cannot speak for themselves. I am pleased that this House is beginning to become more reflective of the people of this country whose interests, I trust, we come to this House to serve.
Nor do I believe that this House is as out of date as I once thought. Obviously, your Lordships' ancient ceremonies take some time for a newcomer to understand. I enjoy learning the traditions and procedures of this place. But I have to admit to times when I have been unsure about what is or is not the procedure of this House. For example, on my very first day in the Chamber, I saw a person jumping up and down on the Woolsack waving and shouting loudly. He was then escorted away by men in buckles and braces. I hope that your Lordships will sympathise with me for mistaking that as just another part of your Lordships' most ancient of proceedings.
I am pleased that this House is evolving, albeit slowly, to get in touch with the concerns and hopes of all the people of Britain. I am also pleased that it is showing signs of becoming more representative of our multicultural and multiracial society.
I am honoured to take my place among your Lordships on the journey towards a society, reflected in this House, which truly values diversity and promotes equality. As I speak, the new millennium is only 17 days away. I should like to pause for a moment to reflect on the millennium that is about to pass. During those 1,000 years there have been many achievements of which the human race can be proud. There are also many things of which the human race should be ashamed but from which we must learn if we are not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The history of racism is something of which we should be ashamed but from which we must learn. I distinguish racism from prejudice. I have always maintained that prejudice in an individual can be dealt with fairly easily, either through experience or education; or it can be ignored. But prejudice in an institution cannot be ignored. Racism in an institution is more pernicious than mere prejudice. Racism is the application of prejudice with power. Prejudice plus power is a dangerous combination. It was that combination of prejudice plus power that helped to capture, transport and sell my African ancestors into slavery in the new world.
Last week, the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, made her maiden speech during the universities debate. She remarked that she had never expected to become a Member of this House and wondered what her parents would have made of their daughter being in the Chamber. I am the descendant of a slave. I also wonder
Some former Members of this House, like Lord Wilberforce, were instrumental in ridding this country and its empire of the trade in human beings. Slavery became an integral part of the economy of the British empire. The slave trade was institutionalised. We may have abolished slavery but we are still affected by the structures within our institutions which allowed such an abhorrence to flourish for so long.
I have said on other occasions that I am not sure why I have had the privilege of joining this House. It may be because of many years' experience of working with members of the different communities of south-east London and in particular my time at Greenwich Council for Racial Equality. It was in that capacity that I first met Neville and Doreen Lawrence. The murder of their son, Stephen, the failure of the police and the CPS to bring the perpetrators to justice and their long campaign for redress shook the foundations of this country. Things can never be the same again.
That is why the black community rank Neville and Doreen Lawrence with the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. They all share the ability to communicate their suffering to the world. Every mother and father, every brother and sister, black or white, all felt their pain and their anger. I would say that the murder of their son may become as significant historically as the murder of Martin Luther King.
The inquiry into Stephen's murder introduced institutional racism into the wider domain. The media have brought it to our attention. Some have argued that the concept of institutional racism was plucked out of the air by Sir William Macpherson earlier this year. But the concept of institutional racism is nothing new. As the Lawrence inquiry report pointed out, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in his presentation to Parliament of his report into the Brixton disorders addressed that issue in 1981. In that important report, the noble and learned Lord responded to the suggestion that Britain is an institutionally racist society by saying:
The Bill is the Government's promised legislative response to the report of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. Much credit is due to the Government for setting up the inquiry in the first place and to the Home Secretary for putting a comprehensive action plan in place to take forward its recommendations. There has
However, many organisations working with and representing ethnic minorities have raised concern that the Bill falls short of the inquiry recommendation since, for activities brought within the Act for the first time, the Bill makes only direct discrimination unlawful and leaves out indirect discrimination. I know that other noble Lords have raised similar concerns.
The Commission for Racial Equality argues that by omitting indirect discrimination in critical functions of public authorities the Bill inhibits the ability to challenge institutional racism. Indeed, Dr Richard Stone, one of the three advisory members of the Macpherson inquiry, is concerned that the Bill fails to address the causes of the police failure properly to investigate the murder of Stephen Lawrence. He says that the inquiry found,
We must tackle institutional racism in our public services. We still have far to go. This week, there may be a verdict in the case of the murder of the young musician, Michael Menson. Michael was found burning in north London. He had been set on fire and died of his injuries. The police took the view that Michael had committed suicide by dousing himself with lighter fuel. Michael was black. It took a sustained campaign by members of Michael's family to re-examine the circumstances of his death before the police made any arrests for his murder.
I have heard it said many times by many people in different parts of society that one cannot legislate against attitudes. That may or may not be so. If the perpetrators of prejudicial attitudes were to take the
Legislation provides the vital infrastructure for a society which is free from racism, which values diversity and which provides fairness and justice for all its citizens. That is the society I believe we all want for our children and grandchildren as we enter the next millennium.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, on behalf of the whole House, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, on her distinctive and valued contribution to the debate. She is already known to some Members of your Lordships' House through her close friendship with the late Lord Pitt of Hampstead. She is widely respected as a community activist and campaigner and is held in great esteem and affection by the many volunteer organisations to which she has given long and dedicated service. As we might expect from her maiden speech, the noble Baroness is particularly respected for her commitment to social justice and equality.
More recently, as the noble Baroness mentioned, she has been supporting Doreen and Neville Lawrence in setting up the Stephen Lawrence Trust. I know that she has been an important role model for many young black people, including some Members of your Lordships' House. We greatly look forward to further contributions on a wide range of subjects with what clearly will be a distinguished combination of thoughtfulness, humour, strength and "winningness".
As the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, mentioned, the murder of Stephen Lawrence and what the Macpherson inquiry revealed about the failure to bring his killers to justice was a turning point--and will be seen as such by future historians--in the history of policing in this country. The Macpherson inquiry revealed something terribly wrong not just with the police but with society as a whole, including the Church.
So the Bill will certainly go a long way to eliminating direct discrimination in the police and other public authorities. However, what the Macpherson inquiry was concerned with was institutional racism. The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, referred to that phrase and qualified it with the words "however defined". The noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, rightly drew attention to the important quotation from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in his 1981 report on the Brixton disorders. That definition was taken up by the Macpherson inquiry, which defined institutional racism in these terms:
As many noble Lords have said, institutional racism reveals itself not so much in direct but in indirect discrimination. We heard the substantial contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. It arises when a particular condition or requirement is imposed--not necessarily formally adopted, but operating within an organisation--that is not in itself discriminatory but in its application operates to the disadvantage of particular racial groups where, for example, members of that group are proportionately less able to comply with the condition or requirement.
In the context of the police, for example, police stop and search operations in neighbourhoods where there is a disproportionately high black and Asian population could be indirectly discriminatory. If such targeting were in response to a recent major spate of thefts in that neighbourhood, it is likely that it could be justified on good policing grounds. On the other hand, if the practice were followed by police officers as
The Minister, in presenting the Bill, said that the Government had seriously considered the possibility of including indirect racism, but had decided not to do so because of the uncertain and far-reaching effect on government policy. He gave the example of age-related or regional policies which might advantage or disadvantage certain groups and, although not on racial grounds, might lend themselves open to challenge on such grounds. Is that really the case? As the example that I have just given from policing reveals, if it can be shown that policing in a particular area is necessary, then of course no challenge can be brought against that policy on the grounds that it is racially discriminatory. If it can be shown that a particular policy in relation to regions which contain a high proportion of a particular ethnic group or a particular age group is carried out for perfectly appropriate reasons then there can, of course, be no challenge on the grounds that it is racially discriminatory.
I do not believe that that is a good enough reason for not including such a provision in the Bill. The reason why the issue is so crucial is that Richard Stone, who was a member of the Macpherson inquiry, said,
Lord Sheppard of Liverpool : My Lords, it is a delight to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lady Howells of St Davids. She spoke with rare authority, a touch of humour and much shrewd comment. Along with all Members of your Lordships' House, I wish her skill in avoiding cupboards in the House and express our hope that she will speak to us on many occasions.
It is my hope that the police will welcome the Bill and indeed will want to see it strengthened. They have a tough, sensitive and dangerous task to maintain the rule of law that we ask them to undertake on behalf of
In 1969 I moved from Newham in east London--Canning Town, which was then an entirely white area--to be Bishop of Woolwich in south London, where there were already large black and Asian communities. I asked my friend Wilfred Wood, who is now Bishop of Croydon, to educate me. One day he took me to Shepherd's Bush where he was then working. At the end of a day of visiting black people in Shepherd's Bush, I met with a group of black community leaders. I wanted to learn what their experience of life in London was.
Before they would talk about anything else, they insisted that I listen for an hour to their experiences of the police and of police activities. I have never forgotten the comment that the only other white person present made afterwards. He said, "It is like you going to a big house to see the man who lives in the big house. He sends the butler to get rid of you and you are angry with the butler". We are talking about large groups of people in our country who often do not have the right address on their notepaper; they do not have the ability to get to meet those in authority. The police are like the butler in that story.
That visit and that discussion were an important moment of education for me. I am afraid that that feeling about the police has continued in black and Asian communities. In Liverpool, black people have repeatedly told me that they made complaints about the police but never knew what happened to the complaints. They said that no police officer had ever been dismissed there for racist actions.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, said that the police were the most scrutinised service. That is because they have the crucial role of upholding the rule of law; and how much that matters. I spoke today to a Liverpool lawyer who practises a good deal of litigation in that area. He said that it still feels very much the same; that complaints are made and disappear within the organisation. Perhaps police officers were disciplined within the organisation, but no one outside ever knew. There needs to be a much greater confidence that complaints will be actively pursued. I believe that the police service should welcome the Bill and should be seen to be subject to the Race Relations Act. I welcome, as other noble Lords have done, the clarity that Clause 3 will bring to the law: that chief police officers are liable and are the sole employer of police officers.
We have rightly heard a good deal about the report which eventually followed the murder of Stephen Lawrence and talk of "institutional racism". I regret that I have heard a number of debates on television
Such remarks, if unchallenged, allow attitudes to develop which prevent even-handed treatment. Sometimes we can do more than we believe about those things as individuals. An old friend and colleague of mine whom I knew in south London when she was in her 70s, said to me, "Three of us have promised each other that we shall never allow a racist remark to pass unchallenged". That is what we can do as individuals, but the law must require that institutions and authorities publicly take steps to ensure that such remarks are tackled and challenged.
I hope that amendments will be brought forward that will impose a positive legal duty on public authorities to oblige them to act to prevent discrimination. I hope that other statutory and voluntary bodies will take such positive steps. I was delighted that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark--who I know was here earlier and would have wanted greatly still to be here--told me yesterday that the Anglican Diocese of Southwark, having approached the CRE, is being examined by the CRE over a period of time to see how it handles relevant matters.
The Home Secretary Jack Straw publicly acknowledged that the report of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry showed how far we have to go before Britain becomes the beacon of equality that we are determined it should be. The Government must and will do more. I hope that during the course of the Bill my noble friend on the Front Bench, on behalf of the Government, will bring forward amendments that will strengthen it.
I believe that, importantly, the debate has already challenged the anxiety which exists about including indirect discrimination in the law. We all listened with great respect to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. That certainly encouraged me to press my noble friend to tell us how indirect discrimination might be included in the law.
The remarks made by Richard Stone, which have been quoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, are important. I believe that all Members of your Lordships' House and, indeed, the whole nation were genuinely shocked by the murder of Stephen Lawrence and by what was revealed of the failure to pursue vigorously the case and to bring people to court.
I know that it is difficult to enshrine in law offences that one may, in our old language, describe as leaving undone those things that ought to have been done and not simply doing those things that we ought not to
Lord Desai: My Lords, I follow one maiden and two bishops and that is a difficult position in which to find oneself. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Howells of St Davids on a brilliant maiden speech. She gave us the full benefit of her long experience and wisdom and I look forward to hearing many of her contributions in the future.
I am not an expert on race relations, nor have I worked in race relations practice. Therefore, I shall be brief. Of course, I welcome the Bill but I feel that a chance has been missed. Over the past 23 years, and especially over the past three or four years, people's awareness of still persistent racism has deepened. We must remember that the re-igniting of the Stephen Lawrence case was carried out by the Daily Mail, a newspaper normally thought to be right wing. Tabloids in this country no longer condone any form of racism; they are clearly anti-racist.
As has been said by many noble Lords, we have all been shocked by the Stephen Lawrence case. However, my shock stems from the fact that no one seems to have been punished as a consequence of what we found out about the Stephen Lawrence case. At the time that the Macpherson report came out, I remember that a parallel and insignificant event occurred. Glenn Hoddle had to resign for making certain odd remarks. Even my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said that Glenn Hoddle should resign. No one said anything about Sir Paul Condon resigning. At least, he certainly did not resign. I mentioned the contrast between those two events when I spoke in the Macpherson report debate, and I believe that it is shocking. It may be justified but it is shocking.
It is also shocking that murders of black or Asian teenagers must be dragged over many years into newspapers, petitions and so on in order to attain redress for grievances. Perhaps I may refer to the Ricky Reel case and the Satpal Ram case--his was not a murder case but he is in gaol. I believe that we shall not rid ourselves of racism in this country until parents of black and Asian teenagers and black and Asian teenagers themselves feel that they can achieve justice without the need to undergo the long haul of petitions, meetings, newspaper articles and so on. Far too many people who die in police custody are black or Asian, and I believe that that has not been properly investigated.
At the end of this process, I should like to see established not simply a legal structure but a climate of equality so that the first, second and third generations of black and Asian people feel at home in this country. That is the challenge which we all face. I hope that my noble friend will table amendments about indirect discrimination. Otherwise, we may have to wait another 25 years and I believe that the second generation who are now growing up will lose patience.
I make one more point concerning immigration and naturalisation. Although I have not experienced it myself, people tell me that non-UK citizens, black or Asian, who arrive in London or pass through London face a very bad time at the hands of immigration officers. I have spoken to many people who tell me that that is true. Black Americans or Indians travelling from India on their way to Canada or the United States are harassed. I do not know whether this Bill will do anything to reverse that grievance but I believe that this situation is giving the UK a bad name and that we should not tolerate such attitudes.
Whatever the Bill's provisions, I hope that at some stage the Government will encourage the positive task of promoting equality of all citizens. Eventually, this issue should become one not of racism but of equality.
Like my noble friend Lord Desai, I am not an expert in the field of race relations. In my ignorance, I believed that the Race Relations Act 1976 covered the work of public bodies. What a pity that it needed the tragedy of the Stephen Lawrence affair to make me aware that it did not. I believed that the 1976 Act applied to all public bodies when exercising their functions. Those that did not do so properly would appear to the public to be outside the law. What sort of democracy is that?
We have all seen what happens in countries where public bodies are outside the law. Too often we have seen the terrible things that happen if administrative decisions discriminate against or victimise people on grounds of race. That is the institutional prejudice to which my noble friend Lady Howells referred in her excellent maiden speech. We have seen it in Eastern Europe, in the old Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany. Like other noble Lords, I, too, believe it is unfortunate that the Bill does not include indirect discrimination by public bodies.
I hear what the Minister says about problems relating to officials in public bodies dealing with age differences, regional differences or indirect actions which they did not create or which are outside their control. But my earlier concerns about the dangers of
Indeed, I believe that there is a duty on the public sector to lead by example. I am pleased to note that my noble friends the Minister and the Leader of the House agree with me. On 2nd December, I asked the Government what was their approach to equality issues. In her reply, my noble friend the Leader of the House wrote that the public sector will lead by example. Earlier, in the same Written Answer, she said that the Government are working to eliminate unjustified discrimination wherever it exists. Bravo to that. But it exists in the area of indirect discrimination by public bodies and I hope that the Government will take a good look at that.
I have heard it said that now there is too much regulation and legislation in the field of race. Opponents to the Bill claim that it merely adds to the excess of red tape. In response, I make the point that there seems to be some confusion in people's minds about regulation. There are two kinds of regulation and people must distinguish between them: on the one hand, there is lifting bureaucracy and cutting red tape; and on the other, there is regulation laying down basic standards and minimum entitlements for our society. Of course we want to cut red tape, but we also want to live in a decent society. This legislation deals with decent standards and I am in favour of that.
The other observation I make about the complaint of too much legislation in the race relations field concerns experience in the United States. Certainly a more tolerant attitude to race relations would have emerged there eventually, but it has been demonstrated time and time again that legislation has speeded up the process considerably. Of course you cannot change attitudes by passing laws. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lester, about that. But passing laws sets an example and it is an important element in achieving change.
Too little regulation can have the opposite effect, and gaps left by government regulations will be filled by litigation. Litigation on social issues is certainly good for the lawyers, as the noble Lord, Lord Lester, demonstrated, but I wonder whether it is good for society. And so I ask the Minister to make sure that this Bill does not leave too many gaps for social litigation.
I have heard it said also that race relations legislation is counterproductive to assimilation. I know a little bit about assimilation. I was brought to this country as a child by parents who were escaping from racial intolerance. My parents did everything they could to help me to assimilate. That is how they thought I would get on. Fifty years ago, they were probably right. But today we live in a more tolerant country. Most people have grown to accept the differences and diversity of people who make up British society. In turn, that has made it possible for minorities to feel more comfortable in their differences. My noble friend Lady Howells explained that to us. Indeed, younger people in minority
Therefore, instead of making assimilation more difficult, the legislation that we are considering today helps people to maintain their identities in a changing, multicultural landscape and yet they are assimilated in a way which enables them to participate fully and equally in British society. That is my personal and private reason for supporting this Bill. My public reason is that I hope that the Bill will lead to less discrimination because I agree with my noble friend Lord Desai that it is good for society and it is good for the economy.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, on her brilliant maiden speech. I appreciated everything she said and we certainly look forward to hearing from her many times in the future, not only on this but on the many other subjects on which she has so much to contribute.
My noble friend Lord Lester, whose immense expertise and involvement with this subject goes back to the White Paper of 1975 and beyond, set out clearly why we on these Benches can give only a qualified welcome to the Bill. We are therefore associated with all noble Lords who have spoken so far except the Minister. We do not agree that in extending the scope of the original Race Relations Act to cover all the functions of public authorities and not just the provision of services to the public, which is dealt with already in Section 20 of that Act, the Bill should cover only direct discrimination. That leaves authorities free to impose conditions or requirements in the exercise of any of their other responsibilities which can operate to the disadvantage of particular racial groups. And they do, as we know from bitter experience.
The public authorities concerned are defined in the proposed Schedule A1. As the Commission for Racial Equality observes, it is not clear why the Government have chosen a different specification to the much simpler formula in the Human Rights Act that,
The harm done by indirect discrimination can be imagined when it is recalled that last year the Home Office itself was found to harbour deeply entrenched racist attitudes in a survey commissioned by the department itself. Managers, including, I am sorry to say, some from the immigration and nationality department, made extremely racist remarks in the focus groups which were part of that study. Yet there is to be an exemption from the Bill for immigration officers and Ministers exercising the discretion conferred on them by the immigration Acts, allowing them to discriminate on grounds of nationality or ethnic or national origin. Since Ministers have an unfettered discretion in, for example, the 1971 Act, that appears to give them an open-ended power to discriminate, even outside the immigration rules.
But I wish to spend a few moments examining the possible impact of the Bill on another section of the community which has not been discussed so far but only mentioned en passant by the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard; that is, gypsies. I begin by reminding your Lordships of an interview given by the Home Secretary to Annie Oathen on Radio West Midlands on 22nd July which was widely reported in the national press at the time. The question under discussion was ostensibly the deployment of 100 armed police officers at a traveller wedding in Coventry. We should remember that we are not talking now about locker-room banter; this is the Home Secretary speaking to a large audience on West Midlands radio. He said that,
As it turned out, there had been no violence at all at the wedding. The message transmitted by that incident to the travellers and to the settled community is that the Secretary of State and the police see travellers as being dangerous and lawless enough to warrant the deployment of a substantial force--often armed--when they have large social events.
I telephoned Annie Oathen, who interviewed the Home Secretary, and a reporter from the Birmingham Post to ask whether they could recall any case within their area of a person defecating in doorways of firms, whether gypsy or not. Both told me that no such report had ever been made.
No one suggests that gypsies and travellers never commit offences or annoy their neighbours. It is natural that people who are socially excluded--travellers are excluded far more than any other section of the community--may be likely to fall into crime and are more likely to do so than people who have had a reasonable education and come from good homes. If that is the case, surely the remedy is a far more vigorous approach to social exclusion of all kinds rather than for the police to target the victims. I suggested that to Mr. Straw in my letter, to which he failed to reply.
A rather similar event to the Coventry wedding led to a case under the existing Race Relations Act to which I draw your Lordships' attention. Mrs Smith, whose daughter was getting married, hired the Pittville Pump Rooms from the Cheltenham Borough Council for the reception in August 1997 at which she expected 150 guests. The previous March police had experienced trouble at another gypsy wedding and had received information about two further weddings, one of which was to be attended by 1,500 guests. The police falsely informed the Cheltenham Borough Council that Mrs Smith, who had hired the room for 150 people, was hoping to have 10 times that number at the function. The council summoned Mrs Smith and imposed extra conditions on the hire of the room, including a £750 deposit, admission by ticket only and the full costs to be paid 15 days before the event. The family had no choice but to comply with those arrangements.
However, Mrs Smith brought an action against the borough council for breach of contract and for breaches of Sections 20 and 21 of the 1976 Act, which make it unlawful to discriminate in the provision of goods and services or on the terms upon which premises are offered. The action against the police was under Section 33(1) of the Act which provides that a person who knowingly aids another person to do an act made unlawful by the legislation is himself doing an unlawful act of a like description.
Last week, unfortunately, the Court of Appeal threw out the case against the police although the council had clearly behaved in a discriminatory manner solely because of the information given to it by the police. That decision of the court gives the police carte blanche to pass on false information about members of any ethnic group. That is important in the context of the crime prevention partnerships that are being set up all around the country between local authorities and the police. Can the Minister tell the House whether the Bill will have any effect, directly or indirectly, on the application of Section 33 of the parent Act?
When I have tried to raise this matter in the House I have been told that the policing of each event is entirely a matter for the chief constable in whose area it occurs. There is never an opportunity to consider the whole picture throughout the country. On 7th October 1997 an incident occurred in north Oxfordshire when 200 armed police officers raided a gypsy site. They kept the residents imprisoned on the site for 11 hours, preventing children from attending school and patients from visiting doctors. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, when I raised the matter on the Floor of the House, contented himself with advising me to make a complaint to the Police Complaints Authority if I had any evidence of police malpractice. It is not my job to make complaints about something of which I did not have personal knowledge and it begs the question that that is not the only incident of its kind.
My submission is that police forces quite often go over the top in policing any event or in dealing with any suspicions in connection with gypsies. I do not understand how the present Bill will deal with institutionalised police bias against gypsies and travellers because every individual allegation of discrimination still has to be dealt with by means of a complaint and there cannot be a general investigation of the kind needed to redress matters.
Moreover, in England and Wales the only people identified as gypsies and who are definitely entitled to the racial equality legislation are those who are officially classified as gypsies. I do not know whether Irish travellers are so covered. Perhaps the noble Lord can tell the House. It is possible that an anomalous situation could arise in which Irish travellers are dealt with under the discrimination legislation in Northern Ireland but not on the mainland of Great Britain.
The Lawrence inquiry was effective only because it went beyond the actions that were taken by the police in relation to the tragic murder of a single victim. It dealt with the wider question of police attitudes on racial equality. We also need that kind of approach for travellers or the Bill will be of no help to a community that suffers more deprivation and discrimination than any other in the land.
Baroness Whitaker : My Lords, the Bill is a welcome extension to the Race Relations Act 1976. The first provision of the Bill touches on a central concern in the development of a fair society; namely, the conduct of public authorities. To bring all public authorities under the scope of the legislation will help to make a reality of the Government's intention and, in the words of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, to "tackle institutional racism". However, the Bill does not provide for that completely because, as we have heard from all sides of your Lordships' House, it deals only with direct discrimination committed by a public authority.
Direct discrimination by a public authority fortunately is now rare in our society, although it is still, rightly, held to be illegal. To use another of the Home Secretary's phrases, it is not direct discrimination that holds up the "building of an anti-racist society", but part of our culture that is often unacknowledged--unconscious attitudes flowing, no doubt, from a series of historical events, as my noble friend Baroness Howells of St Davids said in her thoughtful maiden speech. Those attitudes are the main underlying reason why people from visible ethnic minorities are treated unfairly and have unequal opportunities. It shows in the employment figures where those with higher qualifications are still two or three times more likely to be unemployed if they are black. And the position is getting worse according to the latest TUC figures. It shows in school attainment figures, so closely linked to teacher expectations. It shows in different and more custodial mental health treatment for black patients. And it shows in the criminal justice system in different patterns of sentencing.
Those are the symptoms of institutional racism--specific groups of people defined by their race getting a worse deal from public services, and the cause is indirect discrimination. The Bill can do something about it, taking on board the reservations of my noble friend the Minister. We can work on that in Committee and it would be a milestone to achieve full coverage.
I support one other point in relation to public authorities. It is, in fact, not precisely public authorities but what public authorities do that needs to be covered. In this time of contracting out, outsourcing, public-private partnerships even, there are many private organisations which carry out public functions. Group Four was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in relation to its detention facilities for asylum seekers. Local authority functions are also contracted out.
I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that some adjustments to the drafting of the Bill would be helpful and that to replicate the phrasing of the Human Rights Act would be more economical with words (which I recall is favoured by parliamentary draftsmen) as well as with parliamentary and administrative time than having to list out each body by order from time to time.
The Bill is also an important step forward in providing for chief officers of police to have the same sort of responsibility as employers in respect of liability under the legislation, and in making Crown appointments subject to the Act.
A more faltering first step deals with the questionnaire which may be served on employers in civil race discrimination cases. The Bill says that if there is a possibility of criminal proceedings, no adverse inference may be drawn from a refusal to answer the questionnaire. Surely there is a provision missing which ought to balance this; that is, if there is no question of criminal proceedings, the tribunal must
Finally, I echo the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, that the Long Title of the Bill would easily encompass the undertaking made earlier by my noble friend the Minister--the duty on public bodies to promote equal opportunities. That would bring this country in line with other successful democracies and would give an incentive to thinking positively and imaginatively about diversity rather than only defensively.
Other noble Lords commented further on those points and on other important aspects of the Bill. I shall not repeat any more of that. But I should like to repeat that this Bill does take us some way forward in "building an anti-racist society". I am sure that it could end up as much a source of pride as was the first Race Relations Act.
Lord Ahmed: My Lords, the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill is the most significant development in race relations for almost a quarter of a century. I congratulate the Government on providing an opportunity to extend the 1976 Act to all public bodies, including the police and immigration authorities. It was a Labour government that introduced the Race Relations Act 1976. It took another Labour government to call for the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report and produce a Bill that goes beyond the report's recommendations in that it applies the Act to all public authorities and not merely the police.
I welcome the Government's willingness to consider ways of strengthening the Bill. There is an overwhelming case for the Government to introduce amendments to the Bill to cover religious discrimination and reinstate the indirect discrimination clauses. There is a further opportunity for the Government to establish the duty on public authorities to promote racial equality so that the Government's commitment to racial equality becoming a reality is not just a slogan.
The Race Relations (Amendment) Bill will make it unlawful for a public authority to discriminate directly in carrying out any of its functions, as we heard earlier from many noble Lords. However, although direct discrimination by public bodies will be unlawful, indirect discrimination will not. That omission will make it impossible to challenge many of the most problematic aspects of policing; for example, the disproportionate use of stop and search powers against black people which was mentioned earlier. It will also limit the powers of the CRE to carry out formal investigations in those areas.
There is a further anomaly in that, in the absence of religious discrimination laws, the only protection Muslims, Hindus and Christians enjoyed was under the indirect discrimination provisions of the Race Relations Act. For example, employment cases established that a dress code prohibiting women from
I understand that the Government consider that simply adding a reference to religion in existing anti-discrimination legislation would generate more problems than it would solve. One problem is that members of sects, as distinct from members of religions, could claim protection under the new legislation, and that the practices and beliefs of such sects are normally objectionable. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, will agree that it was the courts that defined "racial groups" in the Race Relations Act; similarly, the definition of religion can surely be left to the courts.
My second point relates to the omission of indirect discrimination in critical functions of public authorities. The Bill seriously inhibits the ability to challenge institutional racism, which brings me to my final point. The police, the Prison Service and the Civil Service are not the only institutions riddled with institutional racism.
The Macpherson inquiry found institutional racism in the National Health Service. I recently received many complaints regarding the medical colleges. I understand that the medical Royal Colleges are the real power behind the National Health Service and that they do not simply set standards for training and education in medicine. I understand that they have a strong say and a powerful influence, via their advisers, in all the NHS job appointments and in the employment of doctors. There are allegations of discrimination against ethnic minority doctors in career progress and training.
A few years ago the CRE found evidence of racial discrimination in senior registrar and consultant appointments. To date, there have been more than 50 cases of racial discrimination brought by ethnic minority doctors against the Royal Colleges in respect of appointments directly influenced by their regional advisers. The proportion of locum doctors from the ethnic minorities is extremely high because they are unable to get permanent jobs.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I join other speakers in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, on her maiden speech, which was quite exceptional. As regards her contention that this House, which has long been acknowledged as a defender of ancient privileges, should now be transformed into a righter of ancient wrongs, I can assure her that she will have an increasing number of allies on these Benches for precisely that purpose.
When we make a contribution to a debate, especially one which revolves around the issue of policing--a matter on which I intend to concentrate--we should recognise that most of us are drawn from those sections of society in which our brushes with the police are likely to have been minimal and generally in a fairly helpful capacity. Therefore, we may have some difficulty in fully understanding the perspective of those who feel very vulnerable.
I recall one occasion when I felt excessively vulnerable when faced with the police. I am not referring to the police in this country who, in any case, have much higher standards. I have in mind the time I went to Poland--that is, Gomulka'a Poland, the old Communist-state regime--and committed the very minor infringement of failing to register successfully with the local police when transferring from one town to another. I was confined to the cells because the police were under the distinct impression that I was German. That was in Cracow. Noble Lords will recognise that there was not a great deal of love lost between the Poles and the Germans at that time. My feeling of excessive vulnerability in circumstances where power was being exploited and used in a very naked way is something which, as noble Lords can clearly see, has marked my perspective to this day.
There are occasions when some of our fellow citizens find themselves in exactly the same circumstances. That is why we must have regard to advancing the standards of policing in this country. I do not underestimate the difficulties involved. Policing is often difficult, and we have always prided ourselves on the fact that policing relates to consent. That is much more easy to achieve in a society which is less varied than the one we have at present. Today, consent means that the police have to be able to win the hearts and minds not only of the majority of the population, from whom most policemen are drawn, but also those of the minority communities.
I speak with direct experience of the town from which I take my title; namely, Oldham. Policing in Oldham is very difficult and has to take place in circumstances where, from time to time, there are tensions between communities. Indeed, very strong anxieties exist among groups of ethnic minorities about the way in which--I state this quite clearly--the white police act at times.
Let us take, for example, quite a neutral measure in which the police may be involved. Who could possibly be against a police drive to ensure that the standards of mini-cabs, which provide so much of the transport in the town, should be high? Who could criticise the police when, as a result of that drive, a whole series of cabs was taken immediately off the road, thus rendering many livelihoods vulnerable, because there was good objective evidence to show that the vehicles did not meet public safety standards? Indeed, no one could say that the police were doing anything else except serving the public interest. But it affected a certain group of people whose livelihoods were placed very much at risk.
We are talking about a very poor section of the community who, even with their very limited resources, send quite a large proportion back to their native land to families for whom they feel some responsibility. All I am saying in this context is that such an onslaught is somewhat different from pulling in lorry drivers on the M.62 to check out the safety of their vehicles. That is not to say that both are not a proper police concern as regards the safety of our roads. I should declare an interest at this point as I am president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. I am certainly not going to be against police measures to ensure that vehicles are safe. I merely seek to emphasise how much more sensitive one form of activity is than the other.
I do not always feel that the way in which the police relate to the community is sufficiently sensitive in such circumstances. We need to have due regard to the problems which the Lawrence inquiry identified and which--dare I say it?--the Scarman inquiry identified 18 long years ago. I heard what the chief Opposition spokesman said about the Bill being a "sham". I find that slightly inflated language. It is more of a shame perhaps that we have had to wait for 18 years for action to be taken about a previously defined problem regarding the relationships involved in the policing of our society. That problem was identified in the early 1980s but is only now being examined thoroughly and properly with legislative action being taken.
We should not underestimate the problems we face. It means that the training and the recruitment of the police must be approached with great thoroughness. There is no way in which the police will be able to establish effective relationships with the community unless we ensure that they are more representative of the people whom they seek to serve. They must be more understanding, and police training must involve an appreciation of the nature of the problems faced by ethnic minorities in particular.
Similarly, we should not underestimate the degree of the problem. It has been rightly pointed out in this debate that the legislation of 1976 put an end to overt racism. But indirect racism has been alluded to. Indeed, it has been mentioned in regard to the NHS, which is a very important dimension of our public services. We know just how many members of the ethnic minorities contribute to the running of the health service. But how much more important--dare I say it--is the issue of fairness in the enforcement of law and order. How anxious should we be that the CPS is being subject to challenge by the CRE at present? The Lawrence inquiry and, before it, Scarman, are measures of just how much progress we need to make to ensure that we have a society in which relationships between the police and the community they seek to serve are based on the concept that racism is a thing of the past.
First, I endorse what has already been said about the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Howells. The noble Baroness and I have been involved in race relations since the early days in the early 1960s and even before any legislation was contemplated. She has worked tirelessly to ensure justice and fairness for all. It was not in the least bit surprising that she alone among many stood by the Lawrence family for over five years to ensure that they received justice. Those of us who saw Mr and Mrs Lawrence on our television screens could not have failed to notice that the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, was always in the background. We are all delighted with her elevation to your Lordships' House. More importantly, we should listen with great care to what she has to say on the important subject with which we are dealing today.
At the very outset it is important to be clear about the Bill's main purpose; namely, to extend the Race Relations Act 1976 in relation to public authorities. My noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill has already explained that the present Race Relations Act does not generally apply to functions of public authorities that do not constitute employment, training and education, or the provision of goods, facilities or services.
It is not difficult to understand what direct discrimination is all about. It arises where a person treats another person less favourably on racial grounds. Racial grounds are defined as colour, race, nationality and ethnic or national origins. I have often argued that no one in his or her right mind could ever have imagined in the early 1960s that this country would in almost 10 years promote three separate pieces of race relations legislation. I am delighted that the contribution of my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill has been recognised and I endorse the tribute paid by the Minister.
However, we must never forget that it took the courage and leadership of my noble friend, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, to promote such legislation when he was Home Secretary in the then Labour government. I say deliberately that it took the courage of my noble friend Lord Jenkins, because somehow I suspect--I hope that I am proved wrong--that this courage is lacking in the present Government. I shall explain why.
If legislation against direct discrimination were to resolve all our ills, there would have been no need for changes in the race relations legislation. Unfortunately this has not been the case. In the 1960s, despite the legislation to tackle direct discrimination, employers still imposed conditions or requirements which had to be complied with in order for someone to qualify for or to obtain a job. We should remember the large number of case studies in those days which were well reported in the media. For example, the transport authorities would not employ Sikhs on Wolverhampton buses because they failed to meet the
It was therefore important to establish the provision in the Race Relations Act 1976 of indirect discrimination. As my noble friend Lord Lester has pointed out, indirect discrimination consists of treatment which may be described as equal in a formal sense as between different racial groups but is discriminatory in its effect on one particular racial group.
Although I welcome the Bill, I am disappointed that after almost 25 years of the Race Relations Act we are still missing the golden opportunity to introduce legislation more appropriate to the present day situation confronted by people in this country. It is important to stress that race relations legislation is not simply about discrimination against blacks and Asians but applies to all our citizens. We should never forget that white people have also secured remedies under race relations legislation.
Parliament set up the Commission for Racial Equality and gave it powers which are the envy of many of our neighbouring countries in Europe. One of the tasks that the CRE was asked to undertake was to keep under review the working of the Race Relations Act and, when required by the Secretary of State, or when it otherwise thinks it necessary, draw up proposals for amending it.
The CRE conducted reviews in 1985 and in 1992. The first yielded no response from the then government. The second was considered but most of the recommendations were not proceeded with. In April 1998, after undertaking the third review, the CRE submitted its proposals to the Home Secretary.
No one disputes that there has been measurable progress in tackling discrimination and prejudice in Britain since the Race Relations Act 1976 became law. The value of legislation has been well established and it has received support from all fair-minded people in the three main political parties.
Rather than the bottling up of hurt feelings, the legislation has given individuals the opportunity to tackle their grievances in tribunals and county courts. It has allowed reasonable people to ensure that they are not pressurised into promoting discriminatory practices. However, the most important aspect is that race relations legislation has become an unequivocal statement of our public policy. It must therefore be a matter of serious concern that the CRE, the body established by Parliament, finds the present Bill, in the words of its chairman, "hamstrung from the start".
The Home Secretary gave the pledge that he would amend the Race Relations Act 1976 in response to the publication of the inquiry report in February this year on the Stephen Lawrence murder. I have revisited the recommendations of the Macpherson report and fully endorse what my noble friend Lord Lester and the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, have said. It is worth repeating the words of the report which states,
I am afraid that the opportunity presented by the report for radical thinking and root and branch action has been totally missed. Significantly, the Bill does not accompany the extension of the Act with an enforceable legal duty on all public bodies to combat racial discrimination and promote racial equality. Can the Minister explain why this is excluded if the intention is to introduce this measure at a later stage? What are the reasons for not introducing it now?
We welcome the Government's sentiments, but I wonder what consultation took place with the Commission for Racial Equality when Mo Mowlam's reply to a Question was drafted in the other House. The chairman of the commission, Sir Herman Ouseley, who is shortly to retire from his post, has this to say:
My noble friend Lord Lester has adequately dealt with the legal and technical aspects of the Bill. He suggested that I should deal with matters related to the criminal justice system. I shall do precisely that.
I do not believe that the Government intended such a message to be conveyed for the simple reason that they have a fairly good track record on race relations. Unfortunately, it is not the intent that I question but the effects of the Bill, about which we are all concerned. Call it "sham" or call it "shame", either word clearly describes the inadequacy of the legislation before us.
On the day of the Queen's Speech, Paul Wilson, chair of the National Black Police Officers Association, said at his conference that in his experience most police officers are now very careful not to discriminate directly. If that is correct, then black and Asian people will be left with no redress when they believe that police policies--formal or informal--have resulted in them receiving unfair treatment. It is important to recognise that this perception exists-- and the present Bill will reinforce that feeling.
To the credit of the Conservative Party, when we debated the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill a number of speakers from its side of the House talked about the perception of black people, particularly in relation to the courts, and of the need to retain jury trials in either way offences. Similar perceptions exist about the police and other parts of the criminal justice system. We look forward to Conservative support when we move appropriate amendments at Committee stage.
The position of the CPS is probably more complicated in terms of the whole of the prosecution process. Your Lordships will see in the exemptions in the Bill that it probably lobbied quite hard to make it particularly difficult to pursue complaints, even of direct discrimination, where these involved criminal investigations, prosecutions or criminal proceedings.
A decision not to institute criminal proceedings, or any acts leading to such a decision, is excluded; Clause 1 replacing Section 19D. In other words, the Lawrence family would have no redress through this Bill against the acts leading to the decision not to prosecute, or against the decision not to prosecute itself. This is a blanket ban on direct and indirect discrimination.
What recourse is there against the police or the CPS for a black or Asian victim, or the family of such a victim? The Government's answer will obviously be a judicial review or a private prosecution. But look what happened when the Lawrence family tried that. They discovered to their cost that neither proved sufficient or satisfactory.
Consider a black prisoner who believes that prison officers are treating him and other prisoners, on a wing where there is a disproportionately high number of black prisoners, more harshly than they treat other prisoners. While on these simple facts it would seem right that the prisoner could bring proceedings under the Race Relations Act, that may not be the case as there are a number of variables that need to be considered. If this treatment occurs in the context of the Prison Service providing "services" to prisoners--that is, meeting daily living requirements, seeing to medical needs, providing education or recreational opportunities--under the existing provisions in Section 20, the prisoner could challenge his treatment as either direct discrimination, because he is black, or as indirect discrimination, because he is on a wing that is predominantly black. If this treatment occurs as part of the Prison Service's functions to maintain prison discipline and to inflict punishment, then the prisoner would need to rely on the new Clause 19B in the Bill, but he would be able to bring proceedings only if his claim was one of direct discrimination. It is hard to envisage how the prisoner would be able to make these fairly sophisticated assessments of his circumstances, which he will continue to read as racism directed against him.
If the prisoner were a Muslim who considered that he or she was being unfairly treated because of his or her religion or a wish to comply with certain observances that are part of the Muslim faith, the Bill would exclude any prospect of challenge or redress since, under the law at present, it is only in reliance on the indirect discrimination provisions of the Race Relations Act that religious discrimination can be challenged. In other words, Muslims are excluded substantially from certain provisions of the Act.
Let us consider a scenario very like that presented to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry as it heard evidence from ethnic minority communities across the country. Mr and Mrs A are an Asian family living on a housing estate where there is a high proportion of black and Asian households. Mr A reports to the police that he and his wife have been victims of a racist incident involving verbal abuse and assault. He identifies the perpetrators as two white youths who live on a different estate on the other side of the main road. When taking down his address, the police officer makes a comment about Mr A's estate as one that is causing the police too much bother; people always complaining for no reason. After a few days the police come to Mr and Mrs A's house, push their way in, roughly grab Mr A and arrest him for assault on one of the youths he had named as his attacker. One of the police officers says, "You on this estate may look innocent but you are always causing trouble. This estate always breeds troublemakers".
After the CPS decline to prosecute Mr A, he is determined to complain under the Race Relations Act about his treatment by the police. Under existing law, the Farah case could enable him to complain under the Race Relations Act about his treatment as a victim of crime. He would need an amendment to the Bill to complain about his arrest. Was his treatment on the
In conclusion, after 23 years of race relations legislation we are still compelled to challenge discriminatory practices through confrontation in courts and tribunals. The Commission for Racial Equality, which is well experienced in discrimination matters, has produced three reviews. If its recommendations are taken on board, it would place responsibility for initiating action for racial equality where it should be--not with the CRE, but with our institutions, large and small, public and private. It would be tragic if we were to miss this opportunity for ensuring that our institutions--in this case public institutions--are protected because we have failed to deal with the crucial omission of indirect discrimination.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, this is the second Home Office Bill to come before the House in recent weeks. Rather like the last one, this legislation has raised a certain amount of controversy among noble Lords. I remember the Race Relations Act going through this House in 1976. It was then claimed that the Act would outlaw racial discrimination. Discrimination would disappear by enforcement of the law and it would change the views of our society. So perhaps we should consider what has happened over the past 23 years.
Has the Act worked? I would maintain that by and large it has. Society has changed and now Britain is a modern, multi-cultural society. Furthermore, precisely where has the Act worked and where has it not worked? As I have said, I believe that it has worked in society as a whole and in the private sector, and largely in the public sector.
Wearing my City hat, perhaps I may tell the House that our offices represent a multi-cultural society with no discrimination. I am proud of that, and believe that to be the case in most of the City. However, many claim that there is institutional racism and so we must ask: does it exist, and where? Personally, I believe that the word "institutional" is a misleading term, and I do not believe that it ought to mean that.
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