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Lord Haskel: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for giving way. I was interested to hear what he said about his company in the City. Can he tell the House how many members of racial minorities serve on the board of that company?

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I would have to think about that. What I can tell the noble Lord is that there are many working in the company, and that I believe

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is the best judgment of what is happening in the City. However, different institutions operate in different ways.

I shall return to the subject of institutional racism. I have been concerned about the word "institutional" because I believe it implies that racism is enforced by official rules. Clearly that is not so, for example, in the police. I believe that the Scarman definition is better, although I suspect that the Macpherson definition, if one may so call it, will be the one that is going to be used and accepted. However, whatever one's view of the definition of the word, it is clear that there is certainly an unofficial culture of racism in some parts of society, and it most certainly was prevalent in a small section of the police. However, I want to stress that the vast majority of those working in the police forces of this country are not racist, and it is quite wrong for anyone to suggest that they are.

In a charming and excellent maiden speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, tackled the issue of institutional racism and the various ways in which it has been defined over recent years. The noble Baroness showed clearly the difficulties that surround this area. Interestingly, several noble Lords expressed concern about the public sector. If one casts one's mind back to 1976, I find that situation to be extraordinary. We thought then that the public sector would lead the private sector in abolishing racial discrimination and then the rest of society would follow that lead. However, this evening we have heard from various noble Lords that even the National Health Service has recently been criticised for either direct or indirect racism.

In 1997 the Home Secretary established the public inquiry chaired by Sir William Macpherson into the investigation of the death of Stephen Lawrence and the issue of race and the police service. The report of the inquiry, published in February 1999, and debated in your Lordships' House, made 70 recommendations. These covered the employment and internal practices of the police service, but also included a recommendation that the Race Relations Act 1976 should be extended. The report stated:


    "the full force of the Race Relations legislation should apply to all police officers, and that Chief Officers of Police should be made vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of their officers relevant to that legislation".

The Government pledged to introduce legislation, and indeed the Minister has done so today. The Bill will make chief officers liable for the acts of constables and will also cover appointments made on the recommendation of Ministers. In principle, we support those proposals.

The main provisions will extend the scope of the Act to public authorities, including the police service. However, it will apply only to direct discrimination and victimisation and not to indirect discrimination. That point has concerned all noble Lords who have contributed to today's debate.

The Conservative Party believes that racial discrimination has no place in our society. We want to see racism rooted out of society in general and the police service in particular. We shall not oppose the

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legislation and, during its passage through this House, we will raise issues that require closer consideration. Those issues will include the implications of the Bill for the way in which our streets will be policed in the future, and the implications of the Bill for the immigration and asylum system. In future the provisions could lead to a large number of appeals on the grounds of racial discrimination, causing yet more delays.

Furthermore, the Government have not calculated how much the Bill will cost public authorities, stating at paragraph 84 in the Explanatory Notes that this is impossible. We believe that there are likely to be increased costs, both to the public authorities themselves and to the legal aid budget. The Government have described these costs as significant but have said that they will be met from agreed departmental expenditure limits. I do not believe that it is good enough for the Government merely to say that. They must be much clearer about what those costs are going to be. It is no good saying that they will be met out of a departmental budget because the simple response to that statement is, "What is the noble Lord going to cut?"

The subject of racial discrimination within the police force has been at the forefront of the service's planning and assessment since the tragic case of Stephen Lawrence. The Macpherson inquiry highlighted two main ways to improve the situation: first, to improve recruitment from the ethnic minorities; and, secondly, to foster a better public perception of the police by the ethnic minority groups. We certainly support those recommendations. The Home Secretary said in his response to the report and its recommendations that there would be encouragement for applicants from the ethnic minorities, targets for the recruitment of officers and a review of the promotion system within the police service. In July of this year the Home Office published targets which applied to several public services, including the fire service, the Prison Service and the police service. I understand that consultation is still taking place as to the timescale for implementation in the police service. When the Minister sums up the debate, can he give the House a little more information on that timescale?

An important point to consider is the possibility of rising crime if law enforcement is made subject to the Race Relations Act. For example, in the Metropolitan Police the number of stop and searches halved in the period of January to April this year. In January there were over 25,000 stop and searches, but by April there were only 14,000. Those figures fuel the fear that the 16 per cent rise in overall crime in London is related to the unwillingness of police officers, in the aftermath of the Lawrence case, to carry out stop and search.

The police must place law enforcement and public safety at the top of their priorities and they must be able, without the threat of reprisal, to stop and question anyone whom they believe may be involved in criminal activity. We do not believe that the police should be restricted in this way. It appears to make

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more sense to maintain the overriding good service that the police provide but to enhance the complaints procedure and make it more effective. That would weed out some of the discriminators and improve public confidence in the police service but still allow the vast majority of officers to continue to provide the fair and excellent service which they currently provide.

There could be a problem of double jeopardy for the police with regard to the CRE and the Police Complaints Authority. But at least they will have to work together. Perhaps the PCA should carry out the detailed investigations for the CRE in some or all of its cases. Will the Minister consider that point?

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for giving way. It must be my fault but I was confused when listening to his speech and comparing it with the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. Is it the position of the Conservative Front Bench that the Bill should extend the Race Relations Act 1976 to cover indirect discrimination in the public service? In answering that question, the noble Viscount may be helped by the memory that it was Quintin Hogg, as he then was, in the other place who helped to persuade Home Secretary Callaghan that the original Race Relations Act 1968 should apply to the Crown, including enforcement against the Crown. It was done on an all-party basis. We should be grateful to know whether the Conservative Party supports extending the Bill in a similar way to indirect discrimination in the public service.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, if I may, I shall deal in a moment with the point raised by the noble Lord. Perhaps I may conclude my remarks on the complaints procedure. We believe that it should be improved. Furthermore, there seems to be no definition in the Bill of what constitutes a public authority. The Minister said that quangos could be added by order. That seems to be a rather cumbersome process. I wonder whether a definition could be borrowed from the Human Rights Act to make the process easier. It seems that we shall have a long list. When the Minister says "quangos", I am not sure what he means. Will it be the strict interpretation of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations or will it be wider?

Perhaps I may deal with the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. During the passage of the Bill, we shall be able to debate the merits of whether indirect discrimination should be part of it. We will want to consider very carefully any amendments. We will listen to the arguments both from the Liberal Democrats and from the Government. One must note that almost everyone is in favour of including indirect discrimination. The Law Society is in favour, most noble Lords are in favour and most of those outside the House are also in favour. There is concern, as was stated by my noble friend Lord Cope of Berkeley, that the Bill does not do what the Government claim it will do. We will listen carefully to the Government's case for not including indirect discrimination in the Bill. We are not satisfied

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with the Government's proposals so far but we will certainly approach the issue with an open mind and examine the arguments carefully.

6.14 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords for all the constructive contributions that have been made in the Second Reading debate on this important Bill. It would be remiss of me if at the opening stage of my concluding comments I did not join other noble Lords in offering my warmest congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, on her contribution to the debate. What she said was moving and wise. I trust that we will all take careful account of one point which she very tellingly made. She reminded us just how far we have come in the field of race relations; but, importantly, she reminded us just how far we have to go in tackling racism in our society. That is a very important point indeed.

I found the debate constructive and instructive. While the Lord, Lord Dholakia, pointed out some of the Bill's inadequacies, as he sees them, I think that there are many important parts of the Bill. I think, too, that there is a consensus within your Lordships' House on the value of the steps being taken by the Government in bringing forward the Bill. I have listened carefully to what has been said. Undoubtedly, my colleagues and I will have to reflect further on some of the important points made in the debate. In answering the many points and questions that have arisen perhaps I may say that if, for whatever reason, I miss a point or a question, I shall be more than happy to pursue the matter in correspondence and make available in the Library copies of that correspondence.

Before I deal with specific points, I want to repeat something I said earlier. This important and significant Bill does not pretend to be everything. The Government acknowledge that. We have made promises of further legislation as soon as parliamentary time permits. The Bill fulfils a prior commitment to early legislation made by the Government in response to the report of the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence. The conclusions of that inquiry have very much overshadowed the debate today, and rightly so. We believe that that report will lead in the longer term to a significant improvement in terms of individual members of the public being able to hold to account public authorities acting in a racially discriminatory manner. That is the purpose of the Bill. We believe that it will make a real and fundamental difference.

Many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Cope, Lord Lester and Lord Patel, the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, the noble Lords, Lord Sheppard, Lord Desai, Lord Haskel, Lord Ahmed and Lord Dholakia, and, somewhat grudgingly, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, referred to the issue of indirect discrimination and its omission from the Bill. Many noble Lords raised the issue in terms of unwitting discrimination or

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institutionalised racism. I wish to be clear on behalf of the Government. We abhor all forms of discrimination. We believe this issue to be paramount.

The indirect discrimination provisions in the original Act were designed to deal with indirect discrimination in very specific fields covered by the Act, such as employment and the provision of goods, facilities and services. In those fields, an unjustifiable requirement or condition, such as an address in a particular locality, could easily and unjustifiably exclude ethnic minorities from jobs and access to services. An unjustifiable height requirement for joining the police force is a good example. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, reminded us just how far that can be taken in some of the service conditions which, in the past, discriminated against Sikhs. The noble Lord was right to remind us of that important issue.

As I explained in my opening remarks, indirect discrimination occurs when there is a requirement or condition which, although applied equally to people of different racial groups, has the effect that the proportion of a racial group that can comply is considerably smaller than that of another racial group that can comply. Such a requirement or condition is unlawful only if it cannot be justified irrespective of colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origin, and if it is detrimental to the applicant who cannot comply. These provisions were designed to deal with indirect discrimination in the fields currently covered by the Act: employment, goods, facilities and services. In those fields an unjustifiable requirement or condition, for example, an address in a particular locality, could unjustifiably exclude ethnic minorities from access to jobs and services.

This approach, however, does not fit well with law enforcement where there is no requirement or condition with which an individual must comply. We believe that the widely acknowledged element of discrimination in the stop and search figures is due to the cumulative effects of direct discrimination, whether witting or unwitting, rather than indirect discrimination. That point began to emerge during the course of our deliberations.

I return to the issue of indirect discrimination. We argue that to prohibit indirect discrimination in relation to the functions that will be caught by the new provisions of the Act would have uncertain and potentially far-reaching effects. It is a challenge to all of us to see how we can work round those difficulties--a challenge on which noble Lords will no doubt wish to test the Government. Any policy or practice that has a different impact on different racial groups because of a requirement or condition would be open to challenge in the courts. As I said, that could include age-based policies; for example, the new deal for young people and special benefits for the elderly; and in addition, any regional policies which balanced the needs of those living in urban areas as against those living in the countryside. Policies that are benefiting ethnic minority communities most could be open to challenge. We believe that to be a significant problem in attempting to wrestle with this crucial issue.

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The Government believe that a better way of addressing the potential for unjustifiable indirect discrimination is through the promotion of equality. This we are pursuing through administrative action, which will be underpinned by a duty on public authorities--


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