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I congratulate the Government once again on their far-sighted amendment. It needs only a slight extension to cover minority ethnic communities to be absolutely perfect. In England and Wales we have 10-year targets for improving our performance. As a result, most of us devised action plans to achieve those targets and progress is being made. But at this time it is nice to see the Government putting the horse before the cart. I beg to move.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, moved Amendment No. 168 and spoke to Amendments Nos. 169 to 171, which seek to amend Amendment No. 167. The suggestion is that the aim should be not only to increase the representation of women in the service, but also that of ethnic minority groups, and that it should also contain targets and timetables.
As Patten pointed out, ethnic minorities comprise less than 1 per cent of the Northern Ireland population. The report concluded--and we agree--that such groups should at the present time be targeted through an imaginative advertising strategy. However, we do not consider it would be realistic to set specific targets for ethnic minority recruitment given the small numbers involved.
As to the requirement for the gender action plan to contain targets and timetables, we do not feel that that needs to be stipulated in the legislation. The formulation of the action plan will ultimately be a matter for the combined judgment of the Chief Constable, the board, the Secretary of State and the Equality Commission. The Government anticipate that it is likely to include targets and timetables but we must be careful not to overly constrain the board in this area.
Baroness O'Cathain: Trying to encourage people and setting targets is all very worthy and wonderful. However, Amendment No. 167 proposes the monitoring of the number of women in the police and, if they are under-represented, increasing that number. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee, particularly at this hour of the night, in order to discover how on earth it is planned to increase the number but I should be grateful if someone could write to me and let me know. It would be useful for people in industry to adopt the same kind of attitudes.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: It is my understanding that the policy is in place in a variety of industries and services. Different strategies are adopted, some of which involve processes referred to earlier; for instance, people applying to move from one police service to another where representation may be lower, recruitment and profiling, and examining the ages of the people who are targeted in advertising to see whether it affects the gender balance.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: I listened with great interest to the Minister but I still believe that the provision could usefully apply to some areas. I hope to return to the matter at a later stage but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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