I beg to move,
That this House notes the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry on 24 February 2019; and calls on the Government and all in public life to renew their commitment to fulfilling the recommendations of the Macpherson Report.
Twenty years ago yesterday, the Stephen Lawrence inquiry reported its findings. Last year saw the country mark a more tragic anniversary: it was 25 years since Stephen was killed in a brutal racist attack in Eltham, south London, on 22 April 1993. He was 18 years old. The chair of the inquiry, Sir William Macpherson, and his advisers later concluded:
“Stephen Lawrence’s murder was simply and solely and unequivocally motivated by racism.”
That date also marked the start of a long battle for justice by Stephen’s family. Their courage and dignity in the face of everything that they have faced is extraordinary, and should constitute a call to action for all of us. For the purpose of my speech, I have drawn extensively on Baroness and Dr Lawrence’s work, as well as their contributions to the ongoing Home Affairs Committee inquiry. I have also drawn from the work of—and stood on the shoulders of—my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), who worked so hard to get the inquiry off the ground. I salute his work today.
Looking ahead to this anniversary, the Home Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, began to scope an inquiry last year. We have taken written evidence, and earlier this month we held our first oral evidence session. We heard from Baroness Lawrence, and from representatives of black and minority ethnic policing bodies. We look forward to taking further evidence in the coming months.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. I would contribute to it by making a speech, but unfortunately it clashes with an event that I planned several months ago, which I am chairing and to which I shall return in a second. First, however, let me say this to my hon. Friend.
One of my reflections on the inquiry is that as time has gone by—and it is 20 years into the past—we have lost our focus on the lessons that Macpherson taught us. Some of our public services are not sufficiently aware of the issues surrounding racism and racial tension in some of our communities. I think we need to think again about some of them, and I hope that the Committee will refocus people’s attention on the lessons of Macpherson so that our public services can once again give those issues the priority that they must be given.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I was about to come to exactly that point.
The Macpherson report presented 70 recommendations to the Home Office, police forces and other public bodies. Baroness Lawrence told us that she had tried to find out how many had been implemented before coming to see our Committee, but had struggled to find the information that she needed. She said:
“It seems as if things have become really stagnant and nothing seems to have moved”.
So are we really learning the lessons?
That raises a question about the Metropolitan police: why has it taken them about 20 years to start an inquiry into, according to the press, between 10 and 12 officers? That suggests to me the Metropolitan police have still not got on top of this problem.
That is one of the reasons for the Select Committee’s work on this. We are at the early stages and so have not yet drawn any conclusions, but a real and clear audit against the recommendations for both the Metropolitan police and other organisations would be timely. In starting this debate I intend to run through some of the evidence we have seen so far, on just four or so topics.
The phrase “institutional racism” is synonymous with the Macpherson report, which concluded that institutional racism existed in the Metropolitan Police Service, other police services and other institutions countrywide, citing factors such as the Lawrence family’s treatment by the police, the disparity in stop-and-search figures, the under-reporting of racial incidents nationwide and the failure of the police to provide officers with racism awareness or race relations training.
So how far have we come since then, 20 years on?
Does my hon. Friend agree that sometimes people talk about the use of the phrase “institutional racism” as if people are saying every single person in the institution in question is a racist, whereas that phrase refers to the workings of institutions that turn out to the disadvantage of black people and others?
I absolutely agree. I said the phrase was synonymous with the Macpherson report because that report is what made the phrase a part of public life, and people do get very sensitive about it and I think sometimes hide behind those sensitivities as a reason not to act on the things my right hon. Friend talks about.
There is evidence to suggest that we have not made enough progress so far. Police Sergeant Tola Munro, president of the National Black Police Association, told the press that there had been “some progress” but added that
“if I was marking policing I would give us a C at the moment…We within the NBPA would argue that we would consider at least some forces are institutionally racist”.
Baroness Lawrence highlighted the education system as somewhere where black people continually do not have the same outcomes as their white counterparts, and Bevan Powell, one of the founding members of the NBPA, said:
“While I believe a lot has changed, I think, to a certain extent, a lot has gone backwards. I think that is due to leadership; it is because the police and the Government have taken their eye off the ball on race.”
Clearly there is much to do.
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, as a fellow member of the Home Affairs Committee, for securing this debate. On leadership, I am sure he will agree that in order for the police force to command the respect of the population, it needs to reflect that population as much as possible, and the leadership of the organisation also needs to reflect the population as a whole. While, as I am sure the Minister will tell us and as the Committee has heard, there has been some progress in the number of BME officers in the police force, the number of BME officers in high positions is still woefully low and not reflective of that number. The retention rates for those officers are also woefully low, and that is where we need to do an awful lot better.
I appreciate that intervention, and it is a prescient one as I am about to move on to BAME officers in the police.
Macpherson highlighted the importance of police forces representing the communities they serve, as the hon. Gentleman said, and of recruitment and progression being prioritised. Today, the proportion of officers from BAME backgrounds is still half what it would be if it reflected the general population, so progress has been exceptionally slow. We should be glad that there is a 4% year-on-year increase in the latest data, but it is still very slow and we need to do better. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman said, those officers are also still disproportionately concentrated at lower ranks, and based on current rates of progression it will be 2052 before the police service represents the population it serves. In pulling this speech together I was shocked to learn that 13 of the 43 forces in England and Wales do not have a single black woman police officer, and across the force in total the number of black female officers has increased by 34 in the last 10 years—not 34%, but 34 individuals. That is astounding.
Even when those recruits have entered the service, Detective Sergeant Janet Hills, the chair of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, says that all the good work that is being done to recruit more BAME officers is being undone by
“a culture that is still not embracing diversity, race and difference, which then has people either dismissed or deciding to leave voluntarily”,
and adds that people are being recruited but are not staying because they are not being progressed.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there appear to be a disproportionate number of black and ethnic minority police officers above the rank of superintendent under investigation? There appears to be a feeling that they are discriminated against in the profession, which obviously does not encourage them to remain in the service or help their promotion.
Yes, the Committee has heard that there is disproportionality in disciplinary procedures. That is bad for the individuals, but also sets a tone and sends a message to other officers or would-be officers that their experience will not be a positive one. It fundamentally undermines the authority and legitimacy of police forces for them to fail to represent the communities they serve. Let’s face it, I am not the first person to stand up in this place and cotton on to that fact; how many people over the last 20 years, and probably the 20 years before that, have stood up in this Chamber and said that? But what are we actually doing to change this? People will look to us for leadership and expect that we effect change.
May I echo others’ praise of my hon. Friend for securing this debate? One of the most senior BME officers to serve in the Metropolitan police was Chief Superintendent Dal Babu, who led the police in the London Borough of Harrow. The Minister will remember his excellent service in our communities. He has said publicly that he launched a mentoring and support programme for other officers from a BME background and had that initiative rubbished by senior officers. Is that attitude not part of the challenge we face, and should we expect not only Ministers but senior figures in the Metropolitan police to continue to challenge it?
We will start to see things genuinely changing when we start to see such initiatives embraced. The idea that doing the same things will get us the same outcomes is hardly a revolutionary concept, but people are too slow to grasp that.
The Macpherson report criticised the disproportionality of stop-and-search, stating that
“we are clear that the perception and experience of the minority communities that discrimination is a major element in the stop and search problem is correct”.
One of the performance indicators recommended for measuring progress against the ministerial priority was
“the policy directives governing stop and search procedures and their outcomes”.
Again, I fear we have gone too quiet on that, not least because recent figures suggest that race disproportionality in stop-and-search is actually worse now than it was 20 years ago, although improved recording practices may well have had an impact on that. Still, the latest figures show that black people are nine and a half times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched.
We often hear that having too many stop-and-searches of members of the black community, especially black males, is affecting the community and its relationship with the police. That can then make it very difficult for people from a black culture and ethnic background to be able to trust the police, so we need to do more on building that relationship between black communities and the police.
I absolutely agree. I dare say I may have taken part in this at some point, but as a body politic we have a dishonest conversation about stop-and-search. When we are in a community hall faced by parents or individuals who are angry about disproportionality we wring our hands and say it must change, but the moment something happens—somebody is stabbed, for example— we run to this place or the nearest camera and say, “Oh goodness, this can’t happen this way; we have to do more stopping and searching.” We must have an honest conversation in this country. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) has been steadfast in this regard for many decades; we could all learn something from that. We ought to have a much more mature conversation with people in our community.
I can offer some hope from my own police force of Nottinghamshire. Our stop-and-search rates are among the lowest in the country, but due to intelligence-led use of stop-and-search powers our current 41% arrest and positive outcome rate is one of the highest in the country. We should reflect on that: one of the lowest stop-and-search rates produces one of the highest success rates. It is probably not a major surprise that our excellent police and crime commissioner, Paddy Tipping, who is behind this, was also involved in setting up the Macpherson inquiry. He gets it, and we now need more people to join him.
Finally, before I sit down and give others a chance to speak, I want to turn to governance and oversight. Earlier, I referred to Baroness Lawrence’s frustration at the difficulty in finding out what progress has been made against the Macpherson report’s recommendations. We as a Committee intend to address that by writing to the Home Office and other bodies to ask for updates against all 70 recommendations. Frankly, though, the Government should not be leaving this to us. They have been criticised for a lack of governance and oversight. The Stephen Lawrence steering group was disbanded many years ago, and in 2012, Bevan Powell called for the re-establishment of a pan- Whitehall group to restore trust between the police and communities.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate and setting out very powerfully the key issues in the Macpherson report that are still being raised 20 years on. As he says, the Home Affairs Committee is looking again at all the issues around diversity and policing, and around institutional racism, that were raised at the time. When we heard evidence from Baroness Lawrence, we asked her what she wanted Stephen Lawrence’s legacy to be. She mentioned Stephen Lawrence Day, the first of which will be in April. We also asked her what she most wanted to change, and she answered that we should change how we treat our young people, because they are our future. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important for us to look forward at the positive legacy of Stephen’s life and, on Stephen Lawrence Day, for us to celebrate what more we can do in the future as well as bringing about the changes that we still need to make after 20 years?
I am grateful to the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee for that intervention. She and I and many others were keen for this debate to take place now, around the anniversary of the inquiry, rather than around Stephen Lawrence Day, because the family are very clear about what they want the day to be, and about the positives to be gained from it. I am glad that we are able to honour it in that way, and I will certainly be participating fully and supporting the family in their really important goal.
I shall quote something that Bevan Powell said to us, and this is certainly something for the Chair of the Committee to consider. He stated:
“The only time the police seem to respond to the recommendations and the associated issues that came out of Macpherson is when there is a Home Affairs Committee or a public inquiry of some sort. That cannot be the case.”
Our Committee’s recent report, “Policing for the Future”, criticised the extent to which the Home Office had stepped away from policing policy, with the Department being widely criticised by policing stakeholders and the National Audit Office for its lack of leadership. I am glad to see the Policing Minister in his place. I know that he is a man motivated by a strong sense of duty and decency and a believer in the importance of public service. In that spirit, I say to him that we are crying out for someone on the Government Front Bench to grab hold of the lessons learned from the Macpherson inquiry and to finish the job, audit progress, reconvene a steering group and drive this forward. I really would not worry about the partisan risk in doing that. Frankly, there will be enough blame to go around: we will all have our share.
I want to take up the hon. Gentleman’s point about young people. A report produced a few years ago by the all-party parliamentary group for children on the relationship between young people and the police made some recommendations which, to give them their due, the Government took up and changed the law. The shocking finding from that report was the lack of confidence in the police among young people, particularly those from BME communities. There always used to be confidence in the police among young people—we all remember the friendly bobby coming to our school—but if we can no longer instil that confidence in people at a young age, that does not bode well for adults having confidence in the police. We need to do so much better in that regard, and it should not just be down to all-party groups and our Select Committee to bring about that change.
I appreciate that intervention from the hon. Gentleman. That lack of confidence has been seen across the piece. All young people have less confidence in the police than we do, on average, and that is a toxic situation. It means that reporting is not as strong as it could be, that people are not as willing as they should be to say when they are scared for their own safety, and that they are less likely to think of the police as a profession that is for them. The situation is toxic across the piece.
During our careers, a lot of us will have had a “never again” moment. Perhaps it has involved sitting with a bereaved parent talking about the loss of their child. That happened to me in my first couple of months as a councillor in 2011. I sat there feeling impotent, and I wished I could take the pain away, but I could not. At that time, I thought “never again”, but that feeling dissipates over time. I have to tell colleagues and friends today that this is what “never again” is. It is grasping the moment and using our privileged position to say, “Here are 70 ways in which we were told that things would be better, but we have not finished the job yet. We must stand up and use our privileged position to do those things.” It is time for that now: not just words, but actions.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), and I was delighted to sponsor the debate, along with him, coming to the Chamber tonight. It is important that the Backbench Business Committee found the time for it to take place here on the day after the anniversary of the Macpherson report. This will be a useful examination of where we are as a Parliament, both looking back and looking forward. A number of the things I will say this evening are things that I said in the Select Committee when we held our first evidence session on this issue. I think that they are worth repeating in the Chamber tonight.
When we questioned Baroness Lawrence, I said that I had still been at school when Stephen Lawrence was murdered. I cannot for the life of me remember his actual murder, and I do not remember seeing the news in the days and weeks after it, but I almost feel as though I have grown up with the Stephen Lawrence murder and the different investigations and trials—failed and successful—that have taken place. Sadly, this has been a part of British life, and it was part of my childhood as I grew up. This shows the importance of one man’s tragic death and what it meant to his family, and why, decades later, we are still speaking about Stephen Lawrence’s death and also his legacy, which I shall come on to in a moment.
In the Select Committee, I also mentioned a fascinating documentary that many people have seen, “The Murder that Changed a Nation”. It was compelling viewing for many reasons. It showed how, had it not been for a number of critical interventions, we might not have been standing here in Parliament tonight talking about a crime that had been solved or about the positive aspects of Stephen Lawrence’s legacy. We may still have been discussing much of the tragedy.
What would have happened had it not been for a very determined family? Baroness Lawrence and Neville Lawrence fought day in, day out to get justice for their son, but they should not have had to. They should have been grieving like any other parents would have been in those tragic circumstances, but they were not given the opportunity to grieve, because they had to fight for justice for their son. They did not just have to fight for a few days or weeks; they have fought for decades and continue to fight. That is simply not good enough.
Another aspect that occurred just by chance was the discussion, meeting and publicity with Nelson Mandela. Had that not happened—had Nelson Mandela not met the family and said what he did—perhaps the case would not have got the publicity it clearly deserved. I am glad the Policing Minister is here to respond to tonight’s debate, because although we must never forget that there is rightly much criticism of policing in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, were it not for the dedicated service of Clive Driscoll, a police officer, we may never have got the justice that Stephen rightly deserved. This police officer was told, “Take these files about the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. Your job is to shred them, to destroy them, to get rid of them.” As he was going to go about his duty, he looked at these files and his suspicions grew stronger and stronger. That officer was very alarmed at what he saw and read, and he knew that it was possible to get from these files justice and ultimately the convictions we have seen of the two men found guilty of Stephen Lawrence’s murder. But for that police officer, and others who were determined that the previous failings of the police, which are well-known, would be overcome at some stage, we may not have been in that place.
I have spoken for a few minutes about coincidences, but for which we may not have got to the stage we are at now. The final one is Neville Lawrence’s relationship with the editor of the Daily Mail and, thus, its headline in February 1997. How can it be that a country such as the United Kingdom, even in the late 1990s, relied on a frank and startling front page of a newspaper that only really came about because the editor—had it been anyone else at the newspaper this would not have happened—knew Neville Lawrence, had listened to him and had been shocked at what he heard? This editor decided that despite the legal representations made to the newspaper saying, “You cannot print a front page like that”, he would go ahead and do it.
As I was preparing for this debate, I thought again about how they are just four examples of things that could have easily gone the other way. We may have had a family who were so steeped in mourning that they could not have pursued this with as much vigour as the Lawrence family did. We may have had a police officer who did shred those files. We may never had the meeting between Nelson Mandela and the family. And we may never had that front-page article. Where would we have been as a country if those four incidents had not happened? I shudder to think where we would have been.
Let us now look at where we are. I was privileged to serve on the Select Committee with other Members who are here this evening and to hear evidence from Baroness Lawrence. Right at the beginning of her evidence session, she said that it seems as though
“nothing seems to have moved.”
We looked at the 70 recommendations from the Macpherson inquiry and judged whether they had been met, partially met or not met, and whether they had been met within any specific timescale. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response to this, because Baroness Lawrence was very critical and very clear in her view that they had not been met; this has fallen by the wayside.
I then looked back at the previous Home Affairs Committee report on this, “The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On”, which was published on 14 July 2009. It said that
“67 of Macpherson’s 70 recommendations have been implemented fully or in part.”
How could one Committee think that, whereas at the very start of our inquiry, looking at the same report 20 years on, we are finding confusion and uncertainty on how to judge whether these recommendations have been enacted, followed and met, fully or in part? We as a Parliament and the public need to know how we assess the progress of these reports. It is right that the Macpherson inquiry went into great detail, took a considerable amount of evidence and came up with a stark report with recommendations that were going to root out the problems seen in the Stephen Lawrence murder and thereafter. How can parliamentarians and our constituents have faith that these reports do not just sit on a shelf, and do not get produced to great fanfare and nothing further? It would seem that 10 years on from the inquiry the Home Affairs Committee thought things were good, so I am worried that a further 10 years on we are getting clear evidence from one of the people most involved in this incident that things have not moved on. Baroness Lawrence is saying that it seems that nothing has moved on.
My hon. Friend is making a fascinating speech and I congratulate him on that. Is a measure of whether things have been moving on, be it over 10 years, 20 years or whatever, not the confidence that certain communities have in their police force? One particularly depressing factor is that although confidence in the local police has risen among most communities, those from the black Caribbean community remain stubbornly at the bottom in terms of those who have least confidence in their police; the comparable numbers over the past 10 years have moved very little. If we cannot convince those members of our community that things have improved, clearly we need to listen to the reasons why they do not think they have improved and do something rather more about it than we have.
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend, who serves diligently on the Home Affairs Committee and has heard the evidence that agrees with the point he is making. As well as hearing from Baroness Lawrence, we heard from a number of black, Asian and minority ethnic officers about the problems they face. His point about how people in the BAME communities respond to the police was reflected in some of that evidence, in that the police force they look to for support does not reflect them. That is a problem.
I want briefly to turn to recruitment and retention, which the hon. Member for Nottingham North and my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) mentioned. Although we are rightly focusing on the 41 forces in England and Wales this evening, I represent a Scottish constituency, and if I may I would like to look at Police Scotland, because it is interesting to see how things work in the round. I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests; my wife is a serving police officer. I welcome the increase of over 10% in Scotland’s police recruits from minority ethnic backgrounds in 2017, but if we look at recruitment on its own, we will not understand the full picture. Equally important is the retention of police officers and staff, as well as promotion.
It is unfortunate that none of Police Scotland’s executive team come from a black and ethnic minority background. We have had Police Scotland for almost five years, and it would be good to see promotion throughout the ranks. I am not saying that that will not happen—this is not a criticism, just an observation that it would be good to see that—but we had witnesses coming along to our Select Committee who had put themselves forward as candidates to be sergeants or inspectors and who said that they felt that on paper they were as good as anyone else, but who were not promoted. It is all well and good saying that we have x number of people from BAME backgrounds in a police force, but if they believe that their future progression in that force will not be as bright, fast or positive as that of others, then we have a problem. If our sergeants and inspectors leading policing teams are not reflective of the communities that they are serving, then we have a problem.
In a written submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights raises the problem of retention not just of officers, but of BAME staff once recruited, stating:
“There is no point in bettering recruitment if…officers and staff continue to leave Police Scotland in high proportions.”
We need more information, whether from exit interviews or better data, to understand why people leave the force. It is all well and good recruiting people to become police officers, whether in the Met, across England and Wales or in Police Scotland, but if, once they get there, they decide for whatever reason that they have to leave and do not feel at home in any of these police forces, we need to know why.
This may or may not be a controversial point, but we also need to do more than simply training officers.
The hon. Gentleman is making some moving points about bias and discrimination. Does he agree that unconscious bias can be something that people have not thought of, that it needs stamping on, in addition to the policies that he mentions, and that more training is needed at all levels of the police?
I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s points. I say this to her gently, but she might be even more impressed when she hears some of my speech, now that she has entered the Chamber.
I agree with the point about unconscious bias, but the point I was coming to was about training. Whether training is for unconscious bias or to improve officers’ interactions or responses to racial incidents, it cannot simply be a tick-box exercise. We cannot simply say, “Go online, enter this portal, and at the end of it”—maybe five or 10 minutes later—“click the ‘submit’ button and suddenly you are racially trained,” or, “You are trained to deal with racial incidents,” or, “You are trained to deal with communities from BAME backgrounds.” I have a serious concern that those at the top of the police in all parts of the United Kingdom think that they are achieving what we want them to because they can say, “100% of our officers are trained in x,” or, “We have ensured that this is done at the policing training college,” in Tulliallan in Scotland or elsewhere.
If that training does not having a lasting impact among new recruits or officers, it is quite simply a waste of time, because we are not getting to the root of the problem and ensuring that we can enhance opinions. We have to look at the training element of all this, rather than trying to tick a box and saying, “It’s done. Move on and concentrate on the rest.” Again, we heard in evidence to our Select Committee that some tutors at those colleges were basically saying, “Do this bit and then we can get on to the exciting part of policing.” That is basically saying: “You don’t have to worry about it. You just have to do this to pass and then you move on to the rest.”
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a really good training process will have enough leeway to ensure that people who do not make the grade do not end up as police officers and that in order to do that we need the resources to recruit slightly more police officers than we actually need?
That takes us to another level. In order to say to someone that they are not allowed to be a police officer because, in our interpretation, they have failed a test, we need to have a far more rigorous test. It cannot simply be this multiple choice exercise, which is completed online and submitted, and if a person gets above or below 50%, they are accepted or otherwise. If someone failed, and the tutors did not believe that they had met the racial training, we would have to look at why. Why would someone want to be a police officer and, when they get into a position of great power, use that power against the communities that we should all be there to support? I worry about that, but we do have to consider seriously how we train and recruit officers.
I know that Members representing English and Welsh constituencies discuss police numbers, but it is not an issue for them alone; we have the same in Scotland. Although I am grateful that the SNP Scottish Government agreed with the Scottish Conservatives in 2007 to increase the number of police officers in Scotland by 1,000, it was an agreement that the two parties had to make to get the budget through at a time of a minority Scottish Government. That was a very important policy for the Scottish Conservatives to get enacted. We are always looking for more police officers, especially in my area, which is not in the central belt of Scotland. Moray, which was formerly policed by Grampian police, could always do with more officers to ensure that we can see more on the beat.
I am really interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying about the types of training that police officers should have. I very much believe that training needs to happen in every tier within the police force. I am interested to hear about other forms of training, about how he thinks that training should and could be delivered and about how it would be resourced. In Lewisham, an organisation called Second Wave engages with young men and women within the community. It is a drama group, but it delivers training for police officers and it pairs up training with new recruits. The organisation has been flagged up as providing excellent training and, clearly, it is something that we should consider further.
The intervention may have been a little long, but it made a very valuable point. I thought that I might be seen as a little controversial tonight, but clearly I am not, as there seems to be agreement across the House that there are issues with the training. That is not to dismiss what is currently being done, but we could go further, and I think that that was the hon. Lady’s point. Whether we are talking about her local group in Lewisham or others elsewhere, we must look at every way in which to educate. It should not be just a one off. We cannot say that an officer’s racial equality training is done once they start their career. That person could be in post for 30 or 40 years, and, by the end of their career, they could be in a very senior position within the force. We should ensure that they undergo continuous development, not just a one-off training course, then saying, “That’s it, done. Move on now to the next stage in your training.”
I also want to look at the percentage of police officers both in Scotland and across the rest of the country from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background. Clearly, that is something that the Macpherson inquiry looked at with great interest, and something with which we are still trying to grapple. We have not achieved the successes in that area that we should have done. Again, going back to evidence in Scotland, the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights states that 1% of police officers, police staff and special constables come from BAME background. That has remained pretty much unchanged for six years. Therefore, 1% of all levels within the police—whether it be police officers, police staff or special constables—come from BAME backgrounds. That compares with the fact that minority ethnic groups in Scotland now represent 4% of the population, which has doubled from 2% in 2001. These figures vary wildly in many parts of the country, but there are underlying issues that we need to consider. I mentioned figures elsewhere in the country, and figures for England differ in various parts. The Metropolitan police has 13% of officers from ethnic minority backgrounds, but 43% of the population in the Met area is from an ethnic minority background, so we really do need to look at that for the future. We need a modern police force to reflect the diversity of a modern Scotland and a modern United Kingdom, and that requires an altogether different approach to recruiting officers and, crucially, retaining them.
I turn to other evidence that the Committee has received in our ongoing inquiry into the 20th anniversary of the Macpherson report. Although we have had only one oral evidence session, I have been looking at the written evidence submitted by groups including Liberty, which submitted a detailed response to our call for evidence. However, one response stood out for me and it was from someone called Mr Chris Hobbs, who wrote at the very top of his submission to the Home Affairs Committee:
“I have my doubts as to whether submissions from retired police officers such as myself, will be given due consideration or play any part in the HASC final report.”
That is a sad reflection. Mr Hobbs attached an article that he wrote for an online newspaper some years ago, but his view was, “I’m not even going to bother submitting this because the Home Affairs Committee won’t be interested.” He felt that we would not be interested in his views because he was not from a BAME background. The message has to get out very clearly that we want the Macpherson inquiry to improve policing for everyone, not simply those from BME groups. They are crucial in this, but unless we listen to everyone in the police force, more anger will build up among officers who do not come from BME backgrounds as well as those who do. That piece of evidence shows that it is important for us to look at the whole policing sector.
Whether people agree or disagree with Mr Hobbs’s submission—I am not saying what I think because I have not read the full article—he should at least be content to know that it has been received and will be considered. We may ultimately disagree with everything that he says in his submission and how it relates to the Macpherson inquiry, but we cannot and will not just completely ignore it.
Mr Hobbs makes one point in his submission that is outwith the article, saying that he does not know of any officer
“who does not wish to see more BAME officers recruited”.
That is a positive element of his submission, but he also says that efforts to increase recruitment of every sector into policing is hampered by consistent negativity from politicians of all sides. I hope that we do not lower tonight’s debate to that level.
I want to discuss the legacy of Stephen Lawrence and his death, which was mentioned by the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee in her intervention on the hon. Member for Nottingham North. When the Committee was hearing evidence, I asked Baroness Lawrence what we should consider and have in our minds every year when we recognise Stephen Lawrence Day, and Baroness Lawrence said, “Positives.” She said that we should think about positives on Stephen Lawrence Day, and she continued:
“Stephen’s name has helped to change society in a way that I do not think anything has done in a long time…Stephen was somebody who loved being at school. That is part of his life that was all positive. That is what we want to see young people trying to embrace—all the positive stuff… law has been changed because of his name, but if we as a family had not pushed, none of that would have happened. As young people grow up, they need to see what you can do, and what difference you can make within society.”
That was the compelling evidence of a family who have been grieving for decades and continue to grieve the tragic loss of their son, but who still want to see positivity at the end of that experience.
I looked for the family’s reaction to the announcement that there would be a Stephen Lawrence Day, and Neville Lawrence—Stephen’s father—said that the annual commemoration of Stephen’s life is
“a mark of what we have been trying to do for years—our son’s memory is going to be enshrined in history”.
The English philosopher Francis Bacon said:
“In order for the light to shine…the darkness must be present.”
The darkness of Stephen Lawrence’s death will always be with his family and his friends, and with this country, but his legacy will continue to burn very brightly because of what he did in his all-too-short life and what his family have continued to do since his death.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross). I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris) on securing this important debate and thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting it.
I, too, pay tribute to Baroness Lawrence and Dr Lawrence for the time they have spent, when they should have been grieving for the loss of their son, in their tireless fight, for decades, in pursuing justice for him. They have been pursuing justice for their son Stephen but also for any other person whose life could potentially have been lost in exactly the same way. Their fight was for justice for their black son but also for black people across this country who, but for these attacks, would still be here. Doreen and Neville Lawrence’s son was taken from them because of the colour of his skin. His murder was motivated by hate.
As the Macpherson report showed, Stephen was failed by institutions that should have been there to protect him, but also should then have investigated the murder and eventually brought the perpetrators to justice. He was failed because of the colour of his skin. As the report identified, it was due to institutional racism. While that phrase is common and well used now, back when the Macpherson report first came out it was probably the first time that it was introduced. The report said that the Metropolitan police force was institutionally racist—a damning indictment, and rightly so, of the establishment of the time. The inquiry was due to the courageous work that the Labour party did prior to coming into to power and the courageous Labour Government who called for it to take place. We should not forget the hard work that went into bringing about that inquiry.
I was still quite a young teenager when Stephen was killed. I was not in London—I lived in Bristol—but I remember it so clearly. We all remember the images of his parents constantly fighting for justice and for an inquiry to take place, but there had been no positive outcome. Having got to the point of having the report, which came up with 70 recommendations, it is quite unacceptable, and actually disgraceful, that 20 years on we are unable to measure where we are up to with those recommendations. I will not repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North has already said, but I do hope that the Minister will address that point, because it is really important. If we are not going to audit and follow up on the report’s recommendations, then what was the point in having it in the first place?
We have to salute the fight that Baroness Lawrence has continued, and I will continue to do so, but progress has been very slow. We saw that in the recent report by the London School of Economics, which showed that black Britons are stopped at more than eight times the rate of white Britons. That is just not acceptable. I appreciate that the police must do their job. As the representative of a constituency in inner London, I have had to experience the loss of life of three men in the past six months, and that has not been good. I went to see those families and I literally had no words for them because their children had been failed by the system.
We also have to look at the gangs matrix, because many see it as a form of discrimination or racial profiling—picking out young black men because they listen to a certain type of music or because they access certain social media. Although the Met’s own figures show that just 27% of serious youth violence is committed by young black men, more than three quarters of those on the gangs matrix are black. There is a disparity there that obviously needs to be addressed. That racial discrimination was even condemned by Amnesty International on the grounds that it leaves Britain in breach of some of its human rights obligations.
But racism is not limited to Government Departments, or just to the Government. Although progress has been made, racism still exists in society. We saw that in the hostile environment policies that led to the Windrush scandal last year. When we introduce policies, it is important that they are fully tested and audited, with impact assessments carried out, because anything that disproportionately affects a particular group clearly is not right. We know from the Windrush scandal that people were deported in error, lost their homes in error and lost out on vital social security in error, and many are still paying the price.
Nobody in this House would say that we live in a post-racial society, because that is not the case. I encourage the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) and others to think about how we move forward from the Macpherson report, particularly for our young black men because they are disproportionately affected, particularly in London, by what happens in this House. We see it in the education system and we see it in our community services.
Many of us on both sides of the House, as well as people in my community and in the country at large, will be marking Stephen Lawrence Day. What Baroness Lawrence said is so important, because young people are the future. They are the next generation, and we must give them that future and that opportunity, and we must give them hope. It is our responsibility.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova). Her concluding remarks about the importance of giving our young people hope, and showing that we have made progress and learned the lessons of the past, is essential. I will talk about both the positives and the negatives as we assess the situation in our country, particularly with respect to the police and whether we have learned and implemented the lessons.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris). I was brought up in north Nottingham, so it is a privilege to hear his remarks. He and the members of the Home Affairs Committee do a good job in reminding us that we must continue to pay attention to these critical issues.
Inevitably, hon. Members on both sides of the House have paid tribute to Baroness Lawrence and Dr Lawrence, without whom this country would not have focused on these important lessons. Their bravery, courage, determination and persistence deserve huge tribute, and I know they have done it as a tribute to their son. We should thank them today.
As the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) said, Baroness Lawrence wants to know where the positives are, and it is important to mention some of the positives. Our country, particularly the capital, has seen so many murders by stabbing, and we are seeing some of the lessons learned from the Macpherson report applied to those appalling murder investigations.
In my constituency, two young men from black and minority ethnic communities have been murdered with knives in the past two years. I have witnessed how those murder investigations have been conducted, and lessons have been learned, and we have seen that in practice. Of course, I wish that there was no need for murder investigations at all, but they have improved by reaching out to the affected communities. Communities have been given confidence that that there is genuine independence, that investigations are reviewed, and that there is a team approach as opposed to things coming down to one individual, which was part of what went wrong in the original investigation into the Stephen Lawrence murder. There has been some improvement, but of course we just wish there were not so many murders to be investigated.
The role of the family liaison officer came from the report and is incredibly significant, and some of our amazing FLOs do important work in managing the grief of a victim’s whole family.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that much of the focus on the problems of gang violence and young people being targeted by criminals has fallen on the police force? However, an awful lot could and should have been done with youth and social services that might have helped to prevent some of the violence that we are seeing now.
I absolutely agree, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention.
Some of the changes that we have seen are the mechanical and policy changes that were the least we could have expected. In reading the material 20 years on, my concern is that we still need some deeper changes, and they relate to culture and attitudes. We had a good exchange about training off the back of the speech from the hon. Member for Moray, and one problem with training is that it can be a tick-box exercise and does not go deep enough and get to what is in people’s hearts and minds. That applies not just to the police force, but to wider society.
I genuinely worry that the reason why we are not making progress in the police force is because we are not making progress in society, and I have to say that I feel that there is more racism today than there was a few years ago. I think we are going backwards, and that relates to how race is being portrayed in the media and—I am not going to bring Brexit into this—to some of the issues that may have contributed to Brexit. Some of those things have unleashed feelings and voices that I do not think we heard a few years ago, and that is regressive. As we mark this important anniversary and look to the police to do a lot better, we need to do better as a society. This is a deep issue.
While there has, of course, been progress and while we have seen some recommendations implemented, I am afraid that we have gone backwards in several areas. That is the truth. I look forward to the Home Affairs Committee’s full report so that we can compare and contrast it with the report published on the 10th anniversary, and I wonder whether it will be as positive. According to the crime survey for England and Wales, only 50% of Black Caribbean people agree with the statement “police would treat you fairly” compared with 68% of white people. That is quite a big difference, and that is based on people’s experiences.
Stop-and-search is being used more now than it was back when Stephen Lawrence was murdered, and parts of this House are putting pressure on Home Office Ministers to go back to using more stop-and-search as if it is the answer. We have huge amounts of evidence to suggest that stop-and-search is not going to find the criminals. If we are going to stop and search people, it is much better if it is intelligence-led, based on information that comes from the community and is gathered by community police officers and others working in the community, so that it is effective. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister—I do not always do that, as the Policing Minister will know—for being brave on this issue when she was Home Secretary. She made clear that stop-and-search was not the tool that the police force should use, because there was so much discrimination coming from it and so much ill feeling, given the much higher proportion of black people being stopped and searched. As we have this debate, we should remember Stephen Lawrence and be very careful before we reach for the stop-and-search tool as some sort of solution.
New technologies are being used that this House has not yet turned its attention to. At the moment, facial recognition techniques are not regulated, and this House has not debated the civil liberty issues around them. I am worried about that, because in the United States, where they have been used, there has been bias against black and ethnic minority communities in the way that those technologies appear to work. If we are going to update our understanding of racism in policing, we need to ensure that we apply the lessons of the past to the technologies of the future, so that they are properly regulated and not discriminatory.
In my intervention on the hon. Member for Nottingham North, I mentioned the real concern that at senior ranks—superintendent and above—there appears to be a disproportionate number of black and ethnic minority police officers being disciplined. That is a worry, because there seems to be no reasonable explanation other than attempts by other officers to get in the way of those officers’ careers. That is pernicious. I have not done a full study—that would require a lot of evidence, because it is such a serious allegation—but it needs to be looked at.
I hope the Minister can assure us that his Department and the police are taking those issues seriously, because if we do not ensure that black male and female officers are treated fairly and perceived to be treated fairly, we will not deal with this. We will not get the recruitment and retention. We will not get enough representation at a senior level, which is fundamentally the only way to solve this issue, and we will not give all our communities trust and confidence in their police force.
There has been progress, but I worry that it has stalled, and as it reflects wider society, it may even have gone backwards. We all know about and have debated at length in this Chamber in recent weeks and months the many challenges facing our country, our society and our police forces, but this issue has to come back on to the agenda, because it has slipped down, and it is our duty to ensure that it gets back up there. We must ensure that senior police officers, chief constables, the Met Commissioner and all those whose day-to-day responsibility this is understand and hear a message from this House loud and clear, cross-party, that we want them to take this even more seriously than they have in the past, that progress is too slow and that we want them to go further and faster.
When we talk to black and ethnic minority communities about the police, they often say that they are over-policed and under-protected—I am not the first to use that phrase. We cannot accept that combination. We cannot allow a group in our population to feel that they are targeted and yet not protected. Figures show that they are often more likely to be the victims of crime. I go back to the appalling knife crime we are seeing, particularly in the capital. It is black and ethnic minority young people—often, young men—who are most likely to be the victims, and they therefore deserve more protection and more attention in a very sensitive way.
I hope that, as a result of this debate, the House will come together and send a clear signal to Ministers and to police authorities across the country.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris) for securing this important Back-Bench debate. It is important to start by paying homage to Baroness Lawrence and Dr Neville Lawrence for their tireless campaigning to bring the murderers of Stephen, their beloved son, to justice.
Since the publication of the Macpherson report, some advances have been made on its recommendations. Unfortunately, however, the data and lived experience of the BAME community suggest that the question of institutional and structural bias, which was the focus of the Lawrence inquiry, is still very much the question for us today. I will be using my speech to address the increasing problem of the disproportionality of stop-searches. I am advocating recommendation 61 of the Macpherson report on the provision of a record of all stops and stop-searches.
I do welcome the reduction in the number of stop-searches and the attempts to make their use more intelligence-led, but—and this is a big but—data since 2010 has raised difficult questions about just how far law enforcement has really come since the Lawrence inquiry. In summary, while total numbers of stop-searches have fallen, disproportionality in the stop-and-search rate has dramatically increased when it comes to black people. They are more likely to be arrested as a result of stop-and-search, yet the find rate of stolen or prohibited items is similar for all ethnic groups. The work of StopWatch has been invaluable in collecting the data to show this.
According to “Police powers and procedures, England and Wales” statistics, at the time of the Lawrence inquiry, black people were stop-searched at between three and four times the rate of white people. However, in 2016-17, it was almost eight times the rate. For Asian people and those who self-identify as mixed, the rate was twice what it was for white people. While stop-searches were at relatively modest levels among the white population in the past, their experience of it on average has plummeted. The scale of the disproportionality experienced by BAME communities indicates that the enduring use of stop-and-search powers is more heavily concentrated on black and minority ethnic groups. Many Members in the House today have reiterated what I have said.
In London, unfortunately, the variations across boroughs point to discrimination. While the overall rates of stop-and-search are highest in the more deprived boroughs, disproportionality is highest in the relatively wealthy and affluent boroughs similar to Richmond. People are subjected to punitive actions, and I say “punitive” in a very passionate way, because I represent Edmonton. Unfortunately, in Edmonton—the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) spoke about the loss of life—it is almost inconceivable how young families are trying to bring themselves together when one of their own children is taken in such a traumatic way.
We need to take this seriously. Yes, we need to use intelligence when we are stopping and searching anybody, but we cannot disproportionately target one community when that same community is more likely to be caught up in some kind of violent act. We need to find a way to support the community and to train the police so that we can work together, because one life is too many, and we should not be having the figures we have at the moment.
Black people have been singled out for suspicion, and the pattern is consistent with ethnic profiling. People from black and other minority ethnic groups tend to live in areas of high deprivation, in relatively large numbers, because of a variety of socioeconomic factors. Concentrating stop-and-search in boroughs with high levels of deprivation fuels disproportionality and entrenches stop-searches and police intervention. This is the lived experience for many communities, especially BAME communities. That high rate of stop-searches reflects proactive policing that often strays into over-policing in those areas, whereas more affluent areas simply experience a more reactive approach from the police. Over-policing and the effects of disproportionality mean that young black people often run out of police cautions or warnings much faster than their white peers in more affluent areas, which results in the police resorting to arrests for petty infringements.
The Government have not acknowledged that disproportionality, which gives rise to the concern that some are in denial. Indeed, the concerted efforts of some to deny that such bias exists, in the face of overwhelming statistical evidence, make me worry that perhaps we are regressing rather than continuing to move on with the recommendations made in the Macpherson report and in the 2009 Select Committee on Home Affairs report on progress made.
One key way in which that regression may already be happening is through the use of body-worn cameras. Yes, their use can be extremely helpful in holding to account all parties involved in an incident, and especially in keeping a record of a police intervention. However, their use has also precipitated a change in police procedure. Before their introduction, the person stopped was given a copy of the record of the stop-search and, most importantly, the reason why the power had been used. Now, however, officers can simply provide a receipt if the record is made electronically or via their radio. That practice disempowers the person stopped and strips them of the reason for their interaction with law enforcement. This poor practice must be eliminated.
I put it to the Home Secretary and the Minister that, given the evidence, it is time for primary legislation. The Home Secretary’s predecessor, now the Prime Minister, said in 2014 that if ratios did not improve considerably,
“the Government will return with primary legislation to make those things happen, because nobody wins when stop-and-search is misapplied.”—[Official Report, 30 April 2014; Vol. 579, c. 833.]
The disproportionality of stop-searches has shot up and stop-to-arrest has not improved. I say to the Government that it is now time for primary legislation urgently to address this palpable racial injustice.
I start by paying tribute to the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris) for securing this debate on this important anniversary.
No family should ever have to go through what the Lawrence family went through, by which I mean not just the racist murder of their son but the way in which the police responded—or failed to respond properly for many years—to the crime. I am privileged to work alongside Baroness Lawrence on the Joint Committee on Human Rights. To prepare for today’s debate, I read the evidence she gave earlier this month to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry. Other Members have referred to it already, but I believe that the things she had to say should be very important takeaways for us and that they are matters on which the Minister should consider taking action.
Baroness Lawrence said that if she were writing the report today, the thing she would focus on most is education, and the second would be the importance of training the police to do their job properly. She said that unless we start educating our young people to live their best lives, things will not improve. During the course of the evidence session, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the Chair of the Committee, raised a point about education, saying that
“the figures show that black graduates are significantly less likely to achieve firsts or 2:1s than white graduates, even when you take account of prior attainment and A-levels and so on, and also are more likely to drop out. That sounds like a pretty big problem for universities.”
That is a problem universities need to address. If one reads Baroness Lawrence’s evidence carefully, that was the sort of thing she was getting at.
Baroness Lawrence highlighted the police’s lack of empathy at the time the crime was first being investigated—I use the term loosely, because the initial investigation was woeful. She said:
“We had just lost our son. When they came to the house, which was quite regularly, they were not interested in giving us information about how the investigation was happening. That was what we wanted to know, but it was just about the information that we were giving them.”
She also said:
“We were treated as criminals.”
There was an assumption that because Stephen was a black boy he must have been a criminal. Empathy and respect for human dignity should be at the heart of all police work, but it was not in the case of Stephen Lawrence, at least not until much later in the day and then only in the case of certain individual police officers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) made the point during the Home Affairs Committee evidence session that although the term “institutional racism” has been very helpful in making us as a society understand what went wrong in the Lawrence case, it should not be used to absolve individuals from their culpability of what went wrong. That includes individuals within the police force, as well as those who originally perpetrated the crime.
It is worth pausing to note that this was a racist crime. There seems to have been language surrounding it that fits with the language of the far right. Let there be no doubt: the far right is on the rise again in the United Kingdom, and we must very much guard against that.
I wish most strongly to pay tribute to Baroness Lawrence and Neville Lawrence for their dignity and their tenacity in their fight for justice. Tribute should also be paid to the 1997 Labour Government, who had the gumption to institute the inquiry. Often now, when we are looking at public inquiries, for example the inquiry into the Grenfell fire, we look to the broad terms of reference of the Macpherson inquiry as guidance on what is ideal.
I want to say a little about the response in Scotland to the issues that came out of the Macpherson inquiry. Shortly after the report was published, the then Scottish Executive were quick to create an action plan to take forward the relevant Macpherson recommendations in Scotland. Even now, the Scottish Government recognise that it is their responsibility to ensure that what happened to Stephen Lawrence and his family could never happen in Scotland. We must not ever be complacent about that, or assume that any Government or society has a monopoly on doing the right thing. Institutional racism can be found across our society, as can individual instances of racism.
The Scottish Government have taken on board lessons in relation to the importance of supporting the victims of crime and of fighting knife crime, which is such a scourge in our society across these islands. Over the past 20 years, and particularly the past 10 years, the Scottish Government have been at the forefront of putting the rights of victims and vulnerable witnesses at the heart of the criminal justice system. They continue to do so. The new victims taskforce has been set up, chaired by the Scottish Justice Secretary, to improve victims’ experience of the justice system.
The Scottish Government have also taken action to address hate crime. I am pleased to say that racially motivated crime in Scotland has, according to the statistics, decreased by 29% since 2011-12. In June 2017, the Scottish Government published an ambitious programme of work to tackle hate crime and build community cohesion across Scotland, and they have worked with Police Scotland to develop the data that they hold on hate crime, with a report due to be published later this year.
The Scottish Government have also worked to ensure that education plays its part in advancing equality and tackling discrimination and hate crime. Clearly, the importance of education was something that Baroness Lawrence highlighted in her evidence to the Home Affairs Committee. On 15 November 2017, a national approach to anti-bullying for Scotland’s children and young people was published. All schools are expected to develop and implement an anti-bullying policy, in line with the “Respect for All” policy, which should be reviewed and updated regularly.
At present, England and Wales, and particularly this city of London, face an enormous problem with knife crime. There have been many tragic instances of murder across this great city of London in the last year. It is well known—we have had many debates about this in the Chamber recently—that in the past, Scotland faced a terrible problem with knife crime, and that the public health approach to tackling violence advocated by the World Health Organisation, which has been adopted in Scotland, has worked greatly to reduce the incidence of knife crime in Scotland. I am absolutely delighted that so many representatives of this city—from the Met police to the Mayor to members of the British Government—have been up to Scotland to look at the public health approach to tackling violence. It really has brought amazing results in Scotland, and it is clearly effective when we look at the fact that violent crime in Scotland has decreased by 49% over the last decade.
I would not wish to be thought to be at all complacent about the position in Scotland. There are things that we could do better, and we must all work to do better. However, today’s debate is specifically about following up on the recommendations of the Macpherson report, and it is clear that there is concern throughout the Chamber that perhaps the extent to which the recommendations have been implemented has not been adequately measured, so I would like to know what the Minister is going to do about that. Will he also take a leaf out of the Scottish Government’s book in dealing with the victims of crime and tackling knife crime? Finally, will he tell us what the Government are doing to make sure that the rise of the far right across the United Kingdom does not mean a return to the sort of ghastly crime that took the young Stephen Lawrence’s life?
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris) on securing this very important debate. There is no question but that the Macpherson inquiry changed the way that the state spoke about race. At 350 pages, with 88 witnesses and 100,000 pages of evidence, it was a game-changing report, but it was called “The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry”, and it is the death of Stephen Lawrence that I turn to now.
People forget—or perhaps they were not in the House then—that the death of Stephen Lawrence was one of a series of deaths of young black men in south-east London at that time. This was partly related—some of us think—to the fact that the British National party had its headquarters in Bexley. In 1991, Rolan Adams was stabbed to death by 12 thugs. Only one of them was ever convicted. In 1992, a 16-year-old, Rohit Duggal, was also killed as a consequence of a racist attack. In the months after Stephen’s death, 19 people were injured in a brawl outside the local BNP headquarters.
At that point, Stephen Lawrence’s death made no impact in the wider society. I give the Daily Mail genuine credit, because it took Paul Dacre’s extraordinary front page to make it a subject that the wider society took up. In the black community, however, there was tremendous feeling about it from the beginning, because we knew it was part of a series of deaths of young black men.
Stephen Lawrence died in 1993, and later that year I was the first person in the House of Commons to make a speech about his death. I said:
“The black men and women who came to this country in the 1950s and 1960s went through difficult times and had to work hard to keep themselves and their families together. They always believed…that, for their children, times would be better…Therefore, the recent spate of killings of”
young black people
“and the killing of Stephen Lawrence in particular is distinctly cruel. Black”
young people are being killed
“in a way that makes it look as if society is throwing a community’s hopes back in its face.”—[Official Report, 21 May 1993; Vol. 225, c. 541.]
That was the feeling in the black community at the time. It did not get coverage in the national papers until the Daily Mail took it up, and it was not an issue in this House, but people felt very strongly about it.
For several years, Doreen and Neville Lawrence campaigned on the issues, and it was hard going, because there was little interest. They went to court, and they lost. They organised demonstrations and they lobbied their local MPs. They never gave up. The thing I remember most vividly about the aftermath of the death of Stephen Lawrence is taking Doreen to see my colleague Jack Straw, then Member for Blackburn and shadow Home Secretary. It was the last thing that Doreen could think of to do. We went with other Members of colour, including the then Members for Tottenham and for Brent, South.
I remember talking to Jack Straw before the meeting, and he was actually more interested in issues of diversity than was common at the time. I hope he will not mind my saying that he was a little sceptical about the Stephen Lawrence case, because the Met police at the time were really sceptical. I went into that meeting with my colleagues and Doreen, and she turned Jack Straw around with her passion, her commitment to justice for her son and her fixity of purpose. Jack Straw started that meeting a little sceptical and he came out committed to a public inquiry. No sooner had Labour been elected in 1997 than he delivered on his promise. He gave Doreen her inquiry.
When the inquiry was set up, it was to be led by Judge Macpherson, and some of us asked, “Who is this establishment figure? What kind of report are we going to get?” In fact, it was an amazing report that transfigured the debate. If it has not been implemented in the way that I would have liked, that is no criticism of Judge Macpherson. It shows that sometimes an establishment figure leading an inquiry can have rather good results.
The extraordinary thing is that the Labour Government gave Doreen her inquiry, and it was an important and well thought-out inquiry. The sad thing has been the lack of progress since the Macpherson inquiry. Chief Constable Jon Boutcher is the lead on race and religion for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and he has said:
“My challenge to policing is that the pace of change is too slow, since Macpherson. In my view it could have been faster. I think it’s about commitment at a senior leadership level. I don’t accept that everything has been done...There have been the words, but not the actions. We need to make sure we have words and actions.”
My right hon. Friend is making a fantastic speech. Does she agree that there are still problems in the Metropolitan police force, and that it is probably accurate to say that more work needs to be done to ensure that any form of institutional racism is eradicated from the Met?
I agree that there is more work to be done. Chief Constable Jon Boutcher also said that race was continually at the heart of the biggest issues facing policing. He spoke about the disproportional over-targeting of black people for stop-and-search purposes which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor), about knife crime, about female genital mutilation, about honour-based violence, about modern slavery and about terrorism. He said:
“Race is at the core of so much, we should always have race as a priority regarding representation and community confidence. Race has not continued to be the priority that it should have over the last 25 years.”
That was said by a chief constable, not by some dangerous black radical.
There has been progress, and the narrative is different now. Phrases such as “institutional racism” can be used, and people understand what they mean. The phrase “institutional racism” does not imply that every single individual in an individual in an institution is racist; it means that there are ways in which a certain institution works. However, there has not been enough progress. People forget that after Macpherson, police chiefs from the 43 forces in England and Wales agreed on a Government target: there must be the same proportion of black officers in their ranks as in the community that they served. They were given a decade in which to achieve that, but none of them ever did so.
My hon. Friends have identified a number of issues that arise from any consideration of Macpherson, such as the use of the gangs matrix, in which young black men are disproportionately racially profiled, and the use of stop and search. Labour Members believe in evidence-based stop and search, but its random use has done more to exacerbate bad relationships between the police and the community than anything else. We continue to insist that evidence-based stop and search is one thing, but random stop and search is another. It is all too easy for politicians so say, in the face of a crime wave, “Let us have more stop and search”, but we must insist on its being evidence-based. My hon. Friends have spoken about the importance of recruiting more policemen of colour, the issue being that members of police forces should look like the communities that they serve. There is also the long-standing issue of the promotion possibilities for black policemen.
Macpherson was probably one of the most important events in my lifetime in the context of the debate about race. It has changed the way in which we talk about race, particularly in relation to policing. It is a tribute to Doreen Lawrence for her tenacity, her courage and her persistence that we ever had a Macpherson inquiry. However, there is more to do. We cannot be complacent. Because race is at the heart of many of the issues involved in policing and community safety, we need to look again at those recommendations and proceed with their implementation.
The Macpherson inquiry threw down a gauntlet to society about race. We must pick up that gauntlet, and fulfil the promise of that important inquiry.
The hon. Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris) speaks with a directness and passion that I have grown to respect, and I congratulate him, and the Backbench Business Committee, on securing the time for this debate.
The debate connects us on a human level with the night of 22 April 1993 and a young black boy, 18 years old, standing at a bus stop in south-east London dreaming of being an architect murdered, apparently for the colour of his skin, with no provocation at all. It connects us with the story of an extraordinary family, Baroness and Dr Lawrence, and their journey from that point over so many years to pursue the truth, to pursue accountability and to pursue justice, not just for Stephen but for all victims of racism, and the extraordinary journey from 1993 to January 2012 when Gary Dobson and David Norris were finally tried and found guilty of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.
I join all Members of Parliament who have spoken and expressed their admiration for the family, not least my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) and the hon. Members for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova) and for Edmonton (Kate Osamor) and of course the right hon. Members for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) and for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott). I thank the right hon. Lady for sharing with us this evening, because clearly she was personally directly and very closely involved with this, and her speech was incredibly valuable for me, not least in reminding me that Stephen Lawrence’s murder needs to be put in the context of what else was going on at that time in London. This has been an excellent debate.
The Chairman of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), is no longer in her place, but I congratulate her and the rest of the Committee on bucking us up on this issue, because the timing could not be better to put the Government again under scrutiny and to make them accountable for delivery and us as a Parliament for the progress we make. Underlying this is the question of what kind of society we are and want to be, and the progress we are making towards that goal. As many Members have pointed out, the circumstances keep changing; the challenges evolve and some of the circumstances we are facing now, whether it be the emergence of the far-right or the terrible cycle of serious violence that we are trying to manage at the moment, mean that this situation and set of challenges are not going away, and we need to redouble our commitment to bear down on them.
The Chairman of the Select Committee talked about the legacy of Stephen, as did many others, and of course part of that legacy is the work of the Stephen Lawrence Trust. I hope that the inaugural Stephen Lawrence day on 22 April will be a wonderful success, and certainly my Department and I personally will do everything we can to make sure not least that the police engage in the most constructive and positive way with that day. The theme not just of commemorating the life and legacy of Stephen but also encouraging and supporting young people in the achievement of their dreams and living their best lives—as the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) said, reminding us of the language of Baroness Lawrence—presents an important opportunity, and we must seize it and do that day proper justice.
As Stephen’s dad said, arguably Stephen’s most important legacy is the inquiry and the Macpherson report. We are used in this place to the power of words, but in a 350-page report two words have stood the test of time: the bombshell judgment of the Metropolitan police as “institutionally racist” was seismic in its impact not just on the police but on the establishment as a whole, because, as many have pointed out, of course underlying this story is a systemic failure to protect a young man and support a family and all the issues that raised.
We know from our experience in this place that reports come and go and few touch the sides or stand the test of time, but the Macpherson report does. The fact that a Minister is standing at the Dispatch Box being held to account for ongoing delivery against those recommendations 20 years later tells its own story about the importance of this report. I can confidently predict that the House will revisit this, not just in the immediate term because of the Home Affairs Committee but because the underlying issues are so important and systemic and because, as the hon. Member for Battersea rightly said, we do not live in a post-racial society. We must continue to revisit this and hold ourselves to account on this issue.
I am delighted to be at the Dispatch Box talking about this now. As most speakers have said, there are things to feel positive about. Looking through the recommendations this morning, I could see that 68 of the 70 had been implemented either in part or in full, but I look forward to the process of scrutiny by the Home Affairs Committee. The Home Office will certainly listen carefully to whatever recommendations it might make on the ongoing transparency surrounding the implementation of the recommendations.
As I am sure most Members will acknowledge, implementing recommendations in part or in full is one thing, but their having an effect is a different matter. That involves a different set of judgments. I believe that a lot has changed in police attitudes and processes, and I was encouraged to hear others speak of this as well, not least the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton, who talked about tragic murder investigations in his constituency and about family liaison officers. My perspective on FLOs is as the Minister with responsibility for Grenfell victims. If I look back on the past difficult, dark and turbulent 18 months, and I look at the things that have gone right, I see the network of FLOs and support that they have given to bereaved families in the most traumatic circumstances. They have done an absolutely marvellous job in the most difficult circumstances.
When I look at our approach to hate crime, I also see an increased sense of responsibility and professionalism in the police in terms of identifying hate crime and racially aggravated crime. I believe that I can see progress there as well. So there is much to be positive about, but we must be very candid in recognising that there is so much more that needs to be done, not least to build confidence—a word used a lot by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) tonight—and trust in our criminal justice system. I actually genuinely believe that it is colour blind, but there are too many people in this country who do not. That is at the heart of this challenge.
This Government have not taken their eye off the ball on race. I take pride that, under this Prime Minister, we are, I think, the first Government in the world to conduct a race disparity audit. This will provide an invaluable tool for this process in the form of transparency, data and evidence that is open to scrutiny, to comparison and to measurement of progress. In my experience, it is that uncomfortable light that gets institutions moving. The race disparity audit is incredibly important, and one of the most uncomfortable lights that it throws is on the police.
We have heard many contributions to the debate about stop and search, not least from the hon. Member for Edmonton. She and other Opposition Members have a tremendous understanding of and sensitivity to this issue. I was delighted to hear praise for the Prime Minister’s personal leadership on what has arguably been the biggest reform of stop and search in its history. It was clearly being used in an absolutely disproportionate way, but we are not going back to the bad old days when more than 1.3 million were stopped but only 8% of them were arrested. The reality is that, although the figure has gone down to 300,000, it feels as though people have lost confidence in this important tool in the police box. The Government are trying to rebuild confidence in the police and their use of stop and search, but its use must continue to be intelligence-led and to have great transparency, enhanced by the use of body-worn video.
Another area in which I take pride is the progress we have made on increasing the accountability of the police. Again, without that accountability it is hard to make progress. The introduction of police and crime commissioners is a positive. The increased transparency on the performance of the police is a positive. The reform of the police complaints system is a positive. The enhanced role of the College of Policing in providing support and training is a positive. I congratulate the Police Superintendents Association on its leadership in providing mentoring services to several hundred police officers from BME communities across the country to help them with the issue of progress.
Let me say something about the issue that most Members spoke to—diversity. For me, diversity in policing matters enormously, because it is not just about social equality and equality of opportunity, and Peelian principle 7 of the police needing to represent and reflect their communities; it is also about the competition for talent and making sure that our police service has the ability to recruit the best, because policing has changed and we need to be sure that our police service recruits from the widest possible pool of talent. The point I would make to the shadow Home Secretary and those who say we have not made enough progress is that they are absolutely right: we are nowhere near where we need to be on diversity in policing. The right hon. Lady rightly references Bedfordshire police. What is interesting about Bedfordshire police, the Met and the West Midlands and Manchester police is that when we look at where positive action is deployed, within the law, and with the right leadership, resources and plan, the needle moves—it is extraordinary, but this is not rocket science. Bedfordshire has doubled the participation of BME officers in that force in a short number of years—it can be done.
Some will argue that we need to go further, beyond positive action to positive discrimination, and change the law. The Government are not in that place at the moment, because the leadership in the police are convincing us that they are serious about this. For the first time we have a national diversity strategy that all chiefs have signed up to. That is important because of the point that Jon Boutcher was making about the need for leadership from the top. The police is a compliance culture; the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) talked about culture and that comes from the top in policing. The fact that every police chief has signed up to this strategy gives me some encouragement. My role and that of the Home Secretary is to hold them to account on delivery, and we have made it clear, through the various roundtables at which we have sat down with them, that if we do not see quicker delivery on this, we may have to rethink our strategy. This is that important to the building and maintenance of trust in our policing, particularly in those communities where that trust is lower than the national average—the BME communities.
I wish to make one other point before we hear again from the hon. Member for Nottingham North. This is not just about recruitment, retention and progression; there is also something that needs to be addressed in respect of the cases of discrimination against police officers. Next week, I am meeting PC Nadeem Saddique, a firearms officer who waited 16 years for justice in terms of his claims about racist abuse by fellow officers in Cleveland police. That is absolutely unacceptable to me, so there is something also about the combating of discrimination within police forces and the lack of consequence for those found guilty of it that concerns me.
In summary, the Macpherson report was a watershed report. It was absolutely seismic in its impact. I congratulate Jack Straw, the then Home Secretary, on his initiative and leadership at the time; this was absolutely the right decision and it was one of the biggest he took as Home Secretary, as he said. It is the responsibility of successive Governments, of whatever colour, to constantly revisit not just the implementation of the recommendations, important as that is, but their impact and effect, because at the heart of this is a debate about the tolerance and inclusiveness of our society, and the key institutions that we depend on for our safety and protection. They failed Stephen Lawrence. They failed the Lawrence family. There are still too many instances of failure around the system. We have not made as much progress as we need to. We need to be constantly vigilant and to redouble our commitment, as the hon. Member for Nottingham North suggested. With that commitment on behalf of the Government, I hand it back to him.
To quickly sum up, I thank the Backbench Business Committee for its support in securing this debate and the Home Affairs Committee for its support in its execution, and also their Chairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper). Both have given me extraordinary guidance throughout my time here, but especially for this debate.
I would also like to put on record—I am not sure whether it is in order for me to do so, Mr Speaker, but sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission—my thanks to the Clerks of both Committees, but especially the Home Affairs Committee. They are an outstanding bunch of people and professionals, and I really appreciated their support.
I also thank the Government for finding time for this debate. I wondered whether it would get in in a timely manner, but I take the fact that it did as a sign of good faith. It would have been easy for that not to have happened, so I appreciate that too.
I particularly thank colleagues for their contributions, including my hon. Friends the Members for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova) and for Edmonton (Kate Osamor) and, from other parts of the House, the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) and the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross). The hon. Gentleman said in the Committee, and again today, that he felt that he grew up with this case. He is just a year older than me, although perhaps no one could tell by looking at him—I think there is something in the highlands and islands fresh air that gives him eternal youth. I also feel that I grew up with this case, but I do not want to grow old with it. I hope that long before then we will show that we have delivered.
I was interested to hear from the SNP Front Bench about what has worked in Scotland and to hear a positive plug for a public health approach to knife crime. We cannot say that loudly enough. I strongly believe that we need to build a rock-solid consensus around that.
From our Front Bench, we also heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott). Her leadership on this and similar issues, not just over the last 20 years but over many years preceding that, is something that I look up to and that we cannot applaud enough. It was eerie to hear her words from two decades ago, because I am afraid they resonate down the years, which is why it is still important that we talk about this today. During the debate I was sent a message from someone basically saying, “What a stupid topic to talk about. Why don’t you focus on something more important?” Modern technology is unique in allowing people to feel inadequate in real time about how they are doing their job. However, as we heard from the words of my right hon. Friend from the Front Bench, as well as many others, this is a case that echoes down the years. If we continually fail to learn the lessons, we will continually seem to get these tragedies. That is why it is important that we talk about this issue today, and I make absolutely no apology for it.
To conclude, I was pleased to hear from the Minister for Policing about the figure of 68 out of 70. He very much invited the scrutiny of the Committee, and that is what he will get. We will get into that detail and report, and I would be interested to hear the response once we have, because I am not quite sure how we would know that the figure was 68 out of 70. I would be grateful if that could be clarified, because certainly in three weeks of trying I have yet to find a marshalled list of progress made, so it would be wonderful if that could be shared.
This has been an exceptionally high-quality debate, and I appreciate the contributions of all hon. Members. It has shown us at our very best.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House notes the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry on 24 February 2019; and calls on the Government and all in public life to renew their commitment to fulfilling the recommendations of the Macpherson Report.