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Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report: Publication

Volume 597: debated on Wednesday 24 February 1999

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

6.8 p.m.

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I wish to repeat a Statement made earlier in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows: "Madam Speaker, with permission I should like to make a Statement about the report of the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence.

"Copies of the inquiry's report and appendices are available from the Vote Office. Honourable members will themselves want time to read and consider the report, and I can therefore tell the House that my right honourable friend the Leader of the House has agreed that there should be a full day's debate on the report as soon as possible.

"Stephen Lawrence was a bright 18 year-old student with a promising future. He wanted to be an architect and was studying hard for his A-levels. At about 10.30 p.m. on Thursday 22nd April 1993 Stephen was waiting for a bus With his friend Duwayne Brooks in Well Hall Road, Eltham in south London. He was set upon in an unprovoked knife attack and was killed. There was only one reason for his murder. Stephen was black.

"Any parents faced with the death of their son in such circumstances would have been devastated. But for Stephen's parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, their sense of despair has been compounded by the failure of our criminal justice system to deliver them justice, to secure the conviction of those responsible. I think I can speak for the whole House when I say that Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence's campaign for the truth has been pursued by them with enormous dignity, courage and determination. I pay my personal tribute to them today.

"I first met the family in early 1997 and saw both parents again shortly after becoming Home Secretary in May that year. They persuaded me of the case for a thorough, independent scrutiny of the investigation into their son's murder and the lessons which could be learnt from it. In July 1997 I therefore announced to the House that I had appointed the former judge of the High Court, Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, to conduct a full judicial inquiry. This was the first such inquiry under the Police Act since Lord Scarman's into the 1981 Brixton riots. The terms of reference of this new inquiry were as follows:
'To inquire into the matters arising from the death of Stephen Lawrence on 22nd April 1993 to date, in order particularly to identify the lessons to be learned for the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes'.
"The inquiry examined the handling of the case in comprehensive detail. It held 69 days of public hearings, heard 88 witnesses and received some 100,000 pages of evidence. I wish to put on the record my deep gratitude to Sir William Macpherson and his three advisers. They were Mr. Tom Cook, former Deputy Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, the Right Reverend Dr. John Sentamu, the Bishop of Stepney, and Dr. Richard Stone, Chairman of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality. I should also like to thank the inquiry team for their commitment and sensitivity in handling this very important inquiry.

"The report is divided into two parts. The first covers the police investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the second part the wider lessons to be learnt. The main findings of the first part of the inquiry are these:
'The conclusions to be drawn from all the evidence in connection with the investigation of Stephen Lawrence's racist murder are clear. There is no doubt but that there were fundamental errors. The investigation was marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers. A flawed [Metropolitan Police] review failed to expose these inadequacies. The second investigation could not salvage the faults of the first investigation'. (46.1)
"That first investigation of the murder, the inquiry finds, was 'palpably flawed' (2.10) and deserves severe criticism. The inquiry concludes:
'There can be no excuses for such a series of errors, failures, and lack of direction and control'. (46.20–46.23)
"A review of the case was conducted in autumn 1993 by Detective Chief Superintendent John Barker. The inquiry has found that this review was factually incorrect and inadequate. The inquiry was concerned that no senior officer at any level tested or analysed the review and that Mr. Barker had produced a 'flawed and indefensible' report. (46.21 and 46.22) "In 1994 a second investigation of the case was established and this attempted to salvage the situation. The inquiry makes clear that this second investigation, led by Detective Superintendent William Mellish, was conducted with great imagination, skill and sensitivity by the officers involved. (46.23 and 46.24)

"The inquiry also identified work by police officers and others at other stages which was exemplary. They have been praised for their unstinting commitment to bring the racist killers to justice. But their efforts, in the view of the inquiry, were not sufficient to overcome the catalogue of errors and basic incompetence in the handling of this investigation.

"The report also concludes that:
'no collusion or corruption is proved to have infected the investigation of Stephen Lawrence's murder'. (8.18)
"The Government accept the findings and conclusions of the first part of this inquiry, which relates to the investigation into Stephen's murder. The House will share my sense of shame that the criminal justice system, and the Metropolitan Police in particular, failed the Lawrence family so badly. The Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, has asked me to tell the House that he shares that sense of shame too. He has also asked that I should tell the House that, as head of the Metropolitan Police Service, he fully accepts the findings of the inquiry, including those that are made relating to him.

"Sir Paul Condon took over as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in February 1993. Since he came into office he has given strong personal leadership to improving the quality of service which the Metropolitan Police provides to all sections of the community. A great deal has been achieved. For example, reported crime in London is at its lowest for nine years and Sir Paul is tackling the problems of police corruption with vigour. I have asked Sir Paul to continue to lead the Metropolitan Police to deliver the programme of work which is now required. He has agreed. He will use the remaining 10 months of his office to take that work forward, including the agenda set by this report. I shall be supporting him and his successor in the work which lies ahead.

"The central and most important issue for the inquiry was racism and whether and how this affected the handling of the case. The inquiry has addressed this matter with care and sensitivity. On the critical issue of institutional racism the inquiry's definition is as follows:
'The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can he seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people'. (6.34)
"The inquiry found that on this definition:
'institutional racism … exists both in the Metropolitan Police Service and in other Police Services and other institutions countrywide'. (6.39)
"The report says that institutional racism was apparent in a number of areas of the police handling of the case. The inquiry emphasises, however, that its findings do not suggest or imply that all police officers are racist or that the Metropolitan Police Service is racist in its policies. The inquiry emphasises that by the establishment, under Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, of the Metropolitan Police Service Racial and Violent Crime Task Force. The signs are that the problem is being recognised and tackled.(6.47)

"The report then says:
'the catharsis of this Inquiry will lead to constructive action and not to further divisive views and outcomes'. (6.47)
This is a new definition of institutional racism which I accept—and so does the commissioner. The inquiry's assessment is clear and sensible. In my view, any long established, white-dominated organisation is liable to have procedures, practices and a culture which tend to exclude or to disadvantage non-white people. The police service in this respect is little different from other parts of the criminal justice system, or from government departments, including the Home Office, and many other institutions.

"The Report makes 70 wide-ranging recommendations. I welcome them all. I am sure that honourable Members will not expect me to go through each of these recommendations in turn today. I shall instead lay a detailed response and action plan before the House, prior to the promised full day's debate on the report. I want however to use this opportunity to spell out how we are implementing the main recommendations of the report as part of our major and continuing programme of change for the police service and criminal justice system.

"First, the police service: I have ordered an immediate inspection of the Metropolitan Police Service by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and this includes a thorough scrutiny of unsolved murders and review of each case. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary already incorporates much of the approach of OFSTED in its inspections of police services and will be moving further in the direction of applying standards similar to those used by OFSTED, as the report recommends.

"A new police discipline regime will be brought in from 1st April this year. We will ensure that this is subject to effective monitoring and consider any further changes in the light of that experience. I will make an improvement in the trust and confidence in policing among ethnic minority communities a key ministerial priority for the police. I will use my statutory powers to ensure that every police force sets clear objectives the better to deal with racist crime and establishes effective ways of demonstrating fairness in all aspects of policing.

"I will set targets for the recruitment, retention and promotion of ethnic minority police and civilian staff. I announced last October our plans to ensure that every force reflects the ethnic diversity of the communities which they serve. I will chair a national conference of all chief constables and police authorities on this issue in April.

"Stop-and-search powers under current legislation will remain unchanged, as recommended by the inquiry report. But I will ensure that these powers are used more effectively and fairly. Londoners for the first time will be given a proper say in the running of their police service. From July next year a policy authority for London will sit alongside the new mayor and assembly. Legislation for this is already before the House.

"Clear standards of performance will be put in place to ensure more effective police investigations into racist crime. We have already changed the law to establish new offences of racially motivated crimes. The report makes wider recommendations for the criminal justice system. New guidelines will enable parties to an inquest from next month to receive advance disclosure of evidence and documents. I have asked the Law Commission to consider the inquiry's proposal that the Court of Appeal he given power to permit prosecution after acquittal where fresh and viable evidence is presented.

"As the inquiry proposes, we are already ensuring that victims, victims' families and vulnerable witnesses are treated more sensitively and fairly. The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill currently before Parliament will extend greater support to vulnerable witnesses. Yesterday I announced a 50 per cent. increase in funding to Victim Support. I should also tell the House that I will be publishing next week the report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary which examines police community relations across the country. The inspectorate's report supports and reinforces the messages which emerge from this inquiry.

"Madam Speaker, this report challenges us all and not just the police service, and I want to use the opportunity which the report brings to tackle discrimination wherever it is found. So today I can announce that we shall be extending the Race Relations Act not just to cover the police, as this report recommends, but to cover all of the public services. That means in the Civil Service, the Immigration Service and the National Health Service, the law will back those who have been the subject of discrimination. The new law will allow the Commission for Racial Equality to investigate what is happening within individual police forces and other public services. Companies and other organisations in the private sector have long been subject to this legislation. But government have so far failed to keep their own house in order.

"Madam Speaker, the Macpherson Inquiry demonstrated the failings of one very important public institution—the police service. The police have a special responsibility in our society because, day by day, they are the immediate guardians of fairness and justice. But we would be deluding ourselves if we believed that the issues thrown up by this inquiry affect only the police. The implications of this report go much wider. The very process of the inquiry has opened all our eyes to what it is like to be black or Asian in Britain today. And the inquiry process revealed some fundamental truths about the nature of our society and about our relationships one with another. Some of these truths are uncomfortable, but we must confront them.

"I want this report to serve as a watershed in our attitudes to racism. I want it to act as a catalyst for permanent and irrevocable change not just across our public services but across the whole of our society. This report does not place a responsibility on someone else; it places a responsibility on each one of us. We have to make racial equality a reality.

"The vision is clear: to create a society where every individual, regardless of colour, creed or race, has the same opportunities and respect as his or her neighbour. On race equality, let us make Britain a beacon to the world. Many countries already envy our record on race relations. The race relations legislation of the 1960s and 1970s has made a significant difference to the treatment of black and Asian people in our country. But it has plainly not been enough. Over the coming weeks the Prime Minister and I will spell out what the Government will be doing to drive home this programme of change. This report must mark the beginning of this process, not the end.

"In her evidence to the inquiry Mrs. Lawrence said,
'I would like Stephen to be remembered as a young man who had a future. He was well loved and had he been given the chance to survive, maybe he would have been the one to bridge the gap between black and white'.
This report was born of the courage and determination of the Lawrences; of their desire to get to the truth of what happened, and of their desire to ensure that their son was never forgotten. This report is a testament to them. And upon this report we must build a lasting testament to Stephen".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

6.26 p.m.

My Lords, the whole House will be grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement of the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary. Today is a very serious day for our country. It is of the utmost importance for the future of our society as a whole that we respond to the multiple challenges raised by this report with both vision and energy.

We have all had a brief time to look at the whole report, but it is long and extremely detailed and needs careful and reflective study by us all. The Home Secretary, as we heard, had the approval of the Leader of another place to announce a day's debate. Can the Minister similarly confirm that this House will have a full debate on the report as soon as convenient?

The report is primarily about a terrible, callous and brutal murder—a racist murder—which should have been investigated with the utmost vigour and expertise, but was not. The first part of the report tells a shameful story of that investigation. The Statement sets out in summary what it found. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, their family, friends and supporters deserve our full sympathy, but they also have our highest respect for what they have been able to achieve out of this situation.

The blame for the murder itself does not lie with the police. But the failure to investigate the case with the vigour and rigour that it deserved does lie with the policemen concerned. The Home Secretary was quite right to point out in his Statement that some police are praised in the report, and also to confirm Sir Paul Condon in office. But the report also contains a long and important section about the definition of "racism" and particularly "institutional racism".

It is difficult to form a succinct definition, but we all know what is meant by such phrases, particularly "institutional racism". The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, defined it in summary as an institution in which racism is a deliberate act of policy. However, the Metropolitan Police Force is not guilty of that. But, that is a specific finding of the report.

Sir William's report has a definition which is more complex and includes, in particular, unintentional racism. We all hate and deplore racism, however defined, and whenever it occurs, both intentional and unintentional. It must be rooted out in the police force and elsewhere. Therefore, we support the principles behind the recommendations which the Government have accepted for extending the Race Relations Act. If nothing were to be done, the reaction to this report might increase alienation within the ethnic minority communities and defensiveness within our institutions, including the police force. It is therefore important to look forward with determination to do better. The police, government and we in Parliament can and must start that process. However, it is important that everyone within the ethnic minority communities who feels upset by what has happened should also work with the police to try to improve the situation. There is no future in feeling alienated, natural though that may be.

Most policemen and policewomen are not racist; they are trying even more as a result of these events and this report to put things right. The actions put in train in the Metropolitan Police Force are evidence of that fact. Since September last year, the number of racially-motivated crimes solved has increased by 73 per cent. However, they need the help of everyone if they are to succeed.

Perhaps I may make a few detailed points. These are, of course, preliminary' questions. All 70 specific recommendations need to be studied in detail. The report recommends that double jeopardy should be examined by the Law Commission. We all know of some cases that we would love to see tried again. That is not the preserve of ethnic minorities or of any group. However, it is an extremely difficult matter which has all sorts of consequences. Therefore, I think it is right that the Law Commission should examine it. I hope that that means that the Law Commission in Scotland as well as the Law Commission in England and Wales will consider the matter, possibly jointly. I understand that race relations is a reserved matter as far as Scotland is concerned, although law and order is a devolved matter. However, clearly the Scottish Law Commission should be involved in such considerations.

The report recommends that the new police authority for London should appoint the chief officers of the Metropolitan Police. That is not quite the Government's present proposal in the Bill in another place. However, it is the proposal in an amendment to that Bill tabled by my party in another place. That is in line with the recommendation in the report and I hope that it will find acceptance in due course.

Can the Government give careful thought to the problem I mentioned briefly the other day? I refer to the difficulty of achieving a greater number, and hence a higher proportion, of ethnic minority officers when forces have had to freeze recruitment and cannot afford, in some cases, to replace officers who retire. The numbers in the police have reduced by about 780 since March 1997.

On a slightly lighter note, I am sure that your Lordships were all delighted to know that the Minister cannot have been the source of the disgraceful leak of the report which took place at the weekend, according to what we read in the newspapers. However, the Home Office was responsible for that leak. It failed to take the sort of precautions that, for example, the Treasury takes in looking after Budget secrets. However, unless the Minister can give us any more information about the progress of the inquiry into that matter, I believe that the freedom of the press and the Government's persistent leaking are matters for another day.

Our police do an extremely tough and difficult job on behalf of us all. In the main, they do it better and more sensitively than practically any other police force in the world. However, change is required to retain and, in many cases, rebuild policing by consent. I hope that the report will prove a springboard for better relations, and not only for the police force. It is important that the police and all of us rise to this challenge.

6.35 p.m.

My Lords, we welcome the report of Sir William Macpherson's inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. We also welcome the Statement from the Home Secretary. Those who, in the past few days, have concentrated their criticism on the issue of the injunction or the sacking of the Metropolitan Commissioner on the basis of the leaked report have done a great disservice to the central theme of the report. It diverts attention from the real issues facing policing in this country. It also gives comfort to those officers who are corrupt, racist or sexist and who would love to see the back of Sir Paul. We must not give comfort to them. But we are entitled to ask, are we not, now that the recommendations are known: what will Sir Paul do about it?

The report does not demand the commissioner's resignation. It is about pernicious racism that seems to have affected police and policing decisions in London. But, taken in its widest sense, it is about racism that is endemic in our society. Stephen Lawrence died because we all failed in arresting racism that has affected our lives, our attitudes and our society. To discuss injunctions and resignations, as we have seen, is simply to direct attention away from this important publication. We have a record second to none on race relations in the western world. Our race legislation is also second to none in Western Europe. My noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead must be given great credit for introducing that in Parliament. It should be a surprise to no one that persons, be they police, prosecutors, lawyers, magistrates or prison officers, represent the same strengths and weaknesses as the society and community from which they come.

This is the most important report since the publication of the Scarman Report on the Brixton disorders in November 1981. The fundamental difference is that the noble and learned Lord did not accept institutional racism then. Sir William, on the other hand, explains what this is all about.

It is now almost 40 years since the Notting Hill disturbances in 1958. Casting my mind back, black people were systematically exposed to violence perpetrated by local youths and supplemented by extreme Right-wing movements in the country. At that time, Kelso Cochrane, a young black man was murdered for no other reason than that he was black. That was 40 years ago. In those days Kelso's death became a uniting force when black and white residents stood together at the funeral procession giving a clear message that they would not tolerate racist attacks. I know because I was there.

Almost 40 years on, I wish I could say the same thing following the death of Stephen Lawrence. The black community has lost confidence and it does not believe that the establishment is able to protect it. That is sad. The sooner we rebuild confidence, the better it will be for our multi-racial society.

In the sorry state of what happened to Stephen Lawrence, few people emerge with credit, and it is right that we should single them out. It took courage for Jack Straw to set up the public inquiry, and we are grateful to him for that. Despite their horrendous suffering, Doreen and Neville Lawrence continue to demonstrate the dignity with which they have pursued their case. They, as individuals, have never lost faith in our system of justice although justice deserted them when they needed it most. In the end, we praise them and they can hold their heads high with dignity and respect from us all. Of course, we failed them, because those who perpetrated this heinous crime are still free.

We can all argue about what institutional racism is all about. However, that too is to distract and divert attention away from the key fact that not only in policing, but also in other key aspects of our institutions, it is now recognised that differential treatment exists. We now have a clear definition and we should accept it as a first step in building a decent, fair and just society. I am glad that Sir Paul Condon now accepts that as a basis for progress.

Some years ago we set up a Royal Commission on Criminal Justice. It then reported on some important research about the position of black people in the criminal justice system. Many of those issues are still surfacing now in Sir William's report. Black youths are especially likely to be stopped by the police and arrested. Although only a small proportion of those arrests result from stops, if only one in 10 results in a criminal justice process, it is no surprise that nine out of 10 have an adversarial relationship with the police in this country. Once arrested, black youngsters are less likely to be cautioned than are whites. The overall pattern of charges brought against blacks differs from that for whites. Black defendants are more likely to be remanded into custody. They are more likely to plead not guilty to the charges brought against them. Black defendants are more likely to be tried in a Crown Court and more likely to be acquitted, but when black defendants are found guilty of a crime, they are likely to receive longer and more custodial sentences and a different range of non-custodial options.

The result of all that is that 18 per cent. of the male prison population and 26 per cent. of the female prison population in this country is black as against their proportion of just under 6 per cent. in the community. The Home Office will have to ask why within the criminal justice system we have produced that discrepancy. Black people see this in the context of the definition provided by Sir William Macpherson's analysis:
"The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amounts to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantages minority ethnic people".
I think that Sir William Macpherson is spot on. He has all the evidence to back this up.

But call it "institutional racism" or call it what you like, in the case of Stephen Lawrence this process seems to be evident and he paid with his life. Those who would have been brought to justice remain unconvicted. That is the stark reality of racism if it remains unchecked.

The black community remains unconvinced—and this is confirmed by the report—that those conducting the investigation possessed the appropriate skills and understanding to determine whether institutional racism had any effect on the decisions made by them.

We have a police force which is the envy of the world, but that does not mean that it could not be better. There is a general acceptance that police officers have such far-reaching powers over the lives of ordinary people that there must be effective safeguards against misuse. The fall of public confidence in the police service in recent years has mainly been due to well-publicised cases. What it demonstrates is that we have civilian oversight on the matter of police discipline; we have consultative processes on the matter of community involvement, but we have no accountability in the matter of the operations that the police carry out. Is it not time that there should also be civilian oversight of such matters?

We leave it to the Government to decide as and when a full debate on this report is possible. We shall certainly examine whatever suggestions are made in any such debate.

Perhaps I may now refer to a few issues reflected in the report. The first relates to responsibility. Acting on this report (the most important development for race and criminal justice systems since Scarman) is the responsibility of the whole criminal justice system and not only of the police. The Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, the legal professions and the Prison and Probation Services must work with local authorities and communities and must guarantee justice and equality for all.

The Criminal Justice Consultative Council must give a clear lead to the 23 area criminal justice liaison committees to make this their top priority for the coming months. They must play a pivotal co-ordinating role across national and local government agencies.

The Government must give top-level commitment to implementing the recommendations. That must be sustained over many years and not forgotten after a year when the media interest dies down.

The second issue relates to repairing the damage. This is an opportunity to repair the damage done to community relations and to redress unfairness and discrimination in the criminal justice system. It is an opportunity which must not be wasted. Confidence in justice must be restored.

Responses to racially motivated crime must be seen in the context of overall police operations. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act, stop and search and other police powers which have a disproportionate impact on black communities must not only be monitored but investigated urgently.

There is also the question of accountability. Accountability and consultation with local communities must be restructured, strengthened and properly resourced. A two-way dialogue between young people and police officers is crucial. A realistic debate is needed on the problem of local crime and police responses to it.

There is also the matter of training, which features heavily in Sir William Macpherson's report. Joint training across the criminal justice agencies should be introduced on how to promote a co-ordinated and consistent approach to fairness and equality in the delivery of justice. Training must have a direct impact on daily operations and working practices. It must tackle the stereotyping and assumptions that lead black people to be perceived as suspects, rather than victims, witnesses, professional colleagues or partners in tackling crime.

The report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has pointed to disturbing evidence of racist banter and discriminatory behaviour directed by the police at their minority colleagues. The question of education is also heavily reflected in Sir William's report.

However, I think that the most important aspect of the report is the review of the race relations legislation. We welcome that initiative on the part of the Government. The Race Relations Act was designed to eliminate discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity. What can no longer be tolerated are the exemptions granted to the police and criminal justice agencies under the provisions of that Act.

Perhaps I may conclude by repeating what President Johnson said when addressing the American nation after the Warren Commission report:
"The only genuine long-range solution for what has happened lies in an attack—mounted at every level—upon the conditions that breed despair and violence. All of us know what those conditions are: ignorance, discrimination, slums, poverty, disease, and not enough jobs. We should attack these conditions—not because we are frightened by conflict, but because we are fired by conscience. We should attack them because there is simply no other way to achieve a decent and orderly society".
Those words are as true today as they were during President Johnson's administration. I am glad that the Minister quoted Doreen Lawrence in a tribute to Stephen, saying—perhaps I may repeat it—
"He treated people like people—he would have bridged the divide between the police and black people".
That is the greatest tribute to Stephen Lawrence.

6.48 p.m.

My Lords, both noble Lords have responded with the decency and scruple that we always expect of them. Both invited me to respond to their request for a full day's debate which Jack Straw has already announced for the Commons. Obviously that is a matter for the usual channels, but I cannot leave this without pointing out the importance which I personally attach to it.

Both noble Lords rightly said that this is a cause of shame and both spoke of the deep respect which we have for Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. I can confirm that from recent personal experience, having shared a platform with them.

It is right that Sir Paul Condon has been asked to continue. He has a vast amount of work to do. I believe that he is an honest and honourable man. He is also dealing with other deficiencies in the Metropolitan Police service. I believe that it would have been a disservice to that police service and the community generally if he were not allowed to finish the work in which he has been engaged. He has 10 months to go and I think that the Home Secretary was morally right—courageously so—to take that step.

The definition of "institutional racism" is very important. I do not think that it is overstated as set out at paragraph 34 of Chapter Six of the report. I say that because it goes to outcomes. The most dangerous people are those—and they are among us daily—who say, "I don't have a racist bone in my body". They are dangerous because they believe it and they do not look at outcomes. If a young man of 16 asked me: "I am black, why have I been arrested on stop and search five times when your white daughter has never been arrested?", I think we would find the answer in the definition of institutional racism which appears in paragraph 6.34.

The only small caveat I would put in my general response to the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, relates to the fact that he said that the ethnic minorities are upset. That is not right: they are filled with anger, distress, bitterness and fury that we cannot even begin to guess at; and they are right. The noble Lord asked me about the Law Commission. Of course, we would expect the Scottish Law Commission to be involved.

I turn now to the question of the chief officer of police in the new police authority. The presently proposed scheme envisages that the post of commissioner will be a Royal appointment, but there will be an appointment procedure. The police authority would have to advertise the post and shortlist and interview candidates, as happens with chief officers elsewhere. The Home Secretary would then submit the name of the recommended candidate to Her Majesty.

There is no difficulty in setting targets, not quotas, for the recruitment, retention and promotion of those from ethnic minorities. That applies whether they are uniformed police officers or civilian employees, both of whom are important and both of whom are commended and referred to in detail in the report. If any police authority or chief constable says, "Financial pressures prevent us carrying out this elementary duty", I reject it. It should be rejected as firmly as possible.

I can confirm that I was not the source of the leak. Indeed, I am happy to reaffirm what the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said. The latter spoke about the question of the injunction and I shall spend a few moments only on the issue. There was no question here of trying to protect government secrets. Jack Straw made it plain from day one, and before, that he would publish the report in full. He wanted the Lawrence family to have the elementary decency afforded to them of a view of it in full. Was he right?

My Lords, the purpose of the injunction, whether it was right or wrong, was based on decent scruple; namely, that the family should suffer no further if it could be avoided. As it happened, Jack Straw had made arrangements for them to see the report because the newspaper, taking its view about the public interest—which it is entitled to have in a free society—published it earlier than today. The Lawrences were brought in at relatively short notice to the Home Office to have that decent courtesy afforded to them. I shall say no more about the injunction.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and I are absolutely at one here. He is quite right: this is not simply an inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence because he was black. He is also right to say that the repercussions of this inquiry will define this report as the most important since Scarman. Indeed, without disrespect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, I believe that it will have infinitely greater consequences in the way that we conduct ourselves in our society, and not just in the police force. A police service only reflects the good points and the more ignoble points about the society it lives in and serves.

The noble Lord is right to say that the murderers of that young man are still free. That is a constant source of reproach and shame to all of us. The noble Lord is also right to say that racism is endemic in our community. The sooner we recognise it the better. If we do not have within ourselves the resource to recognise that elementary proposition, then we shall be meeting again in 20 years' time with a similar report, wringing our hands and wondering why we failed so abysmally.

The noble Lord is right to point out that this is not limited to the police service and right to point to the way that there are distortions in the criminal justice system, which statistics demonstrate, about charging, acquittals, sentences and the consequences of bail applications. That is another most important aspect of the report.

In the context of the Prison Service to which the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, referred, I am sure that he will know that Richard Tilt, the out-going director general, has already set up a task force to examine racism in the service. That also applies in the Probation Service. Indeed, it applies in the wider context as regards whether or not young black children and those from other ethnic minorities are fairly served by the education service at any level. It is perhaps a good idea occasionally to look also at the legal profession, which is far from perfect if you want to consider attitudes, prejudices and outcomes.

The noble Lord's final point of detail related to the question of how we deal with consultation of local communities. As the noble Lord implied, the latter differ infinitely. I believe that we have made a good beginning in the Crime and Disorder Act. It is a limited beginning but I recognise it as such. The legislation requires local partnerships and local audits in this very difficult area so that we shall no longer be able to say "We do well", when evidence, circumstance and statistics demonstrate that we do not.

6.56 p.m.

My Lords, I welcome the report. I do not often speak on police or race matters in your Lordships' House. However, I find it somewhat strange that no one has been punished in this case—that is to say, neither the murderers, nor indeed the police officers for incompetence. I do not want to put my noble friend the Minister on the spot, but does he not have some sympathy with the notion that if the football manager of England can be sacked for making a remark which some people may find offensive, surely it is surprising that no one has been sacked for this horrendous mess?

My Lords, I shall stick to the focused point put by the noble Lord, Lord Desai; namely, that no one has been punished. That is absolutely right and, indeed, absolutely disgraceful. No one has been punished for killing a young man and the police officers have been allowed to retire. That is a consequence of the present police discipline regulations. The latter was the subject of Chris Mullin's excellent committee report which, as I remember it, was unanimous. Immediately on receipt of that report, Jack Straw said that we must attend to a change in the police discipline regulations so that mere early retirement will not be a total shield to disciplinary proceedings possibly involving financial sanction, which may include limitation of pension rights. I do not think that anyone can say that Jack Straw did not respond immediately to that defect in the police discipline regulations. Moreover, it is not limited to the police. There are other services with similar aspects, which I am personally considering at present.

My Lords, will the Minister accept that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that the Home Secretary should be congratulated on having set up the inquiry? Will the Minister also accept that this is a very detailed report and I have, therefore, not tried to get the gist of it in the few minutes that have been available to me? Nevertheless, I am sure that the Home Secretary is right not to have allowed Sir Paul Condon to be drummed out of office when in fact he has made a great contribution to policing in the metropolis.

Does the Minister agree that there is some danger in accusing a whole force of institutionalised racism simply because, to most people, it is a phrase of uncertain meaning, as acknowledged by Sir William himself at one stage when he said that for 10 people there were four different definitions? In spite of the statement in the report that the finding does not imply that all police officers are racists, is there not a risk that the use of the phrase will taint all police officers in the force when the vast majority are not racist and at the same time may let individual racist officers off the hook when we really have to see that they are brought to book? It is important to recognise that the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence was appallingly badly handled; that the Lawrence family has suffered appallingly; and that the police must never allow anything like this to happen again and must give the highest priority to cracking down on racist officers and racially motivated crime.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, for his agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. It is, of course, a detailed report. One needs days, not hours, to study it with care. However, I have to disagree with his proposition. The definition in paragraph 6.34 is worth repeating and remembering:

"The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination"—
outcomes, in other words—
"through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people".
If we do not take that on board, understand it, and be shamed by it, we shall get nowhere.

Chapter 6 is an interesting chapter. Obviously the brief headline accounts of this report are limited. It is a thoughtful discussion of different definitions of racism. Sir William's report quotes—rightly, I think—at paragraph 6.43 what Lord Justice Leggatt said in the well-known case of Querishi v. London Borough of Newham:
"Incompetence does not, without more, become discrimination merely because the person affected by it is from an ethnic minority".
The inquiry takes that fully on board and directs its mind accordingly. Paragraph 6.44 states:
"We heed this warning, but upon all the facts we assert that the conclusion that racism played its part in this case is fully justified. Mere incompetence cannot of itself account for the whole catalogue of failures, mistakes, misjudgements, and lack of direction and control which bedevilled the Stephen Lawrence investigation".
I ask the following question, if we think that Sir William was wrong: if Stephen had been a young, white teenager from a middle class, white family, would it have been quite the same?

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating this important Statement which today marks a milestone in beginning to put in place an accountable and just police force. I salute the comprehensive comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and the searching questions, which I wholly endorse. I take this opportunity to express gratitude for the bravery of my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary in honouring the persistence of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence in bringing to public attention the shameful conduct of those officers who today shame the whole of the Met. Sir Paul Condon is not an issue. I appreciate the difficult decision that the Home Secretary had to take and support him in that. I look forward to Sir Paul Condon placing much emphasis on the recommendations that are before us.

It would be unjust not to acknowledge also the vanguard action of Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail without whose action middle England might never have acquired the knowledge we have today. I also pay tribute to the numerous other families who still await justice on account of the death or severe disablement of their sons. I refer to the Ricky Reel, the Muktar Ahmed and Quddus Ali families, to name but a few. I am confident that the recommendations of the report and the commitment of the Government to scrutinise its implementation will result in some fundamental changes not just within the Met but also perhaps within wider society so that Stephen Lawrence can finally rest in peace.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, for those remarks. I believe that Jack Straw took the right decision in setting up a public inquiry, publicly funded and with an undertaking to publish its findings. He was right to support Sir Paul Condon when it would have been easy not to do so. I agree with the noble Baroness that the Daily Mail under the editorship of Paul Dacre has performed a valuable public service in expressing the real, bitter anger I mentioned earlier, and disseminating that widely to a critical audience in our society. I believe that he and his newspaper have done noble work which a free press ought to be able to do, even if a free press sometimes comes to conclusions with which we do not always agree.

In respect of the latter two points the noble Baroness raised, there is, of course—as mentioned in the Statement made by Jack Straw, which I repeated—the retrospective review of unsolved murders in this particular context. The noble Baroness and your Lordships will know of the reinvestigation of the death of Mr. Michael Manson, which is being conducted with real vigour—I can say that from personal knowledge— by Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve. I shall say no more about that because it is a continuing investigation.

My Lords, I believe that Sir Paul Condon is an issue. I was bishop in north London when Paul Condon became the ADC of north west London. He was responsible for the policing of the Notting Hill carnival. The transformation he brought to that event through community consent was remarkable. The community became calm and the carnival became a happy event which the police and other people thoroughly enjoyed. No one could have brought more commitment to the task of eradicating racism from the Metropolitan police force. When I came back to London last year I was sad to discover that as regards a murder which occurred "on the patch" in my diocese, Sir Paul had not been able to eradicate racism within the Metropolitan police force. It illustrates just what a difficult task this is. Frankly, if he could not complete that task, with his conviction and commitment, it will not be easily done. Why is that the case? I believe the problem arises from the enormous scale of the force.

I was a bishop in Leicester. The Leicester police have an enviable record of eradicating racism from within their ranks but it is a relatively small force and therefore the culture of the senior management can be imposed throughout the force. Every serving police officer has to spend several weekends living with a family from the ethnic minority community. However, the task is far more difficult as regards the Metropolitan force. Does the Minister agree that either Sir Paul or his successor who tackles this task, will need the support and encouragement of us all?

My Lords, I am most grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his support of Sir Paul Condon. I absolutely agree with the proposition that he put to me finally, as I hope I have tried to make clear on every occasion when we have addressed these matters. It is not a question of police officers and the police service, nor of parts of the criminal justice system, nor of parts of the education system or the National Health Service. It is a question of attacking fundamental attitudes which we are reluctant to admit our society indulges in.

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that Sir William Macpherson and his advisers are to be congratulated on the report, of which I have read a good deal between the time that Jack Straw sat down and the present time? It is an incisive, clear, unambiguous report. When you think that the inquiry considered 100,000 pages of documents and sat for 70 days in all, the report, of just over 300 pages, is a masterpiece of direct presentation and conclusion. I agree with the noble Lord that the influence of the report will be very much greater than that of the Scarman Report.

The noble Lord and I, between us, have probably been involved in many, many murder cases. He knows, as I do, that what is really at the root of this case—the horrific murder of a youngster by a gang—is that, from the outset, the reflex action of the officers was different from what we would have expected in those circumstances. The experience of Sir William—as a barrister and, later, as a High Court judge—and those advising him reflects this.

I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that there is institutionalised prejudice in our country and that we have to take steps to overcome it. He and I know, I am sure, that there are institutionalised prejudices in the robing room and even on the Bench. We have been aware of that. They have changed, perhaps, over the years and are changing. They continually change.

Having said that, there is one matter that I would ask the noble Lord to consider very carefully. It is the suggestion that the Court of Appeal be given power to permit prosecution after acquittal where fresh and viable evidence is presented. That would be a very, very dangerous step. Hard cases make bad law. This is a hard case. The evidence should have been there if the investigation had been properly undertaken. To change the law on this matter because of this case would he a very dangerous step indeed. Does the Minister not consider that a better solution might be to change the procedure of inquiry in serious criminal cases of this kind?

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hooson is right. There is institutionalised prejudice, and—reverting to what I said earlier—not least in the apparently respectable areas of our society like the legal profession, as the noble Lord has just described. I will do no more than say that there is a wide spectrum in the legal profession—from the Law Society to the Bar Council, to practitioners, to the Bench, as the noble Lord mentioned, and to the Inns of Court—if we want to think about outcomes.

The noble Lord is right to say that one does not want to change the law in a hurried, ill-considered way. Again, that is why I think it is absolutely right that we should ask the Law Commission to look at this very difficult area of the law. At the moment there is of course an exception if the facts demonstrate that the acquittal was by virtue of interference with, or intimidation of, witnesses or jurors. Sections 54 to 57 of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 do, I agree exceptionally, allow the acquittal to be overturned. The noble Lord is quite right. One has to be very careful indeed that one does not produce further wrongs in addressing this undoubted shame. It is right to ask the Law Commission to put its mind to this issue. If one looks at the productions the Law Commission has been able to bring about in discussing criminal law, one notices that they are of very high quality indeed.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on repeating the Statement and on the way he has responded to noble Lords. It has been most encouraging, informative and sensitive. I invite the Minister to reinforce the messages in the report about racism, both intended and unintended, and to say that these messages are for every organisation, not just those the subject of the inquiry. Those message are for us all.

Does the Minister agree that it is only by everyone being willing to explore our prejudices and stereotypes that progress will be made? Does the Minister further agree that the real challenge of the report is not only for those organisations but for every one of us and every part of society?

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. But we have to focus on particular organisations. As Jack Straw said, it is very important that he accepts immediately the expansion of the remit of the race relations legislation to the police and other similar institutions. He is, after all, the Home Secretary, and he made a point of indicating that he does not simply want to pass by on the other side. He said that we have not got things right in the Home Office; we have not got things right in government departments. I agree with the noble Lord that attitudes must change, but the only significant way to change attitudes is to have structural mechanisms which are capable of enforcement. The secret thoughts of the human heart are not capable of monitoring or enforcement.

My Lords, we are aware of and admire the programme that Sir Paul has introduced in London in the full glare of publicity. It will be taken forward under the eye of the Home Office, which is still effectively—but not for long—the police authority. Can the Minister tell us how similar programmes will be taken forward in other forces? In paragraph 46.27, the report tells us that similar conditions exist in other forces, and the Statement states that this is confirmed by HMI reports. I am afraid that the other question I would ask the noble Lord is curtailed by the clock.

My Lords, if the noble Lord is forgiving, I would ask him whether he subscribes to the views touched on by the right reverend Prelate, which seem to suggest that racism not only causes but arises from fear and mistrust. Communities are separated by cultural differences, as by a screen, and until that screen is removed, people cannot learn to respect, like or trust members of communities they do not understand and discover that there are good and bad people among those of other colours as there are among their own. Therefore, programmes of home visits—which seem incredibly expensive—are nevertheless the only way we will resolve the problem.

My Lords, I think I was right to trespass on your Lordships' prerogative. I thought that the noble Lord should be invited to ask his second question. I agree that racism derives from a number of subtle causes. It comes from history; it comes from culture; and, as the noble Lord said, it comes from deep, profound ignorance, from not knowing. Part of what needs to be done is teaching people at a very early stage in school that racism—apart from being foul and wrong—is simply based on ignorance and not wanting to know, or having the ability to know, that there may be a difference in other people. That is a lesson to us all.

The immediate step of Jack Straw has been to convene a conference in April of all chief constables and police authorities to discuss immediately the lessons of Sir William Macpherson's excellent report. I said a few days ago in answer to another question that Sir William is a very remarkable public servant. He has produced an extremely distinguished, thoughtful report, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said, and I should have responded more promptly. It is a phenomenal achievement to produce something so coherent, so focused and so comprehensive in such a short time.