My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, I would like to make a Statement in response to Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s independent review of policing in England and Wales. Copies of the final report have been placed in the Library of the House. I start by thanking Sir Ronnie for his report. He has worked hard meeting and talking to people up and down the country. I particularly appreciate the work that he has done to include the voices and views of frontline officers. His recommendations are independent and are challenging to all of us, across the political spectrum, and to the police themselves.
“In asking Sir Ronnie to carry out this review, we were determined to find the best ways to ensure that the investment that this Government have made in extra police officers and police community support officers has an impact where it counts, with visible teams in every neighbourhood and with officers able to focus on what will really make a difference in continuing to reduce crime levels. The report is wide ranging. It deserves further reflection and discussion. It raises important questions about how working practices can be reformed, so that police officers can get the most out of their job and communities can get the best out of the police.
“In the area of reducing bureaucracy, I believe that we can make quick progress, and this where I will focus today. As the Association of Chief Police Officers recognises in its submission to the review, ‘Current levels of unnecessary bureaucracy are created both within as well as outside the police service’. Sir Ronnie is clear that freeing up police officers to do the job they came into policing to do requires more than simply removing paperwork, important though that is. It is not just about cutting requirements from the centre, important though that is. It requires new thinking on performance management from top to bottom of the police service, new attitudes to risk, new ways of working across the criminal justice system and new technology to support the work of policing. I accept that challenge. We are already making progress in response to Sir Ronnie’s interim report from September.
“First, from this April, new public service agreements and targets will provide greater flexibility to focus on what matters locally, on serious violence and on anti-social behaviour, and to streamline the process that gets suspected criminals to court. Secondly, we are consulting on reforms to the working of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act that will reduce police bureaucracy and allow experienced officers to focus on their core roles by making better use of police staff. Thirdly, working with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Justice and the Attorney-General, I am piloting a range of improvements to the way the police work with the courts and the wider criminal justice system. These include virtual courts and new streamlined processes to reduce police and administrative time in preparing prosecution files.
“Fourthly, we are investing in new technology to make crime-fighting more effective and to save officers’ time—including video identity parades, livescan electronic fingerprinting, body-worn cameras, and the £50 million capital fund that will deliver 10,000 mobile data receivers by September. I want to end the days of officers having to enter details more than once, on systems that do not talk to each other. Sir Ronnie’s final report shows how we can go further, and identifies further savings to the equivalent of 2,500 to 3,500 officers a year. I accept his recommendations to achieve this.
“I commend Sir Ronnie for his careful and measured consideration of how to reduce the bureaucracy surrounding stop and account. I agree with his proposal that we should scrap the lengthy form that officers use to record data when they carry out this critical activity. But I do not underestimate the need to build community confidence in policing. We must be able to monitor the proportionality of stops. So I welcome the proposal that we use airwave police radio technology to record any encounter, and that the simple card officers will give out to those stopped will have a phone number that they can call.
“We will immediately pilot this new approach to stop and account in three areas and I expect the changes to be national later this year. As the House will know, stop and account is a very different issue from stop and search, for which Sir Ronnie says, ‘a more formal and comprehensive process is both proportionate and appropriate’. I therefore welcome the work already being done by the Metropolitan Police and the Metropolitan Police Authority, in co-operation with community representatives, to produce a shorter form, which they are introducing later this month. Separately, the use of handheld devices to allow officers to input information directly and create a central record of a stop and search is cutting the average time from 25 minutes to six minutes. In view of the considerable benefits identified, I am calling on all chief constables to streamline their forms and process in the way Sir Ronnie has advocated. Both stop and search and stop and account can be powerful tools in tackling crime. So from April we will extend police powers to tackle gang-related gun and knife crime—enabling officers to stop and search in designated areas where an act of serious violence has taken place, as well as in anticipation of serious violence.
“We can now go further in other areas of recording. Sir Ronnie proposes that we endorse a radical new approach being trialled in Staffordshire and other forces, where police are freeing up more time to deal with victims of crime by using a standard one-page form. Officers are able to use their discretion in how much further information they record, proportionate to the severity of the crime. I will ensure that this approach can be introduced nationally as soon as possible.
“In today’s report Sir Ronnie celebrates the development and delivery of neighbourhood policing. Thanks to the hard work of forces and police authorities throughout England and Wales, there will be a team for every neighbourhood in April. More than 3,600 teams are now in place, and 16,000 police community support officers have been recruited. Up and down the country, at public meetings and in street briefings, local communities are helping to influence their team’s priorities. And throughout March, people will be hearing more about who their local teams are and how they can contact them.
“I have asked Sir Ronnie to report back to me in six months on the progress we and the police are making to reduce bureaucracy. This spring, I will publish a Green Paper with proposals for greater flexibility for frontline officers and staff, greater reductions in bureaucracy, strengthened local accountability arrangements and a reformed performance management framework.
“Sir Ronnie’s report sets out a powerful challenge for how we can adapt to meet the demands of 21st-century policing: freeing police officers from unnecessary red tape; giving them the skills and the tools for the valuable job they do; delivering neighbourhood policing in every area; and ensuring a better police service, for officers, victims and communities alike. Working together, it is a challenge that I am sure the police service and Government will rise to. I commend this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made by the Home Secretary in the other place. We welcome this thoughtful and incisive report, which has appeared after considerable delay and which takes up many of the challenges that have been made about the police service and the Government’s micromanagement of it. Sir Ronnie has come up with recommendations based on common-sense views on how policing ought to serve its local communities as well as tackling serious crime and security threats. He shows how changes can be made quickly, and without the need to resort to yet more legislation.
This is a thorough and fascinating report, raising as it does many issues which have been central to the concerns over policing in this country, which has moved from a robust “bobby on the beat”-based organisation to one which has gradually, under this Government, been throttled by red tape, health and safety straitjackets, and implausible targets, pinning police officers to their desks when they should have been out in the streets. Everyone but the Government seems to have known this but it has taken already five reviews of police in nine years, with 150 recommendations, for precious little change to be made. So first, may I ask the Minister, what will change with this report? Do the Government intend to implement all the recommendations made by Sir Ronnie, against the strict timetables he has laid down?
When will the Green Paper promised by the Home Secretary be published? It is nearly spring now and that is when we are promised it, but none of the issues raised by Sir Ronnie regarding the bureaucracy is new or unknown. What the Green Paper canvasses about flexibility for front-line staff, strengthening local accountability and producing a greater reduction in bureaucracy as well as reforming the performance management framework can be implemented immediately with the minimum of fuss, and without legislation, by simply binning the forms, particularly those for stop and search and stop and account, and reducing the number and complexity of targets. Green Papers almost always herald legislation. Does the Minister anticipate that we will see a Bill, if it is necessary, this Session, or will important changes which require parliamentary time have to wait for the Queen’s Speech, and thus roll on into infinity?
The Government have a real job to do to convince the police and the public that they are determined to relieve the police of the desk-binding paperwork that has jeopardised proper policing for so long. They also have to convince the public that they are determined to get on top of gun, knife and drug crime, and teenage gangs. Gun killings are up by 20 per cent on last year, blade killings by 18 per cent and youth on youth crime is soaring. Two-thirds of the victims of murders in London since January 2007 were black or Asian, so the stop-and-search restrictions and reporting, which were introduced to protect ethnic minorities, have not succeeded in doing so. Will the Minister confirm that police officers will not only be empowered to stop and search for a limited period, without reasonable suspicion, when a serious crime has been committed or is anticipated but will be free to decide the areas where this is necessary? The Home Secretary’s Statement limits this to what are called “designated areas”, so will the Minister tell us: what does that mean; and designated by whom?
The Statement refers to reforms to be considered in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, but it is silent on those that need to be made to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which regulates police surveillance operations, and to reforms on health and safety regulations, which have resulted in the police having a risk-averse culture. Will the Minister say whether consideration can be given to amending these Acts to respond to some of the issues raised by Sir Ronnie’s report?
The report covers many more aspects of the police service than mentioned in the Statement, including more civilianisation, which had already been introduced by the Conservative Government some 15 years ago; the greater use of technology; the allocation of resources; and improvements in the management of the service. The public want to see police when they are burgled, have their cars vandalised, have their shops broken into, are harassed in the street and are frightened by yobs. They will believe that this report has been worth while when they see the changes that Sir Ronnie advises should be made, resulting in the police dealing with crime and not just logging reports without taking further action.
I believe, too, that police officers themselves want to do and be seen to do the job for which they have signed up, and to be assured of the public’s recognition of their professionalism. I hope that that will not be the last we see of this report. I look forward to this House having more opportunities to discuss the way forward. It is an important document and I hope that we will not lose sight of it.
My Lords, from these Benches we, too, welcome the thrust of this report. We fully support the need to reduce bureaucracy, and of course we support neighbourhood policing and attempts to create an efficient and accountable police force. It is, however, a shame that it has taken some 11 years to get to where we are. Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, mentioned, there have been many reviews on the road to this report.
Several issues were only touched on in the brief Statement, and we understand that, but I want to draw out two or three of them. First, on the general need for reform and the hope that we can now make progress, does the Secretary of State recognise that police workforce reforms have perhaps been set back by the folly over the pay settlement? That political controversy, born of a very small pay settlement, could have been avoided and would therefore have created the conditions today for better interaction between those wanting to see reform at the top—the strategic responsibilities—and the police force that has to deliver those reforms. We regret that those relations have broken down.
In the report itself much has been made of the use of technology. We hear of virtual courts, video ID parades, and 10,000 mobile data services by September. We will look closely at the details of these measures, but our concern will be that, in addition to streamlining and reducing workloads, they will impact on civil liberties, data privacy and security? One would have thought that the imbroglio on ID cards, the recent epidemic of data theft and the loss and sheer human incompetence that may well result in data being corrupted, would have made the Government slightly less enthusiastic about resorting to technology so readily. Given that Britain is becoming increasingly concerned about surveillance we expect to examine the Government’s proposals extremely carefully in this regard.
My other point relates to community confidence and the safeguards that have been introduced—we understand the good reason behind them—but I wonder whether the Government have thought through the confidence of ethnic minorities, which will be a key issue. The safeguards were introduced for good reason—most of them in the aftermath of the Macpherson report, when we had serious ethnic minority confidence issues to deal with. We would not wish to see the expense of those safeguards being sacrificed and a further erosion in relations between minorities and the police.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, mentioned designated areas, but the text in the Statement on this is rather vague. There is a crucial issue here. At what level and on whom will the responsibility for designation lie? Our concern is that the designation can apply in anticipation of crime being committed. Anticipation is a matter of fairly fine judgment that needs to be borne in mind in the light of the particular circumstances. We have found with other measures that have been introduced in the past couple of years that the level at which these steps are taken is not immediately transparent, and tracing the flow of where responsibility lies becomes extremely obscure. Depending on how widespread these designated areas are, and the powers that accompany them, we would wish to see responsibility transparently evident.
We will examine the report more closely but I should be grateful if in the mean time the noble Lord would address some of those issues.
My Lords, I thank both noble Baronesses for their generally supportive view of this report, which is thorough and extremely valuable. As a backdrop, I should say that as someone who lives in Hackney and who does not recognise some of the views on Hackney in newspapers, and so on, perceptions are very important. On the introduction to Flanagan’s review, it is important to put all this in a context. He states:
“Over the last decade, policing in England and Wales has seen major increases in both funding and performance”,
“central spending on policing has risen by nearly £5 billion”.
He says that this,
“has resulted in a 25% growth in the overall police workforce and a 10% increase in the number of police officers”.
“These additional resources have undoubtedly contributed to a significant improvement in performance, with crime falling by a third since 1997 and public confidence in the police, which had been falling consistently since 1982, rising since 2003-04”.
I quote that because the perception of what is said in the media is sometimes very different from reality, and it is worth bearing that in mind. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, talked about common sense. She is correct. All my experience of things such as the application of health and safety and the application of—for want of a better word—bureaucracy is that if there is good leadership and people are willing to take a certain amount of risk at the top of their organisation, these can be applied with much less impact. Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s report shows very clearly that a considerable amount can be done straight away, without needing any legislation or anything else at all.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, asked about what work is going on. Certainly, work has gone on since the interim report. I mentioned in the Statement that there are a number of areas where we are already putting things right and moving to correct some of these areas that enhance bureaucracy and have stopped people getting out on the streets. Quite correctly, as we can all identify, the population wishes the police force to be out on the streets to look after us. I go back to the point that there has been, generally, an increase in police numbers and a feeling among the public since 2002-03 that they are doing better. Part of that is to do with the local and community police forces, which have been a huge success and are covered in some depth within this document.
I was asked, specifically, about the date of the Green Paper. All I can say by way of a date is spring. It is our intention to move quickly on this. As my colleague, the Home Secretary, said in the other place, we are taking action straight away on stop and account. There is a classic example of the ridiculously long document that really is not needed. Did central Government say that this document, in all that length, had to be produced? I do not believe that we did. We said that certain things had to be recorded and we all understand why those things have to be recorded. Some stem from the Stephen Lawrence trial and the work that was done after that. It is interesting that Sir William Macpherson, who was in charge of that inquiry, is very content with the Sir Ronnie’s views in this report about what needs to be recorded. It is quite clear that simply being able to call on the new Airwave radio net to say that you have stopped someone, recorded their name and ethnicity, and given them a card to say how you can be contacted, is a far better way of doing things, Police forces can achieve this themselves if they look at what is required. Some of it takes a certain amount of leadership. Yes, there is stuff from central government as well, but we must all apply ourselves to this.
The Green Paper will be published this spring but I cannot give a precise date. We want to move quickly on the things that are recommended here. We will consider the full range of recommendations on legislation. We cannot act on some of them straight away; clearly, we need to consider those. We will bring forward any legislation that is appropriate. I am aware, and share the concern of the House, that there is too much legislation in lots of areas. I would like to see that rationalised. We have to look very carefully at it. We clearly have to look at this and review. As regards the designated areas, raised by both noble Baronesses, I will get back to them in writing; I am afraid that I do not know the details of that.
We have accepted straight away what Sir Ronnie says about increased civilianisation, and about technology and management. These things have to be done very carefully. There has been a lot of civilianisation already. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said, this started under the Conservative Party and it makes a lot of sense. There is no doubt that a fully trained policeman is very expensive. I know, from my experience, that it has happened in the armed services, because a fully trained soldier, sailor or airman is very expensive and we have done a lot of civilianisation. It makes sense to do this, but it has to be done very sensitively. To have 2,500 to 3,500 extra officers available to deploy on the streets is quite dramatic and will make a difference, even across the whole country.
The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, mentioned the pay settlement. The Government recognise very clearly the vital and hard work that police officers do. This is highly complex in terms of their overall package and how we are going to stage pay reviews. We are looking at doing so over a period of three years. One can always look at a specific area and say that they deserve more. There are issues to do with overtime, what work is done, and all of these things. It is unfortunate that some of the police feel that the Government do not appreciate the work that they do. We very clearly do; there is no doubt whatever about that. When one is in public service, at times this comes around. I remember in the late 1970s that that was exactly the feeling we had in the armed services. We felt that we were not paid enough money and that nobody liked us. It was rubbish; clearly people still thought highly of us, but that is the way these things go sometimes. We have to make sure that we get in place a package that makes sense for the police, that is good for them and their families, and that the nation can afford.
I know that there is a great deal of concern about surveillance in a number of quarters. From my experience, there is no doubt that people feel safer when CCTV cameras cover an area. It is unfortunate, but they do. Equally, I am afraid that people are not very nice. You may hear, for example, a group of lads say, “Camera” to each other, because they know that they are being watched. We have to balance those things carefully. None of us wants masses of surveillance. We would love not to have any of it. But I am afraid that that is not the world we are in. Therefore, we have to do a careful balancing act. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, is absolutely right—we do not like that and we have to look at it very carefully.
She was also correct about reliance on technology. My goodness me, my life has been scarred with relying on technology and one cannot always do that. I prefer to rely on people, but technology can save money and enable you to do things more quickly, and we have to try to get that right. We have got better at it, but it is right to raise the issue and we need to look at it.
Overall, I am grateful for all those points that were raised and we should be very grateful for this report. We have a very good track record, which, when I read this and saw what had been achieved, was much better than I had realised from reading the media. Perhaps I have been reading the wrong papers. It is really rather a good story.
My Lords, I join the Minister in thanking Sir Ronnie Flanagan for this important report. However, it should be put in the context of the past 10 or more years. On looking at the 1990s and the early year or two of this century, public confidence in the police was declining, mostly because their response to the public was not as good as it should have been, whether in terms of answering conventional telephone calls, dealing with 999 calls or perhaps, above all, in the clear-up rates for crimes.
In recent years, that has changed around, most notably, on clear-up rates, but also in the police response to the public on the telephone generally, which is very important. I no longer get the complaints that were almost endemic in the 1990s. This is an important continuation of that process and I very much welcome what my noble friend said about the message to the media. It is very easy to knock the police, particularly when a dramatic event goes wrong. But, overall, the improvement in the clear-up rate and the amount of crime, and their response to, and their behaviour and interaction with, the public is so much better than it was that we should be congratulating them and moving forward on the basis of this report.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Soley who is absolutely right. The advances that the police service has made in the way in which it reacts with the public, particularly ethnic groups, has been dramatic. Within the Metropolitan Police, there has been a complete turnaround, which is quite amazing. All of us are very pleased about that and welcome it. I thank him for raising that point.
My Lords, twice at the beginning of the Statement, the Minister told us that Sir Ronnie’s report was independent. By that, I assume he means independent of government. I wonder whether the Minister could help this House to resolve a conundrum. I understand that when Sir Ronnie sent his report in draft to the Home Office, it included a graph which showed that public confidence in the police was declining. When the report was published, after Home Office Ministers indicated that they had not had any involvement in its substance, that graph was missing and was replaced by a graph which showed that public confidence in the police was rising. Can he explain to the House how that happened?
My Lords, I assume that the noble Lord is talking about a leaked report or a leaked draft. I treat those things with complete disdain. It is extremely damaging that anyone should pay any attention to leaked things, particularly something that is leaked from a report that will come out in public anyway. It is not as if it is whistle-blowing; it is something else. Therefore, I have not read it myself and I have paid no attention to it. I take the report, which has been signed by Sir Ronnie, at face value with the Statement I made earlier.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord West, for his Statement; I agree with many of the comments that he made about the improvements in the police force and, in particular, confidence. I want to comment on the minority ethnic population, mainly as chair of the advisory panel on the community’s response to stop and search. There is widespread concern about the disproportionality of stop and search within minority ethnic communities. My committee, which was established to advise the Home Secretary on stop and search, has made comments on reducing bureaucracy and on increasing the accountability of the police for disproportionality, some of which have been mentioned in the report by Sir Ronnie Flanagan.
A number of things not mentioned in the report would significantly reduce disproportionality. Perhaps the Minister would comment on the introduction of the practice-orientated package, particularly by the Metropolitan Police, which does not have a good enough record on disproportionality; the improvement of intelligent use of stop and search, and a clear definition of what intelligence is—that is, the involvement of the community in the engagement of stop and search; and an increase in the availability of information, particularly to young people, on their rights when they are stopped and searched. We found through much research and consultation, particularly with BME communities, that these measures, if applied just to the Met would reduce the disproportionality of stop and search tremendously.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for those points. These are crucial issues. We arrived at some of the bureaucracy to ensure that we were able to monitor and look at ethnicity and other issues. The proposals around stop and account will still allow that to be done and it is necessary that it is done. Interestingly, the records on stop and account show that a far larger number of white than black or other ethnic people were stopped. The figures on stop and search are rather different, and it is an area of concern. I do not know the detail of the package that the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, is talking about and I will get back to him in writing. It is a very important issue. The intelligence on stop and search depends a great deal on the local community—that is why I am so pleased with the way that local community policing has gone, because that is the way to get to the root of these issues. I will write to the noble Lord on the other point.
My Lords, I hope that the Government are still in listening mode on these matters because I have a suggestion that I would like the Minister to take away and consider. The police clearly need help because of the constraints on the costs of employing enough police. We have in this country something like 100,000 postmen. I suggest that each of them be equipped with a radio and that their vehicles be equipped with CCTV and they be used as additional eyes and ears for the police. If they do not want to co-operate, they do not have to but if they volunteer to join the scheme, they would get a little bonus of £100 or £200 for every time they spotted or stopped a crime.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for those thoughts. I will need to sit and think quite hard about the suggestion before I say anything about it. The Postman Pat force may have some attractions but I will need to think about it.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on commissioning a wide-ranging report on the police service, as opposed to simply looking at the populist things that appear in the press and other quarters. I have not had the opportunity of reading the report, so if I am wasting time, I apologise in advance. I will just mention two things; the first is about the community support officers. The village where I live contributed financially to get the first community support officer, in the days when it was a substantially controversial issue. We were well satisfied. I suspect that, if it can be done, some increase in their authority would go down extremely well with the public. There are limitations on it and there is scope for improvement, providing it does not tread too far upon the responsibilities of the police. That brings me to my second point.
If I have experience in anything, it is probably in trying to analyse and define duties, and the devil is always in the detail. The classic example is that there were woodworkers and there were metalworkers. Then somebody had the bright idea that we should bond wood and metal and we had a real problem. I suspect that we are seeing whether there are police duties that can be devolved or shared in some way. Civilianisation is a classic example. I recall from my days on the Audit Commission coming across police car pools run by policemen that could very well be run by civilians. There is clarity about that division, which cannot be denied, but in day-to-day duties, it is very often difficult. One does not want to create a situation in which a policeman says, “I’ll do this” and somebody else says, “It’s my responsibility”. I hope that in looking at duties, great care is taken to ensure that it is practical as opposed to theoretically desirable.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Christopher raises some interesting points. As regards the police community support officers—we now have about 16,000—we have to be careful about increasing authority for them. However, the Home Secretary, with ACPO and the APA, has actually commissioned a review of the PCSOs and whether authority can be increased will be considered. One has to be quite careful, because they are not fully designated police officers.
With regard to civilianisation, I go back to what I said earlier. There is considerable merit in doing this in some areas, because there is no doubt that there are jobs that, just for historical and other reasons, are being done by highly trained police officers which actually do not need police officers who have been trained with all those full powers. I came across a similar thing in the Armed Forces where soldiers, sailors and airmen did things that could be equally well done by civilians. Civilians are much cheaper when it comes to doing these things, so it makes sense for us to get value for money. It will also enable us to get more of the scarce uniformed and fully trained officers on the street. I say scarce, but there are actually 140,000 of them—we have spent £5 billion extra on police numbers.
My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on commenting on the distance that has been travelled between the police and the community, particularly the minority ethnic communities, in the better relationship that now exists. It has been a long journey. We were at a low ebb following William Macpherson’s inquiry into to the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The work which has been done subsequently—the investment put into improving community relations—has relied not only on the police and police-community relations but on the increase in the number of black and minority ethnic police officers on the street. That visibility has become quite important. There was also an acknowledgment on the part of the police service about the fact that they were getting it wrong; that they were racist; there was institutional racism; they were picking up black and other minority ethnic young people in particular, because of their colour and ethnicity.
That acknowledgment helped with the process of building confidence between the police and the community, enabling the community to be more confident about sharing information. The danger that we face now, while acknowledging the need to reduce bureaucracy and apply police resources on the front line to tackle crime, is that we must not allow the opportunity to build on that confidence to be wasted if, through the reduction of bureaucracy, we see a greater inclination towards stop and search and stop and account increasing disproportionately. I realise that that is not the intention, but it is worth stating once again and acknowledging that the investment in time and resources which have gone into building that relationship is a fragile one.
The increased black and minority ethnic police presence is an important part of that process. There is no doubt in my mind that opinions have shifted within the minority communities because they are the victims of crime and they want to see more stop and search. However, I also have no doubt that if there were more black and ethnic minority police officers, they would be inclined to be more ruthless in stopping and searching some of the people on the streets like themselves because they would feel less vulnerable to accusations of racism. That is one factor to bear in mind. We must not lose sight of the fact that we should be very careful in how that is reintroduced to ensure that accountability is maintained.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. Those issues are extremely important. I agree wholeheartedly that the relationship between the police and communities is so much better than it was at the time of Stephen Lawrence. Everyone in this House welcomes that, because we all believe that that is correct. The number of ethnic officers has risen dramatically and that is a very good thing as well. The noble Lord is absolutely right that the police do realise that racism was endemic in the police at that stage. That has changed. It is a marvellous change. It is not until one watches a television programme such as “Life on Mars” that one realises what an incredible change has actually taken place in our police service.
The noble Lord is right to raise the dangers in not doing sufficient recording and in allowing stop and search to spread. As I say, we have put in place for the stop and search and stop and account sufficient measures to ensure that there must be a record of ethnicity on who has been stopped. Therefore, there is a check on these things, which must be handled delicately. We must bear all these points in mind.
My Lords, perhaps I may follow the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, on recruitment. The Minister said that ethnic minority recruitment has increased dramatically. That may be so, but it was from a dramatically low base. Like the noble Lord, Lord Christopher, I have not had the opportunity to study the report, but it is extremely important that we continue to encourage young men and women from the ethnic minorities to enter our police force.
I was talking to a youngish Muslim lady from Birmingham. Almost by chance, she said something that left a chill in me. She said that her 18 year-old son was very ambitious to join the police force; but then she paused and said, “Of course, he daren’t say that at the mosque”. That is worrying. We must get young Muslims and blacks into our police force. We must make our police forces reflect much more the communities that they seek to police.
My Lords, I have to agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, says. It is correct that the police must reflect the nation. They are there to protect and to look after the nation, and they must do that. I support that wholeheartedly.
I find it worrying to hear that someone dare not say he wanted to join the police force because of the mosque. It shows some of the peer pressure and the importance of the prevent strategy, as part of the counterterrorist strategy into which it links. It deals with the use of language and a raft of other things. Someone from that background is therefore able to serve in the police force because we have shared values and it is important that they are there protecting them. That is a message that we need to get across. I agree wholeheartedly with what the noble Lord says, and we must make sure that the police reflect our society.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the Government on this report. Interestingly, last night I was at a meeting with our local police force discussing, of all things, asset management and where the police stations were going to be. The comments of the public were interesting. There is no doubt what they want: police men and women and community support officers on the beat. They are in no doubt that they want bureaucracy reduced. In that respect, I welcome the report.
The one thing police men and women hate more than anything else is the time wasting that has resulted from the excessive form-filling, and the inability to get on with the job of catching criminals and policing the neighbourhood. I also agree with the Minister that, if we want to retain the confidence of the communities, we need transparency and accountability. It is not bureaucracy that protects communities, but transparency and accountability, and a confidence in communities in feeling that this new approach—which I believe to be the right approach—will benefit all the community.
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Young that transparency in almost every area in public life is a very good thing. For example, corruption cannot exist when there is transparency. Yes, people should be accountable.
I have to say that our police do the most fantastic job and there are some wonderful young men and women there. However, they do not want to be filling out forms that they feel are of no use. I hope that this report will stop that happening and that we will be able to get more of them doing what they should be doing. I am sure that we will. That is a positive aspect.
From today’s debate, I have found it reassuring that all Members of this House see that as important. We might have different perspectives on how to achieve some of those things, but we all believe that it is important. Equally, there is good support for our police service across the House, too.