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Police: Ethnic Minorities

Volume 704: debated on Tuesday 28 October 2008

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What steps they are taking to encourage recruitment of ethnic minorities to the police force.

My Lords, the Government have introduced initiatives, including targeted advertising, mentoring, familiarisation days and specific training to support candidates who may need assistance with language skills. In addition, the Green Paper on policing proposes the introduction of local targets to enable local representation within forces and will feature in the 2010 HMIC inspection. An assessment of the recruitment, retention and progression of minority ethnic staff has just been completed and is now with the Home Secretary.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I have encouraged and will continue to encourage the recruitment of ethnic minorities to the police force. I therefore totally disagree with the recruitment boycott proposed by the Metropolitan Black Police Association. Following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the Government set each police force a target for BME recruitment based on the make-up of the local population. Have those targets been achieved? If not, what measures are being taken to ensure that the police forces achieve their targets and how best can we monitor their progress?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comment on the statement about not recruiting into the Metropolitan Police; that was an outrageous and damaging thing to say and I thank him for his support. I am afraid that we are not making the targets. The NPIA is being enlisted to assess the police forces that are not making them. It is clear that we must do better in this area. We have done a huge amount, but we are not doing as well as we should. However, we are absolutely intent, as are the police, to ensure that we get a correct representation of BMEs in our police forces. It is essential that we do that.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is about time that the Metropolitan Black Police Association in the metropolis was wound up? Is not its very existence divisive and does its existence not smack of racism?

My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Lord’s final statement. However, these are very difficult issues. It is interesting that I was asked last time we debated this question about the percentage of superintendents who are of BME background; the figure was, I think, about eight out of 300, which is about 2 per cent. But it takes about 20 to 22 years to grow a superintendent and, about 20 or 22 years ago, less than 2 per cent of the police were BME. These things take a considerable time. We have done a great deal and have put a lot of things in place. Everyone is struggling to make it happen. When people make outrageous statements, as some have, that does not help at all.

My Lords, is it not the case that for at least 40 years, under-recruitment from ethnic minorities to the police has bedevilled successive Administrations? Since the success over that period was so meagre, will the Government undertake a robust and imaginative programme, as soon as is humanly possible, which concentrates on the fertile areas of schools and universities?

My Lords, we already do that. We go to special recruitment fairs at schools and universities. A great deal has been done not just by this Government but also by other Governments. Post the Macpherson report we have had the breaking through action plan, the Winning the Race report and the Positive Action Events Toolkit document; SEARCH has been established for recruitment; and we have had the Home Secretary’s race, equality, employment targets bulletin and the From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together Green Paper. A whole raft of those things have been put in place and people looking at them and trying to do things.

It is very exciting that a large number of BMEs are going in as PCSOs; the figure is, 11.5 per cent, which is very good. A number of those PCSOs become officers, which is good. In a funny way, that neighbourhood policing initiative and the use of PCSOs is probably a better lever in some ways than some of the other mechanisms.

My Lords, while the MPA’s boycott might be unhelpful, does the Minister agree that when every one of the six most senior non-white officers in the Met has brought a discrimination case against their employer, something extremely serious is afoot, perhaps not in recruitment but in retention? Will the Minister consider leadership counselling and career development for senior levels, and when does he expect the Coaker report to be released by the Home Secretary?

My Lords, the specifics referred to by the noble Baroness are a cause for concern—absolutely—but what they reflect is difficult to know and will take some assessment. I do not believe that it is up to central Government to tell the MPS and the MPA what they have got to do. As she knows, the Mayor of London has put in hand a review—it may take some time because the terms of reference will not be ready until 27 November—which is the correct approach to tackling these issues. The assessment for the Home Secretary—it is not really a report—stems from the fact that there were concerns about what lies behind this. The assessment is with the Home Secretary now, but I do not yet know exactly how it will move forward,. As soon as I do, I shall let the House know.

My Lords, would my noble friend care to comment, first, on yesterday’s press reports that the Mayor of London intends to reduce recruitment targets for the police force in London? Secondly, if it happens, what does he believe will be the consequences for the recruitment of people from ethnic minorities in the London area?

My Lords, I am afraid that I do not know the answer to my noble friend’s question; I have to say that I am unsighted on that. Over the past 10 years or so we have increased the number of police in this country overall, and I hope that if there is any adjustment, it would not have any effect on the number of BME officers coming in. Within London, one in four of the new recruits is BME, and I think a rate of 25 per cent is rather good. However, we have to remember that about a third of the population in London now comes from a BME background, and therefore that is the proportion we should be looking at. Interestingly, in New York some 45 per cent of the police come from that background because that is the split there. Clearly, the police should reflect the society they represent; that is why the PCSO initiative is so good. When I was in the military, we always expected our forces to represent the nation they were defending. I think that the same is true of our police.