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Macpherson Report: Twenty-two Years On – [Siobhain McDonagh in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms McDonagh. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), the chair of the Home Affairs Committee, on her important contribution today. I put on the record how incredibly important the Home Affairs Committee report is, how thorough and good it was, and how important it is, 20 years on from the Macpherson report, that there is something looking back on what has been achieved and what has not.

My right hon. Friend set out very well what stage we are at, and how much more needs to be done. I am particularly pleased that during the process the Committee managed to talk to young people about their experience at the other end of a stop and search. I was talking to a Conservative police and crime commissioner the other day, who is black, and has been stopped and searched many times. I suspect that most of us in this Chamber have not had that experience because we are white. To understand what it feels like, and how intrusive it can be, I think we need to speak to people who are affected. I congratulate the Committee for thinking to do that—and for ensuring it was done.

We have been talking about racism and disproportionality in policing for decades, certainly since the Scarman report in 1981, the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1992 and then the Macpherson report in 1999. That report was a watershed moment for British policing. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North said, the national figures on public confidence show that there is a significant variation, depending on their ethnicity, in people’s confidence in the police. Confidence in the police was at 74% for white British people, 69% for black African people and 54% for black Caribbean people. The murder of Stephen Lawrence and the campaigning that has been done since has been so important in shining a light on these issues. I cannot not mention Doreen and Neville Lawrence, who have been so instrumental and gracious in the way they have tried to help us all do better when it comes to these big problems of racism.

When the Home Affairs Committee looked at Macpherson, it did find, as has been said, that there has been positive progress in some areas and that the policing of racist hate crimes and the representation of ethnic minorities within police ranks has improved. However, it found that there are persistent, deep-rooted and unjustified racial disparities in key areas. It found a lack of confidence in the police, a lack of progress on recruitment, problems in misconduct proceedings and stark racial disparities in stop and search. Although the Committee found that policing today is very different from 22 years ago and that there have been improvements, there are persistent problems and unjustified racial disparities in a number of key areas.

Macpherson rightly called for police forces to be representative of their communities. At the current rate of recruitment, it will take 20 years until police forces are such. I represent Croydon Central. Croydon is a very diverse borough and although our police force have done some brilliant work with local communities on building trust and confidence—important work, and I praise them for it—the colour of our police officers is still not reflective of the communities that they serve. The unit that goes out and does stop and search in Croydon has about 80 people, and last time I checked there was not a single black officer among them. That absolutely has to change, and change is happening too slowly.

Black and minority ethnic police officers are more than twice as likely to be dismissed from their role than white officers. The report also found that stop and search is more disproportionate now than it was 22 years ago. We know that when it comes to stop and search, the measure of success is whether a knife or something similar is found. When the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) was Home Secretary and reduced the number of stop and searches and made it more intelligence-driven, the incidence of disproportionality fell in that period. It has got worse again with greater use of section 60 stop and search.