Stephen Lawrence Inquiry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 29th March 1999.

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Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler Shadow Secretary of State 5:49 pm, 29th March 1999

I was not arguing against freedom of information. I must confess that, in the past two years, I have become a strong convert to the cause, because getting information out of the current Government is enough to tax any Opposition. I say, as gently as possible, that if we are to have freedom of information, I want it to apply not only to the police and the other public services but to the Home Secretary. We look forward to the Home Secretary's draft Bill on that subject, but I must admit that a Home Secretary who has just introduced an injunction on the whole of the British media would not necessarily be my first choice to introduce a freedom of information Bill.

There is a great deal in the report with which hon. Members from all parties can agree. No doubt there will be some who try to exploit the criticism of the police, and others—including, I suspect, one or two lawyers—who will never be satisfied. However, in my view, most people in this country will support a policy of constructive reform and, to an overwhelming extent, policemen and women will support it as well. That does not mean that each and every one of the proposals will receive support, but there is no doubt about the general support that the report commands.

For our part, the Opposition will support sensible measures to combat racism in this country; sensible measures to promote trust between the police and ethnic minorities; and sensible measures to work to eliminate racial discrimination, which clearly offends any concept of equality of opportunity in this country. We shall not support generalised attacks on the police or measures that unnecessarily harm the morale of the service; nor shall we support the making of bad law, however well-intentioned it is, or measures that infringe other rights. It is a question not only of condemning racism—although that is important—but of finding the right measures to fight racism. That second task will be far more difficult than the first, but we shall certainly do our utmost to help.