Lammy Review

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:33 pm on 30th June 2020.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 1:33 pm, 30th June 2020

Racism is an abomination. It is morally and intellectually bankrupt, and it strikes at the foundations of a fair and just society. It is particularly corrosive when found within the criminal justice system, because in that context the stakes are particularly high—guilt or innocence; freedom or incarceration.

That is why the Government, back in 2017, commissioned the Lammy review into the treatment of and outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system. Although it was an independent review, it was heavily backed by Government resources. A team of six, headed by a senior civil servant, were devoted to the review, and it took evidence from across the world, with fact-finding trips as far away as the United States and New Zealand. We are profoundly grateful to Mr Lammy for the constructive and consensual way in which he led the review, and for the valuable 35 recommendations it produced. It is a good report and it has made a big difference.

Not uncommonly when reviews are commissioned, it was clear to Government that not every last recommendation could or indeed should be implemented precisely as requested. The Government made that clear, and they did so openly and publicly in their December 2017 response. Instead of flatly rejecting a large number of the recommendations, the Government were mindful of the importance of progressing the policy intent that lay behind them. That is why the Government undertook to take them forward to the fullest extent possible. They repeated that stance in the further lengthy progress updates they published in 2018 and most recently earlier this year, with the latest one running to more than 80 pages. The position now is that 16 recommendations have been completed, two have been rejected and 17 are in progress. Of those 17 in progress, 11 will be completed within 12 months and six thereafter.

Let me close by saying that enormous progress has been made, particularly in respect of the functioning and fairness of prisons. By way of one example, recommendation 3, which recommended the publication of datasets held on ethnicity, has been complied with, including in respect of home detention, curfew, release on temporary licence and prisons. All that data is set out in the official gov.uk updates on the “Ethnicity facts and figures” website, which is, by the way, arguably one of the most transparent sets of Government data in this field anywhere in the world. As a result, data on staff and prisoner ethnicity is significantly better than it used to be, allowing a spotlight to be more easily shone on disparities and action taken.

We have gone further, too, making progress in areas such as setting up the Race and Ethnicity Board to hold key partners across the criminal justice system responsible for improvement in their respective areas. Of course there is more to do, and I hope we can continue the constructive dialogue in taking forward the recommendations of this excellent report. I know things are different now. The consensual has necessarily, because of the right hon. Gentleman’s elevation, given way to a more adversarial approach. That is understandable, but great progress has been made. With common purpose and focus, we can finish the job.