My Lords, traditionally, passing out parades have been seen by the police service as a way for new police recruits to celebrate the completion of their initial training with their peers, parents, loved ones and friends. New constables will genuinely appreciate a formal recognition of their achievement and commitment. Passing out parades are one way in which to fulfil this need, and they work well when they are enjoyed by those taking part and focus on the serious side of operational policing.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. Will he ensure that, if the marching part of parades is replaced, it is replaced with an appropriate and fully ceremonial occasion that marks the rite of passage of a police officer entering the police service? Will he also ensure that they continue to be undertaken at the police training centres?
My Lords, it is very much up to the police training centres to decide how they wish to conduct passing out parades. In the past year, some 70 parades were undertaken in seven locations. The Metropolitan police service held 11 at Hendon in that time.
I agree that parades are an important rite of passage, and it is clear that police training recruits greatly enjoy them, as do their family and friends. The Home Office has no intention of wishing them to come to an end, but they need to be modernised and must be appropriate. We welcome the contributions that have been made towards ensuring that is the case.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that in most training centres the recruits use their spare time and off-duty time to prepare for passing out parades? They and their families draw enormous pride from the effort and smartness that they put into these occasions. The local community is usually heavily involved in celebrating the passing out of new recruits.
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord knows far more about the parades than I could ever know. I am aware how recruits participate in the parades, and how they make a personal commitment in their own time. On the two occasions on which I went to training schools to see passing out parades, I was impressed by their commitment and enthusiasm.
My Lords, does the Minister realise that his answer gives great pleasure, when he says that the Government do not intend to do away with passing out parades? Will he confirm that there is no thought that they may replace the marching part of passing out parades, which is part of the spectacle? I think that is what lay behind the supplementary question asked by the noble Baroness.
My Lords, as far as I know, there is no intention to dispense with the marching part of the parades. Clearly, it is for the training schools to decide what is appropriate. Having heard what noble Lords have said, I welcome the enthusiasm and contributions made to recognising the importance of these celebrations of achievement.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the health and effectiveness of our police service demand that there should be a large proportion of faces of a different colour in those passing out parades, and that there should be increased recruitment from ethnic minorities? How are the Government progressing in encouraging greater recruitment from ethnic minorities?
My Lords, the noble Lord is probably aware that when the Government came into office in 1997, we set targets for each force to ensure that the issue was focused on. I do not have the statistics in front of me, but my understanding is that we are making progress on the matter, as well as ensuring an appropriate gender balance.
My Lords, is it not a fact that, at a difficult time for the police, we should not underestimate the importance of camaraderie and discipline? Passing out parades have much to do with that. Parliament and the Government should do nothing to undermine that camaraderie and discipline if our police are to be able to withstand many of the pressures that they will face when they come on to the streets.