Stephen Lawrence Steering Group

Home Department written statement – made on 21st October 2005.

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Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Home Secretary

Earlier this year, I asked my officials to carry out a review of race advisory panels within the Home Office to ensure that we are getting the most effective advice. The review recommended we move away from Standing Committees to a project-based approach, in which groups with relevant perspectives, community links and expertise are brought together to offer advice on specific issues within timescales that help us to deliver change quickly.

I have therefore stood down the Stephen Lawrence Steering Group and am establishing a number of project groups to take forward this work. Many of the members of the Stephen Lawrence Steering Group will be involved in projects.

The first set of new projects will include:

(i) Building relations between services, including the police service and prisons, and ethnic minority communities.

(ii) Reaching out to young people who are disengaged and disadvantaged from black and minority ethnic groups.

(iii) How to increase the number of black and minority ethnic staff at senior levels in public services—in particular police chief constables.

As part of our cross Whitehall leadership role we have also identified two areas where we could work with other Government Departments:

(iv) Race and homelessness (in partnership with ODPM)

(v) Encouraging, supporting and growing BME businesses (in partnership with the DTI).

The project groups will involve leading practitioners, business leaders, academics and professionals. I want to make sure in particular that we engage young people in this process. Existing projects which are sponsored by the Home Office in consultation with Race Advisory Panels are: Stop and Search, Racist Incidents, the Police Race and Diversity Learning and Development Board, the Naturalisation and Integration Advisory Board, Drugs and Prisons will continue.

The Lawrence Steering Group (LSG) was set up in 1999 to oversee progress and advise on the implementation of the 70 recommendations from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report. With the advice and support of its members, the majority of the 70 recommendations have been implemented. Those that are outstanding are being actioned by the relevant departments to ensure compliance with the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report.

I am grateful to the work of all those who have been members of the Lawrence Steering Group, and recognise in particular the tireless and significant contributions of Doreen and Neville Lawrence. The work of the Stephen Lawrence Steering Group has been central to the very real progress which has been made in the criminal justice system and especially in the police service, in combating racism and giving better service to all communities. The name of Stephen Lawrence will continue to be a driving force for change in race relations and elimination of race discrimination.

The work of increasing the responsiveness of the criminal justice system, policing to the needs of citizens and of making them truly representative of the communities they serve is far from complete. More needs to be done to intensify the focus on race and address the issues that are pertinent to building the trust and confidence between the black and minority ethnic communities and the police service and criminal justice system.

These changes in the way that we work on issues, in no way represents a lessening of the Governments commitment to the race equality agenda. There are now clearer lines of accountability for the projects through Cabinet. Earlier this year, I reaffirmed our commitment to race equality in the police service in my response to the CRE's inquiry into racism in the police service, and I do the same again now.

The 6th and final annual report of the Stephen Lawrence Steering Group is to be published on 27 October and I will arrange for copies to be placed in the Library of the House. I will also shortly publish a report carried out on behalf of the Home Office by the London School of Economics into the effect of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry on policing. Again, I shall place copies in the Library.