policeThe government has rejected a claim made by the Metropolitan Black Police Association (MBPA) that the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is still institutionally racist 20 years after the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Labour’s Lord Clinton-Davis said the MBPA was concerned about “the wholly disproportionate” number of stop and search cases involving black and Asian communities compared with white. He asked: “What is being done to deal with this alleged – I repeat alleged – situation?”

The Home Office minister Lord Taylor told peers: “The government does not believe that the MPS is institutionally racist. [The MPS] has worked hard to improve relations with communities and the representatives of its workforce since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.”

He went on: “I’m happy with any drivers for the police to reflect more fully the communities they serve. That must be a good thing. So I can’t join with my noble friends in this regard.”

Without a hint of irony, the Conservative peer Lord Waddington said: “Does this not come close to the pot calling the kettle black? What could be more institutionally racist than insisting on having a black police association?”

Labour’s Lord Harris asked how many senior officers of Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) rank are from black and ethnic minority (BME) communities as the proportion of the total. And he wanted to know what steps were being taken to ensure individuals who come in via direct entry from those communities are not set up to fail because of the fact that they will not have been through the normal rank structure.

Lord Taylor said he was confident that the new recruitment policy would “enhance the policing profession”. Then he revealed that there are 6,604 BME officers in the 43 forces in England and Wales, representing 5 per cent of total police officer strength. The number of those at chief inspector rank or above is 3.7 per cent. “There are too few at that level,” he said.

The Liberal Democrat’s Lord Dholakia called for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to look at this issue again and carry out a review of race relations policies to see what progress had been made to recruit more BME officers. Several peers could be heard saying “Hear hear”.

Taylor replied: “There is a review investigating allegations of conspiracy to cover up the (Stephen Lawrence) case, and we will take that review seriously. But it doesn’t alter the fundamental strategy which is to try to make sure that the police numbers and the ethnic make-up of policing reflect the communities which they serve.”