With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the use of stop-and-search powers by the police. As I have told the House before, I have long been concerned about the use of stop-and-search. Although it is undoubtedly an important police power, when misused it can be counter-productive. First, it can be an enormous waste of police time. Secondly, when innocent people are stopped and searched for no good reason, it is hugely damaging to the relationship between the police and the public. In those circumstances it is an unacceptable affront to justice.
That is why I commissioned Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary to inspect every force in England and Wales to see how stop-and-search powers are used, and it is why last year I launched a consultation to ensure that members of the public, particularly young people and people from minority ethnic communities, could have their say.
Today I am publishing a summary of the responses to the consultation and placing a copy in the House Library. The consultation generated more than 5,000 responses, and it was striking that those on the receiving end of stop-and-search had very different attitudes from those who are not. While 76% of people aged between 55 and 74 thought that stop-and-search powers are effective, only 38% of people aged between 18 and 24 agreed. While 66% of white people thought that stop-and-search powers are effective, only 38% of black people agreed.
The findings of the HMIC inspection were deeply concerning. The inspectorate reported that 27% of the stop-and-search records it examined did not contain reasonable grounds to search people, even though many of these records had been endorsed by supervising officers. If the HMIC sample is accurate, more than a quarter of the 1 million or so stops carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 last year could have been illegal. This is not the only worrying statistic. Official figures show that if someone is black or from a minority ethnic background, they are up to six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than if they are white, and only about 10% of stops result in an arrest.
In London, thanks to the leadership of Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, changes to stop-and-search show that it is possible to reduce the number of stops, improve the stop-to-arrest ratio, and still cut crime. Since February 2012, the Metropolitan police have reduced their overall use of stop-and-search by 20%, and they have reduced no-suspicion stop-and-search by 90%. In the same period, stabbings have fallen by a third and shootings by 40%. Complaints against the police have gone down and the arrest ratio has improved.
I want to see further progress in London and across the whole of England and Wales. I can therefore tell the House that I intend to revise Police and Criminal Evidence Act code of practice A to make it clear what constitutes
“reasonable grounds for suspicion”— the legal basis on which police officers carry out the vast majority of stops. The revised code will emphasise that where officers are not using their powers properly, they will be subject to formal performance or disciplinary proceedings.
HMIC’s study on the use of stop-and-search revealed that more than half the police forces in the country are ignoring the requirement set out in Police and Criminal Evidence Act code of practice A to make arrangements for public scrutiny of stop-and-search records. This is an important duty that should empower local communities to hold police forces to account, so I have written to all chief constables and police and crime commissioners to tell them to adhere to the code. I have told them that if they do not do so, the Government will bring forward legislation to make this a statutory requirement.
Earlier today, I commissioned Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, to review the national training of stop-and-search with a view to developing robust professional standards for officers on probation, existing officers, supervisors, and police leaders. I have asked the college to include in this work unconscious bias awareness training to reduce the possibility of prejudice informing officers’ decisions. As part of that review, I have also asked the college to introduce an assessment of officers’ fitness to use stop-and-search powers. I want this to send the clearest possible message: if officers do not pass this assessment, if they do not understand the law, or if they do not show they know how to use stop-and-search powers appropriately, they will not be allowed to use them. In order to save as much time as possible, I have asked my officials in the Home Office to work with chief constables and police and crime commissioners to explore the possibility of recording information on the use of stop-and-search via the new emergency services network.
In addition to all these changes, I can tell the House that this summer the Home Office and the College of Policing will launch a new “best use of stop-and-search” scheme. This scheme already has the backing of the Metropolitan police—the biggest user of stop-and-search in the country—and today I have written to all other police forces in England and Wales inviting them to sign up. Forces participating in the scheme will record the outcome of stops in more detail to show the link, or the lack of a link, between the object of the search and its outcome. This will allow us to assess how well forces are interpreting the
“reasonable grounds for suspicion” they are supposed to have in order to use their stop-and-search powers in accordance with law. The scheme will also require forces to record a broader range of outcomes, such as penalty notices for disorder and cautions. This will allow us better to understand how successful each stop and search really is.
In order to improve the public’s understanding of the police, forces participating in the scheme will introduce lay observation policies, which enable members of the local community to apply to accompany police officers on patrol. The scheme will also require forces to introduce a stop-and-search complaints “community trigger” whereby the police must explain to the public how stop-and-search powers are being used where there is a large volume of complaints.
Forces participating in the scheme will make it clear that they will respect the case law established in Roberts by using no-suspicion stop-and-search when it is “necessary to prevent incidents involving serious violence”, rather than just “expedient” to do so. They will raise the level of authorisation to a chief officer and that officer must reasonably believe that violence “will” take place, rather than “may”, as things stand now. This will bring no-suspicion stop-and-search more into line with the stop-and-search powers under section 47A of the Terrorism Act 2000, and I hope it will reduce the number of no-suspicion stops significantly. The scheme will also require forces to limit the application of no-suspicion stop-and-search to 15 hours. It will also require them to communicate with local communities in advance and afterwards, so residents can be kept informed of the purpose and success of the operation.
In addition to these changes, in order to improve transparency and accountability, we will add stop-and-search data to the Government’s hugely successful and popular crime maps at www.police.uk. I have also asked Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary to include the use of stop-and-search in HMIC’s new annual general inspections, which begin towards the end of this year. I have commissioned HMIC to review all other police powers similar to stop and search, including section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, with a view to eliminating any unfair or inappropriate use of those powers.
The proposals I have outlined today amount to a comprehensive package of reform. I believe they should contribute to a significant reduction in the overall use of stop and search, better and more intelligence-led stop-and-search, and improved stop-to-arrest ratios. But I want to make myself absolutely clear: if the numbers do not come down, if stop-and-search does not become more targeted, if those stop-to-arrest ratios do not improve considerably, the Government will return with primary legislation to make those things happen, because nobody wins when stop-and-search is misapplied. It is a waste of police time. It is unfair, especially to young, black men. It is bad for public confidence in the police. That is why these are the right reforms and why I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Home Secretary for early sight of the statement.
It is four years since the Equality and Human Rights Commission report described serious problems with the way stop-and-search was being used, describing disproportionate and inefficient use of stop-and-search and raising concerns about racial discrimination, because we know that, as the Home Secretary herself said, young people from ethnic minorities are six times more likely to be stopped. Since then there has been strong support across the House for reform, and it is welcome that the Home Secretary has finally come forward with proposals, but these proposals are extremely limited. They do not match up to her previous promises and they do not go far enough.
We all agree that the police need to have powers to stop and search individuals suspected of crime or to prevent a serious threat. Officers have to deal with serious problems such as teenagers in gangs carrying knives and organised criminals carrying guns or stolen goods or dealing deadly drugs, and intelligence-led targeting of suspected criminals helps to cut knife crime and youth murders. The right hon. Lady and I agree that too many searches, however, have not been targeted at all. Last year there were a million stop-and-searches; of those, only 10% led to an arrest. That means hundreds of thousands of stops and searches led only to resentment.
The Home Secretary and I agree that resentment creates barriers between communities and the police, particularly in ethnic minority communities that are most affected. That is bad for the innocent people who are regularly and unfairly stopped, bad for the police because it is an expensive waste of time, and bad for community safety because it undermines the very relationships we rely on for policing by consent.
The Home Secretary has powerfully described the problem, but four years on her proposals are very limited. They are welcome but they do not match the scale of the problem that she herself has described. A new assessment for police officers using stop-and-search is sensible and welcome. Revising the code of practice is fine, but it is not clear why she could not have done that straight after the EHRC report four years ago. Commissioning the College of Policing to review training is sensible, but she could have done that last July. A new “best use of stop-and-search” scheme that sounds very sensible will be only voluntary.
What about the things that we called for? Why is the Home Secretary not banning the use of targets given to police officers to stop and search a certain number of people? Why will she not put the guidance on race discrimination on a statutory basis? Why will she not insist that all forces abide by case law, rather than some? That is what she called for five months ago. She wrote to the Prime Minister in December saying that she wanted to change the law on section 60 stop-and-search
“so that the test for the power’s use is ‘necessary’ and ‘expedient’”.
We agreed, but instead all she is introducing is a voluntary scheme. She said then that she would raise the authorisation to a senior officer and strengthen the test for using the powers. We agreed. Instead, she has a voluntary scheme that forces do not even have to sign up to. Her plans have been frisked of serious substance and we need to know why the Home Secretary has backed down.
The right hon. Lady’s advisers have blamed regressive attitudes in No. 10, but why has she listened to them? She was right and they were wrong. These proposals are too weak and the Home Secretary has given in. Why is the Prime Minister ignoring the voice of ethnic minority communities? Why is the Prime Minister ignoring the impact on good policing, and why is he blocking sensible reform? Why is the Prime Minister not listening to his Home Secretary?
That was a disappointing response from the shadow Home Secretary, but it was characteristic of her. The right hon. Lady complains that we are not going far enough and seems to imply that Labour would like to go further on stop-and-search, but perhaps I could remind her of some of the facts.
When Labour was in power, overall stop-and-search powers were not curbed; they were extended. Perhaps she has forgotten the stop-and-search powers introduced by the Terrorism Act 2000—powers extended by her Government and limited by this Government. When Labour was in power, section 60 powers were not curbed; they were extended. Has she forgotten the decision to extend the reasons for the police to be able to use section 60, the extension of the time limits for section 60, or the decision to reduce the rank of the authorising officer from superintendent to inspector for authorising section 60—powers extended by her Government and now limited by this Government?
When Labour was in power the PACE codes of practice were not strengthened; they were weakened. Has the right hon. Lady forgotten the date when breaching the PACE codes ceased to be a disciplinary offence? That date was April 1999, when her party was in power. Checks and balances were weakened by her Government and strengthened by this Government. When Labour was in power, no-suspicion stop-and-search did not go down; it went up. Section 60 stops went from fewer than 8,000 in 1997-98 to 150,000 in 2008-09, but down to 5,000 last year. [Interruption.] Stops under the Terrorism Act went from 32,000 in 2002-03 to 210,000 in 2008-09, but down to zero last year. No-suspicion stop-and-search was up under her Government but down under this Government.
When Labour was in power the overall use of stop-and-search did not fall; it went up from just over 1 million in 1997-98 to more than 1.5 million in 2008-09 and down to 1 million last year, so overall stop-and-search under the right hon. Lady’s Government went up and it has gone down under this Government. Mr Hanson, a former policing Minister, was commenting from a sedentary position earlier. Speaking in 2008, he boasted: “We have increased stop and search powers”.
In 2007, when the Home Affairs Committee recommended:
“Alternatives to stop and search that might help the police engage better with young people should be considered”,
Labour’s Home Office replied, “We disagree.” Let us not rewrite Labour’s history when it comes to stop-and-search.
This is a serious subject. It is about the relationship between the public and the police, and it is about police time. The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford mentioned a few issues to which I will turn. She mentioned the EHRC report from four years ago and seemed to imply that there had been no Government action since then. In fact, I have been working with HMIC, the Association of Chief Police Officers, chief constables and, in particular, the Metropolitan police since I became Home Secretary. I refer to my earlier point that the powers were extended under the right hon. Lady’s Government and have been reduced and limited under ours.
The right hon. Lady asked about the issue of officers having targets to stop and search people. I am clear that that is entirely unacceptable, and in my letter to chief constables I have told them that any such targets should be abolished.
The right hon. Lady asked about section 60 and why I was not introducing legislation now. She commented on the need to change the law so that stops can be used only when they are necessary to prevent incidents involving serious violence, rather than expedient. She obviously did not hear what I said in my statement and she obviously does not appear to know that the case law established in Roberts effectively does precisely that. There is no longer any need to legislate in that respect. The right hon. Lady commented on legislation to bring in action, but what we are doing will bring in action this summer, whereas legislation, as she well knows, would take a considerable amount of time.
The right hon. Lady talked about some of this just being voluntary. The Metropolitan police has signed up to it. I say to her that if she wants to see these changes and the “best use of stop-and-search” scheme extended, she should be encouraging the Labour police and crime commissioners in metropolitan areas to adopt these exact proposals, and I hope she will do just that.
I am afraid the right hon. Lady has just shown a complete lack of credibility on this issue as she carries on complaining and playing party politics. Whenever I have raised this subject in the past, she has said nothing about it. She only got interested in it when it appeared in the newspapers and she thought she could play party politics with it. She can play party politics, but I am interested in the national interest. I am clear that stop-and-search should be used less. It should be targeted and it needs to be used fairly. If that does not happen, we will bring back primary legislation. The difference between her party’s record and that of mine and this coalition Government is clear: we are serious about stop-and-search reform and she is not.
May I welcome these important reforms? I am well aware that many people in ethnic communities in my constituency have said that they would like to work more closely with local police, but that they have felt alienated by the current stop-and-search policies and powers. I think these important reforms will make a real difference to that relationship.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. That is precisely one of the problems. When stop-and-search is misused, it leads to a lack of confidence between the police and the public. If the police are willing to work with local communities to target the use of stop-and-search much more clearly and to inform them about why they are using it and what is happening as a result of having used it, we will see precisely the confidence my hon. Friend talks about.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement and endorse her plan of action, which is in keeping with a number of the recommendations of the Home Affairs Committee. She is right to single out the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who has made a huge difference to the way in which this has been accepted and adopted.
Two things, however, trouble me. First, did the police give a reason in the responses to the consultation as to why this disproportionality existed in the stopping and searching of black and Asian individuals? We have known about it the whole time we have been in Parliament—the Home Secretary is not saying anything new—but did the police advance a reason as to why it was happening? Secondly, I endorse what the Home Secretary said about getting a voluntary arrangement, but if it does not work, what is the timetable for legislation?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his tone and the approach he has taken to this matter. Once again, he has taken a very responsible approach, in contrast to that taken by those on his party’s Front Bench. The consultation responses have been placed in the Library. I think I am right in saying that it did not specifically ask the police that particular question, so it does not appear in the responses. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of some of the issues that the police have raised previously, including in relation to when the EHRC cases were raised.
I am not able to give the right hon. Gentleman a timetable at the moment. He will appreciate that as we approach the last Session of this Parliament, it is harder to give timetables on such matters, but I am clear that if the voluntary code does not work we will introduce primary legislation.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and welcome in particular her commitment to a wider legislative review. Police powers in the Road Traffic Act 1988 are also disproportionately used to target young black men in cars. Does the Secretary of State agree that reforming stop-and-search culture and restoring the faith of black and minority ethnic groups in the system will be a process and not a single legislative event?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for welcoming the wider work I have commissioned from HMIC. She is absolutely right. I have announced a package of proposals today. Obviously, we have to see those being taken up by forces. This is about a process, and it is about changing attitudes in the way my hon. Friend has described as so necessary.
The Secretary of State will be aware that after the riots, the victims panel set up by the Government targeted section 60 blanket notices as the root cause of stop-and-search. I was also grateful to be able to serve on the review set up by the HMIC. I say to the Secretary of State that this will require legislation. I welcome the progress she has made, but section 60 came in through legislation and we need to change it through legislation.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman not only for the explicit work he has mentioned, but for raising the issue over the years during his time in this House. The Roberts case has established case law in relation to the interpretation of section 60, and that makes it clear that there must be necessity rather than just expediency.
I congratulate the Home Secretary on her statement and her work to control these important but overused and discriminatory powers. More than 500,000 stops are drugs-related, but 93% of those stopped did not have anything illegal on them. Does the Home Secretary agree with the Runnymede Trust and StopWatch that heavy-handed policing of the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use is damaging community relations?
My hon. Friend and I have had discussions on these matters in the past and we take a slightly different approach to drugs and dealing with them. The Government have a very clear drugs strategy. Where he is right is that when there is a stop-and-search of somebody who is innocent and there are no reasonable grounds for suspicion or purpose behind it, it engenders exactly that distrust and lack of confidence. That is why targeting it more carefully, and changing and making absolutely clear what reasonable grounds for suspicion are, will help to address the issue.
Is not the crux of the matter that a law-abiding white person is unlikely to feel that he will be subject to stop-and-search, but that that is not likely to be the position of a law-abiding black person? May I also tell the Home Secretary that in my first Parliament, which was a long time ago, Labour passed legislation to ban for the first time any form of racial discrimination? I was very proud to support that law.
The hon. Gentleman has more experience in this House than me in terms of the number of years served. The first issue he raised is absolutely one of the problems. I attended a public meeting held by Ms Abbott in the House of Commons, when she brought people from black and ethnic minority communities to the House to talk about their experience, and they very forcefully made clear to me what that experience was. I more recently met a group of young students from a school in Wandsworth who were very clear about the impact stop-and-search has on their attitude towards the police. Their assumption is that it will happen to them, whereas, as Mr Winnick says, the figures show that the assumption of a young white male is that it will not happen to him.
I warmly welcome the package announced by my right hon. Friend. It is wide-ranging, long-needed and, as has been said, in line with what the Home Affairs Committee has been saying for a long time. Does she share my hope that it will take some of the controversy out of stop-and-search, and that in future there will be a consensus whereby stop-and-search is used effectively in the interests of protecting the public and that it will recognised in all quarters as such?
I absolutely agree. We need to restore the public’s confidence in stop-and-search, but all the evidence —as we are already seeing from the steps taken by the Metropolitan police and one or two other forces—is that when the power is targeted and used effectively and well, not only is it more effective in its purpose of protecting the public, but the public have greater confidence in it.
For many people, the critical issue is that if I am stopped by a police officer, I am treated as a nice middle-class, middle-aged lady and our relationship is very positive, but young people very often do not have that experience. What will the Home Secretary do to make sure that police officers share the experience of the communities they police so that there is not the tension that very often exists between police officers and young men, particularly young black men on the street?
We intend to introduce policies at a local level that will enable members of the public to apply to go on patrol with the police, and to talk to the police about what they are doing and their experience. Crucially, training not just of new police officers coming through, but of existing officers is of course key to this, which is why what I am asking the College of Policing to do is so important. As I have said, it should be clear that if police officers do not know how to use the power properly, they should not use it.
With the utmost respect to the Home Secretary, may I put on the record my concerns about some of the proposals? I suggest that one thing that is lacking is a change to PACE that would allow officers who stop somebody with serial offences of carrying weapons or drugs to use that previous criminal record as grounds for a search. Those grounds are specifically banned under PACE at the moment. If the power is about targeting real criminals, we need to make sure that it helps police officers go after the real criminals, as well as perhaps making it harder for them to go after those who are not committing crimes.
I recognise that my hon. Friend, as a special constable, has particular experience in these matters. I will reflect carefully on his comment. I want to reiterate that I accept that stop-and-search is a very important power. What is crucial is to make sure that it is used properly, because if it is not used properly but is misused, then it falls into disrepute.
No one can excuse the abuse of stop-and-search powers, but does the Home Secretary accept that the Security Service believes that it cannot move effectively against organised crime without the proper and appropriate use of stop-and-search? Will she therefore assure the House that her proposals will not undermine the safety and protection of the community?
Yes, I can. I am absolutely clear that this is an important power, but it is an important power that should be used properly and effectively. I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance he asks for by again citing the experience that the Metropolitan police has already had: it has reduced its no-suspicion stop-and-searches by 90% and its overall stop-and-searches by 20%; yet stabbings and gunshot crimes have actually fallen over the same period. It is therefore possible to use this important power more effectively than it is being used at the moment.
I thank the Home Secretary for her announcement. She will recall that we recently met a young man who has been stopped 50 times in the past five years, from the ages of 13 to 18. That state of affairs just cannot continue. The last time he was stopped he was collecting some milk for his mum. I welcome the announcement, but I say to the Home Secretary that I thank God my children are not stopped regularly, because I would have a sense of total desolation and alienation if that happened to them.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. The testimony of that young man really brought home to me both the extent to which the misuse of stop-and-search can alienate people, and the problems that people from particular communities, such as that young black man, have experienced over the years. What was distressing was his assumption that, “It will happen to me because I am black”. That is appalling and must not be the case, which is why the reforms are so important.
The Home Secretary will be aware that concern about stop-and-search in urban communities goes all the way back to the 1980s and the original Brixton riots. Given that successive Governments have failed to act, she gets some credit from some of us for taking things as far as she has, but there is no single issue that poisons relationships between urban communities and the police more than stop-and-search. We all heard her say that unless the ratio between stops and arrests gets better, there will need to be legislation. She must be aware that she will be held to that.
The Home Secretary’s statement will be welcomed by everyone who believes in fairness, irrespective of the community they come from. She has taken a really common-sense approach. She mentioned community involvement in the “best use of stop-and-search” scheme. Will she outline in a little more detail the mechanism for formal engagement between the police and communities?
There are two elements of the extra community involvement that we are introducing. One is the requirement that forces will have policies at local level to enable members of the community to apply to go out on patrol with them, so that they can see what is happening and can comment on that. The other is the new community trigger in relation to complaints. We will work with forces to ensure that there is a process, such that if there has been a considerable number of complaints about the use of stop-and-search in an area, the police will need to engage with the community about it.
I want to see what is anyway supposed, under the code of practice, to be there, which is that police forces are working with their communities—talking to them about where particular powers are used, and explaining how those powers are targeted—so that police forces can get community buy-in from the very start.
The Home Secretary’s comments are very welcome. One of the big issues in my constituency and around the country is not the number of stop-and-searches, but the manner in which officers conduct them. I hope that the training will take into account schemes such as a “changing places” scheme that has been pioneered in Hackney. She has talked about the proposals being taken up voluntarily, and I hear her argument about that being quicker in the short term, but will she tell us how many forces have said that they will sign up?
In response to the hon. Lady’s last point, as I said in my statement, the Metropolitan police has signed up and I have written to every other force asking them to sign up. The police and crime commissioners in the major metropolitan areas, where the power is likely to be used to a significant extent, are of course Labour police and crime commissioners, and I entirely trust that Labour Front Benchers will encourage them to adopt such processes.
Does the Home Secretary agree that, beyond the PACE codes and top-down guidance, another layer of protection for the individual is the entrenched discretion in the office of constable? Whatever the PACE codes say and whatever she or chief constables say, any search is illegal unless the individual officer suspects the individual they search.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The figure in the HMIC survey showing that 27% of stop-and-searches did not have reasonable grounds was shocking. That is precisely why we will change the code of conduct—“Code A”—under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to make absolutely clear what reasonable grounds of suspicion are.
As I have made clear, I want the number of stops to come down. The Metropolitan police has already been able to do that through the changes it has made. I want the stop-to-arrest ratio to go up. We will ensure that the training of officers is such that, with the other measures that I am taking, I expect precisely such changes to come through as a result of our reforms.
The figures given by my right hon. Friend on stop-and-search are frankly a stain on British policing. The vast majority of stop-and-search powers are exercised under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, and police officers are required to have reasonable suspicion before exercising those powers. Do not the figures indicate that, sadly, in a large number of cases it is nothing but the colour of the skin of the person being stopped that has caused the stop-and-search to happen?
I am sorry to say that my hon. Friend is right. It is clear that in a large number of cases, there were no reasonable grounds for suspicion. Given that a black person is six times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person, one can only assume that it is the fact that the person is black that leads to the stop-and-search taking place.
It is absolutely disgraceful. Sadly, as I indicated in response to another hon. Friend, the feeling has been passed through to young people in black and minority ethnic communities that this is what happens and is, if you like, a fact of life. I want to change that and ensure that it is not a fact of life.
The charity Release published figures to show that the chance of being stopped and searched was seven in 1,000 for white people, 18 in 1,000 for Asian people and 45 in 1,000 for black people. One of the worst areas in the country for the stopping and searching of Asian people was Gwent, where they were six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Will those disparities be obvious under her new plans, and will she identify and deal with them?
Absolutely. We will put the figures on stop-and-searches on the www.police.uk website, alongside the crime maps, which have proved to be successful and popular. The figures that the hon. Gentleman has given for Gwent show the problem of disproportionality in the stop-and-searches that are being undertaken. I hope that he will play his role by encouraging the police in Gwent to sign up to the “best use of stop-and-search” scheme so that we can change behaviour there, as in other places.
I grew up in Belfast in the early 1970s and, even in the context of a live terrorism situation, there was widespread resentment of the use of random stop-and-searches, which led to the alienation of some parts of the community. However, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is the abuse of the power, rather than the power itself, that needs to be dealt with? Will she comment further on what she said about holding officers to account for their use of the power? Will she confirm that it is not just police areas that will be held to account, but individual officers?
I am happy to confirm that to my hon. Friend. He is right to say that this is an important power and that it is its abuse that causes the problem. It is the abuse of the power that brings it into disrepute. The revised code will emphasise that when officers do not use their powers properly, they will be subject to formal performance or disciplinary proceedings. The individual officer has to ensure that they are using the powers properly. If they are not, action will be taken against them.
The Home Secretary will be aware that the main reason for the Brixton riots was the notorious sus laws. Lord Scarman’s inquiry confirmed that and led to the PACE legislation. I am pleased to hear the announcement this afternoon, although I would have preferred further legislation. Given that young people in particular have been affected by stop-and-search, will she reassure me that there will be continuous monitoring of the use of this power? Will she confirm, as has been said by other Members, that people who abuse the power should be held accountable?
The use of the power will be monitored in a number of ways. As I have said, the figures will be on the website. We are introducing the requirement for extra information to be recorded so that it will be possible to monitor the extent to which stop-and-searches lead to a disposal, arrest or other action. We will then be able to look even more closely at how the power is being used. Getting that information will be an important part of the process.
Like many other people, I thank the Home Secretary for addressing seriously the misuse of stop-and-search powers, which is probably the worst form of legal racial abuse in our country, and for demolishing so effectively the arguments of the shadow Home Secretary by confronting her with the fact that Labour did nothing in office to stop the abuse. May I point out that there are Conservative Members who feel that legislative changes may be required? Will my right hon. Friend assure us that if the changes are not made, she will have no hesitation in coming back to the House and asking for primary legislation?
I give my hon. Friend that absolute assurance. However, as I said earlier, the situation has changed because of the case law that was set by the determination in the Roberts case. I am very clear that if I do not see change, I will be back with primary legislation.
As someone who secured a Westminster Hall debate on stop-and-search two years ago, I welcome the Secretary of State’s comments in as far as they go. In my constituency, there is undoubtedly huge concern about the misuse of stop-and-search powers, but the number of complaints to the police does not necessarily reflect the concern in the community. What does she plan to do to raise awareness among the people who are most often on the receiving end of this policing tool of how to make complaints and of the standards that they should expect when they experience it?
We are exploring how we can best get that message across. As I have mentioned, part of the package that we are introducing in “best use of stop-and-search” is that a significant number of complaints on the use of stop-and-search in an area will trigger a response from the police. We are looking at how we can best use various means of communicating with people, particularly young people, about the extent to which they can complain. As the hon. Lady and others will know from their experience, the sad fact is that because so many people accept that this is just what happens, they do not complain. When the power is used improperly, we want complaints to come through. We are looking at what information we can put out about how stop-and-search should be conducted. The point that Meg Hillier made earlier about the manner in which stop-and-search is undertaken is important and has been raised with me by young people. They say that if it is done with respect, they have less concern about it than if it is done in the usual way.
It is worth repeating that the number of people stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act 2000 was 32,000 in 2002-03 and 210,000 in 2008-09, and that last year the figure fell to zero. Does the Home Secretary agree that that makes the Conservative party, and not Labour, the real party of the reform of stop-and-search?
I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement for reasons that have already been expressed. She says that the community trigger hinges on a large volume of complaints. Will she ensure that that does not become a working quota that must be met before a public explanation by the police is needed? Who will set the threshold for the trigger, and will it be locality sensitive, rather than force-wide? Will a public explanation be given if the number of complaints is short of the threshold, but there is a suggestive pattern of concern?
The hon. Gentleman is right that the new power has to be used carefully and properly so that it does not become a mechanistic process or something that is abused in any way. I want to see a situation where it does not have to be used because police forces talk to the communities in their locality in advance and ensure that they are involved in and understand the use of stop-and-search. We will look into exactly the sorts of issues that he has raised, such as whether the process will be locality sensitive and how it will be put in place, to ensure that it is effective in the places where it is necessary.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s action today and her invitation to all police forces to sign up to the scheme. Does she share my expectation that if a police force does not sign up to the scheme, it will owe it to its community to explain why it has not done so?
My hon. Friend makes an interesting point and I absolutely agree. I think a police force would owe it to its communities to explain why it had not signed up.
May I press the Home Secretary on the number of police forces expected to sign up, and on the time frame over which she will be monitoring this measure to decide whether legislation is needed?
I want all forces in England and Wales to sign up to the code, and I hope that Members of the House will do what they can to encourage their local police and crime commissioners and chief constables to do just that. As I indicated earlier, I will not set a timetable for introducing legislation, partly for the reasons I set out in response to the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. I have long advocated intelligence-led policing, and this is a significant step along that road. Does she agree that the amendments to PACE code A—which are statutory because PACE code A is a statutory instrument—will represent real change for the vast majority of stop-and-searches, and that her approach on section 60 stop-and-searches replicates what has happened with stop-and-searches under the Terrorism Act 2000, where we have seen a reduction to nought without primary legislative change?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right and it is a pity that everybody seems to have ignored or missed the point about the importance of PACE code A and the impact that it has on forces. That is why it is so important that, as I said, we will be amending that code in a number of ways, particularly to make it absolutely clear what are reasonable grounds of suspicion.
Does the Home Secretary agree that one of the tragedies of the misuse of stop-and-search powers is that it puts up barriers between the police and communities that themselves are often the victims of crime? In the process of consulting on this—I know West Mercia police has been consulting widely in my area with ethnic minority communities—police forces should be trying as hard to ensure that they address the concerns of communities about crime as they do about stop-and-search.
My hon. Friend is right, and I also hope that by addressing concerns about stop-and-search, people will see it being used more effectively to help deal with crime that has taken place in those communities. As he says, the problem is that when there is that alienation, often information does not come to the police that could be helpful to them in stopping those crimes or dealing with those committing them.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, and particularly her praise for the enlightened leadership of Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. He has done a brilliant job in London in turning round a difficult situation. We are seeking to transform the culture of the police force. One way that could be done is if at the pre-shift roster meetings held every day, the police inspector or sergeant who is briefing the constables going on the streets repeatedly reminds officers of their duty and of what they need to do to ensure they gain the trust of the public.
My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion. That is an operational matter and it is for the police to decide how they undertake those briefings and the information they give to officers. However, he is right to commend Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe for the changes he has already put in place in the Metropolitan police, and I am pleased that the Met has signed up to the “best use of stop-and-search” scheme, so that we can see further changes still.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her statement and on so clearly highlighting the difference between the records of this Government and the Labour Government. Does she agree that it is entirely unacceptable for anybody to be stopped and searched on the basis of the colour of their skin?
As a serving special constable with the British Transport police, I warmly welcome the Home Secretary’s proposals. Which police force is best at stop-and-search, which has the best stop-to-arrest ratios, and how might they be involved in training other police forces? Following the question from my hon. Friend Mr Walker about the lad who was stopped 50 times, can we ensure that such individuals are involved in the College of Policing and in devising training programmes, so that police constables have real life examples of where things have gone wrong, which would then be in their minds when they go out on the streets?
The most improved force, certainly in relation to stop-and-search, is the Metropolitan police force with the work that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has been doing to change its approach to stop-and-searches. We have seen across the board that there is often good practice in pockets of forces. The first stage of the work that I have been doing with forces on stop-and-search was precisely to encourage the Association of Chief Police Officers—as the business leads were then under the aegis of ACPO—to spread good practice. However, it has been necessary to come forward with this wider package of reforms to ensure that best practice is spread. My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion, and the more we can alert police officers to the impact of what they are doing by talking to people who have been on the receiving end, the more they will come to understand the problem.