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The Government are very concerned about increases in knife crime and its impact on victims, families and communities. The action we are taking is set out in our serious violence strategy and includes new legislation in the Offensive Weapons Bill; the community fund to support local initiatives; the #knifefree media campaign; and continuing police action under Operation Sceptre.
The Minister knows that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 currently prevents the police from using past criminal convictions as grounds for determining whether a search is proportionate. Will she consider changing PACE so that people who are stopped for a legitimate reason and who are found to have a recent criminal conviction for carrying knives can actually be searched by a police officer?
My hon. Friend brings his experience as a special constable to the Chamber, and I am grateful for his service. We are clear that stop and search is a vital policing tool, and we are committed to tackling knife crime. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act officers already have the power to search an individual they suspect to be carrying a knife. We therefore believe the current arrangements to be proportionate, but we will keep them under review and continue to work closely with the police to ensure they have the tools they need. I will be happy to meet him to discuss it further.
The Home Secretary announced in September that the Government would adopt a public health approach to tackling knife crime, a measure recommended by the Youth Violence Commission following strong evidence that it works. When will the House be given the opportunity to debate this vital issue?
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady and other hon. Members on both sides of the House for their work with the Youth Violence Commission. She will know from our scrutiny of the Offensive Weapons Bill how seriously we take the public health approach—we looked at it through the development of the serious violence strategy. She will know there was a debate before the summer recess on serious violence, but I am always happy, as she knows, to debate how we help support our police forces in tackling this terrible crime.
I am afraid there is strong pressure on time today.