Motion A

Part of Public Order Bill - Commons Reason – in the House of Lords at 3:46 pm on 26 April 2023.

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Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:46, 26 April 2023

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their engagement throughout the passage of this Bill. As I have already said, the Bill has undoubtedly received the scrutiny that the British people would want and expect, and it is only right to acknowledge that, through the scrutiny of this Chamber, important compromises have been made along the way.

I do not wish to detain noble Lords for longer than necessary. We have debated the contents of this Bill scrupulously and there remains just one disagreement. It is still the Government’s position that we do not support the changes proposed by your Lordships to Clause 11 on the power to stop and search without suspicion. This has been reiterated by the other place, which voted to disagree with your Lordships’ Motions 6H and 6J. Our position has been, and remains, that these changes are unnecessary.

As I mentioned in the previous debate, I remind noble Lords that a legal framework already exists for all stop and search powers. Section 3.8 of PACE Code A requires an officer conducting a search to give the following information to the person being searched: that they are being detained for the purposes of a search; the officer’s name and the name of the police station to which the officer is attached; the legal search power that is being exercised; the grounds for the search; and that they are entitled to a copy of the record of the search and can ask for this within three months from the date of the search. I have already committed, as has the Policing Minister in the other place, to amending PACE Code A to further improve transparency of the use of all stop and search powers. We will make it a requirement to communicate the extent of the area authorised for the suspicionless stop and search, the duration of an order and the reasons for the order where it is operationally practical to do so.

There is a good reason for these changes to be made to PACE Code A and not to the Public Order Bill, which is consistency. We want these changes to apply across the board to all stop and search powers, not just those being debated today. Placing them in the Bill would create one rule for stop and search for protests and another for stop and search for other purposes. This would inherently complicate officers’ training, increasing the chance that these powers are misused. I am sure that all noble Lords agree that this is something we must minimise.

I would also like to reassure all noble Lords that amending PACE Code A does not deny these changes to the principle of stop and search-appropriate scrutiny. Changes to the code require a full consultation with external stakeholders, such as the APCC, MOPAC, the NPCC, the Bar Council, the Law Society and others on the proposed changes and must be brought back to the House for us to consult upon before they are enacted into law.

Finally, on the requirement for a charter, it remains our view that this would be unnecessarily burdensome. The legislation already makes it clear when these powers can be used, and this is bolstered further by the additional requirements for the use of stop and search contained within PACE Code A. This will provide the right balance between tackling these disruptive protesters and protecting the rights of each citizen when these powers are used, so I call on all noble Lords not to insist on their amendments and to pass the Bill as presented. I beg to move.