BAME Communities: Stop and Search — [Albert Owen in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:36 am on 23rd May 2018.

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Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 10:36 am, 23rd May 2018

I have published the figures, and I would venture that Prevent is working. It allows people who have set off on a path of violent extremism to be diverted from that path and to re-engage in society, and in doing so, it protects many of us on the streets. The figures show that hundreds of people who had been a serious concern are not in prison—we did not cut corners and lock them up without trial, or that sort of thing—but back in their communities, and some of them, hopefully, are back in the mainstream.

We all have a job of recognising and communicating that Prevent is about safeguarding. When we do, and when I speak to communities up and down the United Kingdom, we find that although some in the communities are worried about it or do not like it, a growing number of people realise that it is a safeguarding tool that works.

We have had many debates about Prevent before, but it is about allowing communities, alongside local police, to engage, and about seeing what we can do to make people desist, disengage and turn around. In some communities it works, but I know that, as the right hon. Lady says, we have more work to do in other areas. Whenever I say, “Please give me an example of your version of Prevent,” every single person just describes Prevent. They do not usually come up with anything different, because at the end of the day it is effectively a safeguarding measure.

I need to press on to the heart of the debate about stop-and-search. In 2014, when we started work on a major public consultation on the use of the power, troubling evidence came to light that it was not being used fairly, effectively or, in some cases, lawfully. For example, figures showed that of 1.2 million stop-and-searches carried out in 2010-11, only 9% led to an arrest. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, as it was known at the time, found that potentially more than a quarter of stops carried out by the police were without sufficient legal grounds, and it also found poor knowledge of the law on stop-and-search among officers and their supervisors.

Statistics also showed that if someone was black, they were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than if they were white, and three times more likely if they were Asian. That was a cause for considerable concern, and still is. It is not that we have forgotten about it, and I would not like the Opposition to venture that that was the case.

As a result of extensive public consultation and community engagement, and of working closely with the police and other partners, the Government introduced several measures, such as clarifying “reasonable grounds for suspicion” in PACE code A, which governs the use of stop-and-search powers, and publishing stop-and-search data on police.uk, which offers local transparency to understand how the police serve their communities.

I take the point of the hon. Member for Bradford West, who asked how there could be oversight. She made a point about police and crime commissioners that I was disappointed with, and if what she said is the case, we should all do more to ensure that it is not. They should have a role in that regard, and they should have it further up their agenda. They have the power to hold chief constables to account. I do not know what the response from her local chief constable is, but if something is troubling the local community, that is the point of our PCCs. They should be communicating, taking those things on board and seeing what steps they can take to ensure that such things are not happening.