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 am not sure whether my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley attended the debate in the main Chamber on serious and violent crime yesterday. If he had, he would have heard me say, as I also said on the radio yesterday morning, that I believe we have the finest police force and intelligence services in the world. I have absolutely no doubt of that.

However I also know, from my own experience, the tension between a tactical response and a strategic response. Providing such responses is what I have experience of doing in very dangerous conditions, and yes, sometimes I stopped and searched. I stopped and searched and found a grenade; I stopped and searched and found a car full of Semtex, despite the mob that appeared when I did that. But I also know, from when I was an intelligence officer, that if the police either stopped and searched in a heavy-handed manner or did it in an untargeted way, all my sources dried up. And then guess what happened? The IRA made a bomb and killed lots of people.

One response is strategic and one is tactical, and we can all play to the gallery and just play to the tactical side for the daily headline. However, my hon. Friend might want to reflect that my job is to deliver strategic security for this United Kingdom, which means balancing risks. Getting the right stop-and-search, which is intelligence-targeted, without setting communities against each other, will be the best way to deliver a strong, strategic and secure community.

So I am not playing for the Daily Mail headline for my hon. Friend; I am playing making my community safe. That is the reality. The Prime Minister had the wisdom to spot that and we in the Home Office are going to deliver it. We will listen to the Opposition and urge them to support us on some of our intelligence-gathering measures, which may mean their having to balance risks. It is important to do things that way. I am determined to deliver, and we are on the right track. I want to make sure our communities are engaged with that approach.

We all accept that stop-and-search is a tool, and we can use it and use it well. Nevertheless, the best tool is when someone in the community picks up the telephone and speaks to their local police force, and as a result we manage to arrest the people carrying the knives and dealing the drugs before they are on our streets.