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Stop and Search Powers

Volume 816: debated on Wednesday 17 November 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the Home Office will publish data on the use of stop and search powers for the year up to April 2021.

My Lords, as announced on GOV.UK on 25 October this year, data on the use of stop and search powers for the year to April 2021 will be published tomorrow.

I am incredibly grateful to the Minister for that. She, like others, will have read newspaper reports just last week conveying suspicions that the data had been suppressed because the police Bill is going through Parliament. Similarly, there are concerns about the Government’s consultation on the Nationality and Borders Bill, the results of which have not yet been published. Will the Minister publish that data as well, certainly before that Bill comes before your Lordships’ House?

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to correct some of the inaccurate claims. The first was that the delay was due to a record level of data, but that was a misrepresentation by journalists; actually, the Home Office needed additional time to quality assure more granular record-level data. Secondly, the decision for delaying the statistics for the PCSC Bill was made by the head of profession, in line with the code of practice for statistics, and was announced at the earliest possible point on GOV.UK.

My Lords, I understand what the noble Baroness has said, but is she aware how this delay looks? On last year’s figures, black people were 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people when the police have the power to stop and search without reasonable suspicion. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill already contains new provisions to allow even more stop and search without suspicion and, on Monday, the Government laid 18 pages of new amendments to the Bill for debate next week, further extending the ability of the police to stop and search people without any reason to think the person they are searching has anything on them. What equalities impact assessment has been made of these new powers and what was the result?

An equalities impact assessment has been done on the Bill, as is done on every Bill, as the noble Lord knows. On how this looks, I have explained the process for producing the statistics and I hope that is satisfactory for the noble Lord. I was disappointed that this Question was not being asked tomorrow, so that we could debate it more fully, with the statistics before us.

I wonder if I can press the Minister to comment on the figure just given by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which is in the public domain—that black people are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Can she comment on this in the light of the case reported in the Guardian of a 14 year-old black schoolboy, who claims to have been stopped and searched 30 times in the last two years, including on one occasion when he left his home to put out rubbish? Does the Minister agree that stop and search is often a crude tactic, that there is a well-founded perception that it is based on racial stereotyping and that once a young person—a child, in fact—has become a target, they tend to remain one?

I am sorry, my Lords; he is right. It has been a very long week and it is still Wednesday.

The noble Lord is absolutely right on that, but of course a young black man is 24 times more likely to be a victim of homicide than a young white person, so the two statistics need to be looked at together. It is true that no one should be stopped and searched based on their ethnicity. The police engage with communities daily and the Government have to abide by codes of practice, and now use body-worn video, to ensure that what they are doing is reasonable and proportionate, in the pursuit of tackling crime.

In tabling at this stage a new set of amendments on the issue of stop and search without suspicion, the Government have stampeded through all our protocols and processes. I have never heard of that happening and I think the noble Baroness probably has not either. Can she explain why this is okay, when we have already passed Second Reading and have nearly passed Committee? Why do the Government think this is all right? Could the Minister please answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which was specifically about an impact assessment on the new stop and search amendments?

As I say, the impact assessment is done on the Bill and it will include the amendments that we propose. Amendments to legislation are often put forward relatively late in the day. In Committee and then on Report, there will be plenty of time to scrutinise them. They are in response to violent crime increasing and the Government’s real desire to tackle it.

The really important point is how we maintain public confidence in the use of stop and search, which is one of the most controversial of police powers. The Government intend to extend that power to a wider range of situations, including when without reasonable suspicion. The publication of the statistics tomorrow will allow us analysis. How are the Minister and the Government going to use those statistics to inform the public and thereby keep public confidence?

The noble Lord goes to the nub of the problem. Certainly, in light of the case of Sarah Everard, trust in the police has to be regained and rebuilt, because we must have trust in those people, the vast majority of whom are there to keep us safe. The police must be held to the highest standards, of course, which is also crucial to public trust in them.

My Lords, the question around stop and search has been going on for decades now, and I do not think we have improved how the police conduct themselves around the black community. The scrutiny that has been taking place seems not to be working. We have listened to noble Lords bring the same subject up time and again, as have I. The Minister talks about the report that is going to be out tomorrow. Why has it taken so long for the report to come out since April? We have not been given much time for scrutiny. We have had so many reports of police misbehaviour within public office—she just mentioned Sarah Everard. When are we going to get to the point when we stop talking about stop and search and the effect it has on the black community?

I pay tribute to the noble Baroness and all the work she has done. Despite the fact that we might have different views on how to go about it, I think we both seek the same ends: trust from communities in the police; and making sure that more black lives are saved through reducing the amount of knife crime and making our streets safer for everyone, including young black men. That is at the heart of the Bill, and the collection of some of the data will help us towards this end—to see whether our policies are working and whether the pilots, when they are rolled out, are more effective than we have been at reducing the number of knife crimes.