With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the police’s use of stop and search.
It is utterly devastating when someone is killed by a weapon. Passivity is not an option, nor is wishful thinking; this will change only if we act. The police have been crystal clear with me that stop and search is a vital tool—it is literally vital; we cannot hope to get weapons off our streets without it. Of course, it must be used skilfully, responsibly and proportionately, as is true of every power with which we invest the police. But it would be a tragic mistake to conclude that stop and search is too controversial to use extensively or that it cannot be used effectively with sensible safeguards.
Suggestions that stop and search is a means of victimising young black men have it precisely the wrong way around; the facts are that young black men are disproportionately more likely to be victims of violent crimes. They are the ones most in need of protection. This is about saving the lives of young black men. Moreover, being stopped and searched when carrying a weapon can prevent someone, of whatever background, from making a terrible mistake that they can never undo. Sometimes we lose sight of that point when debating stop and search.
Black people account for about 3% of our population, yet almost a third of under-25s killed by knives are black. Ninety-nine young people lost their lives to knife crime in England and Wales in the year to March 2022: 31 of them were black; 49 were white; 16 were from other ethnic minority groups; and three victims did not have their ethnicity recorded. It is always bad policy to place unsubstantiated theories ahead of demonstrable fact—in this case, it would be lethal.
Stop and search works. Sir Mark Rowley, the Met police Commissioner, has said there are
“countless examples of offenders being discovered to have dangerous weapons”
during stop and searches, as well as
“tools for burglary and drugs”.
Sir Mark cited research from the Oxford journal of policing that showed that stop and search can cut the number of attempted murders by
“50 per cent or more”
in the worst crime hotspots. Since 2019, more than 40,000 weapons have been taken off our streets and there have been more than 220,000 arrests following a stop and search.
We are starting to trial serious violence reduction orders, which can be given to those with convictions for knife offences. An SVRO means that the police can stop and search that individual at any point, to see if they are carrying a weapon. This will deter those people who repeatedly carry weapons and endanger the public. I saw for myself how well this is working in Merseyside, where there are five live orders already. Superintendent Phil Mullally, Merseyside’s lead for serious violence and knife crime, has said:
“These new powers will enable us to continue to drive down knife crime and reoffending.”
I am proud to say that under this Government it has never been easier for the police to make legitimate use of their stop and search powers, and the use of those powers has never been more transparent and accountable. The public are crying out for common-sense policing, such as the use of tried-and-tested methods to drive down crime. Stop and search is a prime example of such a method.
I am working in lockstep with police forces to get this right. Today, I met Chief Constable Amanda Pearson, who leads on stop and search for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, to discuss how best to empower police officers to better use stop and search.
I have written to all chief constables, asking them to provide strategic leadership and direction in the use of stop-and-search powers; ensure that every officer is confident in the effective and appropriate use of all stop-and-search powers, including the use of suspicionless powers; to investigate instances where someone is obstructing or interfering with the use of these powers and, if necessary, make arrests; and to be proactive in publishing body-worn video footage, which will protect officers who conduct themselves properly and instil greater public confidence.
Public confidence is the linchpin of our model of policing by consent. Therefore, I am looking carefully at strengthening local community scrutiny. Transparency is vital; so is community engagement. I want every community to be able to trust in stop and search. I want to present a clear picture of the stop-and-search landscape that shows the good work being done on the frontline.
That is why the Government will amend the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 code A, to make clear when the police should communicate when suspicionless powers are used in a public order and section 60 context. Suspicionless stop and search must be used responsibly, but we cannot do without it.
I am also mandating data collection on stop and search, as part of the annual data requirement for the Government’s statistics bulletin, published every year. We already collect more data on stop and search than ever before. That data is posted online, enabling police and crime commissioners and others to hold forces to account for their use. Disparities in the use of stop and search remain, but they have continued to decrease for the last three years.
My Department has trialled a more sophisticated approach to calculating disparity in the Metropolitan Police Service. It has produced an analysis based on actual suspects of violent crime, rather than usual residents of an area, as the denominator for calculating rates of stop and search. This is still experimental but shows that disparity ratios were significantly reduced for black people compared with the traditional method, falling from 3.7 to 1.2.
It is always heartbreaking and distressing to read reports about stabbings and shootings. I am struck by how often mothers of murdered young black men say that stop and search could have saved their sons’ lives. We owe it to them to heed their call. The facts are on their side. Stop and search works and is a vital tool in the fight against serious violent crime. I commend the statement to the House.
Knife crime destroys lives, devastates families and creates fear and trauma in communities. Last year, too many young people lost their lives to knife crime—young people who had their whole lives ahead of them
Knife crime is up nearly 70%, compared with just seven years ago. Knife-enabled rapes and knife-enabled threats to kill are at record highs, with some of the steepest increases in the suburbs, smaller cities, towns and counties. Compared with over a decade ago, knife crime is up more than fivefold in Surrey and has almost trebled in Sussex. From Milton Keynes to Swindon to Newcastle, I have spoken to distressed parents and community leaders about rising knife crime and their devastation at young lives being lost.
The Government’s response is wholly inadequate. The serious violence strategy is more than five years out of date, the serious violence taskforce was disbanded and everyone knows, from their own communities, that too little is being done to divert young people away from violence and crime. There are just 18 violence reduction units. When the Home Secretary claims serious violence is going down, she is focusing on the covid period, because the worrying truth is that knife crime and gun crime are rising again.
Today’s statement, therefore, is wholly inadequate as a response to knife crime. Stop and search is an extremely important tool in the fight against knife crime, but it is not the whole strategy. That is why we need a much more comprehensive approach: as part of our mission, Labour has set the determination to halve knife crime and serious violent crime. As stop and search is an important tool, it also needs to be used in an effective and fair way. His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary said that
“well-targeted stop and search is a valuable tool”,
but how the police do it is as important as the act itself, and communities have clear concerns about the fair use of stop and search. His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services had previously said:
“Unfair use of powers can be counterproductive if it leads people to think it is acceptable to not comply with the law. It may also make people unwilling to report when they are the victim of crime or come forward as witnesses.”
That is why it is important that the recommendations that the inspectorate and the police watchdog have made are taken seriously and implemented, and why best practice from forces who are doing a good job is spread across the country.
There have been reports from the inspectorate in 2015, 2017, 2021 and from the police watchdog, little of which the Home Secretary has even acknowledged. She has dismissed concerns about disproportionality. Of course, stop and search for knife crime and for dangerous weapons will likely be used most in the areas and communities where attacks have been the highest. That will affect the number of searches for weapons among young black men, but the chief inspector has said that the presence of disproportionality in crime victimisation rates does not adequately explain why there is disproportionality in stop and search rates. In her statement, the Home Secretary seems to be focusing only on young black men. I think she refers to them around six times, with only one reference to people who are white, even though her own statement recognises that young black men are still the minority of knife crime victims. Does she recognise the importance of following the evidence wherever it takes the police?
The inspectorate said that
“35 years since the introduction of stop and search, the police still cannot explain why these powers are used disproportionately.”
It points out that that is partly because the majority of searches are for drug possession, not for knife crime, and yet figures show that drug use is lower among black people than among white people. The Home Secretary has not addressed that at all in her statement. Will she address the issue of disproportionate drug possession searches?
I welcome the references to the introduction of stronger community scrutiny and better data collection. Those are vital, but they should have been mandatory for many years—they were recommended many years ago. Where is the action that has been repeatedly recommended: training on the use of force; training on de-escalation and communications skills; and proper data collection on traffic stops. None of those has been referred to in her statement. How many of the 18 recommendations by the Independent Office for Police Conduct last year have been fully implemented? How many recommendations from the inspectorate have been fully implemented?
Stop and search is a vital tool as part of a proper strategy, but we need the wider strategy, too. Why is the violence reduction unit approach being used by the Home Secretary in only 18 areas when knife crime is rising in communities across the country? Why has there been no new serious violence strategy for five years? Many people now fear a long, hot summer without swift action. Why is there still no action to bring in a new law on the criminal exploitation of young people, which we have called for? Why is there still no comprehensive action on youth mentors and support for early intervention?
We need a serious approach to tackling knife crime and supporting the police to use their tools in an effective and fair way so that they can save lives. Too many young lives are at stake. We need more than this from the Home Secretary.
I thank the right hon. Lady for her response. It is not just my view, but the view of police that stop and search is fundamentally about saving lives and keeping the public safe. Where used proportionately, stop and search works. Since 2019, more than 40,000 weapons have been seized through stop and search, and 220,000 arrests have been made. The 2021 inspectorate report concluded that the vast majority of stop and search decisions are based on reasonable grounds. That is potentially thousands of lives saved and countless violent incidents prevented.
To those who claim it is a disproportionate tool—a racist tool—I say that we must be honest about what that means for victims. The right hon. Lady, when she was Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, stated:
“Stop & search is more disproportionate now than 22yrs ago, with no adequate explanation or justification for nature & scale of racial disparities.”
Yet again, she is on the wrong side of the argument, and yet again she is not on the side of victims.
What is disproportionate is that black people are four times more likely to be murdered than white people. What is disproportionate is that young black men are more likely to be victims of knife crime than young white men. That is the disproportionality that I am focused on stopping. It is important that we look at the matter with a cool head and on the basis of the evidence.
The emerging picture based on London suggests that when we adjust the data to consider the proportion of suspects in an area and its demographics, rather than considering the data for the country as a whole, the disproportionality of stop and search falls away hugely. I urge the right hon. Lady to consider and reflect on those facts rather than jumping to knee-jerk assumptions. Of course it is right that the powers are used in a responsible and measured way—that is why engagement with communities must be respectful—and it is right that the powers are subject to the highest levels of scrutiny. We now see very few complaints about individual stop and searches. Training on legal and procedural justice has improved and we have seen confidence levels increase.
Overall, I am very proud of this Conservative Government’s achievements: a record number of police officers ever in the history of policing, 100,000 weapons seized since 2019 and falling crime—in fact, serious violent crime has fallen by 40% since 2010. What has Labour done? Labour Members voted against our measures to strengthen the police. They voted against tougher sentences for rapists. They voted against our Bill to stop the militant protesters. Same old Labour—they never fail to miss an opportunity to be on the wrong side of the argument. This Conservative Government are on the side of common-sense policing and on the side of the British people.
Everybody in the House will share the Home Secretary’s laudable aim of cutting knife crime. However, she will remember that when we debated the new stop-and-search powers—I think it was the day after the Casey report came out—I cited some examples from that report where police officers had justified carrying out a search based on the person’s ethnicity alone, had been rude or uncivil while carrying out the search, or had used excessive force, leaving people, often young people, humiliated and distressed and thus damaging trust in the Met. Casey called for a “fundamental reset” of the Met’s use of stop-and-search powers. At the time, I took it that the Home Secretary agreed with the Casey report. Can she tell the House how what she is proposing today, which may have considerable merit, takes on board that reset? How has she absorbed that reset into what she is doing today?
This Government and I fully support the police in the fair use of stop and search to crack down on violent crime and to protect communities. Every knife taken off our streets is potentially a life saved. That is the value that stop and search brings to fighting crime. Today’s announcement brings together a series of measures, including an obligation to do more reporting and a greater increase in the data—something that has been commented on by previous inspectors and reports—so that we have a clearer picture of the use and efficacy of stop and search. Guidance will be issued by the College of Policing, but already we have seen an improvement in accountability and in scrutiny and, as a result, a fall in the number of complaints.
In 2021, the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into how much progress had been made in tackling racism in policing since the landmark Stephen Lawrence inquiry found, as a cross-party Committee, that the disproportionate use of stop-and-search powers against black people was even greater than it had been when Sir William’s inquiry concluded 22 years earlier. No evidence provided to the Committee adequately explained or justified the nature and scale of racial disproportionality in the use of stop-and-search powers. That has damaged confidence in the tactic and in policing by consent.
Of course, stop and search is a valid policing tactic, as the Home Secretary said, but it must be used in a focused and fair way, and underpinned by an evidence base. Can she explain what evidence base she is drawing on when she says that police forces need to “ramp up” the use of stop-and-search powers? Will she commit to commissioning a fully independent and comprehensive study of the efficacy of stop-and-search tactics, and to undertaking an equality impact assessment on this new policy?
As I mentioned in my statement, the Department is trialling a more sophisticated approach to calculating disparity, with a focus on the Metropolitan Police Service. That has produced a useful analysis based on actual suspects of violent crime, rather than the totality of usual residents of an area, as a denominator for calculating the rates of stop and search. It is experimental, but the data emerging from that advanced study demonstrates that disparity ratios are significantly reduced for black people compared with the traditional method, falling from 3.7 to 1.2. That is an emerging evidence base upon which policy will be made.
I strongly support the Home Secretary’s further measures to cut the unacceptable loss of life from violent crime. Will she confirm that her statement is part of a much wider strategy to tackle the underlying causes and problems, as well as the use of weapons?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: stop and search is one tool in our armoury in the fight against violent crime. We have increased police resources and broader police powers; we have continued funding for our violence reduction units, which bring together local partners to tackle the drivers of violent crime in their area; we are working on piloting serious violence reduction orders; we have rolled out knife crime prevention orders; and we have been working intensively with all agencies to ensure that they prioritise such crime and take appropriate action.
The Home Secretary spoke about black mothers. I am a black mother, and I know very many black mothers: they are my friends, my relatives and my constituents. I have represented an inner-city constituency for nearly 40 years. Will the Home Secretary explain to the House how her statement meets the long-standing concerns of black mothers not just about the tragedy of a life lost, but about the use of suspicionless powers, and how, as was asked earlier, it fits in with the Casey review?
As I said, the use of stop and search is, at its core, about saving lives and preventing crime—that is what it is about. I have been incredibly encouraged and reassured by the evidence emerging from local forces. In Manchester, for example, Chief Constable Stephen Watson has said that a 260% increase in the use of stop and search over a defined period correlated with a 50% reduction in firearms discharges and a fall in the number of complaints. I think there is a concerted effect to improve and increase the way in which stop and search is applied. It must be applied judiciously, proportionately and legitimately, but it is a vital tool in saving lives.
My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. That is exactly why we are piloting serious violence reduction orders, which empower the police to place an order on an individual who already has a conviction for a knife-related offence and give police greater powers to stop them should they breach the terms of their order. The initial reports are very positive about the way this extra power is being used by the police.
Maya Angelou said:
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
The Home Secretary has showed us who she is time and again. Just 9% of stop and searches yield offensive weapons or items linked to burglary. No other organisation would ramp up something that yielded a result of only 9%. Scotland was the knife capital of the UK. It reduced its knife crime by 69% by using a public health approach. Why is the Home Secretary not using a public health approach?
I disagree with the hon. Lady’s characterisation. Last year, stop and search resulted in almost 67,000 arrests and removed around 14,900 weapons and firearms from our streets. Crime statistics show that increased use of stop and search is driving the continuing increase in police-recorded possession-of-bladed-weapon offences, helping the police to save lives. Obviously, we work with all agencies, because stopping crime needs a multidimensional, multi-agency approach. That is what our violence reduction units are all about; that is what our Grip funding is all about; that is what our safer streets funding is all about—bringing together all the relevant agencies to prevent crime in the first place.
I agree with the Home Secretary’s support for stop and search when it is used skilfully and responsibly, but when the all-party parliamentary group for children did some work on this a few years ago, we found that an alarming number of under-10-year-olds were being stopped and searched, and that police procedures for younger children were not being used properly. What assurances can she give me that things have changed and that, in particular for sensitive, younger children, stop and search is used only in extremis and under controlled circumstances?
There are clear legal limits around the use of stop and search, and it is only applicable for over-18s—the section 60 power. It is vital that the police understand the use of the legal limits, and that is why I am glad that training in procedural justice has improved. The authorised professional practice issued by the College of Policing will include greater detail on the limits and on how police officers should exercise their powers. The use of body-worn video footage has been a game changer in improving the accountability and transparency of how the power is used. That is why we are seeing a fall in the number of complaints.
I am a London MP, and my community has felt the effect of young lives being tragically lost to knife crime. Some innocent teenagers and black and mixed-race people in my constituency tell me they feel that they have a target on their back for stop and search. With knife crime having risen 65% since 2015 at the same time as suspicionless stop and search has hugely expanded, and with the IOPC itself saying that suspicionless stop and search undermines confidence in the police, why does the Home Secretary once again insist on policy by press release for such complex, sensitive issues instead of focusing on the hard yards of properly resourced community policing based on intelligence gathering to prevent and solve crimes?
I do not accept that. Of course, there is nothing that any of us can say to someone who has lost a loved one to knife crime that will make it better, but tackling serious violence is an absolute priority for this Government, and we are making progress. Since 2010, serious violent crime has fallen by 41%. Our approach has been twin track, combining tough law enforcement such as intensive police patrols in hotspot areas of violence and ramping up the use of stop and search with a more long-term strategy to engage more young people and steer them away from a life of violence. Operation Sceptre, which was recently rolled out through many forces, focuses on knife crime and on using powers proactively, and it has had very good results in many forces when it comes to the seizure of offensive weapons.
Obviously, stop and search can play a big role in keeping people safe on the streets, but it has to be part of a much wider strategy, particularly encouraging young people not to carry a knife in the first place. Would my right hon. and learned Friend consider encouraging police forces up and down the country to use knife wands, which can prove more helpful for those who are being searched and for those searching, and be less intrusive in the whole process?
We have a range of orders, and one of them is being piloted—the serious violence reduction order. If there is any doubt about what I said, let me clarify: SVROs are for over-18s, but section 60s can be used on anyone, including under-18s. Let me just be clear about that.
SVROs are aimed at providing a targeted tool for the police. They are being piloted at the moment, so that anyone who has a conviction for a knife-related offence can be subject to a specific order that will enable and empower the police to stop them more quickly, and therefore prevent crime should that person breach the terms of their order.
We know that the use of body-worn video has increased dramatically throughout police forces, and it is now a significant element in the transparency and accountability. Several layers of scrutiny and challenge are injected into the system these days, whether that is internal supervision, internal feedback, the stop-and-search scrutiny panels, or various other inspections. Body-worn video footage can inform the training and accountability, and that is one reason why there are greater levels of public confidence in stop and search and a lower number of complaints.
I thank the Secretary of State for her statement. Suspicionless stop and search must be used responsibly, but does she agree that any Members who think that that tactic is wrong should speak with officers who have had to deliver the news to a mum or a dad that their son has been stabbed?
My hon. Friend puts it very well. The police—our frontline partners who are dealing with this issue day in, day out; who have to break that tragic news to parents, every parent’s worst nightmare—report back that stop and search, when used lawfully, proportionately and reasonably, is a vital tool in the fight against crime and is fundamentally very effective in saving lives.
Frankly, I hope that my residents in Walthamstow are not listening to this statement, because it is just plain offensive to those of us at the heart of this challenge. Just a few weeks ago, I got up to ask the Prime Minister about a 16-year-old boy murdered in my community outside his school, and another 16-year-old in court charged with that murder. This weekend, last night, I was sat with residents, having an emergency residents’ meeting because we had had a serious shooting in my community—another young man, critical but stable in hospital.
None of my residents would dispute the role that stop and search can play, but we are all arguing—begging, pleading—for this Government to recognise the epidemic of youth violence in our country. If the Home Secretary cares about these young people, as she says she does, she should invest in their future. Under her Government, investment in youth services has plummeted from £158 per head to just £37. I asked the Prime Minister to make this issue one of his national priorities, but he ignored the question. Will the Home Secretary do something different and put her budget into correcting that deficit?
I am very proud of what this Government have achieved when it comes to law and order. We have falling crime; we have a record number of police officers—ever, in the history of policing; this financial year alone, we have put over £100 million into tackling serious violence; and since 2019, 136,000 violent offences have been prevented in places operating Government initiatives. That is thousands of lives saved and thousands of violent incidents prevented. I only wish the hon. Lady would welcome that.
Despite the Government’s efforts to free up the time of frontline police officers by reducing the amount of bureaucracy and paperwork, which takes up more and more of their time, officers often say to me that this increases year on year and so reduces the amount of time they can spend on the beat. What steps are the Government taking to cut out the paperwork and free up frontline time to keep our communities safe?
My hon. Friend raises a very good point. One of the big programmes of work that I am leading at the Home Office relates to freeing up police time and reducing bureaucracy, so that police officers are unencumbered to fight crime and respond to the public’s priorities. That is why we have announced changes to the way police officers will interact with health partners when it comes to mental health incidents. We are reforming the Home Office counting rules, which will save thousands of hours in avoiding duplicative or unnecessary recording of crime. We have a programme of reform to help to empower the police so that they can better respond to the priorities that the British people have.
The Minister talked about common-sense policing, but I have to ask what sense she applied when making a statement about suspicionless stop and search while making no reference to the well-evidenced racist discriminatory use of it. Does she not think we should be focusing on solutions that would actually make communities like mine safer, like reversing education cuts, ending school exclusions, improving mental health services and taking people out of poverty? If she has already said that the police have the powers necessary, why is she arguing that they have greater powers for this particular practice, which actually leads to less confidence in policing?
I do not consider the use of stop and search, when done lawfully, to be racist. What I do consider to be disproportionate and unjustifiable is that black people are four times more likely to be murdered than white people and that young black men are more likely to be victims of crime than young white men. That is the disproportionality, that is the disparity I am working to stop.
Last year, a response to a freedom of information request revealed that the gap in the stop and search rates between white people and black people was greater in Wales than in England. We do not know the latest rates, however, as the Home Office does not provide regular Wales-specific data on stop-and-search rates by population. Before the Home Secretary pushes for further use of stop and search in Wales, will she commit to regularly publishing Wales-specific data so we can properly understand the effect of this policy on our communities?
Across our country, including in my Slough constituency, knife crime is up by 70% compared with seven years ago, but, shockingly, there is only a 1% success rate in terms of the policies of the Home Secretary. She is today asking the police to ramp up the use of stop and search but, as I have said, in terms of the conviction rate, there is only a 1% success rate. Meanwhile, we have had funding to youth centres slashed—decimated—over the last decade, so is the Home Secretary embarrassed by the failures of Conservative Government policies over the last 13 years, and can she explain why black people are, despairingly, nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than everybody else?
I listen to frontline police officers and I look at the data when I make policy, and the police tell us that stop and search is a vital tool to crack down on criminals and to protect communities. Sir Mark Rowley, earlier this year, said he had countless examples of offenders being discovered to have dangerous weapons, tools for burglary or drugs on their person that have been uncovered by his officers being in the right place at the right time, and using this important power. These are examples and this is evidence of the utility of stop and search.
The framing of knife crime as a black issue is frankly lazy and a dangerous narrative. We need to work with all our communities to understand the core issues around the root cause of crime, and why some of our young people feel that they need to carry a knife. Some of them are victims. I want all my Vauxhall constituents to feel safe and go about their daily business, but stop and search on its own is a blunt tool. The Independent Office for Police Conduct found that a single black boy was searched 60 times—60—between the ages of 14 and 16, leaving him fearful of the police. No Member of the House will think that is an effective use of police time, so can the Home Secretary outline what measures she is taking to end what the IOPC found is the “disproportionate impact” of stop and search on black, Asian and minority ethnic people?
As I said, it is vital that stop and search is used judiciously, carefully, reasonably and proportionately, and that there is effective community engagement and scrutiny. There are today more layers of scrutiny and challenge than ever before on the use of that particular power—internal supervision, first and foremost; internal feedback on each stop and search, depending on the force; stop and search scrutiny panels, chaired either by a member of the community, or by police and crime commissioners; inspectorate observations; and internal force professional standards investigations when there is a complaint. That is why we are seeing higher levels of confidence and lower levels of complaint.
Will the Home Secretary commit to an independent evaluation of her proposals, with particular emphasis on the impact on confidence in policing among marginalised minority communities and on community relations?
What I hear from chief constables is that there has been much needed awareness of the impact on different communities. Therefore, in many forces, there has been an improvement in the way outreach has been conducted, and much more respect with communities and to communities that may be affected by the use of these powers. The 2021 inspectorate report noted that there had been an improvement in engagement and training by forces. We should welcome that.
Institutional racism is a fact. It is also a fact that stop and search is not used proportionately or sensibly. Liberty has said that stop-and-search powers are “ineffective” and “discriminatory”, disproportionately impacting on black communities. These powers will worsen existing divisions between police and communities when public trust and confidence in the police is at a serious low. So can the Home Secretary confirm what evidence she has that ramped up stop and search will tackle serious violent crime?
In her inspectorate report of 2021, Wendy Williams confirmed that the majority of stop-and-search decisions were based on “reasonable grounds” —that is the legal test. She said that most forces have “good external scrutiny arrangements” and that forces are “better at monitoring” the use of stop and search, compared with previous years. She said that training has improved. That is the evidence I find encouraging.
Policing by consent depends on trust and confidence in the police. Officers are increasingly stopping law-abiding young people, under the spurious claim that they “smell cannabis” when none has been smoked or is present. And then the police are refusing to provide the necessary receipts and documents to those they have stopped. That failure to follow guidelines is shattering the trust that young people have in the police. What is the Home Secretary doing to address that?
I fundamentally disagree with the hon. Lady’s proposition. Stop and search can be used in the case of drugs and it is largely used in those instances. It is a vital tool in the fight against drug possession and supply and it can prevent young people from falling into the spiral of drugs.
Why on earth does the Home Secretary think it is a good idea, in a free and democratic country, to encourage more section 60 searches, known as suspicionless powers, which allow an individual to be stopped without cause, without need and without reasonable suspicion, instead of adopting a targeted, intelligence-led approach? Is it because of a lack of intelligence in the Home Office?
I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. The use of stop and search has been raised with me during an ongoing feud in my constituency, yet the Police Service of Northern Ireland has used stop and search as an effective tool to combat the transport and sale of illegal drugs, to take lethal weapons off the streets and to find evidence of criminal activity. Will the Home Secretary’s advice to police forces on the mainland be extended to our police in Northern Ireland? They live under a high threat level and need the legal ability for stop and search to be fully understood and endorsed. If not, will she ask her colleague the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to make this messaging crystal clear in Northern Ireland too?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, I cannot speak for the PSNI. Since the county lines programme was launched in England and Wales in 2019, police activity has resulted in more than 3,500 lines closed, 10,000 arrests and 5,700 safeguarding referrals, all linked to drug offences. That is a success story and we must keep going.