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Clause 11 – Powers to stop and search without suspicion | Public Order Bill | Commons debates

I rise to speak against the Government’s motion to disagree with Lords amendments 6H and 6J, which we support.

The amendments seek to do two things: first, to instruct officers to give their name, badge number and reason for stopping anyone they search under the new suspicionless stop-and-search powers, and secondly, to compel all police forces to set up a charter—which they would have to consult on, publish and independently evaluate—on the use of their suspicionless stop-and-search powers. To be clear, the amendments have nothing to do with patients not getting to hospital; nothing to do with blocking roads; nothing to do with whether stop and search without suspicion actually takes place. They are to do with the manner in which suspicionless stop and search is conducted.

The amendments are direct recommendations from Louise Casey’s report—although she would go further and apply them to all stop and searches. Baroness Casey’s review of the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service is a 300-page tour de force. The Home secretary welcomed the review and said:

“Accepting Baroness Casey’s findings is not incompatible with supporting the institution of policing and the vast majority of brave men and women who uphold the highest professional standards.”—[Official Report, 21 March 2023; Vol. 730, c. 165.]

The Prime Minister said:

“There needs to be a change in culture and leadership, and I know that the new Metropolitan commissioner will no doubt reflect on the findings of Louise’s report, but is already making changes and that’s right, because what was happening before is simply shocking and unacceptable.”

He is right. Officers right across the Met are desperate to see those improvements put in place and action taken to rebuild the confidence of Londoners.

Labour tabled Lords amendments 6H and 6J to clause 11 to help put into legislation some of the improvements recommended by Baroness Casey, and it is very disappointing and surprising that the Government have tabled a motion to disagree. Clause 11 brings wide-ranging powers for the police to stop and search anyone in the vicinity of a protest, including anyone who happens to be walking through the area. The Government’s proposals risk further damaging the delicate relationship between the police and the public by significantly expanding stop-and-search powers to a protest context.

We agree that stop and search is a really important tool. The Minister has said on many occasions that stop and search is important for looking for weapons, and of course, we absolutely support that. We support suspicionless stop and searches—or section 60s—when serious violence, or terrorism, has occurred. But it is important to reflect that we are talking about using the suspicionless stop-and-search power not for terrorism or serious violence, but for protests—it is about searching for glue, a padlock, a microphone or a speaker. That will not have been agreed by the chief superintendent but by an inspector, because the Government rejected our amendment to make that change. Really, clause 11 should have been removed from the Bill, but we are not here to debate whether we should have suspicionless stop and search because that debate has concluded. Today, we are debating sensible, important changes to the Government’s clause to insert some safeguards into a wide-ranging power and mitigate some of its potential adverse impacts.