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

My understanding is that the agreement to include some aspects of the amendments in PACE code A does not go the whole way towards what we are suggesting in this legislation. The attitude from the Government—that plenty of long-established safeguards already exist, as the Minister said at the start of his contribution—is wrong. We have lots of regulations in PACE code A and other places that are clearly not always adhered to. Louise Casey has identified this as a problem, she has made a suggestion and we suggest putting it in the Bill, which I think is a reasonable response.

We know that stop and searches can go wrong when there is a communication failure from the officers carrying out the search. We welcome the changes announced in the Lords, although we do not know exactly what the changes to PACE code A will be, or how or when they will happen. Our colleagues in the other place tried to add points about communication into the Bill and suggested increasing the seniority of the officer allowing a suspicionless stop and search, but both amendments were rejected. Baroness Casey suggests as a minimum that Met officers should be required to give their name, their shoulder number, the grounds for the stop and a receipt confirming the details of the stop. Lords motion A1 built on Louise Casey’s recommendations and attempted to add them to the legislation.

It is worth remembering that a recent report by Crest Advisory examining the experience of black communities nationally of stop and search found that 77% of black adults support the use of stop and search in relation to suspicion of carrying a weapon, but that less than half of those who have been stopped and searched felt that the police had communicated well with them or explained what would happen.

It would be helpful to understand whether the Minister agrees with Baroness Casey’s recommendations in full and, if he does not, whether he thinks she is wrong or believes that something else should be done instead. The Casey report was devastating, and Ministers have so far been unable to offer any solutions to make the reforms we need in policing. Here is an opportunity for the Minister to signal the Government’s intent to make those reforms. We have heard the warnings from former police officers that some of the powers in the Bill risk diminishing trust in public institutions. The Peel principles on policing by consent said that

“the police are the public and the public are the police”.

The Home Secretary said in her statement to the House on the Casey review:

“When it comes to changing the law or introducing any frameworks that are necessary, we in the Home Office will do that”.—[Official Report, 21 March 2023; Vol. 730, c. 167.]

Here is a chance for the Home Secretary to keep her word. It will not change anything in terms of who can be stopped; it will just make the process more transparent and better for everyone. On the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, wouldn’t that be a good thing to do? I urge Members across the House to back the Lords amendments and reject the Government’s motion tonight.