§ Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 1, line 7, after "constable" insert "in uniform".4.43 pm
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw)
I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.
The Bill as introduced into Parliament, and as passed by this House, gave effect to the Phillips Royal Commission's recommendation that powers of stop and search should not be restricted to police officers in uniform. It was decided in another place that the powers conferred by the Bill should be so restricted. That decision was taken against the Government's very strong advice, and we continue to believe that it would seriously and unnecessarily fetter the ability of the police to deal with street crime and burglary.
The Phillips commission made its thoughts on this matter quite clear. Paragraph 3.22 of the report said:We considered whether the power to stop and search persons should be available only to a constable in uniform, and one of us favours this. Clear identification as a police constable is necessary to avoid misunderstanding, friction, and, later, disputes. We accept this as a principle but do not believe the wearing of uniform essential to its attainment in practice. The police officer should take the necessary steps to ensure that the person whom he has stopped has his name and number.Exactly so; and that is why clause 2(2)(i) places a duty on a plain clothes officer, before he undertakes a search, to produce his warrant card to identify himself as a police officer. If he does not do so, the search will be unlawful, and may lawfully be resisted.
It was suggested in another place, as it was when this issue was debated in Committee here, that plain clothes officers might be mistaken for muggers, and that the Bill would create the possibility of uncertainty and conflict on the streets. But this suggestion ignores the fact that powers of search, which are already on the statute book and which may be exercised by plain clothes as well as uniformed officers, have not given rise to this kind of problem. There is no evidence that either the results obtained or the effects on relations between police and public differ according to whether the officer concerned is in uniform. If there have been isolated cases of misunderstanding, the clause 2 safeguards recommended by the Royal Commission are more than sufficient to deal with them.
The recent Policy Studies Institute report on the Metropolitan police found that 93 per cent. of stops were made by officers in uniform, 5 per cent. by officers in plain clothes and 2 per cent. by uniformed and plain clothes officers acting together. Those figures do not suggest that excessive use is made of their present powers by plain clothes officers. But the 5 per cent. in question is important in terms of the ability of the police to deal with the kinds of offence for which powers of stop and search 832 are particularly useful to them. This is, of course, because plain clothes officers can keep observation and patrol inconspicuously. It would make no sense if they then lacked powers that they were in a particularly good position to exercise.
It is, for example, well known that shop theft and pickpocketing are major problems in the Oxford street area. One important part of the police strategy for controlling and detecting such crime is the deployment of plain clothes officers. A plain clothes officer who reasonably suspects someone of carrying stolen goods or articles intended for use in offences of theft or deception should surely be able to stop and search him, subject to the usual safeguards, in exactly the same way as a uniformed colleague. If he lacked this power, he would have either to let the person who had aroused his suspicions walk away, or fall back upon his powers of arrest. The former would be a breach of duty; and the trouble with the latter is that many arrests will be made which a quick negative search would have avoided. That would hardly be a result which was conducive to police effectiveness or good community relations.
In short, we can see no case for agreeing to the amendment, which departs from the Royal Commission's express recommendations.
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)
It has been suggested here and in another place that the powers of stop and search included in the Bill are those that existed previously in London, but were not needed in other parts of the country. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Bill seeks to apply the London power throughout the whole country? That has been the basic argument against the provision.
§ Mr. Shaw
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that much of the Bill and many of the powers are deliberately designed to provide properly co-ordinated arrangements throughout the country. Many aspects of stop and search are ludicrously different in various parts of the country.
Surely the plain clothes officer has a crucial part to play in detecting and helping to prevent crime on the streets. It would be sensible that the power in the Bill should not be confined to officers in uniform.
The Lords amendment introduces a strange anomaly because it applies only to the powers in the Bill. Yet there are already powers on the statute book, including those relating to drugs and firearms, that may continue to be exercised by uniformed and plain clothes officers alike. That anomaly is indefensible and I suggest that the amendment is unnecessary and harmful.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
I welcome the Minister to his duties at the Home Office, but I had better warn him that we get through Ministers of State at the Home Office at quite a rate, and the length of time that he will remain there cannot be guaranteed. The hon. Gentleman read very eloquently from his brief, but his knowledge to date seems about the same as his predecessor's when he left for the Northern Ireland Office.
We are talking about a power that in the best of circumstances is open to abuse. Indeed, that is widely agreed upon. One strongly held view on the topic of stop and search states:Statistics on the use to date of powers of stop and search indicate that in most cases no such article"—that is, an article of a particular kind being looked for— 833is found, and there is strong evidence that on many occasions these powers have been used where reasonable grounds to suspect the individual concerned of having the article in question on him did not in fact exist. There is also strong evidence that such misuse plays an important part in mistrust of the police among such sections of the community.That is the view of stop and search that is in the draft code of practice on the excercise of those powers, which has been issued by the Home Office in connection with the Bill. Therefore, everyone acknowledges that the power of stop and search is dangerous, and should be used only in a rational way.
It has been pointed out that that power has existed in the Metropolitan and other police areas, but it should be remembered that the power as originally introduced into the Metropolitan police area was very specific and limited. It came under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 and its aim was to deal with goods in transit at a time when London and other big cities were prey to rogues and vagabonds of various kinds. The whole purpose of the original Act, under which the stop and search power in London is being deployed, was, as the original Act says, that any person reasonably suspected of having or conveying in any manner any stolen or unlawfully obtained goods could be stopped and searched by a police officer.
Over a century and a half that power has been expanded in London to the extent that it is now used for a wide range of purposes. As we know from the report of the Policy Studies Institute, to which reference has been made, there are now about 1 million stops in London alone. We are dealing with the exercise of those powers—which the Home Office itself says are misused—not by a constable in uniform who is clearly identifiable and who has a number that can be taken down by anybody who has a complaint that he wishes to put, but by someone in plain clothes.
When people talk about a plain clothes policeman, I suspect that they imagine someone dressed in what one might call plain clothes police standard issue: double breasted suit, big black shoes and, if the weather is a bit cold, perhaps a white belted raincoat. But that is not the sort of plain clothes in which the police dress. Let us consider the sort of plain clothes that the police now wear: very tight blue jeans, an open-necked shirt, black jacket and training shoes, and a chain around the neck. That is how a plain clothes policeman who appeared in court last week described the clothes that he would wear any day. He described them as plain clothes, although they seem far from plain to me.
It is clear that if someone young dressed like that accosted a person late at night in a street in my, or any other, constituency, that person might run away or anticipate a potential assault in a violent manner.
§ Mr. Kaufman
There is a distinction between the two, and I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman, who did his 834 59 sittings with the rest of us, should have forgotten. Arrest is a different matter. Arrest is something undertaken only with a due sense of responsibility, because wrongful arrest is a dangerous thing to indulge in. We are talking about stop and search, and between 7 million and 8 million people will be subjected to it every year when the Bill is enacted. So there is a very great difference.
If someone dressed in what one might call the customary casual dress of the mid-1980s accosted a man or woman late at night, that person might well believe that he was going to be attacked. He might well run away, or decide that the best thing to do is to get in first and thump the man. However, if the person accosted did either of those things he would then be liable to arrest. That arrest, of course, would then add to the threadbare statistics that are being quoted by the Government to justify stop and search.
I shall cite an example that has been supplied to me. It involves the case of a Mr. Derik Donaldson. He was driving his car in Notting Hill, near his home, and was followed by plain clothes officers in an unmarked car. They shouted to him to stop. He thought that he was being pursued by people who may have wanted to attack him. In this violent era with, under this Government, record crime figures, that is not very surprising. However, he refused to stop, drove to his mother's house and jumped out of his car. The officers then got out of their car and attempted to apprehend him. There was a struggle in which it appears that the identity of the officers was mentioned. Mr. Donaldson was charged with assault. The police had made their arrest—the sort of arrest that we will find for the sort of offence that will be detected in order to justify stop and search. However, Mr. Donaldson was acquitted and the judge criticised the officers for making stops and searches without specific suspicion of a defined offence.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
Does my right hon. Friend have any statistics about the assaults on police officers that have occurred when stops and searches are carried out by them when they are not in unifirm? In the courts I have often found that is exactly the same sort of situation that has occurred.
§ Mr. Kaufman
If it will not embarrass the hon. Gentleman, may I say that, judging by what he has said throughout the Bill's passage, I welcome him calling me his right hon. Friend. His approach to the Bill has been creditable to a degree. However, I do not have the statistics. In a moment I shall deal with the problem of statistics in relation to this power which is to be conferred on the police.
The Minister, Lord Elton, said that under the Bill the person concerned must identify himself right away. But such identification might come too late. Split seconds are involved. If one is approached by a man late at night, one may well decide not to wait and see whether by any chance the man in tight blue jeans and necklace is a police officer trying to stop and search one. One may decide to react. It is not easy for a plain clothes police officer to establish his authority immediately. A warrant card is usually produced for a split second. It may or may not be believed or understood. Can any hon. Member guarantee that he would accept it? During the first vital seconds, all this causes fear and apprehension in the person stopped, 835 particularly in a secluded spot late at night. The constable might be viewed, reasonably, as an attacker or at least a person to be avoided.
A procedure is set out in the code of practice, but who is to say that when such activities are taking place the procedure will be followed? The Minister of State quoted the Policy Studies Institute report, so he must accept the validity of that authoritative document. The report, which says that in the metropolitan area the procedure is often ignored, states:It is clear from the way that police officers talk about stops that the question of what their legal powers may be does not enter into their decision-making except in the case of rare individuals.That is a serious criticism in a document commissioned by the Metropolitan police. The report continues:They do, of course, consider the chance of getting a result, but factors that they associate with the chance of getting a result are often unconnected with any concept of reasonable suspicion.Recent cases confirm that.One reason why the legal powers have little relevance is that most people do not know what they are. We never saw anyone openly challenge the right of the police to stop, search and question them, nor did anyone ever refuse to answer questions.That is important, because the contents of the 1984 Act will not be in the minds of my young West Indian constituents who may be subjected to stop and search. The PSI report makes it clear that two thirds of all stops in metropolitan London are of West Indian boys and young men between the ages of 15 and 24. They will not know their rights. They will not know that the person who stops them has to produce identification. They will either accept what takes place or resist. Either way they are likely to be in trouble.
We are told that the safeguards are now different and that we have a code of practice. That code of practice is much to do with my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs). Without his amendment there would be no code of practice and without his constituency Labour party there would be no amendment. This is an excellent example of Labour party democracy in practice.
Who is to say that the code of practice will be used? 'The PSI report says that the existing safeguards are not observed in many instances. One of the reasons that it gives is:Consequences for individual police officers, where they were shown to have exceeded their powers in stopping and searching people or vehicles, would probably not be very serious. That being so, there is an incentive for police officers to exceed their powers.The PSI report says that the penalty for not observing the existing rule is not great enough to ensure the observance of it. The safeguards are not worth the paper on which they will be printed.
What is it all for? The PSI report states that of the 1 million stops in London, which we can extrapolate to the rest of the country, only 3 per cent. result in arrests. The hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) asked me what statistics I had. We do not have statistics on this matter. Thanks to the PSI, we know that 3 per cent. of stops result in arrest, but we do not know how many arrests result in charges or how many charges result in convictions. By definition, 3 per cent. or less must be involved.
§ Mr. Kaufman
Because of the hon. Gentleman's experience he always asks the right questions. Sometimes charges result not in connection with the reason for the stop—which is usually to look for stolen goods or weapons to be used in a crime—but in connection with traffic offences which are discovered incidentally. The hon. Gentleman puts his finger on the truth.
The results in terms of apprehension and the punishment of crime from stop and search powers are minuscule. Although the outcome in terms of protecting the community is so minute as to be scarcely worth considering, we are introducing a power under which every year between 7 million and 8 million people will be stopped.
The Minister told us how many stops were undertaken by plain clothes officers currently. We cannot extrapolate those statistics because we are talking about a power which is to be extended to areas which have never had it before. Once we give these men in their blue jeans and necklaces the right to stop and search, they may decide to take greater advantage of it because Parliament has given them extra power.
The amendment is sensible and useful. It was supported in the House of Lords by many peers who are not members of the Labour or Liberal parties, who have no party allegiance or who are even Conservatives, such as Lady Macleod. The amendment would eliminate some of the worst abuses. It would do no more than that. We believe that it should be retained. We shall therefore vote against the Government.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister of State to the Home Office and to the Bill. I am sorry that the previous Minister of State has had to go elsewhere although I congratulate him on his elevation. We are fortunate to have my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Shaw) as one of the ministerial team at the Home Office to help us with our deliberations.
In the presence of the Home Secretary I should also like to welcome the fact that the Government are sticking to their principles and standing on their policy in respect of this important amendment. With possibly one other hon. Member, I served on the Bill through all its painful progress. When this amendment was produced in the first Standing Committee, Ministers rightly demonstrated, as I shall, how absurd it would be to limit the power to search to officers in uniform. The Government, on a whipped vote, rejected it.
During the second Standing Committee the Opposition again made the same proposition, and again on a whipped vote it was rejected. It must be right when precisely the same proposal comes from the other place for the Government to stand firm on their principles and on their policy and, on a whipped vote, carry what they believe to be right for the police service.
I make that point at the outset because I think it right that a Government should stand by their policy and principles. I shall ask the Government to do so on all the amendments before the House. I am entitled to do that because I have not stood on my head at any time—[Interruption.] The Opposition might be wise to allow small internal matters on the Conservative Benches to be fully developed. I cannot understand why they should wish to interrupt a little local difficulty on this side of the House.
837 I listened carefully to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), as I always do. He has been consistent in his arguments, as I have been in mine, throughout the passage of the Bill. One objection to preventing police officers not in uniform from doing their duty on stop and search is that that would put 25 per cent. of our police officers out of action in the stopping of suspects on the street. My advice is that officers on duty, but not in uniform, amount to a quarter of the force.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, bearing in mind the need to preserve good police-public relations, it is sufficient to allow the 25 per cent. of police officers in plain clothes to exercise their power to arrest only if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence is being committed? Does he further agree that to enable 75 per cent. of our police force to stop and search is more than adequate?
§ Mr. Griffiths
No, I do not agree. Indeed, we need more rather than fewer policemen to deal with the tide of crime that we now face. To remove 25 per cent. of the effective police strength at any one time would be absurd. No police officer is ever technically off duty. Although police officers usually work seven or eight hours a day—unless they are in the CID, when they may work longer hours—when they go about their business off duty they still have a responsibility laid upon them by this House and the law, under that oath of office and under their discipline code, so that if an offence appears to be committed, or is likely to be committed, or the Queen's peace put at risk, they have a duty to seek to uphold the law, and must do so.
Whether or not a police officer is in uniform is immaterial. For example, a police officer may not be in uniform because he has just come off duty and hung up his uniform on a peg in the police station. While he is going home he may see in the street someone who bears a very real resemblance to a wanted criminal who has committed a serious assault, rape, an act of terrorism or murder. He has a duty to stop that person and ascertain whether he is a wanted criminal. He may not wish to arrest him, but only to stop him.
If such a police officer faced someone whom he felt it right to stop and question, or perhaps to stop and search, if he had to be in uniform he would be in the absurd position of having to say to that person, "Excuse me, Sir, do you mind if I go back to the police station to put on my uniform so that, under the Act, I can stop and question you?" That is an absurdity and everyone knows it, but a police officer could be placed in that position if the amendment were carried.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
The hon. Gentleman is seriously misleading the House. If the amendment were carried it would not remove the right of a police officer in plain clothes to search for drugs, firearms and items connected with terrorism. Therefore, everything that the hon. Gentleman said has been misleading. The only powers that the amendment would affect are the extended powers of stop and search created by the Bill.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If the hon. Lady had been listening, she would have heard me use the words murder and rape.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I did not use the word terrorism; I used the words rape, murder and serious crime.
A police officer cannot remove himself from the duty that this House has laid upon him simply because he is not wearing a uniform. He must carry out his duty. If the amendment were carried he could be disciplined for not carrying out a wide range of duties which he would be prevented by the Bill from carrying out.
I accept the point made by the right hon. Member for Gorton about police officers dressed in the fashion that he described, perhaps on a dark evening. That is why the Government have been wise to include in the Bill the safeguards proposed by the Royal Commission. It is essential to note that a police officer in plain clothes would have to do all the things set out in clause 2. I believe this to be the first time that it has been set out in a statute.
The police officer would have to tell the person whom he wished to stop and search his name and the name of the police station to which he was attached. Before he performed any search, he would have to tell the person the object of the search and give his grounds for proposing to do so. He would have to have regard to the other safeguards in the clause, among them the important new safeguard that he must make a record, which must be available to the person who has been stopped and searched during the statutory period provided.
Those are very real safeguards. Their effect is what the Royal Commission proposed and what my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has always maintained, namely, that wherever a new power is provided, it is balanced by a safeguard. In this case, there are a whole series of safeguards.
The amount of paper work and additional operational problems that will be created by the safeguards—which mean that a police officer, often in difficult circumstances in the street, must provide all that information—will present some real difficulties. However, the Government have included the safeguards to maintain a balance. When the other place considered the matter, it simply did not recognise those safeguards.
The right hon. Gentleman fairly said that there is always the danger that, although the police will seek—and I assure him that they will—to fulfill those safeguards, there will be times when that does not happen. For one reason or another, there may be a misunderstanding. It is important that the House should appreciate the documentary evidence which a police officer henceforth will have to present to anyone when he wishes to stop and search. I refer to the warrant card. I have one with me, and it is important that the House and the country should recognise that it is not simply a bit of paper that can be flashed. The warrant has on it a photograph of the police officer concerned, and if he does not look like his photograph——
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the police warrant card looks distinctly like a London Transport photocard or a Member of Parliament's photocard, or hundreds of other photocards with which one is provided?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I could not agree to that. The Member of Parliament's card has a distinctive appearance.
§ Mr. Kaufman
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the Member of Parliament's photocard has a distinctive appearance only to those who know what its distinctive appearance is? Most of us have never seen a police officer's warrant card. The fact that the hon. Gentleman produces that card in the House means nothing. We take his word for it that it is a warrant card, but somebody stopped in the street might say, "Pull the other one." Why should that person believe the officer?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's scepticism, but he must look at the amendment in the context of the safeguards that are provided. One of the safeguards about which he was sceptical was the requirement on the police to provide documentary evidence of their status, as proof that they are police officers attached to a particular force or station. The warrant card has the advantage that it has a photograph, and it also has the signature of the officer in question.- It is open to anyone, if he wishes to throw doubt on the warrant card, to challenge the officer to sign his name. I realise that in the real world it is unlikely that that would take place, hut, nevertheless, that must be recognised.
In addition, the warrant card contains the signature of a senior officer—I do not know whether it is the chief constable—of each force. The warrant card is as good a piece of documentary evidence to establish the identity of the officer as it is reasonable to expect. Therefore, for the reason that I gave at the beginning—that it is right that the Government should stick to their principles and their guns—I hope that the House will go along with my hon. Friend's——
§ Mr. Bermingham
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if a mistake is made ab initio, regardless of what happens elsewhere, we should stick to the mistake ab initio? That seems to be the tenor of his argument.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I wish the Government to stick, not to their mistakes, but to their proper and sensible conclusions, and the clause as it stands, without amendment, is one of them. The amendment proposed by their Lordships would make nonsense of effective operational policing and should not pass.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
I welcome the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Shaw) to his new post in the Home Office. Like his predecessor, he is already showing the skill to stonewall skilfully, despite his late entry into the match.
It is important to have a proper perspective of the powers contained in clause 1. Even without the stop and search powers in clause 1, plain clothes police officers in England and Wales have considerable powers, as has already been said. They have the power to stop and search for controlled drugs, for firearms, for items connected with terrorism and, incidentally, also for eggs of certain protected birds. Leaving the last category aside, because it comes in a special sector, those are extensive stop and search powers; and they are not anomalous, contrary to what the Minister said.
Those powers were placed on the statute book for the specific reason of dealing with particular problems that were arising in the streets of the country. They were placed on the statute book as they were, not as anomalies, but as acts of good sense to counter those problems. It is wrong for the Government to seek to extend such a coercive 840 power, one that involves severe interference with the liberty of the individual to walk in our streets, by introducing it across the country.
It is important to remind oneself that the stop and search powers in clause 1 are not the same as the power of arrest. That power will continue. In his arguments the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) reduced the issue to an absurdity. With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, who made a fine contribution in Committee, I suspect that an average custody officer could have made a better job of arguing the case than he did.
Can one really believe, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, that a police officer suspecting reasonably that someone had committed the crime of murder or rape would even think about using merely stop and search powers? He would not—he would arrest. The hon. Gentleman drew our attention to the requirements placed by the Bill on the officer stopping and searching. If the officer were seeking to use the stop and search powers, he would be required to go through all those requirements; and in any event he would not be permitted to stop and search on suspicion of murder under the power in the Bill unless he had reason for suspecting that the person being stopped and searched had prohibited articles or stolen goods in his possession.
I suspect that one of the reasons for the extension of the stop and search power in the Bill, and in particular for the Government's desire to give the power throughout the country to plain clothes police officers, is to make up in some way for the continuing shortage not so much of police officers as of uniformed police officers on the beat in the community. It is now conventional wisdom, and right, that the best way to prevent the crimes mentioned in clauses 1 and 2 is by putting uniformed police officers known to the community on the beat. In particular, young people do not commit offences such as theft from motor cars or carrying offensive weapons when they know that there are policemen ever on the beat nearby.
We have to bear in mind, too, that in most of the towns of England and Wales, and in all the country areas, the power being created by clause 1—that of stop and search—is an entirely new power. The people in those communities have not been accustomed to dealing with such a power. Its very introduction in those areas creates a considerable risk of tension between the community and the police.
There is also the problem of the way in which the power is used. There is a great deal of evidence, though much of it discursive, about the use of the power. We have already heard some of the evidence from the PSI report. There is some evidence in Lord Scarman's report on the Brixton disorders, albeit mentioned in passing. There is also evidence from another and distinguished document, which has not yet been mentioned. That is a detailed survey, carried out earlier this year in the London borough of Hillingdon by Dr. Vorhaus.
I shall summarise the way in which the powers are used where they have been available. The evidence points to their having been used almost exclusively, and certainly primarily, against young people, black people and oddly dressed people. In her study, Dr. Vorhaus said that the study of attitudes to stop and search among juveniles in Hillingdon showed that 52 per cent. of the juveniles questioned had been stopped and searched by the police. Although it is a surprisingly high figure, it is consistent with what has been reported by the PSI. She added that 841whereas a notable characteristic of the sample was their pro-police and pro-law and order outlook, the experience of being stopped seemed to have a strong negative influence. It appeared to make juveniles hostile towards the police and alienated them from the law.Among the 52 per cent. of the juveniles in Hillingdon who were stopped and searched, she found the feeling that it was a bad experience subjectively. She found, too, that it had the consequence, possibly for a long time to come, of setting those juveniles against the police and even the law itself.
It is right, too, to remind the House that in paragraph 4.67 of his report on the Brixton disorders Lord Scarman observed thatstop and search operations in particular require courtesy and carefully controlled behaviour by the police to those stopped.We should be aiming to ensure that whatever stop and search powers are produced by the Bill meet Lord Scarman's recommendation that they should be courteously and carefully controlled.
I suggest that we can be assured that such powers are carefully controlled and, we hope, courteously implemented only if they are limited to police officers in uniform. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) mentioned the case of Mr. Derik Donaldson. The hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) said that he had come across many other such cases in his experience as a practising lawyer. There cannot be many practising lawyers in this place who have not come across a similar state of affairs.
An even worse situation than that which faced Mr. Donaldson is often encountered by young and perhaps fancily dressed women in London who find themselves being accosted by quite fearsome looking plain clothes police officers who wish to stop and search them. We recognise and accept that police officers have to indulge in verisimilitude if they are to detect crime. We accept the need for criminal intelligence, and those of us who have seen many plain clothes police officers have recognised that they are bound to acquire extraordinary hairstyles, tight torn jeans, as has been mentioned in a case recently, and other similar clothing. They sometimes look extremely unpleasant.
A young woman faced with a request, however polite, to be stopped and searched by a plain clothes police officer dressed in that way is entitled to be afraid and to take to her heels. If she is handled by a police officer in those circumstances, she is entitled to use violence to escape from him, even though he may be saying that he is a police officer. Young women often face risk in our city streets and it would be unreasonable to require of them a different standard in respect of plain clothes police officers from that which we would expect of them in respect of any other ordinarily dressed young man.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
The arguments which the hon. and learned Gentleman has advanced are equally applicable to those cases in which plain clothes police officers can stop and search for drugs or firearms. He has already said that he applauds the introduction of those powers.
§ Mr. Carlile
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for bringing that matter to my attention. Those of us who believe in a liberal society believe in a free society subject 842 to constraints. We must examine those constraints carefully before they are placed. Sometimes constraints have to be placed upon society in the public interest. The examples to which I referred with approval earlier are constraints which we accept as being required in the public interest. The constraint that is now required by the Government is, in my judgment, not in the public interest.
Plain clothes officers' powers to arrest are not affected by the amendment that was accepted in another place. That amendment had the support of some distinguished and experienced lawyers, not least a former Lord Chancellor, who moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition, and my noble and learned predecessor, Lord Hooson, who has enormous experience of practising the criminal law throughout England and Wales. They are two examples of the experience that was brought to bear on the amendment when it was discussed in another place. With that in mind, I ask the House to accept that the balance of public and private interest achieved by the requirement that the police should be in uniform is a proper one, and that it should vote against the Government's proposal.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) that this is a matter of balance. Reasonable arguments could be advanced from both sides on this issue. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who introduced the Opposition's view, rested his case primarily on the assertion that the informality of the clothes worn by plain clothes police officers might be such as to make the exercise of the powers either difficult or unreliable. That, in substance, is the argument that the Labour party has deployed on this issue.
As the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery has said, this is a matter of balance. We have been reminded that there are many instances where plain clothes officers already possess the power to arrest or the power to stop and search—for example, terrorism, firearms or drugs. I have no doubt that, in theory at least, the informality of the dress of plain clothes police officers could cause problems. Yet in the past Parliament has decided to introduce legislative powers and I do not think that they have been the subject of substantial complaint thereafter.
The power of the plain clothes police officer is set out by limitation in the Bill. He can exercise the power only if the circumstances that are prescribed in clause 1 arise. He can exercise the power lawfully only if he complies with the statutory requirements that are set out in clause 2. If he does not comply with those requirements, he commits an assault and he is, in theory at least, liable in damages.
The issue is one of balance. I am not trying to say that what the right hon. Member for Gorton and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery have argued is absurd. However, there must be occasions when to deny a plain clothes police officer the right to exercise the power under clause 1 would be to prevent him either preventing crime or apprehending a criminal. As a matter of balance, the Government have it right and I support them.
§ Mr. Bermingham
I welcome the contribution of the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg). Those of us who sat through the 59 sittings in Committee noted his silence in his then capacity as a Government Whip but suspected that that silence was the result of restraint. The hon. Gentleman makes the good point that we are discussing a 843 matter of balance. Surely no one would disagree that it is always a question of balance in these matters. However, perhaps the evidence should be tested dispassionately.
When the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) made what might be described as almost an impassioned contribution, he took the argument into the ridiculous and the absurd and missed the point. That is why I intervened in his speech to ask him whether, if it was thought that a mistake had been made ab initio, it would not be wiser to listen to the counsel of others before enshrining the mistake in tablets of stone, as it were, by incorporating it in an Act of Parliament.
This is a matter of balance, and there is considerable evidence to show that the House should go along with the Lords amendment. That has been said by the Opposition on numerous occasions in the Chamber, in Committee and in many parts of the country. A number of police officers would not be averse to the arguments on this subject put during the past year by me and by many others. This is a matter of balance. At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves whether the power to stop and search given to officers not in uniform will enhance the police service and its powers of detection or whether it will detract from the service and increase the friction that regrettably exists so often between the general public and the police.
The point that we are debating is perhaps best and crucially demonstrated in the Policy Studies Institute report. That report showed that, of the 1 million stops and searches in the capital in the year under review, 95 per cent. were carried out by officers in uniform and 5 per cent. by plain clothes officers. Of those 1 million stops and searches, only 3 per cent., or 30,000, led to the next stage, which might have been arrest. The hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby) asked how many of those 30,000 arrests resulted from the findings of the stop and search, the fracas that occurred because of the stop and search or some trivial point that was later used to justify the stop and search. The answer is that none of us knows the facts accurately, but those who have had experience in metropolitan and other areas where those powers of stop and search exist know that often charges of threatening behaviour or assault on a police constable are laid or some nefarious traffic matter is cited. That is the way in which stop and search is thought to be carried out. The vast number of contacts between the police and the public under the provisions of stop and search powers result in no charges being laid.
We must consider the other side of the coin. The powers of stop and search may be extended to the whole country, as they are being extended to constables in uniform. Parts of the country do not have the stop and search powers of London and the Metropolitan police force area. During the past 150 years the rest of the country has got on very well detecting crime without such powers. Those powers have not been needed in rural Derbyshire or Leicestershire, parts of South Yorkshire or other such places. On many occasions the stop and search powers are counterproductive, because in cases of serious crime—for example, drug trafficking, terrorism, murder and rape—a police officer has more than adequate powers in criminal law to carry out his duties.
Suggestions have been made that if the provisions of clause 1 were extended to the country as a whole, approximately 7 million or 8 million stops and searches a year would occur. If stop and search is to continue in the same proportion as that found by the PSI in its 844 investigation—95 per cent. of stops and searches being carried out by officers in uniform and 5 per cent. by officers in plain clothes—we must ask why so many people are worried about that 5 per cent. The answer to that question is known to most practical and practising lawyers—that the 5 per cent. of stops and searches give rise to problems associated with the issue of assault. With the best will in the world, I cannot honestly say with my hand on my heart that I believe that the provisions of clause 2 will be followed meticulously if this power comes into force. The reality is that the man in blue jeans—plain clothes officers do not always wear blue jeans; I have seen them wearing many other things over the years—flashes his warrant card. We have already had a demonstration of how little that means. Most people do not know what a bank card is, let alone a warrant card. These days if someone flashes anything in front of anyone else he is likely to think that that person is up to no good.
Even if all the pedantic steps of clause 2 were taken into account, a problem would still exist. The problem concerns the person in the street being approached by someone who asks questions and says, "You must do this". If approached by a person in uniform, the natural reaction of members of the public is to co-operate. That happens with the vast majority of requests made by police officers. If approached by someone not in uniform., the natural reaction is to be wary. We are all conditioned by what we read in the newspapers and watch on television day in, day out. We see members of the public approached by people who have no good intentions towards them. Frankly, if someone comes up to me in a street late at night, my first and natural reaction is to get out of the way. In the past few years, too many horrific things have happened late at night in the streets of our cities and in our rural areas. That is the point at which problems will begin to arise when this power is extended.
If the police service is to succeed, it requires the public's co-operation and assistance. The PSI report clearly showed that an extensive power to stop and search, with 1 million people stopped every year and only 3 per cent. of the stops and searches justified at a later stage, resulted in 97 per cent. of people taking offence. ft is suggested that we should extend that power to the whole country, so that 7 million to 8 million people a year will be stopped and searched. That means that 97 per cent. of those people may take offence at being stopped and searched—never mind those within the 3 per cent. who take offence because they have been stopped by someone dressed up as a thug. I regret to say that my experience is that on occasions plain clothes officers have dressed in no better fashion than many of those they were supposed to be apprehending. It does the police service no good for its plain clothes officers to be dressed in the way that has been described and seen on a number of occasions.
The more the public is upset, the more its co-operation decreases. Regrettably, that will be the increasing result of the Government's attempts to overturn the amendment. The amendment is sensible because it recognises the balance between the need to detect crime and to elicit the co-operation of the general public. I hope that at this last moment the Government will think again, if for no other reason than that policing needs the public's co-operation if it is to succeed.
845 Let us get out of our trenches of party politics. The Government should listen not only to the Opposition's arguments but to what was said by those in the other place and the commentators outside this place who have experience of these matters. Time and again, they have said that if a person is approached in the street by a man or woman in uniform, the public recognise that authority is requesting assistance. People do not object to being asked for assistance. If people are approached by someone who, in the first moment of contact, is not readily identified as a police officer, resentment begins to grow.
The PSI report has shown that a considerable number of people have been offended by the way in which a stop and search has been conducted. When people feel offended by authority, their willingness on another occasion to co-operate with authority is diminished. Are the Government really asking that 7 million or 8 million stops and searches should take place in a year? If so, they are asking for a decrease in co-operation between the police and the public, and that can only be to the detriment of society.
§ Mr. Ashby
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) that this is very much a matter of balance. The stop and search power is necessary for the police, but it must be used sparingly and, as Lord Scarman said, with a great deal of tact. The other place has tried hard to introduce that element of tact by saying that stops and searches must be carried out by a police officer in uniform.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) said that 25 per cent. of police officers may be out of uniform at any one time. If that is the figure, and I have no reason not to accept it, there must be occasions when a stop and search is necessary and the police officer is out of uniform. That gives rise immediately to the problems which have been so carefully explained to us by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who referred to the case of Derik Donaldson. I intervened because on many occasions I have represented people who have said that they thought that the people who had approached them were thugs. Invariably, on those occasions I have been defending people who have been charged with assault on police officers.
I accept that there is a need for a stop and search power and that there will be occasions when it will be carried out by officers who are not in uniform. It would be unfortunate if that stop and search were found to be illegal. I should like safeguards to be introduced, because we have pinpointed the problem that offences arise out of the stop and search. Those are not offences of having an offensive weapon, possessing drugs or any offence, however trivial, which is the reason for the stop and search, but offences that arise out of the stop itself. Those offences are invariably of obstructing the police or assault on the police.
People with no previous convictions have often been charged and convicted of assault on police officers. The evidence in the case is invariably of a police officer saying, "I produced a warrant card." There is no reason to disbelieve that, but why should people who have never been in trouble before start fighting a police officer who has produced a warrant card? They were not hiding drugs 846 or offensive weapons, and therefore the only logical reason for it is that there was a misunderstanding between the two parties.
I should like safeguards introduced so that cases in which an offence arises out of a stop and search are referred to someone else before prosecution. If we are talking about a figure of 3 per cent.—30,000—which may rise because this provision will cover the country, as the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) said, and assuming that a large proportion of those offences will not have arisen out of the stop and search—such as hiding something that was found during the stop and search—we are not talking about a large number of cases.
I should like all the cases of assault and obstructing the police that arise out of stop and search referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions before a prosecution is instituted. There would then be a safeguard and I should be able to support the Government in opposing the amendment with a happier conscience. That is why I am asking for the safeguard which would please so many of us.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
I have to report to the House that I have been stopped and searched twice by the police. On both occasions the policeman was dressed in uniform and it was in daylight. On the first occasion the police constable insisted that I empty my bag, which contained a large amount of dirty washing, on to the pavement and replace the dirty washing in it before proceeding on my way to the launderette. On the second occasion the police officer showed considerable curiosity about why I should be carrying an empty suitcase. I am glad to say that that was some years ago. Nevertheless, it left me at the time, and subsequently, with the same feeling as 40 out of every 100 Londoners had when they were surveyed after being stopped and searched by police—that there was no good reason for the police to stop and search them.
Had I been a little younger, I am sure that my view would probably have been that which has already been expressed as the view of more than half the teenagers in Hillingdon who, after being stopped and searched by the police, were transformed into being anti-police and anti-law from being pro-police and pro-law.
In his impassioned speech the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) referred to the rising tide of crime. Over the years we have all witnessed that rising tide with considerable anxiety. Today, as on all other occasions, the House must be interested in how society and the police combat crime effectively. My worry, which is one which has been voiced by a number of hon. Members today, is that the extensive new powers for the police to stop and search will be counter-productive and will do nothing to improve the level of crime detection which, unhappily, is extremely low in many parts of the country, particularly London. They will do nothing to improve relations between the general public and the police, which many of us believe are at the core of trying to combat the rising tide of crime.
We are aware from the figures that extensive powers of stop and search result in a minimal level of arrest. It is clear that if the stop and search powers are introduced they will do nothing to combat crime effectively. They will, 847 however, I fear, do a great deal to alienate further large sections of the community; in particular, the young whites, blacks and Asians.
I represent a consitituency which has a large ethnic community. Many members of that community are already extremely worried by the level of racial harassment which they, their parents and families face. I ask the House to try to imagine the position in Bradford late at night in a community which feels great anxiety about racial attacks against and harassment of black and Asian British people if a young casually dressed white seeks to stop a young black or Asian for the purposes that we have been discussing. There will inevitably be a suspicion in the mind of that young black or Asian that the person who is seeking to stop him is not a detective seeking to combat crime in Bradford, but is possibly seeking to attack him or her. This is not a question of balance as some hon. Members have sought to argue.
I plead with the House to consider whether the amendment will serve the best interests of our communities. Will it effectively combat crime and will it improve relationships between the police and the community? In my view, it will not.
I also invite the House to consider some of the views advanced by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds when he waxed eloquent about the warrant cards which will be carried by detectives wearing casual clothes and seeking to stop and search individuals. What will be the situation, for example, for many of my constituents who do not speak English well? How will they easily understand that the persons seeking to stop them—persons who they think may be seeking to attack them—in reality are police officers seeking to combat crime in my constituency?
It is nonsense. It is a recipe for increased racial tension in my community and many others. For that reason, I agree with the amendment accepted in the other place and with the views expressed by a former Lord Chancellor. I am fundamentally opposed to stop and search powers because I do not believe that there is a need for them. What is more, they will be counter-productive and will not effectively reverse the tide of crime about which we are all concerned. However, if we are to have the powers, they should be limited to police constables in uniform. If the amendment is overturned by the House and we have possibly thousands upon thousands of stops and searches at all hours of the day and night in inner cities such as mine, they will represent a recipe for many unfortunate incidents which will do nothing to reverse the rising tide of crime but will do a great deal to alienate further large sections of the community against the police. That would do a grave disservice to the community. It would certainly not be in the interests of the police.
§ Mr. Warren Hawksley (The Wrekin)
I wish to express my support for the proposition that we should oppose the Lords in this amendment.
It was interesting to hear both the Minister of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) refer to the safeguards in clause 2(2) and (3). These are new safeguards, and I suggest that they are justifiable when officers are not in uniform. However, I think that the House will accept that in putting forward those safeguards we are expecting the officers to be trained 848 to a new standard, and that brings me to the question which I wish to raise in this debate, although I suppose that it could be raised in debates on nearly all these amendments.
I should like to know the Government's proposals for implementing this legislation, and I refer especially to the timing of the implementation. Before clauses 1 and 2 come into force we need to see a lot of training for police officers. For many months police officers have been tied up in defending civil liberties in mining areas and on the picket lines, and training for the regular police has suffered. Much training which would normally have taken place has been allowed to slip.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be able to assure the House that it is not proposed to bring in any of this legislation, especially this provision, until the training programmes of local police forces have returned to the levels which we should have seen but for the industrial action in the mines, and that time will be allowed for the full training of officers before any pressure is exerted to make the legislation effective.
I hope that that assurance will be given. If it is given, I shall be only too pleased to support the Government in opposing the amendment.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
I welcome the view expressed by the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) and I hope that the Government will respond positively to his proposal that, if they succeed in reversing the Lords amendment, they will seek to delay the implementation of this provision until there has been due time for the training of police but possibly also until the Government have put forward their proposals about the establishment of an independent prosecution service.
One of the complaints made with most force by those who have experience, especially the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), of conducting the defence of those subsequently arrested by the police is that the very fact of a search can provoke a chain of circumstances which in itself may lead to the commission of a criminal offence. It is highly desirable, if those circumstances are alleged, that the allegation should be subject to consideration by the independent prosecution service. The hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West spoke of the Director of Public Prosecutions, but I think that what the Government have in mind may be more appropriate. If the Minister can give some assurances about that, he may assist the House considerably. However, it has to be said that, despite that safeguard, that is not really the only situation that gives rise to doubts about whether these powers are necessary.
On this recommendation I felt that the Philips commission was less than adequate in its argument about the necessity. It was not one of the most forceful of the commission's recommendations. In fact, the commission was divided about it, and it is precisely the kind of matter on which it is not suitable for the House to be divided by the Whips or on party lines, as the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) suggested. It is essentially a matter on which the judgment of those involved in the prevention of crime should be before the House to enable right hon. and hon. Members to consider their evidence. It is precisely the kind of case where it would have been useful for a prelegislative committee to have the opportunity to listen to the arguments before recommending the appropriate approach to the House.
849 The hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) was right to say that it is a matter of balance. It is plainly undesirable that so many people should be stopped and searched by police officers in plain clothes, as undoubtedly will flow from this provision if the Lords amendment is rejected, if it is not strictly necessary that that should be done. We have not heard about the necessity for this power. We have not even heard anecdotal evidence about it. We have had all kinds of assertions from the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds about its necessity. Some rather high-flown language has been used, but we have heard nothing persuasive in terms of practical operational necessity from the spokesman for the police. I should have preferred an opportunity to hear from the police directly why it is seen as an operational necessity.
It is against that that we have to judge what is the clear evidence that a power of this nature will create a backlash of hostility against the police, especially among the young and ethnic minorities in our cities where already there is an observable erosion of confidence in the police and where it is more necessary than anywhere else to have the full co-operation of the public if the appalling crime figures are to be diminished.
I cannot see that it is in the interests of the police and those whose task it is to maintain the rule of law in our cities that the House should pass measures which further alienate those among whom they have to move. For that reason, if, regrettably, the House votes against the Lords amendment, this measure must be used with extreme care and most exceptionally.
There appear to be two circumstances in which it is argued that it is possibly justifiable to have searches made by policmen not in uniform. The first is where a policeman, when he is not in uniform, has his suspicions aroused and seizes the opportunity to find out whether the suspicious behaviour is indicative of an offence having been committed. If he encounters suspicious behaviour of that sort, he is presented with a difficult judgment. He has to consider whether he may damage the interests of the police by making an unjustified assumption. He runs the risk of alienating the sympathy of the person who is searched.
I do not think that the Minister or anyone will doubt that to be stopped and searched, even by a policeman in uniform, is not an experience to which the public take kindly; but they take even less kindly to being stopped and searched by someone of whose credentials they are not sure. Although there are safeguards in clause 2, I do not think that they will eliminate hostility on the part of the public or provide any certainty in the mind of the person who is stopped or searched that the policeman is justified in doing so.
The other circumstance is where certain members of the police feel it necessary or are instructed to go in plain clothes to make investigations. It is not by mere hazard that they embark upon such a search. It is an altogether more dubious practice than the first one that I mentioned, especially if it is not related to some specific and very serious offence.
It is perfectly possible to draw a distinction between serious and less serious offences, despite what the Minister said to the contrary. This House has frequently had to face 850 that dilemma. I do not believe that it is justifiable for policemen not in uniform to have the power to stop and search, except for serious offences.
For the reasons that I have given, I should be reluctant to support the Government in their motion to reject the Lords amendment. However, if the Government, with their huge majority, decide to overturn the freely expressed views of the other House, I beg them not to allow the police to embark on the process before the Government have brought in provisions for an independent prosecution service, or before the police have had proper time to establish training facilities to minimise the undoubtedly damaging effects that will flow from the provision if the greatest sensitivity is not used and if it is not used most sparingly.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
I do not think that anyone in this House would accuse me of being on the wet, liberal left of my party on questions of law and order. I do not usually ally myself with hon. Members who seek constantly to use the police as a whipping boy, and who persistently attack a police force that I consider to be the finest in the world and which needs the support of this House rather than its criticism and constant attack. Nevertheless, I do not support the Government in the step that they are proposing to take this evening.
Although I do not support the Government now, 10 years ago I would undoubtedly have done so. In the past 10 years there has been a significant change in our society. For that reason, it is more important than ever before that there should be a proper and appropriately high degree of identification and recognition of police officers before they discharge their duties. Our society has degenerated to the point at which there is a lot of aggravation. It arises in situations in which it would never have arisen 10 years ago.
The issue before the House is one on which hon. Members on both sides have said that what is involved is a question of balance. Even Lord Denning—not the greatest friend of Opposition Members—said in their Lordships' House that his mind had wavered to and fro as the arguments had gone on in the Committee, and that the question was whether the safeguards in the Bill were sufficient. It is true that he said that the safeguards were just sufficient to warrant the Bill going forward without the amendment. That comment emboldens me to say that honourable men of experience in the exercise of police powers in our society are entitled, on balance, to come to different conclusions. I am emboldened in my conclusion by the fact that a number of very distinguished and eminent people share my view and, incidentally, the views of those who are opposed to the Government tonight.
For three reasons, I think that it is undesirable, on balance, that the police powers should be extended beyond the powers they have to arrest without being in uniform in the most serious cases—those involving drugs, firearms and terrorism. We must not forget that those powers are very extensive.
I accept from my own experience that it is likely that many innocent people will be aggravated. They will be young; they will be coloured. They will also be middle-aged; they will also be old. It is only in recent months that I have begun to receive post from reputable constituents complaining about what they consider to be encroachments upon their freedoms, or the freedoms of their 851 families, by over-zealous police officers. I have never noticed that before throughout the 10 or 11 years in which I have been a Member of this House.
Ordinary, middle class, decent people who uphold and support the police are beginning to be aggravated. It may be that much of their aggravation is without justification, but it only underlines my point that the threshold of pain in our society today is now much lower. Whereas 10 years ago people were prepared to give police officers the benefit of the doubt and to accept their authority, they are now, for all kinds of reasons, less willing to do so.
Secondly, all too often in our society—it never happened 10 years ago—people are set upon, stopped or halted in the street by people who they fear are about to mug or rob them. It used not to happen, but it happens now in some of our cities on a scale never before imagined. That seems to be very dangerous for police officers who are not in uniform and thus are not easily recognised.
Thirdly—this follows from the second reason—I have little doubt that more police officers stopping more citizens in the new social atmosphere of high aggravation and a low threshold of pain will be assaulted. Frankly, it is a surprise to me that the Police Federation is in favour of taking away the uniform as a basis for stop and search in the lesser offences because it seems to me to be their protection against assault and attack.
For those three reasons, based upon my judgment—which may not be shared by others—our society is far more vulnerable and volatile than it ever was. I feel the gravest hesitation in inviting police officers to be assaulted, inviting young people to be more resentful and inviting people to go in greater fear of attack on our streets than they might otherwise have done.
I have also gone to and fro as I have heard the debates over the days, particularly tonight, and on balance I would say that we are giving a dangerous extension of power. The safeguards, the name, the police station, the object of the search, the grounds for proposing to make a search, the necessity to record—all those things are desirable. They are no less than we owe the police. They are not only justifiable but necessary. However, there is one problem in that they are not enforceable. A person stopped in the street and subjected to a search by a plain clothes officer would have to be extremely persistent to go along to the police station and to take advantage of the rights that we are giving to the citizen in clause 2. I do not think that the safeguards are sufficient to protect the police in the current situation of violence and aggravation in our society.
Sadly, for the reasons that I gave at the beginning of my speech, I feel that I cannot support the Government in their bid to overthrow what some distinguished, honourable and knowledgeable lawyers in the other place thought was right.
§ Mr. Giles Shaw
By leave of the House, I shall comment briefly on the points raised in the debate.
I thank the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) for his kind remarks on my arrival, which were echoed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I find it extremely difficult to deal with the Bill, albeit in its last stages, with the same facility as others, but I shall do my best.
I detected that there were three separate strands in the debate. First, there was concern about the possible abuse of the powers that might be involved; secondly, there was concern that the police should require to have such powers 852 extended to plain clothes officers; and thirdly, there was concern that the relationship between the police and the public would be endangered if the police took the powers that we propose to introduce by deleting the amendment that the other place inserted in the Bill.
The House would do well to recall the background against which the Bill has proceeded. In the fight against crime, it is necessary to provide the police force with certain additional powers. It is also necessary to codify and co-ordinate some of the procedures that are needed. The necessity to make the policy more effective is important. The need to allow plain clothes officers to exercise stop and search powers when uniformed constables are also allowed to do so is also important.
We must also put on the record the extent of the safeguards that are in evidence—first, the safeguards in the Bill to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) referred. They may not be sufficient, but I should like to remind the House of the ones that are to be found in the code of practice relating to these powers. The draft code of practice recognises the specific problem to which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) referred in relation to the sensitivity of these issues. Paragraph 1B of the draft states:Statistics on the use to date of powers to stop and search indicate that in most cases no such article is found, and there is strong evidence that on many occasions these powers have been used where reasonable grounds to suspect the individual concerned of having the article in question on him did not in fact exist. There is also strong evidence that such misuse plays an important part in mistrust of the police among some sections in the community.It is right that that should be set out clearly as the very important context in which any use of those powers is undertaken. The draft continues:It is therefore important to ensure that the powers are used responsibly and sparingly. Over use of the powers is as likely to be harmful to the police effort in the long-term as misuse.The point is therefore specifically recognised in the code of practice to be issued that this is a crucial power, that the context in which it is used must be most carefully weighed and that it must be used responsibly and sparingly. The paragraph concludes:It is also particularly important to ensure that any person searched must be treated courteously and considerately if police action is not to be resented.Therefore, that second element of safeguard that is in clause 2 and in the code of practice that has been drawn up for this purpose significantly reflects much of the anxiety that we have heard, for example, from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and Opposition Members.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)
Can the Minister therefore give the House an absolute undertaking that in every circumstance those safeguards will be observed and enforced?
§ Mr. Shaw
I cannot give the undertaking that in every case the safeguards will be enforced, but if they are not the hon. Gentleman will recognise that, under clause 64(7), when a code of practice is ignored, a disciplinary offence by the officer is created. That should be a significant deterrent for those who may seek to avoid implementing the code of practice.
The third element of safeguard was strongly urged on me by two of my hon. Friends—the Members for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) and for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby). They were both concerned about 853 training, as was the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin that the training period is crucial to the implementation of this part of the Bill, as it is crucial to so many others. Likewise, I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that the time provided for implementation of those portions of the Bill requiring training will be so judged. In consultation with the police, an adequate period will be provided for their training in the new powers embodied in the Bill. I assure my hon. Friend too that it is important that the training be carried out with the full sympathy and understanding that the code of practice lays upon the individuals, quite apart from the fact that many of the powers will also require training for the legal profession in its acceptance of what is involved.
I put it to the House, therefore, that there will be considerable safeguards in relation to the implementation of the Bill. I conclude, however, that the need to provide such powers is important if we are to have full confidence that the police, whether in uniform or not, can operate effectively in stopping and searching when so much material—prohibited articles and stolen goods—can frequently be found on persons if they are correctly suspected of having been involved in taking them.
§ Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment
§ The House divided: Ayes 252, Noes 160.856
|Division No. 472]||[6.31 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Browne, John|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Bruinvels, Peter|
|Alexander, Richard||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Buck, Sir Antony|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Budgen, Nick|
|Amess, David||Bulmer, Esmond|
|Ancram, Michael||Burt, Alistair|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Butler, Hon Adam|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Butterfill, John|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Carlisle, John (N Luton)|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Carttiss, Michael|
|Bellingham, Henry||Cash, William|
|Bendall, Vivian||Chapman, Sydney|
|Benyon, William||Chope, Christopher|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Cockeram, Eric|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Colvin, Michael|
|Body, Richard||Coombs, Simon|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Cope, John|
|Bottomley, Peter||Corrie, John|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Critchley, Julian|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Crouch, David|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Bright, Graham||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Brinton, Tim||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Dunn, Robert|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Durant, Tony|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Eggar, Tim||McCrindle, Robert|
|Emery, Sir Peter||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Evennett, David||Madel, David|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Major, John|
|Fallon, Michael||Malins, Humfrey|
|Farr, Sir John||Maples, John|
|Favell, Anthony||Marland, Paul|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Marlow, Antony|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Mates, Michael|
|Forman, Nigel||Mather, Carol|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Forth, Eric||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Fox, Marcus||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Franks, Cecil||Merchant, Piers|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Freeman, Roger||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Fry, Peter||Moate, Roger|
|Gale, Roger||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||Moore, John|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir lan||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Moynihan, Hon C|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Neubert, Michael|
|Greenway, Harry||Newton, Tony|
|Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Norris, Steven|
|Ground, Patrick||Onslow, Cranley|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Osborn, Sir John|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Page, Sir John (Harrow W)|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Pawsey, James|
|Harris, David||Percival, Rt Hon Sir lan|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Pollock, Alexander|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Porter, Barry|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Hawksley, Warren||Powley, John|
|Hayward, Robert||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Raffan, Keith|
|Heddle, John||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Henderson, Barry||Rathbone, Tim|
|Hickmet, Richard||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Hicks, Robert||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Hill, James||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Hind, Kenneth||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Hirst, Michael||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Ryder, Richard|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Holt, Richard||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Hooson, Tom||Scott, Nicholas|
|Hordern, Peter||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Howard, Michael||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Shersby, Michael|
|Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)||Silvester, Fred|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Sims, Roger|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Hunter, Andrew||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Jackson, Robert||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Jessel, Toby||Speed, Keith|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Jones, Robert (W Herts)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Squire, Robin|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Key, Robert||Steen, Anthony|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)||Stern, Michael|
|Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Knowles, Michael||Stevens, Martin (Fulham)|
|Knox, David||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Latham, Michael||Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Stokes, John|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Sumberg, David|
|Lilley, Peter||Tapsell, Peter|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Lord, Michael||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Thomas, Rt Hon Peter||Watson, John|
|Thompson, Donald (Calder V)||Watts, John|
|Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Thurnham, Peter||Wheeler, John|
|Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)||Whitfield, John|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Whitney, Raymond|
|van Straubenzee, Sir W.||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Waddington, David||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Waldegrave, Hon William||Wolfson, Mark|
|Walden, George||Wood, Timothy|
|Walker, Bill (T'side N)||Yeo, Tim|
|Wall, Sir Patrick||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Ward, John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wardle, C. (Bexhill)||Mr. Ian Lang and Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.|
|Anderson, Donald||Freud, Clement|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||George, Bruce|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Ashton, Joe||Gould, Bryan|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Barnett, Guy||Hardy, Peter|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Beith, A. J.||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Bell, Stuart||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Blair, Anthony||Home Robertson, John|
|Boyes, Roland||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Howells, Geraint|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Hughes, Roy (Newport East)|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Hughes, Simon (Southward)|
|Buchan, Norman||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Caborn, Richard||John, Brynmor|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Campbell, Ian||Kennedy, Charles|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Cartwright, John||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Clarke, Thomas||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Litherland, Robert|
|Cohen, Harry||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Loyden, Edward|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Cowans, Harry||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||McGuire, Michael|
|Craigen, J. M.||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Crowther, Stan||McKelvey, William|
|Dalyell, Tam||Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Deakins, Eric||McTaggart, Robert|
|Dewar, Donald||McWilliam, John|
|Dobson, Frank||Madden, Max|
|Dormand, Jack||Marek, Dr John|
|Douglas, Dick||Martin, Michael|
|Dubs, Alfred||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Maxton, John|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Meacher, Michael|
|Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Michie, William|
|Fatchett, Derek||Mikardo, Ian|
|Faulds, Andrew||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Nellist, David|
|Fisher, Mark||O'Brien, William|
|Flannery, Martin||O'Neill, Martin|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Foster, Derek||Park, George|
|Foulkes, George||Parry, Robert|
|Patchett, Terry||Soley, Clive|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Spearing, Nigel|
|Pendry, Tom||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Pike, Peter||Stott, Roger|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Straw, Jack|
|Prescott, John||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Radice, Giles||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Randall, Stuart||Tinn, James|
|Redmond, M.||Torney, Tom|
|Richardson, Ms Jo||Wareing, Robert|
|Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)||Weetch, Ken|
|Robertson, George||Welsh, Michael|
|Ryman, John||White, James|
|Sheerman, Barry||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon R.||Winnick, David|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Woodall, Alec|
|Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Silkin, Rt Hon J.||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Skinner, Dennis||Mr. Robin Corbett and|
|Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)||Mr. Frank Haynes.|