HC Deb 10 June 2002 vol 386 cc593-4
10. Martin Linton (Battersea)

What plans he has to give neighbourhood wardens powers to demand names and addresses and detain suspects. [57056]

The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety (Mr. John Denham)

Members of street warden schemes, such as the one being set up in Wandsworth, are already able to be given local authority enforcement powers. Subject to the wish of Parliament, we intend that the Police Reform Bill will enable limited police powers, including the right to require a name and address in respect of certain offences, to be extended to wardens and others who are part of community safety accreditation schemes.

Martin Linton

May I tell my right hon. Friend how much I welcome the fact that neighbourhood wardens started working in Clapham Junction last month? When I spoke to them on their first day at work, they said that they could certainly do with the additional powers proposed for community safety officers. If neighbourhood wardens catch a fly tipper red-handed and the alleged offender refuses to give a name or gives a false name, there is very little that they can do at the moment. If they witness an arrestable offence, they have to rely on the powers of citizens arrest. Would it not be better for all concerned if neighbourhood wardens had the same powers as community safety officers?

Mr. Denham

I understand my hon. Friend's point. Although the important power to detain with reasonable force that we have proposed for CSOs has currently been removed from the Police Reform Bill by the other place, it is the Government's judgment that that power should be exercised only by someone who is directly an employee of the police service rather than by someone who is an employee of a local authority. If local authorities wish to work in partnership in, for example, London with the Metropolitan police, it is open to them to provide funding for the CSOs who would be directly deployed in their local government area. I believe that the important power to detain with reasonable force should be exercised by and under the auspices of the police service, but I welcome my hon. Friend's positive comments about the impact of street wardens. They perform an important role in its own right.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

There is a further problem concerning the identity of suspects. Last week, in Exeter court, there was a case involving a paedophile who had served a custodial sentence, then, on the expiry of his licence period, changed his name by deed poll and reoffended. That caused huge problems to the police in identifying him as a suspect for the second crime that he committed. Will the Minister ensure that that loophole is closed, so that paedophiles who have served sentences cannot change their names by deed poll?

Mr. Denham

The hon. Lady raises a very important matter. I have not read the details of the case, but it is not immediately obvious why fingerprinting and other evidence would not have identified the individual. It is essential that something as simple as a deed poll change of name should not be used to evade the proper powers of the law or of the police. If the hon. Lady would like to give me the details of the case, I shall look into it as a matter of urgency.