HC Deb 12 July 2004 vol 423 cc1124-5
20. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con)

When he next expects to meet representatives of police forces to discuss policy on stop and search. [183104]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears)

I have regular meetings with the Association of Chief Police Officers and other police representatives at which stop-and-search issues are discussed. We have recently launched a stop and search action team to ensure that the police use their powers of stop and search fairly, and as effectively as possible. The team will be working with both community representatives and police organisations, including ACPO, the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents Association. Its work is overseen by Baroness Scotland and me.

Mr. Bellingham

Can the Minister confirm that future stop-and-search policy will be based entirely on operational policing requirements and priorities? Does she agree that at a time when the Government were stepping up measures against terrorist threats, it was wrong of her and other Ministers to criticise the police for recent stop-and-search statistics?

Ms Blears

I gladly confirm that we consider stop and search to be an extremely useful power to the police when it is used in an intelligence-led and targeted fashion. That is why we are determined to ensure, along with the stop and search action team, that it is used in exactly that way.

We have never blamed the police for the current circumstances. What I said was that I was concerned about the disproportionality in the way in which the powers were being used, and would seek to reduce it. I am absolutely determined that the powers will be used both to prevent and detect crime, and just as importantly, to prevent and disrupt terrorism. When they are used properly, they are an extremely important weapon in the armoury of the police.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con)

Does the Minister agree that there would be a public outcry if some terrorist had not been stopped and searched and had subsequently committed an act of terrorism?

Ms Blears

The hon. Gentleman is correct, and I want to place it on the record that the powers under section 44 can be used only when they are authorised by a senior police officer, and then confirmed by me or the Home Secretary. We take that position extremely seriously.