HL Deb 28 July 1982 vol 434 cc232-3

2.59 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they favour strengthening the power of the police by giving them the authority to stop and search for offensive weapons, as recommended by the Phillips Report.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

Yes, my Lords; and we hope to bring forward legislative proposals accordingly.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for that brief but satisfactory reply, may I ask him whether he agrees that prevention of crime is much better than punishment for crime which has taken place; and would he not agree that the example of Scotland, where this matter has already been tried out during the last eight months and where searches in 530 cases revealed offensive weapons in 206, proves that crime levels must have been reduced and that this power will therefore benefit the rest of the country?

Lord Elton

My Lords, my figures are a little more recent. I support my noble friend's statement that the Scottish experience is successful. In the first 10 months of operation of the new power, just over one-third of the 750 or so persons stopped and searched were found to have an offensive weapon on them.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether, when he says "accordingly", he intends to supersede the powers in various Private Acts giving to certain police forces in this country the power to stop, search and detain? In addition, will he ensure that whatever powers are included will be national rather than local and will go further than just searching for offensive weapons, following the lines of the Metropolitan Police Acts, which were primarily concerned with stolen property?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I can confirm that we want to have a uniform procedure throughout the country and that at present there is a patchwork of local enactments which ought to be superseded. As the noble Lord asked and as the Royal Commission recommended, it is also intended to rationalise existing powers of stop and search in relation to stolen goods by extending them throughout England and Wales, and to create a new power in relation to housebreaking implements.