§ Mr. David Nicholson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will place in the Library a copy of his reply to the letter from the joint central committee of the Police Federation on specific powers of arrest and search of suspected carriers of knives or other sharply pointed articles; whether he proposes to meet Mr. Leslie Curtis, chairman of the Police Federation, to discuss this matter; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
I have done so today. The chairman of the Police Federation has not requested a meeting to discuss the matter, but my right hon. Friend and I are always willing to discuss the matter with him and I have already met the Metropolitan branch of the federation.
Section 128 of the Criminal Justice Bill makes it an offence to have a bladed or sharply pointed article (other than a pocketknife) in a public place without good reason. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 increased police powers by making available to all constables a power to stop and search for offensive weapons and prohibited articles, and the Criminal Justice Bill will extend these powers to enable the police to stop and search those reasonably suspected of carrying articles covered by section 128. The "reasonable suspicion" requirement, which is the basis of the federation's concern, is not specific to the new offence, but applies generally to stop and search powers. A definition of "reasonable suspicion" is contained in the codes of practice made under PACE. A review of the codes has now been initiated, during which my right hon. Friend will be consulting the Police Federation and others.