Kit Malthouse debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 28th Nov 2023
Mon 12th Jun 2023
Tue 28th Mar 2023
Wed 22nd Mar 2023
Public Order Bill
Commons Chamber

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Criminal Justice Bill

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
2nd reading
Tuesday 28th November 2023

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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That is a very nice practical example of a community coming together to commemorate and recognise that public service. We are speaking about people who give public service to our country to protect us all, while at the same time making enormous sacrifices. I had the great privilege of spending much of my time as Home Secretary with law enforcement, including police officers on the frontline, and with some of their family members, so I have heard first-hand testimony of the sacrifices made. That is particularly the case for the loved ones of officers who have died in the line of duty; it is incredibly sobering.

This Bill is important, and as it progresses I look forward to working with the Front-Bench team on the measures they are introducing. I will touch on some of the positive measures, as there are sections of the Bill that are hugely welcome. This legislation goes further in giving the public confidence in criminal justice and policing to keep our citizens and our country safe. There are provisions to address the use of 3D printers and electronic communications devices that aid vehicle theft. I think it is fair to say that we are great believers in designing crime out through the use of technology—making it harder for criminals who abuse the system to even commit the crime in the first place. The measures in the Bill should help in that preventive work.

Criminals are clever: they are constantly adapting, they are agile and they evolve their methods. As legislators, we must be prepared to make sure that we can do more to support the police to fight offenders. I welcome more details on how the Government will continue to grow their plans. The Policing Minister mentioned facial recognition, and I support that work. It is about time that we stood up to some of the legal challenges and brought in more facial recognition provisions to strengthen law enforcement.

I particularly welcome the measures in clauses 9, 10 and 18 relating to knives and bladed articles. I agree that more can be done. Online loopholes around the purchase of weapons has been a subject of discussion in the House for a long time, and I think we could do much more there. It is a fact that we are all horrified and shocked by the impact of knife crime on our streets on victims and their families. The lives of so many young people are blighted by the horrors of knife crime, and we can absolutely come together on this issue. Our hearts go out to victims of knife crime and their family members. We never, ever want to experience the grief and anguish that they endure, but we can do more. I pay tribute to the many campaigners in this space; we should stand with them to do much more.

I am pleased to see that clause 13 and schedule 2 include new provisions to strengthen the legal framework to prevent people taking, sharing and broadcasting intimate images—of course, I am referring to revenge porn. There are still loopholes, and we want to do more to close them. It is a sickening offence that blights people’s lives. Essex police investigated a very high-profile revenge porn case that led to the successful prosecution of an offender, Stephen Bear. I pay tribute to Georgia Harrison, who was on television again just yesterday, both for her bravery in speaking out so strongly and encouraging others to come forward and for the many ways in which she has championed this issue. Our laws have to be flexible and able to adapt to modern technology, so that victims are protected from the people who commit those dreadful crimes.

That brings me on to the measures in the Bill that cover the management of offenders who have a record of coercive and controlling behaviour. Clause 30 puts those offenders under the multi-agency public protection arrangements, which is very welcome. Those measures build on a strong record of supporting victims of domestic abuse and violence, and it is vital that they are put into effective practice. Having mentioned domestic abuse and violence, I want to touch on a really harrowing aspect of that issue: domestic homicides. A great deal of work has taken place in the Home Office around domestic homicide reviews. I led that work, and would like to see it strengthened so much more. We see too many loopholes, and I am afraid local authorities are not always following up on domestic homicide reviews in the way we would like them to. A lot of good practice is already out there, with some local authorities championing that work, working with multi-agency teams and law enforcement.

I also welcome the measures in clause 32 of the Bill to confiscate the proceeds of crime, and serious crime prevention orders, which are dealt with in clauses 34 and 37. Again, it is important that we constantly adapt and update our legislation, and that those measures are operationalised and implemented in an effective way. I look forward to hearing more details from the Government about those areas.

I have already touched on the great work undertaken to keep our streets safe and fight crime, particularly the work of the police, who are on the frontline. I believe that we should back the police when it comes to new technology, but also by standing by them as legislators, including in difficult times when the way in which they are policing and operationalising and their professional judgments are under scrutiny, including public scrutiny. The police are the ones who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public, and in recent weeks, we have seen the pressures they face when it comes to policing in challenging circumstances. I pay tribute to the police—I have seen them in very difficult situations. They are skilled professionals, and the recruitment of 20,000 police officers did not come out of the ether. A great deal of detailed work took place around that recruitment, but also around retaining them—how our laws back them, and how new technology and funding enables them to do their jobs. Our police officers are a credit to our country, and we should always show them our appreciation. They are diligent and maintain the highest possible standards, as I have seen myself.

However, we have of course seen some shocking and disturbing incidents, inappropriate conduct and serious criminality involving police officers. We have debated that issue in this House many times, both during my time as Home Secretary and since I left that position. It is right that chief constables and police commissioners across the country work to improve professional standards—I have had many discussions to that effect—but it is also important that we learn the lessons when things go wrong. In particular, the measures in clause 73 relating to ethical policing and the duty of candour can build on the work that has taken place through recent reviews. Of course, inquiries are still taking place, in particular the Sarah Everard inquiry that Dame Elish is working on. It is important that we maintain those standards going forward—we have a lot of work to do.

I will now touch on some areas in the Bill where I want to see greater scrutiny to ensure that the measures in this legislation will make a difference and will go further in some quarters. One area that needs reflection is clause 19, which the Chair of the Justice Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), touched on already. That clause contains measures that would permit entry into private premises without a warrant.

I am the first to recognise the desired outcome that the Government are seeking: to support the police in tackling the issue of stolen goods by enabling them to enter and search premises and to seize items without a warrant. We all want to see those responsible for those crimes apprehended more quickly, and the goods returned to their rightful owners—that is absolutely right. Too often, victims of crime are left frustrated by the challenges involved in investigating those crimes and getting their goods back. However, as the party of law and order that believes in safeguarding the rule of law, I want to ensure that if this power is introduced, freedom and civil liberties are maintained and due process remains in place. There is the prospect that that power will be misused, leading to miscarriages of justice.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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I share my right hon. Friend’s slight misgivings about that clause; it will be interesting to hear the argument that the Minister makes. Obviously, there are already circumstances in law where, if the police have reasonable suspicion that a person has committed a crime, they are able to enter that person’s premises in pursuit of them or the goods they have supposedly stolen. As such, I am unsure what more the clause will add; it will be interesting to see where the Government take it. I share my right hon. Friend’s nervousness about breaching a long-standing settlement with the British people about their privacy and the ability of the police to invade it.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. He and I spent a great deal of time discussing policing powers and what more we could do to strengthen them in relation to all aspects of criminality. The Bill rightly includes some safeguards, but there are measures in place already. We need to understand how the proposed powers will work—how their use will be authorised, and in what circumstances. The Bill is at an early stage, and it will obviously be scrutinised in Committee, but there are questions that need to be answered. We welcome those discussions.

I will say a few words about the provisions relating to nuisance begging and rough sleeping. I have listened with interest to the comments that have already been made about this issue on both sides of the Chamber. Members will recall that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 contained provisions to repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824, which is nearly 200 years old. I and my colleagues in the Government at the time worked with all Members of the House on that—it was right that the repeal took place—and we spoke about the replacement legislation as it came forward.

No one in the House would dispute that dealing with homelessness is a difficult, sensitive and highly complex issue. I worked with Government, local authorities and charities on these issues as Home Secretary, as did my former ministerial colleagues. In particular, we looked to provide resources and the right kinds of interventions to support those sleeping rough on our streets. Project ADDER was brought in to deal with a lot of the addiction issues that are associated with homelessness. That is an incredibly successful programme that works with local authorities. The Government must invest more in it and roll it out further.

I recall working on this issue with my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse), who was then Policing Minister. He brought his London experience to the fore regarding problems in central London. There were some specific cases of begging and homelessness on Park Lane, and we were able to address those issues and deal with rough sleeping, which was causing a lot of problems in that community, by bringing in the police and Westminster City Council and taking some proactive measures. There are also some incredible charities doing outreach work in London and across the community, in particular those that engage with rough sleeping.

We should reflect on the fact that this issue involves some veterans with complex needs, including the challenges posed by mental health issues, as well as some individuals who need trauma-informed support. We need to invest time across different Departments and agencies to tackle this problem, rather than looking at it just in the context of a criminal justice Bill. It is right that the Government look at the legislation required to prevent rough sleeping, and it is also essential that they bring in measures from other Departments to provide the right help and support. It will be interesting to hear from Ministers about the work that will take place in this area and to hear some of their reassurances.

I would like to touch on the point my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) made about spiking. Some work on that has taken place already, and we have met victims of this horrendous crime and campaigners against it. I had the privilege of working with the police on spiking issues, and in fact with Assistant Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, who was brought in to support all the work on violence against women and girls in particular.

During my tenure as Home Secretary, we certainly introduced new restrictions on some of the drugs used for spiking, and we brought in tougher sentences. We also reviewed whether a new and specific offence was needed. One has not been brought forward, but it is subject to debate, and the Policing Minister is familiar with all this. As the Bill progresses, it will be interesting to see where the Government take this issue, particularly because it is difficult to track, as we know from policing data. We should recognise that as a House, but we want to do more to prevent further victims of spiking, and we need to come together to look at what practical measures can be put in place.

I look forward to working with Ministers. We have a very strong team, who will be very diligent when it comes to both building on previous measures and looking to strengthen the Bill to bring in proper practical measures. No one would dispute that the country wants robust action when it comes to going after offenders and punishing those who do dreadful things across our communities, leaving victims harmed. It is right that the Government bring in this Bill and it is right that we work collectively to strengthen our laws, but we do need practical measures to make sure that the legislation actually delivers for victims. We want fewer victims of crime, and we want to protect our communities and strengthen our safety.

Dangerous Drugs

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Tuesday 12th September 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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We have conducted further engagement and consultation with the ACMD and others in industry to understand the implications of this move. I am jumping ahead a little, but we intend to table a further statutory instrument that will take effect alongside this one, which will make it clear that the sale and use of nitrous oxide for legitimate purposes will not be criminalised in any way—it will continue to be permitted. The definition of legitimate use will be very broadly drawn in that SI, because nitrous oxide is used for a wide range of medical research and commercial purposes, and we are not going to try to comprehensively list those purposes. A wide-based exemption for legitimate use will be put in place to make sure that we do not unintentionally stymie either medical research or commercial use of this drug.

It is worth saying that the use of nitrous oxide is quite widespread. Among those aged 16 to 24—

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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Could we have a little clarity on those two SIs? Does that mean that there is going to be a period in which otherwise legitimate uses will be illegitimate until the new SI is in place, and is that new SI needed because people came forward and said, “Whoops, you’ve missed this use”? I am not quite sure how the two SIs are going to interact.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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No, there will be no gap, and it is not unintentional or inadvertent; it is just likely that we will have to amend the way schedule 5 to the 1971 Act works in order to create this new category, essentially to accommodate nitrous oxide. The two SIs will be implemented on the same day—there will be no lacuna or gap. That is just how we have to sequence the secondary legislation under the Act.

Let me return to the question of prevalence. Some 230,000 young people inhaled this harmful substance in the year ending June 2022. It was the third most misused substance among that age group and, as we have discussed already, there is evidence that it has harmful neurological effects, particularly when consumed in quite large quantities.

Beyond that, we know that nitrous oxide has a significant effect on antisocial behaviour—indeed, we announced the measure for which we are legislating today in the antisocial behaviour action plan. Again, I thank parliamentary colleagues for raising the impact that nitrous oxide has had on their communities. It is fuelling antisocial behaviour and having an impact on the decent, hard-working majority who want to use their local park or go down their local high street without being harassed by antisocial behaviour or seeing the little silver canisters littered all over the place. To give an illustration of the scale of the problem, after the Notting Hill carnival a couple of weeks ago, it is estimated that 13 tonnes of those nitrous oxide canisters and others were collected from the street by the clean-up crews. That is an extraordinary amount.

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Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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I am grateful to the Minister for laying out the reasons for this SI. I recognise the impact on communities up and down the land of this particular substance, not least in littering and antisocial behaviour. I am anxious, as I am sure is the Minister, that if we are going to introduce this new measure, we do it properly. I have a couple of questions for the Minister about the impact of this instrument, particularly on the criminal justice system.

Looking at the impact assessment, I am surprised by the relatively low number of individuals it is envisaged will be put through the system. As the Minister will know, if we are to have an impact, there has to be a significant deterrent effect. If we are to have a deterrent effect, there has to be a sense in people’s minds that there is a very high probability of their being caught and that when they are caught, there will be a swift and certain consequence. Can he reassure us that the police are gearing up to deal with the numbers—even the relatively low numbers in the impact assessment—and that he has an ambition to go beyond those numbers? I know he does not want to do something that is merely performative, but that he wants to have an impact on this issue. We want to see fewer and fewer of these ampoules on the street and, indeed, fewer and fewer young people in particular using this substance.

If the Minister hits his ambition, what impact will that have on the criminal justice system overall? The estimate is that we will put, I think, a total of 500-odd people in prison for possession of this substance. As far as I can see, that is small against a background number that is running into the hundreds of thousands. Nevertheless, that will have an impact on the prison system. The thousands who will be going through the magistrates courts will obviously have an impact there. The police cost per capita of an arrest, charge and disposal of any kind by my calculation comes in at about £880, which seems light to me. Can the Minister reassure us about the cost, the capacity in the system and the ability for police forces to do this properly?

When this SI lands, will we see some action out there on the street? I am concerned we will see broadly what happened after the Blair-Brown reforms to cannabis possession. If the House remembers, at the tail end of that particular period in our political history, the notion was brought in of a cannabis warning, and then a cannabis penalty of 90 quid for police to hand out for pure possession. What happened was that we saw a bit of a bump in numbers, and then it tailed off, because the police realised there was little effect and it was not cost-effective to do it. The numbers diminished over the years.

As the Minister will know, a White Paper last year looked at a different set of consequences for possession, but in the absence of a response to that White Paper, I am keen to hear from him what the plan will be once the SI is in place, because as he and I both know, the policy is not the product; the product is what happens out there on the street. We are holding out a promise to our communities up and down the land that they will see fewer of these ampoules and less antisocial behaviour as a consequence. I hope there is an action plan.

My second point is to ask about unintended consequences. One of the characteristics of my youth in Liverpool in the 1970s and 1980s was the groups of young people gathering together to sniff glue. It was a horrible thing to do and obviously had a serious impact on their brains. The chemicals are even more noxious than this particular substance, so how will the Minister ensure that there is not a diversion towards those kinds of substances and the resumption of glue-sniffing in parks and playgrounds instead of taking this gas? If he can reassure me on both those points, I will be happy to support the SI.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan
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My point is that the Government are not nipping this is in the bud. What will happen here is that they will hand this over to the criminal fraternity, and kids who want to take drugs will continue to take drugs, but now we will not know what they are taking and it could be doing them more harm. Meanwhile, they will be arrested and given a criminal record, which will live with them for the rest of their days. That is not helping the situation at all.

I was just going to say that this change will result in people being arrested and convicted. That conviction will lead to stigma and damage employment opportunities, housing, personal finance, travel and relationships. That is what we have been doing for 50 years, and that has been a rolling success, has it not? There is little or no evidence that says that this action will address—[Interruption.] Does the right hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) want to intervene?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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indicated dissent.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan
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There is little or no evidence that says that this action will address the problem. Can the Minister provide me with one example—just one—over 50 years where arresting someone for personal possession and giving them a criminal record has helped reduce the misuse of drugs? As has been highlighted already in this debate, the problems of antisocial behaviour and littering can be addressed through existing legislation properly applied.

This change is driven by the Government’s desire to be seen to be coming down hard on crime and, by doing so, they are ignoring evidence from their own expert body, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, along with the Royal Society of Medicine, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations. The focus should be on education, not punishment.

This change does nothing to address the question of why people fall into addiction, or indeed why they take drugs in the first place. It does nothing to reduce criminality; it just pushes it on to the consumer. It does nothing to make people safer. It creates a vacuum for criminals to fill. It is a wolf whistle to the “hang ’em high” brigade and it is typical of the lack of long-term strategic planning that is required. There are no short-term solutions; no magic wand exists.

Finally, continuing to bolster a policy that has not worked for 50 years will only add to the misery and pain that has already been inflicted. It is time to think outside the box and radically overhaul this Act and make it fit for the 21st century, where drug harm is a health issue and not a matter for the criminal justice system.

Public Order

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Monday 12th June 2023

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kieran Mullan Portrait Dr Kieran Mullan (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)
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The main point I want to emphasise today is that these issues are of course to do with balance. Opposition Members want to make it black and white, but we know that these things are not black and white. I am also interested in the fact that some of the same Members who have been so opposed to these regulations made complete counter-arguments when they proposed legislation, which I supported, to say that people should not be able to protest within a certain distance of an abortion clinic. These are common arguments and it is about the individual interpretation of them.

In a free society, we have responsibilities as well as rights. Our right to protest does not offer absolute relief from our responsibility to allow other citizens to go about their lives freely. Of course they have a right to do that. Much attention is paid to the rights of the protesters, but what about the rights of everyone else? We must view the impact in the context of the cost of resources to taxpayers, because they have a right to see their resources used sensibly. If we are going to say that something is acceptable—disruptive protest, disrupting sporting events, going on the road—let us imagine what would happen if we were not spending millions of pounds to minimise that behaviour. That behaviour would run rife. We would not be able to have a public event in this country without one or two people running into it and disrupting it. We would be unable to have any kind of major event without spending millions of pounds to stop people from protesting en masse, so it is quite right that we should look at making sure that we can do that more efficiently.

I would encourage the Home Secretary to consider going further. We are talking today about serious disruption and people perhaps not being able to go to hospital, but what about just being able to go to work, to catch up with a friend that they have not seen for a few months or to go out for dinner in a restaurant? Why do we say that one individual person can block a road and prevent all sorts of people going about their daily lives because they care deeply about an issue?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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My hon. Friend is making a very strong point. Does he agree that part of the disconnect on this between the Labour party and the rest of the country is that with these protests, the disruption is the objective, not the message? That is what makes the British people feel so aggrieved. Here in Westminster, more than anywhere, we understand that disruption can be a by-product of protest, but that is a by-product, not the primary objective.

Kieran Mullan Portrait Dr Mullan
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Indeed, and the protesters brazenly admit it. It is not about protesting with a by-product of disruption; they brazenly admit that they want to do ever-escalating things to get into the news. They should go on a hunger protest and disrupt their own lives. Do not eat—that will get in the news. Why do they think they can go around disrupting everybody else’s lives just to make their point? Importantly, they can still protest. I was flabbergasted by the reporting of the apparent crackdown on protest at the coronation. I was on the parliamentary estate, and I saw loads of people holding up signs saying, “Not my King”. It was all over the news and I saw lots of people who were not arrested and who were not moved on. They were within feet of the procession and were perfectly able to go about their protesting.

I urge the Home Secretary to think about this. In my view, people should not be able to disrupt a road. They should not be able to stop traffic because they care particularly about an issue.

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Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
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The right hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. I would take a lot more from him if he actually believed climate change was real in the first place, before he starts lecturing other people.

The UK Constitutional Law Association has described this statutory instrument as

“an audacious and unprecedented defiance of the will of Parliament.”

This Government are bringing in things through this SI that they could not get through in legislation. The UKCLA says that

“The Government set about drafting regulations that would reverse the defeat in the House, relying on Henry VIII powers to amend the Public Order Act 1986 conferred by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. These draft regulations were laid before the Public Order Bill had even completed its Parliamentary stages. In this way, the Government sought to obtain through the back door that which it could not obtain through the front.”

That goes to the heart of this shoddy process this afternoon.

While this regulation is an England and Wales regulation, it does have implications for my constituents and other people from Scotland who wish to come and protest. If the WASPI women campaigners in my constituency wanted to come down here to complain about the injustice of having their state pension robbed from them by consecutive Westminster Governments; if they wanted to protest outside Parliament, as they have done on many occasions; and if they wanted to invoke the spirit of Mary Barbour, to bang pots and pans and stand in the road outside of this building, they would not be protected just because they are Scottish. They would be at risk of causing serious disruption under these regulations and would be lifted by the police forthwith. They would be at risk of causing serious disruption under these regulations and would be lifted by the police forthwith. That goes to the heart of these proposals. Those actions are just and important, and they want to draw attention to that injustice.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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Will the hon. Lady give way?

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
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No, the right hon. Member has been extremely obnoxious to me many times in the past, so I will not take his intervention.

Groups, including Liberty, have pointed out that these are not insignificant changes. Liberty says that the Government’s attempt to redefine serious disruption from “significant and prolonged” to “more than minor” is

“effectively an attempt to divorce words from their ordinary meaning in ways that will have significant implications for our civil liberties.”

The statutory instrument refers to

“the prevention of, or a hindrance that is more than minor to, the carrying out of day-to-day activities (including in particular the making of a journey)”,

but what is “minor”? We do not know. Is a couple of minutes late “minor”? What is “more than minor”? Is that 10 minutes late rather than five minutes late? There is nothing in these regulations to say. They will give significant discretion to the police to figure out exactly what is “minor” and what is “more than minor”, because nobody can really tell us.

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Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Carmichael
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I think the glorious 12th comes in August actually, but I bow to the expertise of those on the Conservative Benches on such matters.

In fairness, however, the right hon. Gentleman has a reasonable point, and I understand that the legislation to which he refers pertains only to Northern Ireland and that is perhaps why it is not part of this legislation. Essentially, however, as the shadow Home Secretary said in her remarks, this is an area of law that is already well regulated. Very few areas of lacuna remain within the law and this legislation is not in any practical, meaningful way going to fill any difficulties. What would fill difficulties is a better resourced police force that is better able to engage with people and take on board their wish to protest.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on the fact that it is not just Northern Ireland that has regulation of protest? He will be aware that in Scotland it is a criminal offence not to notify the police within 28 days of an organised moving protest, and that people may face criminal sanctions if they do not do so. What is the difference between the legislation we are currently discussing and the law under which his constituents operate, where they may go to prison if they do not tell the police about a protest that is coming?

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Carmichael
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I could be wrong because I am hopelessly out of date on so much of this stuff, but I think from memory that the right hon. Gentleman refers to the provisions of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, which was brought into force under a previous Government—a Government for whom I had very little time, but in terms of the way in which they went about their business were a model of parliamentary propriety compared with the mince that has been brought to the Chamber this afternoon. This comes back to the point I made about the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich: there are serious issues here to be decided—serious issues about the balance between the rights of the individual to protest and the rights of the community to go about their business—but this is not the way to deal with them.

The shadow Home Secretary made the point that this is an area where there is already extensive legislation. Problems arise not from the lack of legislation but from the lack of the ability to implement properly and with consent the laws we currently have.

National Crime Agency Investigation: Javad Marandi

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Tuesday 16th May 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
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Thank you for granting this urgent question, Mr Speaker.

The news this morning that Javad Marandi has lost a 19-month legal battle with the BBC to remain anonymous is a victory for transparency and freedom of the press in a battle often weighted in favour of wealthy oligarchs. It also goes to the heart of our democracy. Although it is incumbent on me to state that Mr Marandi denies any wrongdoing, and I note that his lawyers emailed me just five minutes ago, the National Crime Agency has found that companies linked to him are a crucial part of the money laundering network known as the Azerbaijani laundromat. Credit must go to Martin Bentham of the Evening Standard and the BBC’s Steve Swann and Dominic Casciani, to the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, who back in 2017 exposed the $2.9 billion stolen from the people of Azerbaijan, and to the NCA for its part in this case, naming Mr Marandi as a person of importance.

The UK must not be a home for the world’s dirty money, but it has become so under the Tories. Mr Marandi appears to have used corporate structures—

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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Where’s your camper van?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Are you going to continue with that—yes or no? If you are, you are going to leave the Chamber. Can I have an answer? Are you going to behave?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I will behave.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Thank you.

Public Order Act 2023

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Tuesday 16th May 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
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That very much seems to be the case.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) said, the Home Affairs Committee will be conducting an inquiry on this tomorrow and hearing evidence. I am pleased that both the Chair of the Justice Committee and myself, as Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, have been asked to join in that inquiry. I am very much looking forward to getting to the bottom of the question of whether political pressure was brought to bear, because I want to be clear: it would be absolutely unacceptable if political pressure had been brought to bear on the police. That sort of thing should not be happening in a democracy.

I will wind up in a minute. I have been speaking so far in a personal capacity, but, as Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, I wish to point to our legislative scrutiny of the Public Order Act and of part 3 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The Joint Committee is a cross-party Committee of six MPs and six peers—Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP and Cross-Benchers. We produced two unanimous reports saying that both Bills, as they were then, went too far in cracking down on the right to protest and did not get the balance right under articles 10 and 11 of the European Court of Human Rights.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
- Hansard - -

I hesitate to tangle with the hon. and learned Lady on matters of law, but, given all that she has said, would she also support the repeal in Scotland of what some might say are even more draconian measures that surround protests? For example, protesters have by law to give 28 days’ notice to the police if there is to be a protest. The offence of malicious mischief has been used against Just Stop the Oil protesters, which has an unlimited fine and unlimited prison sentence. In 2021, the Scottish Government applied for restrictions to be placed on protests around the Scottish Parliament building where we have seen many arrests and, indeed, people banned for long periods for protesting. I just wondered whether her Committee or, indeed, she had a view on those matters.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Committee’s job is to scrutinise what happens in this Parliament, not what happens at Holyrood. However, I want to correct the right hon. Gentleman. It was not the Scottish Government who asked for powers to restrict protests outside Holyrood; it was the corporate body of the Scottish Parliament that asked for those powers, and I am on the record as having criticised that, so I am consistent in my position here.

I wish to go back to what the Joint Committee on Human Rights said about getting the balance right under articles 10 and 11. We said:

“The current rhetoric around protest tends to downplay the importance of the right to…protest”

and instead focuses on discussions about balancing the rights of protesters against the rights of members of the public. We saw two problems with that. First, it often leads to the right to protest being given insufficient weight in the balancing compared with the rights of the public. Given that the right to protest is protected by the convention, it should be facilitated by the state so far as possible.

The second problem with this balancing is that it automatically assumes the rights of protesters are inevitably in conflict with the public interest. But that is not the case, because while protests may cause inconvenience, they are also fundamental in a democratic society to facilitate debate and discussions on contentious issues, and that in itself is of value to the public generally. We reminded the Government of the state’s duty to facilitate protest, a positive duty, and the police’s negative duty not to interfere disproportionately with protest.

I support the repeal of the Public Order Act because I believe, and a cross-party Committee that I chair supports me in that view, that it went too far, that it breaches articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR and also that there is plenty of existing legislation that the police have at their disposal to deal with disruptive protests that spill over into violence or become, in a sense, out of control. Therefore, this Act is unnecessary. I think that it was performative and that it will have a chilling effect on the right to protest in England and Wales, which is deeply regrettable.

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Tommy Sheppard Portrait Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP)
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On the afternoon of Saturday 6 May, I attended a rally called by the Scottish campaign group Our Republic at Calton Hill, overlooking Princes Street in Edinburgh. It was a well-attended event. People there were passionate and they were purposeful, but they were also extremely peaceful. They were, I think, buoyed up by recent polls showing that the case they were making is now supported by a majority of people in Scotland under the age of 35. They were there to express their opposition to the concept of an hereditary monarchy and to proclaim their support for Scotland becoming a self-governing country with a republican constitution that would allow the people to elect the Head of State.

Less than a mile away, at a different venue, there were people gathered to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III—a slightly smaller number, I have to say, but I am sure that they were just as passionate and just as purposeful. Both events were policed discreetly and minimally, and both events passed off without incident. They allowed people in Edinburgh to express conflicting opinions on what was undoubtedly the biggest historical event of that day and possibly of this year. That is as it should be, but I fear that if the main provisions of the Public Order Act had been in force in Scotland, events might have unfurled rather differently on that day.

Let me be clear why we are concerned about this. We have heard ill-informed opinions expressed from the Government Benches suggesting that there is something untoward about the SNP seeking to repeal a piece of legislation most of which does not actually apply in Scotland. I have the privilege of representing part of our capital city, Edinburgh—an area full of rich and active communities with a lot of engaged citizens who quite often wish to protest about injustices they see around them. As colleagues have said, many of the decisions about those things are made here in this Parliament, so when there is a protest about whether we should be part of the European Union, whether we should be arming ourselves with new weapons of mass destruction or whether we should be invading foreign countries, we can expect busloads of my constituents to come to this city and attend. It concerns me—indeed, it is unacceptable to me—that my constituents have less protection of their right of expression once they cross the border than they have when they are in Scotland. That is why I want this piece of legislation repealed.

The hon. Member for Bury North (James Daly) asked for evidence. The evidence I have to back up my argument is what happened on that same day on the streets of this city, less than a mile from this Chamber. At 7 o’clock in the morning, Graham Smith, the chief executive of the organisation Republic, and five other members of his organising team were arrested by the police. They were arrested on the suspected charge of going equipped under the new Public Order Act. It was 7 o’clock in the morning. I know Graham Smith. He is a man of the utmost seriousness, sincerity and integrity. There is no way that he would be associated with anything other than making a peaceful protest, and his arrest at 7 o’clock in the morning—before people had even come to the city centre—was not done in order to prevent harm being caused to others. It was not done because there was a threat to disrupt the coronation festivities. It was done, I believe, because there are people within Government and within the Metropolitan police who thought it might be embarrassing to the new King and the palace authorities for the demonstration to be successful, and wanted to try to disrupt that protest by removing its capacity—by taking away its key organisers and holding them in detention for 16 hours.

The truth is that the embarrassment that was caused that day was not to the King, but to this Government and the British state, because to all the rest of the world watching on, it looked as if a Government who try to stand up for dissidents in Moscow, Beijing or elsewhere were locking up dissidents on the streets of their own country. Nothing undermines an argument more than the charge of hypocrisy against those who advocate for it. That is why I believe those arrests and the use of the Public Order Act to make them have seriously tarnished the reputation of the United Kingdom as a global defender of human rights around the world.

It was the Public Order Act that was used, and there are provisions in that Act—new offences such as going equipped or conspiracy to order, or the new provisions for serious disruption prevention orders. Those are specific things in specific sections of the Act, but there is a much more insidious and sinister aspect to this issue, which is in the politics and the psychology around the legislation and its introduction. Two things are happening: the first is that law enforcement agencies are being given additional confidence, support and encouragement when they have an altercation with a protester. That allows some more zealous and less considered members of those law enforcement agencies the opportunity to go beyond the capacity of the law—to overstep, and to do some of the things that happened on 6 May. I would have thought that if any institution ought not to be given that encouragement, it is the Metropolitan police, given what has happened in recent years.

The other aspect of the psychological debate relates to citizens who wish to protest, because in debates surrounding this issue, the notion that there is somehow something illegitimate and difficult about people going to protest about something they are concerned about will lead many of them to sit at home and say, “I do not want to get involved. It is too much trouble.” That is not a good place for a democratic society to be. We ought to be making sure that we facilitate and stand up for the rights of people to express their opinions and disagree with others.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
- Hansard - -

I have a lot of respect for the hon. Gentleman, but he is giving the impression that north of the border in Scotland, no protester is ever arrested, convicted, or indeed put in prison. However, over the past five or six years, there have been numerous occasions when protesters have been arrested, convicted and imprisoned in Scotland, and indeed when protesters have had restrictions placed on their ability to repeat their protest. I was reading in the paper about a young lady in Glasgow who was restricted from continuing with her protest while on bail, so obviously the Scottish Government are drawing a line somewhere between these two competing rights. That is all the British Government are seeking to do in England and Wales.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the hon. Gentleman replies, I ask him to keep a watchful eye on the clock.

Police Uplift Programme

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Wednesday 26th April 2023

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Can I just say to the right hon. Member: calling somebody “she”—does he really want to use that type of language? For all our benefit, I would say to everybody: let us show a bit more respect to each other than we seem to be at the moment. I understand there might be a bit of anger, but respect does no harm. I would like to see a bit more and this will be a great example—Kit Malthouse.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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Can I offer my congratulations to the Minister, the team at the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and everybody involved in what has been a massive effort over the last three years to recruit the extra 20,000? Remembering that the gross recruitment to backfill retirements is about 45,000, it has been an enormous job and they have done a fantastic job, not least given that they were doing so in the teeth of a pandemic, which required some ingenuity.

As the Minister says, however, this is only half the battle. Maintaining the number where it currently stands will be the next stage. Can he confirm that funding will be provided to police and crime commissioners on the basis that they are incentivised to maintain police officer numbers in their forces, not least because, as we have seen over the last decade, in areas controlled by Labour or independent police and crime commissioners, they have failed to prioritise police numbers, which is why, proportionally, they may now be below the numbers in areas that are controlled by Conservatives?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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First, let me just thank my right hon. Friend, whose work over a number of years did more than just lay the foundations for this programme: it really got it under way and on the road to success, so I thank him personally for his work on this. He is absolutely right about the importance of maintaining officer numbers. We have created financial incentives to ensure that happens, and I know police and crime commissioners and chief constables are very keen to make sure those numbers are maintained.

On individual police and crime commissioners, my right hon. Friend is right. In some parts of the country, in the years when we were repairing the financial damage of the last Labour Government, some PCCs did not protect frontline numbers, meaning they were coming up from a much lower base. When the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), was Mayor of London and my right hon. Friend was Deputy Mayor for Policing in London, they protected police numbers, which is why London, in common with 27 other police forces, has record numbers.

Strip Searching of Children

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Tuesday 28th March 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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Sarah Dines Portrait Miss Dines
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I thank the hon. Lady for her submissions. It is important to note that while very occasionally a child as young as eight has been strip searched—[Interruption.] May I just clarify this? It is important to note that 95% of searches carried out are of males and 75% are of 16 to 17-year-olds, and that something illegal is found in about half the cases.

On the request for the Home Secretary to write to all chief constables about the possible upgrading or reconsideration of Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes A and C, that is being considered very seriously. Strip searches in schools will also be considered seriously. The report was received only very recently, but it is being looked at very earnestly and quickly. Three of its recommendations appertain directly to the Home Office, and they too are being looked at very seriously.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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I am pleased to hear that the Minister is taking the report as seriously as she obviously is. It is clear that police forces need to do significant work in respect of the alarming levels of non-compliance with existing guidelines on strip searches. However, the Minister will be aware that there is no boundary to the evil that these gangs will perpetrate, and that if we create no-go areas or particular demographics where the police are restricted in some way in their searches, we immediately expose those demographics to exploitation by gangs. She will know that, for example, one of the reasons why county line gangs use teenagers so much is that the police cannot recruit them as informants. As a result, they are seen as easily exploitable by those gangs. While the Minister does her work to ensure that when strip searches are performed on minors that is done within the guidelines, will she ensure that she does not unwittingly expose very young children, in particular, to even more exploitation than they are currently exposed to?

Sarah Dines Portrait Miss Dines
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My right hon. Friend is entirely right. There are serious and important safeguarding reasons behind this, which is why it is important that the PACE codes are adhered to. Young people are often exploited by criminal gangs who recruit them to transport drugs in intimate body cavities, and we need to identify and stop that. It is shocking that about half the children who are searched have such illegal substances on them, often because of those criminal gangs. Stopping that will require a mixture of policing and safeguarding, and we need to get the balance right. Like my right hon. Friend, I am very keen to ensure that the police are doing what they should be doing, because no one wants them to go beyond what is unlawful.

Antisocial Behaviour Action Plan

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Monday 27th March 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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The more I listen to the right hon. Lady, the more confused I am about what Labour’s policy is. She criticises our plan while claiming that we have stolen Labour’s, so I am not sure which it is. In the light of the embarrassing efforts of the shadow Policing Minister, the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones), to explain her own policy on television last week, I am not sure that any Labour Members really know what their antisocial behaviour policy is. Let me tell the House one big difference between the right hon. Lady’s plan and ours: unlike her, we call tell the public how much ours will cost and how we will pay for it—a big question that Labour is yet to answer.

The shadow Home Secretary talks about policing cuts. Never mind that we are recruiting 20,000 extra police officers—the highest number in history. Never mind that we have increased frontline policing, which leads to more visible and effective local policing. Never mind that by the end of this month, we are on course to have more officers nationally than we had in 2010 or in any year when Labour was in government.

The shadow Home Secretary wants to talk about safer streets. Well, let us compare our records. Since 2019, this Conservative Government have removed 90,000 knives and weapons from our streets. Since 2010, violence is down 38%, neighbourhood crime is down 48%, burglary is down 56%, and overall crime, excluding fraud, is down 50%. What does Labour’s record show? That where Labour leads, crime follows. [Interruption.] I know it hurts, but it is true. Under Labour police and crime commissioners, residents are almost twice as likely to be victims of robbery, and knife crime is over 44% higher. In London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan wants to legalise cannabis. In the west midlands, a Labour PCC wants to close police stations. Labour opposed plans to expand stop and search. Labour Members voted against tougher sentences for serious criminals. They voted against the increased powers for police in our Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. So we should not be surprised that, while this Conservative Government are working to get violent criminals off our streets, Labour is campaigning to release them. The Leader of the Opposition and some 70-odd Labour MPs signed letters—they love signing letters—to stop dangerous foreign criminals from being kicked out of Britain. One of those criminals went on to kill another man in the UK, and we learned this week that many others went on to commit further appalling crimes in the UK. Shameful! Outrageous! Labour Members should hang their heads in shame!

The truth about Labour is that they care more about the rights of criminals than about the rights of the law abiding majority. They are soft on crime and soft on the causes of crime. The Conservatives are the party of law and order. Our track record shows it, and the public know it.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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As the Home Secretary pointed out, crime is now at half the level it was when Labour told us that there was no money left in the coffers to continue the fight. I congratulate her on bending her elbow and putting so much effort into driving the number down even further. I particularly commend her on the publication of the plan today, which builds on the focus on antisocial behaviour that we published in the beating crime plan not so long ago.

May I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to examine carefully the routes of supply of nitrous oxide? We need to avoid a situation in which the substance moves from the legitimate market into the illegitimate market and becomes another hook for drug dealers to draw young people into their awful trade. How can she restrict supply to those who genuinely need it without it necessarily becoming an illicit substance that drug dealers use for their business?

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
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Let me put on the record my admiration for and gratitude to my right hon. Friend for all he has achieved and led—not just when he was at the Home Office but before that, when he worked for City Hall on the frontline of policing and crime fighting. He talked about our plans to ban nitrous oxide. We are clear: there needs to be an exception for legitimate use. It is used in a vast array of circumstances that are lawful, commercial and proper, and those will not be criminalised.

Public Order Bill

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Can the Minister confirm, as an illustration, that, if a demonstration is about to take place by a group who use a particular tactic—gluing themselves to the road, for example—the police may use this power to intercept individuals with glue in their pockets, before they carry out an activity such as gluing themselves that occupies enormous amounts of police time, often puts them and police officers in danger, and causes enormous inconvenience? In those circumstances, will the police be able to use this power to get ahead of the problem?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The way my right hon. Friend puts it is good. It is in exactly those circumstances, where the police are concerned that one of the specified crimes may be committed, that they can use this power. Those crimes are specified in clause 11(1), and include offences under section 137 of the Highways Act 1980—that is wilfully obstructing the highway—offences under section 78 of the relatively new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which involve

“intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”,

and various offences under the Bill, which include causing serious disruption by

“tunnelling…being present in a tunnel… obstruction etc of major transport works”,

interfering with critical national infrastructure, as well as “locking on”, which I think is the point made by my right hon. Friend.

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Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab)
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Stop and search is a crucial tool, as we all agree. Its normal usage is based on intelligence around a crime or a potential crime, based on proper suspicion, and applied for the right reasons. In our country, we use stop and search with suspicion to look for weapons, drugs and stolen property. Under particular circumstances, we use suspicionless stop and search—a section 60, as we call it—to search people without suspicion when a weapon has been used, or where there is good reason to believe there will be a serious violence incident. The Government are introducing suspicionless stop and search for potential protests, an overreach of the law that the police have not asked for and which pushes the balance of rights and responsibilities away from the British public.

Yesterday, we debated Baroness Casey’s report into the Metropolitan police. It is an excoriating report that, among much else, calls for a fundamental reset in how stop and search is used in London. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister today accept all the findings and recommendations in the report. The report states:

“Racial disparity continues in stop and search in London. This has been repeatedly confirmed in reports and research. Our Review corroborates these findings.”

It is ironic that the day after the report was published the Government are trying to pass laws that risk further damaging the relationship between the police and the public by significantly expanding stop and search powers way beyond sensible limits.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
- Hansard - -

The hon. Lady says these measures may damage relations with the public. The vast majority of the public feel very strongly that their lives have been severely impacted by these protests, so giving the police the tools to get ahead of them may in fact command widespread public support, notwithstanding the issues of protest. I wonder what her solution might be to the problem of people who persistently come to protests and glue themselves to all sorts of surfaces, thereby causing enormous disruption to other people’s lives, disproportionate to the issue they are protesting about.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the right hon. Member for his intervention. We do not disagree on some of the struggles here—we never have. We have never said that it is not a problem in terms of major infrastructure, getting around the country and so on. Our argument has always been, first, a series of existing laws is in place that enables the police to do their job. Secondly, the use of injunctions could have been made easier—we put that case forward in earlier stages of the Bill—so that we could get ahead of some of these problems. But fundamentally, we disagree with the premise that extending these powers, which are used at the moment for serious violence, to this loose definition of potential protest is helpful, or anything the police will necessarily want or use.

Clause 11 will introduce wide-ranging powers for the police to stop and search anyone in the vicinity of a protest, including any of us who happen to walk through the area. The Government’s knee-jerk reaction to introduce sweeping powers that will risk further damaging policing by consent is not the way forward. Members in the other place passed very sensible changes to raise the threshold for the powers in clause 11 to be used. To the Minister’s point that they are not disputing the principle, they have already disputed the principle—we have had that argument and they have, rightly, as is their role, moved on. So they are trying to contain what they think are the problems with these measures. All we ask is that the Government accept these sensible minor tweaks to clause 11.

Lords amendments 6B to 6F would raise the rank of the officer able to authorise the power to stop and search without suspicion for a 12-hour period to a chief superintendent. The Minister argued that we need consistency. I do not accept that argument. There are all kinds of different levels of all kinds of different things across the law that we can all understand. Because this is a more significant intervention for potentially a lesser crime, the amendment is relatively reasonable.

Lords amendment 6C removes “subsection (ii)”, which means the power could be used for the anticipation of “causing public nuisance” such as merely making noise. Without this change, every time music is played outside Parliament anyone could be stopped and searched without suspicion. Baroness Casey suggests that

“as a minimum, Met officers should be required to give their name, their shoulder number, the grounds for the stop and a receipt confirming the details of that stop.”

Lords amendment 6F would insert:

“The chief superintendent must take reasonable steps to inform the public when the powers conferred by this section are in active use.”

That is important because communication failures are a common factor in problematic stop and searches.

A recent report from Crest Advisory, examining the experience of black communities nationally on stop and search, found that 77% of black adults support the use of stop and search in relation to suspicion of carrying a weapon. So, in the poll, the black community absolutely agrees that we need the power to stop and search. But less than half of those who had been stopped and searched felt that the police had communicated well with them or explained what would happen. That less than half of those who had been stopped and searched felt that the police had communicated well to them or explained what would happen shows how important it is to make sure people are communicated with when these strong and impactful powers are used by the police. If we imagine that in the context of clause 11, where anyone can be stopped, including tourists who might have got caught up in a crowd and not know what is going on, there is a risk of a chaotic invasion of people’s rights to go about their business.

We have discussed previously and at length the definition of “serious disruption”. The Minister considers it

“more than a minor degree”.

Would being stopped and searched for simply walking through Parliament Square when a protest is taking place disrupt his day more than a minor degree? The suspicionless stop and search powers being applied to protests are extreme and disproportionate. We have raised many times in this House the warnings from former police officers that they risk further diminishing trust in public institutions.

After the devastating Casey report, it is hard to see how public trust in the Metropolitan police could suffer more. Ministers were unable to offer any solutions to bring the reforms we desperately need in policing, but they could at least try not to pass laws that would risk making trust and confidence in the police even worse. Clause 11 will create powers that risk undermining our Peelian principles even further. When Ministers say that it would only be in very unusual circumstances that the powers would be used, I want to stress, why bother? Why bother, when to deal with disruptive protests the police could already use criminal damage, conspiracy to cause criminal damage, trespass, aggravated trespass, public nuisance, breach of the peace and obstruction of the highway? The Minister knows I could keep going. Many protestors have been fined and many have gone to prison using those powers. Thousands of arrests are already made using existing powers, but the Bill is apparently justified by an impact assessment that says it will lead to a few hundred arrests only. The powers are there for the police to use.

Disruptive protests have a serious impact on infrastructure and on people’s ability to go about their daily lives. Over the course of the passage of the Bill, we have spent many hours on new ways to ensure the police have all the levers they need. We tried to introduce sensible amendments on injunctions. The Government’s response to the problem is a totally disproportionate headline-chasing response that is, depressingly, what we have come to expect. Gone are the days when the Government were interested in passing laws that could fix problems or make things better. The truth is that the Government’s disagreement with the sensible narrowing amendments from the other place will create more problems than it will solve. I urge the Government to think again and to back these common-sense amendments from the other place.

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David Davis Portrait Mr Davis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I suspect that my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) wants to intervene on that point.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. What he says is incorrect. At the time, we were dealing with a huge spike in knife crime in London, which was disproportionately reflected in the black community. Young black men were dying on an almost daily basis and, sadly, the vast majority of the perpetrators were also young black men. There was definitely a campaign to try to eliminate weapons from within that community, which worked. In 2008, 29 young people were killed in London, and by 2012 that was down to eight, so the campaign was successful. During that period and up to about 2016, confidence in the Metropolitan police rose to an all-time high of 90%, including rising confidence among minority communities in the capital. I am afraid that my right hon. Friend’s basic premise is not correct.

David Davis Portrait Mr Davis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have allowed my right hon. Friend to make his point, but the simple truth was that the reason for the Home Secretary of the day curbing stop and search was concern about its impact on ethnic minorities. He is also right that the biggest number of victims of knife crime came from ethnic minorities, so I take his point. My answer to him—and the general concern here—is that bad policing is not improved by bad law, which is what I think this is.

That brings me to the Casey report. The hon. Member for Croydon Central was right to cite the criticism of the Metropolitan police. The report said that there were numerous examples of stop and search being carried out badly. There were examples where officers

“justified carrying out a search based on a person’s ethnicity alone”.

That should not apply under any circumstance. There were examples where officers

“Had been rude or uncivil while carrying out a search”

and

“had used excessive force, leaving people (often young people) humiliated, distressed, and this damaged trust in the Met”.

Those are all bad things from our point of view.

We all want—I include the Opposition—the disgraceful trend in modern demonstrations brought to an end. It is designed not to demonstrate but to inconvenience—there is a distinction. But the Bill is a heavy-handed way of doing that. The Minister tried to say that the Lords had accepted the principle. They had not. What they have sought to do with these amendments is leave the tool in the hands of the police but constrain it in such a way that it is used more responsibility.

The Lords amendments will change the level of seniority required to designate an area for suspicionless search from inspector to chief superintendent or above. Whatever Lord Hogan-Howe says, that is not a crippling amendment. Changing the maximum amount of time for which an area can be designated from 24 hours to 12 hours is not crippling but practical. While my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire was doing his job in London, I was on the Opposition Benches as shadow Home Secretary, dealing with a number of Metropolitan Police Commissioners. That is a perfectly practical change. Changing the level of seniority required to extend the authorisation by a further 24 hours to chief superintendent is, again, a practical change.

We talk about suspicionless stop and search. What does that mean? It means the right to stop and search innocent people who have no reason to be stopped and searched whatsoever. We are handing the discretion to a police force that has been called upon to reset its approach to stop and search. The Government are doing almost precisely the opposite of what Casey is calling for. The final amendment states:

“The chief superintendent must take reasonable steps to inform the public when the powers conferred by this section are in active use.”

Those are all practical changes. The smart action of the Government is to accept them, carry on and try to improve on the Metropolitan police that we have today.

Metropolitan Police: Casey Review

Kit Malthouse Excerpts
Tuesday 21st March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Braverman
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Discriminatory attitudes and homophobic, racist or misogynistic behaviour have no place in policing. All the case studies and references in the report make for shocking reading. The ability of the police to fulfil their duties is essential, but what we have seen is a real impediment preventing chief constables from dismissing and getting rid of officers who are not fit to wear the badge, for a host of reasons. We in the Home Office are currently consulting on the dismissals process, and if necessary I will change the law to empower chief constables to better control the quality of the officers in their ranks.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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For anyone who, like me, has worked with the Metropolitan police over many years, this is a dark if not catastrophic day. While our thoughts are primarily with the many victims who have been let down and failed by the force, obviously we all reserve a huge amount of disappointment for the officers who do a startlingly good job every single day. Many of us who have visited the Met will have seen their work over the years.

I hope the Home Secretary will agree that key to turning the force around is ensuring that this becomes a joint enterprise between City Hall and the Home Office. There has clearly been a failure of local accountability—and I speak as someone who has urged the Mayor, both in public and in private, to lean into the governance of the Metropolitan police during his time in office. On that note, would it be possible for the Policing Minister to sit on the new board that Baroness Casey wants to be convened to supervise changes within the Met, and will the Home Secretary discuss that with the Mayor?

I hope that the Home Secretary will also agree that key to turning around policing in general is the professionalisation of the workforce. She recently decided to cancel the policing education qualifications framework route into policing, although it held out the promise of the kind of continuing professional development that many people believe police officers need during their careers to keep them on the straight and narrow, in terms of values and operational practice. Will she reconsider her decision to cancel that project?