Johnson defends police stop-and-search powers

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Boris Johnson has defended the use of police stop-and-search powers, amid claims they are disproportionately used against black people.

During a series of exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson insisted he understood the “strong and legitimate” feelings of people in the UK over the “appalling” death in the US of George Floyd.

But following clashes at some Black Lives Matter demonstrations, he insisted it was essential to keep the streets safe and to “back our police”.

He also refused to condemn the response of US President Donald Trump to the death of Mr Floyd while a white policeman knelt on his neck, praising the US as a “bastion of peace and freedom”.

Sir Ed Davey
Acting Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey challenged Mr Johnson in the Commons (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

However he was challenged by acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who said black people were 47 times more likely than white people to be stopped by police using stop and search powers.

“On too many occasions, stop and search seems to mean being black is enough to be suspected of being a criminal,” he said.

Mr Johnson acknowledged the powers should be used “sensitively and in accordance with the law” but said they were an important tool in combating violent crime.

“What has been happening in London with knife crime has been completely unacceptable,” he said.

Challenged by the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman to condemn Mr Trump’s “horrendous” response to the death of Mr Floyd, Mr Johnson said what had happened to him had been “absolutely appalling”.

He added however: “He (Mr Trump) is president of the United States, which is our most important ally in the world today.

“Whatever those on the left may say about it, the United States is a bastion of peace and freedom and has been for most of my lifetime.”

Earlier, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on Mr Johnson to “turbocharge” the Government’s responses to racial inequality in the UK.

Sir Keir said there had been at least seven reports into racial inequality in the last three years “but precious little action”.

Mr Johnson replied that they were “getting on” with implementing a series of findings, including those from the inquiry into the Windrush scandal and the Lammy report into the treatment of BAME people in the criminal justice system.

“Of course I understand, as I said, I understand the very strong and legitimate feelings of people in this country at the death of George Floyd and of course I agree that black lives matter,” he said.

“But I must stress that on the Lammy Report and on all these matters it is absolutely vital at the same time that we keep our streets safe and that we back our police – and that is what we are going to do.”

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