Home Secretary Sajid Javid backs stop and search and offers olive branch in Police Federation address

The address to the Police Federation was Sajid Javid's first major speech since becoming Home Secretary. Credit: Pool

The Home Secretary has backed a boost in the use of stop and search to help tackle the deadly spate of violence on Britain's streets.

Sajid Javid also vowed to prioritise police spending as he offered an olive branch to rank-and-file officers following years of sniping over budget cuts and staffing reductions.

The Bromsgrove MP used his first major speech since becoming Home Secretary to try and draw a line under an era of running battles between Government and the police by acknowledging the mounting pressures faced by officers and addressing staffing cuts.

As of September there were 121,929 officers across the 43 territorial forces in England and Wales – a fall of nearly 20,000 compared with a decade earlier.

Referring to stop and search, he told the Police Federation of England and Wales' (PFEW) annual conference in Birmingham: "Some of you don't feel comfortable using it - and that's not how it should be.

"I have confidence in your professional judgment. So let me be clear - I support the use of stop and search.

"You have to do your job and that means protecting everyone."

He said evidence shows that black people are more likely to be a homicide victim than any other ethnic group.

"If stop and search can mean saving lives from the communities most affected, then of course that has to be right," Mr Javid said.

The recent spate of violence has prompted scrutiny of a sharp reduction in stop and search activity , with use of the powers at the lowest level since current data records started 17 years ago.

In the year ending March 2017, there were 303,845 stops and searches conducted in England and Wales - a fall of 21% compared with the previous year.

The tactics have repeatedly attracted controversy amid criticism that they are unfairly focused on black and minority ethnic individuals.

Reforms were introduced in 2014 by then home secretary Theresa May to ensure stop and search was used in a more targeted way.

During his speech, Mr Javid struck a more conciliatory tone compared with the stance of his two Tory predecessors when addressing the federation, and acknowledged the increase in demand facing forces, as well as making several jokes and drawing laughs in response.

“I’m not arrogant enough to turn up here after three weeks in the job and tell you how to do yours," he told the audience.

Pledging to ensure that forces have the resources they need, Mr Javid conceded that the Government has had to make "difficult decisions" since 2010 and that he did not have a "magic wand" to fund everything, but added he was "listening and I do get it... I want you to have the resources you need...

"We need to think more about the long-term funding of policing.

"I will priorities police funding in the Spending Review next year."

He said that, including funds raised through council tax, more than £1 billion extra cash is being invested in policing now than three years ago.

Addressing the fact that he had not spent much time in the role, he said that while the position of Home Secretary was his fifth in Government, he had seen the issues involved in policing and worked with the serviceduring his other roles.

He continued that it was "not all about funding" and the Government needed to do more to "protect the protectors", such as tougher penalties for those who attack emergency services workers, changing the laws on police pursuits, and updating their kit.

Mr Javid pledged to provide “tools, the powers and the back-up that you need to get the job done...

“For those of you who stand on the front line, be in no doubt that I will be standing with you."

Sajid Javid has said he will 'priorities police funding in the spending review next year'. Credit: PA

The former banker also discussed his experiences growing up in a road in Bristol once described as “Britain’s most dangerous street” and the way in which he and his brother - Bas Javid now, a chief superintendent with West Midlands Police - would go round their area as children, hoping to "fight crime".

“Over the years, I’ve heard what he has to say about policing,” the Cabinet minister said about his brother.

“I know the tricky situations he’s been in.

"He’s been hurt more times than I want to know from being assaulted on duty," he said, recounting one Christmas when his brother was unable to come home as he was in hospital with a broken jaw.

“I’ve seen the impact the job has on family life. And, as you would expect from a brother, he doesn’t shield me from the truth.”

Describing being taken out on a ride-along in the back of his brother’s police car in Bristol city centre, he recalled his shock at hearing the abusive language he was subjected to first hand, saying that as a result he understands “how hard and horrible it can be being a police officer”.

Despite offering an olive branch to the police, the 48-year-old called for standards to be raised, saying that each police force in the country needed to be rated as "good" and called for all victims to be treated with respect.

Previously, the federation’s annual conference has been the setting for a number of flashpoints, particularly during Theresa May’s time at the Home Office.

Mrs May was heckled and booed in 2012 after telling officers they should “stop pretending” police were being picked on.

Then in 2014 she shocked those gathered by laying down the law to the federation and hitting them with a raft of surprise reforms.

At last year’s conference, Mr Javid’s predecessor Amber Rudd received a testy response over crime rates and funding.