UK Politics

Police stop MP James Gray for frosty windscreen

James Gray

An MP has asked why police wanted to know his ethnicity after being stopped for "the offensive crime of failing to clear frost from my windscreen".

James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, told the Commons he had been pulled up in while driving along Whitehall, central London "a couple of years ago".

The home secretary said ethnicity data was needed so "nobody is stopped simply because of the colour of their skin".

The Highway Code states all car windows must be free of snow and ice.

Why?

During Home Office questions in the House of Commons, Mr Gray, an MP since 1997 and a former shadow Scottish secretary, said: "I was stopped in Whitehall for the offensive crime of failing to clear the frost from my windscreen.

"The police officer who stopped me inquired what my ethnic origin was. When I asked why he wanted to know that, he said he was commanded by the Home Office.

"Will the home secretary tell me whether or not there are officials, locally, regionally or in the Home Office itself, collecting this information? What is it for and would those people not be better deployed catching criminals?"

Home Secretary Theresa May replied: "There are a number of circumstances in which police officers do ask for the ethnicity of the individual that they have stopped.

"They have been recording that, for example, in stop-and-search. That's why we know that in stop-and-search cases people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are six times more likely to be stopped than a young white male is likely to be stopped.

"And it's information like that that's enabled us to bring about changes to stop and search, which I believe are absolutely right to ensure that nobody is stopped simply because of the colour of their skin."

Rule 229 of the Highway Code tells drivers they "must be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows".