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Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Maddock, Mrs Diana
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Wareing, Robert N
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Bob Cryer and
Mr. Andrew Mackinlay.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Mr. Mackinlay : On a point of order, Dame Janet. Due to the extraordinary speed at which the Bill is being considered--its First Reading was only last Friday--there has not, in my submission, been reasonable time to scrutinise it. We explored that issue on Second Reading.
I understand that the Chairman of Ways and Means did not select my starred amendments. Because of the rapid consideration of the Bill, I was denied an opportunity at least to have an informal interview with the Chairman of Ways and Means and/or yourself, Dame Janet, to make the case that my amendments fall within the terms of the Bill. It is grossly unfair to me and to other hon. Members that amendment No. 2 and new clause 1 in my name should not be debated in Committee, as they are within the rules of the House and relevant to the Bill. Amendement No. 2 relates to matters that were the subject of extensive debate on Second Reading. If passed, it would clarify the powers and jurisdiction of police officers, but I cannot even present it to the Committee. I make no criticism of the Chair but of the unreasonable manner in which the Bill is being pushed through the House. The jurisdiction of the British Transport police goes to the heart of amendment No. 2 and should be considered.
New clause 1 is important. I would not lie awake at night worrying if it were not debated but for the fact that it concerns an important point of principle. If new clause 1 is debated and accepted by the Committee, it will clarify the jurisdiction of the police officers in question--that is, that they are British Railways police officers. As the Bill has been botched by the Executive--there is no adequate description of those officers in their title--I hope that you, Dame Janet, agree that there should be discrimination in my favour to allow me to present my amendments to the Committee and that it should be for the Minister to argue why they are inappropriate, if he sees fit.
The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Janet Fookes) : Amendment No. 2 goes beyond the scope of the Bill and it is therefore out of order and cannot be debated.
New clause 1 was not selected by the Chairman of Ways and Means. It is not the practice for the Chairman to give reasons in Committee.
Mr. Mackinlay : I beg to move amendment No. 5, in clause 1, page 1, line 7, leave out
, in its application to England and Wales,'.
The Second Deputy Chairman : With this, it will be convenient to take the following amendments : No. 4, in page 2, line 36, leave out throughout England and Wales'.
No. 3, in clause 2, page 3, line 3, leave out subsection (5). 8 pm
Mr. Mackinlay : It would appear that the draftsmen have forgotten about the Kingdom of Scotland in this matter, and that there is a disparity in the treatment of powers being made available to British Transport police officers in England and Wales as distinct from those in Scotland. It seems to me, particularly as the Bill is remedying a profound mistake by the Government, that
Column 85there should be clarity and precision, and that there should be uniformity of precision in one Act of Parliament relating to British Transport police officers, wherever they are in the United Kingdom. In clause 1, and throughout the Bill, reference is made to England and Wales. From the extent that we have been able to examine the Bill, it would seem that that is an error. The problem, Sir Geoffrey
Mr. Irvine Patnick (Sheffield, Hallam) : "Sir Geoffrey ?"
Mr. Mackinlay : I do not know whether it is possible through the usual good offices to ask the Government Whip to contain himself, but we are trying to deal with a difficult matter. The Minister described it as complex and detailed legislation, and the Government Whip is treating it as a matter of levity. It is inappropriate, Mr. Lofthouse, that it should be dealt with in that way, particularly when the Government have yet to apologise, not just to the House but to the British Transport police, for their error. My amendments are necessary to clarify the position.
The problem that those of us who take an interest in the Bill have is that we have not had an opportunity of doing the necessary homework. I could find only one copy of the primary statute--the British Transport Commission Act 1949--in the Palace of Westminster and that took some discovery late at night on Thursday, before the Bill was published. To the extent that one has been able to do any homework, it looks as though my amendments are appropriate and necessary.
The people from whom I would have sought advice and counsel--those in the British Transport Police Federation--did not receive the Bill from the Government. That has not been explained by the Minister. As I said in the debate on Second Reading, the federation received a copy of the Bill from me yesterday. The Minister referred on Second Reading to the views and support of the chief constable but made no reference to the endorsement of the British Transport Police Federation of the details of the Bill--it wants the principle, as we all do, and we recognise the need for great urgency. He could not do that because he had not sent it a copy of the Bill and, as a further result, I and other hon. Members were not able to consult it. It was extraordinarily difficult to get the advice of the chief constable or his assistants in time.
My amendments would help to clarify the situation. I
understand--perhaps the Minister will tell me--that a judgment exists either from a sheriff in Scotland or the High Court that results in the British Transport police officers in Scotland having the wider jurisdiction powers that we discussed on Second Reading. For example, if a British Transport police officer outside Waverley station in Edinburgh saw an incident that required the attendance and stewardship of a police officer, that officer, operating not within the curtilage of a railway station but in a street close to the station, would be able to respond, but that is not the position in a comparable situation in London.
I understand that that power exists by virtue of a judge's decision, and very wise and prudent that judge was. It seems to me that it is necessary for the Bill, first, to put on the statute book the view and opinion of the learned Scottish judge and, secondly, to ensure that those powers that have been enjoyed by British Transport police officers in Scotland are enjoyed throughout the United Kingdom. I believe that that is what my amendments would do.
Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : I wish to raise one narrow point on which I would appreciate my right hon. Friend's advice. I am sure that we all appreciate very much the careful attention that the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) has given the Bill, but I raise one tiny point about the word "throughout". I wonder whether it applies to private as well as public premises and, if the British Transport police were to provide, for example, a service within private premises, whether the proposed legislation would apply. My particular interest is the Port of London Police Federation, to which I have been an adviser for many years. As my right hon. Friend is aware, it is a small police force. Because of the privatisation of the ports, its position has changed rather dramatically. It has full chief constables but, following privatisation, their relative pay and conditions have been adversely affected. That has happened not because of privatisation but as one of the inevitable consequences. Their numbers are small indeed.
Mr. Wilson : What is an inevitable consequence of privatisation that is not caused by privatisation ?
Sir Teddy Taylor : I can assure the hon. Gentleman that if, like me, he had paid careful attention to the whole issue, on which the my right hon. Friend the Minister has shown great sympathy and understanding, he would appreciate that those snap judgments are not correct.
My point is this. Because of the age of the Port of London police force, consideration is being given to its future. One of the possibilities would be for it to merge with the British Transport police, because that would provide a continuing career structure. Part of the port of London is located in the constituency of the hon. Member for Thurrock, and he takes a great interest in the British Transport police and in all activities of the ports.
If there were to be such a change, and if the Port of London police came under the jurisdiction of the British Transport police, would the new subsection (1A)(3) apply to the Port of London police ? It would be sad from the point of view of administration if we passed this exciting new Bill in a hurry only to find that by so doing we prevented the Port of London police even being considered for a merger with the British Transport police.
My right hon. Friend the Minister has always shown great sympathy and understanding for the problems of south-east England and particularly for Essex. I know that the hon. Member for Thurrock, who also takes an interest in the Fenchurch Street line, appreciates very much, although I am sure that he deplores Government policies, the interest that my right hon. Friend always takes in our affairs. The Port of London police are a fine body of constables, who have served the port well and wisely. I hope that my right hon. Friend can give me the assurance that, in the event of the Port of London police merging with the British Transport police, they will be allowed to carry on with their duties under the Bill. That is a small and narrow point, but I am sure that the draftsmen who assist the Minister will have thought about it. If my right hon. Friend can say that all would be well, I would be more than grateful.
Mr. Freeman : I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) for raising the issue of the Port of London Police Federation. I have not met any of those responsible for the discharge of those important functions, but would be glad to pursue the matter
Column 87that my hon. Friend has raised. I am bound to say that administrative merger is one thing and difference in jurisdiction is another. I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that it is important to have proper legal advice on the point. In any case, this is not the right Bill to deal with that particular point, important as it is. I accept what he has said and give him an undertaking that I will pursue it and will write to him initially. If it is appropriate to have meetings with the representatives of the Port of London Police Federation, that will be done.
The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) raised a perfectly sensible point : why not simply extend the Scottish provisions to England and Wales ? That is a different debate. As I have said, it is a sensible point to raise. First, however, the hon. Gentleman should appreciate that my references to what was complex and detailed referred not to the Bill but to the compendium of law since 1949, which for the layman is fiendishly complicated. The 1949 legislation has been amended by many Governments on many different occasions. It is important to trace through the changes in the powers of the police and their jurisdiction from one Act to an amending Act.
Mr. Mackinlay : The Minister has flagged up his excuse if the Bill is proved subsequently to be botched. The Bill could receive Royal Assent, only for us to find that it, too, is in error. It seems that the Minister is lining up his built-in excuse for getting things wrong again.
Mr. Freeman : That is not so. No Labour or Conservative Minister since the war has ever been able to give an assurance that complex legislation stemming from the 1945 to 1951 Parliament would be 100 per cent. right. Ministers make mistakes and Governments make mistakes. Sometimes there is an error of omission, sometimes one of commission. We try to get legislation right. Before the Bill receives Royal Assent I shall introduce the hon. Gentleman, if he would like, to the Parliamentary Counsel. He is a skilled lawyer who takes a great deal of pain and trouble when drafting any legislation. He is responsible not for policy but for translating the policy objectives of Ministers into legislation.
The hon. Member for Thurrock raised several important issues. Scottish law has been different from English and Welsh law in relation to the powers of the BTP for 14 years. The Scottish provisions became law in 1980 and the English provisions, which date back to the 1949 Act, as amended on many different occasions, have provided a different set of laws. I am not aware of any problems having been raised with me over the past few years about difficulties arising as a result of the two different sets of laws. As in many different sectors, there are two distinct sets of legal jurisdiction. That is something that goes beyond the BTP.
A problem has arisen specifically in relation to England and Wales, not Scotland. That has happened for reasons that I have described. Everyone who has participated in the debate understands that. The legal advice available to us, as I am sure to all others involved, was that the defect in England and Wales had to be put right. As I have said, there was no defect in the law relating to Scotland. It is the defect in English and Welsh legislation that we are seeking to correct.
Column 88The hon. Member for Thurrock raised the separate issue of why we should have different laws in Scotland than in England and Wales. That is a legitimate topic of debate. We were asked through the Bill to deal with a specific problem that had arisen in England and Wales as a result of the Railways Act 1993 in terms of its implications for the 1949 legislation, and we are doing so. We are not seeking to widen the jurisdiction of the BTP or to ensure that English and Scottish laws are the same in every aspect of life within our society. We are correcting an anomaly.
On that basis, I cannot commend the amendment to the Committee. I say that in no partisan spirit. I have explained that there is an urgent need for legislation to address a specific problem. I hope that the Bill commands the support of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber and of those in another place. With that brief explanation, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept what I have said in good faith.
Mr. Wilson : I do not want to prolong our debates. There is no point in covering the same ground again. The Opposition's position is as follows : if we are to have legislation that deals specifically with the British Transport police and if there is a consensus that the present legislation in Scotland is more effective than that which hitherto has pertained in England and Wales, why not use the opportunity to establish the same powers throughout the whole of the country ? That would achieve the consistency that we are looking for and secure a more effective British Transport police.
That is no ideology. There is no rule in the book stating that, because the primary purpose of a Bill is to remedy a defect in other legislation, we cannot take the opportunity to improve upon the status quo ante. I do not understand the Government's difficulty unless they are reluctant to extend the powers of the BTP in a logical way that is in line with the Scottish system. They cannot say that the Scottish system is less efficient than the one that pertains in England and Wales because everyone agrees that it is not. The BTP in England and Wales work within the same powers as their counterparts in Scotland. As the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and I well know, we are all part of the same United Kingdom. Why should we not have the same BTP operating under the same rules ? It is a simple question that the Minister has signally failed to answer except in the narrowest theological terms. He has said that the Bill is meant to do only A and that it would be some sort of crime against the constitution for it to do B and thus make it better.
Question put , That the amendment be made :
The Committee divided : Ayes 54, Noes 151.
Division No. 172] [8.16 pm
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Corston, Ms Jean
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Column 89Lewis, Terry
Maddock, Mrs Diana
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Pike, Peter L.
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Tellers for the Ayes :
Mr. Andrew Mackinlay and
Mr. Bob Cryer.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Browning, Mrs. Angela
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Fenner, Dame Peggy
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Grylls, Sir Michael
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hannam, Sir John
Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Kilfedder, Sir James
Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Neubert, Sir Michael
Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Porter, David (Waveney)
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)