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Mr. Dobson : Where in any of the precedents that the Minister adduced today or in his letter to the chairman of the police committee does it say that the constable can act only in accordance with the terms of an agreement ?

Mr. Freeman : I have already given two examples. If the hon. Gentleman consults the Leeds Supertram Act 1993, he will find that there must be a formal agreement to enshrine responsibility. The Leeds supertram has not opened yet, but there has to be an agreement between British Transport police and that undertaking. The same is true of the London Regional Transport Act 1984. There is nothing unusual about a formal agreement.

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Mr. Dobson : I have the Leeds Supertram Act here. There is no suggestion anywhere in the Act or in the other two precedents that the Minister has given-- [Interruption.] The Minister is getting a copy of the Act, which will prove that I am telling the truth--that a constable's duties will be trammelled or curtailed by the agreement that is reached. That is the point that we have sought to make to the Minister.

Mr. Freeman : Section 64 of the Leeds Supertram Act 1993 says : "Where agreement under this section is made with the railways board, members of the British Transport Police Force may act in accordance with the terms of the agreement as constables in, on and in the vicinity of any premises of the Executive notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of section 53 (As to appointment of constables) of the British Transport Commission Act 1949." A similar provision is replicated in schedule 4 of the London Regional Transport Act 1984. The existence of agreements is already precedented.

Mr. Dobson : We all know that there are agreements, but nowhere in any of the legislation that the Minister has quoted is there any suggestion that the specific terms of the agreement limit the powers of a constable.

Mr. Freeman : I shall deal with the limitation of the powers of a constable, which was raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), in a moment.

The hon. Member for York (Mr. Bayley) asked me two questions. First, he asked me to comment on the phrase,

"matters connected with or affecting".

That is drawn from the British Transport Commission Act 1949. The language has proved to be effective ever since. Those words are a broader definition than the practice in Scotland, but they are well proven and tried and tested.

The hon. Member for York asked me who was on the police committee. The police committee is, and will continue to be, appointed by the British Railways Board. It includes, obviously, appointees from the railways. There is an independent member. There is also the chairman of the Central Transport Users Consultative Committee. The order that has been laid before Parliament simply gives the British Railways Board the power to appoint representatives from Railtrack.

Mr. Mackinlay : Oh ?

Mr. Freeman : Because Railtrack comprises literally half the railway --the infrastructure. Also, as the name of the Central Transport Users Consultative Committee is changing--although its powers are, if anything, slightly enlarged--the order that is before Parliament now simply refers to the new Central Rail Users Consultative Committee.

Mr. Bayley : Are there proposals to allow private rail operators to appoint members of the police committee ? I ask the question because of a statement in the consultation document that the Department of Transport distributed on the future of the British Transport police, which says in paragraph 28 :

"On the other hand, a national police force controlled by private companies and exercising all the powers of Constables might prove unacceptable to public opinion."

Mr. Freeman : There is no suggestion that private franchisees should appoint members of the police committee. [Interruption.] I am able to handle the point, thank you--so far.

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Mr. Mackinlay : Another fine mess you have got into!

Mr. Freeman : When I need help, I will ask for it.

There is no question of private sector franchisees appointing themselves or others to the police committee. The police committee is appointed by the British Railways Board. Obviously it would be sensible for the chairman of that board, when in due course he makes new appointments to the police committee, to appoint representatives of franchisees, but there are no franchisees at the moment and there will be none this year. There will be some next year, and at that stage it may be sensible to include representatives, but they are representatives.

Mr. Bayley rose

Mr. Freeman : I should like to make progress, if I may. My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) asked whether all the various crimes and offences that he described could be encompassed in the jurisdiction envisaged by the Bill. The answer, obviously, is yes. There will be no change to the powers of the British Transport police in relation to the pursuit of offenders, the arrest of offenders and the questioning and interrogation of offenders, if we pass the Bill.

The hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) asked about the jurisdiction covered by a police services agreement. I have indicated--I repeat the point for the sake of clarity--that there may be a need to exclude non- railway businesses which will vary according to the police user. Each police user will have a different set of businesses and undertakings which will therefore have to be specifically described in the agreement if they are to be excluded from the jurisdiction of the police. That has long been the case. The jurisdiction of the British Transport police does not extend beyond the railways.

The hon. Member for Bradford, South asked about the limitations imposed on jurisdiction. There must be an agreement and that will be enforced as a condition of the licence. It will be in a form agreed by the police committee for core policing and any agreement must be approved by the Secretary of State. Those provisions are clear. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bradford, South because he has done me a favour. I note from the Order Paper that the hon. Gentleman has an Adjournment debate tabled for this Friday, dealing with Menwyth Hill station. I have to tell him that last week, on learning of that, my civil servants said, "You have to answer that Adjournment debate, Minister."

Mr. Cryer : It shows how much the right hon. Gentleman knows about railways.

Mr. Freeman : The reason why I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman is that my constituency diary was cleared of all engagements. Now they tell me that, having consulted British Rail, even British Rail cannot find Menwyth Hill station. A Defence Minister is to answer, so now I have a completely clear day.

Mr. Dobson : Other railway stations may disappear into the Menwyth triangle before privatisation proceeds far.

Mr. Cryer : The fact that Department of Transport officials believe that Menwyth Hill station is a railway station shows how long they have been dedicated to supporting the road industry.

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Mr. Dobson : They are obviously running a ghost train through there.

I feel sorry for the Minister because he has been sent out to put right his and other people's mistakes and finds himself defending the indefensible in trying to put them right. The Opposition accept that a police services agreement is needed between each railway company or undertaking and British Transport police. Nobody disputes the fact that all those organisations other than British Rail have such an agreement now, but we do dispute whether an individual agreement could limit the powers of constables employed by British Transport police. Such limits should not exist.

At the risk of being accused of tedious repetition, I must point out yet again that, if the agreements vary--eventually there may be more than 100-- neither the constables nor British Transport police will know whether they have the authority to act in individual circumstances. The Minister has still offered no explanation. The three precedents that he quoted are not relevant as they do not include the words to which we object in the Bill. It would have been better had he not quoted them.

We also asked the Minister to give examples of differences that might exist in those agreements. I shall not go into whether some agreements will run for a longer time than others. Either they exist or they do not. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and others pointed out, the financial side of the contract is utterly irrelevant to the work of the constable.

As the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) and I have said, the nearest the Minister has come to giving a sensible justification was when he said that some railway companies might own premises that are not used for railway purposes, so the agreement would need to exclude such premises. It does not need to do that because the clause confines constables to acting

"in, on and in the vicinity of any police premises ; and . . . elsewhere, in relation to matters connected with or affecting . . . a police services user".

They would become a user as a police service. There is no question of the last four lines of page 1 qualifying the fact ; it does not need qualifying as it is qualified right from the start.

The Minister has not come up with a sensible explanation or justification for those four lines, which is why we shall call for a Division on the amendment, which would delete those and other words and replace them with the words drawn from the Scottish legislation. Everyone must accept that that legislation works and would not be limited by the words to which we object in the Bill. I cannot understand why the Minister does not see that.

Opposition Members are becoming increasingly suspicious that, yet again, the Government are up to something. We are developing a suspicion that, one way or another, bits of the railway system and more and more policing activities will be excluded from the jurisdiction of the British Transport police. As we said at the beginning of debates on the Bill--which was not very long ago--it is crucial to the safety of passengers and of goods, and, above all, crucial in the fight against the terrorist, that there be no gaps, that we continue to have comprehensive jurisdiction. We do not believe that this one-clause Bill will do the job it was supposed to do and the job that we requested be done. That is why we shall press the amendment to a vote.

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9.15 pm

Question put , That the amendment be made :

The Committee divided : Ayes 49, Noes 167.

Division No. 173] [9.15 pm


Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry

Bayley, Hugh

Benton, Joe

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)

Clapham, Michael

Corston, Ms Jean

Cryer, Bob

Cummings, John

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Davidson, Ian

Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)

Denham, John

Dobson, Frank

Faulds, Andrew

Foster, Rt Hon Derek

Fyfe, Maria

George, Bruce

Gordon, Mildred

Gunnell, John

Hall, Mike

Hanson, David

Harvey, Nick

Home Robertson, John

Jamieson, David

Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)

Lewis, Terry

McFall, John

Maclennan, Robert

Maddock, Mrs Diana

Miller, Andrew

Morley, Elliot

Mudie, George

Olner, William

Pickthall, Colin

Pike, Peter L.

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Redmond, Martin

Rendel, David

Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert

Skinner, Dennis

Steel, Rt Hon Sir David

Taylor, Matthew (Truro)

Tyler, Paul

Vaz, Keith

Walley, Joan

Wilson, Brian

Tellers for the Ayes :

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay and

Mr. Jim Dowd.


Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)

Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)

Amess, David

Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Bates, Michael

Batiste, Spencer

Bellingham, Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas

Booth, Hartley

Boswell, Tim

Bowden, Andrew

Bowis, John

Brandreth, Gyles

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)

Browning, Mrs. Angela

Burns, Simon

Butler, Peter

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Cash, William

Chapman, Sydney

Clappison, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Colvin, Michael

Congdon, David

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon Sir John

Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)

Davies, Quentin (Stamford)

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Duncan, Alan

Eggar, Tim

Elletson, Harold

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)

Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)

Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)

Evans, Roger (Monmouth)

Faber, David

Fabricant, Michael

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)

Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)

Freeman, Rt Hon Roger

French, Douglas

Gallie, Phil

Garnier, Edward

Gillan, Cheryl

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)

Grylls, Sir Michael

Hague, William

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hannam, Sir John

Harris, David

Haselhurst, Alan

Hawkins, Nick

Hawksley, Warren

Heald, Oliver

Hendry, Charles

Hill, James (Southampton Test)

Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)

Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)

Hunter, Andrew

Jackson, Robert (Wantage)

Jenkin, Bernard

Jessel, Toby

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

Key, Robert

Kilfedder, Sir James

King, Rt Hon Tom

Kirkhope, Timothy

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)

Knight, Greg (Derby N)

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