Previous SectionIndexHome Page

31 Mar 2003 : Column 692—continued

5 pm

Government amendments Nos. 19, 24 and 25 concern the make-up of the police authority and the organisations that it would have to consult. I would like to explain briefly the reasons for the amendments, which have all been tabled as a result of commitments made in Standing Committee in response to amendments or comments. Government amendment No. 24 will mean that the Secretary of State, when appointing members of the authority, will have to ensure that the membership includes someone who has "knowledge and experience" of employees of the railway industry. We have slightly embellished the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) in Committee. Paragraph 2(2) of

31 Mar 2003 : Column 693

schedule 4 allows members to be appointed for more than one reason, so a member appointed to provide knowledge and experience of passengers may also be able to provide valuable knowledge of regional requirements. The criteria used in the appointment of a member with knowledge of those providing railway services could therefore overlap with the new criteria concerning those working in the railway industry. That could also work the other way round, which could obviously leave one side deeply unhappy, and defeat the intention of the provision and our discussion in Committee. We have therefore tabled Government amendment No. 25 to ensure that an employee representative cannot dilute the industry representation by being counted within their numbers. Neither can members appointed to represent the railway companies count as members who provide knowledge about the interests of railway employees.

Government amendment No. 19 adds employees of railway companies and their representatives to the list of organisations that the authority shall consult about the policing of railways. The list of organisations in clause 59 is not exhaustive, and we expect the authority to consult widely and comprehensively on the arrangements for policing the railways. With that introduction, I commend the Government amendments and new clauses to the House.

Miss McIntosh: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his gracious reference to our lengthy debate in Committee. He will be pleased to learn that I will not speak at such length today.

Will the Minister comment on one aspect of the Bill that the Government have chosen not to amend? He will appreciate that we had a lengthy debate on jurisdiction in Committee, and I wish to place on record the fact that we welcome the provisions dealing with that. The Minister explained why the provisions are needed, and we support their main thrust. However, the Government have consistently omitted four little words, "in the vicinity of", from them. The British Transport police have strongly and vociferously argued that the omission of those words restricts the jurisdiction that they have traditionally enjoyed. That goes to the heart of this part of the Bill, and we regret that the Government have failed to address that point. We are seriously concerned that the British Transport police will not enjoy the jurisdiction that they have enjoyed in the past. Operating "in the vicinity of" means that they have the right to act in connection with railway lines, trains and railway stations. Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to share with the House the reason why the Government feel that it is inappropriate to use those words.

I welcome new clause 7, and thank the Under-Secretary of State for Transport for his helpful letter of 10 March which, at five pages, vies with some of my remarks in Committee. I am sure that it will not have escaped the attention of the Minister of State that the British Transport police have serious concerns about pension provisions, which he and the Government have so far failed to address. As the Bill is about to leave the House, do they wish to address that later? I understand that some of the provisions may be addressed, for

31 Mar 2003 : Column 694

example, by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority's police force. Are the Government minded to deal with these matters?

I take this opportunity to speak to the new clauses and amendments tabled by my hon. Friends and me, specifically, new clause 1. Subject to the Minister's reply, we may decide not to press the motion to a Division. It has been argued forcefully to us that a code of practice is required, in which the Secretary of State could set out

In new clause 16 we request that the Secretary of State authorise the reimbursement of the costs arising from the extended jurisdiction of the British Transport police provided for in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Everyone accepts, as do we, that the provisions of the 2001Act have been extended to the Home Office police force, and that the Bill will extend those provisions to the British Transport police. I believe that the provisions are already in operation, but this is our first opportunity to express the hope that the Government will be minded to reimburse the British Transport police for their costs. I gather that millions of pounds have been made available to the Home Office police to ensure that they can fulfil their obligations under the 2001 Act. Why have the Government not seen fit to increase the heavily utilised budget of the British Transport police, in light of their new responsibilities? I hope the Government and the House will support new clause 16.

New clause 18, which is linked to new clause 1, calls for the Secretary of State to

We debated that in Committee. Each of the three main London airports is accessed primarily by rail, and each of the rail connections carries large numbers of people to the airports. There will be some crossover of suspects and offenders who have perpetrated a crime on the railway, at a station or on the train, and then seek to flee via the airport, and vice versa. That was recognised in the excellent report by the right hon. Sir John Wheeler, which was commissioned by the Government and which we commend to the House.

Sir John was appointed in May 2002 by the Secretary of State for Transport, jointly with the Home Secretary, and submitted his report on 13 September last year. At paragraph 13, he refers to the fact that the powers available to police officers at airports under the Aviation Security Act 1982 should be simplified. We suggest not only that the powers should be simplified, but that there should be a crossover. The hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) probably sees a need for such a crossover at seaports as well.

In preparation for the Committee and remaining stages, the point was fortified by notes from the British Transport police, which recognise that the Wheeler report successfully identifies shortcomings in the current security arrangements at airports throughout the United Kingdom. The report refers to the need for

31 Mar 2003 : Column 695

improved co-ordination, consistency and role clarity. The briefing that we received on the subject from the British Transport police stated:

Furthermore, there is the connection between the Stansted express service and Stansted airport. I should not go as far as the joint force recommended by the British Transport police, but we warmly urge the Government to consider introducing either a code of conduct or specific guidance for the police, to allow them crossover in those circumstances.

Our new clause 18 would provide that the British Transport police authority could

Such a provision has been requested by train operators, especially London Underground.

We hope that the British Transport police authority will have regard to the Mayor of London's transport strategy in exercising its functions. We await the Minister's comments on our amendment No. 36 which relates to that point. Similarly, our amendment No. 37 to clause 47 would provide that, when setting policy objectives, the authority would

Our amendment No. 1 refers to the constitution of the British Transport police authority. The authority currently has only four representatives of the railway industry. Our amendment recognises the fact that the rail industry—the transport operators, London Underground and others—actually pays for its policing, and proposes that six persons from that industry should be represented on the authority. We recognise that the industry benefits from the service provided by the BT police but believe that we should pay regard to the fact that it pays the lion's share for that service.

Although we await the response of the Minister for Transport to our amendments, it is certainly our intention to press new clause 16 to a vote. We hope that the House will support us.

Mrs. Dunwoody: I shall detain the House only briefly.

The British Transport police are extremely efficient; the force has always been good but it is now very professional. I welcome the efforts of the new chief constable, who has wrought remarkable changes.

In my constituency, I have recently been impressed not only with the work that the BT police are doing to deal with straightforward vandalism on the line and in stations but also by the way in which they have increasingly understood the connection between vandalism and groups of people who have no involvement in their environment. In particular areas, the BT police have done remarkable work in encouraging local authorities and like-minded officials to identify station properties or stores that might be at risk, and in ensuring that local schools understand the

31 Mar 2003 : Column 696

direct complications that could arise if those properties were vandalised. That work is not being undertaken negatively; the BT police try—like all good mothers—to divert the attention of those who want to cause trouble to something else.

I have a simple question for my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport. Is it possible for the new regulations to take account of the changing role of the transport police? Sometimes we get things disastrously wrong. I was recently at Crewe station when, owing to the operating companies' inability to work together and give one another coherent information, vast numbers of people, including football crowds, were rushing from one platform to another at considerable risk to the women and children who were going shopping. No one had any clear line of information for the police, and four officers were trying to deal with about 500 people.

Next Section

IndexHome Page