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31 Mar 2003 : Column 703continued
Mr. Weir: I do not necessarily disagree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but I want to draw one potential problem to his attention. He keeps referring to Home Office police, but the police in Scotland are covered not by the Home Office, but the Scottish Executive. Policing in Scotland is substantially different from policing in England, but the British Transport police are a UK-wide force. The first part of his proposals could cause confusion in Scotland if the British Transport police were operating among the general public given the role of the Scottish police, which might not apply in England.
Andrew Mackinlay: That is a valid point, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept my retort that that matter can be dealt with in the detail of legislation. "Home Office police" is not my choice of term, but is the jargon in the field, and often used by politicians. The English Home Office uses the term to refer to police authorities operating under the 1996 Act. If the principle were accepted, it could cover England and Wales and it would be a matter for the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament to extend comparable powers under their statutes to the British Transport police. In the nature of things, I am canvassing an idea in shorthand, but he is right to make the jurisdictional and constitutional point, which I fully accept and understand. If the Government were persuaded that my proposal was meritorious, doubtless the Executive and Parliament in Edinburgh could reflect on it, too. It is sensible that in extremisin the absence of a police officer, whether from London or Lothiansomeone who is sworn and trained should be able to exercise the power of arrest rather than relying on the common law power that each and every one of us has. That is not an obscure point, because it concerns the whole question of insurance, liability and so on.
In parenthesis, my point would also relate to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority police. Going down Whitehall, one might pass a police constable and thinkunless one is an anorak such as myself who looks at hat badgesthat he is a Metropolitan police officer, but in fact he is a Ministry of Defence police officer with the limitations to which I referred. It is time that the House addressed the fact that people who are trained at Hendon and other police colleges should have exactly the same status. It is in our naked self-interest that that should happen. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that and discuss with colleagues at the Home Office whether the matter can be dealt with through an amendment in the other place.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): It is a pleasure to be able to make a few remarks about the Billwith which I have not been involved beforein an attempt to demonstrate joined-up opposition. I normally speak for my party on home affairs and police matters, and this part of the Bill is of paramount interest to me.
The hon. Gentleman is also right about the deficiencies in the policing of ports of entry. I do not want to dilate on the subject of airports today, but a great deal of difficulty arises in understanding the differentiation between airport services that fall within the designation of the Aviation Security Act 1982 and those that do not. Why, for instance, are major ports of entry in the form of airports policed by territorial forces, to the great detriment both of the policing at the airport and the policing of the local areas from which those officers are abstracted with no recompense from the airport authority? Even if there were no terrorist threat and we were without any such present danger, there are a million reasons, under the aegis of effectively fighting international crime, why ports of entry should be better policed. The Government are not slow in introducing legislation. Indeed, tomorrow we will debate the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, which deals with ways of extending co-operation between police forces at ports of entry, yet at many ports the concept of a police officer being available to undertake acts of surveillance or to make a challenge or arrest is negligible.
Mr. Robert Syms (Poole): The hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew MacKinlay) put his finger on it when he talked about associated immigration services and Customs and Excise. Poole will have no full-time Customs and Excise officers in the very near future because they are all being concentrated on dealing with cigarette and alcohol imports at ports such as Dover instead of on homeland security.
Mr. Heath: The hon. Gentleman is right and he knows that many of us share his concerns about the adequacy of the cover offered by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise. However, were I to pursue that thought, I would fall outside the scope of the amendments that we are discussing.
I want to talk about new clauses 1 and 16, from the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh). I agree with her entirely on new clause 1. We need clear areas of co-operation among the territorial forces, British Transport police, other non-territorial forces and other law enforcement agencies such as the Customs and Excise and the immigration authorities. I am not yet convinced that that co-ordination exists. I agree that codes of practice could help.
New clause 16 deals with added resources for British Transport police to address the particular issue of terrorism. There is no doubt that our transport system is a potential target for terrorists. It may be the railway
The second function of the British Transport police is to act as the eyes and ears of the community on our transport system. With the present increased risk of threat, we should see a lot more officers on patrol on the London underground, let alone on the railway and light railway systems around the country. Those officers could act as eyes and ears, alert for suspicious behaviour and potential risk. The third functionwhich, sadly, has to be includedis to be the contingency response to incidents. They need training to detect the potential for a serious terrorism incident and training to respond accordingly.
There is a clear disparity between the funds that the Home Office has made available to the territorial domestic police forcesespecially the Metropolitan police, who we would all agree need a lot of extra resourcesand the funds that have been made available to the British Transport police for performing a similar function but in the particular environment in which they are expert. That disparity cannot be allowed to continue.
If I have a criticism of new clause 16, it is simply that it is too tightly drawn. Asking for reimbursement with reference only to the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 is unnecessarily restrictive. The hon. Lady may care to reflect on that. There are actions that we would expect the British Transport police to take that have nothing to do with an extension of jurisdiction but are simply to do with an extension of the threat and the response to that threat.
We do not see a mechanism by which the Government will respond to threats by providing resourcesa mechanism that will allow for abstraction from normal duties for training purposes and that will allow for enhanced presence on patrols. To respond adequately to a threat, we have to allow all policing functions to be at a much higher level than the base level.
John McDonnell: I want to talk briefly about the amendments in my nameamendments Nos. 34 and 35and to comment on the debate so far on aviation security. With amendments Nos. 34 and 35, I have sought to ensure that when the British Transport police authority is consulting about policing policy, there is adequate consultation with the work force. I have also sought to ensure that the police authority has adequate representation from the trade unions.
The reason that I am recommending that there be greater balance, with four representatives of employees, is that it is the workers who bear the brunt of much of the criminal activity in the industry. They are often the victims. They are often the people who have to deal with those who are violently drunk on trains. They are the people who have to deal with crimes such as theft. They are the people who have to deal with members of the travelling public who have been the victims of crime. For those reasons, they have detailed knowledge of the problems and, yes, of some of the policies that should be pursued to tackle those problems. Giving the employees, as an afterthought, one representative on the police authority does not reflect the experience that they could bring to bear on these matters.
I would welcome an explanation of how the balance of interests of the membership of the police authority was arrived at. Why are there four representatives from all the other interested parties and not four representatives of workers in the industry?
As the subject has been raised, I want to discuss aviation. I had intended to raise the issue on Third Reading, but I will do so now as there has been discussion of the amendments that my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) has kindly presented to us. I am grateful to him for doing so, as he has stimulated debate.
My constituency includes Heathrow. Over the past four or five years, many of us have been raising in the Chamber a range of aviation security issues. Month by month, we have discussed issues such as terrorist threats, or thefts from Heathrow or other airports, that have revealed security problems. The Government should not, in this Bill, do anything precipitate. They should come up with a considered view on aviation security. There should perhaps be a debate in this Chamber so that the Government can report on some of the measures that they have taken. There has been considerable progress in certain areas. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock said, funding and co-ordination are issues to be considered. At Heathrow, I deal with the Metropolitan police and, obviously, British Transport police, who deal with the travelling public. I also deal with a range of immigration authorities, with local authority officers, and with the private security industryin particular, through the British Airports Authority. That mêlée of organisations dealing with security at airports presents a number of problems, one of which is that of co-ordination, but there are also issues over who has what power to deal with particular incidents.
I woke up six weeks ago to find that a number of tanks and a large number of troops had entered my constituencyI thought that it was because of something personal that I had said against the Prime Minister.