Railways and Transport Safety Bill

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Mr. Don Foster (Bath): On that point—and perhaps just for a break—is the hon. Lady aware that we are told in subsection (2)(c), which relates to statistics, that we shall hear only about criminal proceedings? The practice of jumping between carriages is not dealt with under criminal proceedings; it is usually handled under byelaws. Does she share my view that we should perhaps look back at, for instance, the 1861 legislation, which would ensure that there was criminal legislation because of the serious danger that that practice can pose?

Miss McIntosh: I thank the hon. Gentleman. One does not wish for too many breaks this afternoon, particularly as another may be imminent. Nevertheless, he makes a serious point and I give him credit. I had not appreciated that the situation was as he describes. I presume that that is also the case in Scotland. Perhaps the Minister will have had an opportunity to confirm that during the short lunch break that we were allowed today. I asked this morning about the extent to which offences in England and Wales are not treated as offences in Scotland. From memory—I am sure that I will be corrected if I am wrong—I think that trespass was not considered to be an offence in Scotland. It may have become an offence under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, which relates to hunting. I hope that the Minister will comment on that.

This innocent-looking little clause fits neatly between clauses 55 and 57, and sums up the policing

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plan. I wish that I could commend that marvellous little document as bedtime reading, but the Library is loth to give out any of its three copies, for justifiable reasons. The document is a huge treasure trove of information, which we shall have the opportunity to explore in future years once the Bill is on the statute book. I hope that the Minister will respond to the serious matters that we have raised. The hon. Member for Bath started the debate, and I followed it through.

I am particularly aware of the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service was not in existence during the time that is under discussion. As I said, I should like to know how that has affected the levels of reported crimes, crimes committed and successfully prosecuted crimes.

This morning, I mentioned the concern, which I hope that the Minister will address, that a British Transport police constable attested in England and Wales would have jurisdiction in Scotland without the appropriate training or knowledge of Scottish law. I hope that he will confirm that that will not be the case.

The Royal National Institute of the Blind noted that clause 56 allows the Secretary of State

    ''to supply information about matters relating to crime committed on . . . the railways.''

It asked whether he would be able to use the power to require the production of statistics on the number of disabled people who are victims of crime. Why is there no subsection (2)(d) on victims? I hope that the Minister has enough time to respond to all the points that we have raised.

Mr. Jamieson: It seems such a long time since we heard the hon. Lady's questions—and that applies just to her questions of today. I welcome you back to the Chair, Mr. Hood, and hope that you had a refreshing break last week.

Clause 56 enables the Secretary of State to require the chief constable to provide statistical information about crime on the railways, including on offences committed, offenders, criminal proceedings and other information that the Secretary of State may direct. The clause also requires the Secretary of State to lay an abstract of that information before Parliament, and I shall say more about that later.

The hon. Member for Bath asked question A, to which the answer is yes. He went on—

Mr. Foster: Surely the answer to question A is answer B.

Mr. Jamieson: Mr. Hood, you were not here this morning, so let me explain that for the convenience and brevity of the Committee we had decided to truncate some answers. The clause is consistent with section 45 of the Police Act 1996, which is the answer to question A. Answer B is also yes. I hope that I have clarified the position.

The hon. Member for Bath asked about the location of crimes. I have taken his point into account, but it would be within the gift of the Secretary of State to ask for such information if he wanted it. Most of the information would come through the annual report, of which we have a copy here in Committee, but, as I say, the Secretary of State

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could ask for further information, including the location of crimes, if he desired it.

Mr. Foster: I am grateful for the Minister's response, but might it not be necessary for the Secretary of State to make changes to the RIDDOR procedure? There is no point in asking for information unless it has been recorded in the first place. I assume that information about location will emerge through the usual discussions.

Mr. Jamieson: The simple answer is that information is often available somewhere, but we have to decide whether it is worth the time and effort required to produce it. If it is important enough, a judgment will be made to acquire the information. The hon. Gentleman knows that it often takes considerable time and effort to produce parliamentary answers to hon. Members' questions.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about recorded crime and offences committed, which will be in accordance with Home Office guidelines. What happens under the Bill will be similar to what happens under other Home Office legislation. He also asked about making statistics speedily known. I understand the thrust of his question, but most statistics will appear in the annual report. If the Secretary of State required information of the British Transport police under this clause—he would not always have to use the clause to require the information, as other clauses also apply—such information would have to be laid before Parliament with due expedition.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) made some interesting points about the crime figures being accurate and consistent with each other. The figures will be produced in line with Home Office guidelines, but I understand the point about the importance of gathering good statistics each year to examine the trends in crime. That is important to my hon. Friend's constituents and other railways users.

3 pm

The hon. Member for Bath asked about the low level of detection and prosecution. That reflects the problems that the British Transport police and the industry face in targeting rail crime. Many incidents are reported only once the offender has left the railways. For example, vandalism is often discovered a long time after the event. In some situations, an hour can be a long time spent on trying to track down the person who committed the offence. Many offences are committed by juveniles, and prosecution is not always the most effective way to deal with them. The authorities cannot always proceed with prosecutions, and education that targets schools and parents may be more appropriate. The hon. Gentleman asked some important questions, and I hope that my response has been helpful. I might pick up on some of his other points in my later comments.

The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) raised some matters, and I should be able to get through them quickly. She asked about the victims of crime, but the statistical document is all

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about the victims. Each statistic represents a person who has been offended against, although I take her point about recording the gender and ethnicity of victims. I dare say that it would be possible for the Secretary of State to require that information if he thought that it would help the future policing of the railways.

The hon. Lady asked why the Bill does not require that all information be provided. If we included every category on which information might be required, the Bill would be a thick and weighty document and, even then, there would be the risk of leaving something out. As the hon. Lady can see from the clause, the Secretary of State can ask to be provided with any relevant information that he or she requires.

At one point, the hon. Lady asked where her constituency of the Vale of York comes into it. My knowledge of geography is cursory, but I always thought that Yorkshire was somewhere in the north-eastern region.

Miss McIntosh: No it is not.

Mr. Jamieson: Well, from the map at the front of the document, I can see that Hull and York are both in the north-eastern region. As I said, it is a national document, but it breaks down the statistics regionally.

Miss McIntosh: Even with the health warning on page 3, if the statistics are to mean anything, they should not equate a little village such as Cattal, which has a railway station and commuter line going through it, with what happens in Newcastle. The Government have built on their regional strategy for offices and defined regions, and Yorkshire and the Humber are not connected with the north-eastern region as we presently know it.

I cannot imagine that my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) would like statistics from London and Uxbridge to be included with figures from East Anglia. I cannot imagine that the hon. Member for Bath is delighted to see that his constituency is included in a region that encompasses the whole of the south-west, including Cornwall and Devon, and a third of Wales. Let us be frank. If the statistics are to mean anything, the regions should reflect the regions used for other purposes.

Mr. Jamieson: The regions have been created for good reason. It would not necessarily be appropriate for them to reflect regions used for other Government purposes. Those regions are well understood and relate to the railways. That is the important point. I do not think that the hon. Member for Bath minds his constituency being associated with Devon and Cornwall. I saw him shake his head slightly when the hon. Lady mentioned that.

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