Railways and Transport Safety Bill

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Miss McIntosh: I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is as courteous and charming as ever. If the constable is not present, how can he reasonably suspect anything? Will he rely on information being provided by other people that an offence has occurred

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or is reasonably suspected of having occurred? If he is not physically present, how can he know?

Mr. Jamieson: The information will have been provided to the constable by the marine official, or he may have had a reasonable suspicion in the first place because of information that had been given to him.

The hon. Lady asked where the test would be carried out. The screening test on board the vessel would be conducted by a constable in uniform. Evidential testing is to be done by the police, and I understand that any such test must be carried out by a constable in uniform. I repeat that there will be no random testing. We may need to consider precisely what is meant by uniform if the hat has blown off and so on. There is plenty of case law on road policing in such matters, which we may explore if we want further information.

Legislation on the constable in uniform would apply to the local police, the ports police and, if appropriate, the British Transport police. In practice, it is likely to be the local police, as they will have the equipment and the expertise to enforce this part of the Bill. Marine officials will have the power to detain vessels until the police arrive and, as I said earlier, they can detain the vessel only when they have requested the police to attend.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency plans to train a strategic number of police officers to board vessels in order to conduct the tests. The police will also have access to vessels used by harbour authorities and water authorities, should that be required.

The hon. Lady asked about hot pursuit, which is probably unlikely, although there are cases in which it is suspected that a serious offence has taken place and when pursuit is thought to be appropriate. There would be the power to track a vessel to see in which direction it was going, but in practice hot pursuit would not apply, although it would depend on what was deemed to be the severity of the situation.

The hon. Member for Vale of York asked about the definition of United Kingdom ships and foreign ships, which is set out in clause 88, which we shall discuss later this morning if time allows. We were asked about the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, which are civilian, not military, vessels. Clause 87 applies the Bill, except for clause 81, to those ships. Those on board will be covered by all the measures in this part of the Bill except that which applies to detaining ships in clause 81, for reasons which will be obvious to the Committee.

The hon. Lady also asked about consular officials; it is important that they have the power that she mentions because part 4 applies to United Kingdom ships anywhere in the world, not just off our coasts. Therefore, it may be appropriate for a consular official to act in such a capacity.

The hon. Lady asked several times about resources. I refer her to the explanatory notes to the Bill. The issue of any extra funding required is set out on page 25 in paragraph 92, headed ''Public sector financial and manpower cost''. I will not detain the Committee by reading it out, as it makes the points well. I hope

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that I have given a helpful summary of the clause and that we can move on.

10 am

Miss McIntosh: I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for his explanations, as far as they went. He referred to paragraph 92, and it was remiss of me not to mention it earlier. It says:

    ''It is difficult to quantify the financial costs to the public purse from the introduction and enforcement of an alcohol limit for mariners.''

That may be difficult, but it is incumbent on the Government to do it. They are putting additional costs on several organisations—I will not list them again—who are concerned about the costs and whether they can pay them.

Mr. Randall: My hon. Friend is correct. If the notes had said that it was impossible to quantify the financial costs, we could let the Department off the hook, but as it is just 'difficult', the Department should come up with an answer.

Miss McIntosh: Indeed. The Government have a Department dedicated to transport policy, so although it may be difficult to quantify costs, they should do it. The notes go on to say:

    ''The Association of Chief Police Officers has indicated that the slightly increased resource implications for the police would be largely offset by use of current resources such as harbour launches and search and rescue helicopters.''

For the benefit of the Committee, it is only thanks to our successful local campaign that the Portland helicopters were saved. They were about to be axed.

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Lady is aware that we are not debating helicopters.

Miss McIntosh: The Minister referred me to the explanatory notes. We are debating helicopters because we are told that search and rescue helicopters will be doing the job, but they have only just been rescued themselves. If they had not been rescued, who would have been doing the work?

The notes say:

    ''The Department for Transport would fund any training necessary for police and marine officials to enforce these proposals.''

I hope that the Department has allowed itself enough time to do that. The notes add that

    ''the training would cover techniques in boarding ships at sea by means of helicopter or ship to ship transfers.''

Having tried the latter twice, I can say that it is the most inelegant exercise and is fraught with danger. I was pushed out of the way by an admiral.

Mr. Randall: Was he a hero?

Miss McIntosh: We will not go into that. The point is that people can break their legs or do themselves even worse damage. Considerable training is required, and I would not like to undertake it.

The notes say:

    ''In terms of testing apparatus, there would be minimal costs for implementation of the alcohol provisions, since the testing regime would use equipment already in use for alcohol testing on the roads.''

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I thought that I made an eloquent argument for using the testing equipment used on railways, but that seemed to fall on deaf ears. However, there is still time before the Bill comes into force. We are told that the number of tests required is expected to be low, as is the number cases prosecuted.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has said that the provisions will apply to all vessels in UK waters, irrespective of flag. I also welcome his assurance that breath-testing should primarily be carried out after an accident or if there is reason to suspect a breach of the law and that there will not be random testing. That is welcome.

We will certainly hold the Government to their commitment in paragraph 93 of the explanatory notes:

    ''Alcohol and drugs provisions, both in the marine and aviation sectors, will not require recruitment of more public sector workers, though there will be additional responsibilities on existing police, marine or legal officers.''

No doubt, once the Bill is in force, we will have cause to revisit that.

The question of hot pursuit is a reasonable one that we will pursue on subsequent clauses. I am deeply uneasy about the reasonable time pending the arrival of the police because the Minister has confirmed that the police will conduct hot pursuit. The effects of alcohol may have worn off over the 24-hour detention period, and that could weaken the provisions of the clause. I share my hon. Friend's concern that the absence of the constable himself could be a hostage to fortune. I cannot speak for British Waterways, but I hope that it is happy to take on these new responsibilities.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 81 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 82

Arrest without warrant

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Miss McIntosh: We are told that a constable may arrest a person without warrant if he has reason to suspect that an offence has been committed or that the person who is suspected of having committed an offence is on board and under the influence of drink or drugs. The provisions come from part 4 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and part 5 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.

The royal commission that preceded PACE said in its report that there was lack of clarity and an uneasy and confused mixture of common law and statutory powers of arrest—the statutory powers having grown up piecemeal and without any consistent rationale. Its objectives were therefore twofold: first, it would restrict arrest circumstances to those in which arrest is genuinely necessary, and secondly it would simplify, clarify and rationalise. One recommendation—not adopted—was that all imprisonable offences should become arrestable offences.

The report stated that the basic principle of arrest without warrant remained, whether or not an offence

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carried a sentence of five years or more. The penalties under clause 79 are considerably less. The report then listed some offences that were not previously arrestable. Section 17 of PACE would apparently be enforced for the purposes of entry and search without warrant. It states that a constable may enter and search any premises for the purpose of executing a warrant of arrest or a warrant of commitment. Those powers are specific. My concern is how far reaching they are when no warrant is required. We have stated more than once that as far as possible arrest with warrant would be the preferred option for the relevant constable for part 4 purposes. As my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge suggested, the river police might be involved, but it is more likely be the local police, the road police or possibly the British Transport police. Where a warrant is issued, rights pertain to the accused. How often is an arrest without warrant envisaged? Where a ship is at sea or in an inland waterway—a considerable distance away—the constable must be able to act speedily.

Subsection (2) states:

    ''But a person may not be arrested under this section while he is at a hospital as a patient.''

Does that cover the position where a person accused of an offence is so intoxicated through the effects of drink or drugs that he has become ill? He might have caused an accident yet not be arrested.

The Committee will be aware of a solicitor in the Vale of York—he was also an acting coroner and a pre-eminent individual in the local society—being prosecuted for substantial fraud. Sadly, after he was sentenced, he suffered two heart attacks and when he was taken to hospital, he was manacled to the bed. We all understand the requirement not to lose a convicted criminal, but we also understand the trauma to the individual and his family. We should compare that scenario with the circumstances under the clause whereby an individual who has not been convicted, but is accused of committing a serious offence and endangering lives, cannot be arrested while in hospital as a patient—even though his own silly deeds had brought him to hospital in the first place. Will the Minister clarify the position?

 
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