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I suggest that there are several possible alternatives. If you were the airport manager at, say, East Midlands Airport, the Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire police forces are in close proximity and a competitive tender for the provision of policing services could be sought from each chief constable. If
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I have described my amendments and shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in reply, because it is typical business practice these days that wherever possible people should have an alternative if someone is seeking to provide a service from a monopoly position.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I support the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. We are talking about a situation where the users are paying for the specific work of policing at airports, which is not normal. To some extent, the police authority has the airport over a barrel. It will decide and say how much it is going to cost.
I had this experience 20 years ago when I was working on the Channel Tunnel. All the frontier control authorities made bids to have the maximum facilities and maximum number of people there-of course, it was all very necessary in their books-and Eurotunnel had to provide a police station at Folkestone for 80 officers. It was complete with everything that they could possibly want, including darkened windows so that nobody could look in. It was for everything apart from law and order, which was still going to be done by Kent Police. The cost to the company was enormous. One day, I asked the head of the police what they would have done if they had had to fund it themselves. The answer was that they would have had two policemen visiting part-time from Ashford. I was shocked by that. They were being greedy. I know that they needed money and wanted to have all the lovely equipment but, in terms of a judgment about what is required, the difference between two part-timers and 80 takes some beating.
I fear that we have the same situation today. Of course, the police will say that everything is necessary and that they have to have the most wonderful equipment. As the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, the British Transport Police could do an extremely good job. With the Metropolitan Police's record on using firearms in the Underground, it is probably better that there are no firearms around. More seriously, as the operator has to pay, it is entirely reasonable that he should be able to get more than one quote, including one from the British Transport Police, because at somewhere like Birmingham International Airport the BTP will be on the railway but will not be allowed to take one step into the airport. That is crazy; it will come up in a later amendment. I hope that my noble friend will have something positive to say about this and, most important, will explain how the airport operator can be protected from the monopolistic and sometimes grabbing attitudes of the police, who know that they have the operator over a barrel.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: The 10 amendments in this group deal with a variety of issues. I sense that the issues that the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, is dealing with are slightly different from those to which the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley have just referred. I shall attempt to answer all the points in my response.
The first set of amendments proposes various changes to the membership of risk advisory and security executive groups. I shall deal first with the make-up of risk advisory groups. Amendment 152AL, moved by the noble Baroness, proposes that the Serious Organised Crime Agency, officials dealing with immigration and the security services should all be granted an automatic right to representation on the risk advisory group.
Let me explain how membership arrangements for this group will work. Those persons who must, as a minimum, attend the group are those who represent the airport operator and the police. This is because, at the very smallest of the qualifying airports, this would represent the minimum level of membership at which basic risk assessment could be conducted. In practice, however, we expect that, in the very large majority of cases, additional security partners from a range of entities will need to attend in order for a full assessment of risk to be undertaken. However, different airports will need different risk advisory group members, which is why the airport operator has been provided with a wide-ranging power of nomination. This is there to ensure that those persons who need to attend the group in order for it to function effectively can do so.
National guidance will provide further information about risk advisory group membership. This will include, for example, reference to the appointment of airline and UKBA representatives. At some airports, it will be appropriate for the Serious Organised Crime Agency to attend risk advisory group meetings. Where this is the case, we expect the aerodrome manager to use his power of nomination to appoint them.
We do not believe that the police authority should attend meetings of the risk advisory group, as the function of this group is to allow for the expert consideration of threat and risk. The police authority will, however, have a role to play in the resourcing decisions taken by the security executive group; the Bill's existing powers of nomination will permit this.
On the appointment of security services representatives to the risk advisory group and the security executive group, which Amendments 152AL and 152AS propose, we agree that there is a role for the security services to play in contributing to the information considered by the groups. This information is presently provided to existing risk advisory groups by means of a threat assessment that is issued regularly by TRANSEC. In some cases, where necessary, information is also delivered directly to risk advisory groups by a security services official. This will remain the case under these new provisions. Representatives of the security services will not normally need to attend security executive group meetings, as these discussions will relate primarily to the resourcing of measures.
Amendments 152ANA and 152BFA, to which the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, spoke, seek to make it possible for a range of "alternative policing providers" to police an airport, the intention being to allow an airport operator effectively to put airport policing out to competitive tender. Other Home Office forces, the British Transport Police and private forces could all bid for the contract. It will not come as a surprise to the noble Lord when I say that I am afraid that we cannot accept these amendments. We consider it an important principle for airport security that the responsibility for policing decisions at an airport should reside with the local Home Office force, a view that is supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Whether you are dealing with terrorism, serious and organised crime or simply petty crime, local intelligence has been shown to be essential in the delivery of effective policing. Creating a situation in which one force polices the airport while another polices the community outside makes little sense. The two policing roles are interlinked and it would be complex and impractical for force activities to be split in this way. In the event of a serious incident, the local force would inevitably have to supplement the airport police, complicating investigations and causing complex command and control arrangements.
Lord Berkeley: I am grateful to my noble friend. Can he explain the boundary between the BTP's policing of Birmingham International station and the policing of Birmingham International Airport? There are just as many problems there. If the BTP, with its expertise, is capable of policing the whole railway network, why cannot it police an airport? If it did, there would be no conflict at the boundary between the two.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I am grateful to my noble friend for that intervention. We will discuss the jurisdiction of the BTP when we consider Amendment 159EA in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, a little later. My noble friend said a moment ago that the work of the BTP had to stop at the railway station and could not go on to the airport if a crime was being committed that had started at the station and went on to the airport. That situation would not apply, because the BTP has full jurisdiction to continue an investigation, and possibly a chase, if a crime started at the station and went to the airport. As I say, however, we will come back to this when we consider the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw.
I recognise the importance of ensuring that policing services are cost-effective-a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. I assure the Committee that, under the new framework, we expect discussions to explore alternatives to policing and to consider policing within the context of all security measures that are in place. Indeed, chief officers will not want to deploy more resources than are required when they could be better used elsewhere.
Where specific police activity cannot be justified, parties may well agree not to include this in the plan or they may wish to gather further evidence before making a decision. Ultimately, if agreement cannot be reached, any determination provided by the Secretary of State will not impose a policing measure without regard to all relevant and reasonable evidence to demonstrate that this is necessary. I hope that the noble Lord will feel that that statement answers the point that he has just made.
The noble Lord's amendments would, as we have heard, enable the British Transport Police to police airports. He made this point at Second Reading, as indeed I did from the Back Bench on this side of the House.
My admiration for the fine job that the BTP does in policing our railways is well known in this House and, I know, is shared by both the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley. It delivers a highly effective policing service that helps to ensure that our railways are kept safe and secure and there is clearly merit in learning from the knowledge and experience that it has acquired through operating in a commercial environment. We shall, as I said, come back to the role of the BTP and its jurisdiction when we consider Amendment 159EA in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw.
The Government do not feel that the railway-based policing model would work at airports. There are significant issues here, including the lack of an armed capability, the challenges of providing flexible resources across a disparate and disconnected geographical area, the need fundamentally to change the existing structures to extend competence to airports and the fact that the BTP does not have a long-established Special Branch role. We believe that there is no justification for the cost and disruption that allowing the BTP to police airports would cause when we have a perfectly good solution already in place.
On Amendments 152AM, 152AN and 152AT, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, for asking how police collaboration agreements will work in the context of these provisions. The provisions do not preclude a collaboration agreement between forces, as that would preserve the local chief constable's position as the principal decision-maker. Collaboration agreements will continue to be an option where chief constables consider them to be more effective or efficient ways of delivering policing measures. However, for the reasons that I have already mentioned, we consider it important to retain the Bill's current requirement that the local force, and not another force, should take the responsibility for policing its airports and therefore be represented on both the security executive group and the risk advisory group.
That is not to say, however, that the chief officer of the local force could not work with colleagues from neighbouring forces in the delivery of policing services that he or she decided should be in place at the airport, either with the agreement of the airport operator under the terms of a police services agreement or in some other capacity. Where a chief officer felt that airport policing could be delivered effectively and efficiently through co-operation with another force, it would be open to that chief officer to enter into a collaboration agreement setting out the terms of this co-operation. It would also be possible for a representative of a force participating in a collaboration agreement to attend both risk advisory group and security executive group meetings in the capacity of an observer.
Amendment 152AM would remove the Secretary of State's ability to appoint observers to the risk advisory group. One of the reasons it is important for the Secretary of State to have this power is that, in the event of any doubt about the effectiveness of a group's operation, the Secretary of State will be able to appoint officials to witness the group's proceedings. Officials will then be in a position to support the work of the group concerned and to advise the Secretary of State as may be necessary.
Amendment 152AU proposes the removal of the provision providing specific authority for individuals to act as members of the risk advisory group and security executive group at a qualifying aerodrome. I should like to explain the rationale for the inclusion of this provision. United Kingdom airports vary considerably in size and in nature. We recognise that these provisions must work effectively at all sites. At some of the very smallest airports, the staff with responsibility for day-to-day risk assessment may also have responsibility for taking resourcing decisions and will therefore need to sit on risk advisory and security executive groups. The Bill provides for that and national guidance will contain governance advice regarding use of this provision.
Amendments 152BGA and 152BGB, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, would require the Secretary of State to consider transparency and accountability when determining a dispute. These principles run through the entirety of the new process, so it would be impossible for the Secretary of State to overlook them. Producing a risk report and an airport security plan to support decisions is a wholly transparent process and provides a clear set of accountabilities which feed into the development of the police services agreement. These will be material considerations for the Secretary of State when making a determination, so the two principles do not need to be referenced explicitly in the Bill. The amendments would also require the Secretary of State to consider whether other police providers would have made different decisions or provided policing at lower cost and how policing services are provided at airports with a similar risk profile.
The fundamental principle underpinning the security planning framework is that decisions about security planning should be based on relevant local circumstances and intelligence. Airports are very diverse and the risk profile at each will vary in accordance with the precise nature of each operation. The mix of security measures will also vary, with policing only one possible option.
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The amendments also assume that costs might somehow be inflated. The national guidance will make it quite clear that police forces and authorities will be expected to set out clearly what they charge airport operators so that all parties can understand how the costs are made up. The guidance will also be clear that costs may be recovered only for those aspects of policing that should be paid for by the airport operator, as opposed to the state.
Finally-I apologise for the length of my response, but we have had 10 amendments to consider-with regard to Amendment 152BGB, I can reassure your Lordships that the Secretary of State, acting reasonably in the execution of his duties, would certainly seek the information described in the amendment before making a determination if the nature of the dispute necessitated this, and already has the powers to do so. He can instruct parties to share that information before determination is reached.
We have considered a series of complex but related issues in these amendments and I hope that what I have said will collectively encourage the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, not to press their amendments.
Lord Bradshaw: I thank the Minister for what he has had to say, but I fundamentally disagree with him. I believe that the presence of competition is almost as important as competition taking place. The fact that someone knows that the price he is paying for something might be subject to challenge by someone else often causes the price or the efficiency to improve immeasurably. I am sorry, but I do not take from him the points about local knowledge. I am sure that the BT police, or any other police force for that matter, gain such local knowledge as is important. That is part of their job. The BT police want to know who is stealing cable in an area or who is obstructing the track. That is based on local knowledge and they are as capable of getting local knowledge as the warranted force who often regard the railways as a nuisance anyway.
I will study carefully what he has said, but I am not very sympathetic. Perhaps I might put it that he is maintaining the point of view of people who are not in the House, but are perhaps sitting over there to my right, rather than the rational view of a rational Government.
Baroness Neville-Jones: I thank the Minister for his reply and he is right to say that it was long. We seem to have two sets of discrete issues in one bunch of amendments, which I shall take in order. I listened careful to what the Minister said about the membership of these groups. I still find his reasons for discrepancy not entirely convincing, although I accept that there is diversity in the security conditions at different airports, which will require different patterns. It seems to me that, given that this new regime is coming into effect, it
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I am grateful for what the Minister said about collaborative agreements between the police, which is an important part of getting the regime to work. As things stand, it seems entirely at the discretion of the police force which is policing the airport, rather than there being any ability on the part of the police force in the area to take any initiative. I would hope that those policemen could talk to each other sufficiently frequently so that if there is a need for a collaborative agreement or active help from the police force in the area, it will be forthcoming. This is a case of ensuring that the letter of the law translates into a sensible and practical regime, which really secures the airport and is done on a basis which pays attention to local security considerations and observes certain national norms.
I have an amendment coming up on cost. It might have been better if these amendments had been grouped, but that is as it is. There is plenty of practical evidence that the costs of policing airports have varied considerably. Not only do they vary from airport to airport, as does the rate at which certain services provided by the police are charged to the airport operator, but they change when a new police chief constable comes along and sets them again. There is no consistency in practice and there is not yet confidence in the basis on which the police charge. I do not see in the present arrangements any incentive to the police to keep their costs down. They are being paid for by someone else. I have great sympathy with the amendments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. The Government should have a strong eye to the reasonableness of these charges. In the next amendment, I have a thought to put to the House, which may help.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I can respond to the two points made by the noble Baroness. Continuous monitoring is an undertaking which we are happy to give. We will see how those arrangements work out and will keep them under review. On the issue of what one could loosely call gold-plating, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Government have made it clear to everyone concerned with these arrangements that the proposals do not provide an opportunity to gold-plate policing services. We do not expect any more police to be deployed at airports than those the airport operator and the police agree are sufficient to mitigate the identified threats, and it could well be that the number of police should fall rather than increase as a result of these arrangements. If there is a dispute, as I indicated in my earlier speech, there is a dispute mechanism to sort it out. However, it is very much the Government's intention that this will lead to more cost-effective rather than more expensive policing.
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