HC Deb 03 July 1985 vol 82 cc464-70

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

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

We now come to Scotland.

Mr. Giles Shaw

A change of team.

Mr. Dewar

There is indeed a change of team, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will stay for just a moment, because some of the things I have to say may have some relevance to discussions that I understand will take place in the immediate future about the problems of cross-border traffic, if I may use a familiar phrase from other areas.

On this side of the Committee we have consistently supported the legislation in part V of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 and we will not go back on that during the passage of this Bill. I do not think anyone in Scotland pretends that it has in some way revolutionised the position in Scotland or is a talisman that will ward off all possibility of football violence. That would be ridiculous. However, we believe that in a modest way it has been useful and effective. Of course, it was to some extent based on work done by the Scottish Office during the term of the Labour Government.

Clause 10 will make a significant change in the Scottish legislation as we know it. I put this delicately, but I am sure that the Minister will accept that already some confusion has been caused in Scotland about its exact impact. There was a great deal of speculation in the press this morning about what would happen as a result of the introduction of this clause into the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act. Therefore, it is appropriate to invite the Minister to clarify some points. I suspect that I shall be satisfied by what he says. Indeed, I may be urging him to stand his ground against those who may wish to shift him, but I should at least like to get this on the record in Hansard so that we know exactly where we stand.

There is a slight atmosphere of make do and mend about this. We have had a good deal of experience in Scotland. If there had not been legislation proposed for England, we might not have been altering the Scottish legislation at this point. We would probably have been content to leave it on the basis of the judgments that were made back in 1980 when the original legislation went on to the statute book.

2 am

There are occasions when there is a difference of pace in developments north and south of the border and different solutions may he appropriate. We are now harmonising and, to an extent, bringing the two together as the English come on to the statute book, but we are not, of course, creating exactly the same situation north and south of the border, that is an important fact to grasp. The Minister may wish to comment on that.

My remit is to make one or two points and to get the hon. Gentleman's views upon them. I have been listening to the debate and I was delighted to notice that one of the people speaking was a Member with whom I am not particularly familiar, the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Malins). I was delighted to see in his little autobiography in the books of reference that one of his achievements is that he led "Running into Europe 1973", the longest-ever sponsored charity run to Brussels. I am not quite sure if that could be designated as a sporting event and exactly how it would be defined. I do not intend to invite to spend any time on that point.

The first change I want the Minister to look at is an important one. Clause 10(a) seeks to amend section 68(1) of the Scottish Act to make it clear that an order may apply to sporting events outside Great Britain. That is a situation in which, presumably, we are being invited to designate a specific sporting event. The Minister will remember that in the original legislation only sporting grounds were designated, so that is an extension right away of the Secretary of State's powers in Scotland. The concept of the event is being imported into the Scottish Bill for the first time.

I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) was on the original Standing Committee in 1980, but I certainly was, and I remember the then Minister, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) going to great lengths to explain why it would not he appropriate to have designated an English ground—on the basis, obviously, that one could not extend the Secretary of State's remit south of the border. This created the anomaly that a bus coming from England bringing Celtic supporters from, for the sake of argument, Bradford, was immediately covered by the terms of part V of the Act when it crossed the border, but Celtic supporters going to the second leg somewhere in England could not be covered while they were driving in Scotland. That anomaly has now been ended.

If there is designation in Scotland, obviously that is simple enough because the journey to the ground is covered. If there is designation in England, then presumably a bus setting out from Scotland would be automatically covered for its entire journey even though part of it was in Scotland. Presumably if the Secretary of State designated a sporting event furth of the United Kingdom and the journey was started in Scotland, crossed the border and moved to England to, say, a channel port, the legislation would cover that form of transport throughout its passage in the United Kingdom. In other words, it would not just be a matter of travelling to the Scottish border, it would be to the port of exit in England. I hope that is the situation as I understand it, but perhaps it is as well to get that clear.

The second amendment or change that appears in clause 10 which I want to dwell on for just a moment, and it may be that one or two of my colleagues may wish to mention it, is the slightly more controversial matter of the extension to rail travel which results from this new clause. Under section 69 of the 1980 Act, the Government are simply and straightforwardly adding to the public service vehicle the concept of railway and passenger vehicle. Can the Minister say a word or two about that? It is probably the same as in England, but it is just as well to get it on the record for Scotland, as to what trains will be covered by this.

Obviously, section 69 of the 1980 Act deals with a train operated for the principal purpose of conveying passengers to or from a designated sporting event. It is obvious that the football specials run by British Rail are covered, if they are run; it has been the practice recently not to run them. But especially in circumstances where they are not run, if an ordinary service train is dominated by football supporters in its passenger load, would it be covered by section 69, as one with the principal purpose of conveying passengers to or from a designated sporting event"? If it would not, we should at least understand that, and I hope that the Minister will clear away that doubt.

I also notice that we have imported into section 69 the phrase for the whole or part of a journey. Again, I hope that the Minister will explain the significance of that, because it does not appear in the original legislation. The Minister looks a little puzzled. He will see that we are inserting in section 69, as well as railway passenger vehicle", the words for the whole or part of a journey. Presumably those words are inserted for a purpose. They are changing the present position in Scotland, and I am not clear about their significance. Presumably it was thought necessary for clarification or it is a substantive change which applies not only to trains but to public service vehicles as well. As some draftsman has taken the trouble to insert the phrase, perhaps the Minister will explain its importance.

Another important point arises which is perhaps the centre of the debate. It is what happens to the staff on a train. There was speculation in the press, which I believe was founded on a misunderstanding, that the staff of a train — the guard and the driver — would be in the same position as, say, the conductor or driver of a public service vehicle in that they would be covered by the offence defined in section 70 of the 1980 Act. Hon. Members will remember that that says that if an employee or agent permits alcohol to be carried on the vehicle, the operator and, as the case may be, the employee or agent shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200. During discussions on the 1980 Bill, there was a great deal of controversy about whether that was a reasonable duty to place upon the driver of a coach. In the event, it was decided that it was and there was a great deal of speculation that the same offence was being created for the staff of a train that might be carrying passengers principally to a designated sporting event or ground.

On reading the amendments and fitting them into the 1980 Act, it becomes clear that that is not the intention. As I understand it, the offence which applies to the staff of a public service vehicle under section 70 will not apply to the staff on a train which is covered by the newly amended section 69. If my interpretation is correct, I think that the Government have made a wise decision. There are great difficulties for the staff of a train which become apparent on thinking about their position.

I remind hon. Members of the debates in the Scottish Standing Committee which considered the Criminal Justice Bill on 19 June 1980. The then Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said about bus drivers: I should have thought that there was a difference between what would be likely to be the obligation of a driver at the beginning of a journey if he knew that alcohol was on the coach —when there would be a greater likelihood that he would be expected not to begin the journey until the alcohol had been removed — compared with the situation where during the course of the journey, it might become apparent that alcohol was being carried." — [Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 19 June 1980; c. 1432–3.] It is presumably easy for a bus driver to see what is being loaded on to his bus. In the age of open stations, a controversial matter within the railway industry — in Scotland open stations are almost universally used now —it is extremely difficult for the staff to monitor what goes on to a train. It is unreasonable to hold the driver, for example, per se responsible for what may be happening eight coaches behind him, when there is no barrier and there are a multiplicity of entrances and approaches to a passenger train. We can easily envise the problems of a guard who finds alcohol on a train which is moving rapidly through the countryside.

There are good and substantial reasons why the Scottish Office has decided that an offence similar to that outlined in section 70 should not apply to British Rail staff on one of these trains.

I realise that there will be substantial problems, in that a train often runs over the border. We then face the ludicrous anomalies and difficulties caused by the different approach of Home Office Ministers. I understand that that was freely recognised, thanks to an effective intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) earlier today. We received some sort of assurance that the matter would be considered in the interim—presumably, before the Bill goes to another place.

I shall curtail my remarks— [Interruption.] We are being patient, and the Irish are having to be even more patient.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (South Down)

There are no Irish present.

Mr. Dewar

I do not wish to get into a semantic argument with the right hon. Gentleman.

I hope that the Government will note that in Scotland it is firmly believed that if the anomaly is to be overcome, it should not be by adopting the English approach. What is right for England is for the Home Office, its advisers and hon. Members with an interest in it. But it would be completely unsatisfactory to apply an offence similar to section 70 in Scotland to the staff of a train in the circumstances that I described. The English position is obviously different. They do not even have the statutory defence that appears in section 71 of the 1980 Act, under which the accused can establish that the alcohol was carried on the vehicle without his consent or connivance and that he did all he reasonably could to prevent such carriage. It would be unfortunate to import the English solution into Scotland in the interests of harmonisation. There is a strong case for consistency, but I urge that it should be achieved by a reconsideration of what has been suggested south of the border. If that is not possible, I hope that the Scottish Office will stand its ground.

I do not know whether the railway unions have been consulted on this matter. I have talked to Mr. Andrew Barr and NUR people in Scotland, who have not been consulted.

Perhaps that was not thought necessary because we in Scotland were not moving to a situation in which this penalty was being imposed on the staff. I hope that if the Minister is thinking of any move in the direction that the English have followed, consultation with the unions and other interested bodies, even in the short time that is available, will be considered essential.

On this occasion I pay the Minister an unusual compliment. He has had the better of the argument and I hope that he will stand his ground and make sure that we do not get carried away with an enthusiasm for harmonisation that might lead us to the wrong result.

Mr. Ewing

The Minister undertook on Second Reading that this whole issue would be reconsidered between now and the Bill going to another place. Either clause 1 or clause 10 will have to be amended, or the measure will be inoperable.

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) in urging Scottish Office Ministers to stand firm and to persuade the Home Secretary to amend clause 1 to bring it into line with clause 10. The Home Secretary should not entertain the thought of trying to persuade the Secretary of State for Scotland to amend clause 10 to bring it into line with clause 1.

I am glad that the Home Secretary is in his place, even at this late hour, although perhaps I should call it this early hour. When I was with the Post Office I never knew whether I was on the night shift or the early day shift, and I feel much the same about tonight's deliberations.

A train travelling from England into Scotland would be covered by the English legislation until it reached the bridge at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Once it was over the border and into Scotland, it would be covered by the Scottish legislation. Having begun its journey in England, staff operating what is described in clause 1 as "the vehicle" — although it is a train — would be held responsible if alcohol was on the train. As my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden pointed out, they would not even have the statutory defence contained in section 70 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. If, however, the train started its journey in Scotland, it would be a different proposition. Once it crossed the border into England, it would be covered by the English legislation. The position is intolerable.

It is wrong to try to impose on the staff of British Rail trains conditions that have been imposed successfully on coach drivers in Scotland. It is easier for the police to stop a coach going to a match in Scotland and search it to see if there is alcohol aboard, then to charge the driver, who, under section 70, can plead that he did not know that alcohol was on the coach, leaving it to the court to decide whether he did or did not know. If he is found guilty, in all probability he will lose his public service vehicle licence, and the owner of the coach will no doubt be reported to the traffic commissioners, who might remove his operating licence. It is relatively easy to impose that sanction.

It is wrong to impose the same principle on a train driver, who cannot be expected to know what is going on a dozen or 15 coaches behind him; or on a guard, who cannot be expected to know what is going on a dozen or 15 coaches ahead of him; or on a ticket inspector, who cannot be expected to know what is going on in all the coaches. I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden that in this case the Home Office has it wrong and the Scottish Office has it absolutely right.

I support my hon. Friend in urging the Scottish Office to use all its powers to persuade Home Office Ministers that clause 1 should be amended. I am in favour of consistency. I am mindful also of a problem that prevails in England but not in Scotland. We have no grounds in Scotland in which there is direct access from train to ground, whereas in England a number of grounds, including Old Trafford in Manchester, have such access.

While I accept that that is a problem, I do not accept that clause 1 is the way to deal with it. I accept that clause 10 should stand part of the Bill. If the Committee agrees, I hope that the undertaking so generously given by the Minister of State on Second Reading means that clause 1 will be amended. I urge the Minister of State to stand firm on this matter. I must tell the Under-Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Minister of State that Scottish Members will resist any attempt to import the conditions of clause 1 into clause 10.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) for his comments on part V of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 which reinforced what the hon. Member for Falkirk. East (Mr. Ewing) said on Second Reading. We all accept that part 5 has had wholly bi-partisan support in Scotland.

I deal first with the principal point of the hon. Members for Garscadden and for Falkirk, East—the relationship between clause 1 and clause 10. I am in a somewhat unusual situation. It is not every day that I listen to hon. Gentlemen telling the Committee that the Scottish Office has got things right.

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State told the Committee, the Government accept that there is an awkwardness about the relationship between clause 1 and clause 10 on the question of cross-border traffic. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Minister of State and I will, of course, be discussing the position. As the Committee will appreciate, they have been present during the debate. We will all take full account of the points that have been made by the hon. Members for Garscadden and for Falkirk, East.

I confirm to the hon. Member for Garscadden that his exposition of the position of the staff under the Bill as it stands is correct.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the trains to which the provisions would apply. The Bill will apply to football specials but not to normal scheduled services, which come under the railway byelaws. The hon. Gentleman asked also about the position of coaches going to matches in England and to designated events abroad. Under clause 10, the Secretary of State can designate events abroad which, as the hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out, is new. Clause 1 makes it an offence to carry alcohol on a coach going to a designated event. Designated includes designated under part V of the 1980 Act, as the hon. Gentleman will observe if he refers to clause 9(3)(b). If a coach is going to a designated event abroad, it comes under the 1980 Act to the border, and under the provisions of the Bill for its journey through England and Wales.

On the specific question of the hon. Member for Garscadden, the words for the whole or part of a journey are intended to cope precisely with the situation of events designated outside Great Britain in order to be able to deal with that part of the journey within Great Britain.

With that explanation, I hope that hon. Members are content. I commend clause 10 to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.