HC Deb 14 March 1988 vol 129 cc844-5
5. Sir John Biggs-Davison

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the work of the British Transport police in protecting persons and property on the London Underground.

Mr. David Mitchell

The British Transport police are co-operating with London Underground Limited in the implementation of the recommendations of my Department's report of November 1986 on "Crime on the London Underground".

Sir John Biggs-Davison

While new measures will be welcomed by my constituents, whether passengers or staff, is it not the case that threatening and drunken behaviour, mugging and other violence—not to mention illegal graffiti and litter—are rife, and would it not be a good idea if the British Transport police, like other constabulary forces, had a special constabulary to supplement their regular personnel?

Mr. Mitchell

There has been a 25 per cent. reduction in muggings where new methods of policing have been employed on the southern end of the Victoria line. I shall be meeting the chief constable of BTP and the chairman of London Underground Limited before the end of the month to review progress. Projects at Oxford Circus and eastern stations on the Central line to test improved equipment and practices will be inaugurated later this month. I shall discuss with the chief constable when I meet him the point that my hon. Friend raised about specials.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

Is my hon. Friend aware of the growing anxiety among most people who travel on the London Underground at the long, deserted stretches of platform and stairways with no police in sight? Is it not about time that the Metropolitan police took over the responsibilities of the British Transport police? Most of us think that they are pretty ineffective.

Mr. Mitchell

I do not agree with my hon. Friend. I believe that there is a degree of specialisation in transport police work, and I do not think that it would be right to make the change that he suggests.

Mr. Tony Banks

Does the Minister recall the recent reply that he gave me: The complement of the Underground division of the British Transport police has increased to 350 officers; the number so far in post is 314."? — [Official Report, 25 February 1988; Vol. 128, c. 309.] Will he say what steps are being taken to bring the number in post up to the full complement? Will he accept that moving to one-person-operated trains on the Underground system will only encourage further violence and vandalism? Why will the Minister not accept the concern that is being expressed in London that travelling on the Underground system must have proper protection, which requires more police and more staff? That is the answer.

Mr. Mitchell

As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, recruitment is up from 280 and 314. It is planned to increase that figure to 350 by October this year, and we expect that that target will be reached. The other items that the hon. Gentleman mentioned are matters in which, frequently, new methods will be more effective.

Mr. McCrindle

Given the difficulty that has sometimes arisen in recruiting transport policemen for British Rail because of the financial limitations placed on it, will my hon. Friend confirm that no such considerations will stand in the way of reaching the target of 350 officers, to which he has referred?

Mr. Mitchell

Yes, Sir.