HC Deb 02 March 1989 vol 148 cc388-9
8. Mr. Graham: T

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to ensure the safety of citizens travelling on public transport.

Mr. John Patten

The security of passengers and staff on public transport is central to the responsibilities of Government, public licensing authorities, operators and the police. I understand that London Underground Limited is implementing a range of passenger security measures financed by a £15 million grant from the Department of Transport. The complement of the British Transport police on the Underground has been increased) twice since 1986. Good progress has been made in investigating recent serious incidents on the Underground and British Rail.

Mr. Graham

Is the Minister aware that a posse of American vigilantes is educating and training a group of young men and women called the Guardian Angels to protect the interests of the travelling public on the Underground? Is he further aware that the security of mind among the travelling public, especially the elderly, has been disturbed, as they are terrified at the Government's lack of action and commitment to ensure that law and order are restored to transport in Britain? Will the Minister ensure that the public do not need to rely on vigilantes to ensure their safety on the Underground in London?

Mr. Patten

It is for that reason that the establishment of the British Transport police is to be increased from 350 to 400. That is exactly why the Government are encouraging the British Transport Police Authority to consider changing its statutory authority so as to allow British Transport police to recruit special constables. We do not want individual private citizens to take up the policing of this country. We wish them to join the special constables, to get a proper training and uniform, and to do a proper job.

Sir Anthony Grant

Has my hon. Friend seen an article in today's Daily Mail referring to an internal report and inquiry by British Rail showing a great and disturbing worry about crime by riff-raff on the line between Cambridgeshire and Liverpool street? Will he urge British Rail to publish the report so that all the facts can be known? Will he have discussions with his colleagues in the Department of Transport to see what can be done to help British Rail to stamp out those pests?

Mr. Patten

I have not read or seen the report by British Rail, although I have seen the report in the Daily Mail. I shall pass on my hon. Friend's concern to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. I am sure that British Rail is well aware that customers—as it increasingly refers to them, rather than passengers—need to feel safe and that if it wants to increase rather than decrease the number of its customers, it will need to address the issues firmly.

Mr. Darling

The Minister does not seem happy with his lot. As robberies on the London Underground doubled in the last three years, and the clear-up rate has fallen from 20 per cent. to 12 per cent., and bearing in mind the British Rail survey that showed that many women travel in fear on trains, will the Home Secretary lend more police to the British Transport police, or will his shoddy and short-sighted attitude towards spending public money where it is needed mean that more people will continue to travel in fear on the railways when, with a sensible allocation of resources, they would not need to do so?

Mr. Patten

The hon. Gentleman is ignoring the facts. An additional 50 police are going to the British Transport police. Before the establishment reaches the new level of 400, both the Metropolitan police and the City police are making available 80 of their own police forces to help. In addition, the considerable sum of £15 million for security measures in Underground stations, initially in some 13 stations on the Northern and Central lines, plus Oxford Circus, has been made available by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.