HC Deb 16 June 2003 vol 407 cc5-6
3. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South)

If he will make a statement on progress in the Department's investigation into the Mersey Tunnels police force. [119013]

The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears)

The Merseyside passenger transport authority, Merseytravel, which is primarily responsible for the Mersey Tunnels police and for the safe operation of the tunnels, is seeking judicial review of the coroner's report and the report by the Police Complaints Authority into the deaths of Darren Franey and Scott Veach. My officials are working closely with the Department for Transport to ensure that the Mersey tunnels are policed in a professional and effective manner, but it would be sensible to await the outcome of the legal proceedings before determining the way forward.

Mr. Chapman

While I have reservations about a police force reporting to what I regard as an unaccountable body—Merseytravel—and about Merseytravel's using public funds to pursue judicial review against what I regard as well-intentioned comments by the coroner, is it not time to have a thorough look at all the quasi-independent, non-territorial police forces, which have a tendency to become fiefdoms without common standards or automatic recourse to the Police Complaints Authority? Is it not time that we considered whether they might be brought into the general policing effort and the regular constabularies? For example, do we really need police forces for separate markets?

Ms Blears

My hon. Friend raises some important points. The non-Home Office constabularies perform a range of duties mainly confined to the policing of private property. I understand his concern that those forces should meet the same training, ethical and professional skills standards as the rest of the police force. I am happy to reassure him that we are working with the Department for Transport on the British Transport police, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the parks police, and with the Department of Trade and Industry on the atomic energy police. We are making sure that we get the same standards across the police. Joined-up, effective policing is our top priority.