HC Deb 31 March 2003 vol 402 cc690-714

'(1) This section applies to action of any of the following kinds—

  1. (a) the making by the Authority of regulations under section 34, 35 or 36 about the conditions of service of constables, special constables or cadets,
  2. (b) the making by the Secretary of State of regulations under section 40 about the conditions of service of constables, special constables or cadets,
  3. (c) the issuing by the Secretary of State of a document under section 27,
  4. (d) the taking by the Authority of a decision about the conditions of service of constables, special constables or cadets, and
  5. (e) the taking by the Secretary of State of a decision about the conditions of service of constables, special constables or cadets.

(2) Before taking action to which this section applies the Authority or the Secretary of State shall invite the British Transport Police Federation to nominate a number of individuals, not fewer than two nor more than five, to meet with an equal number of individuals nominated by the Authority to discuss the action proposed.

(3) Where a group is nominated under subsection (2) the person proposing to act shall, before acting—

  1. (a) give the group an opportunity to make recommendations about the proposed action, and
  2. (b) have regard to any recommendation made.

(4) Where the person proposing to act thinks that a group nominated under subsection (2) is unable to agree recommendations about the proposed action he shall, before acting—

  1. (a) give the group an opportunity to nominate an individual who is not part of the group to make recommendations about the proposed action,
  2. (b) give any person nominated by the group an opportunity to make recommendations about the proposed action, and
  3. (c) have regard to any recommendation made.

(5) Where the person proposing to act thinks that a group nominated under subsection (2) is unable to agree a nomination under subsection (4)(a)—

  1. (a) the Secretary of State may nominate a person to make recommendations about the proposed action, and
  2. (b) the person proposing to act shall, before acting—
    1. (i) give any person nominated under paragraph (a) an opportunity to make recommendations about the proposed action, and
    2. (ii) have regard to any recommendation made.

(6) In subsections (4) and (5) a reference to agreement of a group nominated under subsection (2) is a reference to the agreement of—

  1. (a) a majority of the individuals nominated by the British Transport Police Federation, and
  2. (b) a majority of the individuals nominated by the Authority.

(7) In this section a reference to conditions of service includes a reference to any terms and conditions of employment (including pay and hours of duty).'.—[Mr. Spellar.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Mr. John Spellar)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 1—Code of Practice: British Transport Police and others— 'The Secretary of State shall issue a code of practice setting out the relationship between the British Transport Police, airport police, and Home Office police forces and security officers operating at airports and seaports.'. New clause 16—Reimbursements of costs— 'The Secretary of State shall authorise the reimbursement of the costs arising from the extended jurisdiction for the British Transport Police provided in the AntiTerrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.'. New clause 18—Contracting services— '.—The Secretary of State may permit the British Transport Police Authority to contract with transport operators to provide services in respect of nonrail transport modes, including airports and bus routes.'. Amendment No. 36, in page 8, line 33 [Clause 18], at end insert— '(g) to the Mayor of London's Transport Strategy'. Amendment No. 3, in page 9, line 6 [Clause 19], at end insert 'and on direction by the Secretary of State other transport undertakings, including sea ports and airports.'. Government amendments Nos. 16 to 18.

Amendment No. 39, in page 13, line 13 [Clause 29], at end add— '() and, on direction by the Secretary of State, on any other transport undertakings including sea ports and airports.'. Amendment No. 40, in page 13, line 13, at end add— '() anywhere within the United Kingdom in the absence of a constable of the territorial force; () in support of any other police officer.'. Amendment No. 37, in page 19, line 39 [Clause 47], at end insert— '(e) have regard to the Mayor of London's Transport Strategy.'. Government amendment No. 19.

Amendment No. 5, in page 24, line 17 [Clause 59], at end add— '() other persons and bodies with an interest in the transport undertakings including sea ports and airports where the Secretary of State has issued a direction extending the jurisdiction of the British Transport Police.'. Amendment No. 34, in page 24, line 17, at end insert— '() trades unions representing employees of organisations providing railway services.'. Amendment No. 38, in page 24, line 17, at end insert— '(n) Transport for London'. Amendment No. 8, in page 60, line 34 [Schedule 4], at end insert:— '() a person nominated by Transport for London.'. Amendment No. 35, in page 60, line 34, at end insert— '() at least four persons who have a knowledge of and experience in relation to the interests of persons employed in the provision of railway services and who are members of a trade union.'. Amendment No. 1, in page 60, line 37, leave out 'four persons' and insert 'six persons'.

Government amendment No. 24.

Amendment No. 6, in page 61, line 7 [Schedule 4], at end insert— '(g) a person with an association with, either by ownership or career experience, with the industry, transport undertaking, or port or airport where the Secretary of State has, by direction, extended the jurisdiction of the British Transport Police.'. Government amendment No. 25.

Mr. Spellar

The new clauses and amendments all refer to the part of the Bill that concerns the British Transport police. New clause 7 would retain the existing BTP conference. The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) raised this important issue in Committee, and I was happy to give her an assurance that the Government would bring forward an amendment to address the matter.

We are not talking about the British Transport Police Federation conference, which is an excellent body that I addressed in Peterborough last week. We are talking about a meeting between management and the federation, and the conference has an important role. It allows discussions on conditions of service, such as pay and hours of duty, to take place between the Strategic Rail Authority, as the current employer of the force, and the British Transport Police Federation as representative of the federated ranks of the BTP. The new clause ensures that the conference will continue to meet to discuss issues relating to conditions of service of BTP constables with the Strategic Rail Authority's role replaced by the British Transport Police authority.

We have already discussed these provisions with the BTP. Our officials have met and corresponded with the federation, senior management of the force and the BTP committee. They are all content that the provisions are both correct and allow the existing conference to continue to perform its role.

Government amendments Nos. 16 to 18 reflect the fact that special constables with the BTP should not be classed as employees of the authority. They are, of course, volunteers and so should not be legally defined as employees. That is the existing position of special constables in both the BTP force and of local Home Office police forces as well. The amendments ensure that the British Transport police special constables remain in line with their Home Office counterparts. As hon. Members who served on Committee will be aware, it is to harmonise arrangements between British Transport police and the Home Office forces that we have introduced a number of provisions.

5 pm

Government amendments Nos. 19, 24 and 25 concern the make-up of the police authority and the organisations that it would have to consult. I would like to explain briefly the reasons for the amendments, which have all been tabled as a result of commitments made in Standing Committee in response to amendments or comments. Government amendment No. 24 will mean that the Secretary of State, when appointing members of the authority, will have to ensure that the membership includes someone who has "knowledge and experience" of employees of the railway industry. We have slightly embellished the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) in Committee. Paragraph 2(2) of schedule 4 allows members to be appointed for more than one reason, so a member appointed to provide knowledge and experience of passengers may also be able to provide valuable knowledge of regional requirements. The criteria used in the appointment of a member with knowledge of those providing railway services could therefore overlap with the new criteria concerning those working in the railway industry. That could also work the other way round, which could obviously leave one side deeply unhappy, and defeat the intention of the provision and our discussion in Committee. We have therefore tabled Government amendment No. 25 to ensure that an employee representative cannot dilute the industry representation by being counted within their numbers. Neither can members appointed to represent the railway companies count as members who provide knowledge about the interests of railway employees.

Government amendment No. 19 adds employees of railway companies and their representatives to the list of organisations that the authority shall consult about the policing of railways. The list of organisations in clause 59 is not exhaustive, and we expect the authority to consult widely and comprehensively on the arrangements for policing the railways. With that introduction, I commend the Government amendments and new clauses to the House.

Miss McIntosh

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his gracious reference to our lengthy debate in Committee. He will be pleased to learn that I will not speak at such length today.

Will the Minister comment on one aspect of the Bill that the Government have chosen not to amend? He will appreciate that we had a lengthy debate on jurisdiction in Committee, and I wish to place on record the fact that we welcome the provisions dealing with that. The Minister explained why the provisions are needed, and we support their main thrust. However, the Government have consistently omitted four little words, "in the vicinity of", from them. The British Transport police have strongly and vociferously argued that the omission of those words restricts the jurisdiction that they have traditionally enjoyed. That goes to the heart of this part of the Bill, and we regret that the Government have failed to address that point. We are seriously concerned that the British Transport police will not enjoy the jurisdiction that they have enjoyed in the past. Operating "in the vicinity of" means that they have the right to act in connection with railway lines, trains and railway stations. Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to share with the House the reason why the Government feel that it is inappropriate to use those words.

I welcome new clause 7, and thank the Under-Secretary of State for Transport for his helpful letter of 10 March which, at five pages, vies with some of my remarks in Committee. I am sure that it will not have escaped the attention of the Minister of State that the British Transport police have serious concerns about pension provisions, which he and the Government have so far failed to address. As the Bill is about to leave the House, do they wish to address that later? I understand that some of the provisions may be addressed, for example, by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority's police force. Are the Government minded to deal with these matters?

I take this opportunity to speak to the new clauses and amendments tabled by my hon. Friends and me, specifically, new clause 1. Subject to the Minister's reply, we may decide not to press the motion to a Division. It has been argued forcefully to us that a code of practice is required, in which the Secretary of State could set out the relationship between the British Transport police, airport police, and Home Office police forces and security officers operating at airports and seaports. In new clause 16 we request that the Secretary of State authorise the reimbursement of the costs arising from the extended jurisdiction of the British Transport police provided for in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Everyone accepts, as do we, that the provisions of the 2001 Act have been extended to the Home Office police force, and that the Bill will extend those provisions to the British Transport police. I believe that the provisions are already in operation, but this is our first opportunity to express the hope that the Government will be minded to reimburse the British Transport police for their costs. I gather that millions of pounds have been made available to the Home Office police to ensure that they can fulfil their obligations under the 2001 Act. Why have the Government not seen fit to increase the heavily utilised budget of the British Transport police, in light of their new responsibilities? I hope the Government and the House will support new clause 16.

New clause 18, which is linked to new clause 1, calls for the Secretary of State to permit the British Transport Police Authority to contract with transport operators to provide services in respect of non-rail transport modes, including airports and bus routes. We debated that in Committee. Each of the three main London airports is accessed primarily by rail, and each of the rail connections carries large numbers of people to the airports. There will be some crossover of suspects and offenders who have perpetrated a crime on the railway, at a station or on the train, and then seek to flee via the airport, and vice versa. That was recognised in the excellent report by the right hon. Sir John Wheeler, which was commissioned by the Government and which we commend to the House.

Sir John was appointed in May 2002 by the Secretary of State for Transport, jointly with the Home Secretary, and submitted his report on 13 September last year. At paragraph 13, he refers to the fact that the powers available to police officers at airports under the Aviation Security Act 1982 should be simplified. We suggest not only that the powers should be simplified, but that there should be a crossover. The hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) probably sees a need for such a crossover at seaports as well.

In preparation for the Committee and remaining stages, the point was fortified by notes from the British Transport police, which recognise that the Wheeler report successfully identifies shortcomings in the current security arrangements at airports throughout the United Kingdom. The report refers to the need for improved co-ordination, consistency and role clarity. The briefing that we received on the subject from the British Transport police stated: While there is very good co-operation between the British Transport Police who police the railways, and Home Office forces, who police the airports, a single force with overall responsibility would remove this boundary which has the potential for different response to threats in proximate geographical areas. The geographical boundaries themselves are often distinct with, for example, direct access to Heathrow, to the Heathrow Express and London Underground, and at Gatwick to the Gatwick Express. Furthermore, there is the connection between the Stansted express service and Stansted airport. I should not go as far as the joint force recommended by the British Transport police, but we warmly urge the Government to consider introducing either a code of conduct or specific guidance for the police, to allow them crossover in those circumstances.

Our new clause 18 would provide that the British Transport police authority could contract with transport operators to provide services in respect of non-rail transport modes, including airports and bus routes. Such a provision has been requested by train operators, especially London Underground.

We hope that the British Transport police authority will have regard to the Mayor of London's transport strategy in exercising its functions. We await the Minister's comments on our amendment No. 36 which relates to that point. Similarly, our amendment No. 37 to clause 47 would provide that, when setting policy objectives, the authority would have regard to the Mayor of London's Transport Strategy". Our amendment No. 1 refers to the constitution of the British Transport police authority. The authority currently has only four representatives of the railway industry. Our amendment recognises the fact that the rail industry—the transport operators, London Underground and others—actually pays for its policing, and proposes that six persons from that industry should be represented on the authority. We recognise that the industry benefits from the service provided by the BT police but believe that we should pay regard to the fact that it pays the lion's share for that service.

Although we await the response of the Minister for Transport to our amendments, it is certainly our intention to press new clause 16 to a vote. We hope that the House will support us.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I shall detain the House only briefly.

The British Transport police are extremely efficient; the force has always been good but it is now very professional. I welcome the efforts of the new chief constable, who has wrought remarkable changes.

In my constituency, I have recently been impressed not only with the work that the BT police are doing to deal with straightforward vandalism on the line and in stations but also by the way in which they have increasingly understood the connection between vandalism and groups of people who have no involvement in their environment. In particular areas, the BT police have done remarkable work in encouraging local authorities and like-minded officials to identify station properties or stores that might be at risk, and in ensuring that local schools understand the direct complications that could arise if those properties were vandalised. That work is not being undertaken negatively; the BT police try—like all good mothers—to divert the attention of those who want to cause trouble to something else.

I have a simple question for my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport. Is it possible for the new regulations to take account of the changing role of the transport police? Sometimes we get things disastrously wrong. I was recently at Crewe station when, owing to the operating companies' inability to work together and give one another coherent information, vast numbers of people, including football crowds, were rushing from one platform to another at considerable risk to the women and children who were going shopping. No one had any clear line of information for the police, and four officers were trying to deal with about 500 people.

5.15 pm
Mr. Hopkins

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that she is making a powerful case against the fragmentation arising from privatisation?

Mrs. Dunwoody

There is no doubt about that, and I can use this incident to make the point. A train load of football supporters came from London. They were very noisy and had been drinking, although it was early in the afternoon. To be fair to them, they were not offensive in any way and were simply chanting and singing. There were so many of them, however, that their simple bulk constituted a frightening movement.

I am not easily dismayed, but I was concerned that a number of people were already filling a sprinter train, and because of incompetence, the train operating company got the whole football crowd off one train and endeavoured to shove it on to a much smaller train that was already half full. The company then realised that it was in trouble and got everybody off that train and moved them to yet another platform. In the meantime, it tried to round the crowd up to the front of the station to get on buses. Not only the consequent chaos, but the distress of people on the platforms was very evident to me. Young girls were crying not because they had been physically challenged, but because of the feeling of oppression caused by being surrounded by large and very energetic crowds.

Such situations have to be dealt with by the British Transport police, but the numbers and comparisons involved make one wonder whether we have got the formulae right. Four police officers—three men and one woman—were trying to deal with the situation without any proper information from the train operating companies. The signalmen and women were giving one set of information and the train operating companies were giving totally contradictory advice. That nearly resulted in a very bad situation, as the number of people pushing forward to the front of the platform could easily have resulted in a fatal accident. The police dealt with the incident as best they could, but it arose out of the sheer inability of the train operating companies to know what they were doing and to transmit that information to the officers on the platform who were trying to deal with it.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will think seriously about the role of the British Transport police. In parenthesis, I may say that I was accused of having organised one response by the operating companies, which turned around a train that I then boarded in order to go back to London. The accusation was that the train operating companies were so terrified of having me standing on Crewe station that they would do anything to get me away, but I do not think that that was true.

When we frame terms of reference, we should remember that the British Transport police do not merely walk up and down trains dealing with drunks; their role is much more complex and far-reaching. When we give them those terms and operational instructions, we should remember that they need not only proper and clear leadership, which they are getting from their chief constable, but co-operation from the companies. The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) said that those companies pay for them. They may pay for them, but they do not understand how to operate them. We should also insist that their role as full police officers be recognised in the community as a whole.

Tom Brake

There are many helpful and pertinent amendments and new clauses in the group that we are now considering. Indeed, there is evidence that the Government have incorporated a number of amendments tabled by Opposition parties in Committee, which is welcome. I should like briefly to comment on a small number of those amendments and new clauses, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) will seek to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, to speak to new clause 16.

We tabled amendment No. 8 to provide that a person nominated by Transport for London should be appointed to the British Transport police authority. TFL plays an important strategic and statutory role on transport and it would be appropriate for it to have a designated member of the authority, especially because it provides 30 to 40 per cent. of the total funding of the British Transport police in support of policing London transport, including the London underground and other services on its system. I shall listen with interest to whether the Minister will consider that suggestion or whether we will return to it at a later date.

We wholeheartedly support and welcome Government new clause 7 on conditions of service. New clause 1, which was tabled by Conservative Members and relates to the British Transport police's code of practice, is equally essential. We, and no doubt the Minister, are aware of at least one inquiry in which there is, to put it kindly, confusion about who has overall responsibility and access to evidence. A clear code of practice to show which body has overall control, access to evidence and the ability to dictate the order in which an inquiry progresses would be helpful.

Amendment No. 36, which was tabled by Conservative Members and would provide that the British Transport police should have regard to the Mayor's transport strategy, is a sensible proposal. The hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) has tabled several amendments, and although they relate to matters that could be considered, given the attention that has been paid to the proposals so far, it would be better to return to them later. Several other amendments in the group are fairly minor or drafting amendments.

We support Government amendment No. 17, which relates to the employment of special constables by the British Transport police authority or other organisations. We welcome Connex's initiative to put special constables on its trains and hope that other train companies are actively considering doing that. We hope that more special constables will help to patrol the large network, because it is difficult for the BTP alone to cover it to any great extent. Conservative Members tabled amendment No. 47 to provide that the policing objectives of the British Transport police authority would have regard to the Mayor's transport strategy, and that is a sensible proposal.

We wholeheartedly support Government amendment No. 19, which relates to consultation on policing and makes specific reference to employees of train companies and unions within the industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) pushed for such a measure in Committee. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) tabled similar amendments, although they would provide for the representation to be of a different order of magnitude. It would be appropriate to have one representative of the unions on the authority.

John McDonnell


Tom Brake

We should consider the membership of the authority as a whole. Conservative amendment No. 1 suggests that the authority should include six representatives of the industry, but that would skew its membership in one direction. The hon. Gentleman's proposal would skew the membership in another direction.

John McDonnell


Tom Brake

If the hon. Gentleman has the opportunity to speak to the group, he may set out why he thinks it appropriate to have four representatives of the unions on the authority.

John McDonnell

I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman why my proposal would skew the membership in that way. What rationale lies behind his assessment?

Tom Brake

We have to look at the membership of the authority as a whole. There will be representatives from different parts of the industry and from passenger groups. My preference would be that the consumer—the customer—should be the person or group with the largest representation on the body. That would be the appropriate balance, although the hon. Gentleman obviously thinks differently and will no doubt make his case to hon. Members as to why he thinks that his amendment is more appropriate.

We support Government amendment No. 24. Government amendment No. 25—which we believe is sensible—states that it would not be possible to appoint someone to the authority who represented the industry as well as the employees, as that would clearly present a number of conflicts of interest that would be hard to explain away. There are some useful amendments in this group. We shall listen to the Minister's response and reserve judgment until he has spoken.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and to put forward two propositions. The first is covered by amendments Nos. 3, 5 and 39. I welcome the creation of the British Transport police authority by the Bill, but I regret that the title of the Bill does not refer to the British Transport police. It would have been better to have primary legislation on this important matter, rather than incorporating it in this wider Bill because it deserves its own exclusive consideration by the House. A single British transport police Act would have made a better statute. I regret that that has not happened.

In tabling amendments Nos. 3, 5 and 39, I want to draw the attention of the House to the parlous state of our homeland security in relation to seaports and ports, and to the absence of policing in them. If my amendments were accepted by the Government—I certainly hope that they will be picked up by the House of Lords and thought worthy of consideration—they would ensure adequate policing in those areas and that it would be provided by the British Transport police. There are obvious reasons for that, including the interface of means of transport that was mentioned by the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh). The British Transport police are experienced in all transport matters and, historically, used to operate in our seaports. They have been there before, so it makes sense that they should be there again.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) kindly said—I paraphrase—that my amendments warranted some consideration but had not been adequately aired. I have to say to the House that I have tried to draw attention to the absence of policing in our ports—and, to some extent, airports; I shall illustrate that point in a moment—for some time. Short of streaking across Parliament square, I am not sure what more I can do to draw attention to this issue. I have certainly raised the matter in the House before. It is a very serious issue and should be addressed by the Government. In fairness to the Minister, I do not blame him for not doing so, but I blame the Government collectively because, if there was ever an example of a lack of joined-up government, it is to be found in the policing of our seaports and airports, particularly, although not exclusively, seen against the backdrop of the terrorist threat.

Mention has been made of the Wheeler report on airport policing. I do not think that it has come out as a Command Paper; it seems that we have to know about its existence to have any knowledge of its contents. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport has left the Chamber, but I remember him telling me two years ago in a parliamentary reply that a working party on ports policing had been set up, yet still nothing has emerged. These issues ought to be dealt with all together and with some urgency.

5.30 pm

Why do I say that the British Transport police should be involved with the policing of ports? I represent the port of Tilbury, which has a small, dedicated and professional force of sworn constables that is owned and controlled by the port itself. That is a bit perverse, although I have to say that that has never interfered with its professional jurisdiction and the port of Tilbury can be proud of that. Similar port police are peppered around the United Kingdom in, for example, Felixstowe, Tees and Hartlepool, Bristol, Merseyside and, of course, Dover, but I invite the House to consider this: if it is right for all those places to have a police force, what about all the other ports around the UK that do not have one?

There are no port police in any of the Scottish ports, and the port of Tilbury is just one area in my constituency, which contains 14 miles of river frontage, where there are ships and wharves. Other areas have a port, but no police. It is crazy—breathtaking in the extreme—that we tolerate that at a time of high terrorist activity, growing international mafia-type crime, which is working through our seaports, and widespread human trafficking.

At some other ports that I have alluded to, not only are there no police forces, but it would be a lucky man or woman who found Customs and Excise or a Home Office immigration officer. It is unbelievable that the UK is allowing its doors to be open in such a way. This is a question of joined-up government: the Home Secretary says that he has sorted out Sangatte and all that business over there, but there are open ports all round the UK, which is breathtaking.

Of course, criminals and human traffickers know that, and although I hesitate to say it, I suppose that some people who wish us ill also know it in terms of terrorism. The Government are not doing anything about that. Some of the small police forces that I mentioned do a good job, but they are at their limits because they do not have critical mass. If we had a national police force, which should be provided by British Transport police, or a national ports police, which is the alternative, we would have sufficient numbers for proper training, mobility, recruitment, a career structure and so on, but that is just not happening. It is time that we spelled it out that the Government have to address the issue in a matter of weeks, not months.

People might say, "What about airports?" I want to deal with that. In fact, new clause 1, which has been tabled by the Conservatives, refers to airport police. I do not criticise them for that, but the only airport police in the UK are at Belfast International airport. There are no airport police anywhere else, although the situation is equally crazy in terms of jurisdiction and funding.

Officers at the three principal London airports—Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick—are provided by the Metropolitan, Essex and Sussex forces respectively for which the airport operators, whose airports are described as designated and which I usually knock in this place as I do not hold a high brief for BAA, pay a substantial bill to the police. However, I am told that Luton and Cardiff airports do not.

I am open to correction and I am sure that I will get some stiff letters from the directors of those airports tomorrow if I am wrong, but I know that operators at some substantial UK airports make no contribution to such costs. That is reflected in the policing. There is no coherent plan or funding.

I am pleased that the House is interested in the matter. The situation is wrong in terms of competition policy, but it also means that policing is patchy rather than consistent throughout UK airports. That needs to be addressed, and the best way to do it is to put British Transport police in place at non-designated airports. I am not arguing this afternoon that we should remove the Metropolitan, Essex and Sussex forces from those designated airports, although that needs to be looked at.

Miss McIntosh

The term used in the Wheeler report is "police officers at airports", but the hon. Gentleman made an important point about the need to co-operate with the police in the case of all modes of transport.

Andrew Mackinlay

I thank the hon. Lady for that.

Mr. Don Foster

Luton airport, for instance, is not designated in this way, so the Bedfordshire force must carry out policing. That force is only 1,000 strong, and cannot possibly have the necessary range of expertise. Do we not desperately need a review of designation, as the Wheeler report suggests? Should not designation be based on a multi-agency assessment of the risks encountered by each airport?

Andrew Mackinlay

Absolutely. The House should certainly consider what was suggested by Wheeler as one of the options. I hope that in any such debate we will also explore the whole question of the integrity of our borders. We need either a national borders police force—which I think should be provided by the British Transport police—or a national airports police force. So far the Government do not seem to have thought about this, but they should do so with some dispatch.

The hon. Gentleman's intervention underlines my point. He says that Luton is policed by the Bedfordshire force, which is small. The lack of designation may lead to a fear that, because of all the other pressures on the chief constable, there is inadequate policing of an airport which, given such factors as expanding industries, is critical to our economy. There are, indeed, airports of comparable size in the same position. I want the Minister to know that I am no longer prepared to acquiesce through my silence.

Mr. Foster

The hon. Gentleman may gain some comfort from the knowledge that, in the last few days, I have tabled a parliamentary question to both the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Transport asking for a clear public indication of their intentions in respect of meeting the Wheeler report's recommendations. I hope that we shall receive a positive response. The Minister is smiling benignly, so let us be optimistic.

Andrew Mackinlay

Let us indeed be optimistic, but I do not want the Wheeler report to be accepted like tablets of stone. I want a debate, because I do not think that Wheeler deals with the idea of a national border police. I note that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) seems interested in that.

Wheeler refers exclusively to airports. We should take account of all our borders, which are indivisible and interrelated. I include Northern Ireland in that. Belfast International airport has a dedicated airport police force, and very good they are too, but the city airport—which is now almost as large, and is a major traffic centre—has no policing apart from that of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Parliamentary questions tabled by me have revealed a very low level of policing in what could be described as a major airport and a growing enterprise.

I may not have persuaded the House sufficiently on that point, but let me now remind Members—especially those who sat on the Committee, and are walking encyclopaedias where the Bill is concerned—that clause 75, in part 4, addresses the important issue of drug and alcohol abuse by staff ranging from masters of ships to ordinary seamen. It deals with the offences, and also with the remedies. Clause 82 deals with arrests, and the breathalysing of those in charge of ships. It is bonkers to include such measures without being sure that police officers will be available to do the breathalysing and arresting. I know what will happen: when there is a tragedy people will he breathalysed and brought in and so on, but there will be none of the normal policing that takes place on our highways.

I invite Members to go to any seaport, including the big seaport at Tilbury in my constituency. All of them, including the smaller ones, are like the Mary Celeste. One cannot see anyone around—certainly not any policemen, because they are not in our ports. That is another reason for policemen doing the ordinary traditional job of ensuring compliance with law and safety: the Bill relates to safety in respect of drug and alcohol abuse. If the Minister feels unable to look into the problem again with some dispatch, it might well be picked up in the other place. I believe that concern will be expressed there about some of the problems that I have had to share with the House this afternoon.

My second point relates to amendment No. 40, which deals with the jurisdiction of the British Transport police constable. I have been a Member of Parliament for 11 years, and this is the third or fourth time that I have raised the point that good police officers—sworn in, and often given training comparable to or the same as that of police constables from a Home Office force—in many instances have no more powers than any other member of the public out in the street if they see something requiring the attendance or assistance of a police officer. An amendment in recent legislation slightly altered the position, but I contend that a British Transport police officer, who is out in the street and not in the vicinity of a railway, should have two powers made available to him, whether on or off duty.

First, if an officer from the Home Office police force—the Metropolitan police or a county constabulary—is absent, the British Transport police officer should have the full powers of a constable. Secondly, when acting in support of a Home Office or Metropolitan police officer—one who falls under the terms of the Police Act 1996—the British Transport police officer should also have the full powers of a police constable.

What is wrong with that proposition? It is blindingly obvious and sensible that that should happen, particularly when the explanatory notes say that the provisions on the British Transport police should mirror the Police Act 1996, which is the cornerstone legislation for the Home Office police. It is amazing that neither the Conservative Government nor the Labour Government have taken any notice of that point. I recall mentioning it when the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) was Home Secretary.

Mr. Weir

I do not necessarily disagree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but I want to draw one potential problem to his attention. He keeps referring to Home Office police, but the police in Scotland are covered not by the Home Office, but the Scottish Executive. Policing in Scotland is substantially different from policing in England, but the British Transport police are a UK-wide force. The first part of his proposals could cause confusion in Scotland if the British Transport police were operating among the general public given the role of the Scottish police, which might not apply in England.

Andrew Mackinlay

That is a valid point, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept my retort that that matter can be dealt with in the detail of legislation. "Home Office police" is not my choice of term, but is the jargon in the field, and often used by politicians. The English Home Office uses the term to refer to police authorities operating under the 1996 Act. If the principle were accepted, it could cover England and Wales and it would be a matter for the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament to extend comparable powers under their statutes to the British Transport police. In the nature of things, I am canvassing an idea in shorthand, but he is right to make the jurisdictional and constitutional point, which I fully accept and understand. If the Government were persuaded that my proposal was meritorious, doubtless the Executive and Parliament in Edinburgh could reflect on it, too. It is sensible that in extremis—in the absence of a police officer, whether from London or Lothian—someone who is sworn and trained should be able to exercise the power of arrest rather than relying on the common law power that each and every one of us has. That is not an obscure point, because it concerns the whole question of insurance, liability and so on.

In parenthesis, my point would also relate to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority police. Going down Whitehall, one might pass a police constable and think—unless one is an anorak such as myself who looks at hat badges—that he is a Metropolitan police officer, but in fact he is a Ministry of Defence police officer with the limitations to which I referred. It is time that the House addressed the fact that people who are trained at Hendon and other police colleges should have exactly the same status. It is in our naked self-interest that that should happen. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that and discuss with colleagues at the Home Office whether the matter cart be dealt with through an amendment in the other place.

5.45 pm
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

It is a pleasure to be able to make a few remarks about the Bill—with which I have not been involved before—in an attempt to demonstrate joined-up opposition. I normally speak for my party on home affairs and police matters, and this part of the Bill is of paramount interest to me.

I am most grateful to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) for his comments. He has been vociferous in the cause of the non-territorial police forces for as long as I have been in the House, and he has asked many pertinent questions about their role. He raised two important points, the first of which concerned jurisdiction in the context of an individual sworn constable. In the past, there have been endless problems about what is and is not railway land and where the jurisdiction of a British Transport police constable ends. The hon. Gentleman may be slightly out of date in respect of the Ministry of Defence police, because I believe that a year or two ago legislation gave them the right to act with the powers of a constable away from Ministry of Defence property in a way that has not yet been afforded to the British Transport police, and will not be so afforded by the Bill. That is a deficiency, and he is right to point that out.

The hon. Gentleman is also right about the deficiencies in the policing of ports of entry. I do not want to dilate on the subject of airports today, but a great deal of difficulty arises in understanding the differentiation between airport services that fall within the designation of the Aviation Security Act 1982 and those that do not. Why, for instance, are major ports of entry in the form of airports policed by territorial forces, to the great detriment both of the policing at the airport and the policing of the local areas from which those officers are abstracted with no recompense from the airport authority? Even if there were no terrorist threat and we were without any such present danger, there are a million reasons, under the aegis of effectively fighting international crime, why ports of entry should be better policed. The Government are not slow in introducing legislation. Indeed, tomorrow we will debate the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, which deals with ways of extending co-operation between police forces at ports of entry, yet at many ports the concept of a police officer being available to undertake acts of surveillance or to make a challenge or arrest is negligible.

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole)

The hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew MacKinlay) put his finger on it when he talked about associated immigration services and Customs and Excise. Poole will have no full-time Customs and Excise officers in the very near future because they are all being concentrated on dealing with cigarette and alcohol imports at ports such as Dover instead of on homeland security.

Mr. Heath

The hon. Gentleman is right and he knows that many of us share his concerns about the adequacy of the cover offered by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise. However, were I to pursue that thought, I would fall outside the scope of the amendments that we are discussing.

I want to talk about new clauses 1 and 16, from the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh). I agree with her entirely on new clause 1. We need clear areas of co-operation among the territorial forces, British Transport police, other non-territorial forces and other law enforcement agencies such as the Customs and Excise and the immigration authorities. I am not yet convinced that that co-ordination exists. I agree that codes of practice could help.

New clause 16 deals with added resources for British Transport police to address the particular issue of terrorism. There is no doubt that our transport system is a potential target for terrorists. It may be the railway system or, particularly, the London underground. We should ensure that resources are available to the British Transport police so that they can fully carry out their functions in that respect. Their functions fall into three broad areas. The first is in intelligence and in cooperating with the special branch of the Metropolitan police, or with the territorial forces, or with the National Criminal Intelligence Service, to ensure that we have proper dissemination and collation of intelligence.

The second function of the British Transport police is to act as the eyes and ears of the community on our transport system. With the present increased risk of threat, we should see a lot more officers on patrol on the London underground, let alone on the railway and light railway systems around the country. Those officers could act as eyes and ears, alert for suspicious behaviour and potential risk. The third function—which, sadly, has to be included—is to be the contingency response to incidents. They need training to detect the potential for a serious terrorism incident and training to respond accordingly.

There is a clear disparity between the funds that the Home Office has made available to the territorial domestic police forces—especially the Metropolitan police, who we would all agree need a lot of extra resources—and the funds that have been made available to the British Transport police for performing a similar function but in the particular environment in which they are expert. That disparity cannot be allowed to continue.

If I have a criticism of new clause 16, it is simply that it is too tightly drawn. Asking for reimbursement with reference only to the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 is unnecessarily restrictive. The hon. Lady may care to reflect on that. There are actions that we would expect the British Transport police to take that have nothing to do with an extension of jurisdiction but are simply to do with an extension of the threat and the response to that threat.

We do not see a mechanism by which the Government will respond to threats by providing resources—a mechanism that will allow for abstraction from normal duties for training purposes and that will allow for enhanced presence on patrols. To respond adequately to a threat, we have to allow all policing functions to be at a much higher level than the base level.

I hope that the hon. Lady will press new clause 16 to a Division. If she does, she will have the support of my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches.

John McDonnell

I want to talk briefly about the amendments in my name—amendments Nos. 34 and 35—and to comment on the debate so far on aviation security. With amendments Nos. 34 and 35, I have sought to ensure that when the British Transport police authority is consulting about policing policy, there is adequate consultation with the work force. I have also sought to ensure that the police authority has adequate representation from the trade unions.

It is a sad comment on a Government who call themselves a Labour Government that consideration of the representation of, and consultation with, the workers in an industry should come as an afterthought. That may be a subject for another debate. The Government have introduced an amendment that will at least ensure that the employees' representatives are consulted. There is also an amendment on representation on the police authority. As I understand it, the recommended representation on the police authority is a single representative of employees' interests. My view is that employees' interests are best represented by their trade unions. That, again, may be a subject for another debate with the Government.

I want to consider schedule 4 as it stands and explain why amendment No. 35 calls for four representatives of employees' interests. The schedule recommends that there be four persons who have knowledge of and experience in relation to the interests of people travelling". So the travelling public are represented by four people. The schedule also recommends that there be four persons who have knowledge of and experience in relation to the interests of persons providing railway services". I take it that that refers to the employers, or the representatives of companies. Then there is a person nominated by the Strategic Rail Authority". We are told now that there will also be one representative of employees.

The reason that I am recommending that there be greater balance, with four representatives of employees, is that it is the workers who bear the brunt of much of the criminal activity in the industry. They are often the victims. They are often the people who have to deal with those who are violently drunk on trains. They are the people who have to deal with crimes such as theft. They are the people who have to deal with members of the travelling public who have been the victims of crime. For those reasons, they have detailed knowledge of the problems and, yes, of some of the policies that should be pursued to tackle those problems. Giving the employees, as an afterthought, one representative on the police authority does not reflect the experience that they could bring to bear on these matters.

As a matter of interest, I would welcome an explanation of who, in paragraph 2(1)(f) of schedule 4, is a person who has knowledge of the interests of persons in England. What will be the criteria for assessing that person? I have never before seen such a description in a Bill. Perhaps it is an extrapolation of another Bill. However, unless some clarification is forthcoming, we may all qualify as a person who has knowledge of the interests of persons in England. I may nominate my mum.

I would welcome an explanation of how the balance of interests of the membership of the police authority was arrived at. Why are there four representatives from all the other interested parties and not four representatives of workers in the industry?

As the subject has been raised, I want to discuss aviation. I had intended to raise the issue on Third Reading, but I will do so now as there has been discussion of the amendments that my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) has kindly presented to us. I am grateful to him for doing so, as he has stimulated debate.

My constituency includes Heathrow. Over the past four or five years, many of us have been raising in the Chamber a range of aviation security issues. Month by month, we have discussed issues such as terrorist threats, or thefts from Heathrow or other airports, that have revealed security problems. The Government should not, in this Bill, do anything precipitate. They should come up with a considered view on aviation security. There should perhaps be a debate in this Chamber so that the Government can report on some of the measures that they have taken. There has been considerable progress in certain areas. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock said, funding and co-ordination are issues to be considered. At Heathrow, I deal with the Metropolitan police and, obviously, British Transport police, who deal with the travelling public. I also deal with a range of immigration authorities, with local authority officers, and with the private security industry—in particular, through the British Airports Authority. That mêlée of organisations dealing with security at airports presents a number of problems, one of which is that of co-ordination, but there are also issues over who has what power to deal with particular incidents.

I woke up six weeks ago to find that a number of tanks and a large number of troops had entered my constituency—I thought that it was because of something personal that I had said against the Prime Minister.

6 pm

We need to deal with a range of co-ordination issues, and the Government have acted on some of them and on a number of the recommendations in the Wheeler report. It would be helpful if we were to expose the progress that we have made, so that we can identify what to do next because, clearly, as a result of the invasion of Iraq, there will be a period in which we come under heightened threat, as has been reported in the papers over the weekend.

One of the key issues for most of us relates not just to policing the aviation sector and Heathrow, but security clearance policies, especially those in the power of the BAA, and vetting the private security industry. I would welcome a further debate that ranged across those responsibilities. If legislation is required, let us introduce it urgently, as this is a matter is of considerable national and local importance.

I would not like the powers of the Metropolitan police to be diminished in relation to Heathrow. I have considerable confidence in the work that they have done and their recommendations—some of which have not been acted on—are sound, sensible and readily implemented, especially with regard to their input into the Wheeler review. We therefore need to rush—no t to legislate, but to hold an urgent debate on the way forward and what action needs to be taken, by investment, legislation or enhanced co-ordination.

I will not press my amendments to a vote, but I would welcome an explanation of why the balance on the police authority has been set as it is and what the definition is of the phrase a person who has knowledge of the interests of persons in England.

Mr. Spellar

I shall start by referring to the generous comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) regarding not only the work undertaken by the British Transport police, but the evolution of their role, particularly under their relatively new chief constable, whom I first got to know when he was working with the Metropolitan police. He did a good job then, and he is doing an excellent job with the British Transport police.

The British Transport police are regularly appearing right at the top of the figures for police forces in England in relation to a number of initiatives, particularly in tackling robbery. They are evolving their role, by undertaking a lot of work with schools to try to deal with the problems of crime, vandalism and, in particular, trespass right at the roots, and by getting across the message of how dangerous that is to individuals, let alone how disruptive of the transport system it is.

The problems with football crowds at Crewe that my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich outlined may have been due to lack of information or communication between various train companies and the police, but probably one of the roles that I should be undertaking as Minister is to ensure that the sporting calendar is conveyed to everyone working in the rail industry. I find the inability of a number of train operators to notice that sporting events are taking place, even when they are part of the scheduled programme, quite remarkable. Just take a simple example: they could run longer trains or, perhaps, not run shorter trains, when those events are about to take place. If my hon. Friend lets me have a note about which sporting event those problems related to, I should be more than happy to take them up as part of an ongoing campaign that I am running on such irritations.

The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) asked about British Transport police pensions. The Bill will have no major effect on the current arrangements for providing retirement benefits to police officers and civilian support staff. When the proposed police authority is set up, the Strategic Rail Authority will cease to be the employer of BTP officers and support staff, so some changes to the existing pension arrangements are being proposed to recognise the altered relationship between the Department for Transport and the new police authority when the SRA is no longer the relevant employer.

As hon. Members will know, a working group was set up recently. It is made up of representatives of all the interested parties, and I understand that they are broadly content with the proposals as outlined. A few issues remain to be resolved, including the trustee structure and the investment of assets. Again, I emphasise that those issues are not a direct result of setting up the new police authority; they are a result of proposed changes to the current pensions legislation, as highlighted in the recent pensions Green Paper. Setting up the new BTP authority provides an ideal opportunity to consider those issues.

Miss McIntosh

Is the Minister aware that precisely that coalition of events has caused the British Transport police such consternation? Possibly, that could have been avoided if consultation had taken place earlier, but it would be most helpful if he would agree to monitor those points avidly.

Mr. Spellar

There is no way other than avidly. I stress that no action will be taken until the working group has discussed the relevant options, but it is useful to take the opportunity to convey to those involved in the schemes the fact that establishing the new authority will have no detrimental impact on the members of both pension schemes and will not cause the BTP's budget to be diverted into pension funds. There will be no undue interference by the Secretary of State in running the schemes, as his powers in relation to the schemes are limited. There are no proposals to change the structure of the existing BTP pension schemes along the lines of the Home Office pension scheme.

The hon. Member for Vale of York also asked why the BTP are not reimbursed when acting under the Antiterrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. The BTP provisions on jurisdiction under the 2001 Act were given a statutory basis only in relation to situations in which the BTP were expected to act previously. They act under the 2001 legislation in cases involving non-rail jurisdiction in very much a minority of overall events.

I turn now to the non-Government amendments, a number of which would extend the BTP's jurisdiction, and I understand the concerns that have been expressed. Amendment No. 40, for example, would give the BTP powers to act anywhere in the United Kingdom, including off the railways, first, in the absence of another constable and, secondly, in support of another police officer. Anxiety was expressed in Committee about the BTP's continuing ability to act outside their railways jurisdiction.

As I explained in Committee—I am happy to reiterate it now—we believe that a proposal such as amendment No. 40 is unnecessary, as the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 already allows a BTP constable to act in all circumstances when it would be appropriate for a police constable to act and the public would expect a BTP officer to act.

Andrew Mackinlay


Mr. Spellar

If my hon. Friend waits a moment, this may answer his question: the House will also be aware that the 2001 Act is subject to so-called sunset provisions—a review of the Act by the Privy Council. A review was felt necessary because the 2001 Act was introduced at some speed, and one is currently in progress. I stress that it is a one-off review.

The Privy Council's report could specify that certain provisions should cease to have effect six months after the report is laid before Parliament. In principle, that could include the sections of the 2001 Act that extend the BTP's jurisdiction. Of course, even if that were so, Parliament could reject the Privy Council's recommendations and vote to retain the provisions.

So far the House's deliberations on the Bill have indicated that there is much support for the BTP being able to act outside the railways in urgent situations and, no doubt, that would be reflected in any vote. However, the review and our reaction to any of those proposals will take place in the future, and it is right and proper to allow the Privy Council's review to run its course.

Andrew Mackinlay

My right hon. Friend misses the point. I did not raise the issue in the context of national security, but was referring to the availability of police officers. He will recall that, in the poll tax riots, a police car in Trafalgar square had a piece of metal thrown through it. It was a British Transport police car, but the officers in it had no more competence or jurisdiction in Trafalgar square than my right hon. Friend or I would. One might find a British Transport police officer in uniform outside St. Stephen's entrance, but he has no competence there. However, if there were an incident, Joe Public would rightly want him to respond. The public do not examine the badges on helmets to find out whether they have the right man or whether they need to find a Metropolitan police officer. That would be absurd. The public want officers available in extremis.

Mr. Spellar

That was a rousing contribution, but it did not take account of what I said about the Antiterrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, which provides such extended jurisdiction. Given the fact that the Act is covered by sunset clauses, the real question is whether we should on this occasion seek to enshrine such principles in this Bill. I hope that I have outlined the way in which the review will be conducted and taken account of the mood of the House in showing how we would respond were such a review—we cannot presume that it would—to seek to remove such jurisdiction.

Mr. Heath

I do not disagree with the Minister's reasoning except to say that the Bill sets out the powers of British Transport police constables. It therefore seems the obvious place to set down the powers that he is saying are conferred by other legislation and that he hopes would be conferred by new legislation should the other legislation cease to have effect. With all due respect, that seems to be a silly position.

Andrew Mackinlay

I have all due respect too.

Mr. Spellar

We are such a respectable body. Despite all these theological convolutions, it seems to me that we end up at the same point. We believe that the powers are of value. It is worth pointing out that British Transport police officers have already assisted in more than 1,600 incidents outside their railways jurisdiction. As I have said, the new clauses pre-empt the review. We believe that it would be imprudent to circumvent it in that way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock highlighted another aspect of amendment No. 40. It seeks to provide the BTP with jurisdiction anywhere in the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. The BTP have only ever operated in Great Britain and not in Northern Ireland. We have no plans to extend their jurisdiction or operations to Northern Ireland, and we have never, in any of the stages of these proposals, advocated such a change. The BTP have no experience of working in Northern Ireland, and we think that it would be inappropriate to advocate such a change now in this Bill.

New clause 18 and amendments Nos. 3 and 39 would extend the BTP's area of authority to other forms of transport, particularly by air and sea. Although my hon. Friend was right to say that they used to have jurisdictions in ports, they have not policed them for 15 years and have no current expertise in ports or airport policing. Furthermore, they do not have the facilities and manpower to do that. We have considered the issue, as have the Wheeler report and the ports review.

Although it is true that seven ports have specialist police forces, it is worth pointing out that there are 500 ports in Great Britain. It might be more appropriate for those ports to be covered by local forces given the manpower implications, if nothing else. It is also worthwhile pointing out that many operations at ports are not particularly directed by static policing but by intelligence-led policing. Therefore, the location of staff could be a difficult issue. It is also true that at all ports, including those with their own forces, responsibility for tackling serious crime still rests with the Home Office and—it is the appropriate phrase in this case—Home Office police forces.

Andrew Mackinlay

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for providing me with a figure of which I was not fully aware. Five hundred ports around the United Kingdom do not have a dedicated police force. I invite him to visit some of them with me. He will find that not only are there no policemen, but no immigration officers and no Customs and Excise officers. The bandits know that. If we had a proper ports police or involved the BTP, the force would have critical mass, mobility, technology and its own dedicated criminal investigation department. We could stop crime rather than allowing it to happen. We are acquiescing in it by our inaction.

6.15 pm
Mr. Spellar

We are not acquiescing in that. Given the number of ports, the issue needs to be addressed appropriately by the relevant county forces.

We dealt in debate with what happens about funding at airports. It is right to say that the BTP does not police transport undertakings other than the railways. When we went out to consultation on these issues, we emphasised that the focus on the railways should be maintained. We made no mention of extending the primary policing duties beyond the railways. Given that point, it would not be appropriate for the Bill to extend the jurisdiction of the BTP to other transport modes and interchanges. However, I take my hon. Friend's point that circumstances have evolved and that it is a matter that we need to keep under review.

On new clause 1, hon. Members may be interested to know that, following the extension last year of the BTP's jurisdiction outside the railways, the Government issued a co-ordinating policing protocol between the BTP and Home Office forces. A similar code was issued soon after regarding the BTP and Scottish police forces. The protocols were issued after full consultation between the Government, the BTP, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Scottish Executive. A whole range of policing issues is covered in the protocols. They confirm the areas of responsibility and accountability between the BTP and other police forces. They provide a full framework for the relationships between the forces.

A further code concerning airports and seaports would be an unnecessary duplication of the existing protocols and provide little additional benefit. Indeed, it could even be confusing. When enhanced policing co-ordination is needed, the protocols and statutory provisions of the Police Act 1997 provide the necessary framework for enhanced local arrangements. I hope that that has convinced hon. Members that it would be inappropriate to extend the BTP's policing role at this stage to transport undertakings other than the railways. I also hope that it reassures them that further amendments on the BTP's jurisdictions outside the railways are not necessary.

New clause 16 is related to the amendments on jurisdiction. It seeks to require the Secretary of State to authorise the reimbursement of the BTP's costs when acting outside its railways jurisdiction. I recognise that there may be concern that the BTP, which is funded by the industry, may end up subsidising the local force. However, the problem needs to be put in perspective. The BTP's actions outside its railways jurisdiction account for around 1 per cent. of its activity. That is not worth creating a complex billing system for.

Other non-Government amendments concern the make-up of the British Transport police authority. The aim of the authority is to ensure the efficient and effective policing of the railways. When appointing members to the authority, the Secretary of State shall have regard to appointing persons who have capacity in relation to matters relevant to the policing of the railways". The British Transport police authority must effectively represent and balance the interests of all those involved in the railways. That includes the travelling public, the railway industry in all its forms and the rail community at large. The authority must be able to understand and meet the various needs of those whom the BTP serve. The Secretary of State will appoint people with experience relevant to the policing of the railways, and they will not be representatives or lobbyists of their own interest group or employer. Their collective wisdom will enable the authority to reach balanced, well-informed, decisions about the policing of the railways.

Amendment No. 1 raises the issue of industry representation. Hon. Members have proposed increasing the number of industry representatives so that they could have a dominant role on the authority. There is a case for the industry to be represented, not only because of its skills but because of its financial contribution. The force also has a wide public policing role, which impacts directly on rail passengers and the wider community, not just the industry. The Bill will rightly close the accountability gap. Interestingly, the BTP, and its committee, supported our membership proposals during the consultation period.

In amendment No. 8, the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) suggests that the Bill should be amended so that it specifies that Transport for London has a member on the authority. However, schedule 4 already requires that the Secretary of State appoints at least four members who have knowledge and experience of providing railway services. They will, in effect, be the representatives from the railways industry.

At the moment London Underground provides around 25 per cent. of the police force's budget. While the BTP remains responsible for policing the underground it is inconceivable that the organisation running the tube will not have a member on the BTP authority. The authority itself might otherwise lack the knowledge, experience and expertise that that member could bring to the provision of police services to the underground. However, if we begin to specify individual organisations in the Bill, we would remove the flexibility for appointing individual members, and we would create a demand for other, similar amendments.

Mr. Don Foster

The Minister says that it is inconceivable that Transport for London would not be represented, so how he can go on to say that specifying that fact would remove flexibility? That implies that there might be circumstances in which Transport for London is not represented.

Mr. Spellar

As I said, such an amendment would lead to demands for other areas to be covered. It would also imply that individuals were on the board to represent a narrow sectional view, rather than as part of their broad role as representatives of those providing railway services.

Amendment No. 6 would add to the authority members representing non-railway forms of transport. As I have explained, the Government do not support the idea of extending the BTP's jurisdiction, so there is no need to add to the authority's membership in the way suggested by the amendment. Similar considerations apply to amendment No. 5.

Turning to amendment No. 35, I am afraid that on this occasion I shall have to disappoint my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). I accept that railways employees should be represented on the authority, and as he knows, the Government have tabled an amendment to that effect. However, we do not believe that there should he four such members. The fact that the industry will have four members on the authority reflects the responsibility for funding the BTP. We do not want to keep expanding the authority.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I was following my right hon. Friend until he said that the industry funds the BTP. May I point out to him that the taxpayer funds the industry? Is that a good reason for not having industry representatives on the board?

Mr. Spellar

The Strategic Rail Authority will also be represented. The taxpayer may fund the industry, or companies within it, but other companies may even be paying into the system.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington also tabled amendments that specify that the authority should consult trade unions representing railway workers. Government amendment No. 19 specifies that the authority should consult organisations representing railway employees. Those organisations would inevitably, and rightly, include trade unions, and I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend.

Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 would add the Mayor of London's transport strategy to the items to which the authority must have regard in performing its functions and setting policing objectives. We have discussed the fact that Transport for London will have a significant role on the authority. It is a major contributor of funds and recipient of services. However, we must remember that the authority will be a national body concerned with the policing of the railways throughout Great Britain, not just London. When consulting on these proposals the main concern raised in this area was not that London would be overlooked, but that it would dominate the authority at the expense of the regions.

If we accepted those amendments, it would only be fair for other bodies also to have similar requirements on the authority, and soon the authority would be required to look at every transport plan that relates to the railways. That would clearly be impossible. It is more sensible that the authority should continue, as required by the Bill, to perform its duties and set objectives that are compatible with the national policing strategies set by the Secretary of State. Rather than place statutory requirements on a national police authority to make those considerations, the adoption and interpretation of local transport strategies within the BTP's objectives are best left to the force's area level commander, where local considerations are best taken into account. There could be local solutions to local problems—something that should appeal to the hon. Member for Bath.

The suggestion that Transport for London should be specified as an organisation that the authority shall consult about railways policing is unnecessary. Transport for London is already included in the category defined in clause 59(c); that is persons providing railway services.

I hope that my assurances mean that hon. Members will agree not to press their amendments and new clauses. I commend new clause 7 to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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