HL Deb 22 October 1990 vol 522 cc1141-2

2.56 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have for restructuring the British Transport Police.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, I understand that the British Transport Police has recently undertaken an internal review of its deployment. The recommendations of that review are matters for the police themselves, the Police Committee and the transport operators, but I am advised that they do not amount to a restructuring of the force.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, are we to understand from that Answer that the Government abdicate all responsibility for having any influence in the matter? Is the Minister aware that, with the rising incidence of crime on British Rail, any attempt to reconstruct the nature of the police force on British Rail which will, in effect, mean a diminution in the services provided can lead only to considerable consternation on the part of the public, bearing in mind that crimes are increasing by 5 per cent. overall per annum and that sex crimes have increased by 60 per cent. over the past year?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, that is why the number of British Transport Police is being increased at the moment. I understand that the police hope to recruit 150 additional policemen by the end of the year. The figure at the end of last year was 1,857. It is right that the police should review their activities to obtain the maximum value for whatever money is spent. It is not a question of restructuring the force.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, despite the Minister's answer, is it not the case that the proposals involve withdrawing transport police from some 20 towns and cities, which will affect the position in those towns and cities? Have not the Government some responsibility for law and order? Is it not also the case that the final decision is to be taken in January? Will the Government ensure that discussions are held between the transport operators and the British Transport Police Federation, which opposes the proposals, before any final decision is taken?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, as has been made clear, the proposals are at an early stage. It is for the British Transport Police, the operators and the Police Committee to advise upon them. I understand that the final report is due to be made to the chief constable early in 1991.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, arising out of that reply, does the Minister agree that the consultation process suggested by my noble friend Lord Underhill is imperative in this instance? After all, we are talking, are we not, about the public's interest in any form of restructuring, which might involve, according to the internal report, the shutting down of something like one third of all the police stations related to the railways? That could lead to considerable delays in the calling out of police to deal with criminal activities.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, as I said, the report is in its fairly early stages. That is why it has been circulated for consultation within the force, the railway industry and outside. I hope that by the time the final proposals come forward it will reflect some of the points made.

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