HC Deb 28 June 2000 vol 352 cc505-6W
Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what measures are being taken to tackle busking and begging on or near public transport. [127215]

Mr. Hill

[holding answer 26 June 2000]: The problem of begging is a concern to all public transport operators and in particular the railways and London Underground. They are trying to increase public awareness of the associated problems and announcements are made on stations and trains requesting that the public refrain from giving money to beggars.

Various powers are available to the police forces dealing with both begging and busking under the Vagrancy Act, the Children and Young Persons Act and specialist railway legislation. Police forces adopt a proactive approach, especially where issues of safety are concerned, and have an agreed policy with the Crown Prosecution Service to charge and prosecute first time offenders where safety may be compromised.

A multi-agency group has also been formed to tackle the issues of begging and busking and meets four times a year. This group includes the Metropolitan Police, the British Transport Police, Thames Valley Constabulary, Social Services, Child Protection Teams and the Asylum Seekers Co-ordinator. They are currently producing a joint strategy to deal with begging.

The railway operators, London Underground and other light rail operators have submitted new byelaws to the Secretary of State for confirmation and these are currently being considered. The new byelaws include provisions to allow the operators to license buskers on their property. It is hoped that this measure will allow them easier control of the problems associated with busking.