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Session 2001- 02
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Standing Committee Debates
Police Reform Bill [Lords]

Police Reform Bill [Lords]

Column Number: 337

Standing Committee A

Tuesday 25 June 2002

(Afternoon)

[Mr. Bill O'Brien in the Chair]

Police Reform Bill [Lords]

New Clause 9

Police powers for contracted-out staff

    '(1) This section applies if a police authority has entered into a contract with a person (''the contractor'') for the provision of services relating to the detention or escort of persons who have been arrested or are otherwise in custody.

    (2) The chief officer of police of the police force maintained by that police authority may designate any person who is an employee of the contractor as either or both of the following—

    (a) a detention officer; or

    (b) an escort officer.

    (3) A person designated under this section shall have the powers and duties conferred or imposed on him by the designation.

    (4) A chief officer of police shall not designate a person under this section unless he is satisfied that that person—

    (a) is a suitable person to carry out the functions for the purposes of which he is designated;

    (b) is capable of effectively carrying out those functions; and

    (c) has received adequate training in the carrying out of those functions and in the exercise and performance of the powers and duties to be conferred on him by virtue of the designation.

    (5) A chief officer of police shall not designate a person under this section unless he is satisfied that the contractor is a fit and proper person to supervise the carrying out of the functions for the purposes of which that person is designated.

    (6) A designation under this section shall confer powers and impose duties on the designated person by means only of provisions specifying the provisions of the applicable Part of Schedule 4 that are to apply to the designated person; and for this purpose the applicable Part of that Schedule is—

    (a) in the case of a person designated as a detention officer, Part 3; and

    (b) in the case of a person designated as an escort officer, Part 4.

    (7) An employee of the contractor authorised or required to do anything by virtue of a designation under this section—

    (a) shall not be authorised or required by virtue of that designation to engage in any conduct otherwise than in the course of that employment; and

    (b) shall be so authorised or required subject to such restrictions and conditions (if any) as may be specified in his designation.

    (8) Where any power exercisable by any person in reliance on his designation under this section is a power which, in the case of its exercise by a constable, includes or is supplemented by a power to use reasonable force, any person exercising that power in reliance on that designation shall have the same entitlement as a constable to use reasonable force.

    (9) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for the handling of complaints relating to, or other instances of misconduct involving, the carrying out by any person designated under this section of the functions for the purposes of which any power or duty is conferred or imposed by his designation.

    (10) Regulations under subsection (9) may, in particular, provide that any provision made by Part 2 of this Act with respect to complaints against persons serving with the police is to apply, with such modifications as may be prescribed by them, with respect to complaints against persons designated under this section.

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    (11) Before making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult with—

    (a) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of police authorities;

    (b) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of chief officers of police;

    (c) the Independent Police Complaints Commission; and

    (d) such other persons as he thinks fit

    (12) A designation under this section, unless it is previously withdrawn or ceases to have effect in accordance with subsection (13), shall remain in force for such period as may be specified in the designation; but it may be renewed at any time with effect from the time when it would otherwise expire.

    (13) A designation under this section shall cease to have effect—

    (a) if the designated person ceases to be an employee of the contractor; or

    (b) if the contract between the police authority and the contractor is terminated or expires.'.—[Mr. Denham.]

4.30 pm

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 10

Railway safety accreditation scheme

    '(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations for the purpose of enabling the chief constable of the British Transport Police to establish and maintain a scheme (''a railway safety accreditation scheme'').

    (2) A railway safety accreditation scheme is a scheme for the exercise in, on or in the vicinity of policed premises in England and Wales, by persons accredited by the chief constable of the British Transport Police under the scheme, of the powers conferred on those persons by their accreditation under that scheme.

    (3) The regulations may make provision—

    (a) as to the purposes for which a railway safety accreditation scheme may be established;

    (b) as to the procedure to be followed in the establishment of such a scheme; and

    (c) as to matters for which such a scheme must contain provision.

    (4) The regulations may make provision as to the descriptions of persons who may be accredited under a railway safety accreditation scheme and as to the procedure and criteria to be applied for the grant of any accreditation under such a scheme.

    (5) The regulations may make provision as to the powers which may be conferred on a person by an accreditation under such a scheme.

    (6) Subject to subsection (7), no regulations made by virtue of subsection (5) shall permit a power to be conferred on a person accredited under a railway safety accreditation scheme which could not be conferred on an accredited person under a community safety accreditation scheme.

    (7) The regulations may provide that the powers which may be conferred on a person by an accreditation under a railway safety accreditation scheme include the powers of a constable in uniform and of an authorised constable to give a penalty notice under Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (fixed penalty notices) in respect of the following offences—

    (a) an offence under section 55 of the British Transport Commission Act 1949 (c. xxix) (trespassing on a railway);

    (b) an offence under section 56 of that Act (throwing stones etc. at trains or other things on railways).

    (8) In relation to a person accredited under a railway safety accreditation scheme, the regulations may apply, with such modifications as may be prescribed by them, any provision of this Chapter which applies in relation to an accredited person.

    (9) Before making regulations under this section the Secretary of State shall consult with—

    (a) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of chief officers of police;

Column Number: 339

    (b) the chief constable of the British Transport Police;

    (c) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of police authorities;

    (d) the British Transport Police Committee;

    (e) persons whom he considers to represent the interests of local authorities; and

    (f) such other persons as he thinks fit.

    (10) In this section—

    ''British Transport Police'' means the force of constables appointed under section 53 of the British Transport Commission Act 1949 (c. xxix);

    ''local authorities'' means district councils, London borough councils, county councils in Wales, county borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London; and

    ''policed premises'' has the meaning given by section 53(3) of the British Transport Commission Act 1949 (c. xxix).'.—[Mr. Denham.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety (Mr. John Denham): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. O'Brien, and I look forward to serving under you this afternoon.

New clause 10 is intended to enable the British Transport police to benefit from the proposals in this Bill for community safety accreditation schemes. In this morning's discussion on that subject, it was felt that Home Office police forces should be able to set up such schemes. However, we have received representations from the BTP and the railway industry in support of extending the concept of accreditation to the BTP.

Therefore, the new clause will enable the Secretary of State to make regulations to allow the chief constable of the BTP to establish and maintain a railway safety accreditation scheme. The intention is that the regulations will be closely modelled on the Bill's proposal for community schemes. However, through making regulations, the Secretary of State will be able to take account of the BTP's differences from local police forces, which include its jurisdiction throughout England and Wales, rather than the police area concept that covers local police forces.

Before making such regulations, the Secretary of State will be required to consult the BTP's chief constable, and its police committee. The Secretary of State will also be required to consult representatives of chief police officers, police authorities, local authorities and such other persons that he considers it to be appropriate to consult. It is also our intention that the regulations themselves will require the BTP's chief constable to consult those same organisations when proposing his railway scheme.

The regulations will be able to confer only those powers on persons accredited under the railway scheme as are available to persons under a community scheme. Thus, railway accredited persons will be able to receive only the powers detailed in schedule 5 for community safety accredited persons.

However, there is an exception to that. To meet the specific needs of the railway, we intend to make two additional railway specific powers available under the

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railway scheme. These are the power to issue fixed penalty notices for the offences of trespassing on the railway and throwing stones at trains.

The BTP has campaigned to be included within these proposals, ever since they were published. It is a public police force that works alongside Home Office forces and deals with many of the same challenges. It faces the same problems of antisocial behaviour and minor offences that local police forces face, and it has the same police powers. The additional support of accredited persons in fighting crime and disorder is necessary for the BTP, as much as it is for any local police force.

However, the railways are also ideally suited for an accreditation scheme. These schemes allow non-police authority employees, once they have been suitably trained, to be given powers under the scheme. The railway companies are well placed to put forward their own staff under the railway scheme, and they have also voiced their support for this proposal.

Some railway companies are already working closely with the BTP in developing similar, voluntary schemes. South West Trains has committed £1.8 million, in an initiative to equip its own dedicated staff with the necessary skills and training from the BTP to become travel safe officers. Up to 40 such staff will undergo the same recruitment process as special constables, and then undergo a full two-week training programme. They will also be fully trained in track safety, railway byelaws and railway-specific legislation. They will be clearly identifiable by separate uniforms from other railway staff.

Railtrack has also been working closely with the BTP to improve the security arrangements at its 15 major stations. These stations account for 15 per cent. of all crime on the railways that is reported to the BTP, but the deployment of security guards was not delivering significant benefits, with the guards merely calling the BTP when faced with a possible crime. Railtrack approached the BTP regarding that problem, and the BTP now provides training for its guards concerning their powers under the railway byelaws, and advises Railtrack on how to deploy the guards to best reduce and deter crime.

In both cases, accreditation under a statutory railway scheme would greatly enhance the status of the arrangements. It would also provide those persons with clear statutory powers. The Association of Train Operating Companies has expressed great enthusiasm for promoting the proposals to the rest of the industry, based on the South West Trains model. The ability of the BTP to present a single, statutory accreditation scheme for the whole of the railways would be a significant benefit to the safety and security of passengers.

There are clear benefits to the BTP, the railways industry and the travelling public from these proposals. The scheme, like the others we have talked about, is not a way of replacing BTP officers on the railways. However, there are people who, under accreditation schemes, can undertake routine activities that would not be the best use of police resources. The scheme, like those discussed earlier, is

Column Number: 341

about making the most effective use of police resources by supporting police. I commend the new clause to the Committee.

 
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Prepared 25 June 2002