Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Bradshaw: That goes some way, but I would still like to see provision in the Bill to preserve the right of Transport for London to nominate two people. I would accept one person from the freight industry, but that would leave many railway interests without professional representation on the authority. Given the specialist areas of the railway industry, I believe that that is needed. We must bear in mind that there are very adequate provisions for the representation of users on the Rail Passengers Committee. That is not the only way in which people can make representations. I shall study what the Minister has said, but I feel strongly about the matter and shall probably return to it on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 not moved.]

Schedule 4 agreed to.

19 May 2003 : Column GC40

Clause 19 [Exercise of functions]:

[Amendment No. 21 not moved.]

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Establishment of Police Force]:

[Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 not moved.]

Clause 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 [Chief Constable]:

[Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 not moved.]

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clauses 22 to 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 [Special constables]:

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 26:

    Page 11, line 39, at end insert—

"( ) The Chief Constable may pay or make allowances to special constables as may be allowed to other special constables."

The noble Lord said: The amendment is fairly simple. It depends on other moves being made which, as far as I know, have not yet been made. I know that it is in the mind of the Government to allow police authorities to make payments or to provide allowances for special constables. I have no idea of the allowances that the Government have in mind, nor do I know that the Government will definitely provide for them, but I do not want the rare occasion of the British Transport Police figuring in our debates to pass without making provision for it to be treated in exactly the same way as other police forces in other police authorities. I beg to move.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I wish to speak to Amendment No. 27 which is grouped with Amendment No. 26. It deals with community support officers. I referred to this matter during the passage of the Police Reform Act 2002 and during Second Reading of the Bill on 1st May.

The way in which the Police Reform Act is phrased currently makes it impossible for the BTP to accredit CSOs in the same way as Home Office forces. It is now generally accepted that in relation to the Home Office forces the introduction of CSOs has been a great success. A number of their functions, which they already carry out with success, apply to the railway environment. They help to deal, for example, with graffiti and vandalism; they provide a visible authority presence at stations at times of increased alert; if necessary they share information and provide extra presence where a majority of luggage thefts occur; they provide prompt removal of nuisance offenders; and they cut down on opportunistic crime.

In the past the BTP has made representations to the Department of Transport on this matter. It has been told at an official level that this will be applied in the current legislation. As I understand it, at present it is not possible. I hope that my noble friend will accept that an amendment along the lines that I propose in Amendment No. 27 should be made to the Bill.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: It is purely an accident that the names of Liberal Democrat Peers have not been added to the amendment. We strongly

19 May 2003 : Column GC41

associate ourselves with its sentiments. It has become very clear that the initiative of providing community support officers has been useful. It has helped to deter low level crime because there is a much more visible uniform presence. We support the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I find myself in the position of the sinner who repenteth. I remember opposing the introduction of community support officers. In other sectors they have carried out extremely good work. Although I am not sufficiently expert on the way in which the railways work or on the way in which the British Transport Police works to see too many obvious roles for them, I can certainly see that in major stations, at particular times of the day when the normal police are severely stretched, their presence could be extremely helpful. I have added my name to the amendment. If the British Transport Police is to be a genuine police authority it should have access to all the facilities that other normal police authorities have. At present, the law disbars that access. This is an opportunity to put that right and I hope that it is taken.

Lord Berkeley: I support Amendments Nos. 26 and 27. It is important to recognise that, with apparently 40 per cent of the BTP force engaged in the London area, that does not leave many to operate outside London. It may be reflected in the payments, but I am told that, at any one time, just two of the force are available nation-wide for rail freight. I could expand on that, but I suspect that that will not bother the Minister too much.

The need for special constables, community support officers and so on to the maximum extent and for them to be paid allowances is desperately important. What many passengers on trains fear, particularly when the trains are less crowded, is not having access to police if something goes wrong. One of passengers' biggest fears when travelling on public transport is the lack of a police presence. The more there are the better. This appears to be a useful way of achieving that.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: On Amendment No. 26, Clause 36 allows the authority to make regulations under government, administration and conditions of service as special constables serving with the transport police, including the payment of allowances. As far as it is possible to meet the specific circumstances of the British Transport Police, those regulations must be consistent with the equivalent Home Office regulations, including those governing the conditions of service of Home Office special constables—in other words, that they can be paid. I am not aware of any specific circumstances of the British Transport Police that would make that inoperable; in other words, my understanding is that the amendment is unnecessary.

Amendment No. 27 is more difficult. Section 38 of the Police Reform Act 2002 allows the chief police officer to designate skilled and trained employees of the police authority to exercise certain powers and to undertake certain duties under the direction and control of the chief constable. That was a matter of great political controversy, and, on several occasions,

19 May 2003 : Column GC42

the Opposition bitterly opposed the provision in the Division Lobbies. It does not apply to the British Transport Police, and, as the Bill is drafted, it will not apply to the British Transport Police authority.

It would not be easy to extend community support officers to the British Transport Police, but I recognise from what has been said that there could be advantages. We shall have to consider the relevant provisions of the Police Reform Act 2002 to see whether it can be amended to allow the British Transport Police to deploy at some future stage community support officers. Without making any guarantees, I undertake that we shall consider the matter and, if it appears possible and appropriate, return with appropriate amendments.

Viscount Astor: The Minister is right that my noble friend opposed the matter originally, but the Government occasionally are proved right. I am always prepared to give them credit where it is due. The provision seems to work, so I believe it is important that it should be extended to the British Transport Police. I welcome the Minister's assurance that he will look into the matter.

Lord Bradshaw: I am happy with the assurances given by the Minister. The British Transport Police authority has the power to pay allowances to special constables. As he will consider the provisions in the Bill, I shall withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Civilian employees]:

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clauses 28 and 29 agreed to.

6.45 p.m.

Clause 30 [Jurisdiction]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 28:

    Page 13, line 16, after "constable" insert "in the following sites and in their vicinity"

The noble Viscount said: This is an extremely important amendment. It has all-party backing, and at Second Reading the Minister dealt with the issue and gave perhaps the most disappointing answer he has given during the course of the whole Bill. I shall seek to explain why.

The amendments in this group are fairly similar. My amendment is no better than that in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. The principle in the amendment relates to the powers that the British Transport Police has and its ability to carry out policing. Quite rightly the Minister said that the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act gave the British Transport Police jurisdiction outside railways in urgent situations on non-railway matters. He also pointed out that Parliament saw fit to put in a sunset clause.

19 May 2003 : Column GC43

The argument against an amendment to the Bill was that under the sunset clause there will be a committee of Privy Counsellors that will have its say on the anti-terrorism Act and will decide whether to continue it or not. The Minister went on to say,

    "if by any chance the committee of Privy Counsellors do so decide, we shall take action in the six-month period which is allowed to ensure that it does continue. Therefore, there will be continuity. I do not believe any amendment is necessary".—[Official Report, 1/5/03; col. 829.]

I believe that that portrays a certain lack of knowledge of the argument. It is helpful to those who think that the sunset clause should be continued, because it shows that there is government understanding that the powers were brought in because of a specific situation. In effect, we have seen what happened. The powers have not been necessary to deal with a terrorism threat—although I am sure that they may be necessary for that—but they have been in the day-to-day operation of the transport police and their authority. That is the most important point. It has made their day-to-day operations work well.

Whatever the effects of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act, we do not want to pre-empt any report from the Privy Counsellors any more than the Minister does. He accused us of pre-empting the report, but then said that if they decided to do something different, the Government would take action—he can pre-empt, but we cannot. I do not believe that any of us is trying to do that. We are saying that whatever they report on the Act, or whether they decide to continue with the Act, the power has been useful in allowing the transport police to carry out their work and it has been a success. For those reasons we believe that it should continue.

I do not understand what the Government have against the amendment. Without this power, the ability of the British Transport Police to respond to a non-railway matter outside its jurisdiction would be hindered. I gave examples and I do not need to go into them again. There are interchanges with other forces such as those at airports. Transport is being extended and we do not want the British Transport Police, in dealing with a crime, to come to a grinding halt.

I was interested to read in a briefing supplied by the British Transport Police that in comparison to the Ministry of Defence police and the UK atomic energy police, in relation to jurisdiction it is in a less favourable position. Those forces have the term "in the vicinity" written into their governing legislation and it is specified in terms of distance. I also understand that the Ministry of Defence police were afforded the same extension of powers under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act, but do not face the potential of their new statutory jurisdiction being weakened as a result of legislation. It seems to me that if it works satisfactorily for the Ministry of Defence police and the atomic energy police, it is important that we should try to continue it.

I have an interest to declare. The time when I was enormously helped by the British Transport Police was in relation to station car parks. Those of us who park

19 May 2003 : Column GC44

our cars at stations on our way to your Lordships' House know that in the past they have been extremely dangerous places to leave a car. The car can be in more danger in a car park than if it is left in a street. The situation has improved to a degree, but if the Minister opposes the amendment, would the British Transport Police be excluded from helping to prevent crime taking place in station car parks, whether official station car parks or car parks just outside? I shall be interested to hear the Minister's answer.

I hope that the reason given by the Minister at Second Reading has nothing to do with other police forces in the country being concerned about jurisdiction as well. I hope that he will confirm that that is not the case. This is an important issue. I am at a loss to understand why the Minister opposed the principle of the matter at Second Reading. It seems to make sense and certainly does nothing to pre-empt whatever may happen in the future when the sunset clause of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act is dealt with by the committee of Privy Counsellors before it comes back to Parliament. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page