British Transport Police

Part of Petition – in the House of Commons at 10:35 am on 22 May 1981.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport 10:35, 22 May 1981

I take the hon. Gentleman's point about the leaflet. I shall make sure that his comments are drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Home Office, so that when the leaflet is next revised or issued they can consider whether it ought to contain an explicit reference to the British Transport Police.

The complaints procedure that I have described is normally concerned with cases of individual police officers who are said to have misbehaved in the course of investigating a criminal offence. The hon. Gentleman's complaint is against the chief constable, or those directly answerable to him, because of the way in which they exercised their discretion to prosecute. He is really querying a policy adopted within that discretion, though it turns out that the problem arose from an error made during investigation of the children's ages. That is not the sort of complaint that would normally be dealt with by the procedure relating to disciplinary offences.

The hon. Gentleman probably dealt with the matter correctly by direct correspondence with the chief constable, who is responsible in this case. If the policy is to be reconsidered by anybody, it will be considered by the committee that British Rail has set up, and eventual responsibility rests with the chairman of British Rail.

The hon. Gentleman has explored all those avenues and has received his reply. Unfortunately, apart from the hon. Gentleman, no one accepts that the boy's father has cause to be particularly aggrieved. I am sure that everyone regrets that an error was made and that it took so long for the hon. Gentleman to receive answers from every quarter.

On the general point of what happens if an individual member of the public has a complaint about the way in which he is treated by a member of the British Transport Police, I confirm that the ordinary complaints procedure will apply and should be pursued in the ordinary way. The British Transport Police, like other police forces, can point with pride to the fact that although that procedure is used it gives rise to an insignificant number of proven allegations. The British Transport Police do an extremely good job of policing our railway and passenger systems. Present standards of behaviour on the railways are such that the public have had cause to be more grateful to them in recent years than they have been in the past.