Transport Staff (Assaults)

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 12:00 am, 14th March 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many cases of assaults on staff have been reported during the past year on staff of (a) the London Underground, (b) London Buses and (c) British Rail in London; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

Before I answer this question I should like to convey apologies for the absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is detained in Brussels on urgent EEC business. He tenders his apologies.

In 1987 the number of criminal assaults on staff of the London Underground, London Buses and British Rail in London were, respectively, 163, 880 and 130.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Does my hon. Friend accept my great concern at the size of those figures, particularly those for London Buses? Will he also consider assaults on members of the public on the buses, the Underground and railways across London, particularly on pay nights? Is he aware that many people, particularly the elderly and parents of children, are afraid of travelling on public transport in London, especially late at night? Will every possible apparatus be brought to bear, in the form of more police, more surveillance equipment and everything else, to stamp out violence on London transport, and may we have some exemplary sentencing? Something must be done.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

I share my hon. Friend's concern about the level of assaults on staff. I know that he has particularly noticed the figure of 880 assaults on bus staff, and I am glad to say that that is 200 down on the previous year and more than 400 down on 1985. I accept that it is still an unacceptable level.

We are taking vigorous steps. All London buses are fitted with assault klaxons, which blow the horn and show flashing indicators. Two-way radios are now fitted on every bus and video cameras are coming in on a number of routes. The increasing use of one-person-operated buses also reduces assaults on staff.

Photo of Mr Hugo Summerson Mr Hugo Summerson , Walthamstow

Is my hon. Friend aware that assaults on the Victoria line, which serves my constituency, are getting worse and worse? Will he take whatever measures are necessary to protect the travelling public, including the installation of video cameras on trains and platforms and the provision of more policemen on trains?

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

The proposal for more video apparatus for the Victoria line is one of a number of actions that are being taken, including improved radio equipment, video surveillance, increased police recruitment and staff surveillance. I hope that those actions will have a considerable impact.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

Are not the violent incidents occurring as a direct consequence of the action being taken to reduce staff, particularly on the London Underground? What action is being taken to ensure that more staff are appointed, especially for nights and weekends? What is being done to ensure that the police who operate underground have radios that work there? I understand that the radios are often wholly ineffective once the police are underground attempting to deal with the violence that is taking place on an increasing scale.

Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire

The Government have made £15 million available to LRT over a three-year period for a crash programme against crime. The hon. Gentleman is right to identify the problem of underground radios. Normal radios will not work underground. Extensive investment in underground cable-laying is required to enable them to work.

Staff visibility is also being considered. The hon. Gentleman asked about recruitment. Recruitment to the British Transport police is now under way. Staffing levels have gone up from 280 to 314 in L division and are planned to go to 350 by October.