When we were discussing clause 17, the Minister said that there were currently 644 support staff in the British Transport police. I presume that they are civilians. It would be interesting to know whether the level of civilian employees has been more or less static. Since 1997, when the Government came to power, there has been an emphasis on recruiting more civilian non-professionals to professions such as policing and teaching as classroom assistants and so on. In respect of the British Transport police, it would be helpful to know whether the figure has remained fairly static, and what the trend has been in, say, the past five years. Can the Minister tell us the projected number of civilian employees for the next five years?
The hon. Lady will not be surprised to learn that the number has been going up. That is absolutely right, because the British Transport police, like other police forces, need to consider what work requires the powers of a constable, and which roles, undertaken by police officers, do not require the extensive police training and discipline. We must tackle that, and one way to do so is to consider the rationalisation of the forms that need to be filled in and the processing that needs to be undertaken with regard to action being taken against criminals. I fully accept that that must be done.
I hope that Opposition Members will be supportive when the Government try to slim down such procedures, and will not bog us down in arguments regarding procedural issues that are frankly of interest only to criminals and lawyers. There are many tasks that could appropriately be undertaken by civilians and that should not tie up properly trained officers, who should be out on the front line protecting our citizens and the structure and network of the rail system.
It is of note that the Minister has confirmed my concern that there has been a drift towards an increase in the number of civilian employees. We will monitor that. I hope that the Minister will not have too much regard to our procedural concerns; however, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.