Clause 46 - Service outside Police Force

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 13th February 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I will be frank with the Minister because, in his inimitable way, he has been frank with us. I am trying to understand the purpose of clause 46. Does the clause envisage a situation in which a

constable could serve with a different police force? Will the Minister explain how the clause differs from what the hon. Member for Bath envisages? Reverting to the provision in clause 43 about ''facilitating inter-force co-operation'' perhaps the Minister will tell us that clause 46 is part of enabling that provision.

Will there be scope for a member of the British Transport police to be seconded to another police force? Equally, could a member of another police force be seconded to the British Transport police? Assuming that they are employed under similar conditions, there would be merit in having inter- changeability of personnel, as long as it did not happen all at once. That would be welcome.

What is the

''structure and circumstance of the Police Force''

to which subsection (2) refers? Does it merely recognise that the British Transport police are, in some respects, organised differently from other police forces, which might pose a problem? I truly want to understand the clause because the question asked by the hon. Member for Bath was a good one. I thought at one stage that there was a degree of clarity, but at this point I am not sure that the position is as clear as I first thought. Are the Government actively pressing the possibility of secondment between the forces? That is regarded as potentially a good idea and we need a pause in the pace of change because of it.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising those questions. I understand that the measure relates specifically to a member of the British Transport police operating outside the British Transport police authority's jurisdiction. Presumably, it is likely that such operations will take place in conjunction with another police force, although that will not always be the case. The hon. Lady is right to say that I have already raised the question of what such a person's status would be and whether, if they were a British Transport police constable, they would still have all the rights, duties and responsibilities of a constable while acting for another body. I thought that the answer that I received from the Minister was pretty clear, but as the hon. Lady said, it might be useful to hear it restated. We could check later to see whether the Under-Secretary was consistent in his answers.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The Police Act 1996 ensures that police officers who undertake a temporary secondment outside their own police force with a specified organisation whose work is relevant to policing are not penalised in terms of promotion or rank when they return. The Act also makes provision for how members of a police force would be treated for disciplinary purposes while on secondment.

The clause would enable the Secretary of State to make regulations that replicated that provision for British Transport police officers. However, it is perhaps not as wide-ranging as the hon. Member for Vale of York thinks it is. It is quite narrowly focused. It would allow British Transport police to be seconded, for example, to a county police force and vice versa. Police officers may be seconded to other police forces for particular purposes and for special reasons, although I will not elaborate at length on

those. The provision would protect their job and status when they return to the British Transport police.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

It is good to know that the Minister is sticking to his brief and that he is not contradicting his earlier statements. His response was helpful. I would welcome a certain degree of secondment to other forces. I think that that would be useful. The clause is positive.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Lady is right. There has been a degree of consistency in the Minister's answers. Would she like to join me in pressing the Minister to make it absolutely clear that when a British Transport police constable or officer is operating in conjunction with another force, they will still have all the rights of arrest, detainment and so on, without any difficulty? I assume that that is the case, but it would be helpful if it were on the record.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I think that we are becoming confused about jurisdiction and secondment.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

In the circumstances in which the clause was drafted, the answer to that question is yes.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

This triumvirate is becoming rather alarming. I take it that the Minister is confirming what the hon. Member for Bath suggested, which is that British Transport police officers will retain—[Interruption.] No, I am not talking about secondment. I shall stay with jurisdiction. As I understand it, if an officer works in co-operation with another police force, without being seconded, he will retain all the rights and powers pertaining to his jurisdiction as a British Transport police officer.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I think that the Minister's answer was a clear yes and I am grateful for that.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

It is very nice that we are all friends. Before I cause any more confusion, I wish to say that the provisions are potentially welcome, although we will continue to monitor, mindful of the fact that—as was the case with regard to an earlier clause—the codes of practice have yet to come into effect, because they may have a bearing.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 46 ordered to stand part of the Bill.