Clause 54 - Annual report by Authority

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 25th 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)

Obviously, a number of the issues that would have been uppermost in my mind have already been referred to by the Under-Secretary in his response to my comments on clause 53. In preparing for the Committee, I have become an even more avid reader of the web than I was hitherto. I am a little disappointed that the annual report to be published by the authority will effectively be a joint report—I think that he referred to that. Will he confirm that the chief constable's report is more likely to be dealt with as an internal document and that its contents will be subsumed into the authority's own report, which will be published on the web? Have I understood him correctly?

The Under-Secretary did not respond to my question about clause 53—he went off on a tangent

in relation to the hon. Member for Bath. I specifically asked which parties would be recipients. Who will receive the report? To be more specific, will the annual report published under clause 54(3) go to the local partnerships, which may not be represented on the authority, but which would be interested? Will parish councils receive copies of the annual reports? That would be helpful. Perhaps the Under-Secretary could be a bit more specific about how the report is to be published. If any right hon. or hon. Member wished to log on to their own relevant British Transport police report, could they log on to the web in the usual way?

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

I was listening with great interest, as always, but I did not quite understand the hon. Lady's remark about right hon. and hon. Members logging on to their own British Transport police report. I assumed that there was only one British Transport police force and therefore only one such report.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

That relates to an interesting point made by the Under-Secretary, who said that the British Transport police will publish figures that will be broken down regionally. If the figures are broken down regionally, presumably we will have access to them in the context of a report. Who will do the breaking down? Will it be the British Transport police? On whose website will the figures, as broken down, be published? I am taking words out of the Under-Secretary's mouth. I am sure that Hansard will confirm that those are the words he used. I hope that the Under-Secretary will take the opportunity to confirm that a report on training, morale and recruitment in the police force will be issued.

To return to my pet subject and that of the hon. Member for Bath, if we want to see a regional breakdown, at what stage after the report has been published will the British Transport police publish the regional breakdown? Will it be part of the annual report by the police authority or will it be done subsequently? Can the Under-Secretary say how soon it will be achieved? He gave an interesting figure: 81 serious football-related incidents occurred in a railway environment. Did those incidents occur in a geographic spread across the country or did they occur at specific points?

A copy of each report will be sent to the Secretary of State. Will that report be available to the Opposition or would we have to request a copy from the Library? I should also like the Minister to confirm the relationship between the report prepared by the chief constable and the report prepared by the police authority. Can he confirm that certain specified and named parties, including parish councils and the local partnerships to which he has referred, will receive the reports each year? Can he indicate how soon the regional figures broken down from the British Transport police figures will be available?

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

Clause 54 requires the authority to produce and to publish annual reports about the policing of railways during the previous year. The clause is based on provisions in section 9 of the Police Act 1996 and the Police Act 1997. We discussed many of the issues during our consideration of the previous clause, but I shall pick up some of the points that have been raised.

I am glad to hear that the hon. Lady is an avid reader of the web, and I am sure that she will spend many happy hours reading those reports. She asked about who will receive the report, and the answer is all those who require it. She asked whether parish councils will get it. If they, or other interested parties, ask for it they will get it. Generally, the report will be sent to the train-operating companies that fund the British Transport police, railway bodies, and crime and disorder partnerships such as those that my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone mentioned. It will also appear on the website.

The hon. Lady asked about the figures, and I am glad that the hon. Member for Bath helped to clarify the question of whether there will be one report or whether it will be regional. The one report could contain certain issues about which she may want to know. I am sure that she has read the British Transport police ''Statistical Bulletin 2001–02''. She will see on pages 13 to 16 a comprehensive breakdown of regional crimes. She will also see a breakdown of crimes by type and area. That type of statistical analysis is already available, and we expect it to continue.

The hon. Lady asked whether football offences are localised. Most football offences with which the British Transport police deal occur somewhere near football grounds, and I hope that I have clarified that matter.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:00 am, 25th February 2003

Clearly, the Under-Secretary is not an avid fan. He probably underestimates the ability of football fans to travel great distances and do considerable damage on trains. We shall debate clause 56 later, but I do not wish to pre-empt that discussion.

Is the ''Statistical Bulletin 2001–2002'' an annual report and is it also available on the web? It will be interesting to find out whether it is published under existing rules. It is appropriate to send the report to the funders—the train-operating companies—who have already made a plea for greater representation on the new police authority. We have laboured that point strenuously during our Committee proceedings. It would also be appropriate for parish councils to be represented. When we debate the statistics later, we shall have further general comments to make.

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

The current report is provided on the web.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 54 ordered to stand part of the Bill.