Clause 55 - Other reports to secretary of state

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 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)

I noticed a curious subsection, which the Minister will no doubt explain already appears in existing legislation, but would it not be better to clarify more precisely what specified matters are referred to in subsection (2)? How often does the

Under-Secretary envisage that the clause might be reverted to? One would imagine that the statistics and the annual reports would cover most eventualities.

Will the Under-Secretary confirm that the power in subsection (1) relates to the new provisions in the 2001 Act? He referred to anti-terrorism preparations and greater security measures, but it might not be in the interest of the country or the British Transport police that they be widely published and debated. It would be helpful to know about the corresponding provisions in previous legislation and how they were used. Would such a report be published, or would it fall entirely under clause 55(4), requiring the Secretary of State's direction? If the power is already in force, how many times has it been invoked, or is it a wholly new power commensurate with the new responsibilities conferred on the British Transport police under the Bill and the 2001 Act? In what circumstances does the Under-Secretary imagine that it would not be in the Secretary of State's interest to publish the report?

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

Clause 55 enables the Secretary of State to require the chief constable and the authority to submit reports on the performance of their functions. To answer one of the hon. Lady's questions, such a report may be published if the Secretary of State so chooses. This is consistent with the Home Secretary's powers under sections 43 and 44 of the Police Act 1996.

The hon. Lady asked what sort of specified matters might apply to inquiries. Examples of what might be appropriate are parliamentary inquiries or questions from the hon. Lady for Bath—[Interruption.] I have spent too long reading on the web, and the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) has been amazingly quiet today, though he asked me a few questions. Also relevant might be crimes that took place at particular locations and any further information that the Secretary of State might need between the preparation of the annual reports. I understood the hon. Lady to ask how many such reports have been prepared. I do not have the figure to hand, but I believe that the Home Secretary requires them from time to time on specified important matters that cannot wait until the annual report is produced.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am not sure that we are any further forward in establishing what the specified matters might be, but this suggests to us diversionary tactics to keep the British Transport police fully occupied in any potential quiet period. Will the Under-Secretary ask his Department to write to me before the end of this week giving some examples in which the specified matters have led to a report by a local police authority under the Home Secretary's powers? That would enable us to understand why the clause is needed. We have already been told that British Transport police have to produce annual reports, so I hope that we will not take up too much of their time in asking them to produce interim reports that may not be entirely necessary.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 55 ordered to stand part of the Bill.