Clause 49 - Railways policing plan

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee on 25th February 2003.

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Amendment proposed [13 February]: No. 61, in

clause 49, page 20, line 9, at end insert

'including measures to reduce vandalism'.—[Mr. Don Foster.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree 8:55 am, 25th February 2003

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following amendments: No. 63, in

clause 56, page 22, line 28, after 'crime', insert ', including vandalism,'.

No. 62, in

clause 56, page 22, line 32, at end insert—

'( ) location of offences committed;'.

I call Linda Perham.

Photo of Ms Linda Perham Ms Linda Perham Labour, Ilford North

Thank you, Mr. Hurst, but I had concluded my remarks.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

What a pleasure it is to be back in Committee after a brief interlude last week. I am grateful to the Liberal Democrats for this opportunity to debate their amendments. It is interesting that they wish just one new crime—vandalism—to be included. I wonder why they have chosen that crime, when we heard that the serious crime of bigamy would continue to be undetected and unprosecuted by the British Transport police. [Interruption.] The Under-Secretary appears not to have been paying attention during our earlier debates.

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

The hon. Lady is right that other crimes could be added to the list. Vandalism, or route crime as it now more often called, was included simply because of the large number of deaths and serious injuries it causes on our railways.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The next question is obviously how the pursuit of vandalism as a crime by the national police force is set up under Home Office regulations. As I understand it, vandalism would be considered to be a crime to be pursued and investigated by the police, so the amendment is unnecessary. When we come to clause stand part we can debate the worrying increase in crime in and around railway stations, which the British Transport police should rightly investigate.

What is the implication of the location of the offences? We had an interesting debate earlier about the phrase ''in the vicinity of''.

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

Perhaps I can go into a little more detail in my winding-up speech. The crucial point is that the current reporting procedures mean, rather bizarrely,

that we do not have information relating to the location of acts of vandalism on the railway. There is therefore no opportunity for the police, the Health and Safety Executive or the train-operating companies to take targeted measures in areas of high vandalism on the railways.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

It is still not entirely clear that the right words have been chosen in that regard. The phrase ''in the vicinity of'' was preferable and it is found in existing law. Obviously, we will be the wiser when the hon. Gentleman winds up the debate.

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

I welcome you back to the Chair, Mr. Hurst. It is a pleasure on such a sunny day to be sat in this Committee Room debating such important matters.

This has been one of those occasions when I was beguiled by the arguments of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). Indeed, the eloquent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Linda Perham) stirred the Committee considerably. I want to say a few words first about the clause and then address the specific matters raised in the hon. Member for Bath's amendments.

Clause 49 requires the authority to prepare an annual railways policing plan setting out the arrangements for policing, a statement of the authority's priorities for the year, the financial resources available and their proposed allocation. Amendment No. 61 would require the authority to include measures to reduce vandalism in its priorities for the forthcoming year. I fully understand the hon. Member for Bath's concern about railway vandalism. He alluded to the high incidence of vandalism; he will be aware that 54 per cent. of all incidents on the railway are due either to trespass or to vandalism.

Vandalism is also a significant cause of delays and can cause more serious accidents or incidents. It endangers not only railway staff and passengers but the offenders themselves. I understand the reasoning behind the amendments, but I will none the less to explain why, in the Bill's context, they are misplaced. We all have serious concerns about trespass and vandalism on the railways, but other crimes are also of great concern. I do not want to get bogged down in arguments about whether vandalism or bigamy is more common on the railways, as the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) did. I shall stick to vandalism as it appears to be a more pressing issue.

It would be wrong to specify in the Bill that one crime should be placed above all crimes as a priority. The Bill provides both the Secretary of State and the authority with powers to set objectives for policing the railways. Those powers will be the appropriate mechanism to target any crime, such as vandalism, that the authority wishes to make a priority. Those objectives must be incorporated in the railways policing plan. The current policing plan for the railways identifies six priority crimes: violence against a person; robbery; vehicle crime; railway disruption and vandalism; policing football; and managing fatalities.

For vandalism, the plan sets a target of fewer than 5,360 offences by the year-end, a 2 per cent. reduction on the previous year. The railways policing plan ties in with the authority's three-year strategy. The current strategy plan provides for the British Transport police

''to work in partnership with all their community by developing partnerships and plans with the railways industry to tackle trespass and vandalism''.

A senior officer has lead responsibility for the issue and his specific task is

''implementing a national force strategy to assist the railway industry in combating Trespass and Vandalism''

by 2002–03. I hope that that illustrates that it is unnecessary and impractical to specify vandalism in the Bill. It is for the authority to decide what the objectives for railways policing shall be within the structure provided in clause 47. With that assurance, I hope that the hon. Member for Bath will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Amendment No. 63 refers to clause 56. I shall not address many of my remarks to clause 56, but it enables the Secretary of State to require the chief constable to provide statistical information about crime on the railways. There are no restrictions; the clause merely details matters on which he may request information. If the Secretary of State needs crime information from the force regarding a particular type or location of a crime, under the proposals, he already has the necessary powers to request it from the British Transport police, and it can be published in a summary form. The British Transport police play a full role in the fight against all railway crime, including trespass and vandalism, and comply with the national crime recording standard.

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

Can the Minister confirm that what he has just told the Committee is correct? I understand that the Reporting of Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations do not include a requirement to provide information and to record the location of, for example, arson on the railway. Will the Minister confirm which of us is correct?

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

That would certainly be the case: the location and the type of crime could be recorded by the authority.

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

The Minister says that those matters could be recorded. My question concerns whether they are currently recorded. The Minister might look back at parliamentary answers that he has given to me on that very question to help him with his answer.

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

I knew that those parliamentary answers would come back to haunt me. I will endeavour to find that information for the hon. Gentleman. However, the point that I tried to make was that what he seeks to do in his amendment will be achieved in the Bill. In particular, the annual crime figures produced by the British Transport police provide detailed figures on criminal damage, arson, graffiti, serious damage to railway property, damage that endangers safety, obstruction of the line, missiles thrown at trains, stone-throwing and trespass. I hope that that covers the points that he raised.

Mr. Foster indicated dissent.

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

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, so I am sure that he will return to the matter later. I believe that the provisions are more than adequate for measuring the impact of trespass and vandalism.

Amendment No. 62 concerns the location of offences committed. The British Transport police already publish annual figures for reported crimes on the railways in accordance with the Home Office guidelines. The total figure is broken down into the ''geographical'' areas of England, Scotland and Wales. The figures for England and Wales are further broken down into the following ''force areas'': the London underground, London north, London south, western, north-west and north-east.

Under the Bill, the British Transport police would continue to publish those figures on that basis for each year. The figures will also be laid before Parliament. I believe that that is sufficient for general information purposes, and that there is no need for any further statutory requirements on the location of crimes. I hope that the hon. Gentlemen will be persuaded by the strength and weight of my argument to withdraw his amendment.

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

It is delightful to be back, and to see the Minister back in good form, with his voice recovered. Unfortunately, I have to watch him with a halo round his head. I am not sure whether that is merely caused by the current location of the sun, or whether something has happened to him during the recess. The recess meant that for a whole week the Minister gave no performances in Westminster Hall. He has obviously been saving it all up for his response to these questions.

I am delighted that the Minister was willing to give a detailed response, and that he took the issue seriously. So-called route crime on the railways is a serious matter. As I said, such incidents lead, on average, to approximately 100 deaths per year on the railways. That is a significantly larger number of people than those killed as a result of collisions or other accidents on the railways.

The issue is serious and it is therefore worth putting some of the statistics on record. Some 50 per cent. of all damage to trains on the UK network is inflicted by vandals throwing rocks or bricks from the line side, firing airguns at passing trains, or leaving obstructions on the track for trains to run over. According to the British Transport police, 640,000 objects are placed on the line every year. That has many devastating consequences, affecting all passengers on the railway. It is estimated that, in some depots, about 60 per cent. of lost driver time is the direct result of attacks by vandals on trains. Every year, 4 million objects are thrown at trains.

The total cost of vandalism and, more generally, of route crime is currently estimated to be in excess of £280 million a year. Those crimes strike me as being very serious, especially when we consider the information that I gave about the number of lives lost as a result of them. We should be taking them even more seriously. I have already argued that they should

be treated not only as civil crimes, but often as criminal cases and punished accordingly. It is important to recognise that Network Rail and the British Transport police are doing more and more work, which I recognise and welcome. However, unless we take the issue more seriously and give them the tools to do even more work, the figures from recent years that I quoted will be replicated in subsequent years.

I entirely accept the Minister's word that route crime, vandalism, trespass and arson are already covered by the more generic language of the Bill. I am sure that he will understand that the aim of the amendments is to provide an opportunity to focus the Committee's attention on the issue, even if they are not accepted. He said that he was prepared to reconsider the issue of the recording of information about where those incidents take place. Individual train-operating companies tend to have information about those sorts of incidents.

In response to my parliamentary question

''To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many incidences of arson on the railways there were in each year since 1995, broken down by (a) train operating company and (b) line'',

the Minister said that

''The Health and Safety Executive's Annual Report on the safety record of the railways in Great Britain contains details of arson on the railways. Copies are available from the House Libraries. The 200102 report will be published on 18 December 2002.''—[Official Report, 17 December 2002; Vol. 396, c. 685W.]

I greatly looked forward to reading that report, and rushed down to the Library the minute that it was published to find the details that would answer my question. Sadly, I could not find them because, as I said a few moments ago, the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations do not cover arson, for example. It is important to have more information about where the incidents take place so that we can identify hotspots.

Four years ago, Mr. Colin Hamling of St. Paul International, an underwriting insurance company, gave an interesting speech in which he said:

''Not many people know this, but 71 per cent. of all arson takes place on Connex South East and the majority on the Abbey wood to Dartford stretch''.

That was four years ago, so it was incumbent on me during the recent brief recess to check that remark with him. He recalls having said that, but now believes that the information might not have been entirely correct and that that is the location only of Connex South East incidents. However, he went on to make the point that it is difficult to be precise because of difficulties with the recording system. It is important to have more information about where the incidents take place and I am delighted that the Minister agrees with me on the issue of route crime. In the light of his assurances and the seriousness with which the Committee is taking this matter, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport) 9:15 am, 25th February 2003

May I take the Committee back to the Government's initial consultation paper and the comments made about it at the time? In their response to that paper, the British Transport police said in paragraph 7:

''We consider that the strength of BTP lies in its specialist role and unique and distinct expertise in policing the railway. We would wish to see this particular role expressed unequivocally in the legislation by defining the overarching function of the Authority as a duty 'to secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force for the railway'.''

They continue in paragraph 8:

''With similar intent, we would suggest that in relation to Ministerial objectives and priorities, it should be clearly set out that the new Authority would not be obliged to adopt Home Office objectives and priorities unless they correspond to the needs of the railway.''

Paragraph 9 continues:

''The Consultation Paper proposes to confer on the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, a range of functions paralleling those of the Home Secretary. It also proposes that the Secretary of State should continue to have an arbitration role in the event of disputes about policing. We support these proposals and emphasise that, in our view, it will be important in future that the Secretary of State acts synchronously with the Home Office, so that the framework for guidance of the Authority and Force is clear and cohesive. In relation to arbitration function, it is to be hoped that this would be exercised swiftly, to obviate delay and uncertainty to the Authority and the industry.''

With respect to the clause, paragraph 24 is relevant:

''The Consultation Paper proposes that the Authority should have power to make Regulations, subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State, to give effect to relevant elements of the national Police Regulations. This seems to us to be a sensible and practical mechanism to ensure that professional and personnel standards applying to BTP are in line with Home Office forces.''

Paragraph 25 continues:

''However, we would wish to see a clear statement that the Authority would not be obliged to adopt Home Office Regulations if it considers them inappropriate to the specialist role of the BTP or to involve disproportionate or unreasonable cost. In the event of any dispute on this matter, there should be provision for it to be resolved by the Secretary of State.''

Is the clause as clear as that and does it go as far as the British Transport police hoped? The Government's plethora of responses to the consultation paper included general support for setting objectives for the British Transport police and acceptance of the fact that those objectives should reflect the Home Secretary's key priorities to the extent that they are of general application and relevant to railway policing.

Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary commented that the British Transport police's plans and priorities should primarily reflect the Home Secretary's national policing plan and also take account of the Secretary of State for Transport's priorities. The Government have an opportunity to show how they have sought to marry the two priorities in the clause. I want to probe the Minister further. We had an interesting debate on amendments Nos. 61, 63 and 62 and the hon. Member for Bath made some serious points. I am not convinced that the balance is right, or that the provisions go as far as the British Transport police wanted.

The Government also said that it was widely accepted that as the Secretary of State for Transport

is accountable to Parliament for the British Transport police's activities, he should have a power to set specific railway priorities. Indeed, clause 49(3)(b) gives the Secretary of State the power to specify any objective under the provisions in clause 48. However, the Government have admitted that some concern was expressed that that might signal greater Government involvement in British Transport police matters, and I want to fire a warning salvo that we do not want unnecessary interference from the Secretary of State for Transport.

I want to tease out from the Under-Secretary his views on how the Government expect clause 49 to marry two not conflicting but potentially diverging sets of priorities. The Home Office specifies one set, while the Secretary of State for Transport specifies the other. There was general acceptance that, as with Home Office police priorities, the British Transport police authority should have the power to set specific local objectives for the British Transport police, provided that they are consistent with the Government's specified policing priorities.

It is interesting that the Association of Police Authorities stressed the clear need for the Department for Transport to consult the British Transport police, the Association of Police Authorities, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office on British Transport police priorities to see how they fit in with wider ministerial priorities for local police forces. The need to consult on any specific performance indicators for the British Transport police was also stressed. I may have missed something, but I do not see how those needs have been addressed in clause 49. In developing its local objectives, indicators and targets, the British Transport police authority should also consult the Association of Police Authorities and the local police authority.

Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary considered that consultation should involve those living in close proximity to the railways. That is important. As the Bill is giving powers for the first time to investigators and inspectors under the rail accident investigation branch to enter dwelling houses, it is right that those setting the priorities under clause 49 should consult the people who live close to the areas that will be policed. Will the Under-Secretary explain to the Committee the procedure that the Government have set in place? In his remarks on clause 49 in response to amendments Nos. 61 to 63, I did not hear him mention that. We will turn later to the clauses on inspection, but it is appropriate now to ask the Under-Secretary how the Government have responded to the request of Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary about the consultation that will take place with those living in close proximity to the railways as the priorities are set for policing under the plan.

The Strathclyde passenger transport executive stated that the passenger transport authorities and executives should also be consulted, and this morning is a useful opportunity for the Under-Secretary to explain how the Government have responded to that

request. All Members work with passenger transport executives up and down the country, and I believe that that request is sound. How have the Government reacted? I hope that they have acceded to it.

I understand that many respondents to the Government's consultation said that the Secretary of State should not set objectives for the British Transport police authority on the ground that it would increase central control of the British Transport police. That fear was expressed at the time of consultation, so how have the Government addressed it in clause 49? As the Under-Secretary said earlier in debating amendments Nos. 61 to 63, the strength of the British Transport police under clause 49 should be based on the idea that local is good. We should give the local British Transport police their head as much as possible in setting out what their strategy should be.

I think that one of the railway unions called for a one-year rather than a three-year strategy plan. Have the Government ruled that out as a matter of course? We are told in clause 49(4):

''A plan for a year must be consistent with the relevant three-year strategy plan issued by the Authority''.

If the Government have not acquiesced in that request, I am sure that there were good reasons for that. I just wondered what those reasons were.

The less able are particularly concerned about safety. I think that the figures given by the Minister showed that violent crime on or near railways had decreased. If that is so, it is surprising but very welcome, because violent crime throughout the country has increased, and certainly the perception is that crime near railways has increased.

I speak as a woman passenger. Most women of any age are reluctant to go to a railway station and use the train as a means of transport late at night, whether it is on the London underground or in a local railway station. Stations are often not well lit and are quite lonely places. There is a perception that even the walk between the railway station and the place where someone has parked their car can be dangerous. That is borne out by a spate of regrettable attacks throughout the country, in which younger women in particular have been murdered. The Government must address that. The perception of safety has to be improved, and there is much that railway companies can do, such as providing better lighting and closed circuit television cameras. I welcome the investment that the railway companies and Network Rail have made in lighting and CCTV, but I hope that that will be uniform.

I represent an area of the country that is urban in parts. Some 24,000 people live on the outskirts of York, and there are a number of small railway stations, which I call country stations—I am thinking of Cattal station and a number of other small stations that serve commuters. I would like to think that no one would be put off from using them because of the perception that they are not safe to use at night or on dark mornings.

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

May I say how much I agree with the hon. Lady? Does she share my concern that, in nearly five years of the Government's secure station initiative,

fewer than 200 out of the 2,400 railway stations have achieved that status? It includes the requirement for measures to improve safety at the station significantly, so that people have that sense of security that she is talking about.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am sure that the Minister has heard what the hon. Member for Bath has said, and I look forward to his response. The Government may not regard small country stations such as Cattal as their top priority, but I would argue, as a Member of Parliament for a rural constituency, that they should be a priority. Cattal is an intermediate station between York and Harrogate. It is within the golden triangle of York, Harrogate and Leeds. Many people there can command high salaries and enjoy a good quality of life, but they still need to feel safe when using the railways at all times of day. I hope that the Government will hear what I say and roll out further the programme that was mentioned, in partnership with the railway companies and Network Rail.

The Royal National Institute of the Blind is deeply concerned about the perceived rise in crime and the vulnerability of blind and partially sighted people, particularly to muggings and robbery, but also to youths misbehaving, whereas the more robust among us may laugh that off or fight them off. The RNIB feels that one of the biggest worries for blind and partially sighted people who travel by train is the fear of attack. Clauses 47 to 52 could be tightened in that regard. I hope that the Government will take the opportunity to address that issue.

The Government are wedded to the idea of partnership. The Minister spoke at some length about wanting the British Transport police to work in partnership with their communities. There was a call for that in the responses to the consultation paper. What vehicles do the Government expect to use? The Hambleton and Richmondshire crime partnership is an example of a good partnership at local level between the police and the local community. Will the Government take the opportunity to set up such schemes with the British Transport police?

Photo of Michael Clapham Michael Clapham Labour, Barnsley West and Penistone 9:30 am, 25th February 2003

I am listening with great interest to what the hon. Lady is saying about local partnerships. There may well be the possibility of the railway police feeding into the local community partnership. The Minister may wish to give thought to that because it would allow for the involvement of the overall community, particularly schools. Where there is a high crime rate on a particular route at a given location in a community, there will be a chance to bring the whole of the community together within the local partnership.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The hon. Gentleman has proved that there is a lot of common ground between us, although Barnsley, West and Penistone may not be quite as rural as the Vale of York. There was a Barnsley by-election not so long ago and I remember ringing round to try to solicit support for our candidate. As the Committee will appreciate it was not the most fertile territory. I was taken by the

politeness and good manners of the people of Barnsley in declining my invitation to support our candidate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) is concerned about this matter. Indeed, he secured an Adjournment debate, to which the Under-Secretary responded. There is a time frame in which youths vandalise and disrupt the railways, and children vandalise buses and stations after they come out from school. That correlation is extremely important, as the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) pointed out. We must work closely and include schools in that partnership against crime. If we can motivate children to go to more after-school activities such as football and other sports, it might prevent them from causing devastation on the trains or the buses.

The Minister told us this morning that he wants the British Transport police to work in partnership with their local community. He said that a senior officer would have lead responsibility for that and would implement the national force strategy against both vandalism and trespass. How would implementing the national strategy sit with developing the local strategy? Clearly the local strategy required in rural parts of North Yorkshire is different from that required for the London underground. How will the Government seek to marry the potential divergence from priorities that are rightly set by the Home Office for the national police force? We should respond to the plea from the British Transport police that the Secretary of State for Transport have policing priorities that are specifically relevant to their work on the railways. We must ensure that the British Transport police are charged only with responsibilities relating primarily to railways.

In relation to issuing the plan and setting priorities for the year, the allocation of financial resources is important. As we saw earlier, business is uneasy about its representation on the authority. Having been well represented up to now with four out of nine members, business will be represented by four out of 13, 15 or whatever maximum number the Government choose. If the policing plan is to mean anything, sufficient resources must be allocated and, as we are to see a weakening of industrial representation on the Authority, we must ensure that all industrial interests are consulted effectively on the national policing plan and the three-year strategy.

The chief constable is requested to submit to the authority a draft plan for each financial year. I am sure that the Minister will want to assure me that the chief constable will continue to have operational responsibility for the stated priorities. Clause 49(6) is curious. It states:

''Before issuing a plan which differs from the Chief Constable's draft the Authority shall consult him.''

I am concerned that that power could weaken the chief constable's responsibility and influence. His importance is understood everywhere else and acknowledged by the Government. We heard the Minister's response earlier, but I hope that we can go further.

The British Transport police assured us that they would continue to publish regionally broken down

figures. The document issued last week showed comparisons between North Yorkshire and similar forces such as Cumbria and Devon. Will a similar league table be provided for the British Transport police, showing the comparative effectiveness in meeting the policing plan and three-year strategy?

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

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her succinct remarks on the clause, and I shall try to respond in an equally succinct matter. The clause requires the authority to prepare an annual policing plan in accordance with section 8 of the Police Act 1996. The plan will set out the arrangements for policing the railways during the year, specifying any objectives, including those set by the Secretary of State, together with related performance targets, the authority's priorities, the financial resources available and the proposed allocation. The clause provides for the publication of the plan.

The hon. Member for Vale of York rightly talked about the reluctance of people to use stations at night, especially vulnerable people such as women and those who have poor sight or are blind. We are mindful of that. People need to feel safe if they are to access transport in general and the railways in particular, especially at more difficult times of the day such as in the evening or early morning. I am aware that some local authorities have worked closely with those who have responsibility for particular stations to examine access and lighting. It is not always the station that causes the problems, but its hinterland. Many local authorities are doing a lot of work with the substantial new money that we have given them through their local transport plans. That issue is very much in our minds and in the minds of many representatives of local authorities who work closely with those who operate the stations.

In response to some of the hon. Lady's earlier remarks, it must be said that in the end the Secretary of State must be accountable for the British Transport police authority. He must have the appropriate powers to act if something goes wrong. The Bill gives him those powers, but they would be used only if required. It is not intended that they be used frequently or readily, but they must be there should the need arise.

The hon. Lady talked about the consultation document and the responses to it. She rightly pointed out that the responses were very favourable, especially to this part of the Bill. The Bill reflects the consultation document and the views expressed when we issued it. We conducted the consultation so that we could hear what people had to say and do our best to reflect those views in the Bill.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The more I became involved in the consultation, the more interesting I found it, which shows what a sad person I am. Will the Minister say why the replies have been taken off the website?

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

I do not know if they have, but I can look into that and if they have been removed, I will endeavour to find out why.

Clause 48 allows the Secretary of State to set the objectives, but clause 49 says that the authority only

has to ''have regard'' to the guidance that the Home Secretary has set. I am sure that the hon. Lady will realise that that is correct. It is a question of having regard to the objectives for the Home Office police.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

I apologise to members of the Committee if the question that I am about to ask has already been answered—I was away when the Committee last sat. Is the Secretary of State to which the Minister refers the Secretary of State for Transport?

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

I referred to two Secretaries of State. The Home Secretary obviously sets the objectives for the Home Office police. When I referred to the Secretary of State setting objectives, I was talking about the Secretary of State for Transport in the context of the Bill. I hope that that is clear.

The hon. Member for Vale of York talked at some length about whom the authority should consult, which is a fair point. The authority may consult whomever it thinks fit. The Secretary of State for Transport will expect there to be wide consultation. I do not want to open up a debate about clause 59, but clause 59(1)(m) says that the authority may make arrangements to obtain opinions about the policing of the railways of

''other persons with an interest in the railways whom the Authority thinks it appropriate to consult.''

That may include some of the people whom the hon. Lady mentioned, especially those who live by the railways and who are affected by certain aspects of crime or other things that might be happening on the railways. I hope that the hon. Lady feels that it has been given sufficient importance in this part of the Bill.

The railways policing plan is equivalent to the local policing plan in section 8 of the Police Act 1996. The three-year strategy plan, which we will come to in clause 52, is equivalent to the three-year strategy plan in that Act. I can assure the hon. Lady that violence is a priority area of crime in the British Transport police's current annual policing plan. She will be pleased to know that they are doing very well in reducing that type of crime. Violence deters people from using the railway and puts them at risk.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons) 9:45 am, 25th February 2003

I am interested in those violent crimes statistics. Are they for crimes on the railway or in stations? We were talking about the hinterland. How do those statistics relate to locations?

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

The statistics refer to those matters in the purview of the British Transport police, which we covered extensively in our discussions the week before last. My reference to the hinterland may relate to consultation. The authority may wish to consult more widely with groups of people who live near the railway or who represent passengers, which is a totally different matter.

The British Transport police will use intelligence-led policing to target their finite resources on identified areas of crime on the railway. The hon. Lady would expect them to do that. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone raised an important point about the British Transport police participating

in crime reduction partnerships. I am informed that that happens regularly. They co-operate with the local police and authorities and they also work with the national route crime group where that is appropriate. I hope that that puts my hon. Friend's mind at rest.

The hon. Lady was concerned that some of the more localised areas may feel that a national plan would not cover their interests properly or reflect local needs. I assure her that the local strategy is the responsibility of the British Transport police's area commander. It would be up to him to identify in the local strategy issues that were relevant to that area and to consult with the relevant bodies and persons. The hon. Lady referred to subsection (6). It is based on section 8(4) of the Police Act 1996. I do not know whether she was in Parliament then, but the Government of the day were more in keeping with her views. She asked about the answers on the web. I am informed that they were never on the web, but the replies are in the Libraries of both Houses. I hope that covers her points.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Logging on to the website is a mind-blowing experience that I thoroughly recommend to all members of the Committee. It will enable them to follow the proceedings of the Committee and our consideration of the Bill. The summary of replies to the consultation paper and the Government response were published in September 2002. I understand from speaking to those who responded from the industry and the police force that they assumed that the paper and the response would be available on the web. However, they are not. It is good that they are in the Library but, as I said, there are probably not enough copies to go round, whereas one merely has to click on the web. I make a plea to the Government to make them more widely available.

Bearing in mind that the response to the consultation and the Government's reply to those responses was published some considerable time ago, the Government had sufficient time before publishing the Bill to consider what form the consultation with the local partnerships would take. I want to record my disappointment that they have not done so, and my disappointment at the Under-Secretary's weak response this morning, which I must say is out of character for him. He also seems not to have taken on board the real concerns of disabled groups such as the RNIB.

The Bill introduces a radical new power that, for the first time, gives inspectors the right to enter people's property even without a warrant in their hand. The inspectors are empowered to enter someone's house shortly after an accident. I would have thought it incumbent on the Government to prepare the ground by encouraging the local British Transport police to develop a good working relationship with those living near stations and the track. I am sure that we will return to this matter at the first available opportunity.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 49 ordered to stand part of the Bill.