Clause 61 - Action after adverse inspection report

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm 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)

If a report from an inspection concluded that a police force was inefficient or ineffective, that would be a serious matter. Will the Under-Secretary confirm that the provisions transpose the statutory responsibilities that existed under the Police Act 1996 and put them on the same basis for the British Transport police?

Subsection (2) states that the sections apply

''where a report of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary states that the Police Force is likely, unless remedial measures are taken, to become inefficient or ineffective.''

Could the Under-Secretary give us a benchmark of what was deemed, in previous inspection reports, to constitute inefficient or ineffective activity? Does that benchmark relate to the police's own reports and railways policy plans, to performance targets set by the Secretary of State, to their three-year strategy plans, or are there other, underlying measures that would indicate that the police force is in danger of becoming inefficient or ineffective? It would be helpful for the Committee to be given some explanatory guidance as to what the Government have in mind in that regard. Presumably, he will also confirm that the same benchmark for inefficiency or ineffectiveness would be used in England and Wales, and in Scotland.

This is a wide-ranging clause, with enormous implications for the police force if such a negative report were to be drafted, so it would help the Committee to know the background and the specific benchmarks that will be used to deem that the force is inefficient or ineffective.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 4:15 pm, 25th February 2003

Clause 61 applies clauses 62 and 63 in the case of an adverse report of Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary on the British Transport police. The clauses provide the Secretary of State with powers of direction that require the British Transport police authority to submit to him a plan of action to be taken to remedy the deficiency identified in the report. The hon. Lady asked about the transposition, and we are back to question A, answer B again. The clauses are modelled on similar provisions in the Police Act 1996.

It would be best for the hon. Lady to see the previous reports and their comments. She should trawl

through previous reports on the British Transport police, which may give her an idea of the relevant issues in determining the efficiency and effectiveness of the force. Ultimately, those are matters for the inspector to report on, and within those reports, she will see what benchmarking, if any, was used.

Under other clauses, the Secretary of State may ask for other information from time to time. Her Majesty's inspectorate could report on the strategy, organisational relationships, crime and absence management and best value, which we talked about this morning. The hon. Lady also mentioned issues of race and diversity, which could be included, as could information technology, complaints and disciplinary issues.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

When the Under-Secretary mentioned investigating relationships, what did he mean by that?

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

I meant relationships with other organisations. I hope that we are not back to bigamy again, as we covered that this morning. I will not enlarge on that, but instead press on.

The inspectorate will also make recommendations on good practice and areas in which the force could improve. The reporting will be done in the same way in England, Wales and Scotland, notwithstanding that a separate organisation will carry it out in Scotland.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I could go away and spend all day tomorrow in the Library, but the question is where the reports are published. We have already had the benefit of a reference this morning to the statistical bulletin and finding out that it took two and a half hours from 11.30 to 2 pm to get it. Will the Under-Secretary tell me where in the parliamentary estate I will find the reports of the local police forces and the previous reports of the British Transport police? That will enable me to do the little bit of research that he suggested, which I will be happy to do if he points me in the right direction.

However, even then, how will the reports on the local police forces under the remit of the Home Office help me to understand how the British Transport police force, which is tasked with transport policing, particularly on the railways and in and around stations, will be deemed to be inefficient or ineffective? That is what I was trying to tease out from the Under-Secretary, although I must have been doing it inefficiently and ineffectively. We want to know how the inspection report will affect the specific policing duties of the British Transport police force and how it can deem the force to be inefficient, ineffective and failing in its duties? He has failed to enlighten us on that so far, but if he will point me in the right direction I can go away and study a number of reports tomorrow. That would be a good use of my time. I hope that he is able to tell me where to find them.

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

If I can help the hon. Lady use her time, I will. The House authorities do have the reports, I believe, in the Library. If she has complaints about the House authorities she should take them up through the appropriate channels. Of course, it would be totally improper for the Government to have any role in the organisation of information that

comes in and out of the House of Commons Library. We provide the information, but how it is provided to hon. Members is entirely a matter for the House authorities. If she smiles at me really nicely, my Department might let her borrow one of the reports. We might even photocopy one so that she can spend happy evenings—now that we finish so much earlier—thumbing through them and acquainting herself with them.

The hon. Lady asked about efficiency and effectiveness. I thought that that was all fairly clear—silly old me. The inspectorate could report, for example, on whether the strategy was being carried out effectively and efficiently. Best value is a classic case for evaluation of efficiency, and information technology is another area that could be commented on. One does not need much imagination to see how an inspectorate could comment on matters such as the efficient use of information technology. I am not an expert on inspections, but I am sure that most of us who have read reports of various sorts can imagine what will be in these reports. [Interruption.] I am not sure that we need to go into that level of detail in this afternoon's debate. I say again to the hon. Lady that if she looks at some previous reports and sees how such things have been reported, she will probably be better informed on the matter. If she needs further information, we will endeavour to assist her.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 61 ordered to stand part of the Bill.