Clause 64 - Senior appointment: delegation of function

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 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)

You will be pleased to hear, Mr. Hood, that I do not have extensive comments to make on this clause. However, the Minister did not reply satisfactorily to my earlier remarks, so I shall have one more go, and this seems to be the most appropriate place to do so. Will he confirm that the clause gives Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland the statutory duty to inspect the British Transport police in Scotland in so far as they operate under the general umbrella of statutory inspections by that inspectorate of the British Transport police?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

If the Minister has given an answer, it was not sufficiently clear to me. Presumably the clause addresses the relationship between the reserved powers of policing and, for the purposes of the British Transport police, the devolved nature of policing and the role of Scottish Ministers in relation to the British Transport police. Will the Minister explain how the clause relates to that? It states:

''The Secretary of State may delegate to the chief inspector of constabulary appointed''

under the existing Act. Does that already happen? Is the provision just consequential? I am sure that the answer is yes, but has the Minister answered sufficiently the concern expressed by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary for Scotland that it would need to be involved in the inspection arrangements for the British Transport police in Scotland?

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

Perhaps I should clarify this matter for the hon. Lady. This provision, she will be surprised to learn, replicates the provisions of section 54(3A) of

the Police Act 1996. It allows the Secretary of State to delegate to the chief inspector of constabulary the function of approving a senior appointment. The clause also allows the Secretary of State to delegate the function of giving consent under clause 21(4) and 22(4). The chief inspector would therefore consent to a deputy or assistant chief constable temporarily filling the position of an absent chief constable. Such consent is required where the relevant officer is to fill the chief constable's post for longer than three months.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I congratulate the Minister on his ability to read beautifully and with a complete lack of passion, but with the greatest respect, he has not answered the question that was put to him. It was put to the Government at the time of the consultation paper that Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary for Scotland felt that it would need to be involved in the inspection arrangements. The Minister has just rehearsed the existing law, but I want to be absolutely clear. Which legal base gives it the authority to be involved in inspection arrangements for the British Transport police in Scotland? Is this it? Has he heard specifically from Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary for Scotland?

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

The clause refers to the Police (Scotland) Act 1967, so presumably this is not necessarily the result of any devolution. There must be some difference between the police forces—apart from one being called the police and one being called the polis—that goes back some way. Perhaps my hon. Friend will question the Minister further about the difference between the two.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

As ever, my hon. Friend has put his finger on it. As I said, the Minister read beautifully. Indeed, I pause for a moment to say how well rehearsed he was, a little like the Prime Minister with the statement on Iraq. [Hon. Members: ''Oh!''] There was room for improvement, but it was pretty good—[Interruption.]

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge has alerted the Committee to the fact, which the Minister has confirmed, that this provision gives effect, for the purposes of the British Transport police and the statutory duty that they are being given, to section 54(3A) of the Police Act 1996. It may have escaped the Under-Secretary's attention, but between the 1996 Act and today, the Scotland Act 1998 was passed. I pay tribute to the then Secretary of State for Scotland, who made warm remarks about my maiden speech, which was made at the Bill's Committee stage—I have the Hansard bound copy.

I have tracked issues of devolution, not as closely as I would have wished, but as ever my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge has highlighted an important point. There has been a major development between the passing of the 1996 Act and the Bill that is before us today. At the time of consultation, Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland said that it would need to be involved in the inspection arrangements for the British Transport police in Scotland due to the devolved nature of policing and the role of Scottish Ministers.

The Government's response, which was unsatisfactory, is on page 10 of their summary of responses. It is also available on the web. In paragraph 4.20, they say:

''The Government intends that HMIC(S)''—

Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland—

''should have a statutory duty to inspect the BTP(S)—

the British Transport police in Scotland—

''in so far as it operates in Scotland under the general umbrella of statutory HMIC inspections of the BTP. But it intends that only the Secretary of State would receive and publish the subsequent reports or have the power to instruct HMIC(S) to inspect the BTP(S) in particular circumstances. Any directions to the BTP after an adverse report would also only be a matter for the Secretary of State.''

As beautifully as he reads, the Under-Secretary of State is evading the point. I have had help from my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, but between us we cannot work out how clause 64, or any other related provision, has regard to devolution as set out in the Scotland Act, or the concerns expressed during the consultation by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary for Scotland.

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

I will have another go. I congratulate the hon. Lady on her reading of paragraph 4.20 of the consultation response, and I am delighted to have been compared to the Prime Minister this afternoon. That is considerable flattery.

Clause 64 is not about the inspections, which were dealt with under clause 60. Clause 64 is about delegating functions and approving senior appointments. As I read beautifully, I would have hoped that the point was clear, but the hon. Lady must have been carried away by the delivery rather than the substance. I thought that I said that, but I have said it again for the sake of clarity.

Miss McIntosh rose—

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

Order. Is the hon. Lady raising a point of order or intervening?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am attempting to intervene.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I thank the Under-Secretary for allowing me to make this point on senior appointments. It relates to one that I made earlier—I think that I will be more in order now than then. An assistant chief constable in the British Transport police in England and Wales is not recognised for the purposes of promotion to the rank of chief constable in Scotland. Is that also covered by the clause? I admit to being slightly confused. The Under-Secretary said that we have stopped talking about inspections, but we are talking about the chief inspector. We have raised legitimate points.

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

I stand by what I said earlier. We are talking about the chief inspector, but not about his inspections. For the sake of clarity, I should point out that Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland has agreed to the clauses and provisions. The

clause allows the Secretary of State to delegate either to Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary or Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland. The English and Welsh appointments will be to Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, and Scottish appointments will be to Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland. I hope that that clarifies the position for the hon. Lady.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I cannot speak for my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, whose facial expressions

never give anything away. I am not sure that the Under-Secretary has answered the specific point, but we will pursue the point at a later stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 64 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Joan Ryan.]

Adjourned accordingly at one minute past Five o'clock till Thursday 27 February at five minutes to Nine o'clock.