Clause 56 - Statistics

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 25th February 2003.

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Question proposed [this day], That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question again proposed.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I welcome you back to the Committee, Mr. Hood. I hope that you had the benefit of a good week. It is good to see you back in the Chair. I am sure that the Committee appreciates the fact that you have had to drag yourself away from another pressing Committee meeting, part of which I also had the honour to attend.

Before the break for questions, lunch and the prime ministerial statement, I was questioning the Minister, but obviously he has not had the opportunity to reply. With reference to clause 56(4), will the Minister tell me the legal basis for the current crime statistics produced by the British Transport police? I hope that the Government will do better on the provisions in this Bill than the way in which the current provisions operate.

Subsection (4) states:

''Where the Secretary of State receives information under this section he shall lay it or a summary of it before Parliament.''

Under normal circumstances I would understand that to mean that any hon. Member who wished to have access to the statistical information under the existing provisions or the proposed new provisions would present him or herself to the Vote Office or to the Library and expect to have easy access to a copy. I was therefore concerned—I am sure that the Minister will be alarmed to hear this—on presenting myself to the Vote Office at 11.33 this morning, to be told that the statistics were not available there, and that the Department could not get them to me by 2.30 pm today. That was three hours' notice, which I would have thought was adequate, if the document was as widely available as we are told.

I then went to the Library at 11.40 am—obviously I moved quite quickly between the Vote Office and the Library—and was told that copies were available in the statistical section of the Library. As hon. Members will know, the statistical section of the Library is not part of the Members' Library, but is situated some three or four blocks away in Derby gate, very close to the Norman Shaw North building in which my office is located.

I therefore record my immense gratitude to the House of Commons Library for, in the short time available, furnishing me with the relevant information. I am not allowed to take the document out of the Library, but I considered the Committee Room to be

an extension of the Library. Moreover, the Library knows where the document is and who has it, and I have promised to return it by 5 pm.

My point, however, is serious—it relates to my question on the current legal basis of the statistical evidence to which the Minister referred this morning. The document I have is the ''British Transport Police Statistical Bulletin 2001/02''—the most recent edition available—and I would like to know why it is not made more widely available. Will the Minister confirm that the statistics referred to in subsection (4) will be made more widely available than at present?

This may strike a chord with you, Mr. Hood, because the statistics come with a health warning. On page 3 of the bulletin it states:

''Crime statistics should be treated with caution. Dramatic fluctuations''—

it is a bit like the stock market—

''up or down can be misleading, and, if misused, statistics can contribute to the fear of crime. Hundreds of millions of passenger journeys are made safely each year, and the statistics should be viewed in that context.''

That is the health warning with which the statistics come.

We had a debate this morning about whether the statistics and reports furnish the statistics take in the whole area covered by the British Transport police or are broken down into regions. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) was helpful in trying to elicit further guidance from the Minister on that. It may help the Committee to point out that page 4 of the most recent edition of the helpful and illuminating statistics, which we must consider in the context of the health warning to which I referred, breaks down the network into area maps. Will the Minister explain at what stage the statistics will be extrapolated from the reports in clauses 53 and 54? Will he answer the question I asked this morning? At what stage will they be translated in that reporting period into the statistics I have mentioned?

In our debates on clauses 53 and 54, I tried to tease out issues of morale and training. I am delighted to say that personnel statistics are also given on pages 5 and 6, notably on the numbers of constables and different rankings. I hope that the Minister will confirm that future reports will include such statistics. Regrettably, there are no female chief constables in the British Transport police, but I am sure that that will be rectified in the fullness of time. I am delighted to note that we in North Yorkshire now have the services of a female chief constable, and I am sure that the Committee would want to see that emulated in other police forces and the British Transport police. That reference to the statistics is important.

When we touched on the best value indicators, we were told that the British Transport police would have to have regard to best value but could not be treated as a best value authority. As I mentioned at the time, that will leave the British Transport police and its authority in a quandary. Page 9 includes statistics from Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary of best value performance indicators for the reporting period for 2001–02 for England and Wales, and I am delighted to

see that the most recent figures show that 98.1 per cent. of police constables are in operational posts. I hope that the Minister will confirm that such statistics will continue to be monitored for the reason that I gave earlier. One purpose of such statistics should be to check that the vast majority of the resources allocated to the British Transport police goes on operational policing. It should not go to other matters, as a rather large proportion of a force's operational budget often goes on paying for retirement costs, which is regrettable. North Yorkshire is particularly vulnerable to that as we have two waves to come of senior police officers approaching retirement age, so we will have two peaks and troughs in the percentage figure before 2012.

Clause 56 is vague, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that the statistics will continue to give an idea of the number of complaints per 1,000 officers and the percentage of complaints that are substantiated. The document gives greater detail later, and I am glad to say that less than 5 per cent. of complaints were substantiated.

This morning—I repeat this is for your benefit, Mr. Hood, as you were not here—I said that there was a serious omission that I hoped the Minister would explain. The serious omission is a paragraph (d) in subsection (2) relating to victims of crime. I note with interest and satisfaction that the table on page 9, compiled by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, says that the percentage of victims satisfied with the police's initial response to the report of violent crime is as high as 80 per cent. That is a great credit to the British Transport police. I do not know how it compares with local police forces. I did not think to bring the performance document issued to us last week, which is among my other papers.

The document also mentions figures that I have requested but which the Minister was reluctant—[Interruption.] I am sure that he is not reluctant at all. I will not again fall prey to the charge of putting words into the Minister's mouth. I am not sure whether I asked specifically about the ethnicity of offenders—[Interruption.]

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

No, but I do now. Will future statistics give us the ethnicity of victims? I have also asked whether the gender of offenders and victims might be profiled in the statistics. I find the document immensely helpful and I wonder whether it is available on the web. That could be some night-time reading on my laptop at the weekend. [Interruption.] Does it already happen, or is the Department minded to correlate the statistics garnered by the Home Office for the national police force and those garnered by the British Transport police? [Interruption.]

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am most grateful, Mr. Hood.

It would be helpful to know whether the 10 per cent.—I am not sure what PACE is—

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Minister. The percentages of stop and searches under PACE leading to arrest are broadly similar for white and ethnic minority persons: 10.7 per cent. for whites and 11.7 per cent. for non-whites. Will those statistics be compared with those for other national police forces? We owe a great debt of gratitude to the British Transport police officers. I would like to see more transparency of their work in this regard and I should have thought that the statistics, even read with a health warning, could be powerful.

Interestingly, when we had the discussion about the report and clauses 53 and 54 the Under-Secretary rattled through the top policing plan priorities. He did not dwell at any length on sexual offences, to which I referred in my remarks about the statistics, and the Bill does not include them. Interestingly, however, the latest statistical bulletin from the reporting period 2001–02 examines how many sexual offences were reported and investigated. Will there be another opportunity to re-examine each planning priority to determine whether there is a correlation between the number of offences committed and reported and the creation of the Crown Prosecution Service, whether national police forces' statistics reflect that and whether there are any conclusions to be drawn?

Why does not the clause state that the statistics will also relate to complaints against the police? I accept that the report does, but I want to know why the Bill does not. I would like some guidance to enable us to monitor that.

There are other crimes to which we have not alluded. I do not know if the Minister purposely left them out when we discussed clauses 53 and 54, but general public disorder offences on the London underground, on trains and in railway stations are of particular interest, as are offences relating to drugs. Will the Minister confirm that vandalism, as the hon. Member for Bath would call it, hooliganism and damage to cars parked at railway stations would fall within the remit of the British Transport police, as we see from the statistics for this reporting period?

Interestingly, the statistics go into great detail according to area, whereas the hon. Member for Bath suggested that the statistics would be collated nationally. I am delighted to see that they are broken down into England, Wales, Scotland and London Underground, and then broken down further, but Yorkshire and North Yorkshire are not mentioned in the summary of notifiable offences and crimes. Clearly, the levels are crime are lower because the Government, in their wisdom, have decided to give North Yorkshire police a standstill budget. We will be left £8.2 million short, so the Government may know something that we do not. I know where the north-east of England, the north-west of England and the midlands are, but I do not see where North

Yorkshire fits in. We do not want to be considered as part of the north-east for these purposes.

I briefly mentioned burglary, and I see that robbery and burglary account for a large number of offences. Will the Minister tell us whether the number of reported crimes of sexual assault, rape, robbery and burglary and the number of successful prosecutions for those crimes have increased or decreased not only in this reporting period, but over, for example, the past five years?

Fraud, in the form of ticket fraud and other fraud, is mentioned. Other fraud accounts for substantially larger amounts than ticket fraud. Forgery is very alarming. I hope that the Minister will assure us that that is on a downward trend.

The Minister said that one priority for the railways policing plan, which will also be covered in the chief constable's report and the authority's report, is fatalities. I welcome the fact that the number of homicides in the relevant period was quite low. Nevertheless, there were five reported fatalities in the jurisdiction of the British Transport police in that reporting period, which is clearly five fatalities too many.

Many of us have experience of people trying to leap between railway carriages and from one train to another. We have experienced that in North Yorkshire with some senior public figures. One comes to mind, but I shall not go into that. I hope that that is not a common occurrence and that the Minister will assure me that that crime is not rising. Just to refresh his memory—

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 2:45 pm, 25th February 2003

On that point—and perhaps just for a break—is the hon. Lady aware that we are told in subsection (2)(c), which relates to statistics, that we shall hear only about criminal proceedings? The practice of jumping between carriages is not dealt with under criminal proceedings; it is usually handled under byelaws. Does she share my view that we should perhaps look back at, for instance, the 1861 legislation, which would ensure that there was criminal legislation because of the serious danger that that practice can pose?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I thank the hon. Gentleman. One does not wish for too many breaks this afternoon, particularly as another may be imminent. Nevertheless, he makes a serious point and I give him credit. I had not appreciated that the situation was as he describes. I presume that that is also the case in Scotland. Perhaps the Minister will have had an opportunity to confirm that during the short lunch break that we were allowed today. I asked this morning about the extent to which offences in England and Wales are not treated as offences in Scotland. From memory—I am sure that I will be corrected if I am wrong—I think that trespass was not considered to be an offence in Scotland. It may have become an offence under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, which relates to hunting. I hope that the Minister will comment on that.

This innocent-looking little clause fits neatly between clauses 55 and 57, and sums up the policing

plan. I wish that I could commend that marvellous little document as bedtime reading, but the Library is loth to give out any of its three copies, for justifiable reasons. The document is a huge treasure trove of information, which we shall have the opportunity to explore in future years once the Bill is on the statute book. I hope that the Minister will respond to the serious matters that we have raised. The hon. Member for Bath started the debate, and I followed it through.

I am particularly aware of the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service was not in existence during the time that is under discussion. As I said, I should like to know how that has affected the levels of reported crimes, crimes committed and successfully prosecuted crimes.

This morning, I mentioned the concern, which I hope that the Minister will address, that a British Transport police constable attested in England and Wales would have jurisdiction in Scotland without the appropriate training or knowledge of Scottish law. I hope that he will confirm that that will not be the case.

The Royal National Institute of the Blind noted that clause 56 allows the Secretary of State

''to supply information about matters relating to crime committed on . . . the railways.''

It asked whether he would be able to use the power to require the production of statistics on the number of disabled people who are victims of crime. Why is there no subsection (2)(d) on victims? I hope that the Minister has enough time to respond to all the points that we have raised.

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

It seems such a long time since we heard the hon. Lady's questions—and that applies just to her questions of today. I welcome you back to the Chair, Mr. Hood, and hope that you had a refreshing break last week.

Clause 56 enables the Secretary of State to require the chief constable to provide statistical information about crime on the railways, including on offences committed, offenders, criminal proceedings and other information that the Secretary of State may direct. The clause also requires the Secretary of State to lay an abstract of that information before Parliament, and I shall say more about that later.

The hon. Member for Bath asked question A, to which the answer is yes. He went on—

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

Surely the answer to question A is answer B.

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

Mr. Hood, you were not here this morning, so let me explain that for the convenience and brevity of the Committee we had decided to truncate some answers. The clause is consistent with section 45 of the Police Act 1996, which is the answer to question A. Answer B is also yes. I hope that I have clarified the position.

The hon. Member for Bath asked about the location of crimes. I have taken his point into account, but it would be within the gift of the Secretary of State to ask for such information if he wanted it. Most of the information would come through the annual report, of which we have a copy here in Committee, but, as I say, the Secretary of State

could ask for further information, including the location of crimes, if he desired it.

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

I am grateful for the Minister's response, but might it not be necessary for the Secretary of State to make changes to the RIDDOR procedure? There is no point in asking for information unless it has been recorded in the first place. I assume that information about location will emerge through the usual discussions.

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

The simple answer is that information is often available somewhere, but we have to decide whether it is worth the time and effort required to produce it. If it is important enough, a judgment will be made to acquire the information. The hon. Gentleman knows that it often takes considerable time and effort to produce parliamentary answers to hon. Members' questions.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about recorded crime and offences committed, which will be in accordance with Home Office guidelines. What happens under the Bill will be similar to what happens under other Home Office legislation. He also asked about making statistics speedily known. I understand the thrust of his question, but most statistics will appear in the annual report. If the Secretary of State required information of the British Transport police under this clause—he would not always have to use the clause to require the information, as other clauses also apply—such information would have to be laid before Parliament with due expedition.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) made some interesting points about the crime figures being accurate and consistent with each other. The figures will be produced in line with Home Office guidelines, but I understand the point about the importance of gathering good statistics each year to examine the trends in crime. That is important to my hon. Friend's constituents and other railways users.

The hon. Member for Bath asked about the low level of detection and prosecution. That reflects the problems that the British Transport police and the industry face in targeting rail crime. Many incidents are reported only once the offender has left the railways. For example, vandalism is often discovered a long time after the event. In some situations, an hour can be a long time spent on trying to track down the person who committed the offence. Many offences are committed by juveniles, and prosecution is not always the most effective way to deal with them. The authorities cannot always proceed with prosecutions, and education that targets schools and parents may be more appropriate. The hon. Gentleman asked some important questions, and I hope that my response has been helpful. I might pick up on some of his other points in my later comments.

The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) raised some matters, and I should be able to get through them quickly. She asked about the victims of crime, but the statistical document is all

about the victims. Each statistic represents a person who has been offended against, although I take her point about recording the gender and ethnicity of victims. I dare say that it would be possible for the Secretary of State to require that information if he thought that it would help the future policing of the railways.

The hon. Lady asked why the Bill does not require that all information be provided. If we included every category on which information might be required, the Bill would be a thick and weighty document and, even then, there would be the risk of leaving something out. As the hon. Lady can see from the clause, the Secretary of State can ask to be provided with any relevant information that he or she requires.

At one point, the hon. Lady asked where her constituency of the Vale of York comes into it. My knowledge of geography is cursory, but I always thought that Yorkshire was somewhere in the north-eastern region.

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

Well, from the map at the front of the document, I can see that Hull and York are both in the north-eastern region. As I said, it is a national document, but it breaks down the statistics regionally.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Even with the health warning on page 3, if the statistics are to mean anything, they should not equate a little village such as Cattal, which has a railway station and commuter line going through it, with what happens in Newcastle. The Government have built on their regional strategy for offices and defined regions, and Yorkshire and the Humber are not connected with the north-eastern region as we presently know it.

I cannot imagine that my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) would like statistics from London and Uxbridge to be included with figures from East Anglia. I cannot imagine that the hon. Member for Bath is delighted to see that his constituency is included in a region that encompasses the whole of the south-west, including Cornwall and Devon, and a third of Wales. Let us be frank. If the statistics are to mean anything, the regions should reflect the regions used for other purposes.

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

The regions have been created for good reason. It would not necessarily be appropriate for them to reflect regions used for other Government purposes. Those regions are well understood and relate to the railways. That is the important point. I do not think that the hon. Member for Bath minds his constituency being associated with Devon and Cornwall. I saw him shake his head slightly when the hon. Lady mentioned that.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Hood. Is it appropriate for the Minister to infer my thoughts on certain matters and even to suggest that my head was moving in any way?

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

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a point of order. Trying to get inside his head is rather challenging.

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

Nor do I wish to get inside or outside the hon. Gentleman's head.

The hon. Member for Vale of York is suggesting an enormous bureaucratic system that endlessly pares down statistics into smaller and smaller areas. As I said earlier, if statistics were needed because a small station was creating a problem, I am sure that they could be made available. However, to break them down station by station, town by town, or parish by parish would make the document meaningless, filled with information that was beyond comprehension.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

Has any consideration been given to giving statistics by rail lines, rather than regions? Would that be simpler?

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

The statistics reflect the operations of the British Transport police and to some extent the operations of the railways. That is how they have been divided up. We have split them into geographical regions but if information is needed on a more detailed basis, it can be provided.

The hon. Member for Vale of York asked for year-on-year statistics this morning. She probably has the document now and can analyse it. She mentioned sexual offences and rape. The number of rapes recorded in 2001–02 and the comparison with the previous year are shown on page 51. A trend can be seen. By comparing the various documents, trends can be analysed over different periods.

The statistics compiled by the British Transport police in England, Scotland and Wales reflect crimes reported to them by the victims or witnesses of crime. The British Transport police can also conduct their own survey of the perception of crime. That is compatible with the Home Office crime survey. Year-on-year statistical comparisons can be seen throughout the document. The sentencing offender profiles and detailed statistics are not necessarily matters for the British Transport police alone. However, along with other police forces, they can provide information for the Central Statistical Office as required.

The hon. Member for Bath asked whether offences would be reported in full under subsection (4). Generally, that would be the case. That is the format in which that information would come. If the Secretary of State requires statistics under the clause, they would generally be provided in full. However, if they were very detailed, a summary could be made. If required, they could be reported to Parliament in full.

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

I would like to clarify the matter for the record. Subsection (4) states:

''Where the Secretary of State receives information under this section he shall lay it or a summary of it before Parliament.''

I recognise the value of summaries in certain circumstances, but I sought an assurance that the chief constable should agree with that summary, so that there was no question of doubt about the selection of information put into it.

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

I am sure that discussions would take place on the summary before it was drawn up. The chief constable might already have summarised the statistics, and that summary might be placed before Parliament. If parliamentarians then wished to drill down into further detail, I am sure that more detailed information could be made available.

However, I imagine that in general—so that we do not receive a great number of parliamentary questions on the matter—we would provide the statistics to the House in the fullest form possible commensurate with popular reporting.

The British Transport police produce annual figures after the end of the financial year, normally in the summer. Those figures are, as we know, national and regional, the regional figures being a subset of the national figures.

The hon. Lady asked how effective the CPS has been in its prosecutions since it was established. Although that is not relevant to the Bill, and I do not have the information to hand, details could no doubt be found on that if the hon. Lady wishes to press the issue.

There were a number of questions about laying information before Parliament and how that will be done. The hon. Lady also raised a number of points about accessing information, but the question of how quickly information can be retrieved from the Library is a matter not for my Department, but for the House authorities. If the hon. Lady was not satisfied, she should make representations through the appropriate channels.

I will, however, clear up the matter of laying information before Parliament, as that issue has been raised in several debates. A document can be laid before Parliament only when Parliament is sitting. Two copies of the document are taken by my Department to the Clerk in charge of the Vote Office in the Commons. The document is then made available to Members via the Journal Office in the Commons. The hon. Lady asked how we know what information is available. In the debate the week before last, the hon. Member for Bath said that MPs find out that a document has been made available to them through a notice that appears in the daily Votes and Proceedings. MPs must therefore keep an eye on that rather substantial list of items as it is published in order to know what has been laid before the House.

I hope that that has been a helpful response to the points made in the debate.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful for the Minister's summing up. However, I asked at the outset, and again this afternoon, what the legal basis was for the statistics in the current Bulletin to which he referred. I query whether it is a similar proceeding to a preceding Act of Parliament because the Bulletin states:

''The crime/offence figures are collated from the British Transport Police's computerised crime reporting system, 'PINS'.''

That is not to be confused with pins and needles. It continues:

''The recording of crime is not static and the figures represent a snapshot in time, i.e. the state of the system at 31 March 2001 and 2002.''

Is the current legal basis for the PINS the Police Act 1996 or a previous Act of Parliament? Would the provisions transfer to the new statutory framework for the British Transport police? I hope that I did not mislead the Committee when I mentioned for clarification that, in 2000–01, there were five reported homicides out of the total number of offences for the

whole of England, including London. The Committee may be interested to know that British Transport police officers were required to investigate and submit reports to coroners on 279 fatalities in England and Wales during the 2001–02 reporting period, and a further 15 cases were notified to the procurator fiscal in Scotland. The report continues:

''Of all Force cases, 4 involved the deaths of members of rail staff. A total of 77 verdicts of suicide were recorded in England and Wales.''

I listened to what the hon. Member for Bath said but, as the British Transport police statistics suggest, the railways have become suicide traps, which is deeply alarming.

I do not expect the Under-Secretary to treat my request as a priority, but I would be interested to see the figures for the Crown Prosecution Service so that I may compare it with the Procurator Fiscal service in Scotland. The Under-Secretary—an avid reader—helpfully told us in his winding-up remarks that reading the Order Paper was the best way to find out which documents had been laid before the House. Here we are this afternoon discussing the British Transport police, and his right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport was pleased to announce today in a written statement that the Government have published their report on the management of accidental obstruction of the railway by road vehicles. That will interest those of us whose constituencies have congested railway lines and several road bridges. The Minister stated:

''British Transport Police have agreed to collect the data about such incidents on a common basis.''—[Official Report, 25 February 2003; Vol. 400, c. 15WS.]

Colleagues may like to read tomorrow's Official Report for the website reference so that we can read about it at our leisure.

We are discussing statistics that relate to the clause, which might have provided an ideal opportunity for the Government to table an amendment. They are not too shy to do so, as most of the amendments on the amendment paper are Government amendments. I must ask why they used the vehicle of a ministerial statement, which is laid before Parliament but cannot be discussed. The Committee would have had the chance to discuss the contents of this ministerial statement if it had been placed before the Committee as a Government amendment.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 3:15 pm, 25th February 2003

The hon. Lady is making a valuable point about how the procedures of the House could be modernised. Has she reflected on the fact that the Committee is considering the Railways and Transport Safety Bill not only on the day of the ministerial statement—about which we have had no discussion—but on a day on which the new railway safety body, which has been much talked about in this Committee, has gone live without a murmur from the Government Front Bench?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

It may be harsh of me to say so, but the second point, although legitimate, may not be

relevant to the clause. I pay tribute to a north-east of England newspaper, The Northern Echo, which covers county Durham but is also published in north Yorkshire. It ran a campaign on the road vehicle safety after a car collided off a railway bridge and into the path of a train. Hon. and right hon. Members will recall that that was the cause of the Selby crash. I note with dismay that the Government have prepared the timetable and set the agenda, and we have no opportunity to disagree with it. They have rightly devoted five or six sittings to part 3, which relates to the British Transport police and is very important. We have a quite substantial document, which we are told people can pay £5 for through HSE Books, or download from the Government's railways website. It would have been appropriate for the Minister to table an amendment to allow us to discuss the contents of that document. I would have welcomed that opportunity. The document fits in with the collating of statistics, and we could have discussed it this morning. I imagine that it was laid at 9 or 10 o'clock this morning. We could have discussed it in the context of clauses 53 or 54 by way of a Government amendment.

We are told that copies of the report will be sent to all local highway authorities and railway infrastructure authorities. The hon. Member for Bath and I specifically asked which parties would receive those reports. Despite the fact that it is a substantial report, produced in response to 19 separate recommendations made by the Health and Safety Commission and the Highways Agency reports published last year, we are not given an opportunity to debate it.

The report sets out the work of representatives of the highway authorities, railway infrastructure authorities and other organisations to identify steps that the Government consider should be taken jointly by railway infrastructure authorities and highway authorities to manage the risk of accidental incursion of road vehicles on to the railways. That raises the question of precisely how many road bridges cross railway lines. This would have been a good opportunity for us to consider the matter in a relevant context, precisely because the British Transport police have agreed to collect the data about such incidents on a common basis. Perhaps the Minister will now confirm that that will be added to PINS.

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

The hon. Lady asked about the legal basis of the statistics. The current statistics are not required by legislation; the British Transport police produce them voluntarily. However, the British Transport police committee has powers to ask the chief constable for information. Should the Bill receive Royal Assent, the new statistics will, under clause 56, be in the annual report. I hope that the hon. Lady will not press me on what the acronym ''PINS'' stands for. It is the British Transport police's internal crime recording system and database, which will not be affected by the new provisions.

Let me make one other point for clarity. The hon. Member for Bath talked about the practice of jumping between trains and what was and was not a crime. I can tell him that railway byelaws do create criminal

offences. The maximum penalty is at level 3; there is a fine of £1,000. Jumping or moving between carriages when a train is moving is an offence under the byelaw, so that could be subsumed into the statistics.

The hon. Member for Vale of York asked whether we could have a debate on the statistics. The House is open to debate at any time. The Opposition are free to call a debate on the statistics on an Opposition day if they wish to do so. I would be delighted to respond to it.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The hon. Member for Bath and I have spoken about this matter on a number of occasions. The Minister, in summing up originally, explained for our benefit what it meant for a document to be laid before Parliament. I give the excuse, which will be written into the official record, that we have before us precisely the provision under which it could have been introduced by way of a formal amendment, just as the Government have sought to do with many other amendments. It is very disappointing that they did not take it upon themselves to table such an amendment, which could have been debated in the proper way. The document falls neatly within the scope of clauses 53 to 55 and particularly clause 56.

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

If the hon. Lady thought that this matter was so important, why did Opposition not table an amendment? It is not only the Government who can table amendments.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

That is an interesting concept. How am I supposed to table an amendment on information to which I am not privy and which was not placed in the Library until 9.30 this morning? I find that point fairly infantile.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 56 ordered to stand part of the Bill.