Clause 68 - Exercise of functions by Secretary of State

Part of Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 27th February 2003.

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Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 9:45 am, 27th February 2003

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me this opportunity to explain briefly one or two matters relevant to the clause. The Bill provides the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions with a number of functions and duties regarding the British Transport police, the proposed authority and the policing of the railways.

The clause places a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to exercise these functions,

''for the purpose of promoting the efficiency and effectiveness of the Police Force''.

As we found in our previous deliberations, it is equivalent to section 36 of the Police Act 1996, which places the same requirement on the Home Secretary regarding local police forces. I assure the hon. Lady that this is not about centralisation or micromanagement of the British Transport police. I do not know whether she has noticed, but the Department has one or two other matters to attend to from time to time. There is no ambition to be involved in more detail than necessary with the British Transport police.

The clause merely provides that where the Secretary of State has a function in part 3, he must use it to promote the efficiency and effectiveness of the British Transport police. That could be done in a number of ways: by the appointment of members; supporting the authority outside and so on. All the Secretary of State's powers regarding the British Transport police either exist already—for example, the arbitration under clause 33—or are modelled on the powers that the Home Secretary has for local police forces—for example, clause 48 is modelled on section 37 of the Police Act 1996.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Department has been responsible for the British Transport police for

many years, so this will not be an entirely new function for the Department. The hon. Lady also alluded to the annual plans and reports and the three-year strategy; all those already happen. I hope with that explanation we can move to the vote on the clause.