Clause 81 - Detention pending arrival of police

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 8:55 am on 4th March 2003.

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

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Good morning, Mr. Hurst. Welcome back to the Chair.

In Committee last Thursday, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport said:

''I am sorry that the hon. Member for Vale of York has left the Room for a moment. Since she is not here, now is perhaps the moment to complete my remarks.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 27 February 2003; c. 408.]

I did not intend to appear rude or disrespectful to the Under-Secretary, but I had not had the chance to wash my hands in three and a half hours. I am sorry that while I was responding to a call of nature, the Under-Secretary refused to allow my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) to intervene on my behalf for precisely one minute. I am sure that we will be sitting for equally long periods between now and the end of the Committee proceedings, so may I make a plea for a comfort stop before we continue to a later hour, Mr. Hurst?

The clause deals with detention pending arrival of the police and refers to the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, among others. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 will of course also apply. [Interruption.] The Committee is especially noisy today; it is good to see its members in such good heart.

The very useful explanatory notes, which I presume the Department provided, tell us:

''At present, local bye-laws allow some harbour authority officials to exercise powers to detain ships whose pilots are suspected to be committing an offence of being impaired by drink or drugs. Clause 81 extends this regime to allow marine officials to detain a vessel when they reasonably suspect that a person on board is committing an offence under this Part. However, this clause does not apply to ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in order not to affect the operational effectiveness of the armed forces.''

I do not know whether it is appropriate to make that point now or when we come to clause 87, but suffice it to say that one hopes that separate checks are carried out in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary to ensure that its personnel would not fall foul of the Bill. I am sure that the Under-Secretary will put my mind at rest when he replies. That raises another question, which I am sure the Under-Secretary will want to address. If a harbour master or harbour official is invited to carry out checks under the clause, will they fall foul of the strict provisions on intoxication?

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

May I remind the hon. Lady that I previously moved an amendment suggesting that harbour masters should be included in a list earlier in

the Bill? If I have an opportunity to bring that amendment back, I hope that she may be willing to support me.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

As my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge said, we would certainly look at that. It would be an extremely useful probing amendment.

Obviously, one is grateful for the thoughts of the industry. In February, the newspaper of the National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers, the NUMAST Telegraph, stated:

''The Bill will give police new powers to test seafarers for alcohol and drugs after an accident or where they have reason to believe an offence is being committed, and to arrest them without warrant.''

The article, which is on page 20, states:

''Harbourmasters will also be able to detain ships until police arrive if they believe a seafarer on board is over the limit.''

The article gives a little of the background. In relation to a point that has been well made in Committee, it states:

''During consultations over the new laws, the government took onboard NUMAST's argument that ships are effectively homes as well as workplaces—determining that the regulations would not normally apply to off-duty seafarers unless they would need to safeguard passengers in an emergency.''

That is particularly appropriate. The article states:

''While not resisting the new regulations, the Union had argued that existing provisions within section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act gave the authorities adequate powers to address any alcohol abuse at sea.''

I believe that that is a serious charge, and I urge the Under-Secretary to address it today. The point was well and forcefully made by as eminent a union as NUMAST during the consultations, and presumably that was the purpose of having, at considerable expense, such lengthy consultations.

If the point was well made, we should like to know, although we broadly support the Bill, why the Government felt it important to go further and introduce the new law. We want to know why section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 did not, in the Government's view, give the authorities adequate powers to address any alcohol abuse at sea. Why do they so dramatically part company from NUMAST, which is highly respected?

Powerful points were made by a number of other bodies during consultation. We have some concern, along with the Liberal Democrats, as to who the ''marine official'' will be. The relevant points were well made last week. A ship may be some considerable way from a police station, so detaining a ship pending the arrival of the police could put marine officials under considerable stress.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

Perhaps my hon. Friend can help me out. The clause applies not only to the sea, but to inland water. However, ''marine'' implies to me the sea. Is another part of the clause concerned with inland waterways?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

My hon. Friend raises a very serious point. The Bill appears to be silent—perhaps we are missing something—on who the arresting official would be in the event of a vessel or craft committing an offence on an inland waterway. As the Committee will recall, I have a particular concern

about inland waterways. I cannot claim that Vale of York is a coastal constituency. Although we are under water a lot of the time, it is inland. The Bill is defective in that regard. Who would the marine official be? Do the Government expect it to be a member of the police force, in which case would it be a local police officer, or would it be a British Transport police officer? The Government must answer that question.

We recognise that there have been few instances in which clauses 80 or 81 would have been invoked. The dreadful tragedy of the Marchioness disaster is probably the most graphic example to date. Although the Under-Secretary argued that section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 was sufficient, there probably is a need for further powers. The industry as a whole puts safety first and is therefore hopeful that it can work with all the authorities. However, even the industry has some concern about who the marine official would be.

It would be helpful if the Minister could give us some idea of the penalties. I referred briefly to NUMAST's concern about whether section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act was sufficient. It sets out a fine of £5,000 or two years' imprisonment for a master or seaman who is guilty of endangering his ship or other ships while under the influence of drink or drugs. I do not immediately see a clause on penalties. Obviously, the Bill is not mine, but the Government's, so why is there such a serious gap? We will spend time this morning looking at detention, arrest without warrant and right of entry, but I do not see where the penalties are set out. Will we rely on the penalties in the Merchant Shipping Act, and if we will, why do we not rely on the other provisions of that Act?

According to my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, a marine official has said that the provision relates to coastal areas or shipping in United Kingdom waters. Certainly the British Marine Federation would like the Bill to differentiate between commercial shipping and recreational boating. I mentioned that I was a guest of the BMF at the London boat show. I saw some magnificent river and inland waterways craft there that would appeal to both my hon. Friends the Members for Uxbridge and for Westbury (Dr. Murrison), and which obviously sail on different waters and face different conditions. How will the clause differentiate between the types of vessel?

The clause refers to detention. I am not sure whether clauses 80 and 81 tell us where the tests would be carried out. The consultation document set out the problems. As the industry recognised, time is critical in the test analysis process. The practicality and cost of carrying out tests on vessels that may be a considerable distance from the shore would make random testing neither justified nor practical. The industry believes that such checks should be carried out only following an incident.

The question of at what point and on what occasion the tests would be carried out is a constant theme in the Government's responses to consultation on this part of the Bill. I said at our last sitting how difficult it was to get hold of those replies, as they are not on the

web. The Government usefully supplied a summary on the web of their replies to responses to the consultation paper on part 3, relating to the British Transport police. I have had to rely on the Library and the good services of the House to provide the replies to part 4, which is highly regrettable because a lot of useful information from the consultation process has yet to be addressed.

It is not clear from clause 81 whether the Government will introduce random testing on inland waterway and sea craft plying UK waters. Is it implicit that a test will be carried out only if an accident, or what might be described as a near miss, has occurred? If the Government do not satisfactorily answer that, we may return to the matter on Report.

It is extremely important to know who will carry out the tests. The clause refers to detention pending the arrival of police, which could be a considerable time. It is considered that the police service can be the only body equipped to enforce legislation; other agencies such as harbour authorities and navigation bodies are not trained or equipped to carry out the task of arresting members of the public, submitting them to breath-testing procedures, and dealing with the associated court appearances. The Liberal Democrats said that harbour masters should also be treated—[Interruption.] I hope that that cough is not serious; I refuse to be distracted. Harbour masters and marine or navigation officials should be above reproach in that regard; they must show that they, too, have not consumed alcohol or drugs, and that should be written into the Bill.

As we said in debates on part 1, in view of the extensive powers being given to investigators and inspectors of the rail accident investigation branch, we would prefer them to be accompanied in every eventuality by a British Transport police constable. Police officers are best equipped in that respect as they are trained to cope with difficult situations. We can all imagine anyone who is the worse for the drink in charge of a craft—

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Conservative, Westbury

We do not know anyone who is the worse for drink.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I think we can imagine someone like that. People who are the worse for drink may be aggressive and unpleasant and might resist arrest. A marine official or an official from the navigation authority would not be trained or equipped to cope with such a situation. How will the Government tackle that? In view of current police resources and priorities, that leads to further concern that new measures, such as clauses 80 to 82, may be damaging to the boating market if they are not policed consistently throughout the UK. All police forces operate on the basis of policing priorities, which are determined locally through consultation with communities and nationally with the Home Secretary. The Bill does not lay out any policy on how a marine official, be it a harbour master, navigation officer, port official or anyone else, should react in trying to apprehend and arrest a person who could be behaving bizarrely and in a difficult manner.

It seems unlikely that the majority of constabularies would allocate resources to this as a priority area, when faced with other day-to-day demands. This year, the Vale of York area has been allocated a stand-still budget, and will be left with an £8.2 million shortfall. I do not see how a local constabulary such as the North Yorkshire police could be expected to deal with a scenario such as that put to the Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, in which a crew of a recreational craft on an inland waterway such as that near Roecliffe and Boroughbridge caused a severe hazard both to themselves and to others plying that water. There is a range of interests to be considered: those of British Waterways, tourism, the boating industry, and the safety of the waterways. I believe it to be grossly unfair to place such additional responsibilities on that local police force when its budget has been cut by £8.2 million.

At the time of the consultation—I do not believe that the situation has changed since then—there were only six police forces in the UK with active marine sections. I do not believe that North Yorkshire is one of those, for reasons that I mentioned earlier. There are, therefore, only six police forces in the UK that would be capable of actively responding to and policing the new legislation. With only a handful of constabularies able to enforce the new legislation, and others with no prospect of additional resources, policing practice on a geographical basis would inevitably be unequal. North Yorkshire might be compared with Cumbria, and Devon and Cornwall with Durham, and that comparison would not be fair. Overstretched police forces throughout the UK will be asked to take on more duties at a difficult time for them.

We have not been told that that is one of the new Government targets. It remains to be seen whether the Government will amend those targets, to which they are wedded, once the Bill becomes law.

Moreover, it is unlikely that police officers would attempt to stop or board large ships or fishing vessels making their way through UK deep waters. Therefore, in the view of the marine industry, the focus of attention would be turned to the so-called easy option of the private leisure boater, using inland or near-to-coast waters. The British Marine Industries Federation is concerned that that situation would inevitably produce unfair and unequal policing practice.

To put the matter in context, the British Marine Industries Federation has approximately 1,500 members. Its members provide boats, equipment, facilities and services that enable 9 million British people to use boats on the coast and inland waterways. The UK's boating industry is wholly comprised of small or medium-sized companies, which jointly generated an annual turnover of £2.4 billion in 1998, of which £566 million was derived from export sales. The industry directly employs more than 23,000 people.

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree 9:15 am, 4th March 2003

Order. I am sure that members of the Committee are interested in statistics about the

industry, but the point that the Committee is dealing with is narrower.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The point is that a representative organisation such as the British Marine Industries Federation would not condone individuals taking charge of a vessel while being incapable due to the influence of alcohol, but it does not believe that there is sufficient evidence that that is a widespread problem. However, it believes that its members will be easily targeted, because they cannot escape quickly; they tend not to travel as far or as fast as commercial traffic. I hope that the Under-Secretary's responses this morning will put their minds at rest.

What will the additional cost of the clause be? Presumably, the Government will have to pay for a marine official's time and for the transport to get that official on board the boat. I assume that the Department has thought through the problem; it has had long enough to prepare the Bill. Before 1997, when we were in government, we were strongly committed to introducing such a Bill and to set it in motion. We would also like to hear where the resources needed will come from.

The United Kingdom Major Ports Group made equally valid representations in connection with the clause in the consultation. [Interruption.] I welcome back the Minister of State, Department of Transport. I hope that we will not lose either of our distinguished Ministers through ill health today. That would be most regrettable. We shall endeavour to nurture them for the rest of the Committee.

The United Kingdom Major Ports Group raised the question of who should be covered; that argument has been well rehearsed. It also asked about the penalties. It thinks that they should be severe, and that a ship's officer found to be over the blood alcohol level limit should have his certificate withdrawn or be suspended in addition to suffering a fine. Personally, I believe that that would be going quite far.

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree

Order. I think that the hon. Lady is considering the wrong clause.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Perhaps the Minister could say which clause sets out the penalties, because I cannot find it. If we are to detain ships with a view to prosecuting for an offence, we should know what the penalties are.

The United Kingdom Major Ports Group also mentioned the circumstances in which the test should be carried out. It said that accidents are mercifully few, but that there should be a power to require a breath test not only when a crew member is involved in an accident, but when there is reason to suppose that he is in breach of the law. I wonder whether the Minister could elucidate that point. Are the Government considering random breath-testing and detention of ships, or would the clause apply only when there had been an accident?

Who would carry out the test? The group says that some ports have their own police officers, and in those cases, the ports should be given the power to administer the police tests. It also mentions that legislation would entail small additional costs for

port authorities; their officials might be asked to board the vessel with a view to detaining an accused person prior to the police arriving. Before the consultation, the Government emphasised safety within harbours, which the ports support. Ports would not wish to resist the proposals on the ground of cost, but that begs the serious question of what those costs would be, and who would pay them.

The marine section of the United Kingdom Pilots Association also raised some interesting issues. Its preference would be for testing only when there has been an accident. Will a pilot from that association be considered a 'marine official' for the purposes of the clause, and is it envisaged that he will board the ship? The clause does not go far enough. The Committee and the industry would like to know precisely who it is envisaged will board ships under the clause.

In Belfast a magistrate heavily fined a Scandinavian master for endangering his own and other vessels in the port under the existing provisions. We feel that the existing Act is workable, but further information is required.

I alluded earlier to an interesting question that was raised by the United Kingdom Pilots Association. The legislation covers UK ships in UK waters, but does it also include all foreign merchant ships and merchant seamen operating in UK waters? What jurisdiction would a UK marine official have when boarding a foreign vessel plying UK waters? Is that allowable under clause 81?

The British Ports Association appears to be involved under the very loose drafting of clause 81, and it has no strong views on whether legislation should cover UK ships when outside UK waters. There may be problems in applying the laws realistically out at sea, and those are recognised in the consultation paper. There is a scenario where a ship in UK waters, to which clause 81 would apply, takes itself out of UK waters as quickly as possible, and therefore presumably outside the provisions of the Bill.

Can the Minister tell us what the powers of hot pursuit are in the event of a vessel fleeing from the scene of the crime after an accident or near miss? Does clause 81 allow a marine official pending the arrival of the police to hot-pursue that craft until they have apprehended it? The British Ports Association agrees that testing should take place after an accident and when there is reason to suspect a breach of the law. It stated:

''We would not support—and we do not believe there are resources to do this anyway—a wider regime of random breath testing. Resources should be directed towards cases where there are strong reasons to believe that an offence has occurred.''

It went on to say:

''We strongly believe that it is the police who should carry out the testing and we would not seek powers for harbour authority staff to take on this role.''

Can the Minister clarify the relationship of clause 81 to clause 82? Who will perform the test? The British Ports Association says:

''Some ports have their own police and in such cases, they would carry out the testing. We believe that the police have the necessary authority and expertise to carry out this task and to gather prosecution evidence. This might require extra resources being made available to the police to cope with this task, but we see little point in introducing new legislation which cannot be properly backed up by the authorities.''

Can the Minister tell us what those extra resources would be, and from which budget they would come? If we are going to support clause 81, as we feel inclined to, those questions will need to be answered.

Who is going to carry out the test? Is the marine official going to be allowed only to detain and to board the ship while awaiting the police? Who is going to pay for their time? The British Ports Association says:

''As port authorities we do not envisage any significant additional costs, although we base this on the assumption that the police will carry out testing.''

We asked earlier whether additional resources were to be provided for the British Transport police. Under clauses 81 and 82, it is appropriate to ask the Under-Secretary about any additional resources for the police for these purposes.

Clause 81(1) says:

''A marine official may detain a ship if he reasonably suspects that a person who is . . . on board the ship''

has committed or is committing an offence. Must an accident have occurred, or is it sufficient if a marine official believes that an accident is likely to occur because of the behaviour of the relevant person?

Under subsection (2), the ''power of detention'' is

''conditional upon the marine official making a request . . . for a constable in uniform to attend''

and it

''lapses when a constable in uniform has decided whether or not to exercise a power''.

As I said in respect of clause 80, it is important to know the status of a constable who is not in uniform. An officer sent out as a matter of urgency may not be in uniform at the precise moment.

I understand that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 covers circumstances in which an officer out of uniform can fulfil his responsibilities. I hope that clause 81 will not fall in circumstances where the constable is inadvertently not able to wear his uniform, which would defeat the whole purpose of the clause. As I said, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act sets out the circumstances in detail, but we want to know exactly how they will apply in this particular case.

Will the Under-Secretary confirm that the 1984 Act sets out that a person on a vessel could be detained for a maximum period of 24? I presume that a review will take place every six hours. That raises the question I asked earlier. If a person accused of an offence is intoxicated, the effects of the alcohol will inevitably wear off, so at what point will the breath samples be taken? How is the period of detention defined? How will an application be made on a boat at sea to have the period of detention reviewed? If I am right about the six-hour period—I may, of course, be wrong—will the 24-hour period be the maximum?

A marine official is defined as

''a harbour master, or an assistant of a harbour master'',

but it is clear from submissions to the original consultation made by the industry, the pilots, the UK Pilots Association and the British Ports Association that many people are concerned about the persons listed in section 284 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. For convenience, I managed to copy the relevant provisions of the 1995 Act. Section 284(1)(a) includes

''any commissioned naval or military officer''.

Under clause 81, such an officer may operate as a marine official, but we are told that the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service is excluded from the Bill. Does that exclusion mean that officers of the fleet are not permitted to operate as a marine official? Section 284(1)(b) includes ''any Departmental officer'', so will Department for Transport officials be seconded to act temporarily as a marine official for the purposes of clause 81? Is that what the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 and clause 81 intend to allow?

Section 284(1)(c) includes

''any officer of customs and excise''.

I know that those good men and women are often burly creatures, and they are used to seizing illegal drugs and drink, but how will they be qualified to apprehend, detain and accuse people who may be highly intoxicated and very aggressive? Section 284(1)(d) includes ''any British consular officer'', but as the Bill is about operations in UK waters, I do not see how many British consular officers will be to hand. I may be wrong. An off-duty British consular officer may be on a vessel and get a radio call from his boss to respond to an emergency and detain a ship. However, considering the provisions in both clause 81 and the 1995 Act, it strikes me that not many such people will be available to apprehend and detain the people accused of committing an offence.

I will support what the Government are trying to do, providing that they respond to the points of NUMAST and the British Marine Industries Federation about section 58 of the 1995 Act. I want also to know how detention will be paid for and what extra resources will be given. I assume that detention will be empowered only when the marine official has been clearly identified and has applied for a constable in uniform to attend, and will lapse when that constable has decided whether to exercise his power. Detention should not last for more than 24 hours and should be reviewed after six hours.

Will the Under-Secretary tell us whether, if there is a 24-hour detention, the person who detains the ship will be empowered to perform the test? Will he rule out any random testing and confirm that testing and detention will happen only in the event of an accident? In the rare event that a constable is not in uniform at the time, is the Under-Secretary satisfied that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 allows that constable to operate under the provisions of clause 81? How strictly will the term ''constable in uniform'' apply?

The most serious charge that we lay against the clause is that section 284(1) of the 1995 Act and

subsections (3) and (4) are too narrow. I repeat that section 284(1) provides only that

''Where under this Act a ship is to be or may be detained any of the following officers may detain the ship—

(a) any commissioned naval or military officer,

(b) any Departmental officer,

(c) any officer of customs and excise, and

(d) any British consular officer.''

We are looking at a huge area—the whole of the UK's waterways, including its inland waterways—and that is not enough to cover it.

We would also like a response on hot pursuit.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I will conclude on the following point. We would like to know whether it is envisaged that other officers will be covered under section 284 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. If that Act is to be amended in that regard, why is that not set out in the clause? Will it cover a port official, a pilot or anybody else in addition to a harbour master? As drafted, clause 81 is defective.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends the Ministers will resist the thrust of what the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) has said.

I am sure that such quibbles about other laws on alcohol and drugs—in relation to road traffic for example—have been made. We do not want the law to be made ineffectual because there are so many qualifications that the officials cannot take appropriate action. For instance, if a pilot were to board a supertanker full of oil in the Solent and could not, because of the law, do anything about the fact that all the crew were drunk and falling about and reeking of whisky, and if an accident occurred after that event, that would show that the law was ineffectual. I hope that the law will be made stronger so that it will have an effect and that accidents arising from drugs and alcohol will not occur in future.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

I wish the Minister to clarify a couple of things.

In an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York, I alluded to the issue of jurisdiction. We have been discussing that, and we know that it does not apply just to the marine environment in the strict sense of that term. It applies to waterways within the UK, although I think that it does not apply to the internal waterways in Scotland.

I want to be given some idea of the difference between inland and internal. I am thinking about estuaries in particular. We all support the Bill, but—bearing in mind that it was largely inspired by the terrible Marchioness disaster—how does jurisdiction apply with regard to the Thames estuary?

We have not discussed the position of the river police—about how far they can operate and whether there would be any crossover. Essex and Kent border the Thames estuary: would the river police be able to cross into those jurisdictions, or would they stick strictly to the Metropolitan police area?

That is germane because of the term ''marine official''. I hope that the Minister will tell us that ''marine official'' does not relate merely to the sea because we would feel a lot happier if it went wider than that. My hon. Friend referred to clause 81(3)(c), which refers to

''a person falling within a class designated by order of the Secretary of State.''

I presume that that order is still to come, and that the Secretary of State will introduce an order that describes the extra people who can be included as marine officials. I would be interested to learn what sorts of persons and jobs the Government envisage might be included in such an order so that we have an idea of their intention.

My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York talked about detention and periods of time. I believe that she was referring to individuals, but the clause refers to ships, not individuals. I wonder, therefore, whether there is a time limit, or whether it is just one of those legal things. The clause does not appear to mention any period of time after which the ship can say, ''You can't keep us any longer.'' After all, there should be no question of the detention being unreasonable in the case of a commercial ship, or even a leisure craft. The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) might give the example of an oil tanker sailing up the Solent. If the tanker were detained for some time, and it was then discovered that the allegation that had led to it being boarded was unfounded, could the company or the ship's owner be compensated? Would that be deemed fair? Would the case go to a civil court?

Subsection (2)(a) refers to

''the marine official making a request''.

Because of the nature of what we are discussing, I presume that that request could be made in any form, including by telephone. It would not have to be written. Similarly:

''when a constable in uniform has decided whether or not to exercise a power'',

how could anyone be sure that that came from a proper source? I am sure that there are proper methods of deciding that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York also mentioned constables in uniform. That may have seemed slightly off the point, but it is not. I have often been told that if a police officer arrests someone and is not wearing his cap, he can be deemed to be improperly dressed, and the person cannot be charged. That may be an urban myth; I am fortunate enough not to have been in a position to test it. I am interested to know whether that applies to the marine environment, which, as we know, can be rather windy. What would happen if the constable's cap were blown off? That may seem slightly irrelevant, but will the Under-Secretary assure us for the record, and to avoid subsequent arguments in court and mounting lawyers' fees, that constables setting off

properly dressed would be deemed to be correct enough?

I must say to my hon. Friend that I have my reasons for not having especially kind thoughts towards the British port authorities, as they were instrumental in scuttling my private Member's Bill on marine wildlife conservation, which had all-party support. However, I must not allow personal feelings to intervene. If I have to listen to their representations, I shall take them on merit and not out of any sense of revenge after what they did to my Bill.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 9:45 am, 4th March 2003

I am pleased to see you back in the Chair this morning, Mr. Hurst.

In her opening remarks, which seem now to have been some time ago, the hon. Member for Vale of York asked if we might have a pit stop if the Committee proceedings continued for a long time. I must tell the hon. Lady that my contribution to the sitting to which she referred was preceded by nearly 50 minutes of her speech. I do not know whether the Scottish education system was the same as the English one at the time, but in my childhood I remember doing something in the English language called précis. If the hon. Lady does not know what that means, perhaps she can ask me afterwards. I am also reminded of someone who spoke at great length at a meeting. At the end, he apologised for not having had the time to shorten his speech.

The clause puts into statute what already exists in some harbour byelaws. Police presence is not as ubiquitous on the water as it is on the roads. That is why the proposals seek to give powers to, but not to impose duties on, marine officials to allow them to assist the police. In order to operate the testing regime in practice, it is necessary to put in place suitable powers to detain suspects for a reasonable time pending the arrival of the police. The police may then administer breath tests, arrest a crew member or a person exercising a navigational function who is suspected of being intoxicated or unfit either through alcohol or drugs.

In the same way that a store detective may detain a shoplifting suspect pending the arrival of the police, those powers may be triggered only when the marine official has reasonable grounds for suspicion that an offence under this part is being or has been committed. Examples of persons to be treated as marine officials under clause 81(3)(b) are: a commissioned naval or military officer; any departmental officer, including officers of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency; any officer of Customs and Excise; and any British consular official.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister mentioned store detectives, which struck a chord with me. There is a valid case for store detectives having reasonable ground, but they are trained. The kinds of people the Minister illustrated under paragraph (b) will not necessarily have such detailed knowledge, and subsequent counter-charges could be brought against them for false detention. That is something store detectives have to be aware of.

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

I think we covered training in a previous sitting. In certain cases people will need training. However, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is extremely familiar with the procedures. It is most likely to be involved and already has powers to detain ships over inadequate crewing or the maintenance of the ship.

Under clause 81(3)(b) the Secretary of State may by order designate other classes of persons as having the power to detain vessels, which was a point raised by the hon. Member for Vale of York. It will be important to define those groups of marine officials carefully. We have in mind officials from such organisations as British Waterways and the Broads Authority. I hope that that helps the hon. Member for Uxbridge with his concerns about inland waterways.

Safeguards are in place. The detention envisaged by the clause is conditional on a request for a police constable to attend being made as soon as possible. It will lapse if the police inform the marine official that they have decided not to take specimens. In reply to the hon. Member for Uxbridge, the constable could be summoned in any appropriate way.

I turn to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Vale of York—so long as she does not walk out on me. I am not used to ladies walking out on me, Mr. Hurst, not least the hon. Member for Vale of York. She asked about penalties. I know that we touched only briefly on clause 79 in our last sitting, but the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Uxbridge both contributed to a brief debate that covered the penalties, about which she asked several times. The hon. Member of Uxbridge asked in an intervention whether part 4 covered inland waterways. The answer is yes.

''Marine official'' applies to inland water officials as well as those at sea. The reference to harbour officials clearly covers only harbours. Clause 81 will ensure that appropriate officials will be able to detain people outside harbours; that is, outside their jurisdiction. The hon. Member for Vale of York raised a new master point about powers needed to detain a vessel pending the police's arrival to conduct a breath test on someone suspected of committing an offence under this part of the Bill. The existing provisions apply to harbour authorities. Here we are widening the group of officials given the power to detain vessels by order.

The hon. Lady spoke at great length about testing and I assure her that in line with testing on the roads it will not be at random. In our last sitting, the hon. Lady spoke for nearly 50 minutes in the debate on clause 80, subsection (1) of which states that the power to require a specimen shall apply when

''a constable in uniform reasonably suspects that the person is committing an offence''.

There would have to be reasonable suspicion or an accident would have to have occurred, which is the case on the roads.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is as courteous and charming as ever. If the constable is not present, how can he reasonably suspect anything? Will he rely on information being provided by other people that an offence has occurred

or is reasonably suspected of having occurred? If he is not physically present, how can he know?

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

The information will have been provided to the constable by the marine official, or he may have had a reasonable suspicion in the first place because of information that had been given to him.

The hon. Lady asked where the test would be carried out. The screening test on board the vessel would be conducted by a constable in uniform. Evidential testing is to be done by the police, and I understand that any such test must be carried out by a constable in uniform. I repeat that there will be no random testing. We may need to consider precisely what is meant by uniform if the hat has blown off and so on. There is plenty of case law on road policing in such matters, which we may explore if we want further information.

Legislation on the constable in uniform would apply to the local police, the ports police and, if appropriate, the British Transport police. In practice, it is likely to be the local police, as they will have the equipment and the expertise to enforce this part of the Bill. Marine officials will have the power to detain vessels until the police arrive and, as I said earlier, they can detain the vessel only when they have requested the police to attend.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency plans to train a strategic number of police officers to board vessels in order to conduct the tests. The police will also have access to vessels used by harbour authorities and water authorities, should that be required.

The hon. Lady asked about hot pursuit, which is probably unlikely, although there are cases in which it is suspected that a serious offence has taken place and when pursuit is thought to be appropriate. There would be the power to track a vessel to see in which direction it was going, but in practice hot pursuit would not apply, although it would depend on what was deemed to be the severity of the situation.

The hon. Member for Vale of York asked about the definition of United Kingdom ships and foreign ships, which is set out in clause 88, which we shall discuss later this morning if time allows. We were asked about the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, which are civilian, not military, vessels. Clause 87 applies the Bill, except for clause 81, to those ships. Those on board will be covered by all the measures in this part of the Bill except that which applies to detaining ships in clause 81, for reasons which will be obvious to the Committee.

The hon. Lady also asked about consular officials; it is important that they have the power that she mentions because part 4 applies to United Kingdom ships anywhere in the world, not just off our coasts. Therefore, it may be appropriate for a consular official to act in such a capacity.

The hon. Lady asked several times about resources. I refer her to the explanatory notes to the Bill. The issue of any extra funding required is set out on page 25 in paragraph 92, headed ''Public sector financial and manpower cost''. I will not detain the Committee by reading it out, as it makes the points well. I hope

that I have given a helpful summary of the clause and that we can move on.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:00 am, 4th March 2003

I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for his explanations, as far as they went. He referred to paragraph 92, and it was remiss of me not to mention it earlier. It says:

''It is difficult to quantify the financial costs to the public purse from the introduction and enforcement of an alcohol limit for mariners.''

That may be difficult, but it is incumbent on the Government to do it. They are putting additional costs on several organisations—I will not list them again—who are concerned about the costs and whether they can pay them.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

My hon. Friend is correct. If the notes had said that it was impossible to quantify the financial costs, we could let the Department off the hook, but as it is just 'difficult', the Department should come up with an answer.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Indeed. The Government have a Department dedicated to transport policy, so although it may be difficult to quantify costs, they should do it. The notes go on to say:

''The Association of Chief Police Officers has indicated that the slightly increased resource implications for the police would be largely offset by use of current resources such as harbour launches and search and rescue helicopters.''

For the benefit of the Committee, it is only thanks to our successful local campaign that the Portland helicopters were saved. They were about to be axed.

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree

Order. The hon. Lady is aware that we are not debating helicopters.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The Minister referred me to the explanatory notes. We are debating helicopters because we are told that search and rescue helicopters will be doing the job, but they have only just been rescued themselves. If they had not been rescued, who would have been doing the work?

The notes say:

''The Department for Transport would fund any training necessary for police and marine officials to enforce these proposals.''

I hope that the Department has allowed itself enough time to do that. The notes add that

''the training would cover techniques in boarding ships at sea by means of helicopter or ship to ship transfers.''

Having tried the latter twice, I can say that it is the most inelegant exercise and is fraught with danger. I was pushed out of the way by an admiral.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

We will not go into that. The point is that people can break their legs or do themselves even worse damage. Considerable training is required, and I would not like to undertake it.

The notes say:

''In terms of testing apparatus, there would be minimal costs for implementation of the alcohol provisions, since the testing regime would use equipment already in use for alcohol testing on the roads.''

I thought that I made an eloquent argument for using the testing equipment used on railways, but that seemed to fall on deaf ears. However, there is still time before the Bill comes into force. We are told that the number of tests required is expected to be low, as is the number cases prosecuted.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has said that the provisions will apply to all vessels in UK waters, irrespective of flag. I also welcome his assurance that breath-testing should primarily be carried out after an accident or if there is reason to suspect a breach of the law and that there will not be random testing. That is welcome.

We will certainly hold the Government to their commitment in paragraph 93 of the explanatory notes:

''Alcohol and drugs provisions, both in the marine and aviation sectors, will not require recruitment of more public sector workers, though there will be additional responsibilities on existing police, marine or legal officers.''

No doubt, once the Bill is in force, we will have cause to revisit that.

The question of hot pursuit is a reasonable one that we will pursue on subsequent clauses. I am deeply uneasy about the reasonable time pending the arrival of the police because the Minister has confirmed that the police will conduct hot pursuit. The effects of alcohol may have worn off over the 24-hour detention period, and that could weaken the provisions of the clause. I share my hon. Friend's concern that the absence of the constable himself could be a hostage to fortune. I cannot speak for British Waterways, but I hope that it is happy to take on these new responsibilities.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 81 ordered to stand part of the Bill.