Clause 94 - Arrest without warrant

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 8:55 am on 6th 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)

I welcome you back to the Committee, Mr. Hurst, on this fine spring morning. We want to raise several issues, and I am sure that the Minister will respond fully. Similar problems arise in this context as arose under part 4. We want to know to what extent the principle that a constable may arrest someone without a warrant will apply, and to clarify the relevant circumstances.

It has already been noted with respect to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 that the basic principle in relation to arrest without warrant remains, whether or not the offence attracts a sentence of five years or more. There have, regrettably but rarely, been cases in which constables overstretched their power to arrest without a warrant, and those were deemed an unlawful arrest. The provisions would most frequently be applied in commercial aeroplanes, so considerable expense and inconvenience might be involved. What reparation might result in the relevant circumstances?

We are told that the clause would enable the police to arrest suspected offenders, but that the person could not be arrested while he was a hospital patient. I do not know whether the background to the current rule, which I presume comes under the Road Traffic Act 1988, is relevant, but we hope that a strict interpretation will be applied and that there will be no circumstances in which a person might try to escape custody or arrest by putting himself in hospital, by whatever means.

It would be helpful to know whether the police constable would always have to be in uniform. If he was not in uniform, as set out in clause 93, or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) suggested, was without his cap, would an arrest be unlawful? Presumably, airport police would, in most circumstances, make such an arrest, as they would be the most readily available. I think I am right in saying—you are probably more familiar with the circumstances than I am, Mr. Hurst—that, to take one example, Stansted airport does not pay the full cost of its policing. Much of the cost, especially if there is a high state of terrorist alert, is borne by the county council. Clarification as to who would pay any additional costs that might arise under the clause would be helpful.

Members will recall that Stansted airport is another of my interests—indeed, I have a continuing interest in

the British Airports Authority. I remind the Committee that airports such as Teesside international and Leeds Bradford international, which serve my constituency—we have recorded that, regrettably, Bagby does not have any international flights and is largely a recreational airport—are owned by local authorities. How will they be affected by any additional policing costs under the clause?

The clause refers to ''arrest without warrant'' for offences committed under section 89. We respectfully and helpfully argue that the Bill is defective. We all agree that it is an offence to be unfit for work through intoxication by drink or drugs, but airlines increasingly find that, rather than the crew, passengers boarding aircraft who are disruptive due to drink or drugs are the ones who put passengers at risk. We note that a private Member's Bill seeks to create a new offence. We respectfully and helpfully ask—as always, says my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge—why it has been deemed inappropriate to include such a new offence when the Bill was so long in gestation?

Such a provision would fit neatly into the Bill. Being unfit for travel could be included in clause 89, which relates to being unfit for duty. It is not only our airline personnel who put passengers at risk by being drunk or drugged, as crew and passengers are equally at risk from intoxicated passengers. Why has the offence not been included when it would fit neatly and specific behaviour could deem a person unfit to travel?

The clause could have applied equally rigorously in empowering a constable to escort and arrest a passenger who is unfit to travel, but the travelling public and Members have been left in a difficult position. Presumably, the Bill will complete all its remaining stages and go into statute some considerable time before any other Bill on a related subject. We would have liked such a provision to be extended across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Perhaps we could make that an offence and empower a police officer to arrest such a passenger without a warrant simply by amending the air navigation orders, although my understanding is that we would need primary legislation in that regard. It would have been appropriate to allow that to happen, however.

The number of disruptive passengers who endanger lives and the ability of an aircraft to take off is on the increase, which is a worrying development. One example is the recent incident involving football supporters returning to Glasgow from a match in Spain. That situation should have been addressed in the context of the Bill. Will the Minister explain why it was not? What is the legal position? Would the clause not apply to enable a police constable to arrest without warrant a passenger who was placing an aircraft at risk?

In 2001, there were 58 cases of drunkenness as an offence involving people deemed to be disruptive passengers who were putting the lives of other passengers and the crew at risk. However, the Department's latest statistics for disruptive passenger behaviour on UK aircraft reveal 1,055 incidents in the year to March 2002. Of those, 50 per cent. are classed

as significant and 5 per cent. as serious. Alcohol was deemed to be a contributory factor in about 45 per cent. of those incidents, and the police or security attended 196 of those reported.

We are told that section 61(2)(c) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 states that an air navigation order may carry a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment. Accordingly, offences of endangering the safety of an aircraft, drunkenness on an aircraft and acting in a destructive manner—offences set out in the Air Navigation Order 2000—carry a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, powers of arrest exist only for offences with a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment. The Air Navigation Order 2000 could have been amended to ensure that the Bill also covers disruptive passengers. Under the current rules, the police can report an offender for summons, but they cannot detain him while carrying out immediate inquiries, even if the aircrew or other passengers can identify him. That clearly puts those on the plane at risk.

Photo of David Cairns David Cairns Labour, Greenock and Inverclyde

What assessment has the hon. Lady made of the private Member's Bill that my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr. Roy) is steering through the House? What effect would it have on the problem that she highlighted?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I take the hon. Gentleman back to the rather lengthy debate in which I set out the issues in the context of that Bill. He was present, and I am sure that he recalls with some affection the great detail that I went into and the number of statistics that I produced with the help of the House of Commons Library. It would not be appropriate to return to that debate, but I am grateful to him for reminding me of that notable Bill. None the less, it would have been more appropriate had the Government tabled an amendment to this Bill rather than giving a handout to a worthy Back Bencher. The legislation has been in gestation for a considerable time, and this would have been an opportune moment to introduce an appropriate provision. Without one, airlines, their crews and passengers will remain at risk, and so too will police officers, for the reasons that I shall give.

I am a nervous passenger at the best of times, even though I am married to an airline executive. I have not been on a long-haul flight—[Interruption.] That is another of my interests, but I told the Committee at the outset that my husband has spent 34 years in the airline business. In any case, I do not think that I am alone in being a nervous passenger, and I would not want to put myself at risk if I saw a disruptive individual who was the worse for drink or drugs. It would have been appropriate for the Bill to empower a police constable to arrest such people, and it is not fair of the Government to leave it to airline passengers or crew to do so. However, I repeat that it would still be timely and appropriate for the Government to table an amendment to the clause to grant such powers, and I invite them to do so during the remaining stages.

If we accept the clause, the police will be able to report offenders for summons, but not to detain them. A disruptive passenger can be identified only by aircrew or other passengers, which means—

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree

Order. I remind the Committee that the clause is about officials, not passengers.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Officials. Well, my point is that the clause is defective. It would be timely for the Government to extend its provisions and to create new offences, as I have described. We are told that it would be entirely appropriate to extend the power of arrest under the Bill to such new offences, although I am sure that the Minister wants to share with us some good reasons for not extending the provisions. We believe that the Bill is defective in its current form.

The explanatory notes are silent on what constitutes a hospital for the purposes of part 4 and it would be helpful to have further clarification, although we did get some from the Minister of State, or perhaps from this Minister. We were told, for example, that a hospital on board a ship is not deemed to be a hospital. We are also told that a hospital is an

''institution which provides medical or surgical treatment for in-patients or out-patients.''

As the Minister will be aware, at most major airports, including Gatwick, there is a medical centre. If a passenger, who was perhaps very unwell, were taken to such a centre before going to hospital, would that centre constitute ''a hospital'' for the purposes of the clause and would being there prevent an accused person under clause 89 from being arrested?

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons) 9:15 am, 6th March 2003

We discussed a similar scenario before but since then I have wondered, although I hesitate to suggest how the provisions might be improved, whether the clause should cover someone in hospital or en route to hospital. As the Bill stands, there may be a technical loophole, which would allow someone to be arrested before they reached hospital.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Yes, I agree and I hope that the Minister will clarify that.

Clause 94 differs from some of the clauses in part 4 in so far as it provides for arrest without warrant. I presume the implication is that the accused would be taken immediately to a police station. I believe, although perhaps the Minister will confirm this, that most airports have immediate access to a police station, where there might even be a police cell. What scope will there will be for police detention, or will the person will be arrested immediately and taken to a police station as the rules apply once the Bill becomes an Act? Where the person is not in hospital but is deemed to be so unfit and unwell as to be worthy of hospitalisation, under subsection 34(1) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, a police constable is empowered to take a suspect to a hospital. Will the Minister confirm, therefore, that the provisions relating to detention in those circumstances empower a police officer to take the accused to a hospital rather than to a police station?

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

Welcome to the Chair, Mr. Hurst, on this fine morning. I appear to be in the driving seat today and I am sure that the Committee will be sad to learn that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport has succumbed to an unfortunate illness and has now lost his voice. [Hon. Members: ''Oh no.''] I always say that bad news is always counterbalanced by some good news, and the Committee will be pleased to know that I am in very good voice and extraordinarily rude health.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Would it be appropriate for us to pass on our best wishes to the Minister of State in the hope of a speedy recovery? It is a matter of regret that he has succumbed to the same lurgy that previously afflicted the Under-Secretary.

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

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be touched by the hon. Lady's concern.

The clause gives a police officer the power to arrest without warrant a person whom he suspects of having committed an offence under clause 89. That will usually follow an initial screening breath test. The power to arrest a subject who has failed the screening test will enable a police officer to take a suspect back to the police station for the purpose of carrying out an evidential test to determine the exact level of alcohol in the suspect's body. The police have similar powers of arrest for other offences created through the adoption of relevant parts of the Road Traffic Act 1988. As with that legislation, hospital patients will be specifically protected from the general power of arrest. However, taking specimens from hospital patients will be permitted in the same way as it is from other users of vehicles, as provided for by the 1988 Act and as proposed in clause 93.

The hon. Lady asked about police officers in uniform. I thought that we had clarified that in an earlier debate. In case the point was not clear to all Committee members, let me explain it again: the requirement that a police officer be in uniform is also made under the motoring breathalyser procedure. Therefore cases under the Road Traffic Act 1988 on the meaning of the established term will apply—''constable'' refers to any member of the police force, not to the rank of the constable. Courts have held that a police officer who was not wearing a helmet but who was otherwise in police uniform was still in uniform. That is a matter of case law. The hon. Lady may be more familiar than I with the case of Wallwork v. Giles 1969, and I will not bore her with any more detail on it. Of course, if the Committee wants more detail, I shall be happy to provide it.

The hon. Lady asked a couple or three times about the term ''hospital.'' Let me define it for her again. Clause 94(3) states:

''In subsection (2) 'hospital' means an institution which provides medical or surgical treatment for in-patients or out-patients.''

That is the same definition that is used in section 11(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, and it should be applied by the courts in the same way. The hon. Lady asked about the medical bay in an airport. I do not think that that could be defined as a hospital. The law would apply in exactly the same way to patients on their way

to hospital. That is probably somewhat beyond our remit, but if the Committee wants more detail, I shall provide it.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

As the Under-Secretary seems to have so many facts and figures at his fingertips, perhaps he will clarify the situation of someone who is en route to hospital.

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

That was the point that I was making. If the Committee wants more clarity on people en route to hospital, I shall try to provide it. However, most of the information is contained in other legislation.

The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) asked about damages. The law of damages would apply if the police made a wrongful arrest. She asked again about costs, although we had talked about them at some length in a previous debate. Airports contribute to the costs of airport police, although the police pay any additional costs. We and the police expect such costs to be small. If they grow for any reason, we shall have to revisit the issue. However, additional resources are not expected at present to be needed.

Clause 94 does not allow the police to arrest passengers, as the intoxication of passengers is already an offence under the Air Navigation Order. The hon. Lady did speed up the private Member's Bill, although perhaps not quite by the degree that she suggested in the Committee. We both made a short contribution to that Bill, which I was very pleased to support. It is always difficult with a Bill of that sort; if we add everything to it, we would have had a topsy syndrome, and it would have just growed and growed. It would have become unwieldy had we put more and more clauses into it, so we had to draw the line somewhere. However, I am pleased to say that the Government support the private Member's Bill and I am delighted that the hon. Lady supports it as well.

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

The hon. Lady says ''It is your Bill.'' That applies to a number of Bills introduced by her hon. Friends with which the Government are assisting. We are pleased to assist my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw in his endeavour to change the law in that way.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister has said that the private Member's Bill is an important one, but he knows that such Bills do not always succeed, even with Government and all-party support. I have bitter experience in that regard. Can he assure us that if it does not succeed, the Government will find sufficient Government time in which to introduce it?

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

The hon. Gentleman points out that private Member's Bills have a precarious journey through Parliament. Usually, when they are supported by Government and the Opposition, the journey is less precarious. However, he might like to prevail upon the shadow Leader of the House who has been known to destroy a Bill or two in his time. I have to say that that particular right hon. Gentleman did support me in a private Member's Bill that I brought before the—

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree

Order. We have enough work to do in dealing with this piece of legislation without contemplating other legislation.

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

I beg your pardon, Mr. Hurst. I was drawn from the straight and narrow by the hon. Member for Uxbridge. I hope that we can now agree that the clause should stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The hon. Gentleman has been so generous to his colleague's Bill—he says that it is not a Government Bill, but it is peculiar that it was drafted by the Government and handed out to a Government Back Bencher—that I hope that he will be equally supportive of our colleague's Bill, which is number one of the private Member's Bills to be dealt with tomorrow. We wait to see whether our support is reciprocated.

I note what the Minister says about additional resources and that matters are not expected to be hugely more expensive. We agree with that in that there are not that many cases in one year by comparison with the number of disruptive passengers, who will be the subject of a separate Bill. The Minister did not answer the question about what happens if a patient is arrested by the police officer under clause 94, but is so sick that he is escorted by the police officer to the hospital. I take it that it is implicit in what he said that, under the road traffic provisions—I shall seek chapter and verse in Wilkinson's ''Road Traffic Offences'' and am delighted to have been steered in the right direction—even while it is allowable for a specimen to be taken from a hospital patient, that should not interfere with the patient or jeopardise his condition. We may return to these matters at a later stage but, with those remarks, we consider clause 94 well and truly debated.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 94 ordered to stand part of the Bill.