New clause 19 - Maritime security services

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 11th March 2003.

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The following shall be inserted after section 36 of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 (c.31) (security directions: inspection)—

''36A Maritime security services: approved providers

(1) In this section ''maritime security service'' means a process or activity carried out for the purpose of—

(a) complying with a requirement of a direction under any of sections 21 to 24, or

(b) facilitating a person's compliance with a requirement of a direction under any of those sections.

(2) Regulations may provide for the Secretary of State to maintain a list of persons who are approved by him for the provision of a particular maritime security service.

(3) The regulations may—

(a) prohibit the provision of a maritime security service by a person who is not listed in respect of that service;

(b) prohibit the use or engagement for the provision of a maritime security service of a person who is not listed in respect of that service;

(c) create a criminal offence;

(d) make provision about application for inclusion in the list (including provision about fees);

(e) make provision about the duration and renewal of entries on the list (including provision about fees);

(f) make provision about training or qualifications which persons who apply to be listed or who are listed are required to undergo or possess;

(g) make provision about removal from the list which shall include provision for appeal;

(h) make provision about the inspection of activities carried out by listed persons;

(i) confer functions on the Secretary of State or on a specified person;

(j) confer jurisdiction on a court.

(4) Regulations under subsection (3)(c)—

(a) may not provide for a penalty on summary conviction greater than a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum,

(b) may not provide for a penalty of imprisonment on conviction on indictment greater than imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years (whether or not accompanied by a fine), and

(c) may create a criminal offence of purporting, with intent to deceive, to do something as a listed person or of doing something, with intent to deceive, which purports to be done by a listed person.

(5) A direction under any of sections 21 to 24 may—

(a) include a requirement to use a listed person for the provision of a maritime security service;

(b) provide for all or part of the direction not to apply or to apply with modified effect where a listed person provides a maritime security service.

(6) Regulations under this section—

(a) may make different provision for different cases,

(b) may include incidental, supplemental or transitional provision,

(c) shall be made by the Secretary of State by statutory instrument,

(d) shall not be made unless the Secretary of State has consulted organisations appearing to him to represent persons affected by the regulations, and

(e) shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of resolution of either House of Parliament.'' '.—[Mr. Spellar.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government new clause 20—Railway security services.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The new clauses amend the Aviation Maritime Security Act 1990 and the Railways Act 1993 and would give the Secretary of State powers to maintain a list of approved providers of specific counter-terrorism security services to the maritime and domestic railway industries. Companies could only provide such services if they were on the appropriate list, and the Secretary of State would be able to remove companies from the list. Similar powers already exist under the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 to cover the channel tunnel, and were introduced through the amendment of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 to cover the aviation industry. The amendments would create parity across all those regulated areas of transport activity.

The new clauses provide for enabling powers only. Relevant regulations will be needed in order to bring the requirements into effect. If considered necessary in the future, however, such regulations would provide a valuable extra layer of control in respect of security services provided to the industry. As on the aviation side, regulations will be brought in using the negative resolution procedure. Accordingly, I commend the new clauses to the Committee.

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

Briefly, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the need for the new clauses. Perhaps I could, for once, take on the mantle of the hon. Member for Uxbridge: the role of the simple man—

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Does the hon. Gentleman have an identity crisis?

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

Indeed. Will the Minister explain why he constantly referred to a list of companies when the new clause uses the word ''person''? It refers to a single person, on some occasions. Will he explain why that is included and whether it means that the Secretary of State will keep a list of each and every individual working for every company?

Subsequent regulations will, no doubt, provide us with the full details, but will the Minister provide us now with some indication of the arrangement regarding fees that would have to be paid under the two new clauses? Will he give an indication of the nature of the appeals mechanism and, perhaps more importantly, will he place on the record an indication of the kind of security activities that are included?

New clause 19 refers to ''Marine security services'' and new clause 20 refers to ''Railway security services''. If a parallel is being drawn, as the Minister did in his introductory remarks, between those services and aviation security services, some interesting questions must be addressed. For example, in relation to aviation security services, security passes are awarded to enable the people carrying out relevant activities to enter secure areas of airports. The Minister will be aware that I have many continuing concerns about the mechanism whereby such security passes are awarded. I would be interested to know whether similar problems might arise in relation to the new clauses.

Subsection (3)(j) would

''confer jurisdiction on a court.''

Perhaps the Minister would put on the record what court is being referred to. To bring maritime and railway security into line with aviation, as other parts of the Bill do, makes sense and we will have no difficulty supporting the Government.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I have a number of questions about this matter. Indeed, I have tabled many questions in the past, especially on airline security. The Minister has said that the Government are using that model. There seems to be two levels of security. Security is strict and difficult for passengers who are accessing airline and central security checks. I put it on the record that the official Opposition welcome the additional security measures that have already been put in place at sea ports since 11 September—those will be prime targets. They provide not just a commercial, but a strategic contribution to an island such as the UK.

My questions regarding airline security related to particular provisions and I realise that there may be good reasons why the Government have not been able to share information about them. However, what checks are made on those with security passes who access airside and who do not necessarily always go through the central security checks? There has also been much concern when, on many occasions, investigative journalists posing as airline workers have accessed airlines and caused security alerts—that shows how difficult it is.

In the context of all airline, maritime and railway security, we are talking about regulations that might create a criminal offence. Given the current climate,

what criminal record checks are made and will be made on applicants to the security services? We know that anyone wishing to join our offices in the House of Commons has to disclose any criminal record, but would it be an offence if an applicant to an airline, maritime or railway security service failed to disclose a criminal record, and what subsequent checks would be carried out? Does the service simply take the applicant's word for it that they have no criminal record?

The Minister said that new clauses 19 and 20 allow the Secretary of State to enable companies to provide the security services only if they are on an officially recognised list. What criteria would enable a company and its personnel to apply to go on that list? I have been approached by a constituent who applied to go on an official list of security officers that would bid for Government tenders. I am sure that I am not the only one to have been approached in this way. I regret that the Department concerned—not the Department of Transport—gave my constituent the run-around.

Clearly, such contracts are lucrative, and the staff perform a vital role against the backdrop of the heightened security and terror alert that this country faces at present. If I were approached by a constituent company that wished to bid for an airline, maritime or railways security service, I would like to be able to tell it what criteria it has to meet. As I have said, there are 23 statutory instruments this week alone. Against that fact, it does not impress me that the clause empowers the Government to pass further orders—and by negative resolution, too. Those are two good reasons for opposing the provisions.

The new clauses are wide ranging and create new offences. If similar provisions apply to Eurotunnel, how many offences have been committed under them? That would give us an idea of the impact that the provisions will have. The provisions, in so far as they are self-explanatory, raise a number of questions about the criteria used to get on the list. We would like to satisfy our real concerns about how the provisions apply in the airline sector, and about the cases in which they have led to concern. In particular, it would be a concern if people could move about airside without having had all the security and criminal record checks that we would like them to have had.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport) 11:00 am, 11th March 2003

The hon. Member for Bath asked about the use of the term ''persons''. I understand that in legal terms, which have a tangential relationship to the English language, a company is a person. That is fairly standard legal usage.

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

I suspected that that would be the Minister's answer. Now that that is on record, can the Minister confirm that, in relation to maritime or railway security service provision, although a company may be on the list and may have met the criteria, it would still be possible for an individual working for that company who has not necessarily had the type of security checks referred to by the hon. Member for

Vale of York to be engaged in those activities—as, sadly, currently occurs in the aviation industry?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

That is likely to be a question of resources, particularly in any initial stages—as we are seeing with regard to London mini cab drivers, for example. We must temper practicality with the desirability of ensuring that the vetting regime is as thorough as possible.

The hon. Member for Vale of York raised the criteria for companies to be listed. Once they are listed, checks on directors will be undertaken and counter-terrorist checks will need to be conducted on their staff. Subsequently, performance will be monitored.

A question was raised about fees. They are not proposed for aviation but it is important to state that these are enabling measures, and that there would be appropriate consultation on the bringing in of measures enabled by the Bill.

There has not been a decision on the mechanism and procedures for an appeals process. Passenger searches, site searching and security training are the sort of roles that would probably be included under this definition of security services.

On the appeals procedure, a provision about appeals is probably necessary in view of the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The following are examples of the roles that might be included under railway security services: checking luggage at left luggage offices, carrying out searches of stations and checking vehicles at railway car parks.

I was asked about the vetting of aviation security staff and pass holders for the channel tunnel. They are subject to counter-terrorist checks through our Department. All other non-security staff will probably have to provide criminal records under new regulations that are being brought forward.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

If someone has a criminal record, they may not wish to disclose it. Therefore, the Government are relying on the good will of the applicant. What precautions did the Minister's Department take? Was a search done to discover whether a particular applicant had a criminal record, because someone who has malice aforethought may not wish to disclose that?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

That would make that person's application for the job invalid. Consideration would need to be given to making a further check with the Criminal Records Bureau about whether they had an unexpired criminal record. If that were the case, it would be a matter of concern. The police would be responsible for checking that, as it is not currently within the remit of counter-terrorism, which is looking for threats to security. This matter is of concern to the airports and other transport sites and users.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

We are greatly concerned about this. Are the Minister and his Home Office colleagues minded to amend the counter-terrorism provisions of the Act? If that is not the case, we will be in a bizarre situation: teachers' records are being investigated, and the entire system has collapsed because of the number of checks that had to be done. It is even more greatly

in the country's interests that thorough and rigorous checks should be done to avoid an incident happening.

I regret that investigative journalists have shown how easy it is to breach security. We do not want to pay too much attention to that because we want to prevent copycat incidents. That shows that it is incumbent on the police to ensure that checks are happening. Would the Government amend the legislation to ensure that the police are obliged, and given the resources, to request that the Criminal Records Bureau conduct checks?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The situation with teachers, which relates to the protection of children, is obviously different. I take the hon. Lady's point about checks on criminal records. It is not necessary to change the legislation, but, as I indicated, we will introduce regulations to implement the Bill and will take account of her views on criminal records. We are considering proposals that would ensure that pass holders for restricted zones are required to have criminal records checks.

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

Before we leave this important issue, I want to place it on the record that I know that the Minister is an eminently practical man who appreciates that there are sometime difficulties between getting a job done and legislative requirements for security vetting. It is important that the Minister makes it clear that in respect of aviation, maritime and railway security activities, the contingencies of time and the need to take action do not prevent everyone engaged in those activities from being subject to full security checks of the type that the hon. Lady has referred to. That applies to the two new clauses and the comparable ones on aviation. It is important not to pretend to the public using the aviation, railway or maritime services that it is possible to have 100 per cent. security support through the check-in regime.

The Minister will know from his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that I have during the past few months sought greater clarification on implementation of the port marine safety codes. The Government required that implementation nearly two years ago, but several ports still have not complied. Action is not being taken against those ports—perhaps, again, for reasons of time. We can therefore never have the full security that we would like, and the Minister has given us a good reason why that is so.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The hon. Gentleman is being slightly negative. Continuing improvement is happening, and there is a continuing refinement of the procedures to ensure that more and more people are checked in the shortest possible time. Levels of scrutiny are therefore steadily increasing.

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

If the Minister interpreted me as being too negative, I apologise because that was not my intention. I was trying to explain that I understood that we need, on occasion, to get on with the job rather than spending our time ensuring that those doing the job have every certificate. It is a difficult balance to strike.

The Minister will be aware of a number of breaches of airside security, which happen at the most

vulnerable part of the airport. I continue to be concerned that it is possible for people without security clearance to be allowed airside without full supervision. We are all aware that full supervision is almost impossible. I suspect that we will discuss that at another time and place.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:15 am, 11th March 2003

I am grateful for the Minister's clarification. I want to know whether he has given an assurance to the Committee that there would not need to be a change in the law. I understood him to say that there would need to be a change in the law to extend the counter-terrorism provisions so that positive instructions would be given to the police to ensure that there would be a check on criminal records by the Criminal Records Bureau prior to an applicant taking up his appointment. I accept that that would lead to difficulties for new teachers, but it is extraordinary that we could face a fairly major disaster because of the current loophole.

The Minister said that criminal checks will be made, particularly on new applicants who apply initially for aviation and maritime services and, we hope, for railway services in future. Only taking the word of the applicant is, I regret, insufficient. Have I understood correctly that the right hon. Gentleman has assured us that a full check will be made by the Criminal Records Bureau without the need for the law to be changed?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

for full possession of a pass to enter a restricted zone, we have powers to require police record checks. We will bring in regulations. That is a different issue from the listing of companies, which we are now discussing.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.