New clause 4 closes a gap in the existing powers at part 2 of the Public Order Act 1986 for policing public processions and assemblies. It does so by harmonising the position between on one hand the territorial police forces, those covering a geographical force area, and on the other hand the British Transport police and Ministry of Defence police force.
The present position is that the territorial forces are able to exercise those powers, but the British Transport police and MOD police are not. New clause 4 extends to those forces some of the powers of part 2 of the 1986 Act where there is an operational case for doing so. It does not extend all the part 2 powers, as not all are relevant to the functions of those forces. I emphasise that new clause 4 does not create any new powers, nor does it broaden existing ones. It simply serves to close a potential gap in jurisdiction by extending certain existing powers to these two additional non-territorial police forces. The powers contain various limitations and safeguards. For example, only the most senior of the officers present may exercise the powers, and there is a requirement that the officer must reasonably believe that the assembly may result in certain forms of serious disorder. These limitations and safeguards are replicated in new clause 4.
These modest and proportionate measures largely seek to address an anomaly in the powers currently available to our specialist non-territorial forces. I imagine it would surprise the British public that the British Transport police in particular does not have these powers.