British Transport Police/ Police Scotland Merger — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:59 am on 6th March 2018.

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Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Labour, Edinburgh South 9:59 am, 6th March 2018

I will not, if the hon. Gentleman doesn’t mind, because of the time. Other people want to speak.

Many people have asked for a commissioning arrangement to be set up that would allow the Scottish Government to commission BTP services and the chief constable to be directly accountable to the Scottish Parliament—and perhaps even the UK Parliament—for the operation of the Scottish side of BTP. That arrangement would be based on a framework that everyone was happy with. The shadow Justice Secretary in Scotland, Daniel Johnson MSP, called for a pause, and I am delighted that one has been put in place. I hope that the Minister listens seriously to what the people who actually police our safety, our borders and our transport system say about how such a commissioning arrangement may work in the longer term.

The pension fund is a huge issue. No one has any confidence that the integration would be done properly, because the creation of Police Scotland was botched. I will not go into the VAT issue, but the SNP created a problem by ensuring that Police Scotland was no longer able to apply for section 33 VAT exemption. They said that it did not matter and blamed the UK Government for removing Police Scotland from the exemption. The UK Government then said that they would exempt Police Scotland again, and the SNP claimed victory and blamed the UK Government for its removal in the first place.

I use that example not to make a political point but to say that it is little wonder that police forces, police officers and people who work in the sector have no confidence that the integration can be done properly. The pension fund is a big issue. It is a small fund, and I understand from one of the pensioners in it that it is in surplus. Integrating it or taking away the safety net of the wider British Transport police pension fund would certainly be detrimental to current pensioners and future pensioners. I hope that the Minister will look very seriously at working with his Scottish counterparts to ensure that any integration is done properly and will look at the commissioning proposals.