It is good to see you in the Chair, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate Douglas Ross on bringing the debate to the Chamber. This is clearly an issue that he feels passionately about—and quite right, too.
I start by paying tribute to the officers and staff of the British Transport police for their dedicated service and hard work in making safe the journeys of millions of passengers every day—not just on the rail network, but on services such as the London underground, docklands light railway, Emirates air line, Glasgow subway and others.
The officers of British Transport police have been involved in some of the most difficult and dangerous incidents and policing operations in living memory, including the 1987 King’s Cross underground fire; dealing with numerous IRA bomb threats; rail crashes at Southall, Paddington, Hatfield, Potters Bar and Selby; and the response to the 7/7 terror attacks on underground trains near Edgware Road, King’s Cross and Aldgate. Whatever our views are on the future structure of transport policing, we are all united in offering our thanks to those officers and staff.
Although the British Transport police draws its authority from an Act of Parliament from 2003, it can trace its history back to 1830, allowing it to claim to be one of the world’s oldest police forces. Its history is also one of numerous reinventions and reorganisations to meet the challenges of the times. In the same way, each of the Governments of the UK are called on to make sure transport policing is prepared for current and future challenges. These are challenging times—or, as the British n authority’s 2013 plan put it,
“a period that will require unprecedented change in railway policing” to provide exceptional service quality at reduced cost.
Different proposals have come forward. As we have heard, in last year’s elections Conservative MPs across the UK stood on a manifesto that included the pledge:
“We will create a national infrastructure police force, bringing together the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police and the British Transport Police to improve the protection of critical infrastructure such as nuclear sites, railways and the strategic road network.”
In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan commissioned a review by the Labour peer Lord Harris of Haringey into London’s ability to deal with a terrorist attack. Noting that the Home Office is currently exploring options for merging certain national policing functions, his lordship reported that
The outgoing Met Police Commissioner said there was a “good argument” for a merger, because the current set-up is “confusing” and such a merger could achieve “improved operational effectiveness” in responding to terror attacks.