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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:38 am on 6th March 2018.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:38 am, 6th March 2018

The hon. Gentleman has just had 10 minutes, and I need to make progress.

We also need to understand that more work should have been done on the three options that were presented, because clearly only one option was looked at. I believe the Scottish Government had a responsibility to dive deeper into each of those options from the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee to find the right model in moving forward, and that that would have led to the safest option. We need to ensure that those options are now revisited and reviewed, to make sure proper scoping work is carried out and to understand the impact of that. If option 1, talking about the greater alignment of institutions, is taken, it might be recognised that that is as far as it needs to go to ensure complete public safety across the railway. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian has highlighted, the commissioning model of Transport for London, working in an integrated, collaborative way, is another option, and there might be a hybrid model that comes forward once we have been able to review the situation as it is. We need to go back and review those options.

We also need to understand how complex the situation is, not least because we are negotiating across a range of bodies. We have to go back to the fragmented railway system as it is, with the different franchise operators servicing the Scottish railways. Labour wants to see a much more integrated, nationalised railway, which would certainly make things far simpler, but it is important that we look at these issues in the time we are in.

We must think about the specific issues that the transport police are involved in. Of course, that is not isolated from community policing. In my York Central constituency, the transport police have worked closely with the police in dealing with antisocial behaviour and tackling alcohol consumption on trains, making my city safer. That collaboration is vital, but the key is collaboration and working together. It is not changing systems to suit a particular narrative, which, I am afraid, is what this debate has steered into. We also need to be mindful of the integration of the work of the British Transport police with, for instance, that of the guards. We have seen assaults rising quite sharply on our rail network, which is why Labour is committed to ensuring that we have guards on our trains to make the public safe. It is an integrated role.

There are specific roles: dealing with missing and vulnerable children is a big issue for the transport police, as is dealing with public safety at railway stations. Mental health challenges are a big issue that the police have to address at stations, including the specifics of trying to engage with the public to reduce the risk of suicide and harm. One hon. Member raised in the debate the issue of being able to access the rail line, because of vulnerable people finding their way on to railway lines, or trespass. There are specific tasks with specific training that are done by the British Transport police. If we fragment the service, where is that specialist training going to come from without the years and years of expertise built up in providing that access?