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.

Alert me about debates like this

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

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. That point came out strongly in one of the submissions to the consultation, talking about things such as the management of football fans and ensuring that that is done through co-ordination between Scotland and England. It is important that we see that integration continue.

Coming back to issues of expertise, the British Transport Police Federation chairman, Nigel Goodband, said:

“Given the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, and the ongoing and significant threat from terrorism, I am writing to you as a matter of urgency to implore you to suspend the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.”

Here we have somebody in a lead position of expertise imploring the Scottish Government to put this proposal, as it is presented today, on ice, who is backed by the trade unions, the police and Labour.

We need to ensure greater alignment and good collaboration—I think everybody in this debate would agree with that—but we must remember that policing is needed across borders too. Rail does not respect borders, and neither does crime. If this is about keeping the public safe, we need to ensure that we have good communications between station staff and police throughout the network and on board the trains. We cannot afford to lose or regress on the skills that have been developed over time. We are talking about 284 staff and officers who have gained those skills over numerous years and built up a specialism.

We must respect specialism in the police, but many issues are now pulling that expertise away from the service. Many people say they will leave—I believe it is 16% of experienced officers and staff—with 14% going elsewhere in the British Transport police and 22% uncertain over the future. They are uncertain because there is no clarity on pensions and terms and conditions. We are talking about not only existing staff, but the future workforce, who have not been referred to in the debate.

I welcome Audit Scotland’s reviewing the debacle that this has turned out to be, but I also press it on the Minister today that we should see a pause in the laying of orders before the House and ensure that the work goes back to the scoping phase, to reflect properly on the responses to the consultation, which reject the SNP’s proposals, and instead to put forward a sensible model of greater alignment and collaboration as we move forward, thereby ensuring that public safety is put first.