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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:57 am on 6th March 2018.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 10:57 am, 6th March 2018

First, I thank you, Mr Hollobone, for the way you have chaired this robust but respectful debate. I also thank my hon. Friend Bill Grant and the hon. Members for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray), for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) and for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney). I also thank the Front-Bench spokespeople for their contributions, particularly the Minister.

I have to pick up on a couple of points from the speeches made by Scottish National party Members, which I have to say were disappointing. They mentioned that terms and conditions had been progressed. This is an issue that we have considerable concern over, but SNP Members seem quite happy. However, their own Justice Minister in Scotland, Michael Matheson, said that the pause would allow extra time to allow more engagement with the BTP Federation on pay and conditions. Even their own Justice Minister in Scotland does not think they have gone far enough on that.

Alan Brown mentioned IT and how that would be a positive of the merger. However, the Rail Delivery Group, in its briefing for the debate, said that the failure to progress the implantation of ICT systems was one of the biggest hazards of the merger. It went on to say that discussions suggest that the earliest an equivalence system in place would be in April 2021—two years beyond the proposed April 2019 date, which has fortunately been paused.

We are all fortunate in Scotland to have the strong influence of BTP officers in our constituencies. In my constituency of Moray, they were very active during the recent construction of the new Forres railway station. I welcome the support that we have had from pretty much across the Chamber for the pause to now be used as an opportunity to consider options going forward. I am disappointed that SNP Members trotted out the party mantra, unwilling to look at alternative options. However, there are options, and we are in a pause, so we should look at them. They would allow us to respect the devolution settlement and the views of experts.

I will use my final words to praise the commitment, dedication and expertise of British Transport police officers, and indeed all Police Scotland officers. Their unstinting service keeps us safe across Scotland and the United Kingdom.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered proposals for the merger of British Transport Police Scottish division with Police Scotland.