That the draft Order laid before the House on 13 September 2017 be approved.
Considered in Grand Committee on 29 November 2017.
My Lords, the order before the House has been made to ensure that the policy set out in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 can be fully implemented.
That Act contains a number of provisions which arise from Lord Carloway’s review of Scottish criminal law and practice. These include reforms of arrest and custody laws designed to provide flexibility for police in conducting investigations while ensuring fairness for suspects. It will also allow suspects access to a lawyer whether or not they are to be interviewed by the police. In addition, the Act specifically states that the police have a duty not to deprive people of their liberty unnecessarily.
As a consequence of some of these measures it is necessary either to amend the law elsewhere in the United Kingdom or to make provision in relation to Scotland, where the reforms apply to reserved matters. Making such amendments is not within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, so it is necessary for this order to be laid before the United Kingdom Parliament. It is made under Section 104 of the Scotland Act 1998, which allows the UK Government to make legislative changes which are necessary or expedient in consequence of an Act of the Scottish Parliament.
The order makes provisions about arrests effected both in Scotland, and outside Scotland, in connection with crimes committed in Scotland and the investigation of Scots law crimes and extradition matters in Scotland. The draft order was previously considered in Grand Committee on 29 November. At that time, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, raised some concerns. Specifically, he was troubled by the impending merger of the British Transport Police with Police Scotland—a position I might add that was shared by many in this House. The noble Lord declared the move to be,
“dangerous, reckless and ought to be stopped”.—[Official Report, 29/11/17; col. GC 9.]
That brings us to the amendment this evening. There is always a danger in seeking to anticipate the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, before he has made them, but it is important to recognise that while this order touches on the British Transport Police tangentially, it is not its principal focus. In so far as the British Transport Police operates across the United Kingdom, the order will have no impact whatever on the ongoing merger of the policing of Scottish railways. It is for that reason I beg to move.
Amendment to the Motion
At end to insert “but that this House regrets that the draft Order includes provisions relating to the British Transport Police; and calls upon Her Majesty’s Government to review the operation of those provisions in the light of concerns that incorporating British Transport Police into Police Scotland will reduce operational effectiveness.”
My Lords, it is a great pleasure for me to move this amendment. When the Minister said that the merger was,
“dangerous, reckless and ought to be stopped”,
I thought he was going to make my speech for me, which would have been unusual—and unusually kind as well. He rightly said on the actual specifics of the order that, if we were to vote against it, it would not necessarily achieve what I want to achieve. What I want to achieve can be achieved using this debate as a lever, and an opportunity to put pressure on the Minister. I shall come to that in a moment. It is a really important and urgent issue, which is why I welcome debating it on the Floor of the House.
What I am urging is not, as the Scottish Transport Minister has mischievously been claiming, that the devolution of British Transport Police should be reversed totally. What I want to argue and press is that there should be an agreement between the Scottish Government and the UK Government on the form that devolution should take. There is great and growing concern, as the Minister and others have acknowledged, about the plan to integrate the British Transport Police in Scotland into Police Scotland. It would be only the Scottish part of the British Transport Police that is integrated into another force. It obviously would not happen in England.
Quite apart from the current operational problems at Police Scotland, which no doubt others will touch on, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has said that no business case has been made for the merger. The Association of Retired British Transport Police Officers has written to me expressing concern about the pension implications. Those noble Lords who have had the opportunity to read the Scotsman will have seen that around two-thirds of British Transport Police officers have said that they are unsure whether they will transfer to Police Scotland if the merger goes ahead. That would undermine the whole position and really create problems.
In the consultation on the proposed merger carried out by the Scottish Government, a large majority of respondents opposed it. But that has been totally ignored by the Scottish Government. When the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee considered this last year, both the Labour and Tory Members—there were no Liberal Democrat Members on the Committee—opposed the amalgamation, but it was pushed through by the SNP majority. When it came to the Scottish Parliament itself, Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat opposed it but, again, with their friends the Greens the SNP Government pushed it through.
My Lords, with characteristic vigour, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, has laid out the many misgivings that have been expressed about the proposed merger—it is not even a merger but a dismemberment of the British Transport Police, with the Scottish part of it being put into Police Scotland. Many of the arguments were rehearsed when your Lordships’ House debated the devolution of legislative competence for dealing with the policing of railways and railway premises during the passage of the Scotland Act back in 2016.
Before coming back to that, perhaps I may do the unforgivable and talk about what the order and the amendment say. As the noble Lord, Lord Duncan, indicated, the order takes forward the response by the Scottish Parliament to a decision of the Supreme Court on which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, sat in the Cadder case. I have a vivid memory of the time, because the Scottish Parliament had to pass emergency legislation immediately to address the breach of the European Convention on Human Rights that had been identified by the Supreme Court. At the time, as Advocate-General for Scotland, I had to take careful note of what was going on in the Scottish Parliament. We had a TV monitor of the parliamentary proceedings in my office because we had to decide very quickly whether we wished to make reference to the Supreme Court if we thought that any Bill had gone beyond the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and whether any amendments being passed right up to the last minute would change that. It was open to me under Section 33(3) of the Scotland Act 1998 to indicate to the Presiding Officer that I would not use the four weeks available to consider whether there should be a reference to the Supreme Court and to indicate that I would not refer it. At that point, with concurrence from the Attorney-General and the Lord Advocate, the Bill could go immediately for Royal Assent, and that is what happened.
It was always anticipated that there would have to be further legislation, which came along six years later, but with the benefit of a review undertaken by the then Lord Justice Clerk, now Lord Justice General Carloway. It is the provisions of that 2016 Act—which, I should point out, received Royal Assent two months before the Scotland Act 2016, to put into perspective what we are debating today—that give rise to the order. As the Minister said in his opening remarks, many of the provisions are to increase the rights of suspects held in detention and deal with the powers of police. Because the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate for police outside Scotland in relation to an arrest made in respect of a crime committed in Scotland, or make legislative provision for the British Transport Police—at least, it could not in 2016—the order is necessary to ensure that if the British Transport Police, for example, arrest someone, that person should have the same rights as if they were arrested by a constable of Police Scotland.
That is perfectly proper. These are the provisions of the order that relate to the British Transport Police, along with a further provision relating to stop and search powers, which are important and which we do not regret—far from it. I rather suspect that if Her Majesty’s Government reviewed the operation of the provisions in the light of incorporating the British Transport Police into Police Scotland, they might well find that it makes things simpler, because it would not need to be included in the order.
That is why I have misgivings about supporting the amendment, but it is important to reflect on some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. It is important to say at the outset that the integration of the Scottish part of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland was not a recommendation of the commission under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Kelvin. It recommended devolution of legislative competence in relation to the policing of railways and railway premises and that the British Transport Police should become a cross-border authority. It is the SNP’s interpretation that it has to be integrated into Police Scotland. Integration was only one of three options that the British Transport Police working group identified. Significantly, it was the option with the highest degree of risk and was opposed by most stakeholders.
The noble Lord mentioned the recent report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland. He found in paragraph 47:
“As the decision to transfer BTP’s functions in Scotland to Police Scotland was a Ministerial decision, no single, detailed and authoritative business case which articulates the benefits, disadvantages or costs of the transfer to Police Scotland was developed”.
In many respects, the Scottish Parliament has been asked to do this blind but, as we have heard, there is a majority. There was a failure to consult in any meaningful way, a failure to work out how we maintain the detailed expertise of the British Transport Police on the railways post-merger, how costs would be assigned and how potential disputes would be resolved. That is being done at a time when it is fair to say that considerable challenges face Police Scotland as a result of what I and my party believe was a botched centralisation. Indeed, my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Scottish Parliament were lonely voices when they made the case against the centralisation of Police Scotland. We have seen a succession of resignations, suspensions of senior officers and early retirements, both in Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority. We welcome Susan Deacon’s appointment and hope she can get a grip on things, as she has recently taken the reins. There has been a failed IT project and a report from the Auditor-General in Scotland referring to a number of instances of poor governance and poor use of public money. If that had happened in the second biggest police force in England, let alone the second biggest in the United Kingdom, we would probably have had a “Panorama” special by now. I am not sure why the media have not latched on to what has been going on.
I do not think the time is right at all for this merger. There are other issues which the Chief Inspector of Constabulary has identified in his findings. Among them are the facts that full costs have not been assessed, and the financial impact on railway policy in England and Wales of transfer of railway policing in Scotland has not yet been fully assessed. In that respect, will the Minister tell us, if it transpires that there are costs to transport policing in England and Wales, under the various memorandums of understanding with regard to allocation of costs, where will that cost fall? Will it fall to the Scottish Government to bear? That will undoubtedly be important as things go forward.
The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, raised the potential issue of transfer of property. Are there any consequential orders or steps that have to be taken under the Railway Policing (Scotland) Act 2017 that would involve the United Kingdom Government in giving full effect to that? What would be the UK Government’s policy in relation to it? As the noble Lord said, there is some leverage here, and I hope it is used sensitively.
It is also fair, however, to acknowledge that this Parliament, including this House, agreed to the devolution of railway policing in Scotland. I was going to say that the ship has sailed but it is probably better to say that the train has left the station. It is a matter for the Scottish Parliament. My Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Scottish Parliament, supported by Labour and Conservative MSPs, sought to delay the merger until 2027 at the very earliest, failing which to oppose it outright—but it was a decision of the Scottish Parliament to reject that delay and, indeed, to support what happened. It would be remiss of this House to gainsay what has been done by the elected Scottish Parliament, but there are issues still to be determined and some indication of the Government’s stance on those would be very welcome.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord may be correct about the train having left the station, but I remind him that during the passage of the Scotland Act as it now is many of us warned about this problem—and he himself made a speech exactly saying that. But such was the political imperative from some people not to be seen doing anything that would cause an upset with the Scottish nationalists that we allowed this to go ahead. The result is that we are looking at the prospect of the destruction of an organisation that has served this United Kingdom well for more than two centuries. Is it two centuries, or over two centuries?
Since 1826. Okay, so it is almost two centuries—certainly since there were first proper means of crossing the border at speed.
I just find it extraordinary. What can possibly be driving this? What can be the motivation? At a time when we are threatened by lone wolf terrorists, travelling around the country, when we have seen attacks in Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham, what on earth could be driving this? Why would someone want to break up an organisation which has a proven track record of success, which has shown great expertise, and which is specialist in its nature? How will the practical problems be resolved? Does the policeman have to get off at the station as soon as the train reaches the border and someone else come on board? What is driving this? I have come to the conclusion that the answer lies in the name—the British Transport Police. This is the sort of ideological battle that we thought we had put behind us in Scotland being translated into something that threatens the security of people in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
There is no station at the border at all, whatever, in Scotland, between Scotland and England. The first station is Carlisle, which is in England.
There is also Berwick. Of course, the noble Lord is right about that, but the people who are responsible for this act of vandalism—because that is what it is—would want to have a station there because they want to have a border there. That is the point that I want to make.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, made the kind of speech that we expected from him—a very careful, legalistic speech that points out, quite correctly, that what the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, is proposing is not really relevant to what we are all talking about. I hope that he will not press the amendment to a vote, because I would find it very difficult to vote against this measure, for the reasons that the noble and learned Lord gave. I would find it difficult to vote in favour of his regret amendment, but I absolutely agree with him in his analysis of what needs to happen and on the levers that are available to Ministers to prevent it from happening.
One point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, made that I thought was very interesting is about who will bear the costs of this, if it happens. I remind the House of the famous no-detriment principle, under which the costs of having to put this right for the rest of the United Kingdom should be borne by the Scottish Parliament. So not only will the taxpayer lose out in Scotland but also the citizen from the point of view of security.
I make one final point. I do not want to repeat all the arguments put forward at the time of the Scotland Act, as it now is, in 2016. The conduct of the Scottish Government in respect of Scottish policing is extremely worrying for everyone in the United Kingdom. We have a situation whereby a police chief constable has been on leave for some time while accusations were investigated. The Scottish Police Authority on 8 November wrote to the chief constable asking him to come back to work on 10 November, and the Scottish Police Minister, Mr Matheson, overruled the independent authority and told it to withdraw the letter asking the chief constable to come back to work. The independence of the police from political action is a fundamental part of our constitution; so is the rest of the United Kingdom really happy for the British Transport Police to be put in the hands of a Government who show little respect for the independence of police authorities or the constitutional principles involved?
I was very much opposed to creating a single police authority in Scotland for the very reason that it creates a risk of political interference in the operations of the police. That single authority has been created; it has not produced any of the savings that were considered likely to arise, and it has created a huge problem of morale. There have been several examples whereby Police Scotland has fallen below the very high standards that we have been used to in a generation. I say to the Scottish Nationalist Government in Edinburgh, first put your house in order before you wish to destroy an organisation such as the British Transport Police. There is a duty on Ministers to do everything that they can to prevent this from happening, albeit that the powers lie. I commend the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and agree with him in his objectives, but not—
In his contribution, the noble Lord mentioned terrorism, which is a critical issue. I speak from the other side of the border—Cumbria—where we of course have the experience of two other police constabularies: the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police. These are absolutely critical in the way that we monitor possible terrorism. Have these two forces played any part in the debate in Scotland?
I do not know the answer to that question but I am sure my noble friend the Minister will be happy to deal with that when he comes to reply. I know others want to contribute so I ought to sit down, but I hope that, in his response, the Minister can offer some comfort. This matter is about not just Scotland but the security of the whole of the United Kingdom and a Government putting politics before the safety of the people.
My Lords, I come in just after the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, because I agree with a great deal of what he said. Unlike him, however, I was a great advocate for a national police force in Scotland. I have spent a lot of my professional life in the Nordic countries and they all, without exception, have a national police service. I saw no reason why Scotland could not exactly fit the same mould of an excellent national police force.
However, like a lot of other people, I have been underwhelmed by the way that the concept—I still believe in the principle—has been implemented in Scotland, but I do not believe that this is the right place or time to talk about the ills and misfortunes of Police Scotland. What I would say—and I will try to be very brief and not repeat what has been said already—is that it seems absolute folly to think of going for an amalgamation of a very professional, exceptionally efficient force like the British Transport Police, with its special expertise in anti-terrorism, which is of very great relevance right now. To try to amalgamate that with Police Scotland—even if Police Scotland was not in such a dire situation in many directions—would, at the best of times, lead to a situation of uncertainly and change. We really should not inflict this on the country. Apart from efficiencies and principles, there is also the question of the effect on the security of the country, and I really think it should be avoided at all costs.
The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, in his customary understated and quiet way, has introduced this proposal and, I have to say, it brings back memories of when we discussed the Scotland Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has pointed out, every concern that Members expressed at that stage has been borne out. I believe there is an overwhelming national interest in this, not simply a Scottish interest. The British Transport Police is a national police force in Great Britain. Its expertise is unique in this country. The policing requirements, training and experience of a normal, geographical, territorial constabulary are entirely different from a transport-based police force, which does a very specialist job. Policing trains, rail lines, stations and all that goes with the transport network is an entirely different discipline, requiring different training, different equipment and a completely separate constabulary—which is exactly what we have. All the reports that have been written about it have indicated that it is performing well and according to target. I understand the point that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, makes about the legal position and I accept that there is devolution, but there is a national interest here which, in my opinion, should overrule a simple matter of devolved matters. I ask the Minister, in his summing up, to address this.
There is an example, which the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, mentioned and which I think came up in the 2016 debate. We understand that the Scottish Parliament will want a say and an interest in what is happening in Scotland—a perfectly reasonable position—and there is a way of doing this, as the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, pointed out, with the chief constable going not only to the Scottish Minister of Justice but perhaps the Scottish Parliament or the relevant Scottish police authority. There is a precedent for this. We had an argument in Northern Ireland over the jurisdiction of the National Crime Agency. A lot of people objected strongly to that, but the Government took the view that, because they had UK-wide responsibilities, because gangsters operated across and between islands, and because of the necessary expertise that was required, the National Crime Agency had to have a role in Northern Ireland. The argument was whether an officer of the National Crime Agency could have the powers of a constable. That was blocked for quite some time until a settlement was reached. The settlement was that the head of the National Crime Agency would go to the Policing Board and would contact the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. They would do that as and when required, but at least annually, so that there was a clear link between what was happening in the two forces.
We raised the question in the debate in 2016 about the contracts, and we have already heard some disturbing statistics mentioned by other Members about the numbers of police officers who may not wish to transfer. The fact is, the expertise and experience is going to be lost. We had that problem when the Police Service of Northern Ireland came in and we lost enormous numbers of detectives, for example. It has taken years to get that experience back. What happens if it is the same for the British Transport Police? We have to remember—the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, made the point—that, in mainland Europe, there have been a number of attacks on trains, where a terrorist gets on in one country, travels to another and the explosions and deaths occurred on the way. This is one way in which they move around their equipment and terrorist activities. I am not an expert on Police Scotland, but any territorial constabulary does not have this expertise, experience or capability. Who is going to train them? The only people who have that experience currently are the British Transport Police.
I am very much of the view that this is an ideologically driven proposal by the Scottish Government because it is the “British” Transport Police. I sincerely hope that this is not the reason but, were it to be the reason, is it any justification for putting the safety of the people of the United Kingdom at risk simply to abide by an ideological demand? The United Kingdom Government have a responsibility for national security which overrides any devolved institution. I sincerely hope that, in his reply, the Minister will agree at least to look at this and to engage with the Scottish Government to see if he can persuade them to see common sense. The UK Government and the Secretary of State for Scotland have a responsibility to ensure the security of Scotland as part of the United Kingdom—we should exercise that.
These proposals are devoid of merit in my view. There is a way out—which has been set out very clearly—that will ensure that devolution is respected; that the Scottish Government are given their place; that the Minister of Justice will have regular reports, both written and verbal, when he or she would require them; and that the policing board in Scotland and/or a committee of the Scottish Parliament should be able to call upon the chief constable of the British Transport Police if they felt it necessary. All those things could be done. We can have a win-win situation for everybody, where national security is guaranteed and the Scottish Government are given their place. That would be the way ahead and I sincerely hope that the Minister will take it upon himself to go back and ask the Scottish Government to revisit this issue.
My Lords, I will not delay the House long. I have not yet had the opportunity to speak to the Minister across the Dispatch Box and therefore welcome him to his post. However, I would be grateful if he could answer some troubling questions.
My noble friend Lord Foulkes said that there are two counterterrorism forces in the United Kingdom: one is the Metropolitan Police, the other is the British Transport Police. What discussions have taken place between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government on ensuring that intelligence transfer, which is absolutely critical in the fight against terrorism, is in no way compromised by this decision? I take on board the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Empey, about the expertise and experience of a force that has to deal with problems such as terrorism. There is an accumulated knowledge that cannot necessarily be written down. It comprises a knowledge, an instinct and a recognition of where problems lie.
Over the weekend, we saw the figures mentioned by my noble friend Lord Foulkes—namely, that about two-thirds of the British Transport Police do not wish to go down this transfer route. How will the capability of the new force match the knowledge and experience of the existing British Transport Police? These issues should be above and beyond party political concerns. We all know what the terrible attack on Glasgow Airport felt like. We know the difficulties of communicating intelligence to people who may not have a background in the intelligence community. I look to the Minister for reassurance that this is being discussed with the Scottish Government, the Metropolitan Police and the police forces in England, and with the intelligence and security services for the whole United Kingdom.
The noble Lord, Lord Empey, mentioned the extent to which we have seen all aspects of transport, including trains, being used as a means of promoting terrorism. We need reassurance on this. Like many of my noble friends and noble Lords, I am concerned about the jingoism around this issue: it has to have Scotland and a tartan stamp on it. We are dealing here with people’s lives and livelihoods. The lives are more important than anything. We need answers. I say from this side of the House that we need reassurance from the Government that they, too, share this concern and are raising it in a pointed and deliberate manner to get the kind of answers that will keep people safe not just north of the border but south of it as well.
My Lords, I too will be extremely brief. For many years, I have helped, supported and encouraged the British Transport Police and I remember very well the Act that went through and the concerns that we had then about what would happen if the BTP were joined with Police Scotland. I agree with my noble friend that this is not about the BTP joining Police Scotland, although I am sad about that because that is really what we are all talking about.
I admit that the example I am about to give may not be a very good one, but I want to draw your Lordships’ attention to what happened when the royal parks police force was promised that the parks would continue to be policed adequately when it was merged with the Metropolitan Police. That did not happen—did it?—because the Metropolitan Police force is far too busy to be involved with looking after parks. As I said, this is not an ideal example but it indicates what could well happen if the measure we are discussing goes ahead—and so it will when the BTP joins Police Scotland, which I am afraid is not a very shining example of a police force. What happens what a train reaches the border? I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, who asked exactly the same question about what happens either side of the border. Will the BTP have to disembark and hand over to the relevant other branch of the BTP? What will it call itself, because it will not be British anymore? I predict—
We should remember that Scotland does not have a border only with England, but also with Northern Ireland. All that separates us is the Irish Sea. What will happen to the ferries? Will the British Transport Police and the Scottish police change mid-Irish Sea? Will we set up a hard border between Scotland and Northern Ireland? Are we taking Scotland out of that equation? This is more about nationalism than devolution.
The noble Baroness makes a good point and I concur with what she says. I predict that this will go horribly wrong at some point and that is a real shame. I hope that the noble Lord has listened very carefully to the views that have been clearly expressed around the House, and certainly the resolution that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, talked about, as that will be extremely important.
My Lords, as a fairly frequent traveller on the east coast railway line from Edinburgh to London King’s Cross, I would like to say a word or two about this issue. As the noble Lord, Lord Maxton, pointed out, there is no train station at the border, which you reach a little north of Berwick-upon-Tweed on your way to Dunbar. As I understand the situation, that means that in order to police effectively south of the border, British Transport Police officers will have to get on to the train at Waverley in Edinburgh, so they will travel the whole way down the line, as they do at present. Going north, they cannot get off at Berwick-upon-Tweed, because they still have several miles to run in England before they reach the Scottish border, and they will have to travel all the way to Waverley.
Therefore, the ridiculous situation created by this proposal by the Scottish National Party is that the British Transport Police force will remain on the train, as it does at present. It will cease to provide the kind of security north of the border that the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, talked about, although to do its job effectively in England, it will have to travel the whole journey. Therefore, members of the Scottish police force will be travelling on the train, getting off at Berwick if they are lucky—but not every train stops there—going all the way down to Newcastle and then having to travel all the way back again. I cannot speak for the west coast line because I am not so familiar with it, but presumably the same problem applies there, and you have to travel at least to Carlisle before you can get off the train.
It is even worse on the west coast, because Carlisle is even further south than Berwick-upon-Tweed.
My Lords, a curious feature of this measure is that if British Transport Police officers are brave enough to exercise their powers as British Transport Police officers north of the border, they are given the power to do that by paragraph 2 of Schedule 2. In fact, the paragraph is consistent with the idea that we do not go ahead with the merger at all. It is a perfectly sensible method of solving the problem which the Smith commission had to face up to, which was to say that the functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland will be a devolved matter. That is a perfectly sensible proposition. What has gone wrong is the Scottish National Party’s interpretation of it, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, said.
For all the reasons that others have given, I am strongly against the merger. However, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, I cannot see anything wrong with the order we are asked to consider. Therefore, if the Motion were pressed, I regret that I would have to vote with the Government because that is the state of play. However, I entirely sympathise with the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, to the Minister. Given the practical example I have given to the Minister, I hope that he can point out to the Scottish National Party that it is a waste of public money to have two police officers travelling on the train from Newcastle all the way to Edinburgh and back again just to solve the problem of the merger which it is trying to advance.
My Lords, in opening the debate, the Minister referred to the degree of opposition to this proposal in this House. He was not wrong in that. He could also have mentioned the degree of opposition in the Scottish Parliament, most particularly among his colleagues in the Conservative Party, who are on record as opposing this proposal most vigorously, particularly Ruth Davidson. He could have included the Liberal Democrats and the Labour opposition in the Scottish Parliament as well. But above all, he should have mentioned the opposition of the British Transport Police and the British Transport Police Authority. When it gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament in March, it said that dealing with fatalities, for example, could take 50% longer under the new plans, and that,
“there is well-defined evidence that a non-specialist force is less able to provide the consistent levels of service that a dedicated policing commitment can offer”.
Decades of experience of dealing with IRA threats would be lost, and the work that the BTP undertakes as the lead authority on scrap metal theft across the whole of Great Britain would also be lost if this proposal went through.
Fortunately, there is an opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to think again about the model of devolution which it is putting forward. Indeed, it would have been helpful if this House had passed the amendment which a number of us tabled almost exactly two years ago, which made it clear that, while we were not opposed to devolution of transport policing in Scotland, that devolution should be on the basis that a force linked to the British Transport Police should be the agency that carries it out. I spoke to the chief constable of the British Transport Police, and he is entirely happy with that. Indeed, in its evidence to the Scottish Parliament the BTP said that it is happy to have a direct relationship with Scottish Ministers and with Holyrood. If it is necessary to change the name of the force in Scotland, for the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, referred to, that is possible—there is no reason why it should not be called “Transport Police Scotland” or “Scotland Transport Police”. Nobody is hung up on the name of the British Transport Police. What matters is that the job is done properly and in the most effective way.
The noble Lord says that nobody is hung up on the name of the British Transport Police, but the Scottish National Party is.
The noble Lord is of course absolutely right.
I will finish by picking up one of the points that the noble Lord made and adding to it. He referred to the no-detriment principle in the Smith commission report. Principle 5 of that report says that the package of powers agreed through the Smith commission process should,
“not cause detriment to the UK as a whole nor to any of its constituent parts”.
It is evident that there is a financial implication. There is also an implication for travellers travelling between England and Scotland, who will suffer a detriment, as a number of speakers in this debate have indicated. Therefore, when the Minister goes back to talk to the Scottish Government, he must take seriously the need for that no-detriment principle to be applied and impress on them that it certainly applies in this case.
My Lords, I hope that the Minister will be able to answer on behalf of the United Kingdom Government and not simply on behalf of the Scotland Office, because this raises a whole number of implications. The idea of integrating the Scottish component of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland raises a number of issues.
I admit that when I first heard about this proposal, the cynical part of me—which colleagues will know is not often to the fore—assumed that this was about the following. As I understand it, when, in its wisdom, the Scottish Parliament created Police Scotland, it agreed a floor on the number of police officers. Indeed, the different parties were bidding against each other as to quite where that floor should be. I would like to know whether the officers transferred will be part of that floor or not. The motivation behind all this may well be that, rather than change the floor, which would obviously raise all sorts of difficult political issues, this is a way to ensure that the floor is achieved simply by transferring in from outside a number of officers from the British Transport Police. Perhaps the Minister can tell us how many officers are concerned and where they sit with regard to the statutory floor in terms of the British Transport Police.
The second question is about the viability of what is left of the British Transport Police; again, the British Government must, presumably, take this extremely seriously. What is the percentage or number of officers who are being taken out of the British Transport Police, and where does that leave the rest of the British Transport Police and its infrastructure and arrangements? Clearly, if that is the case, that raises big issues.
While the Minister is about it, perhaps he can tell us also what has become of the Government’s infrastructure policing review. Again, this is critical to the future of the British Transport Police. At one stage, the present Prime Minister, when she was Home Secretary, put forward a number of proposals which would have involved the Ministry of Defence Police, as has already been mentioned, and the Civil Nuclear Police Authority, bringing them together, possibly with elements of the British Transport Police. Was this part of some master plan to dismember the British Transport Police? If that still exists and the review is continuing, it makes it even more imperative that we look at the future of the British Transport Police. I assume that the Government, collectively, are doing that.
My Lords, as a former Transport Minister in Scotland who worked closely with the Labour Party to ensure that there was greater devolution of transport powers, particularly with regard to the railways in Scotland, of course I strongly support the principles of devolution that the Smith commission supported and which this Parliament legislated on. I also fully understand the position as explained by my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness, and as will no doubt be explained by the Minister again in his summing up. However, albeit that we understand the legislative position and there seems unlikely to be a vote this evening, we are very deeply concerned about what is proposed.
First, on the situation with Police Scotland, I was always opposed to the creation of a single police force in Scotland, and it has turned out to be a shambles and a failure. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, spoke about that eloquently. We have a situation where this decision by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament to try to get rid of the British Transport Police in Scotland has clearly been taken for dogmatic, doctrinaire, nationalistic reasons. We have heard from speaker after speaker that there are deep concerns about operational policing, the possible impact on the train operating companies, potentially higher fares, and the minimum police numbers—the floor that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, correctly identified. There is much concern about this wrong policy. Surely, whatever the legislative or legal position, in these circumstances we can call out the SNP Government and urge the Minister strongly this evening to do something about this situation. If strong action is not taken now, the UK dimension of the institution that is the British Transport Police and the co-operation and policies that we have learned about this evening to support anti-terrorist measures will be scrapped by a Scottish Government who put removing the word “British” first, and the quality of the service and of the work being done by that institution will be undermined and pushed to the back.
I am sure that we could point to other areas where we see this sort of erosion and wrong policy. There is a long list of UK institutions of real excellence in this country—I think of the education system, the research councils and the health service—where this sort of approach would be the wrong one to take, but we could be seeing the thin end of the wedge here. There are real concerns about pushing the boundaries in other policy areas. This is not about devolution; it is about dogma and nationalism. Therefore, this evening we should be really concerned about what is happening here, and we must urge the Minister, in his summing up, to give the sort of reassurance that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, is looking for. This issue is really important and we need to do something about it.
My Lords, I shall not go over all the things that we have already gone through. I have grave concerns about this issue—I had concerns about a single police force in Scotland—but I do not think that this is how the Government in Scotland look at it. We have seen this approach from this Government from the beginning. They suck powers up from local government and they suck powers down from the UK. This is all about getting independence by the back door. The noble Lord is absolutely right when he says that it is the thin edge of the wedge. Every time we pass legislation in this House with consequences for Edinburgh, they will jump on it and suck it up. It really is incumbent on the Minister to see that they do not cut the borders between England and Scotland and between Scotland and Northern Ireland, creating a Scotland-only enclave and taking all the powers to themselves.
My Lords, I shall be brief. In preparation for the debate two years ago, I checked with officials and Ministers in the Department for Transport here, first, whether they approved of this proposal and, secondly, whether they had been consulted. The answer was no in both cases. They did not know that it was happening. They shrugged their shoulders and said, “Well, the Government have decided to do it”, and the Labour Party at that time went along with it. That is why we had a debate two years ago and it is why we divided the House at half past eleven at night. We nearly won but not quite. However, we were right, and nearly everybody who has spoken tonight has confirmed that.
I want to make two points. As one noble Lord said, the BTP is funded in England and Wales by the operators and Network Rail. As we all know, Network Rail is now owned by the Government. So who is funding the BTP in Scotland, and what about Virgin Trains, which goes up the east and west coasts? Does it fund the police until it gets to Gretna or Berwick, and who is funding it beyond there? This affects the franchises. There is a problem with the franchise on the east coast main line at the moment.
Finally, I turn to Article 6 of the draft order. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, said, it allows the British Transport Police to cross territories. The British Transport Police from England may be able to go north into Scotland, but the order does not say anything about the Scottish police being able to chase people south of the border. Does that mean that they will have to get off at a station at around that point? I do not think that there is a station at Gretna any longer, but does it mean that they will have to get off at a station somewhere around there? If the British Transport Police is mentioned in this order as being allowed to go north to arrest people or whatever, I need an answer from the Minister on what will happen with regard to police going in the other direction. How will the Scottish transport police, or whatever they are to be called, be able to operate south of the border without them being mentioned in a new Article 6(d) in the order as being allowed to work extraterritorially? This situation seems extraordinary, and I look forward to the Minister’s answer.
My Lords, this debate has inevitably centred on Scotland and the British Transport Police, but civilian police forces such as the British Transport Police—I emphasise “civilian” police forces—were created for a particular reason. There are at least two other such police forces. The Ministry of Defence Police—not the “Redcaps”—and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary were similarly created for a particular reason.
Having lived for most of my life in the borderlands in the north of England on the opposite side to Scotland, I am very aware of those three civilian police forces, and I am interested in the Government’s reaction. If they concede on the British Transport Police but do not follow the sensible suggestions of my noble friend Lord Foulkes, what will happen to the Civil Nuclear Constabulary? I declare an interest as a former director of Sellafield. I shall be a bit circumspect in what I say about the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, but we should bear in mind even now the transport of material from Dounreay and other sites in Scotland to Sellafield. All those trains are accompanied by armed members of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, just as every defence establishment in Scotland is policed by the Ministry of Defence Police, a GB body. So, when we talk about this order, I am interested in what happens to the other comparable civilian police forces.
My Lords, if I say anything, I will only be repeating some of the things that have already been said a lot more eloquently. It only remains for me to say that we fully support and congratulate my noble friend Lord Foulkes of Cumnock on his determination and persistence in this matter. He has made a reasonable request. I know from previous experience that the Minister is a serious and flexible man, and I am quite sure that he will respond in a positive manner.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, on his brevity. I was hoping for a longer intervention so that I could just gather together some more of my papers before I began—they are piling up around me.
I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, for initiating this debate. The sheer number of contributions, and their quality and breadth, is testament to the need for this discussion. It is important for me to stress, however, that this debate was born of a particular order but, having heard several noble Lords, much of the discussion has not focused on the order itself. If your Lordships will forgive me, I will touch on the order at the outset because it is important to stress why it is before us tonight. I will then spend most of my time talking about the issues that have been raised.
I turn, first, to the purpose of the order. It has been laid simply to ensure that the measures contained in the 2016 Act that affect the law elsewhere in the UK, which apply to reserved matters in Scotland, can be amended as required. The Scottish Parliament cannot do that and we have to do it. That is the purpose of the order. It makes provisions about arrests effected both in Scotland and outside Scotland in connection with crimes committed in Scotland that are being investigated under Scots law or where extradition to Scotland has been necessary. In response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, this is the aspect that allows the British Transport Police to reach beyond and equalises the ability of the police to act in each other’s jurisdictions. That is already contained in the order.
These provisions are important because they are part of the ongoing devolution settlement. The process for developing such an order is in itself important, both by the manner in which the two Governments co-operate and collaborate and by the means by which they are adopted and introduced in your Lordships’ House and the other place. It is simply a way of ensuring that devolution works effectively.
In response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, I should also stress that further orders affecting the British Transport Police will be coming. He will be aware of Sections 90 and 104 of the Scotland Act 1998, which touch on the transfer of people, assets and liabilities from the British Transport Police and the ability to make any consequential provision. Further orders will be made specific to this—
Will there also be orders relating to the different legal systems in Scotland and England? That is relevant to any discussion on British Transport Police.
I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. The orders, when they arrive, will be constructed through the collaborative process between the two Governments, which I touched on a moment ago. In any order, they will bring forward proposals that comply with both Scots law and the broader law of England and Wales. We should be able to have that before us.
It is important to stress, as several noble Lords have, that the Smith commission and the legislation by which its conclusions were enacted are important elements of the continuing Scottish devolution process.
I apologise to my noble friend but am I being stupid? When he said that there will be further orders in connection with the British Transport Police, is he saying that the Government intend to support the break-up of the British Transport Police?
To be clear, in this instance, the Smith commission and the rules that it contained devolved to the Scottish Parliament the right to take this matter forward. The Scottish Parliament has determined how it shall do so. Today’s discussion is about how it has interpreted the clauses. At present, it is anticipated that we must make sure that the ongoing British Transport Police continues to function. I will come to the points raised in a manner that will, I hope, satisfy noble Lords—
I want to pick up on what the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, said, because he has cottoned on to something important. The Minister said, I think, that one of the orders would relate to the transfer of property, which I mentioned. I hope that order will not be laid until such time as any action that he proposes to take as a result of this debate is concluded.
Again, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, has anticipated what I will say shortly. Perhaps noble Lords will allow me to make some progress on the broader position.
I emphasise again that whatever reservations noble Lords may have about this approach, we must recognise and respect the agenda of the Scottish Parliament. That is part of the ongoing Smith agreement. However, let me turn to the matter that has most exercised the noble Lords here today—
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to make some progress. I may have time to give way to him later.
I want to ask the Minister about what he has just said before he moves on to the next point. He mentioned that under Article 6(b) the British Transport Police will be able to go north of the border. But will he respond to my question? Will Scottish police be allowed to go south of the border or will they be seen as foreigners and so not allowed in?
The noble Lord has again pre-empted what I am about to say. To be very clear, the purpose of the order is to ensure that criminals can be pursued in either direction. It seeks to equalise the ability of the transport police to function in both jurisdictions, and it delivers that.
I come back to the remarks made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness. The functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland will be a devolved matter. However, in the previous debate, the noble and learned Lord went on to say that that is slightly different from saying that British Transport Police itself will be devolved. It is, therefore, a matter of some interpretation. We have heard a number of points thus far from noble Lords on why that interpretation does not meet the test of good policing within the wider infrastructure of the United Kingdom.
Recent press reports of morale in the Scottish division of the British Transport Police show that up to two-thirds of officers are unsure whether they will transfer to Police Scotland following the merger, and only one-third of officers have declared that they definitely intend to do so. That should give pause for thought and concern. It is also worth stressing that, importantly, British Transport Police has, throughout its history, been a success. Since 2005, it has reduced crime on Scotland’s rail network by 56%, an achievement that compares favourably with an overall reduction of crime in Scotland of 38%. That is no mean feat and certainly worthy of praise. We should recognise that here.
The ultimate test of the merger under discussion is whether it makes the policing of Scotland’s railways better. As a former Member of the European Parliament, I recall how important it was that, before substantive changes were made to legislation, serious impact assessments were undertaken to ensure that the outcome would be delivered by the means chosen. That important element is missing from some of the discussions being put forward. I say that as a member of the travelling public and in recognition of the concerns that have been expressed by a number of the agencies and bodies cited this evening.
Before I conclude, I will touch on some of the substantive points made. I begin with the confusion that may have arisen around what will happen next. We need to put at the fore of our minds that this involves police officers who have delivered for the betterment of our country. The merger is not due to any failing of theirs and at no point should it be recognised as such. Nor is it a failing of British Transport Police in any element of its operation.
Some of the issues raised tonight need to be dealt with in great detail, but I will touch on what the noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, said. He talked about the inclusion of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in the Ministry of Defence Police. It is important to stress that the Smith commission did not at any point intend to devolve these aspects. Therefore, although they are touched on in the order, at no point will these functions be onward devolved to the Police Scotland operation. That is particularly important.
To make this move work, a joint programme board has been created. That board is particularly focused upon where the points of friction rest and how they can be addressed going forward. I will come back to its role in delivering the outcomes that noble Lords here today would like to see.
The noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, touched upon one of the most fundamental questions—terrorism—and how we can assure there is no diminution in our preparedness, our scope, our ability to operate and our attention to the issues before us. There are pre-existing protocols between Police Scotland and the various agencies and constabularies south of the border. These will continue to deliver against that outcome. It is important, however, that they are tested to make sure that they are fit for purpose in that regard.
This is not only about Scotland—it is important to stress that. The British Transport Police covers the whole of our country, not only one part of it. Further, we have to recognise that the threats to our country are not specific to one nation or region but, rather, in many instances are a threat to us all. We must recognise, therefore, that there will be responsible agencies which will take these matters forward.
Let me touch on where we can make serious progress. To address the challenges of the onward devolution of the policing of the railways in Scotland, the two Governments have established a joint programme board. The board is currently working to achieve an orderly transfer and to provide affected officers and staff with clarity at the earliest opportunity. The board has sought to address the findings of the recent report on devolution conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland, which has been cited by a number of noble Lords today. Its principal purpose is to ensure that each of those issues is addressed head on.
Therefore, minded as I am of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and other noble Lords, following this debate I will secure a meeting with the UK Government co-chair of the joint programme board. At that meeting I will take the salient points from this debate and put them before it. I will ask the board to produce a report, which I anticipate will form the basis of a formal discussion between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Scotland. Thereafter I will write to the noble Lord with the result of that discussion and place a copy of that in the House. The next meeting takes place on 30 January 2018.
I stress again that there are two further Scotland Act orders pertaining to the British Transport Police. I will report back before these orders are laid.
When the British Government’s representative—the Minister responsible for this—attends that board, what will his policy be? Will it be to maintain the British Transport Police or to allow it to be broken up?
The noble Lord, once again, puts his finger on the issue. Our purpose will be to ensure that the answers which come from the board are satisfactory. If they are not satisfactory, then opportunities will be provided for this House and others to move forward in a different way. Oh, I heard someone say, “What does that mean?”, which is a helpful remark. I was trying to be cryptic in one sense. I am basically saying that this is not the end of the story. I hope that we will receive satisfactory answers at the programme board which will allow us the clarity to establish that we are satisfied that policing on our railways is not affected to the point of detriment.
I think I understand what the Minister is saying and I agree with him. The Minister or the representative to the programme board is going to go to the board, express the points of view that have been made here—which have come from the unionists, the Conservatives, the Cross Benches, the Liberal Democrats and Labour—and report back to us. If we are not happy about the outcome, then there are two more orders which may or may not be laid and which we may or may not pray or move against. That will give us the opportunity after the programme board to know whether we are happy and whether or not the House and the Minister want to go ahead with those two further orders.
The noble Lord may well say that but I stress again that the important thing is that the salient points raised by noble Lords today are considered in all seriousness by the programme board. I hope there will be an opportunity for that board to respond and to satisfy all the questions raised today. I have noted them down. To put them in context, we need to know that terrorism and security issues are addressed head on—there can be no diminution in these. We must recognise that this involves real police officers and that there can be no impact upon their well-being, their morale or their situation, and that they must be treated with respect throughout this process. We must be cognisant of the no-detriment principle. Where there are costs, we must understand how those costs will be allocated fairly and appropriately. We must also recognise that they should not be unfairly or inappropriately placed elsewhere.
On the question of costs and the no-detriment principle, is this a matter for the joint programme board to sort out or do the United Kingdom Government have a view as to how any detriment to the British Transport Police in England and Wales should be addressed?
We want to make sure that a no-detriment principle is adopted throughout, so there should be no impact on parts of the United Kingdom as a consequence of this which would have to be met by those who are affected by it.
It is important to note the other issues that we need to be very clear about. The British Transport Police is a specialist constabulary, not a traditional one. It focuses on particular aspects of enforcement which are important and cannot simply be substituted by officers from other traditional constabularies. We must not lose sight of that. Any risk that there may be flight from the particular integrated elements would in itself be a problem for the overall functioning of transport policing in Scotland. There can be no diminution in the quality of the service. We also have to recognise that throughout this area there is an issue of being respectful to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Parliament itself, through the Smith commission and onwards, is the principal interlocutor in addressing this matter. We cannot lose sight of that fact because it is also important.
Perhaps I may be a little more bold and say that in some respects this is one of those issues where one can see the difference between a unicameral and a bicameral Parliament. Perhaps if the Scottish Parliament had a second Chamber, some of these matters might have been addressed in a slightly different way. However, that might be a little bit provocative.
Let me conclude with a quotation which I am sure will be familiar to noble Lords, but perhaps they do not necessarily know its source. When I say the name Thomas Bertram Lance, I suspect that there will be blank stares. He was the director of the Office of Management and Budget in Jimmy Carter’s presidential Administration. In 1977 he coined the maxim,
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
In some respects, we should always recognise the importance of that particular dictum. However, I should stress that that conclusion must be determined by the Scottish Parliament as a matter of course. It is that Parliament’s responsibility to hold to account the Scottish Government, who have moved this matter forward.
I appreciate that I have not had time to touch on all the issues raised in the debate but I hope that I have been able to give the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, some comfort in my remarks so that he will not be regretful and therefore not press his amendment to the Motion. I hope that this has been a satisfactory response to our debate.
Perhaps I may raise one point with the noble Lord. Where is the national interest in all of this? The Scottish Parliament cannot reflect it. A programme board is made up of two halves, one half of which is the Scottish Parliament and the other the UK Government. That board cannot have a national responsibility because it is made up of one part which does not have such a responsibility. My concern in all this is that the national security interest is going to fall between two stools. I would like an assurance from the Minister that that is not the case.
I believe that I can give that assurance. The very fact that the comments made in this debate shall be summarised and transmitted very clearly to the programme board means that the views of noble Lords will not be lost. I also believe that those views represent the entire breadth of concern expressed, certainly in this instance throughout Scotland but also beyond. That must be reflected on by all those who take as their responsibility the forward movement of the British Transport Police and its future policing policy.
Could I ask the Minister to convey the answers that he has not been able to give in this debate to the various noble Lords who asked those questions, and to distribute those responses?
Yes, I am very happy to do that. We have a note of the questions and I have several responses in handwriting that I cannot quite read. That is one of the reasons I have not been as fluent as I might have been on some of the points. Where noble Lords have not received an adequate response, I will do my utmost to ensure that the answers are conveyed to them.
My Lords, first I thank the Minister for his courtesy and sympathy in the run-up to this debate. He has been really helpful. I should also thank my noble friend Lord McAvoy for turning the screw on him on our behalf. My understanding is that he is mindful of the very great strength of feeling on all sides of the House and in every party and that that will be conveyed to the programme board. He is going to report back to us and that report will come before any further orders might be put forward in relation to the British Transport Police. I can assure him that we will remain vigilant and look carefully at what progress, if any, is made by the programme board, although we hope that it will be. We will keep an eye on it and we may return to these issues at a later stage. Meanwhile, in the light of what he has said in his response, I do not wish to press my amendment to the Motion to a vote.
Motion to Approve
But over the past few months, more and more concerns have been raised about the implications of a merger. Some of the British Transport Police’s central services for the whole of the United Kingdom are located in Scotland. What would happen to them if there were a merger with Police Scotland is not clear.
There are only two specialist counterterrorist forces in the whole of the United Kingdom: the Metropolitan Police and the British Transport Police. Both now provide support to Police Scotland, and that works well. As we know only too well, sadly, terrorists know no boundaries, in the UK or elsewhere, so anti-terror forces need to work across the boundaries. The merger would jeopardise an effective fight against terrorism.
I have also discussed this with Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association. That association represents all the support staff in the British Transport Police, who are totally opposed to the merger. He said to me, and he has allowed me to quote him:
“Members both North and South of the border opposed the merger. Our Number 1 priority is the safety of passengers which would be jeopardised and consequently we will not sit quietly by if this merger is pushed through”.
Those are strong words from the union chief.
There is a sensible alternative—a compromise, if you like—which would both satisfy genuine devolution desires on the one hand and retain operational effectiveness on the other. The British Transport Police could remain intact, but the chief constable would report to the Scottish Parliament and to Scottish Government Ministers on all operations in Scotland and all issues affecting Scotland. They would have a say in everything happening in Scotland without having to break up the British Transport Police.
The purpose of this debate is to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland—through the Minister of State, whom I welcome to his post; he has been really helpful on this matter—to go to the Scottish Government and ask them to accept this sensible and reasonable option, which is widely supported, and which I hope will be supported widely in this House.
Some, including the Minister, may be concerned what leverage he has as the legislation has progressed so far. I understand that. The answer is simple. The integration cannot progress unless the Secretary of State for Transport agrees to transfer the assets of the British Transport Police in Scotland to the Scottish Government. I ask the Minister to get the Transport Secretary to say that he is reluctant to transfer these assets unless there is a sensible arrangement for devolution, along the lines that I have suggested.
That would be a bold action, but it is necessary if we are to stop the break-up of a successful policing organisation for party-political dogma. The merger is opposed by the most powerful Conservative politician in the whole of the United Kingdom: Ruth Davidson. I hope that will give the Minister the necessary courage to act.
I am minded to press this to a vote and to ask my colleagues on all sides to vote against the order. However, if the Minister is able to give the House a clear assurance that he will take this matter up vigorously with the Scottish Government, I will not press it, and he will have done the House and, even more importantly, the British Transport Police a great service.
On the question of the funding arrangements, the British Transport Police is largely funded by the transport operating companies. Therefore, if this leads to additional costs, is this a burden on the train operating companies, and how will that be split between them? What are those arrangements? I do not know how the no-detriment policy applies to train operating companies that make contributions in this area.
One final question for the Minister is about the terms and conditions and training requirements of the British Transport Police compared with Police Scotland. Do firearms officers in Police Scotland have the same type of training and the same levels and standards of training as firearms officers in the British Transport Police? If that is not the case, presumably there will be a harmonisation process, which, in turn, will bring extra costs. Reference has already been made to pension issues. Again, what are the terms and conditions and the extra costs associated with harmonising terms and conditions between the two forces?
These things all matter. The British Government as a whole—not just that concerned with Scotland—have to take these important matters seriously. If the result of this wish by the Scottish Government to fully integrate the officers currently involved in policing Scotland’s transport system goes ahead and it will have major consequences for the British Transport Police and its effective policing mission, or if other elements of government policy impact on it, we need to know. We certainly need to know before proceeding in the way the Government wish us to proceed tonight.