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Public Service Vehicles (Arrest Of Offenders) Bill Lords

Volume 893: debated on Tuesday 17 June 1975

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—who abuse and assault them. The Government, for their part, are determined—and this Bill is some indication of that determination—to take all appropriate measures to deal with this problem.

Misbehaviour on public transport is particularly serious in our cities. The House will recall that in January this year a London bus conductor, Mr. Ronald Jones, died following an incident in South London. There was an understandable sense of shock and outrage on the part of the busmen and their unions. Mr. Kenneth Robinson, the Chairman of London Transport, and Mr. Jack Jones, the General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, and other union leaders, came to see my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the then Minister for Transport to discuss the situation. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made it clear that the Government were determined to support the bus operators and their staff in this situation This Bill is the outcome.

The Bill removes a loophole in the law which has been used by some offenders to escape prosecution. The police already have power to arrest any person committing an assault whether on a bus or tram or elsewhere. But they do not have the power to arrest those committing offences against the regulations governing the conduct of passengers on public service vehicles, or the byelaws which apply to tramcar passengers. If I may confine myself to public service vehicles, or, broadly speaking, buses and coaches—I will come to tramcars a little later as I know that the hon. and learned Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) has a definite interest in tramcars—the position is that the conduct of passengers is governed by a set of regulations, which form Part III of the Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Conductors, and Passengers) Regulations 1936, as amended. These regulations cover such matters as damaging the vehicle, standing on the upper deck, spitting, and refusing to pay one's fare. The maximum penalty on summary conviction for contravening or failing to comply with the regulations is a fine of £100.

The present practice in respect of breaches of the regulations is to proceed against the offender by way of summons. But this depends on the co-operation of the offender in giving his correct name and address to the police officer. There have been a number of cases in which offenders have successfully evaded prosecution by giving a false name and address. This Bill aims to stop that loophole.

Misconduct of the kind covered by the passenger conduct regulations is relatively minor, though I do not underestimate the importance of such matters as disputes over fares in leading to more serious incidents. The Government take the view that breaches of the regulations should continue to be prosecuted by way of summons whenever possible. Accordingly, the Bill restricts the power of arrest to the situation where the offender has failed to give the police officer his correct name and address. To give the police a wider power of arrest irrespective of the details given would be neither necessary nor desirable. In many cases where the offender co-operates with the police and gives and proves his name and address it would be a waste of police time to take him to the police station. The Bill gives a power of arrest to be held in reserve for use where the offender's failure to co-operate precludes the possibility of proceeding against him by way of summons.

I should perhaps add that the Bill does no more than give the police a power of arrest in respect of misconduct on buses and trams which they already possess under other legislation in relation to misbehaviour on British Rail trains and London Underground services. To that extent it removes what many will consider to be an anomaly.

If I might now turn to trams, perhaps I should explain—since it must be many years since legislation affecting tramcars was brought before the House—that tramcars are still running in only one town in England and Wales; namely, Blackpool. I understand that there are 85 tramcars in all, and that Blackpool Borough Council, which owns the tramway system, has no plans to bring their operation to an end. A tramcar is not a public service vehicle as defined by the Road Traffic Act 1960; the conduct of passengers is governed by byelaws and regulations made under Section 6 of the Tramways Act 1870. I understand that there have been some incidents of hooliganism on the trams, and both the Chief Constable of Lancashire and the Blackpool Borough Council see as much need for this power of arrest in relation to misconduct on trams as on buses.

The words in the Bill relating to tramcars will not, however, come into effect until such date as the Secretary of State appoints. The reason for this is that the present byelaws and regulations are not considered to be in a satisfactory legal form to serve as the basis for a power of arrest. The borough council has agreed to revise its byelaws and regulations for this purpose, and as soon as this has been done and the revised byelaws have been approved by the Secretary of State for the Environment the necessary order will be made.

The Bill does not extend to Scotland because under Scottish law the police already have a general power of arrest which is exercisable in the circumstances set out in the Bill.

At the beginning of my speech I said that the Bill was a small though significant, measure. The Government do not pretend that it will solve the problem of bus hooliganism overnight. A great deal depends on getting the police to the scene of an incident in time to apprehend the offender, and the action of London Transport and other operators in pressing ahead with the introduction of two-way radios and alarm systems will be helpful in this respect. But the Bill strengthens the hand of the police in dealing with incidents before they develop into attacks or other forms of disorder.

I have almost completed my remarks.

It will help the police to ensure that those who misbehave in public transport do not escape prosecution. We believe that the Bill is a helpful and necessary measure and I commend it to the House.

10.8 p.m.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) will have an opportunity to intervene a little later in the debate.

The Opposition give an unqualified welcome to the Bill. We believe that it is a Bill on an important subject, and for that reason we asked that it should be taken on the Floor of the House as opposed to being taken upstairs. The Bill also deals with the power of arrest without warrant, and we also felt that this was a subject that should be dealt with on the Floor.

As the Minister said, we are all aware of the vicious attacks on drivers and conductors on London buses, but the Bill deals with offences that fall short of assault. It gives power of arrest to police on buses. Previously they could only ask for the name of the person involved and could never be certain that they were being given a true name and address.

I came into this matter at a much earlier stage quite fortuitously. Sir Richard Way, the former Chairman of London Transport, wrote to Members of Parliament with London constituencies or with London interests. Although I represent a Surrey constituency, he happened to write a similar letter to me. The letter was dated 31st October 1974. He took the unprecedented step of writing to London Members of Parliament because he was making no progress in persuading the Government to take action. In his letter of October 1974 he said that the problem was reaching alarming proportions. At that stage he was unable to see the Home Secretary, although I am bound to add that the visit was postponed because of the General Election taking place then.

London Transport has taken steps to do what it could to protect drivers and crews against attacks. It has already made available free travel facilities for plain-clothes policemen travelling on buses. I should be grateful if the hon. Lady would confirm that. Will she say whether the two-way radio sets have been installed and tried out? The same applies to the klaxon systems being fitted, which flash and sound an alarm at the same time.

In his letter Sir Richard Way, speaking of the two-way radio system, wrote:
"But usually incidents happen so suddenly and quickly that even radio contact is quick enough neither to stop the incident nor to enable the culprits to be caught".
He went on to say:
"Unfortunately a growing amount of hooliganism seems entirely haphazard in pattern and cannot be predicted either in place or time".
He wrote that he was not alone in being increasingly alarmed by the extraordinarily tolerant treatment meted out in many courts to hooligans, who were moving us towards a situation in which the public transport services of our capital were under a threat.

As many Members of Parliament representing London constituencies will know, many of these incidents do not take place when the public houses are closing. They occur when the schools are closing. Is the hon. Lady satisfied that the children and young person's legislation gives magistrates and judges the help which they need in dealing with juvenile offenders? Does she believe that there are enough secure places for these young persons in community homes? If there are not enough secure places in community homes, the only alternative is prison, which is not an effective way of dealing with young people.

Has the Lord Chancellor been approached to see whether he can make it known to judges and magistrates that in cases of attacks on public transport servants exemplary sentences are given to the limit of the law where appropriate. We all know of the type of sentences which have been given in the past and have had no deterrent effect. We have only to read the remarks of Sir Robert Mark, the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, about derisory sentences which might just as well not have been given for all the effect they have had. In his letter to Members of Parliament Sir Richard Way said that these sentences must have a sufficient deterrent effect. But they must also be effective by way of being educative and remedial, to divert the energies of these people into more acceptable directions.

Although this is not the hon. Lady's direct reponsibility, perhaps she could let us know whether she has been in touch with the Secretary of State for Education to ensure that the duties of citizenship and respect for the law are taught to our young people. It is no good unless the education system helps teachers to instil discipline and good behaviour in school.

I turn to the question of the public coming to the aid of bus crews when under attack. We must ensure that the public are aware of their duties under the common law to help in preventing breaches of public order and in apprehending wrong-doers—in effect "having a go". I suggest that a code of action or behaviour should be drawn up so that members of the public may be certain of their responsibilities in this connection. These notices should be posted in buses so that members of the travelling public are perfectly aware of their duties.

There is the question of public cooperation generally. The transport unions have taken a leading part in bringing this situation to the attention of the Home Secretary, together with Sir Richard Way and, more recently Mr. Kenneth Robinson. I hope that on the part of the transport unions this is the beginning of a more responsible attitude towards their job and their duty to the public. There is a great deal of friction between the transport unions and the general public. I do not in any way criticise the men on the job. At the moment yet another transport strike is threatened. No wonder that the unions believe that there is a lack of co-operation! Mr. Larry Smith, the national passenger group secretary of the TGWU was reported in London Transport News recently, after he had been to see the Home Secretary:
"Obviously the public are still not ready to help a busman in trouble."
He called on every able-bodied passenger to step forward and help if he saw a driver or conductor being attacked. I hope that this will be the beginning of greater co-operation between the travelling public and the unions. I hope that there will be more public-spiritedness and a more positive attitude towards providing a public service rather than the "take it or leave it" attitude. Such a new approach would provide a much better climate for the travelling public and would help enlist their support.

The Bill deals with buses, but there are other issues in public transport in London. There is the problem on the Underground, affecting the ticket collectors, and there is also the problem of of the taxi-drivers, who are also subject to this kind of assault. There is the even larger difficulty of hooliganism and vandalism nation-wide. The troubles at football matches and on railway trains with football supporters, and the disgraceful behaviour of some supporters when travelling abroad, simply cannot be tolerated. There is also the trouble at dance halls and at pop festivals.

There is no need for me to remind the hon. Lady that it is the duty of the Government to protect the young and the not-so-young, not only against themselves but against the kind of behaviour that we ourselves have in part created. I believe that this Bill is a small first step in the right direction.

10.20 p.m.

In many ways I regret that it is necessary for a Bill of this sort to come before the House, for whenever this House feels it is necessary in some way, however small, to increase the powers of the police, we should have cause for concern, and examine the reasons why we feel we have to do that.

I do not, however, object to the Bill, and quite agree with my hon. Friend that it is in the present circumstances very necessary. Regrettably, there has been over recent years a rise in vandalism, in hooliganism and in violence—in particular, teenage violence. This is particularly true concerning public transport, and this House has the duty to protect the staff of public transport. When bus drivers are being mugged and even killed, it is our duty to act in some way to protect them. We have a duty, too, to protect the travelling public, and a duty to help the police in their protection of the staff and travelling public, and so I accept the necessity for the Bill.

My hon. Friend said, however, that this Bill will not solve bus hooliganism overnight, and she is quite right to say that. Certainly, if this is all we can do, we shall get nowhere, in regard to either bus hooliganism or hooliganism and violence in general. We have to look at the causes of hooliganism and violence.

With regard to violence on buses, some of this is caused by a degree of drunkenness. Another large part is caused by youth violence, and we ought to examine why it has come about and increased over the years. We ought fundamentally to examine what changes have taken place in society to cause this increase in violence and vandalism.

There is, I believe, a considerable lack of understanding of the problems of young people today. Many show an unwillingness to try to understand the problems of young people. There has been, within the space of one generation, a major change in our social climate, caused by virtually a new life style which our parents would almost not recognise—a new life style and expectations brought about by some major changes in our technology.

If we do not recognise the changes that have taken place in society, particularly as they affect our young people, we shall never begin to get anywhere near solving the problems of violence and vandalism, a small part of which this Bill is attempting to tackle. If this Bill and similar Bills represent all that we try to do to prevent vandalism, the pressures within society from young people will continue. If that is all that we do, the cauldron of dissatisfaction which is felt by young people will continue to boil. If all that we do is simply to try to clamp on the lid, eventually the pressure will become so great that we shall have a bigger explosion than we are able to manage.

A measure of this kind will not solve any fundamental problems. It will only mask them. We have to ask ourselves what we have to do to tackle violence and vandalism fundamentally. I do not plead for the soft treatment of violent people or vandals, whether they be young or old, but first we have to search out and remove the offenders. In a small way, the Bill will help do that.

We have to get rid of the hard-core offenders, because groups of young people are easily influenced by those ringleaders who are hard-core offenders. So far as we can, we have to get rid of them in order to remove their strong influence on the group. In the case of football matches and travel to football matches, it seems to me that we should stress more strongly the type of sentence which causes young people who commit violence and acts of vandalism on those occasions to have to report to police stations on Saturday afternoons when their football teams are playing. That will remove them from the environment in which for various reasons they most commit their type of vandalism. We should also press more strongly, for these young people who commit offences of this sort, the need for community sentencing and community work.

Secondly, we have to begin to remove much of the attitude amongst young people which to some extent idolises the cult of vandalism. We have to—

Has the hon. Gentleman inquired what this Bill is about? It is nothing to do with violence. Has he read the regulations with which we are dealing? They are nothing to do with violence. They are to do with spitting and stamping in buses. I should like to know to what it is that the hon. Gentleman is addressing himself.

I was talking about vandalism, hooliganism and violence. I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary talked about the mugging of bus drivers and even the killing of bus drivers. I hope that in some small measure the Bill will assist in preventing not only spitting and stamping on buses but these other greater acts against society. I am trying to suggest that a Bill of this kind may in some measure assist in that temporarily but that, unless we tackle the causes more fundamentally, those causes will eventually boil over despite any attempt that we make at this stage to suppress them.

One of the things that we have to do is to turn the attitudes of young people much more to creating a new sensitivity towards the community—to realise, if the hon. Gentleman wishes me to return to spitting and stamping, that they are not exactly desirable community pursuits and that young people should have a greater sensitivity and awareness of their rôle in the community.

We have to restore a much more purposeful morality to young people. We can begin to do that by influencing those who might be called their heroes of the day. We have to get those people to assist us in influencing ordinary young people to appreciate what is often not appreciated by them—that thugs are not group heroes but are petty, small and offensive both to their friends and to those whom they idolise. Violence will continue to occur for so long as it remains high in the esteem of young people.

The hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) mentioned the need for our education system to play a strong part in this matter. I agree with him. I hope, therefore, that he will repudiate some of the suggestions regularly made by some of his hon. Friends—even this afternoon when questioning my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science—that our education system ought to return much more strongly and solely to the teaching of the three Rs.

The education system has, however, a very strong rôle in this general awareness of the community and the involvement of the individual in the community.

Thirdly, in tackling violence, vandalism and hooliganism we must tackle a number of areas which for young people cause violence to be exciting. We are told by many people today that young people have more to do than they have ever had previously. I believe that that is simply not true.

There may be many new things which young people are able to do today, but when one seriously considers the position, one appreciates that over the years, certainly over the period of a generation, there has been a tremendous change in the ability of young people simply to enjoy themselves. When my father was young he was able to walk out of his front door and kick a ball around in the street. That is no longer possible for a young person today, simply because there are so many cars about. We must face up to that sort of change.

Most young people today live in houses which have a single major living room, and in a corner of that room is a television set which is switched on virtually all day. We must face up to that change.

Therefore, I believe that we must in many ways extend facilities for young people simply to go out and play and enjoy themselves. We must extend facilities—

Order. I have allowed a fairly wide discussion on a very narrow Bill, but the hon. Gentleman is now going far beyond even what one could reasonably permit in a debate on the Bill.

I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall, therefore, conclude by saying that in attempting to curb violence and vandalism in this way, it is short-sighted not to recognise the fundamental causes and provide very much more for people who otherwise would cause violence.

I do not object to the Bill. It is very necessary. We can do no less. It is our duty to those operating public transport, to the travelling public and to the police. But if we are to have any serious effect we must do much more, because the Bill, by its very nature, can be only a holding operation in one small area.

10.33 p.m.

The Bill, to which I think the whole House will give its support, is a good Bill as far as it goes. Without trying to widen the discussion too far, I think that one is entitled to say that it does not go far enough.

We are witnessing today, I suppose in every constituency—the hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Bates) dwelt upon this matter for some time—a general decline in standards. It is not part of my job at present to try to assess the cause of that decline, but rather to see how this House can deal with the situation as it is, at any rate in one small section.

In our constituencies we all recognise that we live in a sort of paint aerosol society. Even in my constituency one wonders why "MUFC" has to be written with an aerosol on a fifteenth century house. It is part of the new culture from Old Trafford.

"MUFC"—which I took to represent Manchester United Football Club.

It was stated in another place that in 1974 the police were summoned 874 times to public service vehicles in London. One cannot but help wonder how many times there are breaches of the regulations to which the police are not summoned because it is considered that it would do no good if they were.

There is also the question of the public helping the police. It has long been a principle of law—I do not know whether it still is—that a citizen, if called upon by a policeman to assist, is bound so to do. Today the situation is far too often left entirely in the hands of the police.

I come now to the point about punishments. The breaches of regulations with which we are concerned consist of insulting behaviour, damaging a vehicle, and, our old friend, refusal to pay a fare. Am I right in assuming that this Bill does not apply to taxis? This point was touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather). We fool ourselves if we suppose that no violence takes place in taxis. I cannot help wondering what happens to the poor taxi driver in those circumstances.

It was stated in the House of Lords that the most serious form of hooliganism is attacks on drivers and conductors. If that is true we are bound to ask whether the penalties which are imposed, be it fine or whatever, are in any way adequate. The maximum fine is set at £100, which is peanuts in this modern age. I do not know how long ago that figure was first introduced.

In addition, there is the old problem of whether magistrates have sufficient powers and whether, if they have, they are using them. I am not satisfied that, by and large, magistrates are given sufficient guidance in using the powers that this House bestows upon them. More often than not they decide not to use the powers which they have been handed by this House, and I regret that. Part of the problem is that far too often, and especially in the case of the young, the defendants leave the court almost laughing at the whole process. I have seen that happen.

Detection and conviction always have been, and will remain, the greatest deterrent, and one must admit that the Bill does not do much to help except that where a policeman thinks someone is giving him a false name he can arrest that person. However, if that person gives a false name in a convincing manner presumably he will get away with it and nothing will result. The police are the instruments of detection and conviction, and the House and particularly the Government, must accept responsibility for the police in every part of the country being under strength.

In the London area police liaison officers have been installed in each garage. I cannot help wondering what those officers are doing in the garages. Surely the necessary contact is between the bus and the police authority. It is from the police authority that the panda cars and the other vehicles are controlled. Now a third person is to be injected into the chain, which means that contact will be through a "dog leg" instead of direct. What is really wanted is a direct "Mayday" system from the buses to the police authorities. A liaison officer is far more likely to be an obstruction and cause of delay than a help.

For years the Post Office has prevented the citizen from having any form of walkie-talkie which allows him to use a citizens' waveband. Although we signed a convention, we still do not permit it in this country. Therefore, there must be room for such a "Mayday" system.

My last point, because it all ties up with an effective deterrent, concerns warnings. I am a little apprehensive when I see that in another place Lord Harris of Greenwich said that London Transport was pressing ahead, and then a few weeks' later I hear the hon. Lady saying that London Transport is pressing ahead. As an old Member of the House, I become intensely suspicious, and interpret it to mean that less progress is being made than should be made.

A flashing light and klaxon system is undoubtedly better than nothing. Thirty years ago it would have been very effective, but one can walk down London streets any night and hear a burglar alarm. It will ring for two or three hours, and neither the police nor the public will take any notice. Therefore. I cannot help wondering what will be the effect of a klaxon.

Fire engines, the police, the ambulance service and the AA have flashing lights, most of them meaning "Keep out of the way", not "Come to our help". Every modern car is fitted with flashing lights to warn of an obstruction. What sort of flashing lights will there be on the buses, and what effect will they have?

The important thing is to make the enforcement of the law effective and to have a punishment that acts as a deterrent. I agree with the punishment fitting the crime. Some years ago a German judge went a long way towards it and had singular success. We have gone a long way in this country, but a great deal can be done.

I hope that the hon. Lady's Department will find time to take a much deeper look into the matter. The Bill is adequate, but superficial.

Order. The hon. Gentleman is objecting to my decision as to whom I call. The occupant of the Chair calls the hon. Member he desires to call.

10.43 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) should never be surprised at Mr. Deputy Speaker selecting me to speak.

Whilst I have no time for, nor do I condone, those who cause a nuisance to those who work on public service vehicles and travel on them, whilst I have no time or sympathy for hooligans and vandals, and have a great deal of sympathy for those who are the subject of their violent and often vicious and malicious attacks, I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Bates) or my hon. Friend the Minister about the necessity for the Bill.

It seems to me that the Bill has been introduced in panic and drafted in haste as a result of a series of admittedly disastrous and well-publicised cases. It is not effective, and will not solve the problem, and, therefore, I can see no point in it, and I can see no point in increasing police powers even further. The Bill does not deal with the problem. It deals with the symptoms rather than the disease. One does not deal with the problems of vandals and hooligans by giving constables power to arrest people without a warrant unless the constable is there in the first place.

Nothing in the Bill will in any way increase police powers, making them more efficient or more effective by giving them far more resources, which is what is necessary. It is a tatty one-page Bill which says, in effect, that we will allow constables to arrest people without a warrant, but will make no provision for ensuring that they are there to do the job, nor to provide the material and financial resources to do it.

If we are to combat vandalism effectively and not do what is essentially a PR job at the insistence of well-organised pressures from outside this House, we have to look at the problem in a cool and dispassionate manner, first at the economic and social problem, at the high levels of unemployment; for example, among school leavers.

If I may stray slightly from the Bill and point to my own constituency, to Kirby, where there is a great deal of vandalism and hooliganism, there is also there a high proportion of school leavers who have no job to go to when they leave school. Is it surprising that when children have left school and find themselves not with a prosperous future but joining a dole queue, such children turn against society and kick it in the only way they know how? By creating unemployment and by the existence of that, of bad housing and of inadequate schooling, we are creating vandals and hooligans of the future. To deal with that we are increasing police powers.

If we wish to protect those who serve us in public transport vehicles, and to protect those who are transported in them, we should look more closely at who are the vandals and at what causes decent children to turn into social malcontents and anti-social hooligans, and try to eradicate the social and economic causes rather than hitting them on the head, acting on the symptoms rather than the disease.

We should be dealing with police powers in general. We need to provide far more resources for police forces, to make them an effective deterrent by providing for more patrols, more panda cars, for more "Mayday" messages.

The hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt) nods assent, but this costs money and when this side wishes to spend that money, the opposite side stands up in great discontent and says "We cannot have this great increase in public expenditure".

If we are concerned about vandalism and hooliganism, we should be concerned about police manpower and pay and about technical equipment which should be at their disposal but is not. They will require far more in resources than is devoted to their efficiency at present.

I am concerned about two other things. The Bill increases police power over the individual citizen. I do not necessarily object. It is not a substantial encroachment on individual liberties in the context, but if, at this late hour, with only a few hon. Members present and when little attention is likely to be paid to or critical scrutiny made of this debate, we are to increase police powers over the individual citizen, should we not also implement the long-promised and much-awaited new police complaints procedure? It was the Home Secretary in the previous Conservative administration who promised to set up a public inquiry—

Order. I am afraid I cannot allow the hon. Member to deal with police complaints.

The matter is tangential to the subject of the Bill. If we are on one level increasing the powers of the police over individual citizens, we should also at another level make that power more accountable to the public. That, with respect, I argue is within the terms of the Second Reading of the Bill and is in order.

I do not object to increasing police powers in this context, but I do object to the police exercising powers when they are not accountable for any complaints to an independent, impartial objective body that can investigate those complaints. That reform was promised by the previous Home Secretary in a Conservative administration, and it has been promised by the present Home Secretary, yet we still have not had it, and have had no indication of when it will come. I should like my hon. Friend to promise tonight that a Bill to provide for the independent investigation of complaints against the police will be introduced and passed by the end of this Session.

If the Public Service Vehicles (Arrest of Offenders) Bill is to work, if it is to be more than a public relations exercise, an attempt by the Home Office to placate certain sections of opinion that have been vociferous in demanding legislation, if it is not just to be forgotten, as I suspect it will be, it will be effective and, presumably, many more offenders will be caught. Let us hope that they are caught.

But many of the offenders are young persons. Where shall we put them? We already have overcrowded prisons and overcrowded community homes. The prison system is bursting at the seams, yet at a time when prisons are overcrowded and we have to put 14-year-old and 16-year-old children into local prisons because there are no community homes and we are told that there are no resources to provide community homes, we intend to herd in a whole mass of new malcontents for whom we shall have no accommodation.

It is inconceivable that the Government should look at one narrow aspect of a problem and see it only with that special narrow eye. They are not just dealing with the problem of those who cause trouble on public service vehicles; they have also to deal with how to catch them, deter them and detect them, which involves examining police manpower levels and resources generally. They have also to consider what to do with the offenders when they have been apprehended. Those matters are not adequately covered in the other areas which are the responsibility of the Home Office, nor are they dealt with in the Bill.

I regret the need for the Bill, I regret that there is a need to take action, and I regret that people should be causing this trouble on public service vehicles. If we lived in a better society we should not have to debate the Bill. Although I accept that there is an increasing incidence of vandalism and hooliganism in general and specifically on public service vehicles, I do not accept that the Bill satisfies the evident needs or that it will deal effectively with the problem.

10.54 p.m.

Like hon. Members on both sides of the House, I welcome the Bill. When the Bill was introduced in the other place it omitted to mention one of the most important transport systems in my constituency—tramcars. That omission was put right by an amendment in the other place. This is the only occasion of which I know when the whole Committee stage in one of the Houses of Parliament has been occupied by dealing with the problems of my constitutency. I like to think that if the Under-Secretary had had a few thousand extra votes 15 years ago trams might have been included in the Bill when it was originally introduced.

Twelve years ago, yes. Be that as it may, we welcome the Bill.

I now set about taking to task a number of hon. Members for what they have said in this debate. I start with the Under-Secretary of State. I fully understand that the hon. Lady took the opportunity to talk about hooliganism and violence. I deprecate such conduct just as strongly as other hon. Members do, and I would wish to put it down with the some fervour. However, I must remind the House that the Bill has nothing to do with that. At this moment the law has full powers to deal with violence and attacks on bus conductors.

I understand very clearly the difficulty in which the Home Office found itself. When the vicious and appalling attacks took place it was naturally approached by drivers and conductors. They wanted to know what could be done. I have no doubt that the Department had to tell the drivers and conductors that the law on violence was adequate. If a person hits a bus conductor he can be arrested on the spot. In such circumstances there is no problem. The Home Office then considered whether anything was left out and whether there was anything that could be added that might be of assistance. Being good lawyers, and receiving good advice, they realised that under the regulations which control the behaviour of bus drivers, conductors and passengers there was the extraordinary situation that it was not certain that one could succeed in the magistrates' courts if a name and address were taken which were later found to be false. Only in certain circumstances was it possible to succeed.

The hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Bates) must understand that the Bill has nothing to do with violence. I appreciate that it is an extremely good peg on which to hang speeches on violence, but the Bill has nothing to do with that subject.

It deals with passenger offences, such as standing up on the top deck, spitting, swearing and committing damage to the vehicle. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that it has nothing to do with going to prison—a matter on which he gave us five minutes of his views. I agree that we must consider the problem of how we deal with young people, but the Bill has nothing to do with that. Further, it has nothing to do with violence in taxis. If there is violence in taxis it is possible for the police to arrest without difficulty. Let us understand what we are debating.

If the Bill has nothing to do with sending young people to prison is the hon. and learned Gentleman able to explain why his hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) mentioned the matter?

I am not here to defend anyone. I think that a number of hon. Members have addressed the House in much wider terms than the Bill would necessarily permit. The Bill deals with a number of distressing, troublesome and nasty offences, but they are nothing to do with violence.

The hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port talked about police powers. I do not think an increase in police powers in these circumstances is in any way an infringement of individual freedom. All one is seeking to do in this Bill is to allow a policeman who arrives at the scene where there has been trouble and has somebody pointed out to him, to ask that person for his name and address. If that person cannot satisfy the officer by means of the production of documents, such as a driving licence, or whatever it may be, the policeman is entitled to arrest him. Such a course was not possible before the advent of the Bill. I do not regard that as an infringement of personal liberty. I believe it is something the police should be allowed to do.

Is my hon. and learned Friend saying that if a man is asked by a policeman for his name and address and says that his name is Winston Churchill, that policeman is not entitled to arrest him under the present law?

No, he could not arrest the person in those circumstances. He could take his name and address and could take steps to trace him thereafter. If he successfully traced the man, he might or might not be successful in prosecuting the man in a magistrates' court for giving a false name and address. This was the difficulty that faced the Home Office.

Therefore, in this Bill we are dealing with a comparatively minor matter. It has nothing to do with people who get killed on buses, or people who are beaten up or seriously assaulted on buses. None the less, it is an important piece of legislation.

I want now to turn to more constructive matters. Clearly, we in Blackpool welcome the enormous numbers of people who use our trams and buses during the season and at other times, but we do not want drunken louts using our public transport. Therefore, we are very pleased that the Government have taken steps to try to make sure that such persons can be properly turned off public transport and can be apprehended and, if necessary, taken into custody.

I wish to suggest that there are two things which the Government, with profit, could do. Surely no public service vehicle should any longer be manufactured without some sort of warning system contained within it. It has been said that klaxons do not work. That is true if the klaxon is being blown indiscriminately, but if the driver can turn on the klaxon and the moment it is turned on it makes it clear to everybody that he is giving an emergency signal, I think it would be worth while. Furthermore, no public service vehicle should be built which does not have some form of communication system with its driver. We shall have to examine this matter in regard not just to public service vehicles but to other aspects of society. Society undoubtedly has changed. We must look at everything that happens with an eye to see what can be done to alleviate these situations.

Lastly, I believe that there is a clear duty on the Government to give a great deal of publicity to what they are doing. I wonder how many hon. Members were aware, for example, that this legislation was to be dealt with this evening. If Members of the House are unaware of it, how many members of the public are unaware of it? We should make it clear that there are new powers in this respect, and I believe that the Government should spend time and money in making that clear.

11.4 p.m.

I am grateful to have this opportunity to comment on the Bill, which is a measure of great importance because it concerns the use of police powers. We are always concerned when police powers are altered in any way, whether they are diminished or increased. Unfortunately, any new move usually results in those powers being increased.

In this House we have confidence in the police, and we are giving them these increased powers to enable them to arrest people without warning as relating to a wider range of circumstances than hitherto has been the case. But that confidence is not helped when we read articles in newspapers such as the Evening News tonight headed "Police chief hits out at Ministers".
"The breakdown of law and order has been accelerated by members of the Government and MPs says Kenneth Hannam, head of r Division of the Metropolitan Police."
He referred to the free comment which is made in the House about various political situations. I do not think that it helps Members of Parliament to comment on and pass this kind of legislation, which gives additional powers to the police, when the police engage in that sort of attack on Parliament and the people involved in it. If there is to be an increase in police powers there must be a degree of mutual confidence that the police will carry out its duties under the Bill and other legislation without any prejudice and with the interests of good order and justice at the back of its mind. However, Members of Parliament still retain confidence in our police force.

It has been pointed out that the Bill will fill a gap in the existing legislation and will give the police powers to arrest those who break the regulations. If actions such as spitting, or damaging buses, are nipped in the bud, the more troublesome situations will not arise. The police will be able to act, because they will have been given these powers. To that degree this is a useful Bill.

Ordinary men and women often face danger on the late night buses. In my experience, and according to observations in newspapers, these incidents do not occur on buses containing children who have finished their day's schooling. The incidents occur on the late night buses. Strikes have occurred when bus crews have refused to operate buses in certain areas because of the danger involved.

I do not wish to misrepresent what the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) said. However, there was a slight implication in what he said that people would be disenchanted with bus crews in view of past trade disputes. I do not think that that is right. The majority of the public have respect for conductors and drivers. The trouble is that members of the public ignore the circumstances in which drivers or conductors are molested by a tiny section of the public.

We must not lose sight of the fact that in giving the police these extra powers we are not dealing with millions of people. The majority of our citizens are law-abiding, respectable, decent people. We are talking about a minority who unfortunately cause a disproportionate amount of trouble to the community.

We lack imagination in dealing with the recalcitrant members of the community after they have been arrested, prosecuted and punished. The previous legislation imposed social orders. That was a useful experiment. Recently the Government extended the scheme to several areas. When dealing with situations on public service vehicles we could extend the punishments to include working on the repair of the vehicles. What has been said about the matter has often been correct.

By imposing fines of only a few pounds the magistrates do not deal with with the matter in the serious manner it deserves. These people should be brought into contact with the reality of the situation. They ought to be made to repair the damage they create, working in their own time, with union agreement, under supervision. In that way they would learn the nature of their misdemeanours. If they have attacked people they should be made to spend time in the emergency centres of hospitals dealing with casualties, learning that when they injure a person they injure something precious. In that way they might learn something of the value of human integrity, which they wantonly breach.

It was suggested earlier that a code of behaviour might be posted in buses. There are dangers attached to this, because people could find themselves facing a civil action for false imprisonment or assault as a result of taking such action in certain circumstances. They might hold or arrest the wrong person. We must make that clear. The code of behaviour for freelance assistance must be looked at critically. I do not dissent from the suggestion that in the clearest circumstances passengers should assist bus crews under attack to the best of their ability.

I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) that the use of these powers will lead to more widespread use of prisons. The police can nip a serious situation in the bud by the use of these powers. They have the power to release persons on bail pending an appearance in court.

My hon. Friend will not be unaware of the fact that 14-yearold girls are remanded in Holloway almost every day of the week, awaiting trial on what are often trivial counts, such as allegations of stealing £6 worth of detergents. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary knows that there are about 4,000 young children kept in prisons before trial. Often when they are tried they are found guilty of trivial offences.

Those detentions result from the decisions of magistrates, not from the decisions of the police. It is the police who make the decision to take persons before magistrates and presumably convince the magistrates that they have a case worthy of examination. I think magistrates behave unreasonably in such circumstances.

Using these limited powers the police can nip a difficult situation in the bud. If they use the powers sensibly it will not be a question of packing the prisons pending a court appearance for the sort of trivial matters covered by the Bill. Hopefully, these people will be released on bail and sent home with a warning that a course case is pending. They will not be among those about whom my hon. Friend has expressed such rightful indignation.

There is one last point that needs to be made. It is very easy to talk about a general decline of standards and the necessity for passing this legislation. I suspect that Members of Parliament through the ages have been talking about a general decline in standards. It was always rosier in the past. I do not believe that there has been all that serious a decline in standards, and I am often concerned that the very people who talk about a general decline in standards frequently, though not always, talk about the virtues of American bombing in Vietnam—as though they were defending freedom by the extermination of the population in that tiny country—as some sort of high standard to achieve. Here we are talking about something unfortunate but far and away less violent than the scale of destruction and damage done in that country.

We ought to bear in mind that although this Bill provides increased powers it is only a panacea when the deed is done. The youth services, and not particularly the police, should be more closely involved. I am not all that persuaded that we need a great many more police, because the establishments are altered and increased year by year, so that the police are never up to their establishment. I would like to see the money more usefully spent on the youth and social services, so that the problems we are discussing never in fact arise. Hopefully, this Bill will be applied sensibly, with a degree of discretion, by the police, and will add a little to the control of this unfortunate minority who cause so much concern.

11.17 p.m.

What an extraordinarily interesting debate you have presided over, Mr. Deputy Speaker, tonight. It is most surprising that this flimsy——

I do not know whether the hon. Member is commiserating with the occupant of the Chair or not. It has been very interesting, but a lot of it was irrelevant.

I have always been one of your chief admirers—in fact, I am the secretary of your fan club—and I reckon that tonight, if you have allowed speakers to go just an inch beyond the ordinary realms, you have done it with extremely good judgment. But I, Sir, will not attempt to stray in that dangerous area.

Order, order. In view of what the hon. Member said, I am prepared to give him half an inch.

I must not continue this cross-talk, but there is a Scottish phrase to the effect that if you get half an inch you get something else as well. I am not sure what the other thing is but I would like to have a go.

The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) started his speech with the usual ritual attack on the Establishment, and also finished it on similar lines, but I was amazed that for quite a long period in the middle I agreed with what he said. I shall try not to say anything which I feel might be damaging to his Tribune image or as the "Town Cryer", or whatever it is, and would hope not to harm him too much.

The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) made what I felt was a most damaging intervention, when he excused bad behaviour, vandalism, spitting and swearing, as merely part of the social and economic problems of growing up. The hon. Member said that one cannot really blame people for behaving in the way they do because of the social context in which they live.

I do not think I said that. If I did, I did not intend to do so. What I said was that one can understand why certain individuals feel the way they do about a society which offers all the rewards that one sees daily, for example, in the television commercials, but which for one reason or another, given their social and economic circumstances, are not at their disposal That is all I said—that one can understand, not approve or excuse, their resentments. What one has to do, therefore, is to try to eradicate the causes of that resentment rather than to deal, as tonight, only with their symptoms.

I think that the hon. Gentleman has dug even deeper the slit trench of his apology for those who act antisocially, and I shall leave it for history and Hansard to report.

It was the hon. Gentleman also who said at the beginning of his remarks—and I agreed—that this was a PR exercise. The whole of the might of another place and the whole of the might of this place, nearing midnight, is discussing the Public Service Vehicles (Arrest of Offenders) Bill, a Bill intituled—which I had not noticed before—
"An Act to authorise the arrest without warrant of certain persons suspected of contravening regulations about the conduct of passengers in public service vehicles."
The whole of this is merely to do what every member of the public thought that the police were entitled to do already.

I believe that it is a bit of a PR exercise by the Home Office to try to pretend to those who are drivers and conductors of public service buses and trams that it is rallying to their support and defence.

I have to admit that the context of the Bill is very small. I suppose that it is sensible that the police should be entitled to arrest those who offend against the public service vehicle regulations. Nevertheless, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) said, this is a very minor new power for the police.

The Under-Secretary introduced this Second Reading with, I thought, a kind of apology. I thought that it was an apology because she was giving the police more powers. But, having listened to the other speeches, I have decided that it was an apology for the minuscule nature of the Bill and, therefore, I accept the way in which the hon. Lady introduced it.

The time has come when we should, as ordinary citizens, stand more four-squarely for those who try to keep the public services going in the afternoons, evenings and nights in our big cities. My hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather), trespassing on your time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, like some others do, suggested that the Bill should have included some stronger measures. I accept his view that a loud klaxon and a flashing light could be helpful to a bus crew under pressure. If one thinks of a bus drawing to a halt outside a police station with this noise going and with its light flashing, even if there was not time for the police to arrest those perpetrating offences against the regulations, at least they would escape because they were afraid of arrest.

I shall now deal with something slightly outside the terms of this Bill—the hovercraft service from Calais to Dover, on which I travelled with the supporters of Leeds United returning after their disgraceful behaviour. It is amazing to me that we were not rejected by the French over the referendum because of this behaviour

I find it really unpleasant that on public service vehicles in London and elsewhere, oneself, one's wife and any other ladies one may be with are assailed by every four letter word known to those of us who served in discomfort in military circumstances.

I agree that education is needed, but unless there is some kind of penalty for the breaking of ordinary rules of decent behaviour, I do not believe that decent behaviour is going to return.

11.26 p.m.

I shall not for a moment attempt to follow the wide-ranging speech of my hon. Friend, except to express the hope that his aerosol was not confiscated when he got to the other side.

I start by declaring an interest. I am parliamentary consultant to the British Transport Police Federation—a body whose responsibilities extend to providing security and maintaining law and order on the premises and conveyances of British Rail, at ports and docks and, to a considerable extent, on London Transport. I have a very great interest in the proposals being put forward in this Bill. I do not for a moment suggest that this is the clarion call from the Government which is to be taken up by all of us to indicate that a massive crusade against violence on the London buses has arrived.

I hope I am correct in accepting it as an earnest of the feeling that, such has been the sense of outrage in the minds of a great many people, including drivers, conductors, passengers and police, that the Government, albeit in a measure which could be seen to be a public relations exercise, are saying they stand four-square behind the desire of the public to be rid of the terrorism which has sometimes seemed to prevail on London Transport

This is a useful, if minuscule, step forward, because, until now, it has very often seemed that the law has been on the side of the thug. As I understand it, until this Bill is enacted the most that can be done if trouble occurs on a bus is to summon a policeman to persuade the offender to come off the bus, when action could be taken against him in the way proposed in this Bill.

Indeed, as my hon. Friend says, it has seemed to many people responsible for maintaining law and order that, even after action has been taken, the sentences which have resulted have sometimes been too lenient.

I realise that we cannot speak of that this evening, but I think I am in order in saying that the men responsible for providing law and order can be forgiven for feeling that, although they are in the forefront of the fight against bus hooliganism, particularly in London, the law does not always seem to be on their side.

This measure is a step forward and it has been brought about in large measure, I suspect, because busmen, sometimes in fear of their lives, have protested and made their feelings known to the Government and hon. Members and have even gone on strike to underline the intensity of their feelings. Not often in this House have I felt able to commend industrial action, but I can well understand the frustration that these men have felt about the threat to their very lives on some occasions. I can well understand their feeling that industrial action was perhaps the most dramatic way of drawing attention to their concern.

I think now that as a result of this admittedly minor measure, they might very well feel that in some small way the police no longer have their hands tied behind their backs in the way they have felt they had up until now. Because of the introduction of this Bill, the thugs will perhaps be warned that their freedom to act against the public and to terrorise bus crews in the process is being brought under some control.

I recognise what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) said earlier—that the specific measure we are discussing does not go as far as I am now suggesting. But the whole aura that will go forth from this short but interesting debate will underline to the people whom we charge with our security that bus passengers and those to whom the bus crews look for protection are being given some sort of reassurance as a result of the measure.

I have just one complaint about the Bill. I remind the House of the interest I declared. The measure does not extend to British Transport Police constables. As I read the Bill, it applies only to the civil police. I ask the Minister to resconsider whether this is the proper course to adopt in the Bill. In the past British Transport Police have worked in close liaison with the civil police. I am sure that the Minister would agree with me that the protection of the public through the good offices of the police in indivisible. To that extent, therefore, it would be strengthening the arm of the maintenance of law and order on our public conveyances if the power introduced in the Bill were extended from the civil police to the British Transport Police.

The British Transport Police have considerable responsibility on the London Underground system, and some responsibility on London buses, so they are clearly very interested parties in relation to this measure.

I end by repeating my warm welcome for this small measure and expressing the hope that it is an indication that the Government, far from accepting this as the end of the reaction they must undertake, will see it as the beginning, and that in the process the Minister will be able to reassure the travelling public, the crews and the police who are there to protect them, that the Government are very much on their side.

11.33 p.m.

We have had an extremely useful and interesting debate. The Bill has been generally supported, perhaps with one exception. I should like to deal with as many of the points raised as possible.

I appreciate that this is only one measure to tackle the extremely serious and increasing problem of violence and vandalism in many aspects of our lives, not only on public transport. We had an interesting analysis of the causes of violence from my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Bates). But this is one measure, and we must do whatever we can in whatever circumstances we find violence occurring.

This Bill relates particularly to buses and trams. It does not give the police new powers. As I said in my opening speech, the Bill brings the law relating to misconduct on buses and trams into line with existing law on trains and underground systems.

There is therefore nothing new about the powers that the police will have. They are simply extended to these other areas because there were anomalies in the police powers over the individual citizen. Obviously, police strength is a matter of great concern to the Home Office, and it receives continuous attention from the Government.

I wish to take up some of the points raised by several hon. Members. The first concerns two-way radios. These are showing great successes. Leicester, which is one of the cities to use them, has two-thirds of its buses equipped with them. It claims a 70 per cent. detection rate and a 55 per cent. conviction rate for assaults. Other cities and counties such as Glasgow, Preston, Merseyside and West Yorkshire are also using them. They seem a most satisfactory way of trying to combat the problem.

The hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) mentioned the question of free bus travel for the police, and this is still under active discussion between the Commissioner of the Police and the staff associations.

Many hon. Members have mentioned the question of penalties. This is a matter for the courts, and no Minister can intervene in it. On the other hand the Home Secretary reminded the Lord Chancellor only recently of the extent and gravity of the problem of assaults on public service employees. The Lord Chancellor referred to this in his address to the Hertfordshire magistrates last month. His remarks were widely reported.

I note the interesting suggestions by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) about possible methods of punishing the people found guilty instead of or as well as imposing the existing maximum penalty which, for contravening the passenger conduct regulations, was raised from £20 to £100 in the Road Traffic Act 1974. The maximum penalty for contravening the tram laws is £20.

I come now to the question of liaison officers. I hope that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt) does not minimise the importance of the liaison officers. In October 1974 a system of liaison officers was set up in London bus garages. The officers were given the rank of inspector and there are now over 60 such officers. They do not stay in the garage. They attend regular meetings of the local garage consultative committees and they are available at any time for consultation. They are in regular contact with bus crews and they seek to identify trouble spots and co-ordinate police action to deal with them. They have made arrangements to escort buses in particularly bad areas by using mobile police patrols. This is being done in many areas of London.

The hon. Member for Esher raised the question of the education of children. Where such approaches are acceptable to the headmasters these police community liaison officers have spoken to the children in schools in particularly difficult areas in an effort to point out to them the harmful social consequences of rowdyism on the public transport system. The police can point to the successful approach by the community liaison officer to the organisers of a youth club discotheque in South London. Its members were causing disturbances on the buses on leaving the club. With the organisers' assistance and co-operation the trouble has now ceased. That is an example of the success of the measures being taken to combat the problem.

I agree with those who say that it would be beneficial if the Bill's provisions could be made known as widely as possible to the public. It is no good having a more effective measure of dealing with these people if its contents are not well known.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley said, the Bill will nip a situation in the bud more often than is the case now. I assure the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) that I shall consider the point he raised about the position of British Transport Police in relation to the Bill.

We believe that the Bill will strengthen the hands of the police in dealing with incidents before they develop into attacks or other forms of major disorder. It will help the police to ensure that those who misbehave on public transport do not escape prosecution. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).