My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
On 11 October 2005, my predecessor, the right honourable Member for Edinburgh South West, announced his decision to review the role of the British Transport Police (BTP). The review, which has been carried out in consultation with interested parties including rail operators, passenger representative groups, the BTP, the BTP Authority and other policing organisations, has now concluded.
The review has examined a range of options in relation to the future policing of the railways, including transferring the function to local police forces and various options for expanding or refocusing the role of the BTP. It has also considered the relationship between the work carried out by the BTP and the requirements of the rail industry.
I have concluded that there remains a strong case for retaining a national specialist police force for the railways. The BTP plays an important role in combating crime and helping to deter potential terrorist activity on the rail network. The review has confirmed the effectiveness of the force in its key role and, in particular, that its specialist knowledge of the operation of the railway is an important asset. I have therefore decided not to make any structural changes to the way in which the policing of the railways is carried out.
However, the review has identified a need for greater clarity in detailed aspects of BTP’s operation in relation to its responsibilities to the rail industry, the rail industry's own duties and the role of local police forces.
I therefore propose to write to the chairman of the BTP Authority and the chief constable of the BTP asking them to ensure that the force's resourcesare focused on areas where the BTP can provide maximum added value to the fight against crime on the railway. I will be asking them to establish how the role and responsibilities of the BTP relative to those of other forces can be clarified and, where necessary, revised and incorporated into current protocols between BTP and local forces.
I will also be asking them to develop a more structured partnership approach between the force and the rail industry focused on agreed needs and priorities. This will require all stakeholders to interact more effectively at all levels, in particular at the local level to ensure that local issues and concerns are addressed. Bespoke neighbourhood policing for the railway community and enhanced communication between the train companies and the BTP will help ensure that the policing service is tailored more effectively to meet local needs.
I have also decided to increase the membership of the British Transport Police Authority to enhance scrutiny of the force's resource requirements and to strengthen the industry's input to the authority's management and oversight of the efficiency and effectiveness of the force. I will be appointing two additional industry members.
The review has also considered the arrangements for funding the BTP. I have concluded that the BTP should remain largely funded by the rail industry. The Government will continue to consider providing additional central funding for specific projects and initiatives undertaken by the BTP which provide benefits beyond the railway environment.