Report (1st Day) (Continued)
29: Clause 35, page 37, leave out lines 17 to 33 and insert—
“Equal opportunities in relation to the Scottish functions of any Scottish public authority or cross-border public authority, including appointments to non-executive posts on boards of Scottish public authorities with mixed functions or no reserved functions. The provision falling within this exception includes provision that reproduces or applies an enactment made in or under the Equality Act 2010, with or without modification, without affecting the enactment as it applies for the purposes of that Act. It does not include any modification of that Act, or of any subordinate legislation made under it, except—
(a) provision that supplements or is otherwise additional to provision made by that Act that enhances, but does not diminish, the protection and promotion of equal opportunities afforded by the provision made by that Act;(b) in particular, provision imposing a requirement to take action that the Act does not prohibit.”
My Lords, I spoke to Clause 35 in Committee. Protection from discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity are fundamental markers of any fair and decent society. As Clause 35 sets out how these issues will be dealt with in the context of the Scotland Bill, it is essential that the meaning of the clause is clear. Despite the Minister’s assurances in Committee, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and other key stakeholders remain concerned that this is still not the case. I am therefore moving Amendment 29, which is intended to make absolutely clear the extent of the Scottish Parliament’s legislative competence in relation to changes to the Equality Act 2010. I very much welcome the support of the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson, and look forward to their support on this amendment in the Division Lobby shortly. We shall see.
As drafted, Clause 35 prohibits modification of the Equality Act 2010 but allows some limited addition. Whether a change to the Act is a modification or an addition will be difficult to assess. This lack of clarity will lead to confusion and potential legal challenge. However, Amendment 29 would make it clear that the important protections in the Equality Act will be maintained and can be enhanced. It would clarify that limited modification is permitted by the Scottish Parliament only where it is additional to and an enhancement of the present legislation. It would therefore become clear that the Scottish Parliament had powers to increase protection from discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the functions of Scottish public bodies by, for example, adding new protected characteristics prohibiting dual or multiple discrimination or enhancing remedies. In doing so, the amendment would ensure that the fundamental right to be free from discrimination and harassment is protected across Great Britain, but it also enables the Scottish Parliament to provide greater protections in relation to the Scottish functions of devolved public services. It would provide clarity that this could be done and ensure that the Smith commission commitment to devolve,
“the introduction of gender quotas in respect of Scottish public bodies”,
is delivered, while providing clarity that any such provision made by the Scottish Parliament could not go beyond the positive action permitted by EU law and reflected in the Equality Act 2010. In supporting greater efforts to ensure that women have fair representation on public boards, we want to ensure that this is not achieved through unlawfully discriminating against men or at the expense of other under-represented groups such as those from ethnic minorities and the disabled.
Amendment 33 relates specifically to diversity on public boards. As drafted, Clause 35 would limit the ability of the Scottish Parliament to encourage diversity on public boards in relation to any protected characteristics not within the present meaning of “protected characteristic” in the Equality Act 2010. This means that the Scottish Parliament would not be able to legislate to encourage diversity on public boards in respect of any new protected characteristics for which it might otherwise introduce protection. It would, for example, restrict moves to address under-representation on public boards of people who are intersex, should the Scottish Parliament decide to introduce this as a new protected characteristic.
Amendment 32 relates to the public sector equality duty, which is a potentially powerful tool contained in the Equality Act 2010. It requires public authorities and those exercising public functions to give proper consideration to proactively eliminating discrimination and advancing equality of opportunity. It is known as the general duty. The amendment, by devolving legislative competence for the general PSED, would enable the Scottish Parliament to impose stronger requirements on Scottish public bodies to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different groups. Scottish Ministers already have legislative competence in respect of the specific equality duties, which are duties in secondary legislation that tell public authorities how to implement the general duty. We have already seen how the stronger specific duties in Scotland under the existing devolved power have driven more transparency in relation, for example, to the gender pay gap in Scottish public authorities. Devolving legislative competence for the general equality duty would give the Scottish Parliament greater freedom to require its public services to do even more.
Amendments 31 and 34 relate to equality in political representation and therefore will be of great interest to all Members of the Committee. They would enable the Scottish Parliament to permit political parties to take stronger action in their arrangements for selecting candidates in order to reduce the under-representation of people with certain protected characteristics in the Scottish Parliament and Scottish local government, extend the period in which all-women candidate shortlists are permitted, and require political parties to publish diversity information in relation to candidate selection. I note that the Minister’s response in Committee referred to the Smith commission’s position that the Scottish Parliament will have no powers over the regulation of political parties. However, I argue that the provisions that could and should be devolved under these amendments relate to equality of opportunity for election candidates, not to issues of political party regulation.
Part 1 of the Bill devolves to the Scottish Parliament all powers relating to the conduct of elections to the Scottish Parliament and local government elections in Scotland. Taken together, the provisions of the Scotland Bill represent a very significant shift in how Scotland will be governed. As such, the devolved institutions will have responsibility for and be accountable for a significantly wider range of areas affecting people’s lives in Scotland. Therefore, the Equality Act provisions relating to increasing diversity through these elections should also be devolved, so that the Scottish Parliament can encourage stronger action to tackle under- representation in devolved institutions.
These amendments would not permit the Scottish Parliament to legislate to allow shortlists made entirely of people with a particular protected characteristic other than sex. While this tool is appropriate for women —a group making up more than 50% of the population —it would seem disproportionate if it were used for far smaller groups, thereby excluding very large sections of the population from shortlists.
These amendments reflect the position in the Equality Act 2010, which was widely debated and agreed by all parties at the time of its passing into legislation to be a proportionate and appropriate position. I therefore hope that they will receive support in the Chamber this evening. I beg to move.
Amendment 30 (to Amendment 29)
30: Clause 35, line 17, at end insert—
“( ) provisions in relation to candidates at an election for membership of the Scottish Parliament or a local government election in Scotland.”
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stephen, for speaking to the amendments. We are generally supportive of a number of them but, as my noble friend Lord McAvoy said earlier, the Labour Party’s aim is to ensure that the Bill gets on the statute book. It is with that realistic element in mind that we debate these issues. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, shakes his head, but he has been shaking his head all night—and for years—on this issue. It is important that we are constructive. I am proud that we have been constructive on this side in helping the Bill to become an Act, therefore ensuring that the relationship between the Scottish Parliament and the UK Parliament gets off on the best foot. I am sure that government Ministers will be on the same level as us on that sentiment.
We support Amendment 29, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, the noble Lord, Lord Stephen, my noble and learned friend Lord Davidson and my noble friend Lord McAvoy. The amendment would give the Scottish Parliament legislative competence for equality of opportunity relating to the Scottish functions of Scottish and cross-border public authorities, including non-executive appointments to public boards. It also clarifies that the Scottish Parliament’s power to modify the Equality Act 2010 is limited to making provision that enhances the protection and promotion of equal opportunities. Our Amendment 30 would amend Amendment 29 and give the Scottish Parliament the ability to set quotas for candidates at Scottish parliamentary and local elections. I also speak in support of Amendments 31 and 33, which we have co-signed with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, and the noble Lord, Lord Stephen.
I start by addressing Amendments 29, 31 and 33, which have been drafted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. First, we place on record our thanks to the EHRC for its work and its continued support throughout the passage of the Bill. Taken together, these amendments have a significant impact on the Scottish Government’s ability to tackle inequality. As the noble Lord, Lord Stephen, has just said, the amendments will give the Scottish Parliament legislative competence in respect of equality of opportunity in Scottish and cross-border public authorities, including non-executive appointments to public boards. They clarify that changes to the Equality Act can only enhance the protection and promotion of equal opportunities, which at present is insufficiently clear.
They also ensure that the Scottish Parliament is not limited in its capacity to act in relation to non-executive appointments to public boards. Finally, they give the Scottish Parliament legislative competence over the public sector equality duty. The Minister stated in Committee that,
“devolving the duty itself is a step too far”. —[Official Report, 19/1/15; col. 674.]
However, he seemed to be arguing that this was more for bureaucratic reasons than anything else. If that is the case, I submit that the Government should look carefully at these amendments to see what can be done.
The noble Lord is making a case for these amendments but, as I understand the Labour Party’s position, it is committed to ensuring that no amendments are made to the Bill. So why are we sitting here at 10.06 pm listening to advocacy for amendments which his party is determined should not actually get on to the statute book?
Actually, I remember, at the beginning of the day, the noble Lord being very robust about Clause 1 and threatening to bring the house down; then he did not press his amendment. Why is he so vigorous at one stage and then so weak and wobbly-kneed? He should stay by his conviction and put the vote to the House, so that he can find out what their measure is. What is sauce for the goose— I will let him finish it.
The Minister mentioned in Committee that devolving the competence to the public sector itself would be a step too far. The Government should look at these amendments to see what can be done. We would like to think that the measured reason we have at this Dispatch Box could influence the Minister before the end of the day. That is why we are standing here, doing our public duty after 10 pm, and I am sure that I will get acclamation from all sides of the House for that.
I agree with the Minister that we must be cautious about creating excessive burdens on private and voluntary groups. I urge the Government not to simply dismiss the idea out of hand. There will clearly be challenges—we accept that—but these have to be weighed against the outcome of fundamentally altering our society’s approach to equality. Our Amendment 30, which takes the somewhat unusual step of amending an amendment, increases the scope of Amendment 29. As I have made clear, we support Amendment 29, but we believe it could go further. Indeed, it needs to go further to ensure that the Scottish Parliament reflects the society it represents.
Amendments 31 and 34 would require political parties to publish diversity information in relation to Scottish elections. Of course, transparency is important and we expect the Minister to agree with us in mentioning the initiative when it comes to pay. However, from experience we are aware that, despite this action, the problem remains a negative feature of our culture and society. Indeed, when it comes to pay, at the current rate of progress it will take nearly half a century for women to be paid the same as men. This demonstrates that we need to go further than Her Majesty’s Government are apparently prepared to go. The Scotland Bill provides a vehicle to do just that.
More can be done to promote gender equality in politics. In fact, the intent of Amendment 30 is to give the Scottish Parliament the ability to set quotas for candidates at Scottish parliamentary and local elections. Under the leadership of Kezia Dugdale, Labour has made substantial progress on this issue. Research from Women 50:50, which I thank for its continued support and guidance, revealed that 52% of the constituency Labour candidates and 50% of the Labour list candidates in the upcoming elections are women, compared with just 15% and 14% respectively for the Conservatives. So a determined and committed leadership shows what can be achieved by introducing candidate quotas. I hope that we can make this the norm across Scotland. It is an extension of the principles of the Smith commission since Smith advocated that the Scottish Parliament should have more autonomy over equality provisions in society. If they are good enough for the public bodies in Scotland, it is surely illogical to argue that we would not want the same for the Government who represent Scotland. Indeed, as Women 50:50 says:
“We need a fair number of women in parliament so that women’s lived experiences exist in policy-making. The system and the policies it creates disadvantage women if there are not enough women round the table to actually represent their views. It is crucial to democracy and to women across Scotland to be represented fully”.
This amendment, combined with amendments already referred to, would help to continue to challenge this fundamental disparity which we have in our political structures. With these amendments we invite Scottish society to play its part in bringing about the more equal, fair and inclusive society that everyone wishes for Scotland. We should hold our elected representatives to those same high standards. In accepting these amendments, the Government would bring about such parity. I hope that, even at this late hour, debating these issues can stimulate the Government to think differently and perhaps result in a changed outcome before we next meet next week. With that, I beg to move.
I thank noble Lords who have spoken—the noble Lords, Lord Stephen and Lord McFall. These provisions and amendments were also debated in Committee. The Government are committed to safeguarding equality, tackling discrimination where it arises and promoting transparency. However, that is, of course, not to say that initiatives and protections in addition to those offered by the Equality Act do not have a part to play, as the Smith commission saw.
The purpose of Clause 35 is to devolve greater equal opportunities powers to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Parliament can introduce new equality protections and requirements on Scottish public authorities and cross-border authorities exercising devolved functions, provided these do not conflict with or change the existing provisions of the Equality Act 2010.
The Scottish Parliament can, however, amend the 2010 Act in regard to appointments to the boards of Scottish public authorities by, for example, enabling the imposition of quotas on grounds of gender or other protected characteristics, but this does not apply to cross-border bodies.
In delivering Smith, the equal opportunities clauses strike the right balance between the need to confer greater competence on the Scottish Parliament for safeguarding and promoting equalities in public bodies—a key concern of the Scottish Government—and the importance of preserving a GB-wide legal framework.
The Government’s interpretation of paragraph 60 of the commission report ensures that we continue to reserve the subject matter of the 2010 Act, while providing the Scottish Parliament with the ability to legislate for specific provisions such as gender quotas in line with the Smith agreement. Through the general exception we are providing, the Scottish Parliament will be able only to supplement the 2010 Act. The Scottish Parliament will not be able to subtract any protections but will instead be limited to increasing and promoting protections.
In relation to board appointments, the Scottish Parliament will be able to modify the 2010 Act if necessary; for example, to introduce gender quotas. The Government believe that applying the exceptions only to non-executive directors strikes the right balance between increasing diversity on boards and the need to minimise intervention in the day-to-day management of an authority, which would not be the case if the scope of the exceptions were to include salaried employees, such as CEOs and finance directors, rather than simply those subject to public appointments.
The provisions have undergone revision as a result of wide-ranging engagement and reflection on comments from the Scottish Government on the drafting. The clause as drafted delivers the necessary devolution of powers and the Government are confident that this delivers the Smith agreement. Therefore, the drafting approach in Amendments 29 and 33 does not need to be revised or expanded. To do so would risk the integrity of the provision, which we have worked to ensure gives the Scottish Parliament the scope to introduce gender quotas, for example, while retaining necessary protections.
Turning to the equality requirements on political parties and candidates, shortlisting electoral candidates on the basis of sex and diversity reporting are provisions in the Equality Act 2010. This is remaining reserved, as agreed by the Smith commission. The Smith commission was also explicit in stating that the regulation of political parties would not be devolved. Whichever way you look at it, the agreement clearly points to this aspect of equality remaining reserved. Amendments 30, 31 and 34 would go beyond this and the Government cannot support them. I accept that Section 106 of the Equality Act, requiring the publishing of diversity data on party candidates, has not been commenced. However, there is nothing to prevent political parties in Scotland or elsewhere in Great Britain reporting on the diversity of their candidates on a voluntary basis.
Turning finally to the public sector equality duty, the Smith commission did not call for further devolution of the duty and indeed was specific that the Equality Act 2010 should remain reserved. Scottish Ministers already have wide-ranging devolved powers under the PSED, which enable them, through the setting of specific duties for enabling the better performance of their obligations under the general equality duty, to require Scottish public authorities to update and publish equality statements, and report on their performance in relation to equalities, among other requirements.
The Government consult the Equality and Human Rights Commission on an ongoing basis and I am happy to write to the noble Lord to address the specific point about what consultation there has been on this.
Scottish Ministers may specify Scottish public authorities which are to be subject to the PSED; for example, under their devolved powers in relation to the PSED they can require gender pay gap information to be published by Scottish public authorities, something that the Government are now also planning to implement for larger private employers across Great Britain. To devolve the duty risks the creation of additional burdens for private and voluntary sector bodies that provide some public services, through excessive contractual requirements imposed by Scottish public bodies on their suppliers; for example, requiring Scottish public bodies to ensure that private sector providers report on their gender pay gaps or carry out gender pay audits as a contractual condition would be burdensome, especially to smaller employers. It would also alter the careful balance we have struck between delivering a package of measures to implement the Smith commission and maintaining a coherent, GB-wide framework for the duty as a whole. I therefore urge noble Lords to withdraw their amendments.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and the Labour Party for supporting these amendments. I welcome the support of the noble Lord, Lord McFall, alongside his colleagues, the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson. The important point here is that these are good, detailed and well-argued amendments that were submitted with the advice and support of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. They were notified in Committee and it seems disappointing that there has not been consultation between the Government and the commission, which is the body given statutory responsibility for these matters. The idea here is not to be controversial or difficult but to be entirely constructive on matters of detail. These good amendments are very much in keeping with the spirit of the Smith commission. I am not minded to divide the House on the matter this evening. I do not think that much divides us and what the Minister said has been extremely helpful. However, on balance, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has indicated that there was a need for greater clarity in these areas. These amendments would have strengthened the Bill and it is disappointing that they will, it seems, not now appear on its face. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 29.
Amendment 30 (to Amendment 29) withdrawn.
Amendment 29 withdrawn.
Amendments 31 to 34 not moved.
Clause 38: Roads
35: Clause 38, page 41, line 28, leave out from “relating” to “to” in line 29
My Lords, I am pleased to move Amendment 35 and to speak to Amendments 36 to 40. In Committee in the other place, the Labour Party brought forward an amendment on responsible parking which was also raised in Committee in this House. At that stage, I committed to updating the House on Report. I am therefore pleased to bring forward Amendments 36 and 37 to the Bill to address this long- standing issue.
These amendments seek to address an issue that is of interest to many people in Scotland: the irresponsible parking of motor vehicles. This issue has particular impact on people with disabilities, parents with pushchairs and the elderly, especially when vehicles have been badly parked on pavements. A number of attempts have been made to bring forward legislation in the Scottish Parliament to regulate this area, but they have failed due to questions of that Parliament’s legal competence in this area. As the debate on this issue in Committee on 19 January demonstrated, there is widespread confusion as to why the Scottish Parliament cannot regulate in this area when it otherwise has the competence to deal with much transport-related policy.
The Secretary of State for Scotland has been committed to seeking a solution to this constitutional question for some time and, as I told this House on 19 January, UK and Scottish Government officials have been discussing the detail of how this can be achieved. We have been mindful of the need to take on the Scottish Government’s views to ensure that the way forward is workable and appropriate. As a consequence of those discussions we have tabled these amendments, which will clear up the constitutional questions on this matter. These amendments will make it clear that the Scottish Parliament has the powers to regulate the parking of vehicles. Amendments 36 and 37 amend the Bill to except the subject matter of the Road Traffic Act that relates to the parking of vehicles on roads from the roads reservation. Consequently, the Scottish Parliament will have the power to regulate the parking of vehicles but driving remains reserved.
For what appears a relatively straightforward policy aim, I am aware that there have been a number of complex considerations. To that end, I am grateful to the officials in both the Scottish Government and this Government for their contribution and input. It is possible that a small number of minor and technical amendments may need to be made at Third Reading to ensure that any associated executive functions are transferred to the Scottish Ministers. This is being explored by officials. Nevertheless, today’s amendments have addressed the key issue at stake.
The amendments make it clear that the Scottish Parliament has the competence to bring forward legislation to regulate parking in Scotland. I believe that this move will be welcomed by people across Scotland who wish to see the Scottish Parliament take steps to address inconsiderate and irresponsible parking. I beg to move.
My Lords, I very much welcome the government amendments on pavement parking. As the Minister just said, the amendments to Clauses 38 and 41 and to Schedule 2 relate to road provisions. They alter the timing of when regulations come into force to give vehicles used for various purposes connected with devolved matters exemptions from both speed limits and certain road signs, and remove references to exemptions from speed limits for vehicles used in connection with reserved matters.
The Government have finally tabled amendments relating to parking on pavements, an issue which we raised in Committee. We support these amendments, in particular Amendments 37 and 38, which reflect those we tabled in the other place and in your Lordships’ House in Committee. We are obliged to the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Ministers for their work on this matter. We also thank the Secretary of State for graciously noting that this initiative was started by Mark Lazarowicz, former Member of Parliament for Edinburgh North and Leith.
Although we are very grateful that the Government have moved these amendments, we understand that there may be some outstanding amendments to be tabled at a later stage, and I would be grateful if the Minister outlined that in more detail. We also put on record our thanks to both Living Streets and Guide Dogs Scotland for their support and briefing on this matter. They made it very clear to us why these amendments were needed. Pavement parking can be and is dangerous for pedestrians, especially people with sight loss, parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users and other disabled people. Those with sight loss are particularly affected, as they can be forced into oncoming traffic which they cannot see.
One of my close boyhood friends has become blind in the past seven or eight years. He has shown me the dangers of parked cars at a very practical level and the limitations he has. One of his pleasures now—a simple one—is leaving his house and going down to the British Legion club for his lunch. However, there are certain days, particularly on weekends, when he cannot move and is on his own, simply because of the cars that are parked there. The quality of one’s life is very much affected by that. I know, from my own family having a disabled child, the impediments there are to living a life like ordinary people if there is this lack of consideration with parking. This measure is not before time.
On the issue of blind people and people with sight loss being forced into oncoming traffic, a survey by Guide Dogs showed that 90% of blind or partially sighted people encounter problems with street obstructions and 90% of those had experienced trouble with cars parked on pavements. Everyone should know that pavements are not designed to take the weight of vehicles, which can cause paving to crack and the tarmac to subside—and cracked and subsiding pavements are a further danger to blind people walking on them. It causes trip hazards for pedestrians and has a particular impact on blind and partially sighted people. The cost of repairing pavements is a burden for local authorities.
In the light of the previous remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, this is a great example of the Government and Opposition working together, taking up issues in Committee, the Government going back, engaging in further consultation and, without a vote or any chagrin, agreeing amendments which are for the better for society, particularly people who are disadvantaged. I congratulate the Secretary of State and Ministers on listening to us on this issue.
Perhaps my noble friend can give me some guidance. I think Amendment 40 is in this group. Reference is made in new Clause 33(1)(a) to a puffin pedestrian crossing regulation. We do not have puffin crossings in Kirriemuir. Do the regulations apply to Scotland? The amendment refers to revoking English and Welsh legislation on puffin crossings. Will my noble friend write to me to tell me what a puffin crossing is and what it is about?
I am very happy to respond in writing to my noble friend.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord McFall, for his contribution. Before I respond to his remarks, when I spoke previously, I inadvertently omitted to speak to some technical amendments. With the leave of the House, I shall do so briefly now.
The amendment to Clause 38 removes the words,
“vehicles used in connection with any reserved matter”,
as they are unnecessary. Even without these words, exempting vehicles used for reserved purposes would still be reserved. The deletion of these words will help to avoid any potential for misunderstanding arising from their unnecessary inclusion.
The amendment to the interpretation provision in Clause 38 is designed to devolve to the Scottish Parliament the subject matter of Section 87 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 as amended by Section 19 of the Road Safety Act 2006.
The other amendments relate to work being done by the UK Government to prepare, as part of a long-standing project, a new set of regulations which will prescribe speed limit exemptions for vehicles used in a variety of circumstances which require a fast response. These amendments are designed to ensure that, with Scottish Ministers’ consent, the new secondary legislation includes exemptions from speed limits for vehicles used in connection with non-reserved matters and that those exemptions apply GB-wide. A considerable amount of work has already taken place to develop those regulations. If they are to be truly effective, change to relevant traffic signs will also be needed. The amendments will enable the Secretary of State, with Scottish Ministers’ consent, to make regulations which are GB-wide in their application and allow vehicles used for various purposes connected with devolved matters to have exemptions from road signs and general directions such as “keep left” and red traffic lights. The aim is to assist stakeholders and avoid duplication of the work already carried out by the Department for Transport. As with the amendments on parking, it is possible that there may need to be a small number of minor and technical amendments at Third Reading in this area. This is being explored by officials.
The Department for Transport will work closely with Transport Scotland on these regulations, so there is input from Transport Scotland. It would be unhelpful if they could not take advantage of the work already carried out due to a timing issue. The amendments are intended to resolve this, and allow Scotland to benefit from the new regulations as a starting point for speed limit and road traffic sign law post-devolution. I commend those amendments.
In conclusion, the amendments address an important issue which has been on our radar for some time, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Members of the other place and stakeholders who have brought this issue to a head. As I said, I am also grateful to the officials in both Governments, who have worked in discussion to pursue a drafting solution to this issue. These provisions will clarify the competence of the Scottish Parliament to legislate to regulate parking in Scotland. I also note the organisations Living Streets and Guide Dogs Scotland, who have recognised the amendments as bringing to a close the question of the Scottish Parliament’s competence in this area.
The Living Streets director said:
“The last minute amendment to the Scotland Bill removes the final barrier to outlawing pavement parking. Finally, the Scottish Parliament will have the power to protect older, disabled and vulnerable pedestrians from inconsiderate parking, which is fantastic news”.
Guide Dogs Scotland said:
“This is great news for people with sight loss, guide dog owners, wheelchair or mobility scooter users, and families with pushchairs. People with reduced mobility have been waiting a long time for legislation that can take inconsiderate parking off our streets, and allow them to get out and about safely in our communities”.
The response to these amendments reinforces the importance of this issue to the people of Scotland, and I am glad that the Scottish Parliament can now take steps to address inconsiderate and irresponsible parking.
Amendment 35 agreed.
Amendments 36 to 38
36: Clause 38, page 41, line 30, after first “the” insert “first”
37: Clause 38, page 41, line 32, at end insert—
““The subject-matter of the Road Traffic Act 1988 so far as relating to the parking of vehicles on roads.”
( ) At the end insert—”
38: Clause 38, page 41, line 35, leave out from second “as” to “(and” in line 36 and insert “substituted by section 19 of the Road Safety Act 2006 as at the date when section 38 of the Scotland Act 2016 comes into force, treating section 19 and any amendment affecting it at that date as if they were in force”
Amendments 36 to 38 agreed.
Clause 41: Roads: consequential provision etc
39: Clause 41, page 45, line 27, leave out subsections (3) to (6)
Amendment 39 agreed.
Schedule 2: Roads: consequential and related amendments
40: Schedule 2, page 85, line 20, at end insert—
40: Schedule 2,
““Part 2Exercise of powers by agreementTraffic signs powers33 (1) Sub-paragraph (2) applies if the Secretary of State makes a statutory instrument revoking the following instruments in relation to England and Wales—
(a) the Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossing Regulations and General Directions 1997 (S.I. 1997/2400);(b) the Traffic Signs (Temporary Obstructions) Regulations 1997 (S.I. 1997/3053);(c) the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (S.I. 2002/3113).(2) Despite anything in section 39 or 40 or Part 1 of this Schedule, the Secretary of State may by that instrument exercise one or more of the traffic signs powers to make provision in relation to roads in Scotland (including provision revoking one or more of the instruments mentioned in sub-paragraph (1) in relation to Scotland), with the consent of the Scottish Ministers.
(3) The traffic signs powers are—
(a) the power to make regulations under section 25 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (pedestrian crossings);(b) the power to make regulations under section 64 of that Act (traffic signs);(c) the power to give general directions under section 65(1) of that Act (placing of traffic signs);(d) the power to give general directions under section 85(2) of that Act (traffic signs for indicating speed restrictions);(e) the power to make regulations under section 36(5) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (traffic signs: discretionary disqualification for failure to comply).(4) The Secretary of State may exercise a power in any way by virtue of this paragraph only if the Secretary of State could have exercised it in that way but for the amendments made by sections 39 and 40 and Part 1 of this Schedule.
Powers to exempt from speed limits34 (1) Sub-paragraph (2) applies in relation to the first statutory instrument made by the Secretary of State containing regulations under section 87(1)(b) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 as substituted by section 19 of the Road Safety Act 2006 (exemptions from speed limits: prescribed purposes and circumstances) in relation to vehicles used on roads in England.
(2) Despite anything in section 39 or 40 or Part 1 of this Schedule, the Secretary of State may by that instrument, with the consent of the Scottish Ministers—
(a) exercise the power under section 87(1)(b) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to make provision in relation to vehicles used on roads in Scotland otherwise than in connection with reserved matters, and(b) in connection with any provision made by virtue of paragraph (a), exercise one or more of the traffic signs powers mentioned in paragraph 33(3) to make provision in relation to roads in Scotland.(3) The Secretary of State may exercise a power in any way by virtue of this paragraph only if the Secretary of State could have exercised it in that way but for the amendments made by sections 39 and 40 and Part 1 of this Schedule.”
Amendment 40 agreed.
Clause 42: Policing of railways and railway property
41: Clause 42, page 46, line 17, at end insert—
“( ) There shall be an agreement between the British Transport Police Authority and the Scottish Government to ensure that the British Transport Police continues to police railways and railway property in Scotland.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 41, I shall speak also to Amendments 42, 43 and 44. I express my appreciation to noble Lords in all parts of the House who have supported Amendments 41 and 42, and I am happy to support my noble friend’s Amendment 43 and Amendment 44 proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Empey. These amendments give the Government a sensible way out of the dilemma that became very clear in relation to the role of the British Transport Police in Scotland when these difficulties were identified by noble Lords in Committee. I was interested in what my noble friend Lord McFall said about the previous amendment—that the Government had listened carefully to the points made in Committee. It is a great pity that on the British Transport Police issue the same understanding does not appear to have manifested itself. Following that debate, the Minister wrote to all of us who participated in Committee and yesterday he convened a meeting on this subject. I am very grateful to him for taking such trouble, but I am afraid that the letter that he wrote falls short of what is required to safeguard the future of transport policing in Scotland, not least because it contained this sentence:
“As policing of railways is to be devolved, it will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament to decide whether the policing of railways should continue to be carried out by the British Transport Police Bodies, or whether these functions should be carried out under a different operating model”.
The Government’s position was made rather clearer by the three officials from the Department for Transport whom the Minister brought to yesterday’s meeting. They told us that they have been in discussions with the Scottish Government for some time about how Police Scotland will take over the responsibilities for policing the railways in Scotland from the British Transport Police.
What has been happening is that the Government have interpreted the report of the Smith commission in one way, and one way only, in respect of transport policing in Scotland. They appear to have given no consideration to the views of the British Transport Police Authority which have been expressed in documents sent to the Scottish Government, and also to its Public Audit Committee. I do not know how much those documents have been considered by UK Ministers. In particular, I would draw the House’s attention to the BTPA paper headed Options for the Devolution of Transport Policing in Scotland. The first option introduced a non-statutory devolved model of governance and accountability for specialist transport policing in Scotland. The second option dealt with a statutorily devolved model of governance and accountability, and the third one described what would happen if BTP’s Scottish division was fully integrated within Police Scotland.
Let me deal first with option three, and particularly with the operational considerations, because this appears to be the course the Government are adopting. This section in the BTPA statement starts with this sentence:
“There is an accepted argument for Britain's railways to be policed in a manner that is not constrained by the geographic boundaries of other police forces or legal frameworks that the rail industry cuts across. Currently, BTP’s boundaries cover the total policing environment of the British rail network, and the structure of BTP provides a single point of contact and consistency in policing standards across the Scottish, English and Welsh railways. This includes working across two legal systems, which is important in day-to-day terms. For example when a crime or disorder occurs, often the exact location of the incident cannot be pinpointed. As BTP is responsible for policing the whole network, it currently does not matter a great deal at what exact point of a rail journey the crime took place. If the policing of the railway network were to be carried out by two bodies, there is a risk for confusion to arise over who would record and investigate crimes, which would be highly distressing for victims and cause unnecessary delay”.
A little later on, under the heading “Specialist Operational response”, there is a paragraph which reads:
“Fatality management, counter-terrorism, cable theft, dealing with people in precarious positions on the railway are examples of areas where BTP’s approach to policing on the railway has ensured that passengers are kept safe and are faced with the minimum of disruption to their journeys and has saved the industry billions of pounds over ten last ten years”.
There is a great deal more in the same vein in the authority’s options paper, which at this late time of night I do not have time to cover.
I shall just mention one other paragraph:
“Terrorism remains a high security concern for the UK as a whole, and the long-standing threat to transport infrastructure is very real. By raising the threat level in August 2014 to ‘severe’, the Home Secretary confirmed the increased risk to the public owing to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, where terrorist groups are known to be planning attacks against the West. In addition to that, the nature of the threat is changing, with a heightened risk of ‘lone-wolf’ attacks in crowded places including railway stations. These developments have underlined the need for a more coordinated and integrated approach to counter-terrorism. The efforts to combat terrorism and extremism must be cross-border – an attack on Scottish soil may well be stopped in England. Equally, any perceived vulnerability arising from fragmented jurisdiction will be exploited by those planning an attack, and jeopardising the ability to police the network as a whole could well result in greater risks to passengers”.
I stress that these are not my assertions, but the views of seasoned policing professionals whose work is widely admired not just across Great Britain but abroad as well. These are men and women who know what they are talking about. We would be ill-advised to ignore them. We should heed their concerns and rule out what the BTPA describes as option 3, the complete integration of the British Transport Police into Police Scotland.
Its options 1 and 2 are consistent with the findings of the Smith commission, as are our Amendments 41 and 42 for they accept the devolution of transport policing in Scotland to the Scottish Government, but make it clear that it is a function that should still be carried out by the BTP reporting to Scottish Ministers. They also make the point that if our friends in Scotland do not like the word “British” applied to any organisation that operates north of the border, the force could easily be renamed “Transport Police Scotland”.
Option 3, which the Government are adopting, files in the face of every objective assessment of the role, functions and effectiveness of the BTP over the past 15 years. The reports in 2001, 2003 and 2004, the report from the Transport Select Committee in another place, the Government’s White Paper The Future of Rail and the BTP’s triennial review all stressed the need for a dedicated national railway police force.
Our amendments are not inconsistent with a desire to achieve further devolution in Scotland as set out in the Smith commission report and enshrined in the Bill. Indeed, the amendments make it clear that in future Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government may have the same relationship with the BTP and its chief constable as Ministers have in England and Wales now. All that we seek to do is ensure that arrangements to police our railways that have worked well for nearly 200 years through the operation of a dedicated and unified transport force, which has kept passengers and railway staff safe north and south of the Scottish border, are not put at risk through action that is hasty and ill considered. I beg to move.
My Lords, I can understand where my noble friend Lord Faulkner is coming from. Along with the details that have been announced there is the extra factor of security, and I would have thought that that would justify a sympathetic approach from the Government. However, I cannot get away from the reality that devolution is devolution, and for us to try to lay down the conduct of the Scottish Government in relation to the British Transport Police, much as we would like to go up against this proposal of devolution, is wrong. I know where he is coming from and I sympathise with him. He has put a terrific case but, fortunately or unfortunately, it falters on the issue of devolution.
Amendment 43 is in the name of myself and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson. What we are trying to do is influence not only the UK Government but the Scottish Government. The amendment would provide for the establishment of a joint board that would examine the transfer, implementation and operation of the devolution of the British Transport Police. I understand that the full integration of the BTP into Scotland would take around three years. During those three years there are bound to be issues that arise, possibly security in particular. In this amendment, the joint board, or whatever it would be called, would report back to the Scottish and UK Governments. It would not interfere or try to influence what the Scottish Government were doing except in the way of good advice, so the principle of devolution would be protected. I do not like to use the expression “holding feet to the fire”; it smacks of violence and I am dead set against violence.
The amendment would establish a joint board to oversee this specific aspect of the devolution settlement, with the requirement to report back to the UK and Scottish Parliaments about the transfer, implementation and operation of proceedings, with particular reference to security issues. It is a response to the wide-ranging debate that we had in Committee, which attracted considerable attention and participation from across the House, about the devolution of the BTP.
I make it very clear, as we have done all through these proceedings, that the amendment is not intended to delay, postpone or in any way alter the timetable of the devolution of the BTP. In keeping with the nature of devolution, once these powers have been devolved, it is up to the Scottish Parliament to determine the future of the BTP. I am honestly making it plain that we have no intention of forcing a vote on that. We are not into gesture politics.
However, let me deal with those who are. Earlier, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, shared with the House a conversation that he alleges he had with the Labour Whips’ Office. I do not know whether it is true, but in my 23 years in the House of Commons conversations with the usual channels and with Whips were sacrosanct. But seeing as how the noble and learned Lord has seen fit to venture into this territory, I shall share, in further defence of our strategy of trying to influence not only the UK Government but the Scottish Government, a statement from the noble and learned Lord to myself at the Bar, which I would not normally share, in which he indicated that the Liberals were going to use the vote on the Crown Estate for election leaflets in the islands. So here we are—the Scotland Bill is reduced to a political gambit for cheap political point-scoring. [Laughter.] The noble Lords may laugh and scoff, but they are the only ones who are doing so. Therefore we are taking the honourable position of trying to influence, not just engaging in gesture politics and staging votes for cheap political points, and we hope that we have influenced the Government—we will see what their response is—and the Scottish Government as well.
My Lords, I will briefly speak to Amendments 41 and 42. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, for having tabled these amendments and for putting the case so eloquently. We had quite a wide-ranging discussion in Committee and I am very disappointed indeed that the Government have not come forward with proposals—a number of constructive options were suggested.
I have been trying to think of two words to explain the conduct of the Official Opposition over the Bill, and “kowtow” would sum it up. They are utterly terrified to say anything that could be interpreted in any way as not being in line with the Smith proposals or as doing anything that might upset the Scottish Government, which is very disappointing, particularly in the context of this issue.
As the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, pointed out, the British Transport Police has for nearly two centuries served our country extremely well. It is a while since I was Secretary of State but I remember the important role it had in ensuring that we were able to cope not just with terrorism but with drug traffickers and other criminals who use the transport network. It is a highly specialised area and it is an act of utter vandalism to break up the British Transport Police in the way that is being proposed.
It is a particularly stupid of the Government to go along with the idea that the British Transport Police should be fragmented and the Scottish element of it included in Police Scotland which, I am sad to say, is in Scotland regarded as something of a joke and a disaster. Prior to the Scottish Government making the changes we had independent police forces operating extremely effectively throughout Scotland. The advocates of devolution decided to take power away from those police forces and centralise them into Police Scotland, and the results have been disastrous as regards communications and operational failures. I place responsibility for this not on the individual members of the police force but on the Scottish Government, who have created this chaos. Both the notion that we should break up the British Transport Police and hand it over to an organisation which has just sacked its chief constable and appointed a new one to sort out its problems, and the amendments which have been put forward by the Labour Party tonight which suggest that we set up a quango to help deal with the problems of implementation and administration, are just breathtaking in the scale of their irresponsibility.
We have no reason to interfere with the operations of the British Transport Police, so what offends the Scottish Government about it? The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, put his finger on it: it could be the B word —the fact that it is called “British”—which offends. However, this is not a Scottish issue but a United Kingdom issue. It is about the security of the United Kingdom as a whole. I very much hope that the Minister will think again about the options which have been put forward in the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, about how we can maintain a British force.
My Lords, the noble Lord is developing a very interesting point. I wonder whether, in doing so, he would like to refer to the no-detriment principle—principle number 5, of which I can hand him a copy now—and whether or not this offends that principle of the white sacred document, the Smith commission report.
Indeed, I am familiar with the no-detriment principle, which is that policy changes on either side of the border should not have a negative impact on either country, and this is a classic example. So it is actually against the Smith commission proposals and, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, pointed out, it is perfectly possible to maintain the integrity of the British Transport Police and meet the requirements of the Smith commission.
Can this be the same Government who are busy arguing that it is necessary for us to maintain our relationship with the European Union in order to maintain our security because of the importance of being able to share cross-border information et cetera? That same Government are now arguing and supporting a proposal that we should break up within our country a police force that operates cross-border. What is going to happen when the train gets to the border? Do the British Transport Police get off the train and somebody from Police Scotland gets on the train? How are they going to share information? What will the cost of all this be?
We have already had a glimpse of what might be in the fiscal framework: £200 million will be given to the Scottish Government to administer the welfare proposals that are being administered in large part in Scotland at present. That is money that would have been far better spent on welfare and not on bureaucracy. And here we are again. I always use the old cliche, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. This is an organisation that has, as far as I am aware, served the public on the Glasgow Subway and throughout the rail network system. It is a specialist area, with the force operating on trains in dangerous circumstances using an experienced cohort with an esprit de corps. No one I have seen in the British Transport Police or among anyone with experience in this area supports what is being put forward. It is being put forward in order to kowtow to this obsession with trying to put a kilt on everything. It seems to me that the Government would do well to consider the amendments that have been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, think again and come back at Third Reading with something that looks to protect the interests and security of the people on both sides of the border.
I listened to the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy. He said that, basically, this is all very difficult and, although we would like to do something, we cannot offend against the principles of the Scottish Government being able to decide these matters. I say to my noble friend the Minister in all seriousness: if there is an incident as a result of this change which would not have occurred otherwise, Ministers will find themselves suffering extreme criticism, and deservedly so. I hope that my noble friend will think again on this and come back with an amendment at a later stage that preserves the integrity of this important force.
My Lords, I would like to speak to Amendments 41 and 42, and then move to Amendment 44 standing in my name. First, I thank the Minister and his staff for facilitating meetings and discussions, and, indeed, the representatives from the Department for Transport for making themselves available. I would also like to commend the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, which was a tour de force of the situation that is in front of us.
When I tabled an amendment in Committee I never thought for one moment that the ripples would go out as they have—it seemed to strike a chord with people. We are fixing a problem that does not exist. The force’s figures and its success rate are all moving in the right direction. I have heard no criticism of the service delivery and am completely unaware of any proposal that would enhance the service. I have no doubt that officials, working with the Scottish Government, could come up with mechanisms to make the situation work. That is what civil servants do. My experience is that if Ministers ask them to do something, they do their best to deliver it, so something could be put together.
Having served on a police authority for 10 years at a time of transition, I make it very clear that if we go ahead and abolish this organisation in Scotland, it will not be free of risk and cost. To start with, the staff contracts are with the British Transport Police. Some of the staff may be offered the opportunity to transfer to Police Scotland, even within a division of transport police, and some may wish to stay with the parent organisation, but, just as happened with the transition from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, a lot of expertise will be lost. That is inevitable, and it will take many, many years to re-establish.
I have no doubt that there are people in Police Scotland who can be trained to do this job—those who care to transfer from the British Transport Police to Police Scotland or a division thereof. I have no doubt that you can always pull something together to make it work but there will be a period of years in which the service is not as effective as it is at the moment. If there were something wrong with the present system, I do not think that anybody here would have an issue with what is proposed. However, there is nothing wrong with it. This is pure, unadulterated politics. Having worked with nationalism for many years, I know that this is about sawing off another branch—removing any connection. It is ideological; it does not matter whether it is right or wrong. This is an ideological imperative, and I can tell noble Lords that acceding to it for no good reason will not bring any benefit whatever to the United Kingdom.
The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, raised a point about the no-detriment policy. I believe that the Smith commission has overreached itself because this will affect the rest of Great Britain. Maintaining security on the island is an integrated process and, because the network stretches across the border, inevitably the security on one side of the border is affected by the security on the other. Why weaken it?
Earlier today I was accused of being cynical, although perhaps fewer people will accuse me of that at this time of night, but the fact is that we have seen this type of thing before. These amendments, including Amendment 44 in my name, offer a menu of options. I do not believe that the British Transport Police should be touched at all. However, where policing powers are devolved to Scotland, the Scottish Parliament has a perfectly legitimate interest. Railway policing involves a geographical area with large tracts of land, properties and stations. Therefore, it has a perfectly legitimate interest in that, and rightly so.
I said in Committee that we had an issue with accepting the National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland. The nationalists at Stormont blocked the proposal to give the powers of a constable to an officer of the National Crime Agency and that delayed its implementation by three years. However, we found a solution, and a solution is expressed in Amendment 44. If this amendment were agreed to, it would do no injury whatever to the Smith proposals because it proposes an additional, not a replacement, process. It is done in that way because, if you give institutional and immediate expression to the legitimate interest of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament in a policing issue, perhaps when they get involved in it and see it in operation they will conclude that there is no point in further proceeding to smash something that is not broken. It does not replace the proposal in the Bill but is additional to it. It also has the advantage that it could be introduced immediately without doing any injury at all to the Smith proposals.
However, the Government have to realise that this is a two-way street. There is a genuine English-Welsh issue to be considered. If you vandalise, as has been said, the British Transport Police, you will create a vulnerability for a period of time which will expose the rest of us to risk. That is not rocket science. I have no doubt that the two Governments can work together, make proposals and find processes. However, an extra link will be added to the chain in dealing with terrorists, people traffickers or whatever it happens to be. It goes in the very opposite direction of what happened in Scotland, where Police Scotland pulled together different forces in order to reduce the links. It has not worked yet but it might eventually. We are going in the opposite direction and adding to the links.
I believe that the Government should consider some of these amendments. I think that they should listen, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said, to the professional advice that has been given. We all know that this is politics. It is nothing to do with the delivery of the service. Today we saw an example of the constitutional chaos that we have inflicted upon ourselves throughout the United Kingdom over the past few years with this completely disjointed constitutional change and reform. Instead of a coherent process in which we know where we are going and we go to it, this is patchwork-quilt stuff with bits bolted on here and bits bolted on there. How many Bills have passed through this House in the past three years—Northern Ireland Bills, Welsh Bills, Scottish Bills? Now, by a Standing Order, the constitution of the United Kingdom is being torn up at the other end of the corridor and the status of MPs from the regions is being totally changed, and yet there has hardly been even a decent discussion about it. This is another example of it.
We have an opportunity here. We have given the Government some perfectly reasonable and sensible options because we understand the position that Ministers are in. It is not their fault—it is a circumstance that arose in a week of panic before the referendum in 2014. Things were said for the right reasons albeit, looking back, they were unwise. However, the implementation has got mixed up in this interparty rivalry in Scotland and this sort of obsession with not offending the SNP—which is a one-way street if ever I saw one. I have to respect that it has a mandate. I respect the fact that the powers of policing have been devolved. I also respect the fact that that can be institutionally recognised without damaging and destroying a service that works perfectly well.
I hope the Minister and the Government will reflect on those points before Third Reading and realise that there are options. There are genuine concerns, but there are also options for resolving them. I commend Amendment 44 to the House.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner and Lord Empey, for speaking to these amendments—which, as I said in Committee, are most important. I am also grateful to the Minister for organising the drop-in yesterday. I regret that I turned up 27 minutes late, as I was detained on other business of the House, so I was only able to get a debrief—a very interesting debrief—from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and the noble Lord, Lord Empey.
I approach this matter from the point of view of the citizen, as I have done before. I think that the citizen is interested in security. They are interested in not having their daughter thumped on a train, and in drug smugglers not getting through. They are interested in terrorists being arrested. Our two holy documents—the white Smith agreement and the green Bill—as ever, need to be a good guide. This is another instance where they are in conflict. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has been eloquently telling us about the no-detriment principle now for three months. I know that he knows it, but I thought that it should be read out. The agreement should,
“not cause detriment to the UK as a whole nor to any of its constituent parts”.
That is one of the core principles of the negotiations. Coming as it does at the start of the Smith commission report means that it has extra power. It is even more powerful than the many paragraphs that follow. Of course, paragraph 67 says very curtly:
“The functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland will be a devolved matter”.
Those two paragraphs—I stress again the no-detriment principle, which has been so much the core of what we have been talking about for three months—are at odds with what is in the sacred green document, and that needs to be resolved. It is something this House needs to work hard to resolve. It is not resolved at the moment. I certainly agree that it needs to be resolved for Third Reading.
To repeat what I said in Committee, I note that the British Transport Police has separate duties, separate skills, separate powers and separate staff, who are trained and motivated differently. They have different skills and lives. It has a totally different structure. Its IT systems are completely different and plugged into some of the most sensitive IT systems in the United Kingdom—to which the standard Police Scotland constable does not have access. In short, they are an elite. They are after passenger safety and suppressing terrorism, and they get a seven-figure sum every year just for dealing with their part of combating terrorism.
Police Scotland, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, so eloquently said, is a very troubled organisation. I have had just two Police Scotland officers in my home in the past six months—one from Dundee and the other from Perth. The particular matters that they came to talk to me about took 30 seconds, but I spent probably an hour with them listening to the awful difficulties they are dealing with as morale has collapsed and management appears to be on the floor. To be transferring into chaos at this time of terror alert—let us remind ourselves how big the terror alert is—one of the functions that is trying to keep us safe is pretty irresponsible. The Scottish Government might be nationalists, but they are a pretty responsible bunch of people. Neither they nor the UK Government should really be contemplating that. Of course, with all the differences in staff, training and IT duties, it would be very difficult.
I would very much like to hear from the Minister why the no-detriment principle is not the trump card, and why the collection of very well thought through and interesting amendments that make up this group could not be put in place. They would be consistent with the Smith commission agreement; they would certainly be consistent with the no-detriment principle. The core, surely, of both the UK Government and the Scottish Government is the security and safety of the citizen with whom I started this short speech. There is an overwhelming case for the Government introducing something at Third Reading, and I look forward to hearing a little about what that might be.
My Lords, paragraph 67 of the Smith commission report states:
“The functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland will be a devolved matter”.
That is a simple and straightforward sentence, but what lies behind it is actually very profound. My concern is that what is being proposed by the Government does not safeguard the functions of the British Transport Police if they are devolved. I respect and generally support the way it is being done in terms of exceptions to the general reservation under Part 2 of Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998, but what we have heard is that the Scottish Government intend to put the British Transport Police under the ambit of Police Scotland.
I will not go into the woes of Police Scotland with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who have both mentioned them, but even at its best one can readily imagine that once the BTP comes under the auspices of Police Scotland, if you are the chief constable and you have problems and challenges with regard to resources, you might well think, “Well, why do we have a specific police presence in Waverley station? Surely it can be covered by the police we have got who would otherwise be monitoring Princes Street?”. It would not be proper for politicians to interfere in the operational decisions of the chief constable. For operational reasons the functions of the British Transport Police under a different guise could be whittled away bit by bit.
The noble Lord is absolutely right, and we aired these concerns when this was debated in Committee.
It is interesting to note in the submission made by the British Transport Police Federation to the Scottish Parliament Devolution (Further Powers) Committee that:
“In 2001, the government response to the DfT consultation which led to the BTPA’s creation … stated that: ‘The Government therefore considers that the national railway network is best protected by a unified police force providing a dedicated, specialist service and able to give proper priority to the policing of the railways’”.
The memorandum to the committee of the Scottish Parliament goes on to quote the Transport Select Committee of the other place in 2004, which,
“looked at the reforms to the BTP’s governance arrangements … It concluded that: ‘The British Transport Police is not a Home Office Force, and nothing we have heard suggests that it should become one. The railways are a specialised environment, with specialised needs, and need a specialised Force’. They continued: ‘The steady reduction of resources allocated to traffic policing leads us to agree with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that unless there is a national force dedicated to policing the rail network, the task will not be given the priority it needs’”.
Our concern is that if, having devolved and lost control of this area and the Scottish Government exercise the devolved powers that they have to bring it under the direction of Police Scotland, the very concerns that were expressed by the BTPF and others will be borne out. The specialist services which the British Transport Police currently deliver could be lost over time, and therefore what the Smith commission argues is that the functions possibly could no longer be exercised.
Noble Lords have referred to a number of those functions, in particular tackling terrorism on our transport network. One I particularly note is that:
“The British Transport Police has created specialist teams with responsibility for the management of multi-agency support for local and national suicide prevention, mental health interventions and vulnerable persons encounters. An ongoing force-wide operation (Operation Avert) has so far achieved a 30% reduction in suicide attempts compared to the same period the year before”.
These are very profound specialist functions that the British Transport Police provide.
My Lords, one of the problems is that the no-detriment principle has so far tended to be looked at primarily in financial terms, but I think that the noble Earl is right that there are other detriments of a qualitative nature which he pointed out to the Minister. We could lose something of value. That would be to the detriment not just of Scotland, but of the whole country.
I share the views of other noble Lords that it is disappointing, despite the many concerns expressed in Committee, that the Government have not come forward with an amendment that would seek to address this. We owe a debt to the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, Lord Empey and Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, and to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who have sought to try to meet the Smith commission’s recommendation while ensuring that the specific functions of the British Transport Police are preserved.
I have some reservations about Amendment 41, which would be inserted at the end of Clause 42. Clause 42 fits the Smith commission’s arguments—it does devolve, in as much as it makes an exception—but my concern about Amendment 41 is that, having devolved, it seems to take back and would make it a requirement to have an agreement between the British Transport Police Authority and the Scottish Government. I prefer Amendment 42, which at least says that, if there is to be a police services agreement that applies in Scotland, Scottish Ministers should be involved, and that the oversight arrangements that the noble Lord, Lord Empey, spoke to—he indicated that they were over and above what was proposed—are consistent with the spirit and the letter of the Smith commission proposals, while trying to ensure that this is a practical way to address them.
I hope that when the Minister responds to the debate he will take on board that there are genuine concerns that a simple further exception to the reservations in Schedule 5 will not necessarily guarantee that the functions of the British Transport Police would be safeguarded after the devolution proposals put forward there. I therefore hope that the Minister, even at this late stage, will be prepared to come back and give some further thought as to how the functions can be properly safeguarded.
My Lords, in my view the words used by the Smith commission on this subject do not imply the break-up of the British Transport Police so far as it operates in Scotland. It says that the functions of the British Transport Police shall be devolved. If the British Transport Police does not exist in Scotland, it will not have any functions that are devolved. That does not seem to make sense.
My second point is that if this provision is to be applied in a sense that the British Transport Police is not to function in Scotland, but would have some kind of associated unit in Police Scotland, there will be no chief constable responsible for operations of transport police in Scotland whose exclusive attention is devoted to transport. The chief constable of Police Scotland has some responsibilities other than transport, whereas the British Transport Police chief constable is devoted entirely to transport—the full attention of the most senior rank there is in the police is available relating to transport only. Transport is sufficiently important to merit the attention of a chief constable.
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Faulkner’s Amendments 41 and 42. I certainly will not repeat the excellent speeches made in support of these and the other amendments this evening. I will emphasise one or two things: first, how different policing the railways is nowadays. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, mentioned Waverley station, which brings me to crowd control of, for example, football crowds. The British Transport Police has an enormous and excellent reputation in ensuring safety of passengers on the Underground and ways into the Underground, and has ways of keeping them safe on the platforms themselves so that the train does not run into them and they do not get pushed on to the track. There is, sadly, the ongoing issue of terrorism and people trying to do nasty things to the trains, which can be very dangerous. There was an incident last Friday in Belgium where somebody put some concrete blocks on the track of a high-speed line. Luckily, the train did not derail, but that can happen anywhere. Again, having the local police going along and dealing with that might be all right, but there is a good chance that it would not be all right. We have to ensure that this specialism is retained and preserved in whatever happens.
My noble friend Lord McAvoy seemed to be saying that we should give the Scots everything they want in this legislation. That is an argument I do not have particular views on, except on the railways. If we want to give them British Transport Police separated from the rest of the UK, why not give them the railway completely? Why not give them Network Rail? There is nothing in the Bill that says Network Rail is going to be owned in Scotland, or separated from the UK. It probably does not particularly matter who owns the railway, but there is the matter of timetabling.
I spent many years in various discussions across Europe trying to encourage passenger and freight trains to move across frontiers without stopping for hours, minutes or sometimes days because the timetable is not co-ordinated. Of course, that could happen here if the Government give the responsibility to Scotland for having a separate timetable. I am sure it would not happen, because we are not that stupid, but it seems to me that if we are going to keep the railways as an integrated whole, and not make all the Virgin trains stop at Carlisle for everybody to get out and get on to a different train, why separate the police?
The other issue of which we ought perhaps to remind ourselves, also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, is the question of who pays. We all know that Network Rail at the moment pays 50% of the cost of the British Transport Police and the train operators, passenger and freight, pay the other 50%—I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group. If I were a train operator in Scotland and I found that the BTP did not exist there and any policing on the railways was being done by the local bobby, I would say to myself, and to the politicians, “Why do I, operating a train in Scotland, have to pay for policing the railway, such as it is, but if I operate a bus, a car or a lorry in Scotland, I do not have to pay?”. And I would not pay, because it is very out of balance between road and rail—I would probably get nothing for it either.
At some stage, someone is going to have to work out who is going to pay for the policing in Scotland that will no longer be done by the BTP. There is absolutely no reason why the rail passenger or freight customer should have to pay for whatever policing they get and the main competitor, which is road, should not have to pay. Maybe the Minister already has an answer to that.
I entirely agree with the noble Lord: that is the way it should be done. The operators in England do complain, occasionally, about what they get for their money—the British Transport Police probably spends half its budget in London, because London is very important, with the Underground. The fact remains that they all accept this, but they do expect to get the specialist knowledge, albeit sometimes in support of the local police, who may get there first. They know that the BTP is there to provide the specialist knowledge and make sure that everything they do is done safely. I feel very strongly about this and I hope that the Minister will give us some comfort. If not, we will have to see what happens.
I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. He always speaks on railway matters with such authority. I thank noble Lords for the other informed and authoritative contributions we have heard during this debate.
I think one thing is clear: all sides of the House are agreed that the British Transport Police does an excellent job of policing our railways. That is not in doubt. However, the issue this evening is whether this House will agree to devolve to the Scottish Parliament the functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland. As has already been said, the Smith agreement says:
“The functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland will be a devolved matter”.
The functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland are the policing of the railways in Scotland. The Smith Commission also stated in paragraph 19:
“Where the agreement provides that powers or competence in relation to a matter will be devolved, this is intended to mean a transfer of full legislative competence to the Scottish Parliament along with that of the associated executive competence to the Scottish Government”.
Clauses 42 and 43 devolve legislative competence in relation to railway policing in Scotland and designate the British Transport Police bodies as cross-border public authorities. This is devolution. It has been argued tonight that this aspect of the Smith agreement could be implemented in a different way by retaining the BTP as a single body but making it jointly accountable to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent that outcome being achieved. The Bill does not dissolve the BTP. It does not mandate that the BTP should no longer operate in Scotland. It does not prescribe a model by which policing of the railways in Scotland should be carried out in future.
What the Bill does do is ensure that the BTP continues to operate in Scotland as now, unless and until the Scottish Parliament decides to pursue an alternative approach, and it ensures that Scottish Ministers are consulted on appointments to the BTP bodies. It will be for the Holyrood parties to set out in advance of the elections what their approach to the BTP in Scotland will be. The Scottish Conservative manifesto for the Holyrood elections will contain a clear commitment to retain a single nationwide British Transport Police—not absorbed into Police Scotland—but a BTP made more accountable to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament.
I very much hope that the Scottish Conservatives will win more seats at the election but I am not anticipating them becoming the Government of Scotland. My noble friend must know that Scottish Ministers have made it clear that they intend to break up British Transport Police if they have the power to do so, and to amalgamate it into Police Scotland. Therefore, is it not a little disingenuous to imply that what the Bill provides will not threaten the integrity of the British Transport Police? It will indeed.
I can assure my noble friend that I will not turn myself into Mystic Meg tonight and make a prediction about the Scottish elections. I am making a broader point because I think the real point is that embracing devolution means trusting the Scottish Parliament to act responsibly with the powers it is given, and respecting the ability of people in Scotland to hold its representatives to account. I fear that for this House to decline to support this provision would send out a clear message to Scotland that we do not trust its Parliament and the ability of people in Scotland to hold it to account. Should the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament press ahead to legislate for, and implement, a different model for policing the railways in Scotland, and to integrate the functions of the BTP with Police Scotland, I believe it is reasonable to expect the two Governments, working together, to be able to put in place the necessary arrangements to ensure that the service remains as effective as it is today, that the transition is seamless and protects the interests of people on both sides of the border, and that there is no detriment.
Counterterrorism has been specifically referred to. I want to address that directly. The BTP currently undertakes counterterrorism policing of the railway. This includes a range of operational measures and deployments designed to mitigate and manage the terrorist threat. General policing is already devolved and arrangements already exist between Police Scotland, the BTP and Home Office police forces to ensure the effective delivery and co-ordination of policing, and we would clearly expect these to continue under any new model. The Scottish Government already work with a range of partners, including the United Kingdom Government, Police Scotland and the British Transport Police, to ensure that Scotland is protected from a range of threats, including terrorism. There are well-established national procedures in place for policing across regional and functional boundaries, and these will certainly continue to apply.
Going back to what I was saying about ensuring that the service remains as effective as it is today, that is what has happened with every act of devolution since the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1998. Officials are meeting regularly and both Governments are committed to working constructively and effectively on the detailed arrangements needed to enable the transfer of functions to take place. A senior-level joint programme board to lead and oversee the work to integrate the BTP in Scotland into Police Scotland, should the Scottish Government decide to press forward after the election in May, has been established by the two Governments and includes representatives of the two police authorities. The terms of reference for the joint programme board will be formalised following the Scotland Bill receiving Royal Assent, and I will be happy to share these with noble Lords. Once the Scottish Government have finalised their plans for the future model of railway policing, I will be happy to update the House on implementation plans. Before this, the Scottish Government have made clear their intention to engage with key partners and staff representatives to ensure that the specialist railway policing skills and expertise of British Transport Police officers and staff in Scotland are maintained.
I hope noble Lords will not press their amendments and will allow this provision to proceed. Of course, I will reflect on the discussions that have taken place but I cannot undertake to commit to any amendments.
If I understood the Minister correctly, does he seriously believe that even after efforts have been made to fix something that is not broken, the service provided subsequent to the Scottish Parliament taking over this function is going to be better than the service that is provided now? I accept that civil servants, working together, will patch something up. They are good at that and they will do their job to the best of their ability but nobody can say that the service will be better. The problem is ensuring that it is even as good and that will take years because of the personnel movements, the skill loss—people will have to be retrained. This is all totally nugatory work, for no good purpose to the people of these islands.
Let us call a spade a spade. This is a political thing through and through. There is no other dimension to it. The Minister may have given no undertaking but he has at least agreed to reflect on this. We ought to at least take that into account. This will not produce a better service than we have. What we are trying to do is prop up and secure something close to what we already have.
My Lords, this has been an extraordinary debate. The hour approaches midnight and we have been debating the British Transport Police in Scotland for more than an hour, with an extraordinary range of very well-informed, powerful speeches on these amendments. I thank everybody who has taken part in the debate.
Obviously, there is not time to go through each of the speeches but the most important point the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, made was that this is a United Kingdom issue, not just a Scottish issue. The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, talked about the no-detriment principle. I do not think that we got an answer on that from the Minister. The noble Earl also asked for a commitment to some form of government amendment at Third Reading; we were told that that will not be offered.
I should thank the noble Lord, Lord Empey, for bringing this issue up in the first place in Committee because it was not spotted in the other place when the Bill went through there. It was his tabling of the amendment in Committee that allowed us all to realise what was actually being proposed for transport policing in Scotland. His point is that this is an attempt to fix a problem which does not exist and that there is nothing wrong with the operation of transport policing at the moment. To make these changes is free of neither risk nor cost.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, talked about the functions not being properly safeguarded and the possibility of security being diminished. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, made a very important point about what the Smith commission said on the subject, which is not consistent with what is being proposed in the Bill. My noble friend Lord Berkeley, using his great experience from the railways, talked about the specialism of the British Transport Police.
I would like to be able to say that the Minister came some way towards meeting all these very important points but I honestly do not think that he did. If we allow the Bill to go through in its present form, and do not make our voices clear tonight that we are very unhappy with what is to happen not just in Scotland but to transport policing throughout the United Kingdom as a result of this change, we will regret that. With great reluctance at this very late hour, I therefore beg leave to test the opinion of the House.
Consideration on Report adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.52 pm.