Chairman's Press Notice

PRESS NOTICE

MRS GWYNETH DUNWOODY MP

Abolition of the British Transport Police would be a mistake

The Transport Committee's report on the British Transport Police was published today. The Committee found that the Force was a valuable asset for the railways and the travelling public. Abolition of the British Transport Police could undermine the security of the railways.

Gwyneth Dunwoody MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"The Department for Transport is currently reviewing the future of the British Transport Police. One of the options is to abolish the Force. It is our view that an experienced, dedicated, nationwide British Transport Police is vital for tackling crime and helping to prevent terrorist attacks on the railways. The Government must retain the BTP

She explained:

"We found no desire to break up the BTP; or evidence that such a break up would be beneficial. On the contrary, the key parts of the railway industry told us that a specialised railway police should be retained.

The proposal by the Metropolitan Police to absorb the BTP in London into their own Force is not credible. Indeed, the Metropolitan Police and the Government praised the work of the BTP. In particular, its efforts following the terrorist atrocity on 7 July 2005 were extremely valuable and welcomed warmly by everyone who gave evidence to us. My Committee fully endorses these sentiments.

While there is more for the BTP to do in terms of improving detection rates, this is likely to be best done within the current, unified structure of the Force.

Any move to 'privatise' the functions of the British Transport Police would be a grave mistake. It would involve each train operating company negotiating its own level of policing with the Home Office forces. This is likely to lead to different policing standards throughout the country on the railway, something that would be completely unacceptable.

The Government must also ensure that the financing arrangements for the BTP are put on a sound footing and are fit for the 21st century. Train operating companies help to pay for the BTP. They gain immense security benefits from the work of the Force and it is right that they should pay. But the BTP's counter terrorism work also benefits the country as a whole and this should be recognised in direct Government funding.

In addition, the senior management of the Force should not be spending inordinate amounts of time, as is the case at present, on negotiating an annual financial settlement with the train operating companies when their job is to lead the Force's counter crime and terrorism efforts. These arrangements must be streamlined and we look to the Government to ensure that this happens without delay.

Mrs Dunwoody concluded:

The British Transport Police is an excellent resource in the important drive against crime and terrorism on the railway. We hope that the Government will recognise this fully in the conclusion of its current review, and will assure the future of the Force"

Press Notice 42/2005-06 16 May 2006

John Patterson, Clerk of the Committee