Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320
TUESDAY 23 JANUARY 2001
320. Can I say that before the Committee's public
meeting started this morning we did have some discussion on this
and on hearing some evidence from some of those whom you have
just mentioned. I think the Committee has certainly agreed that
this is an area where we are hoping next week to hear further
evidence and have further witnesses. I am also conscious that
the Committee does have a lot to deal with in a particular period
of time, so I would like to suggest that we use the remaining
half-an-hour at least to start to look at this, given that the
Committee has already agreed that we want to look at this matter
more intensively in future meetings. Thank you. Mr Miller?
(Mr Miller) If I may, Madam Chairman, I would like
to ask my Service colleagues to retire, and to bring forward Mr
Crowther who is the Head of the Ministry of Defence Police Secretariat,
and Mr Woodhead who is the Head of my Bill Team.
Chairman: Can I thank your Service colleagues
very much for their very helpful evidence and comments this morning.
321. Mr Miller?
(Mr Miller) Madam Chairman, on Clause
31, this clause makes changes to the jurisdiction of the Ministry
of Defence Police. The jurisdiction of the police force is governed
by Section 2 of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987. The intention
of the Bill is to extend their jurisdiction by amending that section.
At present the Ministry of Defence Police may operate on land
which is in the vicinity of defence land, in response to specific
requests from a member of the local force. This existing power
is to be replaced by a new power to act on such land in furtherance
of a request agreed by the Ministry of Defence Police for policing
assistance from a chief officer of the local force. The aim is
to allow standing arrangements to be agreed at a high level under
which the Ministry of Defence Police may take on the performance
of agreed policing duties in areas close to defence land. The
point here is that this is to enable the chief officer to require
the Ministry of Defence Police to exercise powers in this way.
The 1987 Act provides for the Ministry of Defence Police to have
an additional jurisdiction in the UK in relation to defence personnel.
This is currently applied as being limited to offences by defence
personnel. Clause 31(3) extends the jurisdiction to offences against
defence personnel. For example, it would give the Ministry of
Defence Police jurisdiction where there is an attempt to bribe
an MoD employee. Clause 31(4) confers additional powers on the
Ministry of Defence Police in any case where a request is received
from a constable of another force. In this case the present limitation,
which restricts action to the vicinity of defence land, will no
longer applyin other words, this is enhancing the Ministry
of Defence Police's ability to respond to requests for help from
a constable to meet problems. Finally, there may be occasions
where Ministry of Defence Police officers face emergencies where
their normal jurisdiction would not apply, and where it may not
be possible for the Ministry of Defence Police officers to obtain
timely authority from the local police force to deal with the
emergencies. Clause 31(4) accordingly empowers a Ministry of Defence
Police officer to act without a request from a Home Office Department
or other police officer in specified circumstances, if he reasonably
believes that waiting for such a request would frustrate or jeopardise
the purpose of his action. The Ministry of Defence Police officer
in those circumstances must either be in uniform or have proof
that he is a Ministry of Defence Police officer, and he must either
reasonably suspect that there has been an offence involving the
use or threat of violence against someone, or where he reasonably
believes that action is necessary to save life or to prevent or
Chairman: Thank you, Mr Miller. I think
we have all received representations from various points of view
about these clauses. I have Mr Key, Mr Davies and Mr Keetch who
have all indicated they wish to ask questions.
322. May I start by assuring the Ministry of
Defence Police that anything that I sayI cannot speak for
others, but I suspect it would also cover themis not a
criticism of the Ministry of Defence Police or of any individuals
within the Ministry of Defence Police service for whom I have
a high regard, they do a very good job in my constituency and
I have seen them across the country and indeed elsewhere. So this
is not in any sense a vendetta or criticism of the Ministry of
Defence Police; it is probing at the reason why the Ministry of
Defence, their employers, wish to extend the jurisdiction of the
Ministry of Defence Police. There are very, very fundamental issues
here. I served on the Military of Defence Police Bill Standing
Committee back in 1987. Too many of the words I spoke on that
Bill are coming true. I want to start with the really basic issues
about why it is perceived to be necessary to institute such a
substantial increase in the jurisdiction of the police, because
it is quite clearand I have taken both legal and judicial
advice on thisthat what is proposed here, not just in this
clause, but if you marry to it Clause 6 and the extension of the
PACE, Schedule 1, is that you are effectively introducing a completely
new sort of power to this police force not only over its physical
jurisdiction, but also over its jurisdiction over people, and
that is what I wish to explore. During the passage of the Ministry
of Defence Police Bill, it was pointed out by a number of us that
we were actually building upon a very much respected civilian
police force going right back to Pepys, if you want to go back
to the history of the Ministry of Defence Police, but then it
gradually evolved and it became in 1987 the very first national
police force, and not only that, subject to the operational control
of a Minister of the Crown. In the evolution of our police services
in this country we had always avoided those two things: first,
a national police force, second, a police force under the operational
control not just of the chief constable, but the chief constable
being answerable to a Minister of the Crown, not to a police authority.
So that was a very big change. Here we are seeing further changes.
We are seeing powers being sought to give the Ministry of Defence
Police really fundamentally new powers here which have been objected
to already in the public print and elsewhere, as a result of a
number of high-profile cases, including the case of Mr Tony Geraghty,
for example. I am sure we are going to come back to that again
and again. I must ask first of all, why has the decision been
taken now to seek to extend the jurisdiction in this way?
(Mr Miller) The Ministry of Defence is seeking to
increase the jurisdiction in this way broadly to improve the ability
of the Ministry of Defence Police to respond to requests for assistance
or, in the case of the final element which I referred to, to react
in circumstances where immediate action is required in a very
specific and closely specified range of circumstances where there
is not the opportunity for the civil police to make a request.
Again, if I may take the first of the powers, it is quite specifically
the case where the intention is that the Ministry of Defence Police
powers would enable the constabulary to respond to a request from
the local Home Office chief officer of police. It is simply to
provide that ability. It obviously would be for his decision,
quite properly, as he is policing the area, whether or not to
ask for such assistance and to draw up, in consultation with the
MoD Police, the details for providing it. That is the theme which
flows throughout this.
323. Chairman, I am of course familiar with
the Home Office Circular 17/1999 issued on 25 March 1999, which
is headed "Coordinated Policing Protocol between the Ministry
of Defence Police and Home Office Police Forces". That is
perfectly clear in redefining the primacy of Home Office police
forces inside the wire as well as outside the wire, all of which
was debated at great length. I will not bore the Committee, but
I did re-read the entire proceedings of the Ministry of Defence
Police Bill last night, Second Reading right through to the Report
Stage and Third Reading. Time after time the then Defence Minister
taking the business through made it absolutely clear, as has just
been explained by Mr Miller, that the Ministry of Defence Police
was always seeking to assist the chief constable of the Home Office
police force. This is just not reality. We see, in a number of
these cases which I have referred to, the Ministry of Defence
Police initiating action against people and in places, without
actually seeking first of all to ask the chief constable for assistance
or indeed wait to be asked by the chief constable. Let me give
a very simple example. Yesterday afternoon a Written Answer was
given to Mr Drew by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
for Defence about maritime wargraves. Mr Drew asked the Secretary
of State for Defence what his Department's policy is towards the
policing and protection of maritime wargraves within (a) British
and (b) international waters. The Minister replied, "The
Ministry of Defence Police will investigate allegations of misappropriation
of wreck materials from naval wrecks whenever notified that an
offence has been committed either in British or international
waters." First of all, under what powers would the Ministry
of Defence Police, under the existing legislation, pursue international
inquiries about the misappropriation of wrecks or wreck material?
(Mr Miller) I would need to take that one away. I
cannot answer that specific question.
324. It was a question answered only last night
by the Ministry of Defence. Surely this is not an unreasonable
(Mr Crowther) Could I perhaps assist the Committee
here. The Ministry of Defence Police has jurisdiction over Crown
property under the existing Act, and a naval wreck would, by definition,
be Crown property.
325. So it is as simple as that: Crown property
anywhere in the world is subject to investigation by the Ministry
of Defence Police?
(Mr Morrison) I think it is probably a little more
complicated than that. I think it is "defence property".
There is specific provision in the Ministry of Defence Police
Act for extension of those powers into territorial waters. I was
not clear from the case you were referring to whether it went
beyond territorial waters.
326. Yes, international waters.
(Mr Morrison) Then we would have to look at that.
327. It illustrates the point I am making. There
is no question of a nice cosy relationship with the Home Office
police department. This is a question of the Ministry of Defence
Police undertaking criminal investigations. My next question will
need to be answered, I suspect, by letter. Please can you let
us have a breakdown of the rank and function of the Ministry of
Defence Police, including, for example, the number of officers
in the CID branches of the Ministry of Defence Police in 1987
when the Act was introduced and today? I could put down a PQ,
but perhaps I could say please can you write to us and tell the
Committee next week, so that we know what we are talking about?
(Mr Crowther) The number of officers in the MDP at
the moment is some 3,500I think it is just a fraction less
than that. The number has come down quite substantially over the
last few years. I would guess that in 1987 it was significantly
(Mr Miller) Certainly we will provide you with the
detail of that.
328. I think it is important that we understand
the ambitionsperhaps that is a loaded wordor we
understand the way the numbers have changed, particularly when
it comes to criminal investigations, because it was absolutely
clear in the passage of the Act in 1987 that criminal investigations
would always be handed over to the Home Office police force. It
was absolutely clear in statement after statement from the Ministry
of Defence, in the Second Reading right through to the Third Reading.
What has changed?
(Mr Crowther) As long as I have been involved with
the Ministry of Defence Police it has had a criminal investigation
department who have conducted criminal investigations within the
scope of the jurisdiction of the MDP.
(Mr Miller) Again, I am sorry, Mr Key, we will clearly
need to give you a note on this point.
329. But we were told, in the passage of that
Bill, that it would be petty crime; that the CID division of the
Ministry of Defence Police would be concerned with petty crime
either on Ministry of Defence property or in married quarters,
and that was it; that anything bigger, particularly where loss
of life was concerned like a murder, or anything to do with defence
contracts There was a great deal of discussion about the
policing of defence contracts by the Ministry of Defence Police,
and the House agreed that that was entirely proper. If you have
a big defence contract with a private contractor, the Ministry
of Defence can investigate fraud. There were some very famous
cases of fraud which were investigated by the Ministry of Defence
Police. But even in those cases, the Ministry of Defence Police
was assisted by the Metropolitan Police Secretariat, because we
were told in the passage of the Bill that the Ministry of Defence
Police did not have the capacity or experience. This was not a
matter of regret or shame in any sense, it was just that the Ministry
of Defence Police had never been designed to carry out this scale
of criminal investigation. So I come back to the point, what has
changed? It really is up to the Ministry of Defence to justify
(Mr Miller) As I said, Mr Key, I would need to give
you a note on this. I have to say that my understanding is that
the Ministry of Defence Police still work in co-operation with
the civil police forces in a number of these areas, but clearly
we will need to expose this to you in appropriate detail, and
I imagine it is an issue you will wish to follow up when you see
the Chief Constables.
330. I would be grateful, and if we could have
a note on that it would be helpful. I am also concerned, Chairman,
at the reaction of the chief police officers. ACPO in England
is broadly content. They have all been consulted, and of course
that is right. It is quite clear, though, that the Association
of Chief Police Officers in Scotland has substantial reservations,
even after consultation, and that they are concerned about a number
of issues, including the use of firearms, for example. That has
been echoed by the various police federations, that they are concerned
about this. Communications is another area which has not been
sorted out between the Ministry of Defence Police and the Ministry
of Defence and the civilian police forces. Protocols on command
structures have not been sorted out. Agreement to development
of a protocol to determine precise roles and responsibilities
has not been agreed. As the Chief Constable who is the Chairman
of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland has told
me, as the Ministry of Defence Police covers England, Wales and
Scotland, it is essential their officers are sufficiently trained
in police powers in respect of Scots law. This is seen as sufficiently
important to require some form of certified formal training. Now
we are being asked in this Committee and in this House to recommend
changes in the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence Police,
when the negotiations have not been concluded with Home Office
police forces on the ground, whatever may have been decided by
Ministers, and so it simply is not going to work on the ground.
What consultation is now going on with chief constables and ACPO
in Scotland and in England and Wales, to get the details of the
implications that would follow from this in place?
(Mr Crowther) There are several points there. As regards
communications, the Ministry of Defence Police is in the process
of acquiring the same radio communication system, which is commonly
known as PSRCS or Airways, as the Home Office Constabulary Service,
which would put all the forces on net. So far as training is concerned,
the Ministry of Defence Police receive the same initial training
covering the same syllabus as Home Department constables when
they are recruited, and this is maintained during their career.
So far as firearms are concerned, no Ministry of Defence Police
officers will carry firearms off the defence estate, except in
the very limited cases where they do so already, which is guarding
particularly sensitive convoys, for instance. That will not be
changed. As regards liaison consultation, we have been through
a process of consultation with the ACPOs already on this. Finally,
I would point out that except for the emergency power, all these
powers are subject to initiation by the Home Department force
There is no compulsion on the Home Department force to invoke
these provisions; the initiative lies with them.
331. Mr Crowther, this power in this Bill represents
a very considerable empire-building project on your part, does
(Mr Crowther) I would say that its primary purpose
is to clarify the law in some places where at the moment there
is a considerable lack of clarity, and secondly to enable the
Ministry of Defence Police to play their part, in collaboration
with the Home Department constabularies, in the interests of joined-up
332. Do these clauses represent long-term aspirations
of the Ministry of Defence Police? Is this something you are looking
forward to trying to get into the law at some time?
(Mr Crowther) I think they arise from the experience
of using the 1987 Act over the period of time since the 1987 Act.
They also reflect changes in the way that the Ministry of Defence
Police operates. It is now a more mobile force, making more use
of vehicles to travel between one defence site and another. This
in particular has created the need for some power for Ministry
of Defence Police officers to act in an emergency situation off
the defence estate which, prior to 1987, did not happen very frequently.
333. You say that these clauses reflect the
experience you have had in operating since the 1987 Act. Can you
give us some specific examples, some concrete examples, of cases
where your effectiveness was impaired as a result of not having
the powers that you are now seeking?
(Mr Crowther) I cannot quote particular individual
cases. What I can say is that in particular the provision in the
1987 Act which limits the ability of an MDP officer to exercise
police powers off the defence estate, when called upon by a Home
Department officer to the vicinity of defence land, has proved
very difficult to interpret, and certainly it has given individual
officers a difficult task of interpretation when they are out
and about, because the Act does not provide any guidance on what
Mr Davies: I am not necessarily unsympathetic
to this point, but I still think that if you are asking us to
change the change, and if you are asking us to change the law
on the grounds that since Parliament passed the previous law,
which is the 1987 Act, there have been problems or shortcomings
or difficulties which could be, and should be, remedied, you should
explain to us specifically how you have come to that conclusion.
I think we need to have one or two specific cases where the Ministry
of Defence Police were inhibited in responding, for example, to
appeals from chief constables or from the Home Office constabularies.
If such incidents have not arisen, then I think, frankly, the
argument you have just given me in justification for this clause
largely collapses. If such incidents have indeed occurred, it
ought to be possible for you to quote them to the Committee. If
they are so insignificant and insubstantial that they have somehow
escaped your mind and you have never bothered with them, you have
not obtained the details, it seems to be rather a pity, does it
334. I think it would be very useful, Mr Crowther,
to have examples. We will certainly look for examples from the
Ministry of Defence Police themselves when we ask them to give
evidence. I would say that I have certainly had representations
in the past from the federations on some of the points which have
been made about the present restrictions placed on them, but I
must admit, this morning I cannot instantly recall the particular
examples that they quoted to me. I think all members of the Committee
need to see for themselves the sort of restrictions that have
been placed on the Ministry of Defence Police in present circumstances.
(Mr Miller) I am sure we can, and will, take that
point away, Madam Chairman. It is, after all, for the Chief Constables
whom you intend to see later and who, frankly, are in a much better
position to talk authoritatively about the operation of these
335. Yes, but, Mr Miller, you take responsibility
for drafting this Bill and advising Ministers to bring it forward
to Parliament, so you must have vetted this yourself and satisfied
yourself about the argument that any chief constable has made
(Mr Miller) I take responsibility for the drafting
of this Bill. Nevertheless, if you want an authoritative comment
on the operation of the regulations, it would be better to get
it from the Chief Constables, rather than something which is inevitably
filtered through me.
Mr Davies: We heard this morning that
the evidence from the chief constables appears to be contradictory,
with the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland being
opposed to it and the Association in England being broadly in
agreement with it. I do have a general question I want to put
to Mr Miller on this clause, but perhaps I can come back to that
and let Mr Keetch ask his questions.
336. I am grateful to Mr Davies. I wanted to
look specifically at how this is going to affect what happens
on the ground. I would like to say, as the Member of Parliament
for Hereford, that I have placed in my constituency a well-known
base, and there are also two bases just outside my constituency,
so I have MoD Police travelling all over Herefordshire. I want
to know exactly how it is going to affect them and the civilians
in the city of Hereford through which they travel. Mr Crowther,
you said they would not be carrying arms outside the vicinity
of their base, is that right?
(Mr Crowther) Outside the base, yes.
337. So if they are moving operationally from
one base to another base of the same unita distance in
my locality of some 18 milesyou are saying they will not
be carrying arms in their police cars as they go throughout the
(Mr Crowther) Yes, I am saying that, except for the
very limited occasions where they do so already, which are already
cleared with the relevant Home Office Department chief constable.
338. In those exceptional cases where they carry
weapons, will they carry them in vehicles which are properly equipped
for carrying weapons, with safes in the boot which can contain
those weapons, or will they carry weapons at their side?
(Mr Crowther) I could not answer that question straightaway.
What I would say is that in those very limited circumstances,
their conduct will be exactly as it is at the moment.
339. Therefore, could you actually explain to
us, or come back to us with the procedure that happens at the
moment, and how you are suggesting that it may or may not change,
where an armed MoD officer with a weapon at his side, if he stops
to deal with an incident, alerts the public to the fact that he
is carrying a weapon?
(Mr Crowther) I think it is unlikely in those very
special circumstances that the MDP officer would abandon the special
load which he would undoubtedly be guarding at the time, in order
to go off and do something else. That would be a very serious
state of affairs.
3 See Appendix 6. Back
See Appendix 6. Back
Note by witness: One of the powers extends the jurisdiction
of MDP to deal with offences against defence personnel and does
not need the Home Department police to initiate action. Back