Examination of Witness (Questions 672
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
672. Can I say good morning to everyone, and
particularly a very warm welcome to Mr Scott-Lee, the Chief Constable
for Suffolk Police and representative of ACPO for England, Wales
and Northern Ireland. We are very pleased indeed that you have
been able to attend this morning and give us an opportunity to
raise key issues with you directly and for you to, obviously,
raise with us your views and those of your Association. Can I,
first of all, begin by asking, before we launch into questions,
are there any particular opening points that you would like to
make, Mr Scott-Lee?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I think the only thing
I would like to say is that the police service has a very good
and very professional relationship with the Ministry of Defence
Police, and it is on that basis that any discussion or description
673. Thank you very much. Can I open up by asking
you whether you are satisfied (and your answer seems to indicate
that you are) with the way the protocol between the Ministry of
Defence Police and the Home Office police forces operates at present?
Does it work at a practical level as well as look good on paper,
and are there any particular problems or issues that have arisen
in the last five years which you now feel this Committee should
try and address?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I think, in real terms, the protocol
has worked exceptionally well, both at a political (with a small
`p') level and at a practical level. Both sides invested a great
deal of time and effort in ensuring that that protocol did capture
the reality of the situation that it was going to have to deal
with, and as a result of that there are no fundamental flaws or
issues within it at all. What has become clear, as is evidenced
by some of the submissions which have already been made to this
Committee, is that there are some areas where there is some greyness,
particularly over the powers and accountability of Ministry of
Defence Police officers. In order to ensure that where possible
we can work in as clear a way as possible, there is an opportunity,
we think, to use this to good effect to make those clarifications.
674. Good morning, Chief Constable.
(Mr Scott-Lee) Good morning.
675. Can I turn straight to the evidence that
ACPO gave to the Home Office in the preparation of this Bill and
the paper entitled General Policing Committee, dated September
2000, which is a letter to Mrs Byrne in the Home Office Police
Resources Unit. I was very interested that ACPO thought that you
were keen, as it says here, that the Ministry of Defence Police
powers should be qualified. The submission says: "It does
seem nonsensical for their officers to have only a citizen's power
of arrest (although that is what some of my colleagues would wish
to see them retain) . . ." What did that really mean? How
divided was ACPO?
(Mr Scott-Lee) `Divided' is not a term I would use
at all. In reality, ACPO represents every force in the country.
Because of the very geography and nature of this country some
forces, by their proximity to Ministry of Defence establishments,
have far more dealings with the Ministry of Defence Police in
day-to-day terms than others. I think that underpinning the comment
is a recognition that policing needs to be accountable and seen
to be accountable, and, therefore, wherever possible, jurisdiction
for the policing of an area should be transparent to all concerned,
including the community. However, I would not put it any stronger
676. The whole basis of the Ministry of Defence
Police Act, which is now being reviewed and revised is that the
Ministry of Defence Police should act on the request of Home Office
forces outside Ministry of Defence jurisdiction. That has been
repeated to us time and time again. Indeed, in this particular
letter ACPO says: "We would point out, however, that many
more mobile patrols seem to be undertaken by the MDP officers
and in doing so we would be determined to make sure that the officers
were not leaving their bases and patrolling in order to find incidents
to attend." Then, referring to the same paragraph of the
consultation paper, paragraph 32, Mr Giffard goes on to say: "Whilst
I cannot immediately recall that ever having taken place"
(this is a request for assistance) "and there is no evidence
in the papers that this is a particular problem, I consider that
if we ever were to call on their assistance it would be under
our control and that therefore they would need to have statutory
powers." This is very different. On the one hand we have
a Bill saying that the whole purpose of the MDP is to be there
and respond to requests for assistance, and here is the Association
of Chief Constables saying that you have no evidence that this
has ever taken place.
(Mr Scott-Lee) I think, sir, there are two elements
which are quite distinct in the issues that you raise there. If
I could deal with them separately, the first, in terms of the
comments that you quote from the letterwe are determined
to make sure that officers from the MoD are not leaving their
bases to go on patrol in order to find incidentscomes back
to my first point of transparency. I think that everybody, the
community and, I am sure, the Ministry of Defence Police themselves
and the Home Office forces, would want to reassure people that
the Ministry of Defence Police in carrying out their duties are
not going on routine patrol in search of day-to-day business.
I think all that is saying is not that it is something that we
are aware of but in order to keep that transparency that needs
to be articulated so the public can be reassured.
677. Would that be articulated in the protocols
that would follow from the passage of this legislation? We have
seen the difference in the protocol between ACPO England, Wales
and Northern Ireland and MDP and ACPO Scotland and the MDP, but
those protocols, in turn, have a number of subservient protocols.
Do you envisage them being revised in the future, for example,
to address the point that has been put to us that there would
be standing arrangements at a high level between the MDP and the
local chief constable?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I think the concordat would certainly
need to be revisited in the light of whatever legislative changes
have been made, and I know that Mr Giffard has already had meetings
with the MoD and the Home Office to agree that as soon as the
legislation is in place that concordat will be renegotiated. So
that is a very important part of the way we do our business.
678. I think the issue that really strikes home
here is accountability. I can hear that. I am very interested
in finding out how and who you believe would command in all situations.
Do you believe that we can establish clear protocols for all situations?
In the Bill the notion is it is going to be an emergency situation
that you are going to be responding to, and it is defining that
emergency situation that is crucially important, because that
clearly defines who commands, who requests and what the relationship
is between the forces. Do you believe that we can get a protocol
that adequately satisfies those concerns?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Yes, I do, and I actually think that
the changes that are being suggested will make accountability
clearer than it is at the moment. You will have seen in some of
the submissions the suggestion that Ministry of Defence Police
officers could be seen to be working in a grey area in terms of
whether or not they have police powers or are relying on the powers
of a member of the public. I think that by clarifying where they
fit into the situation and their powers the chain of command becomes
even more transparent.
679. That is very valuable. I want you, then,
to again respond to, for example, an emergency situationit
has come out of the blue. Is there any doubt in your mind that
in this emergency situation, which people have not anticipated
and there is not a clear experience of previously, you will not
be in any position of doubt as to who and when you will be responding?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Experience indicates that there has
never been any problems of that nature with the existing arrangements.
As I have said, I think that the proposals actually clarify things
and make that even more transparent. The reality is that in those
emergency situations that occur, to use your words `out of the
blue', primacy in terms of resolving the there-and-then will fall
to whoever is in situ at the time. If that is going to be a Ministry
of Defence Police officer we have no difficulty with that in the
circumstances that are outlined there. As things take a longer
course and run over time then the formal chains of command come
in and, again, that is where the Protocol becomes very helpful
because both sides start with an understanding of who will be
leading on matters.