Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (81-99)



  Chairman: Welcome. You are aware of our inquiry and you have heard your colleagues' remarks. I will ask Gerald Howarth who is well known in Staffordshire to start the questions.

Mr Howarth

  81. May I place on record, if it does not damage irreparably our guest's career, that the Chief Constable and I do go back quite a long way. When I was a Member of Parliament in Staffordshire he was the Assistant Chief Constable and I have a very high regard for him.[1] Can we address first of all the question of terrorism? Before 11 September had you identified the constraints placed on the Ministry of Defence police as an inhibiting factor in your being able to deal with terrorism?

  (Mr Giffard) Some things have arisen in this entire debate around where other police forces, non-Home Office forces, may not actually have been included in a variety of powers that police officers did have, in for example the various bits of the Terrorism Act 2000 which, whether by intent or not, happened not to include the British Transport Police, MDP and AEAC for certain purposes. It is the view of ACPO Terrorism committee pretty firmly that we should support what is being currently proposed from a counter terrorist point of view.

  82. So broadly speaking you are in favour of the Bill?
  (Mr Giffard) Yes.

  83. Was it the case before then that you did feel that they did not have the necessary powers to enable you fully to co-operate with them in pursuit of dealing with terrorism?
  (Mr Giffard) If we are being completely specific about terrorism I would not go as far as saying that the gap had been identified at that stage. However, we had, long before 11 September, been consulted during the Quinquennial review of MDP and a number of points were being made about clarifying the powers available to Ministry of Defence police officers which we were keen to establish so long as we did not get as far as dramatically extending their powers. I think things have changed a little bit as far as that goes and the terrorism side of it clearly means that we feel we should be in a position to support what is being proposed at the moment on the terrorist side.

  84. So you do not regard them as a dramatic increase in powers?
  (Mr Giffard) We need to be careful about this. I have a great deal of confidence in the Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police in what he is saying and has said to the Armed Forces Bill Select Committee about focusing on their core business, and I think I heard Mr Ray say that this morning. What we do not want is fishing exercises going on by Ministry of Defence police officers who for some reason are bored on their patrol and are going to go out and wander round our town centres and are not under the control of the local senior officers. That is what we are trying to avoid. On the other hand there are some significant good examples of joint patrols in a variety of parts of the country already, I suspect in Aldershot, I know in Colchester, and indeed in North Yorkshire where I served there are even now in the current circumstances (and in the current circumstances only) jointly crewed armed response vehicles.

  85. If we can turn to some specific examples of where there might be co-operation, we had a discussion earlier about cordons. In what circumstances do you see the Ministry of Defence police exercising the powers that will be conferred upon them by this Bill in respect of setting up cordons or establishing a stop and search of vehicles, and do you have any problems with that? Do you see any practical difficulties?
  (Mr Giffard) I have spoken this week to the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire police who, with Menwith Hill in particular and Fylingdales, has some very particular problems related to the establishing of proper cordons round there. They have chosen through their own Assistant Chief Constable to make application under section 44 to extend the outer cordon around Menwith Hill. The view being expressed is that it has cost North Yorkshire Police well over a million pounds in additional cost to protect the bases that they are involved in protecting. They have had some support (and I think that is a matter of public knowledge) from the Home Office in repaying some of that additional expenditure, but much of the work that is being done there could perfectly properly have been done by Ministry of Defence police officers working under a revised protocol and with the agreement of the chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police.

  86. Talking about the cordons, for example, and the stop and search, in what circumstances do you envisage the Ministry of Defence policy setting those up and will they, for example, liaise with you in setting those up outside base areas?
  (Mr Giffard) If it is outside the base area I do not believe they should set them up without having the prior approval of the local Home Office Chief Constable. My reading of it is that I do not think they are asking for that and nothing in the current arrangements with MDP under the 1999 Home Office Circular would suggest that anything would be done without the local Chief Constable's prior approval, and that deals with armed patrols, it deals with any assistance that the MDP might be asked to provide being called upon by the local chief to help.


  87. When I was doing some research for a book that I was writing on policing and security I chose Alton Towers and Tina Turner concerts for my field research which I took a great deal of time to work at. One of your guys was liaising with Alton Towers and I asked him if he had had any MoD territory in Staffordshire and he did not. Is that the case?
  (Mr Giffard) No, that is not the case. We have both Whittington Barracks and, more importantly, RAF Stafford where there is a significant MDP and Military Guard Service contingent, so I speak with some experience of that, but also clearly from five years in North Yorkshire.

  Chairman: Perhaps he was as overawed by Tina Turner as I was and not able to give a correct answer to the question.

Mr Jones

  88. You obviously have no objection to the powers that are being given to the MoD Police. Is there anything new post-September 11 which means that these powers are needed and is it right that they are going to be tagged on to what is a special piece of legislation rather than being part of a separate stand-alone properly considered piece of legislation? What is the rush to have these powers put on?
  (Mr Giffard) I have to say that we were keen for the clarification of the powers to take place under the Armed Forces Bill and were supporting that. Those particular provisions, whilst not related directly to terrorism, failed at that stage and as far as we are concerned the sooner they come in the better because that clarification we think is necessary. The world has changed; the terrorism position has changed. The North Yorkshire position around Menwith Hill has dramatically changed. Certainly when I was up there it was not a question of putting a cordon out five or ten miles. It might have been a question of checking the mortar base plates around those places but much of that was done on a local agreement with the Chief Constable signing up in the first place as to what was going to happen in anticipation of the procedures there. The speed with which things have happened now and the nature of the change in the threat means that we think from the terrorism side that this is now necessary for the Ministry of Defence Police to be able to expand outwards, outside the wire, and do some more of that policing of their own estate, because that is effectively what it still is in our view.

  89. You say that in North Yorkshire it is being done already so what is the rush? Is it the fact that the MoD have civil servants who have picked this off the shelf as unfinished business to tag on to this legislation? Is there a rush to get it into this piece of legislation?
  (Mr Giffard) I cannot speak for the Ministry of Defence. We have said that our view is that this ought to come through. We think there was a lacuna, if that is the right word, in the Terrorism Act 2000 where the non-Home Office forces were left out and we think it would be helpful to the overall counter-terrorist battle, for that is what it is, if that were sorted out as part of this legislation.

  90. So it is basically unfinished business?
  (Mr Giffard) Some of it is. Not all of it is. In all honesty some of it has come upon us since the Armed Forces Bill or that part of it did not go through.

Mr Cran

  91. Mr Giffard, you may have answered this question in reply to Mr Jones but I am not sure so I am going to ask it nonetheless. It is the question of the full constabulary powers for MoD police. It is my understanding that the powers given in the present Bill, that is, the Anti-Terrorism Bill, confer—and I see the wording here—are considerably broader than that in the Armed Forces Bill.
  (Mr Giffard) Yes, that is entirely right.

  92. Is the answer you gave to Mr Jones that you are perfectly relaxed about that?
  (Mr Giffard) We believe that on the wider powers which are anti-terrorist related that should happen. The wider powers that came originally from that bit of the Armed Forces Bill that failed, which have been changed slightly in their nature in the way in which this particular piece of legislation has been written, as I heard the official from this side of me say, still leave me content that it is the proper thing to do as part of the rightful clarification (rather than extension) of MDP powers. I do not think in all honesty, as long as it is being pursued responsibly, and I am sure it will be, that those powers will need to be used very often, but it is a nonsense that a car coming out of RAF Stafford and coming across a road accident has no powers to stop traffic in order to prevent further injury. It is nonsense that if the driver is running away from that car in the accident they cannot run after that driver and arrest him on suspicion of having stolen the car or being drunk or whatever it may be, but their citizen's power of arrest that they have at the moment technically does not allow them to do either of those. To have Mr Ray in uniform here this morning with some very different powers from me and I am in uniform illustrates the point that the two of us have very different powers but only we know that. In the eyes of the public they think it is very strange.

  93. So you are quite content?
  (Mr Giffard) Yes.

  94. I ask that again against the background that it was interesting that in the Armed Forces Bill Committee report, which I am sure you have read, at paragraph 39, the Committee latched very quickly on to a proposition put forward by ACPO, perhaps it was by you at the time; I do not know, and the Committee accepted what ACPO said. They said, "We would be completely opposed to the MDP actively seeking to increase its involvement in general policing duties" and so on, in other words going on fishing expeditions. You did touch on this earlier on but this was quite a concern you had then and the Committee latched on to it and even went so far as to say that there should be monitoring. How do you say now?
  (Mr Giffard) Firstly, I say the same as I said in the letter that I think is part of the submission that is in the appendices to your report. As Chairman of ACPO's General Policing Business Area I wrote saying, amongst other things, clarify the powers, fine, but we do not want—and I think it is a good word to use—Ministry of Defence police officers going out on fishing expeditions doing ordinary policing duties in ordinary policing areas away from the defence estate. That was and remains our position, but in those events and occasions where they come across something both I and the public I think would expect a uniformed police officer to intervene and we are content that their training is good enough to enable them to do this, but they should be able to exercise constabulary powers in those circumstances. There are other sets of circumstances in terms of assistance by MDP to Home Office forces in two different respects where this extension, because that is an extension of powers, is still welcome and that is either when we are engaged in some major disaster where we really do need help from outside, or secondly, in the occasional event where it is sensible for a Chief Constable to invite the Ministry of Defence Police to help on a particular inquiry because of their expertise. There is an inquiry that the Wiltshire police are doing at the moment into some long ago events at Porton Down where there are Ministry of Defence police officers assisting the Wiltshire force inquiry. It is a Wiltshire-led inquiry and it seems to us right and proper that working alongside their Wiltshire colleagues in those circumstances the MDP officers, under the command and control of the Wiltshire Chief Constable, should have constabulary powers.

  95. So is it the case that the protocol, these arrangements between MoD police and the Home Department police forces, would tweak all of that, establish exactly where the parameters are?
  (Mr Giffard) Yes. The Home Office circular is only two pages. It will need to be a little bit longer if this legislation goes through but I do not believe that it need be a hugely long time subject only to the fact that—and I can only speak for the England and Wales part of this; Scotland and Northern Ireland may have different arrangements—the right sort of agreements could be reached fairly quickly by ACPO, MDP, Home Office and Ministry of Defence.


  96. Who will take the initiative on revising this protocol?
  (Mr Giffard) I have indicated in my letter to the Ministry of Defence as part of this that we are pleased to be involved as soon as they get going. I can only say that if Royal Assent and implementation of these powers is to be fairly quick, and there are some hints that it might be fairly quick, if it goes through, then I personally would seek to be there very quickly saying to Ministry of Defence police, "We need to get on with this".

  97. As it is going to happen anyway, there is no reason why some thinking should not be taking place already?
  (Mr Giffard) Yes, and the 1999 document is a pretty helpful base to set out on. I am confident, and we may want to go into that or not, that their involvement with the ACPO Firearms Training Manual and the way in which they use it and in fact have helped to re-write it when it was re-written, will make life quite easy down that path as well.

Mr Cran

  98. You will have heard Mr Howarth, my colleague, asking Mr Ray in the last session about the inexperience perhaps of MoD police in dealing with the public in very sensitive circumstances. Is this something that you have a view on and do you think they would be able and equipped to deal with the public in sensitive circumstances?
  (Mr Giffard) I have seen nothing to suggest not. The confidence of my colleague in North Yorkshire in allowing their people to be part of an armed response vehicle in the outskirts of Harrogate around Menwith Hill tends to suggest to me that he has that confidence too. I know of joint patrols between the two forces in military garrison towns and I have seen nothing to suggest that we should not have that confidence, plus the fact that we are trusting all these people at some stage in their careers to be carrying firearms.


  99. One has anecdotal evidence of not a very good relationship between Home Department police forces and the non-Home Department police forces. What levels of meetings would you have, Chief Constable? What would be the ambience of the relationship, the atmospherics? Is there an attempt to not bring them together into one structure but to try to overcome any tensions? You have the impression that some people think of the non-Home Departments as all being like the Royal Parks Police or whatever, but if you are guarding a nuclear establishment you have to be very professional; if you have to look after hooligans driving between Birmingham and London you have to be very professional; and if you are guarding incredibly expensive and sensitive assets of the Ministry of Defence you have to be very professional. I cannot really understand why this impression might emerge that these guys out there are somehow more like private security than proper police forces.
  (Mr Giffard) I would like to think that the position was improved by the fact that the pure guarding duties were put to the Military Guard Service in a lot of different ways and the fact that these were sometimes seen by our own officers as armed guards and nothing more has progressively changed. I know that my officers have a perfectly healthy local relationship with the contingent in RAF Stafford. At more senior level I have indicated that we are sufficiently confident in their firearms instructors that one of them sits as part of our firearms training and advisory group, and at more senior level Lloyd Clarke sits on ACPO Terrorism Committee. That is a fairly significant endorsement I think. I know Mr Clarke well because we were Assistant Chief Constables together in neighbouring Yorkshire forces. He is a very practical man and I think he is focusing the force on its core business very well.

1   Note by Witness: Mr Giffard believes that at the relevant time his rank was Superintendent or Chief Superintendent. Back

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