Memorandum from Gillian Linscott and Tony
Geraghty (22 November 2001)
Clauses 97 to 100 of the Bill, extending the
jurisdiction of MDP over civilians, are on the same lines as the
proposals contained in Section IV of the Armed Forces Bill considered
at some length by the Committee in the last Parliament. We gave
evidence to that Committee, and are grateful for the opportunity
to give written evidence to this one.
There are some welcome improvements in the present
proposals, which are probably due to the hard work of the previous
Committee, notably the clear statement (in 98. 2A (2)(a)) that
MDP officers assisting a Home Office force at the request of its
chief officer will be under the direction and control of that
In spite of this, the central problem of the
The proposals in the Bill will greatly extend
the powers of MDP over civilians, without any increase in MDP's
accountability to the public.
This is an even greater problem in the current
bill, because of the proposed links with the British Transport
Police Force and the Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary. At
worst, a situation could develop in which these three forces are
all calling each other in aid, effectively forming an armed national
police body with insufficient public or parliamentary control
The ways in which the proposals would extend
MDP authority over civilians were dealt with thoroughly in discussions
on Section IV of the Armed Forces Bill and do not need rehearsing
in detail here. Members of MDP would be empowered to act in a
wide range of civilian circumstances, as individuals (under Section
2 (3A, 3B, 3C and 3D)) or collectively (under 2A (1) (2)).
OF MDP AS
In this context, the unique status of MDP cannot
be too strongly emphasised.
It is an agency, with the Chief Constable of
the MDP as its head.
It is not accountable to an elected police authority.
It was set up to police Ministry of Defence
property and personnel.
The agency operates under the Secretary of State
for Defence who has ultimate responsibility for determining the
size, policy and resources of the force. These responsibilities
are delegated to the Second Permanent Under Secretary of State
at the MoD. He is also the owner of the agency. The chief constable
has direct access to the Secretary of State for Defence, to whom
he is ultimately responsible. The MDP police committee is administered
by the Ministry of Defence and chaired by the Second Permanent
Under Secretary of State at the MoD (the owner of the agency).
It has only three civilian members and those are appointed by
The Defence Committee, in its Special Report
on the Armed Forces Bill, (13 March 2001) was concerned about
the lack of accountability outside the MoD. It recommended that
at least a third of the members of the MDP police committee should
be drawn from outside the civil service, the police service or
the armed services.
Even more importantly in our view, the Committee
made this recommendation:
"if the MDP is to come into more frequent
contact with the general public, we believe that this should be
accompanied by a form of external accountability comparable to
the role performed by police authorities and police consultative
committees in Home Department police forces." (Paragraph
In our view, this is even more necessary in
relation to the current Bill. If it is allowed to pass into law
without some provision on those lines written into it, civilians
will find themselves policed by a force which is not accountable
to any elected police authority and only accountable to Parliament
through the Secretary of State for Defence. We find it hard to
believe that this is a state of affairs which anybody outside
the Ministry of Defence would find satisfactory.
We have serious concerns about the wide extension
of MDP powers over civilians contained in the Bill. But if these
extended powers are to become law, we believe it is essential
that MDP should be made more accountable to the public, on the
lines laid down by the Defence Committee in paragraph 41 of the
Special Report on the Armed Forces Bill, as quoted above.