Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Mr Nigel Wylde (26 November 2001)


  This is the second attempt this year by the Ministry of Defence to tag unrelated matters concerning the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) onto another bill. Their first attempt failed earlier this year when the badly drafted and ill thought out proposals were withdrawn from the Armed Forces Bill by the government before they were defeated in the House of Lords. The clauses in this bill only relate to the jurisdiction of the MDP. In my opinion they do not enhance the ability of the MDP to combat terrorism and as such have no place in an Anti-terrorism Bill. This is especially true as the key issues of accountability that exercised the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill are not included in the amendments to the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987 contained in this Bill.

  The new definitions of jurisdiction of the MDP contained in the Bill are however, much clearer than the proposals in the Armed Forces Bill. The government has listened to the criticism of their original proposals and taken the appropriate corrective action. The proposals are sensible and proportionate to the role of the MDP in relation to other police forces.


  The MDP is supposed to be controlled by the MDP Committee. The Committee draws its authority from Clause 1(5) of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987:

    (5)  The Secretary of State shall appoint a committee, to be known as the Ministry of Defence Police Committee, to advise him with respect to such matters concerning the Ministry of Defence Police as he may from time to time require and may make regulations concerning membership and the procedure of the Committee.

  However, the power of the Secretary of State to make regulations under Clause 1(5) has to be executed by Statutory Instrument as defined in Clause 1(6):

    (6)  The power to make regulations conferred by subsection (5) above shall be exercisable by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

  Statutory Instrument 1098/1988 established the Ministry of Defence Police (Police Committee) Regulations 1988. Statutory Instrument 1102/1994 amended these regulations in 1994. However, Statutory Instrument 939/1995 revoked the 1988 regulations. This means that the MDP Police Committee has no Regulations concerning its membership and status approved by Parliament. Since 1995 successive Secretaries of State have chosen not to make regulations. This means that the Committee is operating in a vacuum without lawful authority. As their role is purely advisory this should not be significant. In practice this is not the case. The Committee is taking decisions concerning the shape and size of the force, its funding and its disciplinary procedures without any authority.

  There is no reason why the MDP cannot be made as accountable as any Home Office Force. The MDP is a national police force that serves all United Kingdom citizens by protecting assets that are key to our national security. As such they should be accountable to a Police Authority that is independent of the Ministry of Defence and comprises mostly of elected representatives drawn from all four parts of the United Kingdom. If this proposal were to be adopted the MDP would be, and would be seen to be, independent of Ministerial or MoD departmental control or influence.

  The establishment of an Independent Police Authority would enable a number of other anomalies to be corrected.


  MDP constables, like those of the Transport Police and Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary, are also civil servants. This means they are subjected to two types of discipline. This is unfair to the constables and can be changed if an independent Police Authority controls the force.

  The added advantage of appointing a Police Authority is that the true cost of the MDP would become available. For example as MDP officers are civil servants the cost of pensions is not shown against the Force but against the general expenditure of the MoD.


  In the MDP Act only Clause 1 Subsection 4 confers powers on the Secretary of State in relation to discipline:

    (4)  the Secretary of State shall have power—

      (a)  to suspend a member of the Ministry of Defence Police from duty; and

      (b)  to terminate a person's membership.

  The MoD will argue that as the Secretary of State can dismiss an officer he can award a lesser punishment. I submit that this is not the case. If it had been the will of Parliament to enable him to award a range of punishments they would have specified them just has been done in the Police Act 1996. If this view is correct, and it is supported by a legal opinion, it means that many officers have been incorrectly punished for disciplinary offences ever since the MDP Act came into force in 1987.

  Appointing a Police Authority and making the MDP subject to the same disciplinary procedures as the Home Department Forces will correct this anomaly and remove potential for unlawful punishments.


  Similarly the MDP has to rely on a repealed Section of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 for its complaint procedures. Clause 13 of Schedule 8 of the Police Act 1996 makes this lawful. It also means that the procedures relating to the MDP are not the same as those governing the Home Department Forces. This is unnecessary and again unfair to the force.


  The proposals concerning jurisdiction are sensible and to be welcomed. They are however, in the wrong bill and without safeguards relating to control of the MDP they are incomplete. As the proposed changes to the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987 do not alter the MDP's ability to deal with terrorism the Committee is requested to recommend to parliament that the implementation of these clauses be deferred until proposals for creating an independent Police Authority for the MDP are brought forward jointly by the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 6 December 2001