The Armed Forces Bill - Armed Forces Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 248-289)

  Chair: We now move to the session of questions about policing. I am most grateful to our new panel of witnesses. Could you please introduce yourselves?

  Group Captain Whitmell: Good morning all. I am Group Captain John Whitmell and the Provost Marshal for the Royal Air Force, which means that I am the head of the Royal Air Force Police and am also responsible for certain elements of counter-intelligence and security.

  Chief Constable Love: I am Stephen Love, chief executive of the Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency, which means that I am simultaneously chief constable of the Ministry of Defence Police and also in charge of the Ministry of Defence Guard Service, which is the unarmed security guards.

  Chair: So that is three jobs.

  Commander West: Morning, sir. My name is Commander Tony West and I am Head of the Royal Navy Police. I am the RN's adviser on all Royal Navy police matters, and am responsible for professional standards within the RN Police, and for RNP investigations, recruiting and policy making.

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: I am Brigadier Eddie Forster-Knight. I am the Provost Marshal (Army) and in that guise I am the chief officer of the Royal Military Police. I am also the head of the Military Provost Staff, who are the defence detention experts who run the Military Corrective Training Centre and operational detention facilities, and the Tri-Service head for the Military Provost Guard Service, which is the armed guard service for the MoD.

  Chair: Thank you. Mr Morrison, we saw you last week, but remind us of your responsibilities.

  Mr Morrison: I am Humphrey Morrison. I am Head of Legislation, and so am Head of the legal team for the Bill.

  Q248 Mark Lancaster: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your introductions. Your many roles almost highlight my first question. In evidence last week, we were struck by how many different organisations were potentially involved in providing security at some MoD bases, and I think that you have just run though the complete list. Is there a problem with having so many different organisations providing security? We did not, of course, include private security firms, which are also involved, with their own separate chains of command. Does that present a problem and, perhaps more importantly, is there any scope for reducing the number of organisations involved in providing security? Perhaps we can give the Chief Constable an extra couple of roles in addition to the three he already has.

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: If I may, I will lead on that subject. From an Army perspective, the Military Police are focused on policing, not security. We are there to police the Military wherever it exists, and, primarily, that is in the 10 principle garrisons in the UK and Germany, and also in some of the far-off posts abroad, of course. The Military Provost Guard Service—this was introduced some years ago—to provide armed guarding, assessed against risk and necessity, to reduce the pressure on our soldiers, who are constantly facing operational tours, so that they could have some relief. As you know, they are essentially ex-soldiers employed on home service only Terms of Service.

  Clearly, there are other aspects of security and policing. All this is being looked at as part of the SDSR process. There is also a security review to examine all the sites across the Military and asses them into the level of security that is required, such as armed or unarmed guarding, and to re-look at how the various organisations might be best matched. From my perspective, the reality is that the Royal Military Police is focused on policing and the MPGS is focused on armed guarding. The chief constable of the MDP will give his view about where he fits in the mosaic.

  Chief Constable Love: The sites at which more than one or two of these different Forces are present are few and far between. They tend to be the larger and most complex sites, with the most complex requirements. On my side of the house, the two organisations I run—the Police Service and the Unarmed Guards Service—are completely different in role and function. The Ministry of Defence Police is a specialist Police Force that provides bespoke services to the Ministry of Defence, principally on nuclear weapons security and so on. It has specialised roles beyond the remit of other police forces and it is, for the most part, armed.

  The unarmed security guards do exactly that—unarmed security. There is no overlap between the two functions; one is top-end specialist policing and the other is industrial-type security guarding. We achieve economies by combining the two at headquarters level. There is a single headquarters and each of the support functions are shared. I think three people here have visited it.

  Q249 Mark Lancaster: Is there not then, potentially, an overlap, apart from the obvious, between the Unarmed Guards Service and the Military Provost Guard Service? Anybody used to a military estate is used to alert states changing and it going between Unarmed Guards and Armed Guards. Is there not scope for those two organisations?

  Chief Constable Love: The framework in which the armed and unarmed guarding side of the business is delivered is under review and recommendations on that—

  Q250 Mark Lancaster: So, yes, there is scope.

  Chief Constable Love: There is scope. It's under review. I think that recommendations from the review will be with the Defence Board and Ministers in the first part of this year.

  Q251 Mark Lancaster: May I perhaps be slightly more controversial then? Given that the Armed Forces Act harmonised military law across the three Services and most, if not all, training is common, why do we continue in a world with so many joint things that the Armed Forces need three individual Service Police Forces?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: It is probably best that I lead on that point. The outputs of the three service police are very different. The Royal Military Police is a police force and a combat police force, with soldiers living in and among troops of the Army out to the frontline. I will let PMRAF talk about his bit in a minute, but it is a very different concept. What I would say is that the three service police forces have been tailored to meet the outputs required of them.

  Over the past seven years, we have looked at all the areas where we can work together. We now have a single training establishment, a single Service police crime bureau, a single close protection unit and a single military corrective training centre, and we all operate off the same police IT system. We have looked at our training, our investigative training and the areas that are common—there is a great deal that is not common—and brought them together. That is certainly true in policing and investigations. That includes everything from forensics through to investigative training.

Fundamentally, however, the outputs of the three service police are still very different in a number of areas. The common brick is policing and investigations, where we've worked over the past seven years to ensure that all of the efficiencies that can be achieved are achieved. In essence, it is I as PM Army who takes the lead in that area. The only locations where we are in the same place are Gibraltar, Falklands and Cyprus, which are known as the Permanent Joint Operating Bases, and I have the technical lead for that. I have the technical lead for doctrine and policy development in the policing arena; I run the Close Protection Unit, the Service police Crime Bureau and the Military Corrective Training Centre; and indeed I have the lead in the operational theatre for investigations. There still need to be experts in the Navy and Air environments to deal with their particular requirements, and they can best explain those.

  Q252 Mark Lancaster: It is certainly a very robust answer, but if anything I can't wait now to see what the other Service Chiefs are saying, because you seem to be arguing the case for further amalgamation.

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: The point is we understand that we must work together in certain areas. Where there are common themes, we must do that, and that is fundamentally understood among certainly our forebears and us now in post. We are making sure that we make best use of defence resources to achieve those efficiencies.

  Q253 Mark Lancaster: But why can't you now have a single provost marshal of staff to accommodate those functions?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: In reality, you could, but the reality is that that would just increase the costing of creating a single joint provost marshal and staff, because ultimately you would still have to have the Single Service provost marshals embedded in the front-line commands. I come under the command directly of CGS, but my headquarters is based at the land headquarters in Andover. I police the Army, and I need to be based with the Army command headquarters to do so. I would argue that my compatriots need to do the same. You could create a joint Service Provost Marshal in the Centre, but I would argue that is an additional overhead and will require additional resources, which perhaps at this time we don't need to spend.

  Group Captain Whitmell: If I may take the discussion a little bit further, within the Royal Air Force, as I said in my introduction, I also deliver a large amount of security and counter-intelligence aspects on behalf of the Royal Air Force. Although our title is that of the Royal Air Force Police, only about 30% of our function is a policing function. The other 70% delivers a very definite security requirement, whether that is via military working dogs, our counter-intelligence support or, on a simpler level, security patrolling at military bases.

  Where we have economies of scale, as the Brigadier has already said, we work together. We do joint training, and the function for the Royal Air Force of the Royal Air Force Police would impinge on wider areas of the Army than just the Royal Military Police, because other elements such as the Intelligence Corps deliver the security function. My computer security function is delivered by the Royal Signals, by way of example. We are, in some ways, a complicating element in terms of that break-out of personalities.

  Q254 Mark Lancaster: But why can't your intelligence function co-locate at Chicksands with the Intelligence Corps?

  Group Captain Whitmell: In similar things there are fronts where we have a shared function—we do have that shared function—but we are also in disparate locations. Where the Royal Air Force is located, generally the Army and the Royal Navy aren't, and vice versa. Royal Air Force stations in Lossiemouth, Valley and Boulmer—there are very few Army locations close by, so the economies of scale would only be in terms of uniform change rather than in delivery of task.

  Q255 Mark Lancaster: Other than the physical location of your Service men and women, what functions do you carry out in the intelligence world that cannot be delivered by Chicksands?

  Group Captain Whitmell: Probably nil, but it's the duality of personality—in one person I have a policeman and a security person. Take that one Royal Air Force person away, and you will then need an Intelligence Corps person and a policing function. So, actually, I would argue that I provide a greater economy of scale than your proposal.

  Commander West: I would just like to give you an example from where the Royal Navy stands with this. I would just like you to imagine, if you would, a ship full of 200 people, one of which is the senior of two police officers who are on board. Some people would imagine that he would sit around and wait for something to happen. It does not work like that. The guy on board is effectively the flight deck officer, which is, for those of you who may not know, the guy who stands on the back of the vessel and directs helicopter operations, on a one-in-two or one-in-three shift system when the ship is operationally active. He is also the assistant security officer on board the ship; he has physically security responsibilities for the gangway, and oversight of all the gangway staff, etc. When the ship is on counter-piracy operations, he is the custody subject matter expert and also a member of the boarding party. He deals with the mail on board, the customs and revenue, and is also an assistant to one of the more senior middle management guys called the Warrant Officer, which includes manpower and co-ordination duties, replenishment at sea duties, planning, storing, ship planning, patrols planning—lots and lots of minor admin roles. If you took away those roles and just let him be the policeman on board, he would very soon have very little to do. So what we are saying is, yes, he is a sailor first and he carries out all of these roles, but he also has the capability to be a policeman.

  Q256 Bob Russell: Chief Constable, we are a Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, looking at improving the lot of Military personnel and their families, the Military Covenant and so on. We have been given written evidence from the Defence Police Federation, which in paragraph 8 says, "Evidence suggests that the mere presence of the Ministry of Defence Police in married quarters and other locations serves to increase the confidence of Service personnel as to the safety of their families." Is that a statement that you would endorse?

  Chief Constable Love: Yes.

  Q257 Bob Russell: The reason behind that—and Mr Morrison will recall this from five years ago when we last debated the Armed Forces Bill—at that time the Ministry of Defence Police was being run down on various Army, Navy and Air Force housing estates around the country, and in response to a written question it has been confirmed that the number of Ministry of Defence Police based on Colchester Garrison has gone from 30 to three. Under those circumstances, has the mere presence of the MoD Police in married quarters gone up or gone down?

  Chief Constable Love: It has gone down in Colchester, for obvious reasons—30 down to three. As chief constable, I do not set the number of officers I have providing security and support on married quarters, or Service quarters. I am the supplier not the customer; the Ministry of Defence decides how many and where. What the Ministry of Defence did over the last three years or so was take about 90 police officers who were in that role in relatively large clusters in a few places—of which Colchester was one—and redistributed about 60 of them in ones and twos to garrisons and Service families all over the country. This was prioritised according to need and operational tempo, and they made a saving at the same time. I have to say that I think that is a logical thing to do—given a scarce asset, you spread it thinly across the places where it is most needed—but I am in absolutely no doubt as to the importance of providing that service, whether by ones or twos or by 30. It is quite clear to me that when a military unit deploys overseas—particularly to combat—it is, by definition, leaving behind an entire estate of relatively low-income single parent families, with all of the stresses and pressures of combat and those fears, as well as things that would accompany normal life. So I view it as a very important thing that we do, but it is a thing we have had to reduce in some areas so as to spread it to other areas where the Army in particular most requires it.

  Bob Russell: The Committee will be visiting the Colchester Garrison next Monday—I hope there will be an opportunity for us to pursue that localised point because I think it has a national impact as well. We have also been given a memorandum by the Ministry of Defence, which supports the views I have expressed in a question here and which I posed five years ago. The memorandum tells a good story but the reality is that there is far less police presence, in whatever uniform, in our married quarters. At a time when 3,000 soldiers are deployed to Afghanistan and at a time when a garrison estate is increasingly being occupied by civilian families, I have to say to both Brigadier Forster-Knight and Chief Constable Love that the reality on the ground does not tally with that memorandum. As a last observation, you have not mentioned the civilian police—by that I mean the Essex Constabulary.

  Chair: Those points have been noted but let us remember that we are questioning the witnesses, rather than making comments.

  Bob Russell: My point is that we are being given memorandums that are telling us things which in reality are not happening.

  Chair: Yes, but that is a point that you will be able to make at a later stage during the course of the Bill.

  Q258 Thomas Docherty: Chief Constable, if I understood you correctly, one of your core functions relates to the escorting of nuclear materials. It strikes me that these days there is a significant overlap between the work of the MoD Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, whose prime function seems to be the escorting of nuclear materials. Are there not some significant savings that could be made by merging MoD Police and the CNC into one Service?

  Chief Constable Love: Yes, if I could crave your indulgence and stay with the last point. I have not seen the memorandum you refer to and I hope there is no implication that I have provided you with a false one. I do not recall that at all.

  On the CNC, as Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police, I am quite clear that I can see no operational benefit whatever in having two different police forces providing an ostensibly similar function in terms of the security of nuclear weapons. The MoD Police provide a number of other specialist functions which are nothing to do with nuclear weapons and we need to remember that. I can see no operational justification for it. Such justifications as there may be will inevitably be political, historical, financial and so on, but there is no operational case for that situation.

  Q259 Thomas Docherty: Secondly, Group Captain, you talked about how—I paraphrase slightly—there are few examples of inter-Service personnel on the same side. Going forward, subject to the SDSR's outcomes, the aircraft carriers and their groups will clearly have RAF personnel serving on them. I imagine that there will be a whole extension down the line. As the basing decisions are made about RAF bases and the Army returns from Germany, it is quite reasonable, from what the other Minister of State has said, that there will be sharing of sites. Surely, going forward, that will no longer be the case?

  Group Captain Whitmell: On board ship is a prime example of a shared site and I would fully anticipate the Royal Navy Police to have the lead on that area, for obvious reasons. By the same token, if a large Army unit was moved to an RAF base, the RAF Police would take the lead. Similarly, if an RAF unit was moved on to a large Army garrison, the Royal Military Police would take primacy, and I would see no difficulties in that whatever.

  Q260 Thomas Docherty: But my central point is that your earlier statement, while it may be true today, is unlikely to be the case in 2015 or certainly in 2020 by the time the Army comes back from the Rhine.

  Group Captain Whitmell: I don't know, obviously, whether decisions have been made, but I would anticipate that the majority of Royal Air Force stations, such as RAF Marham, will remain RAF stations. There is little scope to put additional resources in there. If we left a base perhaps on the closure of a unit, somewhere like RAF Cottesmore, which has been announced, and the Army went there, we would have no presence there anyway.

  Chair: Moving on to the independence of Service police, Chris Pincher.

  Q261 Christopher Pincher: Clauses 3 and 5 aim to ensure the independence of Service police investigations. Do you feel confident that that those provisions go far enough to alleviate any concerns about your operational independence?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: It is probably best if I lead on that, given my lead in this area. For me, the provisions do go far enough. The constitutional position and the make-up of the various police forces in this country are interesting. The Home Office Police Forces are formulated under their own bespoke legislation of the Police Act. The MDP has its own MDP Act, whereas the service police are formulated under the Armed Forces Act, as units and part of the Armed Forces. It is important, given the need to be absolutely clear about the independence of the investigative process, that there are clear measures in the Act that buttress and underpin the whole business of the independence of the investigative process. There is potential for confusion, given that we are formulated as part of the Armed Forces. That is something that we need to separate out and have a clear articulation that it is conducted independently.

  For me, the measures do go far enough. They are coupled with other non-statutory measures we have introduced: command and control arrangements. I now answer to CGS personally and to the Army Board of the Defence Council. I have taken operational command of the whole of the Military Police. These are not just three principal statutory measures; there are other non-statutory measures that have been introduced to provide an overall framework to support.

  Q262 Christopher Pincher: Can I just move on from that? One of these statutory, or potentially statutory measures, is a provision upon you to ensure that investigations are free from improper interference. Could you give us a definition of what you believe improper interference might be?

  Mr Morrison: As it is a definition in the Bill, would you prefer me to answer that?

  Q263 Christopher Pincher: Let's start with you Mr Morrison, then we can confirm that your view is everyone else's.

  Mr Morrison: Improper interference is specifically defined in the Bill, so as to have a very wide meaning. It covers two areas. One is interference which would actually be an offence—for example, an offence of obstructing a Provost Officer or perverting the course of justice. It covers that sort of wrongdoing. However, it also covers the mistaken but honest attempts by anyone in the chain of command, but outside the Service police, to tell the Service police how to carry out an investigation. The duty of the Provost Marshals under the clause is not merely to ensure that the people are dealt with where they are committing offences, but also to protect their independence from even honest but mistaken attempts by the Military chain of command to say how they think an investigation should be carried out.

  Q264 Christopher Pincher: So it is the case that improper interference is defined, rather than proper interference is defined and everything else which is not proper is thereby improper interference. Is that correct?

  Mr Morrison: Yes, I think so. Yes, it is defined.

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: For me, there is also the bit that you have touched on of proper interference. There are clearly times when it is wholly appropriate for a commanding officer and the Military chain of command to engage with the Service police on investigations. The Commanding Officer is de facto the magistrate. They are busy people and in reality we are conducting investigations often in a very difficult environment. There has to be engagement with the CO or the Military chain of command. There are times when it is wholly proper that that engagement occurs. What must not happen is any undue influence to curtail, stop or prevent an investigation. That is my business as a Provost Marshal.

  Q265 Christopher Pincher: Clause 3—to go back to the terminology again—says, " a person who is not a service policeman must not direct an investigation". Is there a properly understood definition of what direction might or might not be?

  Mr Morrison: There's not a definition. "Direct" is given its common-sense meaning. You define the basic concept, but you don't try to define every single word in a long statute. As Brigadier Forster-Knight rightly said—and here the experience of the Provost Marshals is vital in understanding what is appropriate and what isn't—there is inevitably, particularly on operations, an area in which, if you like, a friction occurs or a rubbing up occurs between the responsibilities of the chain of command to carry out operations and the responsibility of the Provost Marshals to ensure that investigations are carried out independently.

  It is at that stage, which is well recognised, that the sort of situations that can arise in which the CO—the chain of command—has got its focus entirely on getting from A to B, carrying out the operation; and the Provost Marshal is focusing perhaps on going to a particular place to have an investigation undertaken. There is legitimate scope for discussion, for liaison and for agreement on how to handle the situation.

  This clause, if you like, gives the Provost Marshals that extra or clearer authority to say, "Remember, it is quite clear what our job is. I have a specific statutory duty to safeguard the independence of my investigation. You may not be able to do everything I want, and it may be legitimate for you to refuse to do that because you have proper priorities of your own, but I have to safeguard the independence of my investigation so far as I possibly can." Trying to define every single word in the clause wouldn't help experienced officers, who are used to dealing with these sorts of situations.

  Q266 Christopher Pincher: What I am trying to get is that there could be a situation where the CO might say, "You will do this," and that would be taken as a direction.

  Mr Morrison: It would, indeed.

  Q267 Christopher Pincher: He might otherwise say, "Would you consider doing this?" Potentially, that would be considered as advice rather than direction.

  Mr Morrison: Yes. It depends how he says it, but yes.

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: Certainly, Mr Morrison has highlighted the most acute area, which is on operations. We have devised our investigative doctrine for operations accordingly, to take account of that. If there is a friction between the needs of the operation and the needs of the investigation, we will simply account for that by taking statements from relevant commanders as to why certain action could not be taken at that point. This presents us with a different environment from our civil police colleagues, who would normally just pursue their investigation. There are very legitimate reasons, but because we're Military investigators and because we're deployed with the Force and part of the Force, we understand the operational context and the operational tempo; we understand those limitations. What I've got to do is to make sure that they are accounted for in evidence, so that come judgment day, we're in a position to explain why there may have been a delay in a particular investigative strand.

  Q268 Christopher Pincher: You mentioned the civil police. How do you think that these new provisions will affect your relationship and your co-operation with them, and also with the Ministry of Defence Police?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: I think, very well. Most of the civil police are completely unaware that we don't have some of these powers. That's the truth of it, but the reality is that we work very closely with the civil police. Again, part of our development agenda has seen all three Service Provost Marshals becoming members of ACPO. We have adopted ACPO core investigative doctrine, and the various ACPO training manuals. We are aligning much more of our training with the National Policing Improvement Agency doctrine and training. We are under all the relevant national inspectorates. We've done this over the last five or six years to improve our liaison with the civil police, and our interfaces at every level. We are part of the Police National Database in the sharing of our data, post-Bichard. If you come into our organisation, you'll find the look and feel of the civil police in terms of our policing and investigative model, but within a Service context, and that's the bit that we have to remember.

  Q269 Christopher Pincher: My next question is to the Chief Constable. How do you ensure that the MDP are not unduly influenced?

  Chief Constable Love: It is a question that has never been asked—but it has never been necessary. Everybody is absolutely clear that we are a constabulary police force, with the same degree of independence and integrity as any other police force—hopefully including your own. So my status as a chief constable and the independence of my command are quite clear. In terms of the exercise of our judicial authority, we're answerable to the courts alone, but our independence as a police force is reinforced by an independently chaired police committee with independently appointed members, whose remit is quite specifically to maintain oversight of the exercise of our constabulary authority, with arrangements which I would argue are more robust than those for Home Office Forces. If I felt there was the slightest inkling—or, indeed, if he did—that there was any interference, we would take immediate steps to deal with it and report it.

  Q270 Christopher Pincher: But because there are so many agencies involved, as we've already heard, do you think that a leading, if not overlapping, of responsibilities means that there could be any form of interference between agencies?

  Chief Constable Love: I have encountered absolutely none. I've been Chief Constable for nearly six years, and it's something I'm very much alert to. I even include in my annual Report to the Secretary of State a line at the end confirming that there has been no interference.

  Q271 Gemma Doyle: What powers do the Provost Marshals have to deal with improper interference if it is detected?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: There are a number of escalatory measures that we can use—from a simple phone call directly to the individual through to section 27 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 on obstruction and interference to, ultimately, perverting the course of public justice. I think the measures there are sufficient. I would echo Mr Love's comments. I have been a Provost Marshal now for almost two years, and I've not encountered interference in my time as Provost Marshal. It's something that is very much taught in the Army—certainly on all the COs-designate and adjutants' courses that deal with G1 affairs—about the independence of the Service police to conduct those investigations. We are very conscious of it, but the Army, from my perspective, is also very conscious of it and takes appropriate measures in terms of educating commanding officers and adjutants who are involved in the disciplinary process.

  Commander West: From a naval perspective, all our commanding officers and executive officers go through a course prior to taking up their appointments, in which they're briefed by legal colleagues from within the Service. Part of that is telling them exactly where their powers start and stop. I also go along and brief the COs as well, so that everybody's absolutely clear where their lines of demarcation finish. From my perspective—I've been in the post for three years now—I've never heard of any interference from COs or anybody else within an investigation.

  Group Captain Whitmell: I can confirm exactly the same from a Royal Air Force perspective. Again, we brief throughout the chain of command, there is an extensive process, and in the absolute worst case—again, that has not happened in my nearly two years as Provost Marshal—we can go as far as a secondary investigation if we need to. But I stress that that has not happened.

  Commander West: We have all got professional standards units as well. One of the questions that my guys will ask is, "Have you had any interference at all?" once they go on board the ships. I am sure that colleagues also have the same provision.

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: There have been a few historic cases, and some of them are well documented, but it is now fundamentally understood. The other thing about the Act is that it only came into force on 31 October 2009, so that's when the sea change happened in terms of discipline. Although the Act is dated 2006, from the point of view of disciplinary processes it's only been in force since 31 October 2009.

  Mr Morrison: It may give some reference if I add an explanation there. It's worth looking at this new provision as the other side of the coin that was addressed in great detail in the 2006 Act, which is the duty of the CO to make sure that the Service police are aware of matters. It was the 2006 Act, which the Brigadier was referring to, that introduced, first, an express duty on the COs to ensure that matters were always investigated properly; but, on top of that, it ensured that in a wide category of either more serious offences or offences that occurred in what we call prescribed or sensitive circumstances, such as people in custody, the matter was referred to the Service police, so that they could investigate it. Then, when they were investigating those serious offences, they would refer to the Director of Service Prosecutions for both advice and a decision. The provision in the Bill is an extra buttressing to what was already a very comprehensive set of provisions in the 2006 Act for the position of the CO and the prosecutor.

  Q272 Gemma Doyle: Finally, could you say then what measures you would actually take in practice on an investigation to be able to tick the box and say, "Yes, I have fulfilled this duty"?

  Commander West: Would it not be by exception? Are you saying that we need to tick a box to say, "I have not been interfered with"?

  Q273 Gemma Doyle: Sorry, I wasn't suggesting that there is a form, but if the duty is to ensure that every investigation is free from improper interference, what measures will you actually take in practice to ensure that you have met that duty?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: I can easily answer that. From my perspective, I have given very clear instructions to my command team that any form of interference is to be reported to my Deputy Provost Marshal (investigations), who is a full colonel, within 24 hours of it occurring. That is reinforced at my face-to-face command groups with all my commanding officers, which I hold roughly three times a year, and my monthly VTCs, because I effectively have a global police force with people all around the globe, dealing with that on a—

  Q274 Chair: VTC being?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: Video teleconference. So we would do that, and that is also part of the agenda for those monthly meetings.

  Group Captain Whitmell: I would echo that it is by exception. It's the case that it is briefed when it happens—which it hasn't—rather than as a routine.

  Q275 Mr Jones: Clause 4 makes the Police subject to HMIC inspection, although it has limited powers. Does that go far enough in trying to ensure that the Military Police Service is both independent and effective?

  Group Captain Whitmell: The powers of HMIC are very well respected and received from our perspective. Anything that tests our efficiency and effectiveness and measures our ability as a police force is to be hugely welcomed. It is also a measure of the testing of our independence. We, the Royal Air Force Police, have been subject to one inspection only so far, which was a voluntary inspection in 2009, but the value that we achieved from it was huge. Putting that on a statutory footing can only benefit and further develop us as a police service and can only enhance our abilities properly to police the community.

  Commander West: I would second that.

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: The civilian police are looked at for efficiency and effectiveness; we're being looked at for independence and effectiveness. I think that is wholly appropriate, given the way we are constituted under the Armed Forces Act 2006. We've been inspected twice by HMIC, and the inspections have been, as the Group Captain has said, rigorous and very informative, and we have taken forward, in principle, nearly all its recommendations. So I am perfectly content that the measures in place are appropriate. I also believe that the measures give, shall we say, sufficient wriggle room for HMIC to look at slightly wider aspects of our work when it relates to the overall policing and investigation piece.

  Q276 Mr Jones: How do the HMIC powers in relation to the single-service police compare with the MDP's inspection?

  Mr Morrison: The powers under the Police Act—I think it's section 54—for the Home Office Police Forces don't cover independence. They cover efficiency and effectiveness. So, although the provision in the Bill focuses on investigations, the HMIC, in effect, have a wider remit than in the case of either the MDP or the Home Office Police Forces, because they are looking the effectiveness of the investigations and their independence. We regard it as particularly important to include this specifically because of the issue that has been referred to of highlighting, as brightly as we can, the fact that the arrangements that we have in place guarantee that, while the Service police aren't part of the Armed Forces, their investigations will be independent.

  Q277 Chair: In 2009, regulations were issued about the conduct of the Ministry of Defence Police. I am not entirely clear whether those were the conduct regulations or the misconduct regulations. Have any issues arisen out of those regulations that we need to be aware of? What will the Secretary of State do next in relation to those regulations?

  Chief Constable Love: The conduct regulations have been in for two years. They are the same as the rest of the United Kingdom civilian police force and they are running smoothly. What is missing is the regulation that sits under that, which is the regulation for unsatisfactory performance—where somebody is not working well enough but is not misbehaving. All other police forces have unsatisfactory performance regulations that dovetail with the conduct regulations. When I say dovetail, it means that someone can move between the two scales. They can start off underperforming and move into misconduct or back down again. We have the conduct regulations but not the performance regulations for the simple reason that our founding legislation did not contain any provision to introduce performance regulations; it only allowed conduct regulations. This Armed Forces Bill is, therefore, the first opportunity to introduce in clause 6 the enabling clause for us to introduce the performance regulations that sit under the conduct regulations. As soon as we have done that, we will then have exactly the same regulations as all other police forces.

  Q278 Chair: That is very interesting. When do you expect to introduce those regulations?

  Chief Constable Love: As quickly as we can get them past Mr Morrison.

  Q279 Alex Cunningham: How significant are the new powers of search and entry for Service police contained in clause 7?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: The clause 7 provisions for search and entry are very significant to us. A changing dynamic is going on in terms of the way in which Service men live their lives. Some 20 years ago, they either lived in barracks or in the married quarter. Now Service men are very much more mobile and they are often living out in the local community. They may have girlfriends and they may still retain a room at their home address. They are moving around very frequently these days because of the nature of military operations. Therefore, the ability to gain their multiple entry warrant is an important development for us, particularly in fast-moving investigations, relating to things such as weapon loss, fraud and so on.

  Q280 Alex Cunningham: So you are suggesting that investigations in the past have been hampered as a direct result of the fact that you have not had these powers?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: I would agree with that assertion.

  Q281 Alex Cunningham: You have explained why it is necessary now, but what protections were in place as well because there are differences between your role and the role of the civilian police?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: Yes, and I think that is where we have had long and hard discussions with my lawyer to my left over the provisions. Of course we will have to go to a Judge Advocate to obtain the warrant in the first place, though his warrants will be limited to relevant residential premises—premises linked to the suspect. In that regard, the appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure that we are not riding roughshod.

  Q282 Alex Cunningham: It appears that the Ministry of Defence Police don't particularly agree with that. Some of the representatives were telling me that they think that there are risks associated with that.

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: There are risks associated with everything, but the safeguards that are in place, such as having a Judge Advocate authorising that in the first place and limiting warrants to relevant residential premises, are wholly appropriate.

  Q283 Alex Cunningham: Chief Constable Love, the MDP already has these powers. Do you think that they are required by the Service police, or do you foresee any problems?

  Chief Constable Love: You have referred to objections from the Ministry of Defence Police. You are probably referring to correspondence from the Ministry of Defence Police Federation.

  Alex Cunningham: Indeed I am, yes.

  Chief Constable Love: It is quite a significant extension of the powers somewhere on the police-civilian interface. They are powers that Home Department Forces and the MoD Police already have and are available to the service police on request, by application or in the course of a joint operation.

  The MDP are very rarely asked, because very few of our investigations overlap with service police investigations. We operate in different worlds dealing with different things. I am sure that Home Department forces are asked more often. Clearly the powers would work as described, so I don't have a professional view on whether they would cause any difficulty. The extent to which it is appropriate to extend or constrain the ability of the Service justice authorities to pursue their investigations on the public-military interface is very much a political matter.

  Q284 Alex Cunningham: So would you agree with the Federation that there are no grounds for concern?

  Chief Constable Love: It is not my job to interpret or comment on the Federation's views. The Federation has presented its views to you, and I have presented mine.

  Mr Morrison: It might be helpful if I comment on the discussions that led to these powers being included. The provision for multiple search warrants and warrants to search unspecified premises was only introduced in 2005 for the civilian police forces—in fact it was at the end of 2005, when we were in Parliament with what became the 2006 Act. We recognised then that this was a potentially controversial notion, so we decided to wait and see how it worked.

  The traditional idea of going to a magistrate in the civilian world and getting a warrant to search a particular identified premises was an ingrained part of criminal law. So this was recognised as a change, and we have waited to see how it developed and whether it caused problems. It is still an area in which some form of judicial oversight is important, and, as the brigadier has mentioned, there will be judicial-level supervision of any application for one of these warrants. They should not be used widely enough to allow numerous searches of one property or the investigation of unidentified properties to give too much control to the police.

  So this did lead to some heart-searching. We looked at how it was working in the civilian world and put in place limitations that will ensure that in practice there is little or no scope for excessive use of the provision.

  Chair: It is now 12.47 pm, and, if it is possible, I would like to finish before 1 o'clock.

  Q285 Alex Cunningham: There is no provision to give the Service police the power to enter premises to search for excluded material. Any failure to comply with a production order would instead be treated as a contempt of court. Are you satisfied that will be a sufficient deterrent against non-compliance?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: Yes.

  Q286 Alex Cunningham: Good. Would you prefer to have the same powers of entry as Home Office Police?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: The powers we seek are relevant to the Service context. In some ways our jurisdiction is far greater than that of the civilian police. We have universal jurisdiction over soldiers, wherever in the world they are serving. That is, of course, wholly appropriate given that we want to protect our soldiers and to ensure that they are subject to the laws of England and Wales wherever they are serving. The key is the Service context, and we seek powers that are relevant to the Service context and nothing more.

  Q287 Alex Cunningham: Finally, will the powers under clause 8 that require the production of excluded material by persons who might have no direct contact with the Armed Forces, such as a banker or social services department, be monitored or subject to any kind of reporting procedures?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: Yes. Once the Bill is enacted, we intend to introduce some internal policy detailing how these provisions and the multiple entry warrants—the clause 7 and clause 8 provisions—are used.

  Chair: Thank you very much. I must say that sort of thing more often.

  Q288 Jack Lopresti: Will there be any external scrutiny by the Judge Advocates of the decisions to issue all premises and multiple entry warrants? What systems are in place to deal with complaints both from Service personnel and from civilians on the use of these powers related to warrants?

  Mr Morrison: The answer to the first question is yes. A Judge Advocate will be applied to to grant the warrants. Like any search warrant, they will usually be acted on fairly quickly. In the civilian and military worlds, there is not time for people even to be told about them—they may not be there, or there may be other good reasons not to tell them. But if the power to give a search warrant or the way that it is used is improper, it can be challenged at the trial. If somebody is tried on the basis of evidence obtained improperly, the evidence so obtained can be challenged and excluded, if that is the decision of the court. That is the remedy that is available in the civilian world, and it will be available in the Military world.

  Q289 Chair: Okay. Final question: is there anything not in the Bill that you would like to see in it?

  Brigadier Forster-Knight: Not at this stage.

  Chair: So it is perfect—that is wonderful.

  Thank you very much indeed for your evidence on an important issue. This is a part of the Bill that has not yet received as much scrutiny and attention as the Military Covenant, but nevertheless is very important. I am most grateful.

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