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Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 13, at end insert--
("(3) Within 6 months of the coming into force of this section the Secretary of State shall, before proceeding to any further replacement of Ministry of Defence police, lay before both Houses of Parliament a report relating to the outcome of any pilot projects for alternative arrangements under subsection (1) for duties which have been undertaken by Ministry of Defence police.
(4) No proposal for alternative arrangements under subsection (1) for duties which have been undertaken by Ministry of Defence police shall have effect unless it is confirmed by order made by statutory instrument and subject to approval by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps I may say at the outset that these amendments are the same as those we tabled on Report. We did not press them to a Division at that stage because we believed that it was important to give the Government and the Minister time to consider the arguments and the substance of the amendments in the hope that we might receive reassuring positive answers this evening. We shall be listening most attentively, because we want to be able to leave the Chamber reassured.

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Clause 2 deals with what could be in danger of becoming--I hope that I am not unkind--a sort of "Dad's Army", with second class conditions of service but with potential for duties way beyond what is initially described. Anyone enlisting in that organisation should be wary of buying a pig in a poke. Nowhere is that better illustrated than by the fact that the homework does not yet seem to have been completed, even as to what will happen about pensions. If, for example, a regular soldier leaves the normal Army, with expectations of a certain pension, and enlists in this new-fangled organisation at a lower rate of pay, what will then happen to his pension, because of course he will be part of the Army in this new organisation?

I believe that it is fair to say that the proposal that we are considering in Clause 2 is more marked by the uncertainties which arise from it than from any certainties. The amendment is concerned with the military local service engagements for which the Government are preparing, and for the military provost guard service.

It is clear that if the Bill goes through in its present form, we shall have given the power to the Executive as to whether or not this new organisation is brought into existence. There can be no argument about that. Ministers may reassure us that they will come back and consult and enable us to have debates, but the Bill will entitle the Executive to make the decisions. The House should have no uncertainty about that. It is clear that that is what we are doing.

Therefore we are looking to the Minister tonight for convincing evidence that there will be no question of the Government proceeding if the pilot projects--as they have been described--give any grounds for anxiety about the scheme, and that there will be a chance for both Houses to express their views and to consider in some detail what has been experienced in the course of those pilot projects.

Perhaps I may be permitted briefly to mention some of the issues upon which we should be glad to have reassurance from the Minister this evening. First, what correspondence has he received from the Chief Constable of the MoD Police on the future viability of the reduced police force which will result from the new scheme? What was it that the Chief Constable had to say about it all?

Secondly, what will really be the basis for what the Government have described as this one-for-one replacement of present members of the MoD Police by members of the new MPGS? I ask that because the more I have gone into the matter, the clearer it becomes that, whatever the Minister may in good faith be saying, it is difficult to find any member of the MoD Police in the country who is doing guarding duties alone. Almost all of them are caught up in wider police activities. So just how is the calculation being made of what is one-for-one in terms of replacing guarding duties by members of this new organisation?

Next, Chilwell is one of the places that has been chosen for the experiment. But am I right in believing that Chilwell was chosen for the experiment before the

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decision was made and confirmed and the process under way for the Army Technical Services Agency to move into Chilwell, bringing with it 1,000 new civilian jobs, plus the civilian element of the Royal Engineers? In the new context of the reality of what Chilwell will become in those new situations, does it still make sense as a place in which to undertake a pilot project of that kind?

Then, what about the anxieties which exist about the whole issue of the remoteness of the mobile area MoD Police units, how long they will take to be on the spot if they are needed in support? How definite and firm are the arrangements with the local civilian police, should their support be needed in the short term? On that of course there are cost elements about which in a wider context the House should be concerned, because are we potentially shifting some of the responsibility for guaranteeing the policing of communities and the rest from what has been a de facto responsibility of the MoD Police onto the civilian police, so that we are putting responsibility for what had been defence tasks onto other elements of public expenditure?

Then there is the related issue about how the new MPGS will operate in the wider areas surrounding the bases. Only today I was involved in conversations which informed me that in the Nottingham area there is a great deal of anxiety about the matter. In communities which may not be largely defence-oriented we may see armed soldiers in Army vehicles touring civilian areas. Have local populations been prepared for that? What are the implications of it? Those are the kind of worries which we all have about the quality of life and about people's expectations on the mainland of the United Kingdom.

If the MPGS is drawn in to wider activities--I hazard a guess that sooner or later it will be drawn in one way or another--what will be the redress of the public if the public have complaints? I have raised that matter before, but we have not had a satisfactory answer. If the Ministry of Defence Police do something about which a member of the public wishes to complain, the Police Complaints Authority has jurisdiction over the MoD Police. However, the Police Complaints Authority will not have jurisdiction over the members of the MPGS. We need to have firm assurances from the Minister about that.

In the Minister's courteous way, he and his officials have been at pains to have meetings to try to explain the issues. I am grateful for that. Tonight it is important that the noble Earl tries to get convincing answers on the record in this Chamber. However well-intentioned was his full letter to me of a few days ago about some of the matters raised, I must give him notice that among some of those immediately concerned the letter raised more anxieties than it provided answers. I believe that during the course of the pilot projects and so forth he will hear a good deal more about some of the points made in the letter. What he believes to be the situation on the ground is not how it is seen by those immediately involved. I beg to move.

Lord Mayhew: My Lords, we on these Benches support the amendment and look forward to hearing the Minister's answers to the pertinent questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. We have been over much of

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the ground before and I shall content myself by asking a single simple question. Will the Minister assure the House that he will not give a go-ahead to other pilot schemes before the existing pilot schemes have been completed and properly assessed? I ask the Minister for that simple assurance, which I am sure he can give me.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I remind the House that I have an interest in this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, questioned the Minister about the wider duties of the MPGS. Perhaps I may remind the Minister that during our debate on the Defence Estimates last Friday I asked him whether the MPGS would be used for patrolling against mortar baseplate locations. I hope that he can give a definite answer to that question which is causing a great deal of concern.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred also to the plans to move ATSA to Chilwell. He raised an important point. Perhaps the Minister should look at a more suitable location or a trial.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): My Lords, on Report I congratulated the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Redesdale, on their persistence in relation to Clause 2. They posed a formidable number of questions during our debate that evening. I answered a few of them then and I hope that the letters which I subsequently sent to the noble Lords reassured them on at least some of their other concerns. However, I note what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, about my letter having raised further concerns beyond those which I was trying to cover. I recognise that it will be helpful today to place on the record the Government's position on some of those issues and I hope that the House will bear with me if I take a few minutes in doing so.

At the Report stage, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, expressed concern about whether we were intending to embark on a genuine pilot scheme or whether, once Clause 2 and the enabling regulations for military local service engagements had been enacted, the move to introduce the full Military Provost Guard Service scheme would be a fait accompli. He has repeated that worry tonight. I can assure your Lordships that the pilot scheme will be precisely that--and no more. The Army and the Government would have no interest in introducing the full MPGS scheme if the pilot scheme had proved to be a failure.

The undertakings which have been given to report to this House and to the Select Committee on Defence on the outcome of the pilot scheme bear repetition. I can also reassure noble Lords that there will be full consultation on the outcome of the pilot scheme before a decision is taken to proceed with the main scheme.

I was asked on Report whether I had seen a paper by the Defence Police Federation proposing what it considers to be the most cost-effective arrangements for the MPGS pilot scheme. I have only just seen a copy of that paper and have not had time to consider it fully. Indeed, I understand that the paper had not been completed when we had our last debate, so perhaps I

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should be congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Judd, on the quality of his inside information. I shall undertake to study it with due care.

However, in essence, the federation's paper contains two proposals. The first is that the introduction of MPGS and the withdrawal of Ministry of Defence Police from the pilot scheme sites should be phased, and that the MPGS should be monitored by some authority with specialist knowledge. The second is that Chilwell is an inappropriate site for the pilot scheme and that the Defence Animal Centre at Melton Mowbray would be a better choice.

One of the DPF's arguments for phasing the pilot scheme is that it would avoid the loss of 50 MDP officers through voluntary early retirement or voluntary early severance. However, as the consultative document issued on 29th May makes clear, we do not anticipate that any MDP voluntary early retirement or severance will be required as a result of either the pilot scheme or the main scheme. All MDP job losses resulting from the conversion of posts to MPGS should be covered by natural wastage.

In any case, to have members of both the Ministry of Defence Police and the Military Provost Guard Service simultaneously undertaking armed guarding duties at pilot scheme sites would not provide a sound basis for assessing the effectiveness of the MPGS. For such an assessment, the MPGS needs to take over the full guarding task at the pilot scheme sites from the outset.

As for the need for the pilot scheme to be monitored by a body with specialist knowledge, the Commander in Chief Land Command, who will be monitoring the scheme, meets this requirement precisely. He has overall responsibility for the guarding and security of Army establishments and has the necessary specialist staff to ensure that the Army's security requirements are met.

As I have already said, the Army has no interest in using the MPGS if it proves not to meet the requirement, and I can assure your Lordships that there is no question of our being anything other than open in reporting on the outcome of the pilot scheme.

As for the Defence Police Federation's suggestion that the Defence Animal Centre at Melton Mowbray would be a better pilot scheme site than Chilwell, I am afraid that we cannot agree with this. Melton Mowbray is guarded by full engagement regular soldiers and MoD Guard Service personnel, not MDP officers. MoD Guard Service guards cost a great deal less than MDP officers and there is no general financial or other case for using MPGS soldiers to replace them on unarmed guarding duties. The full engagement regular soldiers undertaking guarding at Melton Mowbray are complemented for other duties for which they would still be needed if the MPGS took over their guarding tasks.

In its paper, the federation continues to assert that the MDP at Chilwell fulfil a policing role. I assure your Lordships that the review at Chilwell has confirmed that MDP officers there are complemented for armed guarding duties. The civil constabulary requirement there is limited and can be met by an area policing team. Indeed, I am happy to be able to report that it has been agreed that an area policing team should be based at

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Chilwell. I should add that we are, of course, ready to listen to the arguments of the DPS on whether any of the posts at Chilwell are required for policing. Indeed, I repeat the assurance that I gave that that paper will be given full attention.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is concerned about the ability of area police teams to cope with the demands which may be placed on them given the size of the areas which they will cover. It is worth noting that most defence establishments currently do not have an MDP presence and that at many establishments civil police requirements are met by the Home Department police. It is envisaged that the creation of area police teams will give the chief constable of the MDP more flexibility to provide a civil policing service throughout the department where required than has been possible hitherto.

Concern was expressed on Report that MPGS soldiers would get drawn into dealing with situations which required constabulary powers. Their position will be no different from that of full engagement regular soldiers, or indeed of members of the civilian MoD Guard Service, who detect incidents that require a police presence; that is, they will have to seek the assistance of a police officer. I should add that complaints by the public against members of the MPGS will be treated in exactly the same way as complaints against other service personnel, many of whom have of course long been engaged on armed guarding at the perimeters at service establishments. They will be investigated fully by the relevant service authorities. As now, members of the public will also have the right, depending on the nature of a complaint, to pursue it through the courts.

A further point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, concerns the pension arrangements for MPGS personnel. MPGS soldiers will be offered membership of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme. Some detailed aspects of the application of the rules of the scheme need clarification and approval. However, we anticipate that former full engagement regulars will be able to carry forward into their new local service engagements any preserved pension earned in their previous service. I understand the importance of trying to ensure that we get this right and that we do not have pension arrangements which act as a disincentive to would-be recruits.

Concerns were also expressed on Report about MPGS initial training. The intention is that all those recruited directly from the services would undergo a four to six-day selection and induction course. We believe that most of them would have sufficient experience as military guards not to need further training. However, if the selection and induction course showed that further training was required, it would be provided. If necessary, the soldiers concerned would attend the whole of the MoD Guard Service course at Wethersfield and have additional firearms training. We will not cut corners over this.

It is of course true that if more ex-full engagement regulars required full training than we currently expect, training costs would increase above the level assumed

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in the investment appraisal. The effect would, however, be relatively minor. The break-even year would be unchanged.

Even if many more than 5 per cent. of the MPGS had to be recruited directly from civilian life, it would still not raise costs sufficiently to undermine the financial viability of the scheme. The break-even year would then be deferred by a year, to 2001-2002. However, we do not believe that this will happen, as we believe that the MPGS will attract sufficient ex-full engagement regulars to meet its needs.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked about reserve commitments. I can confirm that MPGS soldiers will not incur any additional reserve liability from their MPGS service, whether they are ex-full engagement regulars or join directly from civilian life. Reserve liability resulting from previous regular service will run concurrently with MPGS employment. We see the task of MPGS soldiers in war as being to continue to guard their respective establishments; and they would therefore be put to the bottom of the list in the unlikely event that it became necessary to mobilise all ex-regular service personnel. This arrangement will have no significant effect on the Army's reserve capability.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred this evening to armed military patrols off-base. If such patrols occur, they can take place only with the approval of the local chief constable. Therefore, I suggest to the noble Lord that there is a safeguard there. It is not something which will happen as a regular routine matter.

The noble Lord asked me also about what correspondence I had had from the chief constable of the MDP about our proposals. The chief constable has been party to our discussions on the MPGS scheme and he has expressed confidence in the future viability of the MDP. Once again I refer the noble Lord to the assurances which I gave at previous stages of the Bill about our firm wish to see the MDP remain as the viable and essential force that it is today.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred specifically to Chilwell. The MPGS will be there to protect service personnel at Chetwynd Barracks. Policing will be undertaken by the MDP area policing team, as I have said already.

The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, asked me about patrols off-base. I apologise to him for not answering his question last Friday due to the time constraints. MPGS soldiers, like any other soldiers, will undertake general security patrols off-base as required by the unit's commanding officer. There is close co-operation with the local police in relation to security arrangements for the protection of defence property and personnel. Any armed patrolling by service personnel off-base takes place only if authorised specifically by the local chief constable. I am sure that noble Lords would not expect me to go into further details in what is, as I am sure the noble Earl will appreciate, a sensitive area.

I shall attempt to sum up the underlying concerns--these appear to be that the pilot scheme might not be conducted properly; or that Parliament might not have a proper opportunity to assess its outcome before that main scheme was introduced.

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I think that the first of these concerns is somewhat unfair to the Army; and to the Commander-in-Chief Land Command, who would be responsible for ensuring that a full, fair and comprehensive report was made. It would certainly be in the Army's interest to evaluate the pilot scheme properly, since it is Army personnel and property that the MPGS will be protecting. I have no doubts at all that they can be relied upon to do so. However, to make assurance doubly sure, my honourable friend Nicholas Soames and I personally intend to monitor the progress of the pilot scheme very closely. This will include receiving a full interim report at the end of the first year, which we could make available to Parliament, if it was considered that it would be useful to do so.

As to the second of those concerns, I am not sure what more I can say to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the other proposers of this amendment. My honourable friend Nicholas Soames has promised a report on the outcome of the pilot scheme to the Select Committee on Defence and I have promised a report to this House. I have no doubt that those reports will be very thoroughly scrutinised; and that any problems or difficulties would be fully exposed.

However, we fully recognise the concerns which have been expressed here and in the other place. We equally recognise the need to take Parliament with us. If it was the wish of the House to debate the matter between the issue of the report on the outcome of the pilot scheme and beginning work to get a main scheme underway, that would of course be something we could discuss at the time.

If it would offer any further reassurance to noble Lords, I can tell them that I believe that a government might be open to the charge of having acted rashly, were they to choose to proceed with the main scheme in circumstances where Parliament had clearly demonstrated that it was unconvinced that it was right to do so. I imagine that the noble Lords might agree with that.

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