Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)



  40. And there is no reason why it has to wait for five years apart from the fact your deadline is five years?
  (Mr Miller) Exactly.

  41. So what in fact are the stumbling blocks to it being done before that? Are they resources or other priorities? If it is going to improve the effectiveness in one sense or other of the military, why is it not a priority to try and get this Tri-Service Act before the five year deadline?
  (Mr Miller) To some extent, resources are a limiting factor and, of course, not just resources in the crude sense but you will need people with appropriate experience and background and they are not always in good supply.

  42. Not available or not in existence?
  (Mr Miller) They are usually occupied in other areas. Largely the sort of people we want for this, beyond the legal experts, are people who have gained their experience through their work in the Services and, almost by definition, they will be exercising their skills in the Services and we would be taking them away. So there is a balance to be struck there. As I say, I would not pretend we could not add to the resources to bring in the Bill faster if there was a real need to do so, but the problems we have at the moment with the separate Acts are not problems we cannot find ways to work round, but it would undoubtedly facilitate things if we could have a Tri-Service Act. That suggests to us that trying to produce something in the timescale, the sort of regular five yearly timescale, is the sensible way of tackling it.

  43. Presumably that was brought about by the Consolidated Bill ten years ago and five years ago?
  (Mr Miller) That was why the targets for consolidation were set ten years and five years ago.

  44. So we have not got necessarily much expectation of this coming round in five years' time?
  (Mr Miller) I can only say that all my planning is based on delivering a Tri-Service draft Bill in time for the next quinquennial review.

  45. Presumably if you had been here five years ago answering the same questions on consolidation, you would have come up with the same answer?
  (Mr Miller) You are asking me to speculate on what my predecessors would have said, but there is no doubt the Department was seriously trying to tackle consolidation in that timescale.


  46. I think you have all gathered already that the Committee's clear objective is to ensure within the next five years a Tri-Service Bill is produced. Can we move on to Clause 2 and can I ask for an introduction to this please?
  (Mr Miller) Yes, Clause 2, Madam Chairman. As the Committee will understand, while the main function of the Bill is in effect to renew the Armed Services legislation, we have always taken the opportunity to introduce new items and make changes, and really Clause 2 and beyond is where we start on this process. Clause 2 is particularly concerned with the powers of entry, search and seizure, which may be exercised in the course of investigations into offences under the Service Discipline Acts. We believe that the powers currently exercised by commanding officers are not as clear as they should be and indeed they are not necessarily wide enough to provide all the tools which are needed for the prevention and investigation of offences by people subject to Service law. This clause therefore introduces a power which allows Service police to stop and search certain people or vehicles. The intention is that Service police may stop persons whom they reasonably suspect to be subject to the Service Discipline Acts and any vehicle that they are driving, or, alternatively, they may stop any Service vehicle regardless of who is driving it. The latter provision is really there because the increased employment of contractors means it is not unusual for Service vehicles to be driven by civilians who are not subject to these Service Discipline Acts. Probably the main point in this is that the clause is based on civilian legislation in section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984, in other words we are following what is happening in the civilian world. The aim is fundamentally to put powers on a sound and clear basis, aligned as far as possible with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

Mr Key

  47. Are List X companies included in military security arrangements? Under this particular clause will there be any change in the arrangements for the right of Ministry of Defence police, for example, to challenge or indeed search their vehicles?
  (Mr Miller) The staff of List X companies are not in those circumstances subject to the Service Discipline Act. This clause would not affect the current position in that respect because the circumstances you are describing there, where they are driving their own or the company's vehicle, would not be covered by this clause.

  48. How about contract security firms at some Ministry of Defence premises? Are they covered by the Service Discipline Act?
  (Mr Miller) No.

  49. I am very anxious that the provisions of this Bill should ensure there are adequate numbers of policemen and women available, from whatever branch of the Services. It is not fair to ask this now but could you let the Committee have tables showing the current strength and the future strength, if possible, of the Ministry of Defence police, the Military Provost Guard Service, the MoD Guard Service, the Royal Military Police, the Royal Navy Regulating Branch, the Royal Marines Police and the RAF Police, so we know what numbers we are talking about and we get this clear? It may already be published, and that is no problem, but could you also explain for my benefit, because I just have not got a clue about this, what are the 146 or so Provost Officers of the RAF?
  (Mr Miller) To answer the first part of the question, I can certainly produce for the Committee a table of numbers. I have some of those figures with me but not all of them, so it would be more convenient to produce a table.[2] I think the obvious person to answer the other question is Air Commodore Charles.

  (Air Commodore Charles) A Provost Officer is effectively an RAF policeman, he is a commissioned officer. The reason for the title is that he exercises his authority under the Provost Marshal of the Royal Air Force. So the 170 you mention are RAF policemen commissioned.


  50. Given the wide range and variety of different Service police, has any consideration been given to consolidating that Service, or is it still a matter of keeping the status quo?
  (Mr Miller) There is no current consideration being given to the amalgamation of the Service police forces, no. The individual Service's discipline is very much one of those matters which is the responsibility of the individual Service and the separation of the three Services, armed forces, reflects that.

  51. But it sounds as though it would be something which would be considered during the drafting of the Tri-Service Bill over the next five years?
  (Mr Miller) It is possible it might come up but I suspect the driving factors are likely to be the acceptability of this to, for want of a better term, the clientele, the average sailor, soldier and airman. There is strong identification with the Service in all three Services, obviously it is one of the things encouraged for operational reasons, and that does tend to have the effect of making it much more acceptable if you are arrested by a policeman from your own Service rather than somebody else.

Mr Watts

  52. You said that this clause would not affect contractors working on military bases. Why is that?
  (Mr Miller) Because they are not subject to the Service Discipline Acts. The Service Discipline Acts as currently defined apply to servicemen anywhere and to civilians, that is civilians employed by the Ministry of Defence, generally speaking abroad, but contractors only in very limited circumstances abroad. From memory, although I would need to check, I think the contractors employed in Kosovo are subject to the Act but those in the UK are not.

  53. Can you explain why that is? What is the rationale behind that?
  (Mr Miller) Because the feeling is that when the contractors are operating within the jurisdiction of UK civilian law, that is the appropriate body of law with which to deal with them. The general feeling in the Department is that we should not seek to apply the somewhat more onerous requirements of the Service Discipline Act to civilians unless it was absolutely essential. The civil law should suffice.

Mr Keetch

  54. Presumably those contractors and other people are aware of the fact they are not covered by the Service Discipline Acts?
  (Mr Miller) I would imagine they are, yes. There is no reason to think they would think otherwise.

  55. Is there any interest in establishing where, when and in what circumstances they might become subject to them?
  (Mr Miller) That is clearly defined. To start with, when a civilian employed by the Ministry of Defence is posted abroad this is one of the things he is told. It is the responsibility of the contractor to tell his own staff they are but they would be expected to do that.

Mr Randall

  56. If I can give the example of a contractor coming on—or even for that matter delivering vehicles and coming on—to RAF Uxbridge, which is enclosed, if for some reason there was a suspicion something on board had been stolen from the camp, presumably the RAF Police would have to phone up the civil police, the Met, and say, "When this man comes off the camp, you had better pull him over", or would they have the jurisdiction to hold him up before he leaves the base? What would be the situation there?
  (Mr Miller) In those circumstances I would expect the commanding officer on the base to call the civil police, and the civil police would have the necessary authority.

  57. The civil police can come on to the base but could the RAF Police hold that vehicle there in the meantime? They might do it, they might find a way, but have they got the jurisdiction?
  (Air Commodore Charles) No. In the example you give, Mr Randall, the Ministry of Defence Police are at Uxbridge so it would be a matter for them. But Ministry of Defence Police are not at every RAF establishment and I would not expect the RAF Police to stop a civilian contractor's vehicle in those circumstances. It would be reported as soon as possible to the local constabulary and it would be a matter for the civilian police.

  58. And the constabulary can come on to the base?
  (Air Commodore Charles) Indeed, yes.
  (Mr Miller) I wonder if I might just correct something I said earlier? I said the contractors in Kosovo were subject to the Service Discipline Acts, in fact I am mistaken, they are not. That is a particular situation in Kosovo.

Mr Watts

  59. Can I ask whether you believe this lack of ability to deal with civilians in the way you have described restricts your ability to secure a base? It would appear to me a vehicle which is going on and off a military base which cannot be stopped and searched, compromises the security.
  (Mr Miller) There are powers to search vehicles on entry—contractors' vehicles or otherwise which come from a different source—which will usually be exercised by the MoD Guard Force or the MoD Constabulary where they are present. How do we deal with the situation of any emergency which requires action?
  (Air Commodore Charles) It would be a search with the consent of the individual. If they did not consent, they would not be allowed access.

2   See Appendix 6. Back

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