Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400
THURSDAY 25 JANUARY 2001
400. I do not think we would have an objection
to this but you have widened it a lot. This is potentially taking
power away from social services.
(Mr Morrison) In an emergency case, which is under
Section 19, it is not possible to make a protection order without
giving the parents of the children, and various other people specified
in the section, an opportunity to make representations as to how
the matter should be handled. There is a sort of judicial process,
if you like, to be gone through by the person making the decision.
(Mr Miller) All of which does mean that it is very
unlikely that such a case would not be referred to the relevant
Mr Randall: I am just concerned, as I
am sure we all are, in these sorts of issues that something that
is tucked away there for very good reasons, it is just widening
it ever so slightly, may have wider implications that are not
being looked at.
401. I have one particular question on this.
I suspect that there is a growing problem here affecting forces
families and it is, therefore, worth informing the debate by relating
that in my own county the Social Services Department spends approaching
half a million pounds a year on social services specifically directed
at forces families in the garrison towns in the County of Wiltshire.
It is a very specific loading and it is a growing problem. I am
slightly concerned if we are changing the rules about children
in respect of whom protection orders may be made that we should
not forget there is a financial consequence both for the Services
and for County Council Social Services Departments.
(Mr Miller) Indeed.
402. In paragraph 152 of the Explanatory Notes,
I do not have a problem with the provision of "Sentence where
penalty fixed by law as life imprisonment", but I was interested
to read "The current provisions in the SDAs provide that
persons convicted by courts-martial of Service offences corresponding
to murder or genocide . . .". I just wonder whether genocide
is a new term that has come in or whether it is laid down somewhere
in statute? It seems slightly strange to see "genocide"
down in this context as if somebody convicted of genocide previously
would not get a life sentence.
(Mr Morrison) No, it is not introducing something
in respect of genocide. Genocide is a crime that is already referred
to in the Service Discipline Acts. I do not know the history of
its introduction but it must have come in in comparatively recent
years. All this is doing is dealing with the technical point that
the references in the SDAs to those offences use the wording referring
to the person convicted being liable to imprisonment for life.
It has been considered, looking at the development of case law
over the years, that simply this does not make it clear that the
sentence is a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
403. I understand that. The point I was making,
and really you have answered it, was does genocide exist?
(Mr Morrison) Yes.
404. Thank you very much. Can we now then return
to Part IV, Clauses 31 and 32. I know, Mr Davies, you wanted to
raise again some of the particular issues that we raised in our
previous meetings and requests for further information and clarification.
(Mr Miller) I wonder, Chairman, if I might change
my line-up here to pick up these Clauses which deal with the Ministry
of Defence Police. If I may I would like to re-introduce Mr Crowther
and, in view of the areas which were attracting the interests
of the Committee on the last occasion, I thought it appropriate
to bring Mr Comben along, the Deputy Chief Constable of the Ministry
of Defence Police, because he is far better placed than any of
the rest of us to answer questions which bear directly on the
operational aspects of the police force's work.
Chairman: Can I once again thank the
Service personnel at the top table for their time and their responses.
Can I welcome the Deputy Chief Constable and Mr Crowther.
405. I am glad to see Mr Crowther back again
because one of the matters that was left over from last time was
the issue of the number of occasions when in practice it has been
found that the existing powers of the Ministry of Defence Police
are inadequate. At that time Mr Crowther did not recall such things
but undertook to examine his memory and let us know this morning.
(Mr Crowther) What we have done is put together a
dossier of ten illustrative cases.
(Mr Crowther) Which, with your permission, we would
like to submit as a note for the Committee.
Mr Davies: I am very happy with that.
Chairman: That would be very welcome.
407. I am grateful, thank you for taking the
time and trouble to do that.
(Mr Crowther) These cases are not meant to be exhaustive
but simply to be illustrative of the circumstances that could
Mr Davies: I think this will help us
to decide whether we should be changing the law in this direction.
I am sure we will come back if we have any questions on that.
Thank you very much. The other request that was slightly left
over from our previous examination of the first 30 Clauses of
the Bill which I recall was that Mr Miller kindly said he would
try his hand at redrafting on the matter of a warrant officer's
eligibility to serve on courts-martial when promoted to sub-lieutenant.
I do not know whether he has got a text for us to look at but
I take this opportunity of reminding him that we look forward
to seeing that. The other one was a definitional issue, which
Mr Morrison was vexing on, of journalistic materials which we
discussed before. I have in mind that we were expecting answers
on this. I do not know, Chairman, if you want us to pursue these
matters now or on another occasion?
408. Can I find out from Mr Miller and Mr Morrison
what progress has been made?
(Mr Miller) On the second point, it was our intention
to offer a note to the Committee, if that is acceptable. On the
first point, I undertook to note the strength of feeling on this
issue of the position of warrant officer promoted to sub-lieutenant.
I am sure that as the Bill proceeds Ministers will, indeed, reflect
on the points that have been made.
Chairman: It seems appropriate then to
delay further consideration until we have had those notes and
hopefully, indeed, in some of our visits the opportunity will
arise to raise issues like warrant officers and sub-lieutenants
directly with Armed Forces personnel.
Mr Davies: I take the hint. There is
no personal ego invested in this. If the Ministers are reconsidering
the matters with their advisers and if any amendments come forward
later on we will look at those very open-mindedly. I have no desire
to impose my own formulation on those matters.
409. Pursuing the same line, can I just confirm
that Mr Miller said he will give me a note on what had changed
in the Ministry of Defence Police carrying out criminal investigations?
(Mr Miller) Yes. We agreed that we would let the Committee
have a note on that.
Mr Key: Very good.
Mr Davies: Are we on Clause 31, Chairman?
Chairman: Yes. Can we now move back to
Clause 31, which I know you introduced in a previous session,
Mr Miller. Mr Davies, you want to come in on that. Are there any
other Committee Members? Mr Key, Mr Keetch, Mr Randall. Clearly
this is of considerable interest.
410. Let me start with a very general question,
if I may, based on a lack of detailed knowledge and experience
in this field. I do not have the experience of my colleague, Robert
Key, in this matter, I have not served in the forces, and I have
had my front bench responsibilities for less than a year. I have
to say coming to it in that way one comes with a fresh mind with
all the advantages and disadvantages of that. I am amazed at the
proliferation of police forces that one finds in the military.
There is the Ministry of Defence Police that we are discussing
in this Clause, there are the individual Service police forces
and there is something, the existence of which I have only recently
learned, called the Ministry of Defence Guard Service which seemed
to me to have started off as a sort of sub-division of the Ministry
of Defence Police to carry out guard duties and now seems to have
taken on an institutional life of its own. Then there is the Military
Provost Guard Service and, again, they are a sort of sub-department
of the individual Service police that have been set up to carry
out guard duties. Then there is, of course, an increasing use
of private security firms in policing in the military field, and
that may be part of a contracting out exercise, which means a
lot more of the routine jobs of guarding bases and controlling
access points are no longer in the hands of servicemen or service
women. Can I first ask you what is the implication for this proliferation
of police or para-police institutions within the MoD on your budget?
Is there not scope for some rationalisation there?
(Mr Miller) I think the first point to be made is
that there is a clear division of those various bodies into two
groups, those with police powers of any kind, Service policemen
in relation to their Services and the Ministry of Defence Police,
as described, and those bodies that do not have police powers
and whose function is much more akin to that of the night watchmen
employed by many companies to secure their property.
411. You are referring to the Provost?
(Mr Miller) The Guard Force primarily. The Provost
Force is a local service, if I can use that term, armed force
for use in those circumstances where armed guards are needed but
where the full requirements of the Regular Service would be excessive.
We have created that particular force so that we can provide the
armed guards but without, as I say, applying the full rigours
of the Regular Service recruiting standards. The three Service
police forces and MDP police force exist because the Services
are separate bodies. The police play a key role in the maintenance
of discipline, which is very much a single Service issue. The
point I made when the possibility of harmonisation or rationalisation
was raised quite early on in the evidence sessions was there is
no doubt at all that it is more acceptable to the average soldier
to be arrested by a military policeman rather than a naval policeman.
Whether the arrest is actually acceptable in the first place is
a matter of judgment but there is clearly strong identification
with the Services and, therefore, there is a feeling that discipline
should be looked after by, if I can use the phrase "their
own". The Ministry of Defence Police force exists in those
areas where civil police powers are needed and they, as you know,
are involved in guarding a number of the more critical establishments.
They undertake criminal investigations in certain areas, as has
already come up, and they cover a number of related areas. I think
it would be broadly true to envisage them as operating in the
margins between the services and the civilian community and the
Home Office police forces.
412. We are going to explore in some detail,
I am sure, the powers of the MDP and how they relate to civilian
constabularies in a moment. Before we leave the issue of the structure
of policing in the military and this proliferation of bodies,
and I am a great respecter of the need to maintain individual
Service identities and culture and ways of doing things, would
there be economies of scale to be achieved if you did merge the
Service police with the MDP? Have you ever looked at that?
(Mr Miller) To my knowledge we have never looked at
the issue of combining the Service police with the MDP. I just
do not know.
413. Thus, combining the three Service police.
(Mr Miller) The issue of combining the three Service
police has not been looked at in recent years, because single
Service identity is regarded as more important.
414. Okay. In fact if on 4th May I asked you
to undertake such a study you would have to start from scratch,
Mr Keetch: Why 4th May?
Mr Davies: If you do not want to answer
that question I will not embarrass you.
415. Has any preparation been done on examining
a combined service?
(Mr Miller) We have done no work on it in recent years.
I have no personal knowledge of what was done before that.
416. Is Mr Comben going to answer for the Ministry
of Defence police or, Mr Miller, are you going to answer for that?
I have one or two questions about the Ministry of Defence Police.
Who they report to and how do they operate? Perhaps I can address
them to you.
(Mr Miller) Mr Comben is better placed than I am to
talk about the operational details.
417. Mr Comben, when you are engaged in your
investigative role and when you are carrying out the kind of functions
in pursuit of crime, and so forth, which civil police do in their
constabularies, to whom do you report?
(Mr Comben) The Ministry of Defence Police are a civilian
police force, set up departmentally slightly differently from
county police forces. In terms of legal responsibilities and legal
powers it operates entirely in the same way as county police forces
and the Metropolitan Police and it applies the same rules and
has much the same structure, but not exactly the same structure.
The Chief Constable has operational independence. Just as in any
other civilian police force in the United Kingdom no one can direct
him or her to start an investigation or to stop an investigation
or take an investigation in a particular direction. We are accountable
to a number of bodies and a number of organisations. The work
we do is accountable to the law in the first instance. We have
to comply with the law. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act is
a good example.
418. You have to comply with the law. You are
subject to the law, as we all are, but you do not account to the
law, you account to a human body. The Chief Constable accounts
to their police committee, the chief of the Metropolitan Police
accounts to the Home Secretary, in that sense to whom do you report?
To whom do you account to, that was my question?
(Mr Comben) In that sense we have a police committee
and we have a Secretary of State.
419. You report to the Secretary of State.
(Mr Comben) Precisely. In much the same way as the
Metropolitan Police or any other civilian police force in this
country are accountable to the Police Authority, ultimately the
Secretary of State for the Home Department.
4 See Appendix 6. Back
See Appendix . Back