Examination of Witness (Questions 680
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
680. There is some newspaper speculation that
this is all part of a plot to deliver a national police force.
How much credibility do you give that speculation, first of all?
If you do not give it much credibility, how much do you think
that these provisions could eventually erode the traditional roles
of the two forces? Are there any dangers that over the longer
term there will be an erosion of what people do?
(Mr Scott-Lee) From a personal perspective I give
no credence at all to the suggestion that this is some cunning
plot to bring about a national police organisation. In terms of,
do I think it will erode the relationships, I think, putting it
in a more positive light, we are working far more with partners
of all descriptions than we have ever done in the past, and that
with that closer workingbe it with local authorities, other
statutory organisations or voluntary organisationscomes
the need to review existing arrangements. I think this is, in
that context, no more than reviewing how we do business with a
partner who we regularly come into contact with, and making sure
that the rules of engagement for both sides are both clearly understood
and meet the needs of today.
681. Are you confident that you will remain
in complete control of areas that you presently control?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Yes, I have no doubt at all about that.
I cannot believe that the Protocols that we talk about revisiting
will be any less clear than the current ones that exist, and they
have served us very well. There is no jockeying for position here,
this is not a competition between us and the Ministry of Defence
Police; this is about two organisations finding ways of working
effectively together. So I do not see any difficulty at all.
682. Just a very short question but, I think,
an important question. Can you give us any examples of where you
have actually worked with the MDP and things have worked out very
effectively and co-operation has been effective? We are looking
and carefully scrutinising all that you say, but to give us an
example would be valuable.
(Mr Scott-Lee) If I talk from my personal experience
as a Chief Constable of the Suffolk Constabulary, within the county
area we have a number of Ministry of Defence establishments, including
two American air force establishments which happen to be on Ministry
of Defence land. Therefore, in our working with those establishments
and the MoD Police we regularly and routinely have had to come
together to deal with such things as protests and deal with protesters
who turn up either in a very formal way for a large event or in
an ad hoc way to make a personal protest. In dealing with
that the MoD police has not only had to represent the interests
of the MoD police but, also, look after the American interests
and ensure that the law is done and seen to be done. At a personal
level that is an occurrence that is happening almost on a weekly
basis and at a very local command level those arrangements have
proved very successful. However, as importantly, at the highest
level, between myself, the Chief of the MoD Police and the relevant
American bodies, it has also worked well to ensure that we are
able to deliver a joined-up service to the community.
683. You have talked about partnership. Would
you regard yourself and the MDP as being equal partners?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Yes, I think so. I think we have different
responsibilities but equal in the sense that we both have a role
684. You would not regard one as having primacy
over the other?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I think in our different areas we have
our own individual primacies, but when we are working together,
as I say, it is not a hierarchy.
685. So, in the instance you gave of a demonstration
outside one of your US air bases, who would be in charge, as it
were? Who would take primacy?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Dependent upon where the demonstration
was going to take place and the scale of it would alter who would
take overall command. In real terms, the majority of our demonstrations,
of the sort that I was using as an example, are comparatively
low-key affairs, they are very close to the actual site itselfright
alongside the fences, generallyand so primacy usually falls
to the MoD Police.
686. Earlier, Mr Scott-Lee, you said that there
was some difference amongst various chief police officers, bearing
in mind that some have more proximity to MDP than others. Does
the proximity to MDP make them more or less likely to regard this
enhancement as good?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I think, in general terms, the closer
one has worked with the MoD the less difficulties one sees because
the reality is a lot easier to deal with than dealing with the
potential. So, in general terms, those that are working on a regular
basis have no difficulty with it. I do have to say that individuals
have very personal views that are sometimes reflected through.
687. Do you think that if this Bill becomes
law the MDP will become more involved in civil policing generally?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Not more involved. I think that where
they are involved there is an opportunity for them and us to be
more effective, but I would not see it leading per se to a greater
688. I would guess that in Suffolk, for example,
you have problems, as with many other areas, with rural policing
and numbers and general concerns around that. Would you see the
MDP being able to help in your problems in that respect?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Not in the sense that I think you are
alluding to. The policing of the county of Suffolk is a matter
for myself and my police authority, and I would not envisage building
into my normal day-to-day response for the generality of policing
an MoD resource. Where I do think it might roll over and have
a beneficial effect is back to this clarification on those matters
that are germane to the MoD Police and their doing their job;
if there is a greater clarity it means that it will be easier
for us to let them get on with things. So that would be a sort
of spin-off benefit.
689. However, there would not be any question
of you calling out the MDP to help you in anything except exceptional
(Mr Scott-Lee) No. Exceptional circumstances I could
690. And those exceptional circumstances might
(Mr Scott-Lee) In recent times, flooding and natural
problems of that magnitude where we require significant assistance
to preserve life and keep the flow of the community going. It
is that sort of magnitude of issue that I would be thinking of.
691. Would you be able to do that under the
(Mr Scott-Lee) One could but one is never quite suredepending
on where we are talking about operatingas to the actual
powers that the individual officers of the MoD Police will have.
In the majority of those emergency situations that I was just
evidencing there, I cannot believe for one moment that people
are going to stand too much on ceremony and ask whether the officer
has the power to direct traffic, or whatever. However, recognising
that we are in a litigious era, I think if there is an opportunity
to put clearly in the minds of those MoD officers exactly where
they stand it would be advantageous.
692. Can I ask whether you think that the MoD
officers have the experience and training to deal with the new
powers they could have under the Bill?
(Mr Scott-Lee) The powers, as I read them, are not
asking them as such to take on responsibilities that they do not
already have an involvement in. It is not, to my mind, opening
up a new series of opportunities for interaction that do not currently
exist, it is more about clarifying where they sit at the moment.
We recognise that the MoD in their selection and recruitment have
mirrored, to a great extent, what has been going on in the Home
Office forces. As we start to develop this, part of the concordat
would be to be able to reassure us and the public that that training
is giving their staff the necessary skills and abilities to be
able to deal with it. I have no reason to doubt that that has
not been the case, but I think as we go through the process it
would be helpful for all concerned to have that evidenced.
693. What are the present differences in the
training and experience of officers?
(Mr Scott-Lee) If I talk about the experience of officers,
given the way in which the demands on the time of MoD Police differ
from ours, in terms of their ability to deal with certain types
of offences, it may be that individuals do not have the necessary
practical experience. Forgive me, I do not have the details of
MoD training, but if I take something like child abuse or rape,
or racial hate crimes, where there are some very important, practical
issues to bring to bear in order to give of the best service possible,
I do not know, at this moment in time, whether there is a combined
expertise within the MoD to be able to discharge that. I think
we need to be able to look at that and recognise that maybe on
occasions a particular element of the MoD policerecognising
that it is a national responsein a particular geographical
area may not have that expertise, and that is where the protocol
comes in to ensure that that experience can be taken from the
local Home Office force.
694. And the training?
(Mr Scott-Lee) And the training in a similar way.
I understand, although I have no personal detailed knowledge of
it, that to a great extent their syllabus follows the syllabus
of NPT. I do not know, though, whether that follows because the
current head of the Ministry of Defence Police happens to think
it is a good idea and, maybe, at a later date he may have a different
view. I think we need to ensure that whatever training is in place
does meet the needs of the sort of offences that we are talking
about and is sustained in place and not blown off course by other
demands that may face the MoD in years to come.
695. Picking up on that training issue, can
I ask whether, in the Suffolk Police Force area you have had any
experience of secondments by MoD, police being seconded to spend
some time with the main constabulary in order to gain an insight
and some experience into the sorts of issues you were just highlighting?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Indeed I have. Last year, for six months,
I had a chief superintendent from the MoD Police seconded to an
operational superintendent's post in my force in order to give
him, as a senior manager, experience of a Home Office structure
and the Home Office demands. That worked very well, with him learning
how we do our business and bringing to us some of the expertise
that had been developed through the MoD work.
Chairman: Thank you, Mr Scott-Lee. We
have already ranged fairly broadly in looking at the co-operation
that exists, but if I can move the Committee on to, in particular,
further questions on the extension of jurisdiction for the Ministry
of Defence Police, this is an area that has already been touched
on but Mr Key and Mr Crausby, I know, are both keen to come in
further on that particular area.
696. Thank you, Chairman. Going back to the
General Policing Committee letter of September 2000, there was
an important point made here about the protocol already existing
between the MDP and Home Office police forces. Mr Giffard said
in this letter: "I am also clear that Ministry of Defence
police officers acting in these circumstances would make their
own force rather than the Home Office force liable for their actions."
Quite right, too, I have no difficulty about that. However, it
comes back to a point you made yourself, Mr Scott-Lee, about accountability.
In Suffolk you are responsible for the policing and you are accountable
to your police authority, which is a democratically accountable
authority in its own right. That is a perfectly clear situation.
The situation of the Ministry of Defence is entirely different
because there they are accountable to the Secretary of State,
and he would then say: "Well, of course, I am accountable
to Parliament", but it is a very different relationship.
So if something goes wrong, and things do go wrong in policing,
from time to time, I just have this worry that you as a Home Office
police chief constable would have to carry the can whatever happened,
because the public would turn to you and the press would turn
to youthe media spotlight would be on youeven if
it was not actually you that had done it, but it was something
in your area. Is that why ACPO put that reservation into the submission?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Yes, and I think it covers two aspects.
There is the purely insurance hierarchy aspect which deals with
the fundamentals of monetary claims that may come out of anything,
but there is also the needdare I say it againfor
transparency. If I talk about the practical effects, if I think
of my force as the example, in our local community consultative
committee meetings that we have as the host force with our local
community members, in the areas where MoD police are operating
they join us in those. The reason I say that is important is that
the residents in the immediate vicinity of where MoD police are
operating are well aware that they are dealing with a variety
of organisations. In fact, they are sophisticated as customers
to be able to differentiatedare I say it, some are more
sophisticated than, certainly, I, having been involved in it for
many years. The important thing is that the local residents are
aware and recognise the differences. I think you are right to
raise the point that should anything untoward happen the spotlight
will fall on me, but I think that my response to that has to be
working with the media not in a buck-passing exercise but in an
era of trying to explain to make it clear what we were responsible
for and what the MoD were responsible for. Experience, again,
seems to indicate that over the years where there have been high-profile
issues, usually in my experience as a result of protests, there
has not been a difficulty in not only the MoD and the Home Office
force articulating where they stand but the media actually picking
it up in an appropriate way and dealing accordingly.
697. That is very clear, thank you. When the
Ministry of Defence Police, with the agreement of the chief constable
of any force, undertake some action, and suppose they arrest somebody
whether using their existing power of citizen's arrest or the
powers here, in your experience do they then have the facilities
to cope with the actions that must follow in terms of custody
procedures? Do they have custody suites? Do they have trained
officers in the custody suites that conform to all the regulations
that you have to conform to, including legislation such as the
Regulation of Investigative Procedures Act, for example? In your
experience, can the Ministry of Defence police perform that adequately?
(Mr Scott-Lee) Yes, in my experience, recognising
as I think I said earlier that there are some opportunities where
we may have a greater experience in a particular locale. However,
if you take something like RIPA, the experience of the MoD police
in the investigation of fraud, because the work that they undertake
is extensive, and therefore in that particular specialism I would
say they would have no difficulty at all. If we are talking about
some of those other issues then it would depend on the locality
and that is where good local arrangements need to make sure the
expertise is available.
698. Just a short follow-up. You are very confident
about the way in which you and other chief constables will be
able to respond. Can I ask you, are you equally confident that
the MoD police officers will be able to make, in the same terms
as yourself, sensible decisions about where and when to intervene?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I can think of no reason why they should
not, bearing in mind that we are talking about an organisation
that has been established for many years and whose role and method
of discharging that role has grownin the sense of developedsignificantly
over the last ten years. I think that they are a force that has
demonstrated that they are committed to delivering a quality police
service. Like all of us, I am sure there will be anomalies in
individual situations that develop which require addressing, but
as a principle I can see no reason why they should not be in a
position to put officers on the ground who are capable of making
the same quality decisions as any other police officer in the
699. What about their relationship with the
public? Is there not a different relationship from the Ministry
of Defence police point of view with their customers, in that
they deal with members of the armed forces who may well beand
probably area wee bit more respectful than sometimes the
public are? Is there not a different demand from the public who
are, perhaps, slightly more aggressive? How do you think the Ministry
of Defence police will cope with that?
(Mr Scott-Lee) I think I go back to what the proposed
changes are suggesting. They are not suggesting that wholesale
policing of our towns and centres is going to become the domain
of the MoD police. Their involvement will be at times of crisis
because something has occurred there and then. At times of crisis
members of the public behave in a variety of different ways, and
I am sure that in that immediate situation the MoD police will
have the skills and abilities to be able to deal in a similar
way to any Home Office force. I think you are right when you say
that in terms of their general customers (and I use the word to
indicate the people that they are doing their day-to-day business
with) there may well be a very different relationship. They would
be in a better position to comment on that than I, but I think
we come back to what the proposals are saying, and it is not to
give them wholesale policing requirements across the general public,
it is dealing in very specific situations, usually emergency situations,
where I think the majority of the public will be pleased to see
somebody in authority taking charge and starting to put things