Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 680 - 699)



Mr Crausby

  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 working—be it with local authorities, other statutory organisations or voluntary organisations—comes 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.

Ms Taylor

  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.

Mr Randall

  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 to play.

  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 itself—right alongside the fences, generally—and 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 involvement.

  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 circumstances?
  (Mr Scott-Lee) No. Exceptional circumstances I could imagine—

  690. And those exceptional circumstances might be what?
  (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 existing legislation?
  (Mr Scott-Lee) One could but one is never quite sure—depending on where we are talking about operating—as 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.

Mr Watts

  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 police—recognising that it is a national response—in 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.

Mr Key

  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 you—the media spotlight would be on you—even 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 need—dare I say it again—for 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 differentiate—dare 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.

Ms Taylor

  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 grown—in the sense of developed—significantly 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 country.

Mr Crausby

  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 be—and probably are—a 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 back together.

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