Examination of Witnesses (Questions 724
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
D LLOYD CLARKE,
724. Good morning and welcome. It is good to
see some familiar faces again. I would also particularly like
to welcome Mr Clarke, the Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence
Police. We are very keen to hear your views and also Mrs Gloria
Craig, the director general of security and support. We are very
keen to have the opportunity to hear evidence from your good self.
Is there anything that you would like to say in opening?
(Mr Legge) My responsibilities as the Deputy Secretary
for Civilian Management include oversight of security and policing
policy in the Department. Hence my presence today. You have already
mentioned our relatively new Chief Constable. Mr Clarke joined
us a couple of months ago. Mrs Craig, who you also mentioned,
is director general of security and safety and it is perhaps also
worth mentioning that she is the Department's security officer.
She is also clerk to the Police Committee on which I also sit,
but in case there is any misunderstanding her duties as clerk
to the committee are essentially to oversee the smooth administration
and running of the committee and, in particular, to deal with
any complaints against chief officers. It is not really equivalent
to a clerk of the Police Authority for a Home Department force.
Finally, we have Ms Frances Nash from our legal advisers.
Chairman: Can I open up the questioning
on the Ministry of Defence Police and accountability?
725. Good morning, Chief Constable. It is very
nice to meet you for the first time. It is a very exciting job
that you have and I certainly appreciate the Ministry of Defence's
efforts in my own constituency. We start on a very friendly basis
because I am glad to have the Ministry of Defence Police on my
patch. Could I start by going back to square one and inquiring
of your view of the future of the Ministry of Defence Police.
It has evolved very fast since the 1987 Act. It clearly is doing
much more than was envisaged by ministers at that time. It is
taking on more tasks and more responsibility. Is it your vision
for the MDP that it will be a standard civilian police force akin
to Home Office forces, with all the powers and successes of Home
Office police forces, or is it going to be something very specially
the creature of the Ministry of Defence, answerable only to ministers?
(Mr Clarke) Firstly, in respect of my vision, having
now been the chief for just some three monthsI come from
31 years in Home Department policingthe Ministry of Defence
Police have a very specific customer base. In terms of reading
and exploring where the Ministry of Defence Police have been over
the last 13 or 14 years, you are quite right. It has changed and
evolved. It has evolved to the very nature of its customersin
particular, the threat against its customers. That is where I
see the change. If the circumstances, the security threats, acts
of terrorism etc., were the same, let us say for the last two
years, we are in a period of consolidation. We have some very
specific roles and responsibilities which I am keen to ensure
that the service can deliver to. I do not see an expansion in
any way in terms of our roles and responsibilities outwith those
which we have at the moment. I am very keen to make sure that,
not only as the Chief Constable but as the chief executive of
the agency, we deliver to the objectives and targets of the safety
and security aspects which we now have. It is not within my vision
at all in terms of any expansion of the roles and responsibilities
of the service. These changes that are proposed are for three
reasons. One, because our role has changed in terms of not always
static, not always on particular premises. With the down sizing
of the force, there is a need for us to be more mobile, to move
from place to place. There are three reasons why I see the need
for change. One, a public expectation. We are police officers
and it is right that we are police officers for a whole host of
reasons. It is to satisfy public expectation that we act as police
officers. Secondly, officers need to act in lawful circumstances
because we are accountable to the law. The third reason is I think
it is essential, from going around my force, talking with the
officers, to afford those officers that legal standing and support
that they need when they are doing what is very often a demanding
and sometimes dangerous job. Those are the reasons why I see the
need for change in legislation, but not a change in the role that
we are carrying out. It is more about how we might be carrying
out that role, not the role specifically.
726. I wonder if I could address this question
to Mr Legge. As the Chief Constable just said, it is not within
his vision at all to increase the powers of the Ministry of Defence
Police. All he wants to do by this legislation is to remove the
difficulties which have been set out in the note we have had from
Mr Crowther which have arisen.
Is that the Ministry of Defence's perception, that you do not
want to increase the role of the Ministry of Defence Police at
(Mr Legge) Yes, very much so. Indeed,
the proposed changes in legislation originated with the Ministry
of Defence Police, with the former chief constable. As a result
of experience of operating the 1987 Act, there were three specific
areas in which practical experience has shown that there were
difficulties that Ministry of Defence Police officers were being
placed in. It is simply to try and remove those difficulties that
we have put forward the proposed changes in the legislation.
727. I imagine you have seen the press reports
which indicate that the purpose of this legislation is indeed
to extend the powers and the role of the Ministry of Defence Police,
for example, The Observer suggests, to enable the Ministry
of Defence Police to take a more active role in dealing with future
fuel strikes, demonstrations and so forth. Have you seen the relevant
(Mr Legge) I have indeed. That is a very misleading
article. Following on from Mr Scott-Lee's evidence, it is perhaps
worth emphasising that in all cases where the proposed changes
in legislation will take effect, save in the very limited one
of the Ministry of Defence Police coming across an emergency situation
where they have to act, all the other changes would relate to
where they are acting in response to a request from a Home Department
force or a Home Department chief constable.
728. Yes indeed but, in the case for example
of lorry strikes or fuel strikes or demonstrations, the local
constabulary might well be overwhelmed and want to have your support.
At the present time, you would not be able to make the Ministry
of Defence Police available. If this legislation goes through,
you would be. That is correct, is it not?
(Mr Legge) It would be a decision for the Chief Constable
of the Ministry of Defence Police whether he had the assets available
and whether he was able to respond to a request for assistance.
In theory at the moment, yes, he could provide assistance but
the Ministry of Defence Police officers in those circumstances
would not have constabulary powers and therefore they would be
put in a very difficult situation. That might cause the Chief
Constable to decline such a request.
729. At the present time, the legislation would
be too restrictive, so such a request might not be made or it
might be declined. If this legislation goes through, that problem
would not arise so that inhibition on either requesting the assistance
of the Ministry of Defence Police or any inhibition which currently
exists on the Ministry of Defence Police accepting such an invitation
would disappear. That is correct, is it not?
(Mr Legge) That is correct.
730. Whether or not it was a subjective intention
of the Home Office and the Home Secretary and the Ministry of
Defence and so forth to go ahead with this legislation so as to
be able to use the Ministry of Defence Police in practice in new
fields, the objective result of the legislation will be to make
such wider use of the Ministry of Defence Police possible.
(Mr Legge) That is correct, although having led the
discussions with the Home Office and the Scottish Executive throughout
this process we were not being pushed by the Home Office to incorporate
this change in legislation. The initiative came from us and it
was for us to persuade them and, through them, ACPO and ACPOS,
that these were sensible proposals.
731. Nevertheless, it would have been very naive
of the ministers concerned not to be aware of the additional flexibility
in utilising the country's police forces which would arise as
a result of this legislation.
(Mr Legge) That is perfectly correct.
732. One assumes that the Ministry of Defence
Police in practice will be used in a wider role in the future.
(Mr Legge) The possibility exists of other chief constables
making a request to the Chief Constable of the MDP, depending
on the circumstances and availability of officers, yes, certainly.
You are quite right when you say a potential obstacle would be
removed by this change.
Mr Davies: You are not reluctant to draw
the conclusion from what you have just said that, having removed
the inhibitions both on invitations being made and invitations
being accepted, in practice the Ministry of Defence Police will
be used in a wider role in the future?
733. Are you saying that if the Ministry of
Defence Police are asked to intervene in a civilian situation
like a fuel protest the Chief Constable would no longer be able
to say, "I do not think it is appropriate for us to be involved"?
That is my reading of your response to Mr Davies.
(Mr Legge) No.
734. The Chief Constable will have lost his
(Mr Legge) No, absolutely not. In the past, he might
have said, "I am very reluctant" or, "I do not
want my officers to be involved" because there is a problem
over the exact constabulary powers they have or do not have. As
Mr Davies has just said, that obstacle would be removed, but it
is still entirely within the domain of the Chief Constable to
say whether he is able and wishes to release some of his men to
assist another force.
735. Do you want to comment on that at all?
(Mr Clarke) Yes, if I may. I am very clear about my
operational independence, which is well documented, particularly
in the framework document in terms of the establishment of the
agency. I would have no hesitation in terms of an operational
decision of not committing MDP resources. Generally speaking,
that would be on the primary basis that I would not in any way,
shape or form degrade the service that we provide to the principal
customers of the MDP, because that would be both intolerable and
untenable in respect of what our function is. The reality of what
you are asking is can a demand be made of me of the minister or
indeed the Home Secretary and I think we should be frank in terms
of the press coverage over the weekend. Would the MDP be used
as strike breakers? Absolutely not is my initial response to that,
because we have our role and responsibility, which would be different
from that of a Home Department forces. I take the point. It takes
away that which is a barrier at the moment but this does not in
any way, in my opinion, attack the operational independence of
the Chief Constable.
736. The reason why some people might have doubts
about the Ministry of Defence Police being given these greater
powers and therefore the likelihood that they will be used in
a wider role, which I think we have already established, is that,
unlike civilian police forces, you do not report, Chief Constable,
to a police committee. There is no civilian counter-check on your
activities. You are responsible to the Secretary of State for
Defence. If the members of the Cabinet get around the table, the
Home Secretary, the Minister of Defence and so forth, they agree
on a particular line of action and you are asked to take action
or invited to take action in the context of that particular strategy,
it is fairly clear there will not be anybody around who could
second guess your use of your new powers. That is a legitimate
concern, at least theoretically, is it not?
(Mr Clarke) I think it is. Hopefully it is theoretical
and perhaps I can allay your concerns. The Chief Constable of
the Ministry of Defence Police is very accountable. My experience
in the last three months is that I have been more accountable
in this role than I ever was as the deputy chief constable of
a Home Department force. It is a different accountability. The
accountability for all chief constables, including myself, is
to the law. We are held accountable by law, whether that be in
investigations, how we conduct ourselves through the Crown Prosecution
Service, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney General
or through the courts themselves. We are accountable to Parliament.
I have seen more tabled parliamentary questions about the MDP
even in terms of overtime being worked, so there is an accountability
built in there. There are independent members on the police committee
and I fully understand the difference because the police committee
are advisers to the same PUS, who is for all intents and purposes
the owner of the agency. There are very different measures, and
I would include in that other chief constables who will hold me
to account should I step outside or should individual officers
step beyond their remit. It is a very different kind of accountability
but there are a lot of levels of accountability, as I see them.
I am very comfortable with those levels of accountability.
737. There are three problems about those three
excuses that you have brought forward. Firstly, accountability
to the law is again theoretical. It is of course impersonal and
can only be enforced by the courts if somebody brings an action
before the courts, which is a very expensive, cumbersome and time
constraining thing to do. We are all responsible before the law.
It does not make you any different to me in that respect. That
is again I think somewhat theoretical. The responsibility to other
chief constables means that you have a loyalty to the traditions
of policing in this country and that there is something of a solidarity
among chief constables desiring to maintain the high standards
of policing in this country. I think that is a real constraint
on people's behaviour and you come out of that with that culture,
coming from a Home Department, but nevertheless that also could
be read as being accountable very much to yourselves or each to
each other. There is an element of cronyism about that, which
may not satisfy some people. Thirdly, I am afraid you are constitutionally
wrong. You are not constitutionally responsible to Parliament;
you are responsible to the Secretary of State for Defence. There
are bodies in this country who are directly responsible to Parliament.
One thinks of the Auditor General and the NAO. One thinks of the
Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England which sets monetary
policy. You are not in that position of being directly responsible
to Parliament. Maybe you think it would be a good idea if you
(Mr Clarke) It is interesting because you almost imply
that it was an intention to mislead. Not at all.
738. The only person you misled was yourself,
(Mr Clarke) I do not feel I am misled in any way,
shape or form. In terms of the accountability of individual officers,
you are right. If complaints are made, we are accountable to the
Police Complaints Authority. It is exactly the same for Home Department
officers as it is for MDP officers. There is an accountability
which is talked of in the framework document of the Chief Constable
being accountable to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration
etc., so when I talk about being accountable to Parliament perhaps
it is not Parliament per se but parliamentarians, as it
were, in that way. I do not feel at all that what the service
has tried to do is anything which is behind closed doors and which
is not transparent. The developments with the Police Committee
whereby there are three independent members now gives an even
greater transparency. That is in an attempt, I believe, to model
police authorities in that particular way. It is a very different
accountability, but no less accountable.
739. You obviously accept my view that you should
not set very much store on the three types of accountability which
you detailed in your earlier answer because you have now proceeded
to resort to a whole lot of other arguments.
(Mr Clarke) I would still resort back to those three
in the first instance because I believe they exist on a day to
day basis, not only in respect of our activities and our actions,
but also in respect of our processes.
1 See Appendix 6. Back