Select Committee on Armed Forces Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 800 - 806)

TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001

MR MICHAEL LEGGE, MR D LLOYD CLARKE, MRS GLORIA CRAIG, MR TONY COMBEN, MR PAUL CROWTHER AND MS FRANCES NASH

Chairman

  800. I do not want to get into the individual cases, but on the general issues it raises we would be very interested to hear your comments, Mrs Craig, about just where the lines are drawn and also of course any comments that the Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable have to make.
  (Mrs Craig) Mr Rucker was and I am departmental security officer and as such that post has responsibility for protecting MoD assets of all kinds. If you lose MoD secrets there is a standard procedure that you follow laid down by the Cabinet Office who are the central body responsible for investigating the leaking of classified information. The procedure at that time was that you would make a preliminary inquiry, then take stock and decide whether the inquiry needed to go any further. Most government departments do not have their own police. They would normally use internal investigators to do that investigation. So would the MoD in many cases. I have done several in my time in the post. I think in this case Mr Rucker thought that because the information which appeared to have been passed to the person in question was quite highly classified there was a potential crime involved and that was why he drew it to the attention of the police. I think he used some infelicitous wording and I think he was in fact thinking in terms of the normal leak inquiry that he would do. He was very quickly disabused of any idea that he would get a report and be able to report back to the Cabinet Office. As Mr Comben said, he did report to him orally that this inquiry was going to continue as a criminal investigation and from that point on Mr Rucker had no involvement in the case at all. If, however, the police had come back to him and said that for one reason or another they were not going to pursue this case any further, I think he would have taken stock at that point and decided what to do.
  (Mr Clarke) The only comment that I would make—and that is the first time that I have heard that—is that it does seem in terms of language to be a directive which would cause me particular concern. I am not aware of the relationship that there was between Mr Rucker and Mr Comben but I am surprised at the language. It is interesting hearing Mrs Craig say here that he was disabused of the notion of the kind of language used in it. I would certainly do exactly the same.
  (Mr Comben) The only thing I can add to the statements is just see what happened. From that moment he did have no further involvement in the case and to a large extent it was controlled and directed by the Crown Prosecution Service and he had no contact with them. Going back to it, as a victim of crime, as the representative of the victim organisation, if he had asked me some questions about the investigation (provided they were broad) there is no reason why I should not have told him. If he had said to me how long would it take or when might it get to trial—you can imagine yourselves that is the kind of question any ordinary citizen who had been a victim of crime would ask: "When is this likely to go to court. Will I be required?"—those kind of questions can be translated at a departmental Civil Service level and translated into departmental Civil Service language.

  Chairman: Okay. I think in terms of training and experience we have certainly already dealt with some points. On the issue of firearms, though, are there any further points that the Committee want to raise? Any further questions then by members of the Committee? Mr Davies?

Mr Davies

  801. I would like to go back to the questions I was asking the Chief Constable earlier on about efficiency and effectiveness. It is clear that he feels there is some progress on both fronts with the Ministry of Defence Police. I wonder if I could ask him to enlarge on that and say in what areas he thinks efficiency and effectiveness might be enhanced and what measures he is taking to achieve that?
  (Mr Clarke) In respect of efficiencies I think there are efficiencies to be made out of reducing sickness, for example, among MDP. Sickness amongst our staff is higher than that of normal Home Department forces. There is work we can do drawing on our experiences, drawing on my own personal experiences of Home Department policing. That is an example in terms of efficiency. In respect of effectiveness, I am proposing changing a target in respect of the security at establishments because it is not just the Ministry of Defence Police that have got a responsibility for security at establishments. It is those people who preside over and manage those establishments who have also got to share in that partnership provision. I think that we can work with them. Again, for example, it may well be that we can provide better security by a combination of officers and technology. So it will be those areas that I shall be looking to explore. Again, that is not a criticism that it cannot, per se, be done. These are areas for me coming into a very different organisation from Home Department policing with a new eye asking, I would like to think, probing questions. Some of them come from naivety but very often those are the best.

  802. Let me ask you again about a concrete case. There was a break-in through the perimeter of RAF Wittering about a year ago which is a few miles from Stamford and that was particularly worrying because it was a break-in not merely through the outer perimeter but they got into the inner perimeter which is at least a mile away and where some fairly sensitive material is stored from time to time which I will not go into any further. Is that the fault of the Ministry of Defence Police or is this another case of `it's not my fault, gov. It's the RAF, the provost services, the RAF regiment," something like that?
  (Mr Clarke) I cannot comment in respect of the specifics but what I can pass a comment about as a generality is if MDP officers are deployed at that site we clearly have some responsibility, perhaps with others. It is not necessarily laying the blame, is it? It is how can we do it better. That is the purpose of your question. Can we be more effective in how we perform our tasks in respect of those key targets that we have? Examples like that flag them up all the time. Did we do the best we could? Can we improve? Are there lessons to be learned? That is what I would be constantly looking at in terms of establishing our effectiveness.

  803. Let me ask you a final question. Is what our Chairman calls `proliferation' and what I referred to as `fragmentation' of police officers in the military itself a barrier to effectiveness? Is there scope for greater rationalisation there?
  (Mr Clarke) I honestly genuinely am not in a position to comment at the moment.

  804. You really have not thought about this, Chief Constable?
  (Mr Clarke) One of the questions I answered much earlier was I have not taken this particular role with expansionism in mind, whether it be Home Department policing or provost policing in the Services, none whatsoever. I ask questions, particularly in respect of the MGS/MPGS such as why is that being done by that person and not by an MDP officer? It is those kind of questions. I have not formed a view as to whether the three provosts should be merged into one or whether MPGS or MGS should be merged with MDP, no I have not.

  805. Next time we or any other parliamentary committee has the pleasure of having you before us perhaps you will have had an opportunity to think about that?
  (Mr Clarke) I will be happy to articulate my thoughts at that time.

Chairman

  806. Mr Legge, can I ask you or your team are there any final points you wish to make to us before I adjourn this meeting?
  (Mr Legge) I think only one, Madam Chairman. We have obviously done our best to help the Committee in a very wide range of questions that have been addressed to us. In a fair number of them I have to say, for example in the Geraghty/Wylde case that Mr Key raised, the action taken by the Ministry of Defence Police was under the existing 1987 legislation. I would just wish to emphasise that the proposals that we have put forward in the Bill before you are intended to be very strictly limited. We are of course very happy to answer questions on the whole range of policing, but I would hope the Committee would not lose sight of the fact that the proposals are very specific and limited.

  Chairman: Thank you. Can I then thank you Ms Nash, Mrs Craig, Mr Legge, Mr Clarke, Mr Comben and Mr Crowther for some of you once again and for some of you for the first time in coming along and giving us the opportunity of your views and evidence this morning. Thank you very much for your time and efforts and thank you very much for the daily job that you do.





 
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