Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (100-106)



Rachel Squire

  100. Do you think the Anti-Terrorism Bill is clear enough about the lines of accountability where the Ministry of Defence police officers are responding to the request from a constable of another Home Office based force for assistance in dealing with a specific incident or operation? In those circumstances is the Home Office based police officer senior to the Ministry of Defence police constable in that relationship where they are asking clearly for specific assistance?
  (Mr Giffard) I am aware even under the present arrangements in North Yorkshire that they have drawn up a local protocol between the forces, between MDP and North Yorkshire Police, as to how that will operate between the two forces. That is to deal with accountability and liability. I have not re-read it this morning but I think that the officers there are acting under the direction and control of the North Yorkshire Police, which means that their supervision will tell the Ministry of Defence police officers what to do. There is not a seniority between two constables. That would be almost impossible to enforce. Therefore it is a matter of the direction and control from above that. Within that arrangement and within that protocol I am quite sure is defined (but I cannot remember which way it is defined) the accountability if anything happens on behalf of the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, who is I think responsible in those circumstances, but I would want to correct that. I might be wrong about that.

  101. That really does pick up on the second question. Who would be there primarily to take the blame or deal with any incident where it appeared something had gone wrong, where there had been a joint operation of that kind? Would it be the local Home Office Chief Constable who would be the prime person to deal with any such investigation even if it appeared that it was the Ministry of Defence police who were responsible?
  (Mr Giffard) I am quite convinced that the local Chief Constable would be responsible for any inquiry and for any blame exercise so long as the agreement was properly sorted out in advance. If a Ministry of Defence police officer were to act without any form of prior consent then in those circumstances it seems to me that that is for the Ministry of Defence Police Chief Constable to be responsible for.

  102. But not where there is a joint operation?
  (Mr Giffard) Where it is a joint operation it will have been agreed in advance, the protocols will be there, and indeed out of the re-write of the Home Office circular I am quite convinced all that will get laid down very precisely as to what must be in place before that starts happening.

Syd Rapson

  103. We have heard this morning that all the MoD police are firearms trained and carry weapons when they are on sensitive convoys, presumably armed weapons, and that although the Armed Forces Bill Committee were assured that when they travelled between bases the ammunition was separate from the firearms, it was slightly confusing for me. If you take a convoy from base to base are they armed or are they not armed? It seems a bit stupid to lock them up. There is some worry in the back of my mind that such a large area of MoD police officers are likely to have extended powers. In relation to firearms have you got any concerns about that and do you think any future protocol should contain that particular issue? I would imagine you have got worries. I would just like to know what they are and whether we can do anything about and whether, if we cannot, you can in your protocol consider that issue.
  (Mr Giffard) Let us first of all deal with the convoys escorting sensitive material. There is an ACPO Terrorism Committee agreed set of procedures whereby that escort takes place under the escort of armed Ministry of Defence police officers telling ACPO Home Office Chief Constables of the route in advance. We know they are coming through us. We know that they are armed guarding it and they have a special cadre of officers trained to do that who exercise regularly and from time to time Home Office Forces exercise with them in case something should happen. As far as between bases is concerned, again I take it to a local example, RAF Stafford has about seven different sites. They have to have armed guards within those seven sites who move between the seven sites from time to time. I am completely convinced that when they move between the sites the ammunition is in a separate vehicle from the weapon and that there is almost no hope whatsoever of those officers self-arming simply because they are unlikely to have quick access to weapons and ammunition together. They travel separately. The extended powers part and the firearms concerns: their firearms training is the same as ours at basic level but is actually more concentrated in certain specific areas because they do slightly different work. They are not raiding houses or putting an armed containment round a house. They are doing it for a different purpose so the training is slightly different, but we know they follow our recently re-written manual which they have been part of and helped us with re-writing. The third part of your question I may not have answered.

  104. I was trying to tease out if you had any real concerns. It sounds as if there cannot be any problems.
  (Mr Giffard) I do not believe that there will be armed Ministry of Defence police officers other than in the sets of circumstances where it is agreed beforehand with the local chief constable, as is happening in North Yorkshire now, that they are sitting in the same car, one North Yorkshire police officer, one Ministry of Defence police officer, the same weapons to go back to a question that was asked earlier. They have ensured that and they are using the MP5 as well on this operation because that is the same weapon as the North Yorkshire officer is using so that seems eminently sensible for lots of reasons. I think that those are the only sets of circumstances where you will see armed Ministry of Defence police officers and they have got the agreement in advance already.

  105. The protocol that we were talking about: my friend from Scotland was saying that it is different in Scotland. They have to get permission beforehand etc, but not in ours. Is there a need to bring ours along, or are you happy with that?
  (Mr Giffard) I hope we are not getting confused here. As to the permission in advance, I have given written authority for them to move weapons between bases within RAF Stafford. Without that I do not see that they should be able to do that. They have done that. In North Yorkshire there used to be at times of terrorist threat patrols of the married quarters, which happened to be outside the wire at Linton-on-Ouse, by written agreement with North Yorkshire Police Chief Constable. Those patrols were armed as well. I do not think that it happens that they come outside the wire without prior notification with weapons.

  Syd Rapson: Thank you, Chairman.

Mr Roy

  106. Could I carry on the same point. Do you think that either you or any of your colleagues in England and Wales would favour a written protocol that says that you need to be consulted before those arms are moved that you do not have at the moment?
  (Mr Giffard) I think we have got that in Home Office Circular 17/99: "The Chief Constable of Ministry of Defence Police should give advance notification to the local Chief Constable whenever it is intended that Ministry of Defence police officers are to be engaged in armed duty on public roads." That might need a little bit of tightening in the circumstances that I have outlined of "moving between" but actually I have got a local agreement on moving between anyway because the spirit of that falls within paragraph 7 of this Circular.

  Chairman: I just have one other question—and we have not done this for a long time—in private session, so if we could clear the room.

[The Committee withdrew into private session.]

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