CO-OPERATION WITH LOCAL POLICE FORCES
43. Arrangements for co-operation and co-ordination
between the MDP and Home Department and Scottish police forces
are set out in two Protocols agreed between the parties.
The first assertion of the Protocols is that the primary responsibility
for the maintenance and enforcement of criminal law rests with
the Chief Constable of the local police force. Had the MDP clauses
in the Armed Forces Bill become law, these Protocols would have
been revised to take account of the extension in the MDP's jurisdiction.
The Armed Forces Bill Committee said in its report
It is clear to us that the detailed arrangements
reached in the revised Protocols between Home Department police
forces and the MDP will be the determining factor in how well
the extension of the MDP's powers work in practice. We are reassured
to some extent by the previous success of the Protocols; by the
obvious conviction of those on the ground that these proposals
can be made to work; and their determination to achieve this ...
Continued effective co-operation and co-ordination of activities
between the MDP and local police forces is a matter fundamental
to public confidence in policing.
The Committee also believed that it would contribute
to accountability and clarity if the Protocols were more obviously
public documents: their present status is that they are departmental
circulars. The Secretary of State assured the Committee in evidence
that the revised Protocols would be published and made readily
available to the general public.
44. If the provisions in the current Bill are implemented,
the Protocols will similarly need to be revised to take account
of the extension of the MDP's jurisdiction.
The MDP witnesses agreed that the Protocols were crucial to an
effective working relationship with local police forces.
The Assistant Chief Constable assured us that work was in progress
to produce a first draft by the end of November and the ACPO representative
was confident that agreement on revised Protocols could be reached
by the relevant parties 'fairly quickly'.
In the meantime, MDP officers will receive instructions about
how to implement their new powers, as soon as the legislation
We believe, as did the Select Committee on the Armed Forces
Bill, that the Protocols are fundamental to effective co-operation
between the MDP and local police forces. We want to see revised
Protocols agreed and published promptly, and certainly within
three months of Royal Assent to the Bill.
45. Another important element in proper co-ordination
between the MDP and local police forces is the availability of
effective communications systems. MDP witnesses told us that acquiring
the national radio communication system used by local police forces
(known as PSRCS or Airwaves) was the MDP's biggest procurement
project at present. Some officers already have the new system
but full provision will take four years. The interim measures
were described as 'a little sporadic'.
The Bill's provisions mean that co-ordination between the MDP
and other forces will become even more important than at present.
Indeed, the Minister said during the Committee stage of the Bill
that radio communications would play an important part in ensuring
MDP officers only used their new powers under Clause 97 to intervene
in 'circumstances of genuine emergency'.
It would therefore seem sensible to have effective common radio
communications in place sooner rather than later and we therefore
recommend that additional funding be provided to ensure this is
achieved before a further four years have elapsed.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Protocol is set out in
Home Office Circular 17/1999, 25 March 1999; for Scotland, the
Protocol is set out in Police Circular 14/1999, 23 November 1999.
154-I, Session 2000-01, op cit, paragraph 44 Back
paragraph 46 Back
90 Q 33 Back
91 Q 33 Back
35, 95 Back
93 Q 36 Back
Deb, 26 November 2001, c 775 Back