1. The Government welcomes the Report of the Committee.
Since its publication the changes to MOD Police jurisdiction proposed
in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill have been enacted
into law. The Government has the following comments on the Report's
conclusions and recommendations.
2. (Paragraph 18) The present Bill sets out a
narrower and more clearly defined proposal for the MDP to respond
to requests for assistance from local forces, which is much less
susceptible to differences of interpretation than either the present
situation or what was proposed in the Armed Forces Bill. We therefore
regard it as an improvement.
The Government concurs in this conclusion.
3. (Paragraph 23) We believe that the powers to
intervene in an emergency situation as drafted in the current
Bill are more sensible and practical than the proposal in the
Armed Forces Bill. The heightened threat from terrorism and the
corresponding need for the MDP to take swift action when dealing
with suspected terrorist activities convinces us that this aspect
of the Bill's proposals is fully justified.
The Government concurs in this conclusion.
4. (Paragraph 28) We accept the argument that
greater powers for the MDP must be accompanied by greater accountability.
We intend to monitor developments to ensure that Ministers' undertakings
in this respect are followed through.
Three independent members have recently been added
to the MOD Police Committee. Its role and composition are currently
being reviewed as part of the on-going Quinquennial Review of
the MOD Police Agency.
5. (Paragraph 34) We welcome the assurance that
new legislation will be introduced to address the apparently anomalous
position of the MDP's relationship with the Police Complaints
Authority. We would have preferred the legislation to reform the
current complaints procedure to have been in place at the same
time as the new powers are conferred on the MDP but, given the
urgency to introduce measures to combat terrorism, we do not believe
that, at this stage, this should stand in the way of the passage
of the provision of the present Bill. However, we would expect
the police reform legislation to be brought forward as a matter
of priority early in the New Year.
The Police Reform Bill was introduced in the House
of Lords on 24th January 2002. Clause 24(3) requires the Secretary
of State to ensure that procedures are established and maintained
for handling complaints against the MOD Police which are 'corresponding
or similar' to those applying under the Bill to Home Department
Police Forces. Complaints are currently investigated under regulations
which reflect an agreement made with the Police Complaints Authority.
6. (Paragraph 36) We believe that inspections
of the MDP by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary should be carried
out on a statutory basis and expect to see provisions to this
effect in the police reform legislation which the Government has
indicated will be introduced in the New Year.
The Police Reform Bill contains provisions to place
HMIC Inspection of the MOD Police on a statutory basis.
7. (Paragraph 42) We acknowledge that fears about
the consequences of the changed jurisdiction of the MDP exist
in some quarters and that they are genuinely held. We are, however,
confident that the Bill's provisions do not represent a wholesale
expansion of the MDP's powers and that concerns about the creation
of a national police force in the sinister sense implied by some
commentators are unfounded. In all cases apart from the exercise
of their emergency power, MDP officers will be responding to requests
from local police forces when they act outside the defence estate.
We do not wish to see 'mission creep' whereby MDP officers would
be used to cover for tasks which the local force cannot undertake.
We believe that the emergency power to intervene is itself adequately
circumscribed in that it can only be used in circumstances where
it is impossible because of the urgency of the situation to obtain
prior approval from the local force before intervening. We have
noted the assurance that the MDP will not undertake 'fishing expeditions'
in areas for which the local constabulary is responsible, and
we shall monitor the way in which they exercise their increased
The future role of the MOD Police is being defined
as part of the on-going Quinquennial Review, but the Review has
already confirmed that the core role of the Force is to provide
specialist police support to the MOD. Use of the new powers will
be governed by Protocols to be negotiated with representatives
of the Home Department Police Forces. Force Orders to MOD Police
re-emphasise that the emergency power may be used only in cases
of genuine emergency.
8. (Paragraph 44) We believe that 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
Proposed revisions to the extant Policing Protocols
were issued for comment to interested parties on 16th January
2002. The Government aims to finalise them as soon as agreement
9. (Paragraph 45) It would seem sensible to have
effective common radio communications between the MDP and local
police forces 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.
The MOD Police plan to join the BT Airwave network
on a rolling basis aligned to its adoption by the Home Department
Police Force for the area concerned. Funding is kept under annual
10. (Paragraph 49) We regard the MDP's safety
record in handling firearms as highly commendable and an achievement
of which they can justifiably be proud.
The Government agrees with this conclusion.
11. (Paragraph 53) We welcome the training and
guidance which is being provided to MDP officers on the provisions
of the Bill and expect the MDP Chief Constable to ensure that
appropriate additional training is provided to his officers if
it becomes apparent that this is necessary.
The Government accepts this conclusion. Use of the
new powers will be carefully monitored and the need for any additional
training considered in that light.