Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
TUESDAY 23 JANUARY 2001
180. In the Navy you would expect that list
to appear? I am getting worried some people might find they have
not got equality of treatment, and it just depends on the discretion
of the commanding officer?
(Commodore Bryant) I am sure I shall draw on my colleagues'
181. You said you felt in this era the same
treatment should be offered to officers as to other ranks, would
that be because this summary dealing would be regarded as the
(Commodore Bryant) No.
182. If I was up for drunkenness would there
not be any difference in whether it was a softer option?
(Commodore Bryant) That will be within your gift,
because you will always have the right as the accused to opt for
a trial by court-martial if you feel that would be a better way
of dealing with the case.
183. In cases where you think it would be better
to be torn off a strip it would be semi-formal presumably, but
it would not be with the formality of the court-martial?
(Commodore Bryant) It would certainly be done formally.
The sort of penalties we are talking about are reprimand, fine
or stoppages of up to 14 days' pay. 14 days of an officer's pay
is not an inconsiderable sum of money.
184. I am wondering if it would mean any change
in morale amongst officers?
(Commodore Bryant) No, I do not think so.
185. An officer has to appear in front of a
court-martial and presumably that is more demeaning, if you like?
(Commodore Bryant) Indeed. We are going to be talking
about minor cases of irresponsibility here, rather than those
which are calling an officer's total judgment into question.
186. When a person is making their decision
of how to be treated would they be aware of who the superior officer
(Commodore Bryant) In the normal chain of command
he would, yes.
187. Obviously on a ship it tends to be
(Commodore Bryant) the commanding officer.
As we have heard, a commander in command, for instance, can deal
with lieutenants, which will form most of his officer corps. If,
let us say, a lieutenant commander transgressed it would normally
be the captain of the frigate squadron who dealt with him.
188. They would be reasonably aware of who they
were going to appear in front of?
(Commodore Bryant) Yes.
189. I just wonder how the Royal Marines presently
fit into this. Are they with the naval system or a combination?
(Commodore Bryant) They normally serve under the Army
Act (it is a dichotomy with the Royal Marines) except when they
are forming part of a formal ship's company, when they form under
the NDA (Naval Discipline Act 1957). By and large, now we are
bringing all these procedures into
190. Are they generally happy with this as well?
(Commodore Bryant) Yes.
191. There has been some suggestion that changes
we are seeking to make would blunt Service discipline because
of the presence in the front line, and in the Navy in the front
line, of female sailors and female officers. On several warships
I have been on I have seen females doing better in equal jobs
as males. In your experience has there been any reluctance on
the part of officers to chastise female ratings; or do you think
that might be a problem in the future; or do you actually think
there is no real practical problem?
(Commodore Bryant) I think it would be naive to deny
that there has been anecdotal talking of this sort of thing. In
my experience I have never come across it. I have been in command
of a ship with 10 per cent. female ratings and officers on board;
it certainly was not a problem there. In the last four years in
this job looking after naval discipline I have not come across
any objective case of that whatsoever.
192. Even if there might be anecdotal evidence,
there is nothing in this Bill we are looking at that might increase
(Commodore Bryant) Not at all.
193. On this occasion I am rather sorry there
are no women in the front line. I would like to get some very
practical advice here. Indeed, it might have been nice to have
had a warrant officer present. "Minor cases of irresponsibility"
were referred to by the Commodorepart of the ethos of the
Services is that in very difficult and dangerous circumstances,
and in deeply boring circumstances, waiting for something to happen
while you are sitting on top of a hill in Kosovo, the Falklands
or anywhere else, one of the few perks of the job is, shall we
say, adult material. I have seen some pretty spectacular adult
material in all sorts of circumstances with the Forces. This is
quite reasonably, in my opinion, just regarded as "Well,
that's how it goes; it's part of the thing". I have no difficulty
with that. However, I do wonder how we are going to see any kind
of uniformity of approach to this sort of thing. It is an encroaching
issue. For example, we have seen adult material which is downloaded
by computer which is clearly contrary to the Obscene Publications
Act. We see City firms sacking their employees for sending indiscreet
e-mails, and receiving indiscreet images. How are the Forces approaching
this? How will this Bill deal with that? What code of practices
will be issued, if any; because we have had references to a code
of practice earlier in the Bill? Or are we just going to go on
turning a blind eye? Which does not bother me, but will bother
people increasingly. How is that going to square with the increasing
number of women in the Forces?
(Mr Miller) As you yourself make clear, Mr Key, this
is not a problem which is unique to the Servicesit exists
in civilian life outside; indeed, in previous posts I have faced
this problem in establishments I have controlled. It is one of
those areas where a great deal depends on the judgment of the
individual manager in a civilian context, and the commanding officer
in the context of the Services. I certainly am not aware of any
individual cases which have caused concern at the Ministry of
Defence level. I have no doubt that this has involved sometimes
quite tricky decisions by commanding officers, but we seem to
have got by without serious problems. My approach on this would
be much like my approach in a number of other areas. I would want
to prepare and issue guidelines if I thought there was a real
need; but, again, I would be unwilling to restrict discretion
more than I had to. It is really a case of: "if it ain't
bust, don't fix it".
194. That is a very reassuring, entirely level-headed
and sensible approach as far as I am concerned; but I suspect
it will not be a matter for the discretion of the commanding officer.
There will be a whistle-blower of some description who is going
to cause problems in this respect, and it might become a criminal
matter if it was a question of the Obscene Publications Act. I
just wonder how that is going to be handled?
(Mr Miller) If the exposure of material amounted to
the exposure of criminal material then there is no doubt an offence
has been committed and we would expect that to be subject to proper
disciplinary action. Obviously if the general law were to change
on this, we would change in line with it.
(Brigadier Howell) We have certainly prosecuted soldiers
for downloading paedophile material.
(Brigadier Cottam) When in April 2000 we set out our
standard of conduct for the Services, we really did that in order
to represent the amendments to the law. In those values and standards
we clearly laid down a code of social conduct that was free of
gender issues, and obliged the leadership of the Armed Forces
to confront inappropriate behaviour at whatever level. I endorse
what our leader has said in that respect, that we do have standards
that we have set for ourselves which are meant to be abiding for
the modern Services and the modern circumstances in which we find
ourselves. I think we, therefore, are not as anxious about the
situation as described by a member of your Committee. We do see
ourselves as having a standard of conduct which people can measure
in terms of operational effectiveness. The Service test, if you
like, is: is this affecting operational effectiveness? Is it acceptable?
Is it a criminal act? We have gone a long way in the last year
to explain that to the chain of command, so that they can confront
inappropriate behaviour properly.
195. Brigadier, if you have a code of any kind
it must be comprehensible. What does "inappropriate conduct"
(Brigadier Cottam) We have laid down, certainly within
the Army, first of all, the standards that we expect of people
in terms of the team before an individual, courage, morale and
196. Those are general principles?
(Brigadier Cottam) As against those we have then set
a code of social conduct in terms of what would be acceptable
regarding sexual harassment and other things of that kind. I think
that the chain of command understand that very well.
197. Is this published?
(Brigadier Cottam) Yes, it is.
Mr Davies: Have we seen a copy of this,
Mr Key: It is in the library.
198. It may be in the library, but there are
hundreds of things in the library and unless I am aware it is
there to look for I will not be able to find it. Could we have
(Mr Miller) I will arrange for a copy to be sent to
199. Could I just come back to the Commodore.
I want to be specific about these things to understand how it
is going to work. Are you going to be issuing guidance in the
Navy, for example, to commanding officers, captains of ships,
or the command structure generally as to when it is appropriate
to deal with an offence informally; when it is appropriate to
use the summary procedure which you are now going to have available
to you for the first time in the Navy; and when a court-martial
(Commodore Bryant) Yes, we will. Speaking for the
Naval Service, we have Personal, Legal and General Orders,
which is a readable publication and gives the logic behind our
policies, not least the code of conduct we have spoken about,
and all the legal nuances about how a commanding officer should
approach them. That book will be available to the Master of Arms,
first lieutenant captain of a ship.