Examination of Witnesses (Questions 780
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
D LLOYD CLARKE,
780. I fully understand that clause 6 is for
Service Police but it still has not quietened the journalists
who feel that there is now a new threat to them. They also must
understand that clause 6 is about Service Police not yourself;
why do they continue to be concerned?
(Mr Comben) I hope my careful explanation this morning
will filter back to them because it is not in their interests
or in anybody's interests to get it wrong. If they link clause
6 to the MDP they are getting it wrong.
Chairman: You clearly have a great deal
of faith, Mr Key, in journalists' ability to take in factual evidence
in a matter. Are we going to move on to investigating crime? Mr
Key, I certainly have your name down here as having questions
you wanted to come in on.
781. Thank you very much, Chairman. Could I
turn now to the whole of question of who instigates criminal investigations.
We are quite clear that in a Home Office force a member of the
public might go to the police station and make an accusation and
a police officer, ultimately the Chief Constable, decides whether
to investigate. We have heard time and again that the Ministry
of Defence Police Chief Constable is completely independent and
it is entirely up to him whether any investigation is conducted
or not and it is quite possible that an official in the Ministry
of Defence or a member of the public might make a suggestion.
That was the position that we ended up with last time. I therefore
would like to try and discover the role of the Ministry of Defence
Police Committee and also the role of something called the Ministry
of Defence Police Advisory Board. Is there such a thing as the
(Mr Legge) The Advisory Board has now been subsumed
within the Police Committee so it no longer exists.
782. When did that happen, Mr Legge?
(Mr Legge) My recollection is about three years ago,
but that is speaking from memory.
783. That has really cut out the bureaucracy
and it has focused the purpose of the Committee?
(Mr Legge) It was a simplification, indeed.
784. Right. Am I right, Mrs Craig, that you
are the Clerk to the Committee?
(Mrs Craig) That is right, yes.
785. So you are responsible for the day-to-day
liaison between the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Defence
(Mrs Craig) No, I am responsible for making sure that
the processes of the Committee run smoothly. I am not responsible
for every contact between the Ministry of Defence Police and the
786. But are you not responsible for the administration
and finance of the police?
(Mrs Craig) No.
787. Nor of day-to-day supply of money?
(Mrs Craig) No.
788. You have no financial responsibility?
(Mrs Craig) No.
789. That is Mr Crowther's responsibility?
(Mrs Craig) That is right.
790. Please can you explain how it works. You
walked into that one, Mr Crowther!
(Mr Crowther) I am the Secretary of the MDP Agency
and one of my responsibilities is for financial and budgetary
aspects of the force. In that context I report to the Chief Constable.
The Ministry of Defence Police has a higher level budget within
the budgetary hierarchy of the Ministry of Defence and the higher
level budgets are aggregated together as top level budgets and
the top level budgets are aggregated together to form the defence
budget as a whole.
791. Mrs Craig, I think you said you are responsible
for the day-to-day smooth running of relations?
(Mrs Craig) Not of relations generally. I am responsible
for the times when the Police Committee meets, essentially, which
is four times a year. I have very little to do with the policing
side of things outside of those occasions other than to deal with
complaints against senior officers, of which fortunately there
are very few.
792. What are your other functions?
(Mrs Craig) My main function is that of departmental
security officer. That is about 70 per cent of my job. The Police
Committee functions are perhaps about five per cent.
793. Does that mean you are responsible, for
example, for vetting Ministry of Defence employees?
(Mrs Craig) Yes.
794. And contractors?
(Mrs Craig) Yes.
795. So you would be in a position, for example,
to withdraw security vetting from a Ministry of Defence employee
if you felt they were perhaps out of time, had left the Ministry
of Defence for too long?
(Mrs Craig) I would be responsible for that decision
ultimately. There are obviously many people involved in that decision
before we get to that point.
796. Even if, for example, a serving officers
retires and goes into the private contracting world but has a
security clearance, that security clearance goes with the person
for a number of years. Is that right? Is that how it works?
(Mrs Craig) Yes. He may need to be recleared if there
had been a long period between his service with the Ministry of
Defence and outside.
797. What I am trying to establish is whether
there is really quite a close relationship between the Civil Service
and security in the wider sense in the Ministry of Defence. I
think that is important not least because on Monday 1 March 1999,
George Robertson, the Secretary of State, as he then was, answered
a question to Mr Austin Mitchell who had asked to what extent
the Ministry of Defence Police Agency was answerable to him. The
answer was that ". . . the Chief Constable has, however,
exclusive statutory authority for the professional direction and
control of MoD police officers and the force is independent from
political or departmental influence in the maintenance of operation
of the law." Is that correct?
(Mrs Craig) Yes.
798. So, Chairman, I wonder if we could just
go back to something Mr Comben said last time he was before the
Committee because I questioned him about an interim report that
had been sought from civil servants of the Ministry of Defence
Police and, Mr Comben, you said: "I cannot confirm that an
interim report was asked for or provided because I do not think
it was." Was that the position? Have you had any second thoughts
(Mr Comben) I had some second thoughts, not on the
actual answer because that stands, but perhaps it is an understanding
of language. When Mr Rucker, the then Assistant Under-Secretary,
reported to us a suspected offence he was making an allegation
on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. He was the potential complainant.
He was much like the secretary of a large company suspecting that
some offence had been committed against the company, but he reported
it to the MDP. I know that he had to report back to others the
result of his conversation with me, quite properly, like the secretary
of a company would report back to the full board. The decision
to investigate that case was an MDP decision alone and I reported
back to him orally to the effect that I felt that it was a matter
that required investigation and a matter that should be investigated.
I was thinking when you talked about an interim report at some
stage long into the inquiry were we required to give some written
interim report to the Ministry. That is not so. We worked with
the Crown Prosecution Service throughout that case. I think that
is a good example of what we are talking about when we are talking
about operational independence. Just like a member of the public
when their house has been burgled or a director of a large company,
you report your suspicions, your allegations to the police and
thereafter they investigate it. It is good practice to keep your
victim or complainant informed of progress of the investigation
in very broad terms but you do not go back and give interim reports
to your victim on everything that happens, but the persons you
do keep informed about progress (if they are already involved)
is the Crown Prosecution Service and that is exactly what happened
in this case.
799. I think this is crucially important because
we are talking about the operational independence of the Ministry
of Defence Police, independence from the same people to whom they
are accountable. I have in front of me and will make it available
to the Committee a loose minute dated 4 November 1998 to Mr Comben
from Mr Rucker, Mrs Craig's predecessor saying: "I am writing
to request that you undertake a preliminary investigation into
how Mr Geraghty obtained access to these documents. In addition
we need to ensure that no copies of these documents, which contain
passages more sensitive than those quoted in the book, remain
in the possession of Mr Geraghty or his publishers. A copy of
the relevant pages of the book is attached together with references
to the MoD sources from which the text was taken. The assessment
of HQNI, M02 and Sec(HSF) is that the information disclosed is
more of an embarrassment rather than a serious operational compromise
. . .". Remember this is a case that took some two years
to get to trial and was dropped before trial. He went on: "Accordingly,
it may not be necessary to undertake a full investigation and
your findings will form the basis of my report to the Cabinet
Office". Chairman, I suggest this is not requesting as a
member of the public that the Ministry of Defence Police might
pursue a case. It seems to me pretty clear that Mr Rucker was
telling the Ministry of Defence Police to take certain actions
as a result of which consequences would or would not happen which
would be decided not by the Ministry of Defence Police but by
the civil servants who are answerable to their Secretary of State.
(Mrs Craig) Can I come in there, Chairman.