Examination of witness (Questions 1020
TUESDAY 6 MARCH 2001 Afternoon sitting
1020. If I can interrupt you, we do not have
any exemptions at the moment, either from the Human Rights Convention
or from the ICC.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) We have from the Disability
1021. Solely that.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) There are other areas
where we have had exemptions as well. I think we need to look
at each of these Bills as they come forward, in good time, as
you say, before they start being put before Parliament, so that
we have an opportunity to influence the drafting in the early
1022. It would be very useful for us in that
context if you would mention now specifically the areas where
you would like to see exemptions.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) There is nothing in the
pipeline at the moment.
1023. So apart from the disability issue, you
have no concerns at all?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I am not concerned about
the disability issue, because that has been decided. There is
nothing new. We have dealt with exceptions over the last couple
of years, and disability is one of them. There is nothing in the
pipeline that I am aware of at the moment which gives me cause
1024. Can I ask you about women in the Servicesnot
so much in terms of the comments you have made recently, which
many of us understand, about their combat role, but we have had
women serving at sea in the Royal Navy now for about ten years,
we have had them serving in other aspects as well, and we have
seen them in Kosovo and other places. On the discipline side,
having women around on board ship, in barracks, etc, have there
been any problems with discipline related to their presence there
that you have noticed, either as First Sea Lord or now as CDS?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) No, not so far as discipline
is concerned. In fact, if there has been any impact on discipline
at all having women serving alongside men, I would say if anything
it has improved the nature of discipline. It has caused the men
to be more aware of their social attitudes and so forth when they
are not in an all-male environment. Generally the style and way
people conduct themselves tends to be slightly more civilised,
so if anything it has had a beneficial effect.
1025. As you say, a much more natural atmosphere
exists on board ships because of the presence of women, which
can actually enhance military capability, and certainly there
has been no detriment to discipline.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) There has been no detriment
to discipline, no.
1026. Do you think it is realistic to have a
discipline system or code which is expected to operate both in
peace time and war time?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Yes, I do, because I am
not sure how one defines war. We did not declare war when we went
to the Falklands, we did not declare war in the Gulf, and we certainly
did not declare war in Sierra Leone when one of our people got
killed the other day. We find the nature of operations today is
such that we slide from what appears to be set out to be a peace
operation, and before you know where you are you are actually
in a fire fight or some fighting situation. So I think we certainly
cannot afford to have one set of disciplinary rules for peace
and one for war, because there is no distinction between peace
and war for us now. You slide from one to the other very quickly.
1027. So the existing discipline would be equally
applicableI perhaps used rather old-fashioned terms in
saying warin peace operations and under fire in conflict?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I think so. As I say,
sometimesand I will use the word "operations"
rather than "war", but I understand exactly what you
meanyou can be on deployment somewhere, say, on an exercise,
which is in an entirely peaceful setting, and before you know
where you are some crisis has occurred and you have to go and
deal with that, and you are into an operational situation. There
is no clean break between what you were doing before in the peace-time
exercise and what you are being required to do in operations.
It would be very disruptive suddenly to close one book and open
1028. Do you think there is enough latitude
within, for example, punishment, to reflect the different situations?
Obviously, one offence might be less serious back at Catterick
than it might be under fire in Sierra Leone.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I think the way the guidance
is set out allows us to cope with those situations.
1029. The Chairman asked you if there was anything
in the current Bill that you thought might make discipline harder.
Is there anything that is not in the Bill that you would have
liked to have seen in there?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) No. I am thinking hard
because I have not thought about it from that angle before. There
is nothing which I can recall in my particular time, both as a
commanding officer and in more recent years as a senior officer,
where I have hankered after some particular amendment which I
thought would have made my life easier, at least, not one which
was entirely reasonable! Nothing comes to mind.
Chairman: Certainly during our visit
last week to Kosovo and then to Cyprus we found the importance
of very definite rules interesting, but with some flexibility
to deal with the particular circumstances. I think it struck us
in Kosovo, quite rightly, given recent events, that there was
an additional rule in that the town of Pristina was out of bounds
for those serving with the UN forces there, whereas obviously
in Cyprus it was possible to go into the local towns, but then
that had particular problems associated with it, or potential
problems. I think we all found it very useful to be able to listen
directly to those who were having to deal with the realities of
the very flexible, insecure global world that our armed forces
have to deal with.
1030. Sir Michael, one of the many strengths
of the constitutional arrangements under which our military have
operated for centuries has been that they derive their authority
from the Crown rather than from Parliament, and it is certainly
true that over my time in Parliament we have seen an erosion of
that tradition. This Bill is just the latest step. We have seen
that the last Government and the present Government have abandoned
attempts to consolidate the three Service Discipline Acts, but
instead, the Government anticipates that within five years there
will be a new tri-Service Act. Given the very different traditions
of the three Serviceswhich is a very good thing, in my
viewbut also given the increasingly "purple"
operation, joint operation of the three Services, is it realistic
to suppose that we can see a single tri-Service discipline Act
within five years?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) You have covered both
points that I would want to expand on. It is certainly true that
we need to recognise the fact that the three Services operate
in three very different environments for much of the time. When
they come together in joint organisation, it may be they will
still be operating as individual units in their own single environments,
so it is very important to recognise that in the way we apply
our discipline. With the sort of disciplinary Act you need to
deal with a person on board a submarine, for example, which is
employed for two months without any form of communication, as
opposed to a soldier in a garrison or an airman on an airfield,
you need to recognise that there are very different circumstances
there. On the other hand, as you have pointed out, we now have
more joint organisations in operations where people do work together
in headquarters and so forth, and where you do have inconsistencies
between the three Service Acts, and three people committing the
same offence may find themselves being dealt with in three different
ways. That is not good for getting sensible team-work going in
the actual organisation concerned, let alone somebody seeing himself
compared with somebody else when they are disciplined for a particular
offence they have committed. I think it is sensible for us to
look at a tri-Service Act, but what I would also want to do very
carefully is to make sure that we did not lose the baby with the
bathwater, and that we recognise the tolerable variation that
needs to exist between the three Service environments.
1031. I am also very conscious that our three
Services have to look over their shoulders the whole time in a
way they did not before, in a litigious age, with Human Rights
legislation and with the threat that third parties or third countries
might decide that something we are doing is illegal. Mr Davies
has referred to some international legislation which is going
to be incorporated into British law. If we are operating increasingly
in a multinational theatre, as in Kosovo now, where a large number
of different forces, not just NATO forces, are operating together
to fulfil a United Nations mission, the legality is something
which I have found quite depressing to track down. Looking at,
for example, Resolution 1244/99, which set up amongst other things
the UNMIK police force, but also put together the whole of the
Kosovo operation, it is a nightmare to consider that we have young
soldiers going out there doing their duty, and all they have to
rely on legally to support them is a United Nations resolution
at the moment, until a proper military system is constructed.
Furthermore, each of those forces is operating under their own
military law in those countries. We have at least the Visiting
Forces Act and the Status of Forces Agreement in Europe. NATO
partners have worked very successfully with that, and that framework
works, but it is getting more and more complicated. Do you think
that when we have this tri-Service discipline Act it will need
to take on board an international dimension and perhaps have incorporated
into it some of the aspects of the Visiting Forces Act, for example,
that we take for granted?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I would not have thought
so. It is quite a technical question. I do not see us ever having
a common multinational Act, for example, for discipline for servicemen.
I think that would be complicated beyond all imagination. I feel
comfortable about the fact that when our servicemen are operating
abroad, they are covered by a SOFA or the equivalent, and that
they will be dealt with by their own disciplinary system if they
get into some sort of trouble, and they are not going to be dealt
with by some multinational court in those circumstances. So I
do not feel uncomfortable with the fact that we should remain
separate. There is no suggestion that there should be some multinational
Act for all armed forces. It does not bear contemplation how complicated
that would be.
1032. It is very helpful to have that response.
Coming back directly to the Armed Forces Bill, it is pretty narrow,
and in its only really controversial part it deals with the Ministry
of Defence Police, and it is a great irony that there are 57 Ministry
of Defence policemen operating in Kosovo at the moment under UNMIK
and of course under this UN law. They are not subject to the Armed
Forces Acts as we know them, which is an interesting position.
Indeed, my colleagues might remember that last week in Kosovo
we were told by one Ministry of Defence policeman what a challenge
it was to be operating in a country where there were no rulesa
rather dangerous precedent, I thought. I wonder if I could get
down to this serious business of how we are going to incorporate
Ministry of Defence Police into the other police forces that are
operated within the Ministry of Defence. There are six police
forces that operate within the Ministry of Defence at the moment,
if we count the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Royal
Military Police, Ministry of Defence Police, Military Provost
Guard Service, and Ministry of Defence Guard Service. There are
some who say it is really time we sorted this out and had one
Service police force as well as one Home Office police force,
the MDP. Do you think that would be helpful, or is it a pipe dream?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I do not think it would
be helpful, and it is not a pipe dream of mine, certainly, so
far as the Service police are concerned. The need to have individual
Service policemen I believe to be extremely important. The way
that the naval service policeman on board a ship operates depends
an awful lot on the confidence that the people on board have in
him and him being a sailor firstbecause, of course, in
the Navy's case you are a sailor first and a policeman second;
you do not join as a policeman. He has duties at sea which he
needs to understand. This is completely different to an Air Force
or Army policeman, who in their own terms have their own special
Air Force and Army specialist roles to play within their own police
duties. So I do not think there is any question of having a common
Service policeman. As to binding in the powers which are held
by the Ministry of Defence Police, again, I think their constabulary
duties are not ones which the Service policeman should have to
be involved with because he has his own duties to do as a Service
policeman. So I do not see that bringing together the Ministry
of Defence Police with the Service policemen either. The other
two are really not in the same league as police. They are more
of a guard than a police service, and they perform a service which
is very important: they help us with our guarding duties, but
they are not in a constabulary or authority position at all.
1033. As a supplementary, we saw in Cyprus that
there is not in fact the military police and the RAF police acting
separately. They work under one organisation called the Joint
Cyprus Police Force. There you have RAF police going out on patrol
with Royal Military Police, policing our servicemen in the barsand
we are all aware that there have been some problems in Cyprus
relating to Service discipline. They told us that it works very
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I have no problem with
that at all; in fact, I thoroughly endorse the idea of having
a joint police unit where you have an Air Force and an Army policeman
working together in an environment on the ground where you have
Army people and Air Force people. That is extremely good. What
I am suggesting we do not want is a person who is a Service policeman
and who does not belong to the Navy, the Army or the Air Force.
I am very happy with the idea of them working jointly together.
I thoroughly approve of that. When trying to deal with a situation
where you have Army and Air Force people together, to have one
from each colour uniform going in will solve the situation much
more quickly than just an Army person going to sort out an RAF
Chairman: Certainly the views we obtained
from Service personnel themselves were that they do prefer to
have their own distinct police force, whilst also accepting in
Cyprus that the joint Army and RAF police force had worked very
well, and was obviously a very sensible approach.
1034. There was a view expressed to meI
do not know whether this is reflected in your own experienceby
some Army personnel that they might prefer to be picked up by
the RAF police. There is a different perception of the particular
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) All I can say is that
my impression, particularly from my own career, is that a sailor
would much rather be picked up by a naval policeman than by a
"red hat" or by an RAF policeman. I would have thought
that applies generally, although I am sure every now and then
there is a perception by one colour uniform that the other colour
is easier or whatever.
1035. Do you think it is down to uniforms rather
than a joint Service police unit? They must wear their own uniforms;
that is the important thing.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) Yes, very much so.
1036. Admiral, last month the Ministry of Defence
published the Future Strategic Context for Defence, which was
an update of the analysis which underpinned the Strategic Defence
Review, and a very interesting document it is. It is unique, because
it is not government policy; this is what the Ministry of Defence
says as opposed to ministers, and it says so. There is one section,
called "Political DimensionKey Implications for Defence,"
and it says "Crime, terrorism and political extremism may
increasingly require a military element to the government response."
What does that really mean?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) As far as the homeland
is concerned, it is the job of the police to deal with crime,
terrorism and so forth, but the armed forces stand ready where
required to assist the police in carrying out those duties. The
classic example of that, of course, is Northern Ireland. I think
what the paper is trying to suggest is that if crime and terrorism
continue to burgeon in such a way that the police find themselves
overwhelmed in terms of the right numbers or the right techniques,
from time to time the military may be required to come along and
help them, but it will always be in support; we will never be
out in front.
1037. We also had a controversial session of
the Committee when we were referred to a speech by the former
Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police where he had
related, "A more recent and poignant example was that of
a request from 2nd PUS for us to supply police officers on a mutual
aid basis during the fuel crisis." If you are having troops
driving fuel tankers, it makes a certain amount of sense to have
the Ministry of Defence Police rather than Home Office Police
looking after the interests of the soldiers driving the tankers.
I think that we need to be quite open about this if we are going
to see that sort of a more national policing operation carried
out by the Ministry of Defence Police. Are you concerned that
perhaps the Ministry of Defence is ahead of public opinion on
this? I think a lot of people are quite surprised to hear that
the Ministry of Defence Police had been asked to do that.
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) I am afraid I am not familiar
with that statement by the previous Chief Constable. I strongly
believe that it is the job of the regular police force, not the
Ministry of Defence Police Force, to deal with situations such
as crime and terrorism, and it is our job to support them. I would
not want to be seen out in front at all, and I should have thought
the same would apply to the Ministry of Defence Police as well.
The lead should be taken by the home police.
1038. Would that extend to serious crime like
murder and rape?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) It does. I am sorry?
1039. Under the provisions in the Bill to extend
the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence Police, the Chief
Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police will be able to sign
a protocol with a Home Office constabulary which will establish
arrangements at a high level on policing, and the Ministry of
Defence Police will have the jurisdiction and the power to investigate
serious crime. The question is really, was that what they were
set up to do, and is it a good thing?
(Admiral Sir Michael Boyce) The degree of seriousness
of crime which they are going to be empowered to investigate under
the new Act is something which I am afraid I am not familiar with.
We can come back to you. My understanding is that they are really
operating in a reasonably confined area, in other words, where
there is Service property or Service practice outside an establishment,
but what their powers are within that against the degree of crime
that may be committed, I am afraid I do not know.