WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 2001 _________ Members present: Rachel Squire, in the Chair Mr David Clelland Mr David Crausby Mr Quentin Davies Mr Paul Keetch Mr Robert Key Mr John Randall Mr John Spellar Mr Dave Watts _________ RT HON GEOFFREY HOON, a Member of the House, Secretary of State for Defence, MR MICHAEL LEGGE, Deputy Under-Secretary of State (Civilian Management) and MR TONY COMBEN, Deputy Chief Constable, Ministry of Defence Police, Ministry of Defence, examined. Chairman 1095. Good afternoon to everyone and I particularly give a very warm welcome to the Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Hoon, and also to welcome Mr Comben, who has certainly come and given very helpful evidence to us before, and Mr Legge. Thank you very much indeed for coming before the Committee this afternoon. My intention is to try and ensure that every member of the Committee who has a question to ask is given the opportunity to do so and, depending on whether there is any time then available, we may be able to open it up for further questions. Can I begin --- (Mr Hoon) Before you do, could I thank the Committee for its willingness to meet on this occasion at this time, having regard to very difficult commitments that I had on Monday and Tuesday. I do very much appreciate that. 1096. Thank you very much, Secretary of State. Can I begin by saying that the members of the Committee may come in with a range of questions but in the evidence we have heard over the last few weeks there is one particular area which has come to somewhat dominate our thinking, and that is clauses 31 and 32 of the Bill, dealing with an extension of jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence Police. I would say that my perception has certainly been reformed over the last few weeks because prior to this Committee my contact with my local Ministry of Defence Police had been a very positive one, I had certainly never heard any concerns raised about their operation either by the community or by the local police service, and indeed my main contact with the MDP and their Federation was some years ago under the previous Government when they were concerned about their changing role, the reduction in their numbers and how this could lead to them operating increasingly in mixed civilian and defence environments and what this might lead to. I would really like to open up with the first question, Mr Hoon, which is, what is the motivation of yourself and your Department behind extending the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence Police as outlined in the clauses of this Bill? (Mr Hoon) I think it is fair to say clauses 31 and 32 are very modest changes in the powers of the Ministry of Defence Police, and the need for those very modest changes arises for three reasons. Firstly, we now have some considerable experience, 13 years I think, of the operation of the 1987 Act which consolidated the powers in relation to the Ministry of Defence Police, which has demonstrated certain weaknesses, not significant weaknesses but areas where we judge it appropriate to bring the law up to date to reflect the current reality, and therefore these modest changes are designed to achieve that in the first place. Secondly, there have been some changes in the way in which the Ministry of Defence Police have operated since 1987, and in particular they have become more mobile, they have a jurisdiction in defence establishments but when they are organised to travel between defence establishments it seems to make sense, to me at any rate, that they should have certain rights between defence establishments. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly as far as the number of changes are concerned, to facilitate co- operation between the Ministry of Defence Police and other police forces, to ensure that there is mutual support between people wearing police uniforms, and really the existing arrangements do not allow that to happen to the extent we believe should be appropriate. Chairman: Thank you. Mr Crausby 1097. How would you argue against the statement that this is a non- accountable national police force, or at least steps towards it? I accept these changes are modest in the beginning but who initiated these changes? Are these changes a request from the MOD Police or do they come from the MOD themselves? (Mr Hoon) We have had 13 years' operation, or thereabouts, of the 1987 Act. I am not quite sure how many changes there have been to policing legislation in the comparable period but quite a considerable number. In the course of those 13 years we have found difficulties that arise, practical circumstances occur and, frankly, there is a process of learning. That is true of all legislation. It is that process which has led to the conclusions which are in clauses 31 and 32. As I say, they are extremely modest and they are reflecting the fact, broadly speaking, the 1987 Act at the time was sufficient but now, particularly given the kind of practical changes we have seen, we believe it is time to bring it up to date. These are not dramatic changes, they are incremental changes. As far as accountability is concerned, when you describe it as a national police force, it is a national police force in the sense the defence estate for which the Ministry of Defence Police is responsible is organised nationally but it could equally well be the case that if we were considering the British Transport Police that they are a national police force. The accountability for both of those organisations is very similar and since this is a matter for the defence estate and it is subject clearly to the Ministry of Defence, it is right that the accountability is through me as Secretary of State for Defence. Mr Watts 1098. The role of the MOD Police has developed, as you said, over the last few years. When making these changes, how permanent do you think those changes will be? Or do you think we will be here in five or six years developing different roles for the MOD and, if so, what do you think those roles would be? (Mr Hoon) I think the biggest single change we are having to deal with since 1987 - and I suspect it was probably a change which was already underway then - is that historically and traditionally Ministry of Defence Police were allocated to particular bases and particular parts of the defence estate and their jurisdiction therefore was confined to that estate or the vicinity thereof. What we have now is a situation where clearly some defence estate actually has a relatively small number of people on it and we cannot necessarily justify allocating particular police officers to those quite small bases, and in those circumstances what has happened since 1987 is that a number - I think it is 16 - mobile policing units have been established and they will travel and have responsibility for a number of different defence estates. In those circumstances they will travel from one to the other. The issue is whether in the course of their travel, the police officers wearing uniform should not be allowed, if they perceive an offence occurring, particularly a crime of violence, to use the authority that should flow from their position as police officers to deal with that problem. I know the Committee has been concerned about that. Nearly all the members of this Committee are fairly regular visitors to the Ministry of Defence estate and I would invite each of you to consider what would your view be if, having visited a Ministry of Defence base, you were travelling away from there and found yourself under attack, you saw a police officer in a uniform who to all intents and purposes looked like a police officer because he was a member of the Ministry of Defence Police but who stopped, looked at your predicament, looked at you being attacked and said, "I am terribly sorry, I do not have the legal powers to intervene, and if I did intervene my legal position would be subject to very considerable challenge", and as a result he then moves on. I suspect none of you would be very happy and I anticipate receiving a letter in due course. This is designed to deal with precisely that kind of situation. 1099. I think the reasons behind the proposal are clear, but what I was trying to get from you, Secretary of State, was whether you thought the new arrangements would be permanent or whether they were fluid and there would be further changes in future years. (Mr Hoon) Obviously these changes are to deal with the kind of changes I have set out to the Committee already. They will bring up to date if Parliament approves them the legal rights and responsibilities of police officers in the kinds of circumstances that I have described, to reflect the changes and events which have occurred since 1987. I do not anticipate significant further changes. I am not ruling them out but I cannot think of any off-hand which would require further changes. Were there to be further changes, we would be asking Parliament to consider alterations in the legislation appropriately, but I am not aware there are any. Mr Keetch 1100. Secretary of State, you have made several references to the 1987 Act and the changes which have occurred since that Act and I want to highlight a number which you have not mentioned. To put those into context, a previous Minister of the Armed Forces, Sir Archie Hamilton, made quite clear to the previous Committee that he did not envisage that the MDP would be involved in the investigation of serious crimes such as, and I use the word, rape. We now know the MDP are regularly involved in such investigations. We have had since 1987 the case of Tony Geraghty, where a member of the public, a journalist, had his house raided by MDP officers without the knowledge of the local constabulary, where he was detained and questioned and no subsequent cases brought against him. We spoke to an MDP officer in Kosovo who said he enjoyed being in circumstances where he could work with no rules and where he admitted for the first time he was able to work in the way he wanted to work. We have heard from military policemen in Cyprus who told us they were worried the MDP wanted to get involved in their work, that they were scared about turf wars. We have also heard from national police officers in the UK that they are concerned about all of this, and you have rightly said today that you want MDP officers to assist us if we are leaving bases. Of course we want that but my question to you, Secretary of State, is, why tag these changes on to the end of the quinquennial Bill? Why did you not bring before Parliament a new and up-dated 1987 Act where we would have had time to look at these changes properly, where we could put them into context with the other service police which exist and actually do a thorough job? At the moment all members of this Committee have grave concerns about what you are suggesting - you look to your Minister, he may not have grave concerns ---- (Mr Hoon) It is not quite "all" then! I am sure the representative of the Whips' Office does not have grave concerns either! 1101. Perhaps he does not either but a lot of us do. I understand why you want these powers and I support the reasoning behind them, I support the role of the MDP in doing that, but I just do not know why it is coming in this Bill and not a separate Act. (Mr Hoon) You started with what I can only describe as anecdotal rhetoric which might have been more appropriate for a Second Reading debate than a careful consideration ---- 1102. Do you challenge any of that rhetoric? Is any of it wrong? (Mr Hoon) Yes, I do actually. 1103. In what way? (Mr Hoon) If we go through those illustrations one by one, I will deal with them individually, but the purpose of this Committee, as I understand it, is to consider specifically the proposals. You have asked me a direct question in relation to why it is the Government is bringing forward proposals at this stage. It has always been the case that the quinquennial legislation dealing with Armed Forces' discipline has been used to deal with a wider range of issues. This is nothing new. It has always happened in this way. There are limited opportunities, unfortunately, because of shortage of parliamentary time to deal with vitally important matters affecting the Armed Forces and in this case the police, and in those circumstances I can see no reason why, given it has happened routinely in the past, this should be an issue today. 1104. But why no separate Act as there was in 1987? You have described yourself that society has moved on, there have been changes, surely we should have the opportunity to look at the MDP in total and not just simply in very short order. (Mr Hoon) I have actually answered your question but I will answer it again for you. The two clauses you are concerned about are two clauses which make what I have described as, and no one challenges this, modest changes in the operation of the Ministry of Defence Police. The 1987 Act was a very significant piece of consolidating legislation which brought together a wide range of different powers and responsibilities and therefore clearly was appropriate as a stand-alone Act of Parliament. These are modest amendments to those powers in the light of the experience we have had since 1987. They are no more than modest amendments and therefore it does not require, every time Government proposes modest amendments to Parliament, we should have a stand-alone Act of Parliament. The legislation we have has been used regularly to deal with ancillary matters and these changes are no more than ancillary to the powers established in 1987. They are not significant changes in the powers and responsibilities of the Ministry of Defence Police. Mr Davies 1105. Mr Hoon, are you aware that the evidence we have taken from the Ministry of Defence Police, from Home Office chief constables and from others, has revealed, firstly, considerable doubts and uncertainties about exactly what the demarkation of responsibility between the Ministry of Defence Police and the Home Office police would be in several situations including, for example, serious criminal investigations such as mentioned by Mr Keetch, and, secondly, some anxieties and concerns, particularly on the part of the Scottish chief constables, about the idea of the Ministry of Defence Police extending its jurisdiction and acting in the areas covered by Home Office constabulary? Are you aware those two things have emerged from the evidence we have taken? (Mr Hoon) I think you have somewhat overstated the position, not least because the arrangements as far as the interface between what I might call Home Office police forces and Ministry of Defence Police are subject to agreements, to protocols, made between the relevant forces, and therefore it is entirely a matter for a chief constable to agree with the Ministry of Defence Police the arrangements that he would expect to see as far as any overlap of jurisdiction is concerned. But this is not a new problem. This is not something which arises because of these proposals, this is something which has been part of the scenery for the Ministry of Defence Police certainly since 1987 and arguably before that, because part of the 1987 Act was designed to determine the extent of the jurisdiction, part of an issue of course which arises in any event in relation to Home Office police as well, an issue addressed as long ago as 1964. As you will know, before 1964 a police constable only had legal powers as a police constable within the county jurisdiction in which he was sworn. That was changed in 1964 and in many respects what happened in 1987 and what we are proposing now is part of the process of recognising that it is important to give those who are perceived by the community as being police officers the legal justification for acting as police officers. 1106. I think if you read, or if you get your officials to draw your attention to, the relevant part of the testimony we have had --- (Mr Hoon) Perhaps you would like to be specific. 1107. --- you will see my description of the doubts and difficulties which have been expressed is not an exaggerated one in any way. If the solution, or part of the solution, is these protocols which you have mentioned, would you be prepared, in order to make the matter absolutely clear, so that the public can see what these lines of demarkation are, to publish the relevant protocols? (Mr Hoon) I see no difficulty about that at all. 1108. That is very reassuring, thank you. (Mr Comben) They are published at present in the sense that they are Home Office circulars and they are available as public information, but we can always look to make the general public better informed. Because they are already in the public domain, that presents us with no problems at all. Mr Key 1109. Secretary of State, I think I recognise, having been on the Committee of the 1987 Ministry of Defence Police Bill, that organisations evolve and I do not quarrel with that. I think what has taken us all by surprise is the way in which the clauses have been tagged on to this Bill, though that should not be a surprise, as you quite rightly suggest, because every Armed Forces Bill tends to be a bit of a Christmas tree, and this is indeed far less of a Christmas tree than the last one was. However, what you describe as modest changes I would describe as incremental changes and a lot is happening. For example, we have seen the Ministry of Defence Police being deployed in Kosovo where they are de facto an armed gendarmerie, which is something we have not had. There may be nothing wrong with that. We have also seen --- (Mr Hoon) Sorry to interrupt you, but alongside members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. 1110. Indeed, yes. We have also seen last week your other private police force on the sovereign base areas in Cyprus --- (Mr Comben) I do not think --- 1111. There are no Ministry of Defence Police there but we have seen the police on the sovereign bases, and I suspect in the next Bill they might be tagged on with some changes. I do not have any quarrel with that either. We have also heard compelling evidence from the Ministry of Defence Police that they want to be more like regular Home Department police services. One area in particular I am interested in is the inspection of the Ministry of Defence Police by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. Would it be welcomed if Her Majesty's Inspectors were able to inspect the Ministry of Defence Police not on an ad hoc basis but on exactly the same basis as they inspect Home Office forces at the moment? (Mr Hoon) There is very little difference. They already do inspect the Ministry of Defence Police. I am surprised that you see that as a problem. It is already part of the normal process of accountability that they are inspected by HMI. 1112. Yes, except that under the Police Acts, the Home Office police are statutorily required to be inspected, whereas there is nothing in statute law and nothing in the Ministry of Defence Police Act, and I am merely suggesting it might be helpful if there was. (Mr Hoon) You could table an amendment and I suspect the Government might look kindly on that. 1113. Thank you very much. I said that there may be an incremental development as a more gendarmerie approach is taken, but I wonder if you could explain something in the Future Strategic Context of Defence which your Department published last month - and I am not trying to catch you out here, Secretary of State; not that I would - and I know it is not Government policy but it is quite an interesting point that we have here, under the Political Dimensions on page 17, the comment is that "crime, terrorism and political extremism may increasingly require a military element to the Government response". I accept that, that is a wholly sensible proposition, and I wonder if there is in the longer term any vision that you have or the Department has about extending the Ministry of Defence Police in that way to cope with that sort of threat to our society. (Mr Hoon) I do not think it is a question of longer term vision. Part of the reason for improving co-ordination between Home Office police forces and the Ministry of Defence Police undoubtedly is to ensure that when we are faced with heightened tension as a result of terrorist incidents - and we are in that situation today and you only have to go out on Whitehall to be much more aware of the level of police presence today than it has been in recent times, quite rightly given the threat that we face - we should have available appropriately trained people to deal with that heightened threat. Part of the reason for encouraging the kind of co-operation that these modest proposals make is in order to ensure that we have appropriate numbers of personnel to fulfil those responsibilities. Given that defence bases are a most likely target for terrorist attack, it is absolutely right that we should enhance that co-operation between Home Office police forces and Ministry of Defence Police, again because if there was a shortage of police officers to carry out those functions, I anticipate that you might be amongst the first to complain about it. Mr Randall 1114. Secretary of State, I think we understand the point entirely about providing MDP officers with the legal status in the sort of situation you described, if any member of the public were in a situation and they saw a uniformed police officer, superficially exactly the same but without that legal status, they would be disappointed if they did not come to their aid. Given that, that probably means after the passing of this Act, MDP officers are probably more likely to be in contact with the general public, or potentially. Given that MDP officers themselves want this legal status to be clarified, do you think there should be more public accountability for them for their own sake? (Mr Hoon) I do not accept the premise because Ministry of Defence Police are dealing with the defence estate and large numbers of members of the public, certainly large numbers of civilians, are routinely on defence bases, and they are trained in exactly the way that Home Office police officers are trained to deal with the public. Nothing we are proposing here is going to change that. The specific technical reason for extending their responsibilities and their jurisdiction to apprehending emergencies between bases is for the reason I have described, which is to ensure they are not in any doubt as to their legal power to intervene if a member of the public were subject to an attack in their presence. 1115. I understand from that you do not think there should be any more public accountability of the force? (Mr Hoon) I think you would have to persuade me in the first place that there was any lack of public accountability. I have explained already in answer to an earlier question that the Ministry of Defence Police are accountable through me to Parliament; Members of Parliament routinely write about the police force for which I am responsible. I am certainly interested in any concerns that you might have about the lack of accountability but I am not clear in my own mind as to where the criticism lies. 1116. Could you take me through the complaints procedure I would have? Does the MDP come under the Police Complaints Authority? (Mr Hoon) Yes. 1117. Under the full jurisdiction? (Mr Hoon) Yes. 1118. So that if something happened, I, as a civilian away from a base at some incident, would go through exactly the same complaints procedure as I would with my local Met police? (Mr Comben) You would go through exactly the same procedure whether the Ministry of Defence Police officer was on MOD land, outside of it, on duty or off duty. The arrangements are absolutely identical. We have our PCA member the same as any other force. There is regular contact certainly on a weekly contact basis with the PCA, and with the CPS and the Procurator Fiscal in respect of criminal allegations of course. (Mr Hoon) And bear in mind in most of the circumstances, I think all but two, of the extension of jurisdiction as proposed in these modest clauses, the Ministry of Defence Police officer would be subject to the responsibility of the chief constable of the area in question with whom he had made an agreement. In those circumstances, that police officer would be subject and accountable in precisely the same way as a police officer in the Metropolitan area is currently subject. 1119. So the public need have no fears that somewhere it will get lost in the Ministry? (Mr Hoon) No. (Mr Comben) It does not go to the Ministry. (Mr Hoon) Most of the circumstances we are dealing with would be where, as a result of an agreement between, say, the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire, where my constituency is located, and the Ministry of Defence Police, that Ministry of Defence Police officer was in effect allocated to the responsibility of the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire. Therefore, whatever actions he or she undertook about which you were concerned would be subject to the authority of the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire and subject obviously, as has been said, to the Police Complaints Authority and the other processes by which police officers generally are held accountable. Mr Crausby 1120. You cited an example of a member of the Ministry of Defence Police not being able to assist a member of the public under attack, and we all sympathise with that. (Mr Hoon) I am not saying that even at the moment they would necessarily walk on by. What I am saying is that they do not have the legal powers which would be available to a police officer, they would be in no different position from any other member of the public, which I think is unfortunate given that to that member of the public they would appear to be a police officer because they would be wearing a uniform and would behave very much like a police officer. I can see no good reason why they should not enjoy the same legal rights as any other police officer in that situation. 1121. Have there been any complaints about Ministry of Defence police officers in those circumstances not assisting a member of the public? I rather think probably not. I am sure if that had been the case, we would all immediately know about it. Is this not more about the strategic use of the Ministry of Defence Police? The example which has been cited is the fuel protests, but I am sure there are other, quite reasonable political protests of all kinds, and that may well be an appropriate use of the MOD Police, but is that not the main motivation? To what extent would the Chief Constable of the MDP have jurisdiction over that? Would the Chief Constable of the MDP be able to say no to a request from another chief constable? (Mr Hoon) I have explained to you the motivation and I do not accept there is any different or ulterior motive, I have set that out clearly in answer to the very first question I faced. There has been one specific incident where a colonel in the USAF was attacked and a Ministry of Defence Police officer came to his assistance and it was not clear that the Ministry of Defence Police officer had the range of legal powers which would have been available to a police officer otherwise. There is no ulterior purpose. I think you have to answer the question very clearly in your own mind whether you are happy for people who look like police officers to be given exacting responsibilities on behalf of the community but yet not have the appropriate legal protection in the event of those police officers carrying out those exacting responsibilities to the best of their abilities. If we were discussing a police officer in your constituency, I doubt you would be asking that question. Mr Keetch 1122. Of course I want that police officer to be able to act and work as a normal police officer would, but I also want him to be accountable. You have explained accountability in terms of local protocols, but the fact of the matter is that at national level the MDP are accountable to a Ministry of Defence committee comprising simply of service people and police officers, there is no civilian input on that committee. (Mr Comben) That is not right, there are some. 1123. Perhaps you could detail exactly what that is. Could you also answer, if that officer going from one base to another intervenes to save somebody, at that point is he accountable to the chief constable of the MDP or is he, as was alluded to earlier, accountable to the chief constable of the Home Department force he happens to be in? (Mr Hoon) With great respect, I think you are mixing up a number of different issues here. Accountability in the sense that we would normally use it is political accountability, that is the ability of Parliament, Members of Parliament, to determine for example policy questions, to deal with issues relating to, say, overall organisation. Your example also concerns a particular judgment made by a police officer and what would happen in the event of that judgment being proved to be wrong. The two things are different and it is important to distinguish them and not to confuse them in the way you have done. As far as political accountability is concerned, and we have dealt with this to some extent already, I cannot see there is any reason why the Ministry of Defence Police should not be politically accountable through the Secretary of State for Defence. I do not see any difficulty about that, subject to the committee which exists which has, I think off the top of my head, three lay members plus a representative of non-industrial trade unions and a representative of families I think. (Mr Legge) The three external members include the last two. It is a mixture of Ministry of Defence civilians, chaired by the Second Permanent Under-Secretary if the Minister is not chairing, plus service officers, plus external police advisers who are nothing to do with the Ministry of Defence Police, plus three external members. 1124. But accountability also refers to the community they serve and local police forces have community consultative committees, for example. Where is the accountability to the people they will be coming across on their duties? Where is the accountability to the civilian they go to assist? I understand the accountability to you as Secretary of State, but where is the accountability to the community? (Mr Hoon) The community that the Ministry of Defence Police by and large serves is the community on the defence estate, which is why, for example, there is a representative of the families who live very often on those estates. So to that extent accountability is dealt with by their presence on the committee. In the event of there being - and what we are dealing with here is relatively exceptional powers - an emergency arising between bases where a Ministry of Defence Police officer was travelling from one base to another and an incident occurred in which he intervened, I am not wholly persuaded there needs to be any additional accountability other than through the committee and ultimately to the Secretary of State for Defence. 1125. So that police officer is not accountable to the local Home Department chief constable? He still remains accountable to the Ministry of Defence chief constable? (Mr Hoon) What is set out is that ultimately, and as quickly as possible once the incident had been resolved, there would be a presence on the scene of a police officer from the Herefordshire or whatever county police force or other police force as appropriate, and at that point they would assume responsibility for resolving the incident, they would take responsibility for charging anyone, for any further proceedings which were required, and at that point it would pass to their responsibility and therefore to the traditional accountability of our Home Office police forces. I do want to emphasise that this is a relatively exceptional circumstance, which is why I am entirely comfortable in describing it as a modest change, because it is to deal with the kind of situation I have described, where a Ministry of Defence Police officer apprehends an incident in the course of travelling from one base to another. Mr Davies 1126. I wonder if we could look at the longer term role and rationale for having this rather special police force as you envisage them. The humanitarian peace-making, peace-keeping, Petersberg-type operations, in which our Armed Forces seem increasingly to be involved, often involve a policing role and need for policemen, and we saw that quite dramatically the other day when we visited Kosovo and we were grateful for that opportunity. Do you see the Ministry of Defence Police increasingly playing that kind of role in such situations and are you making arrangements, for example, by way of training or otherwise to ensure it can play that role if necessary on a more regular basis? (Mr Hoon) I think that is a very fair question and one that we certainly need to address, subject to resources and the availability of people. I say it is a fair question because one of the clear lessons we had to learn from Kosovo was not only the purely military lesson that we require certain kinds of forces to intervene when a crisis of that kind arises, one of the other and I think possibly in the longer term more significant lessons we had to learn is that when an area like Kosovo suffers the devastation it had suffered, not only under its previous Government but also as a result of intense civilian disorder, all of its traditional administration structures are shattered, and what we found ourselves doing in the aftermath of British forces going into Kosovo was not actually a military judgment, although that was very important, it was how do we find people from, frankly, around the world who can go in and replace the previous civil administration in order to make that area function. One of the key requests, as you have rightly referred to, was for police officers. One of the difficulties which the United Kingdom had at that point was that the kind of police officers they required were armed police officers, and we simply, stating the obvious, do not have many people who have appropriate training in order to go to a place like Kosovo where they expected to see armed police officers on the street, which is why the Ministry of Defence Police officers have gone and have been doing a magnificent job alongside members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. What I cannot do in answer to your question, which is as I say a very fair question, is commit ourselves to a long-term situation where we would be sending either RUC officers or Ministry of Defence Police officers into those kind of situations, but it is clearly my view an issue which is going to arise in the future because, as your question very fairly indicates, it is not simply a military response that we need in order to rebuild a place like Kosovo. 1127. Clearly you cannot commit the Ministry of Defence Police or indeed any part of the Armed Services to any operation in the future because we do not know what is going to happen, but we are both agreed that these humanitarian or peace-keeping, Petersberg-type missions are likely to occur in the future - it would be very nice if the world was more stable but it probably will not be. Insofar as you have to prepare to deploy our Armed Forces in this new role and you have made arrangements for that in terms of training, equipment and preparing them for this expeditionary role, I just wondered whether in parallel to that you were looking to see whether or not the Ministry of Defence Police might need additional types of training, might need to take into account different criteria to recruit people, indeed warning them or letting them know they might have an opportunity to serve in such situations. It seems to me it might change the profile of those whom you recruit. There may also be issues about equipment and communications and so forth and I wondered to what extent you are taking concrete measures to address this possibility in parallel with the changes we have made, rightly I think, in the Armed Forces to make them more readily deployable? (Mr Comben) Perhaps I can offer something in response to that. 1128. Of course, but I would like the Secretary of State to comment, if I might, Chief Constable, because it is very important we get a political steer here as to where the Government is looking in policy terms. (Mr Comben) Certainly, but if I could come in on some of the specifics about training, and the Secretary of State could pick it up after me, I am sure. All police forces in the United Kingdom have been consulted about what assistance they can contribute to the United Kingdom response to the needs which the Secretary of State has said, and the amount of assistance that the wider police service is giving to Kosovo and to eastern bloc countries is enormous. When it came to the particular requirements of Kosovo, it was clear that the RUC were a force able to respond and they went first, but no force in Britain, including the MDP, can supply resources to another country in a way which neglects their core business back home. So the MDP were second in line and we have given assistance. The officers had their basic police training, they were all trained to the same national standard, so the Foreign Office and the United Nations had no problem with the basic training they had. They had fire arms training, there was no problem with that, they underwent medical inspections and that kind of thing, the same as everybody else, and we gave them some additional training for the kind of things they might come across in Kosovo which they would not come across in England. For example, I have some experience of mass exhumations and that kind of thing from my time in the Metropolitan Police, so I personally gave them some instruction on what they might come across if they came across mass burials and what we might call terrorist burials and that kind of thing. But we have been asked to give that training to other Home Office forces which might go out there. So we have this strength of the basic abilities of our officers, on top of that there was the fire arms training which was absolutely needed, but all police officers might need some small amount of additional training depending on the environment they are going to go into. (Mr Hoon) You will be aware that we maintain lists of the availability of different kinds of Armed Forces which might be used in particular kinds of crises, either at the request of the United Nations or any other international organisation. This work is not yet particularly advanced but it has struck me that one of the consequences of Kosovo which we need to recognise is that the international community will need to start thinking about not only what kind of Armed Forces are available to deal with crises but what happens after that. Because one of the practical difficulties of deploying Armed Forces into the Balkans, undoubtedly, and no doubt you will comment on this in due course, is that there is a risk those Armed Forces are stuck there, and if the commitment of the SDR is about rapidly deployable forces, they need to be rapidly deployable out as well as into a crisis. It is not appropriate to abandon countries once they have had military intervention without ensuring there is policing, a legal system and administration which is at least capable of functioning. So it does seem to me that one of the areas where I would like to see more work in the United Nations is looking around the world at who might make those kinds of people available and in what circumstances and at what sort of notice. We were very fortunate as a country when the request came for armed police officers to go to Kosovo that we had the Ministry of Defence Police and we had the Royal Ulster Constabulary with the appropriate training because, frankly, otherwise we would not have been able to participate. Mr Davies 1129. I think we are making some interesting progress in this interchange, Mr Hoon, and we probably do not see things very differently. I conclude from what you are saying - and we all know in Kosovo there was great difficulty in NATO countries supplying the policemen they had undertaken to do - that first of all you think it is not right (and it is very expensive of course to use) armed service personnel when policemen could be used and often it is better to use trained policemen in a trained police role. However, that role is sometimes necessary to support the role of the armed services in order to restore stability in a part of the world and then to take over from them when you move away from a shooting war or the danger of one and therefore it would be sensible to incorporate this particular resource which is under your control, as we know, in your general plan for these Petersberg tasks. Although of course the police personnel it might be drawn from might not be limited to the MDP, it might be sensible to have the MDP as the kernel of any force to be deployed. Is that a reasonable inference from what you have just said? (Mr Hoon) I do not think that is unreasonable but I will look at it as another spending commitment by the Opposition! Chairman: It is an extremely crucial and topical area. I attended a two and a half day seminar last year debating very much this issue of where does the military role cease and the police role come in in the sort of situation you are talking about. Mr Davies 1130. Can I in one sentence say that the whole logic of what I have just said is that in many cases it might be much cheaper to carry out a given role if you could call on trained police officers rather than to keep the military somewhere longer which you otherwise need do. (Mr Hoon) I do not know whether that remark was addressed to me, Chairman, but if it was we could perhaps hear from the Opposition as to where they would like to withdraw British forces. Chairman: We could have a full day debate on this issue alone. Mr Key? Mr Key 1131. Secretary of State, just to make the point that we have not spent our time exclusively discussing Ministry of Defence Police may I broaden the discussion a little. Concerning Parts II and III of the Bill we were told by forces law and civilian solicitors that one of the problems they have is that only a part of the law governing service personnel is statute law, quite a lot of it is derived from other sources whether it is Queen's Regulations or Defence Council. I specifically tabled a question on this asking for a number of documents to be placed in the Library, the Unit Folder entitled Military Custody: a Summary Dealing with Systems, the Provost Manual, the Army Commissioning Regulations, and a further list, and the Minister of State very kindly replied a few days later to say that, "Yes these will be placed in Library of the House", but he did say these were "dynamic documents which were subject to frequent updates". Since that time, and I tabled the question on 2nd February and the Minister of State answered on the 7th, the Library of the House has three times requested the parliamentary branch of the Ministry of Defence to put those papers in the House and three times they have been refused. It makes my point for me - that if solicitors are finding it difficult to represent their clients because documentation is not available to solicitors, and if your Department is not willing to place papers in the Library that the Minister has said will be placed in the Library, then I feel that we are entirely justified in pointing out there is a problem. This is a request to you not to suddenly produce them out of a hat but to please look into this because it makes the point about some of the bits of grit that have got into the system somewhere. (Mr Hoon) I will. Mr Key: Thank you. Mr Randall 1132. If I could just return to the motivation, the reasoning behind it --- (Mr Hoon) We are back to the Ministry of Defence Police? 1133. The Ministry of Defence Police. Could I just ask you whether you would know who instigated it, whether it was the Ministry itself or the MDP who came to you and said this situation was really not on? (Mr Hoon) Mr Legge, here is your chance! (Mr Legge) Since I have lived with this for the last four and a half years, the proposals came from the former Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police. As the Secretary of State has said, on the basis of experience of practical operating with the Ministry of Defence Police officers over a period of time, he discovered, the force discovered a number of difficulties. These very limited and specific amendments are designed to overcome those difficulties. 1134. Over four and a half years ago this instigation came? (Mr Hoon) Could I add to that there is also a political, government process in all departments that take ideas of that kind, refines them, looks at whether there are deficiencies and brings forward recommendations, but that would not be unusual in any department. (Mr Legge) And quite a lot of the delay, which comes back to an earlier question, was finding a legislative vehicle that we could use to put these amendments before the House. Parliamentary time is very limited, as you know. (Mr Comben) If I could add to that just so that the picture is fully appreciated, and I was there in those earliest days and witnessed it, the difficulties that we experienced on the ground, that individual officers experienced on the ground obviously came to the attention of senior officers of the force first in a number of ways, but they then came to the attention of the Police Committee because we report quarterly to the Police Committee on operational matters, on operational successes, but also on operational difficulties. The case that we have mentioned earlier on about the United States' Airforce colonel was presented to the Police Committee in the very earliest days. We had some of it on video and they were shown the video and saw the difficulties and saw the way that the police officer wanted to do something and was prevented because of the restrictions of the jurisdiction, so from the earliest days the MDP Chief Constable and his senior colleagues brought it to the Police Committee and from that moment it went into the departmental and ultimately political chain that brought it here. 1135. Finally, again to show we are not obsessed with the MDP, a question that has come up is the tri-service aspect and bringing forward a Tri-Service Act within five years. How much priority does the Ministry put on that? (Mr Hoon) The Ministry puts a great deal of priority on it, but obviously this is an enormous process in trying to reconcile a long history of three different services with very different cultures and traditions which have produced over very many years different approaches to discipline. We would very much like to be able to bring forward legislation to reconcile those differences and that is a stated aim of the Department in the Strategic Defence Review. It also strikes me as being good common sense. I cannot see any reason in principle why someone in the RAF should be dealt with in discipline terms significantly differently from someone in the Navy or Army. It is important we achieve that, but it first of all will require a good deal of detailed work to get to that stage. 1136. I appreciate that. (Mr Hoon) Secondly, it will require a significant piece of parliamentary legislation to achieve that. It will be one of the more exciting Bills on which you will be able to serve in the future as you deal with a great mass of legal technicalities affecting the different services! Obviously whilst it is a priority for the Department we have to find appropriate legislative time in Parliament in order to bring that forward and, frankly, we take a judgment that it is much better to do that properly rather than rush it through and we recognise there are difficulties in the way. 1137. I do understand that and thank you for the hint on that one. (Mr Hoon) I am sure your Whips' Office could propose you for that. 1138. What I would ask on that is is it being worked on now in a committed way or is it working to deadlines so that two years before the Quinquennial comes up for a renewal again suddenly there will be a scurry of activity and people will say, "Oh my goodness, the Tri-Service Act, how far have we got? (Mr Hoon) Can you answer that? (Mr Legge) No, I am afraid I cannot, I am not involved on that side of things. (Mr Hoon) It is being worked on but it is a long process. We are not talking about weeks or months, we are talking about years. 1139. Five years or less? (Mr Hoon) I do not want to give you a deadline because it is subject to trying to find appropriate mechanisms for achieving it, and they are not all that obvious. I made the point lightly that there is no reason in principle why someone from the RAF should be treated differently but there are cultural and practical differences that have to be taken account of, so it is a very time-consuming and difficult process. Chairman 1140. It sounds like one where regular Parliamentary Questions might be a mechanism for keeping it high up on the agenda. (Mr Hoon) I will give you regular Parliamentary Answers. 1141. Can I bring this session towards a close but give you the opportunity, Secretary of State, or yourself, Mr Comben, or yourself, Mr Legge, to make any final points you wish to make. (Mr Hoon) I simply want to thank all the members of the Committee for agreeing to meet at this time when I know they would have preferred going out to express the good news of the Budget to their constituents! Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for an extremely useful evidence session.