Examination of Witnesses (1-19)|
THURSDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2001
1. Welcome, gentlemen. We must apologise for
the short notice of your invitation or summoning here. As you
know, the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Bill is speeding its
way through the House of Commons, then the Lords and then no doubt
back to the Commons. The purpose of this session is not so much
that we are going to have an enormous influence on the course
of the debate because if that was the case we have been rather
slow off the mark. The main reason for this short examination
on the MDP is that the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill
when it met had a number of relevant parts of that Bill taken
out just before the calling of the general election. It seems
therefore right and appropriate for us, having taken an agreement
some years ago that this Committee would examine any legislation
relating to Ministry of Defence Police or the Ministry of Defence
in general, to consider this. What we are going to do is to in
a way re-examine some of the principles and content that took
five sessions of the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill
to reach a lack of conclusion on and produce a report shortly
on our views relating to the maybe contentious clauses, namely
clause 97, jurisdiction of the MoD Police, clause 98, provision
of assistance by the MoD Police and clause 100, further provisions.
Is there anything you would like to say by way of introduction?
(Mr Crowther) Thank you. Two very short
points to set the scene. The first is that the provisions in this
Bill on the MoD Police are part of a wider policy scenario being
pursued by ministers to enhance cooperation between the territorial
and the national police forces. The provisions of the Bill bring
in the British Transport Police and the United Kingdom Atomic
Energy Constabulary as well. The provisions have to be seen in
that context. Secondly, they are not about the MoD Police doing
more, about the MoD Police widening its remit; they are about
doing its existing remit better, on a more secure legal foundation.
That is the background to what we are talking about today.
Chairman: The MoD Police have been more
examined than any police force in the country. I was saying to
my colleagues earlier I have almost a complete filing cabinet
full of reports. The Defence Committee has done about four; this
will be the fifth and we will be looking at policing and security
within the Ministry of Defence possibly next session so the ordeal
is not over. When people argue that the MoD Police are operating
behind closed doors, I would ask them to go through all of our
select committee reports from 1983 onwards to indicate that you
have been very heavily scrutinised and that is likely to continue.
I would like to ask Rachel Squire, who chaired the Select Committee
on the Armed Forces Bill and who is therefore quite knowledgeable,
having been exposed to all the arguments for and against, if she
will start the general introduction to our inquiry.
2. Indeed I did have the opportunity and experience
of being a member of the Armed Forces Bill Committee and being
present at the extensive discussions we had on the extension of
the Ministry of Defence Police which as we know the Committee
did eventually consider was justified but with certain caveats
in terms of accountability, protocols and other areas. I have
to say to Mr Crowther I am not sure I would entirely agree with
your statement just now that the extension of jurisdiction of
the Ministry of Defence Police that is contained in the Anti-terrorist
Bill does not involve them doing any more than they currently
do; nor doing any more than their existing remit contains. Do
you agree that the Anti-terrorist Bill, if anything, extends the
proposed jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence Police further
than the Armed Forces Bill did and do you consider or would you
say what changes have occurred since that detailed consideration
earlier in the year, particularly in the light of 11 September,
which justifies the extension of jurisdiction that the Anti-terrorist
Bill proposed? Why are the new powers that it proposes to give
to the Ministry of Defence Police and others not strictly confined
to potential terrorist activities?
(Mr Crowther) The powers sought in the present legislation
are in some respects wider and in some respects narrower than
those which were in the Armed Forces Bill. Principally, they are
narrower in the sense that this legislation does not seek the
power to make standing agreements in land adjacent to defence
installations. This was an area of the proposals on the Armed
Forces Bill that aroused a good deal of discussion and soul searching.
We decided not to pursue that, believing that the same ends can
be achieved in different ways. It does go further than the proposals
in the Armed Forces Bill in the sense that the emergency power
is somewhat widened, so there are pluses and minuses.
(Mr Ray) Since the tragic and terrible events of 11
September, there has been a general increase in the threat from
terrorism. We can all understand that. It is now much wider but
also much more unpredictable in nature than it was before. Prior
to this, in discussions even before the Armed Forces Bill, we
were aware of some gaps in our powers for dealing with such offences
and some uncertainties. The Armed Forces Bill looked to correct
these. Now, it has become even more apparent with this uncertain
and heightened threat that we do need to focus down on the few
areas where, in particular, we do need to have a clear power of
jurisdiction to deal with terrorist offences. One of the effects
is that terrorism is now an international threat, perhaps more
than it was before when previously it was perhaps more focused
on Irish Republican terrorism. The other factor is that American
bases are now far more vulnerable in this country than they were
before that date, bearing in mind that we do cover American bases
which are on MoD property in this country. We have had to look
at the range of powers we have. We also have to look at dealing
with a rather unconventional form of terrorism. Firstly, we saw
the suicide attacks. Secondly, we heard of a real risk of biochemical
terrorism. The one thing we have to consider now is that if a
terrorist reaches the establishment that we are protecting he
has probably succeeded. Where previously there was a view that
we could defend it from the wire and from the gate with some surveillance
outside of preparatory approach, now we have to think that a terrorist
might launch an unprovoked, unwarned attack, without notice, from
an area some way off the base itself. I will give an example of
a petrol tanker hijacked, a similar scenario to the airliner.
If it reaches the base, we have lost the war because they have
hit us. We now have to take our activities to counter terrorist
measures further out than we have before. This takes us into the
realms of Home Office policing areas and clearly it requires a
lot more joint working with Home Office forces. This we are already
achieving in a number of areas. For example, in North Yorkshire
and Suffolk, around American bases. Our activities therefore take
us further out, bring us more into the public arena and dealing
more with preparatory acts of terrorism rather than the actual
offences themselves. We have to look at what we call base plate
patrols, the footprint from where someone could launch a mortar,
and, within that area, start looking for suspects and suspect
behaviour and activity and be more proactive in the measures we
take. For example, we now have to look at offences, not necessarily
full terrorism offences where there is clear violence like possessing
explosives, but the sort of preparatory behaviour like the stolen
car containing suspects with stolen documents, stolen passports,
using our intelligenceand we are very much intelligence
ledto identify known or suspected terrorists further out.
If we see them in the vicinity, even carrying out surveillance
and reconnaissance activity, we need to be able to deal with that.
The Terrorism Act allows us to do that but only if we have jurisdiction.
That means we have to be able to act outside the normal MoD property
and currently we are doing some joint operations with the two
forces I mentioned, under written protocols and full agreements.
It is working very well but we are hampered to the extent that
the MDP can participate by the need for this jurisdiction.
3. That is a very helpful set of introductions.
In terms of distance, to what extent have you been hampered by
your limitations in distances you can operate from without transgressing
any protocols with the Home Department police forces?
(Mr Ray) First was the uncertainty about "in
the vicinity". What did that actually mean in the old legislation
and that is why we have agreed that it should be dropped. It is
too vague and imprecise and that uncertainty leads to hesitation
perhaps at a time when officers are required to take immediate
decisions. It also exposes them to some vulnerability because
if they have got it wrong they could be liable in law for simply
carrying out what they think is the reasonable job of fighting
terrorism. Those are the two areas where we want it to be more
precise and concise in the powers we have. The effect is, working
with the Home Office forces, perhaps because of the situation,
an even closer working relationship has been established.
4. I was thinking of the kind of attack that
the IRA mounted in Heathrow Airport ten years ago from a hotel
car park outside the perimeter. In terms of missile technology,
how far do you think you would need to go outside your appointed
area in order to minimise the risk of some form of missile attack?
(Mr Ray) We have made some inquiries, as has North
Yorkshire, because when we were drawing up our protocol with North
Yorkshire they wanted to know how far the area should extend.
Their advice from experts is that the modern RPG, rocket propelled
grenade, technology could take you out as far as five or even
seven kilometres. People coming towards their base plate could
take it even further, so it could extend considerably further
than we have in the past. Having said that, we tend to work outwards
anyway because the greater priority is the nearer you get to the
5. Can I pursue this point about what has changed
since 11 September and how wide this area extends? You give the
example of a petrol tanker running into a US military base. Say,
for example, in North Yorkshire, Fylingdale, how wide would you
consider your area of responsibility would goright up to
Jarrow in Tyneside where that tanker started off from its Shell
oil terminal? Where does your area of responsibility extend its
(Mr Ray) It really only extends as far as we are likely
to come into physical terrorist activity. For the preparatory
stage of getting the tanker we would use intelligence and support
from other forces, various special branches with whom we have
a good exchange. We would not go that far. It is simply where
is the real, physical threat to the base we are protecting.
6. Let us say it starts from the Shell oil terminal
in Jarrow and gets hijacked just outside Jarrow on the bypass
and is heading for Fylingdale. Does it not mean that your responsibility
has to go right up to the gates of that oil terminal?
(Mr Ray) I think we would rather leave that to the
force in the area in which it is.
7. Is it not very blurred then where your responsibility
is going to be, whether it is a mile or two miles away from the
gates of the MoD or US facility?
(Mr Ray) That is why we have looked for legislation
that enables us with the local force to define a request on a
specific operation which will give us clear indication, according
to the information and the operation we are dealing with, as to
exactly what parameters will be set.
8. You said you have good joint working with
local forces. Is that falling down in some way? Is that one of
the reasons why you need these new powers?
(Mr Ray) There is no breakdown at all. The relationship
is cemented strongly.
9. Why do you need these new powers then?
(Mr Ray) For us to do our deterrent activity and our
detection activity within that force area, in conjunction with
10. I would be interested to know what consultations
took place with representatives of the Ministry of Defence Police
prior to the drafting and presentation of this Bill to the House.
It seems to me that you accept, as we accept, that the lines of
suspicious civilian activity and suspicious potential terrorist
activity have become even more blurred since 11 September, which
in effect seems to be the kind of operational activity you are
describing almost makes you an addition to the local police force.
If somebody is seen with a set of binoculars, for instance, apparently
looking in the direction of a defence establishment, off your
previous territory, what you seem to be suggesting and what we
all recognise to an extent is that terrorists do not go round
with a label hanging round their neck. They go round as apparently
peaceful members of the local community, often for many months,
before they act. You seem to be suggesting that you will be extending
your jurisdiction to be able to apprehend apparent civilians off
MoD territory as well.
(Mr Ray) Let me refute that straight away. That is
not our intention at all. We are specifically focusing at real
terrorist threat, very much intelligence led. Someone with a pair
of binoculars does not qualify, in my book, as a terrorist, unless
we have already had intelligence to say that person is known to
be involved in terrorist activity. Although we need the ability
to go there, it does not mean we are going to do it all the time.
It is that abilityintelligence, for example, and heightened
risk that we are looking for, not an overall wider extension of
Rachel Squire: I was originally asking
about the consultation that took place with you prior to the Bill
being presented to the House on this whole area of extension of
Chairman: When important parts of the
Bill were deleted, what was then the feeling? "Oh God, we
have to go through all this again?" How quickly were meetings
called? What process was undertaken up to this point of reintroducing
the clauses, if not in entirety, substantially?
11. Were there discussions prior to 11 September
and have these taken place subsequently?
(Mr Crowther) Both. As Members of the Committee will
recall, there was a very widespread consultation on the Ministry
of Defence Police provisions that were in the Armed Forces Bill
and these are quite similar to those. There are areas of consultation
we did not feel we needed to go through again, especially bearing
in mind the considerable haste with which the proposals had to
be formulated. Since then, we have had a most fruitful consultation
with representatives of the Home Office and with the Department
of Transport in relation to the British Transport Police. The
Association of Chief Police Officers, ACPO, has been consulted
and also Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary are represented
on our Police Committee.
12. Can I ask Mr Ray about training which was
an issue which was discussed during the Armed Forces Bill? Do
you consider that the Ministry of Defence Police have currently
sufficient training in the skills required to deal directly with
potential terrorism and the terrorist threat? Do they need to
have any specialist skills in the area and are you planning any
additional training to meet the new demands that would be placed
on you if this Bill is passed as it is?
(Mr Ray) We are already involved in dealing with terrorism
and therefore we have developed a number of skills and specialisms
in dealing with that exact problem. There is a great deal of experience
already within the force. Our core activity is focused at counter
terrorist security patrolling and policing. If I can give an example
of experiences and my own personal experience, I have only recently
come from the Metropolitan Police where I was for 34 years. While
I was there I dealt with a number of incidents personally. I am
the representative of our new chief officer team who are nearly
all from outside the MDP. I was in charge of security at Heathrow
Airport. I dealt with the terminal two terrorist bomb incident.
I dealt with the Libyan Embassy siege as one of the senior police
negotiators. That was the same week as the terrorist bomb. With
the motorway bomb campaign from the IRA, I was the personal coordinator
of the national response to deal with that and I was active in
setting up the national coordination cell to coordinate police
activities. I participated in numerous counter terrorist exercises,
both as an officer, an umpire and even as a terrorist, so I am
able to see the other side of the coin. We do have a lot of expertise
in this field and therefore the training as well. We have a great
deal of specialism skills as well which are often called upon
from other forces. We have a rope access team who can deal with
people who are chaining or locking themselves either together
but, more particularly, in places of difficult access, where they
present a danger not only to the community but to themselves as
well. We have a specially trained, accredited team who can deal
with this and have dealt with a number of incidents very safely.
They have actually been thanked by the people they were dealing
with. We also have a number of people in key roles. The National
Anti-terrorist Advisory Team is run by an officer from our force.
The National Terrorist Crime Prevention Unit, which gives advice
to Home Office forces on counter terrorist measures, has one of
our sergeants on it. We have a number of officers seconded in
the anti-terrorist branch and the national intelligence unit at
Scotland Yard, dealing with terrorism. We have a number of people
trained in specialist search, who deal with terrorism. We have
probably the second highest number of officers trained in dealing
with chemical, biological, nuclear and radiation threats. We have
a great deal of experience. We have some specialist skills. That
training is ongoing. We have even had experience of live examples.
There was the Mill Hill Barracks bomb and the mortar at Downing
Street. Our officers were on the scene at those as well. We have
been deployed for real as well. The chief constable is a member
of the ACPO Anti-terrorist Committee. I think I can show that
we are fully versed in counter terrorist measures and counter
terrorist activity. Our training is thorough, to a high standard
and that is reflected in the views expressed by other forces who
come to us for some of that training. Finally, we have a plan
for training on the awareness of our officers on the likely effects
of this Bill if it is passed and that is most important. That
is already in hand. A working group is developing policy guidelines
and procedures, training packages and awareness packages, that
will make sure that all our officers, our stakeholders and partners
are fully aware of what our powers might be and how we will be
exercising them. We are concerned to be able to manage those powers
because we do not want uncontrolled, unlimited use of those powers
by officers. We want to make sure they are focused on the very
purpose for which we seek them.
13. Does the training extend to the MoD Guard
Service, for which you are responsible in training?
(Mr Ray) We have the responsibility for their training
and some of that is obviously counter terrorist in the sense that
they are stopping and searching people coming in. The awareness
training that we are developing will include the Guard Service.
14. You mentioned the change since 11 September.
Is it not the fact that this legislation is being used to try
to get in powers that were deleted from the last Bill? Would it
not have been better to have a specific Bill covering the extension
of these powers that I personally think are needed, rather than
to tag it on to a piece of emergency legislation like this?
(Mr Ray) The Bill is an opportunity for us to get
the powers we need to deal with terrorism. Much of those powers
is contained in the extension that we are looking for. That is
why it is very appropriate for us to seek those particular powers
that were in the Armed Forces Bill but are directed towards our
fight against terrorism and dealing with suspect terrorism.
15. It is taken off the shelf from the previous
(Mr Ray) The previous Bill laid the guidelines and
we were aware of all the consultation, discussion and debate that
went through. Having had that fully aired, we felt it was appropriate
to continue along that path.
16. If we are going to do it properly, would
it not have been better to have more interface with the general
public rather than military personnel, rather than tacking it
on to what is emergency legislation being rushed through the Commons
and Lords quite quickly?
(Mr Ray) I am quite content that this is focused on
terrorism and therefore it is quite appropriate to have it there.
There is other legislation being drafted which is going to deal
with some of the other issues in the Armed Forces Bill about inspection
of the force and dealing with complaints and discipline, which
will be contained in that Bill. That deals with the accountability
of the force and I think it is very appropriate that the two Bills
together combine to create the effect of what was originally in
the previous Bill.
17. Mr Ray, you have made a very strong case
that you and your men are well equipped to deal with terrorism
but if this Bill goes through you will recognise that it confers
upon your men powers to deal with the public. I wonder if you
could tell us whether you think that your people are well qualified
and well trained to deal with the public, bearing in mind that
the select committee in its report said, "Our concern centres
on the range of experience of MDP officers, particularly in dealing
with the general public. The MDP deal with a more restricted public
in a more restricted number of situations."; and bearing
in mind you will have power to set up cordons that will bring
you directly into contact with the public who are perhaps less
amenable to taking orders than service personnel?
(Mr Crowther) There are several points to be made
here. The first is that the initial training of MoD police officers
is substantially the same as that of our Home Department police
officers and their continuation training during their career is
very like. On the training side, there is a complete match. As
to experience, plainly the experience of MoD police officers is
somewhat different from that of Home Department officers, but
I would expect that they would all have some experience of dealing
with the public because, to be frank, there are cheaper ways of
guarding military establishments than employing MoD police officers
if contact with the public is unlikely.
18. I think we accept that the training is very
similar. That is what the select committee concluded but I wonder
how far Mr Ray, with all his experience in the Metropolitan Police,
where he understands the sensitivities about dealing with the
public and now having experience of dealing with MoD police officers,
thinks that they are aware of the sensitivity and practise that
kind of sensitivity? They are dealing with a very different type
of personality than the range of personalities in the general
(Mr Ray) If we were just talking about service personnel,
I think I would agree with you but part of the changing environment
of MoD establishments is greater contractualisation, more civilian
employees, more contractors working on the estate, who come from
outside. They are just members of the public who happen to have
a contract with the MoD. We are policing that sort of community
on a daily basis. We also already police public events like the
Farnborough Air Show, like the DSEI (Defence Systems Exhibition
International) Exhibition, where we are working with the public.
We police the garrison areas of Colchester, Bicester, Salisbury
Plain, Aldershot, Catterick. We police the whole area to which
the public have free access. It is difficult to know who are police,
who are public and who are MoD personnel.
19. As Member of Parliament for Aldershot, I
know when the police are doing their speed checks that they are
not your boys. It is the other lot who are causing the public
(Mr Ray) I will look carefully at the amount of traffic
enforcement they are doing. I take the point. We have now already
trespassers on MoD land either innocently on Salisbury Plain or
not so innocently in places like Aldermaston and Faslane. We deal
with these on a regular basis and we have very little difficulty
with that and very few complaintsin fact we are complimented
on the way we deal with them. Our officers, if anything, are more
thorough, more exact and courteous when they deal with the public
than with some others.