Clause 116 — Referral of case following investigation by service or civilian police
Orders of the Day
Gerald Howarth (Shadow Minister, Defence; Aldershot, Conservative)
Of course. I apologise. I accept that he and his hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn are committed to the armed forces. It is, however, imperative that we understand the culture of the military, and the vital importance—mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Newark—of ensuring that our people out there feel they have the support of not just the political commanders, but the chain of command.
The hon. Member for Islwyn—the former Minister whom the Prime Minister obviously thought too old to be veterans Minister—sought to assure me that there would be detailed guidance. I do not doubt his word for a moment, but let me say this to his successor. Clause 116 clearly states what happens after an investigation. It could not be more explicit; indeed, it could not be more pedantic. Subsection (2) says that if
"a service policeman considers that there is sufficient evidence to charge a person with a Schedule 2 offence"
—that is, a serious offence—
"he must refer the case to the Director of Service Prosecutions".
We are absolutely clear about the role of the service policeman. It is perfectly all right to specify that in the Bill. However, we are told that it cannot be specified in the Bill that the commanding officer will be empowered both to make representations and to be told of the outcome of the service policeman's investigation.
I am sorry, but I must insist that that is not correct. It is fine to be prescriptive about the role of the service policeman, but I do not think it acceptable to argue that we cannot be prescriptive about the role of the commanding officer. The commanding officer is central to the whole concept of the chain of command, and to the protection of the men under his command. Unless the Minister is prepared to say that he will deal with that in the other place, I am afraid that I will seek to persuade the Committee to vote against the clause.