To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his policy toward the deployment of members of the Ministry of Defence police on land outside his Department's responsibility.
Does the Minister recall that his hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces said in Standing Committee on 12 February 1987 that Ministry of Defence police would be used only where defence interests were involved? If that is so, why were they used at Stonehenge? Will the Minister guarantee that the Ministry of Defence police will not be used against workers on strike, or is he in favour of secondary policing?
Neither the hon. Gentleman nor myself were members of the Committee, although the record of its proceedings is in Hansard. If the hon. Gentleman had been a member of the Committee, he might have been more familiar with section 2 of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987. 1 draw his attention especially to subsection 2(2)(d), which makes clear the power of the Ministry of Defence police to operate outside Ministry of Defence land, including in support of a Home Office constabulary.
My hon. Friend will be aware of my scepticism at the passage of that Act, in that it created for the first time a national police force under the direct control of a Minister of the Crown. However, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is wrong in what he says. Will my hon. Friend accept that it is invaluable that the Ministry of Defence police help the civil police in disturbances that may arise, and in the protection of Stonehenge in my constituency? The delicate balance between the maintenance of the Queen's peace and the upholding of the law is enhanced considerably by the devotion, dedication and professionalism of the Ministry of Defence police.
I am sure that the whole House will be grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said about the loyal and dedicated service given by the Ministry of Defence police. The chief constable of Wiltshire was grateful for the assistance rendered a year ago by the Ministry of Defence police in helping his force to maintain law and order and in protecting an important monument, in addition to the wellbeing of my hon. Friend's constituents.