Extension of Jurisdiction

Clause 31 – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 2nd April 2001.

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Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury 7:45 pm, 2nd April 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in clause 31, page 32, line 11, after "operation", insert— 'except in matters relating to a serious crime or police raid;'.

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 3, in page 32, line 20, after "operation", insert—

'except in matters relating to a serious crime or police raid;'.

Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury

I had better start by explaining what I mean by "serious". The matter is defined in the Supreme Court Act 1981, as amended by a practice direction from the High Court. I mean classes 1 and 2 out of the standard four classes. Class 1 offences are misprision of treason and treason felony; murder; genocide; torture, hostage taking and offences under the War Crimes Act 1991; an offence under the Official Secrets Acts; and soliciting, incitement, attempt or conspiracy to commit any of those offences. Class 2 offences are manslaughter; infanticide; child destruction; abortion; rape; sexual intercourse with a girl under 13; incest with a girl under 13; sedition; an offence under section 1 of the Geneva Conventions Act 1957; mutiny; piracy, and soliciting, incitement, attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the above offences. That is what I mean by "serious".

I am a survivor of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987. As we progressed through that Bill, Ministers of the day made it clear that the Ministry of Defence police force was, on that occasion, being given proper constabulary powers. It was being given a clarity of jurisdiction, with which we all agreed. The then Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Sir A. Hamilton), repeatedly pointed out that the sort of crimes that would be handled by the Ministry of Defence police would be of a minor nature. They would certainly not be serious crimes of the sort that I have described. Further more, they might be investigated by the Ministry of Defence police by arrangement with the Home Office constabulary concerned. It would only be at the invitation of those Home Office police forces that the Ministry of Defence police would handle such crimes.

It was never envisaged that the Ministry of Defence police would suffer the mission creep, as the National Union of Journalists and others have called it, that we have seen. That is in no way to denigrate the Ministry of Defence police, whom I do not think have had a fair deal over the past 15 years or more. They are a very distinguished and ancient police force, going back to the time of Samuel Pepys. This House has gradually increased the force's powers but every now and again it gets a bit out of kilter and the House addresses the issue once again. That is why we see these clauses tacked on to the Armed Forces Bill. This is quite a modest Armed Forces Bill compared with the last piece of legislation, which was a veritable Christmas tree of differing and widely disparate issues. Nevertheless, these clauses have been tacked on.

In the Select Committee, we challenged the Ministers, the chief constable and the deputy chief constables about what had happened since that nice, simple time in 1987 when everything had seemed so clear. On question 765 on 6 February, Mr. Comben, the deputy chief constable, was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall): You would agree presumably that, when it was first set up, it was envisaged that the MDP would be for minor offences? Mr. Comben, to paraphrase him, said yes. He said later: In a microcosm, that is what has happened to the MDP. It has got more experience; it has become more effective; it has more technical equipment and it can now investigate a range of offences that it could not have done in the early days prior to 1987. That has happened in all policing, and thank goodness it has. That is fine, but once again the Ministry of Defence police have got ahead of themselves. That is why I will be arguing that it may have been inappropriate for these clauses to be tagged on to this Bill.

The outgoing chief constable said in his address to the Defence Police Federation national conference at the end of last year that it was all well and good having this recognition, but that it counted for absolutely nothing if the police force was not recognised by the customer. He said that those officers must be seen to be delivering a top quality service, no matter what that service might be. He referred to a number of CID cases. He reported that the CID of the MDP had investigated 30 rape cases—the previous year the figure had been 16.

We heard a lot of evidence in the course of the special Select Committee, not just about rape but murder. There was genuine concern among the Home Office constabulary forces, and genuine worry on the part of the Police Federation of Home Office constabularies at this mission creep.

There was a stark difference in the evidence of the deputy chief constable of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland who addressed us and the chief constable of Suffolk who addressed us on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That struck members of the special Select Committee quite forcefully.

8.15 pm

I am trying to clarify, by these amendments, just how far we think that the Ministry of Defence police should be going. It matters to the clients and the public that they know what a Ministry of Defence policeman is. He is in a police uniform; we have been reassured that he or she has superb training, and there is no doubt that they have to meet the same targets as the Home Office police. However, it is important that as the Ministry of Defence police evolve—for evolve they will—we should be clear about what they are seeking to do.

From the Bill's Second Reading onwards, we have been assured that the Ministry of Defence police will operate outside the wire only in a way that will be approved by the chief constable of the local Home Office constabulary. I say "approved by" because that might happen in two ways. It can happen either by the invitation of the chief constable or because of a standing agreement at a high level—a phrase that has been often used during the Bill's passage—between the Ministry of Defence police chief constable and the chief constable of the local force. We will come back to those protocols later.

It is very important to clarify what is meant. That is why these straightforward amendments would insert the words: except in matters relating to a serious crime or police raid". In that way, everybody knows exactly what is happening. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively and reassure us that this is not happening simply by accident but that there is a deliberate policy behind it.

Photo of Paul Keetch Paul Keetch Liberal Democrat, Hereford

This is the crux of the Bill. As the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) has said, the special Select Committee spent a great deal of time discussing it. I am delighted to see the Chairman and other members of the Select Committee here tonight.

The concern that we have expressed on a number of occasions is that there has been, as the hon. Member for Salisbury said, a degree of mission creep in what the MDP have been doing. We have heard conclusive evidence from journalists, from Tony Geraghty and Gill Linscott, of previous actions that the MDP have already undertaken. We have heard of concern about the MDP's existing powers. Therefore, if we are to accept that there should be an extension of the MDP's jurisdiction, the House should be absolutely sure that the limitations placed upon it are right.

I support what the hon. Member for Salisbury said about the crimes that the MDP will be investigating. In our Committee, the Minister made it clear that he did not believe that the MDP should investigate murder, rape, attempted murder, attempted rape, and so on. He believed that there should be a way in which such offences should automatically be offered to the local county constabulary for it to investigate. I should be interested to hear whether he says that now and how he suggests that that should be done.

I should also be interested to hear the Minister's comments on the report of the Armed Forces Bill Committee. We said: We believe that there is a case for giving MDP officers greater powers". We must remember that these officers are dressed like civilian police. If they are going about their duty and they see a crime being committed, of course they should intervene and come to the support of the civil powers. They will also want to be involved in assisting at floods and other such incidents. However, we were right to say in the Committee: we would be completely opposed to the MDP actively seeking to increase its involvement in general policing duties which are the proper responsibility of local police forces. There has been a consistent train of thought, throughout the evidence that was taken, that the MDP are seeking to extend their powers because they want to justify their existence. Indeed, when we were in Cyprus, members of the joint Cyprus military police force voiced their concern that the MDP somehow wanted to extend their powers on to their turf. This is the key point of the Bill.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am sure that the whole House is interested to hear that there is a turf war between MOD police and other police forces. However, that is not the important point. My hon. Friend suggests that the Select Committee that considered the Bill wanted to give more powers to the MOD police, but he did not say what those powers are. Most of the powers that he mentioned are already available to them. I should like to know what powers he would like to give them.

Photo of Paul Keetch Paul Keetch Liberal Democrat, Hereford

The Committee did not suggest that the MDP should be given more powers. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend has read our report and that he will be aware not only of our concerns about their current powers, but of the way in which they should be held to account—although I am sure that we shall deal with that matter later. In this debate, however, the Minister must tell the House which MDP powers will be extended by the Bill. Additionally, which crimes that the MDP may want to investigate will be transferred to local police forces? As the hon. Member for Salisbury rightly said, those issues are the crux of the Bill.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

My colleague the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) mentioned that he could be considered as an old-timer because he served on the Committee that considered the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987. I also served on that Committee, but it is a long time since that Committee reported and the law was subsequently changed. I think that it would be ludicrous to say that legislation that the House passed in 1987 has to be operational today.

I have a good connection—not a financial one—with the Ministry of Defence police, and I have an even closer connection—again, not a financial one—with the Defence Police Federation. I first took an interest in the MOD police when, quite accidentally, the Defence Committee ambushed the MOD and the MOD police in an inquiry that we conducted on physical security at military installations. I have followed the MOD police ever since.

In that time, I have seen much criticism of the MOD police, ranging from genuine criticism to truly paranoid comments. A tendency to make the latter type of comment is very strong in the media. Quite naturally, anyone whose collar has been held by an MOD policeman—and there are quite a few such people—feels very irritated by the MOD police, especially if, as in Tony Geraghty's case, they did not proceed with the matter.

There is nothing unique about a police force messing up big time or small time. I come from the west midlands, where, historically, our police force has failed to arrest the right people. Regrettably, in the past, it has also had a reputation for being less than scrupulous in adhering to the law of the land and the principles of policing. However, although our police force has faced enormous criticism for screwing up cases, no one has said that its powers should be changed. In the 1970s, and post-Lawrence, the Metropolitan police have also been thought to have failed in many ways. However, no one is suggesting that their powers should be curtailed to punish them for those failures.

As I said, some people are paranoid in addressing the issue. Conversely, some people want to chip away at the margins of the issue. My good friend the hon. Member for Salisbury falls into the latter camp. He is not quite certain; he is influenced equally by the MOD police who abound in his constituency and by the Home Department police forces. His situation is symbolised by the regimental cap badge showing that the regiment faces both ways. I cannot remember which regiment that is—

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

Yes. I think that the Gloucesters should give the hon. Member for Salisbury one of their cap badges and make him an honorary member.

The MOD police have evolved. When the Committee conducted its inquiry into the matter 13 years ago, and when I did the same 20 years ago, it had not been long since the MOD police had had to deal with the 1971 reforms, and some of the MOD-plod image remained. However, very unfairly, that image has persisted. The MOD police officers are a very professional force. ACPO and individual coppers are very ambivalent towards them, and hon. Members are ambivalent or hostile towards them. The media are either very unhappy or very angry with them. All that undermines the efficacy of the MOD police.

I think that the time has come to expand the MOD police's range of powers. However, I was not a member of the Select Committee considering the Bill—although, unlike the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt), I was not kept off the Committee. It seems to me that the Opposition kept him off that Committee. The Government did not keep me off the Committee; I did not volunteer to serve on it. However, I gave evidence to it, partly because Committee members had forgiven me for being so obstreperous to them a few weeks earlier.

I also certainly did not get rid of the hon. Member for Reigate from the Defence Committee. I think that that was a decision by the Opposition rather than by my Committee. Therefore, I do not want him to become paranoid. He is not a member of the Defence Committee, but is considering very important issues such as canals, walking in cities and cemeteries. I am sure, however, that he likes that much less than serving on the Defence Committee.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

I was replaced on the Defence Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), who is extremely experienced on these matters, and I am sure that the Committee has done extremely well, in my absence, with his assistance. I fear that the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) has forgotten that, during the Second Reading debate on this Bill, I asked him to sign my manuscript amendment nominating me to the Standing Committee considering the Bill. As the Government had nominated two Ministers and a Whip to the Committee, the Opposition nominated two shadow Ministers and a Whip, leaving no place for an Opposition Back Bencher on the Committee.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

As I had caused havoc by moving my own manuscript amendment, I was not in a strong position to endorse someone else's.

The Bill seeks slightly to extend the powers of the MOD police. The change is not earth-shattering, but recognises the changes in the professionalism of the MOD police and the environment in which they work. Their numbers have declined and they are now more mobile. They do less static guarding. The world of policing also has changed around them—with greater involvement by the private security industry, the MOD guard service, the military provost guard service and the growth of List "X" companies.

The MOD police have also undergone the changes occasioned by the 1987 Act. Additionally, there is a new range of threats to counter, including fraud, terrorism and environmental offences. They are now also a police agency. I think that the time has come for them to have a modest increase in their powers.

In 13 years from now—the hon. Member for Salisbury may still an hon. Member, but I doubt that I shall be—the House may seek further to extend the MOD police's powers. However, hon. Members cannot have it both ways. They cannot quietly say, "The MOD police are still MOD plods. They are not really up to the competence of some of the mainstream police forces", while criticising fairly modest proposals to increase their powers. Such criticisms are voiced despite the fact that they are attempting to become more professional and help out Home Department police forces in certain circumstances. Committee members were given sufficient evidence to justify why the MOD police deserve to have a marginal increase in their powers.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Conservative, Faversham and Mid Kent 8:30 pm, 2nd April 2001

I had no intention of intervening during this debate, but as one of my constituents is currently dying of cancer because the Ministry of Defence police grossly exceeded their powers—and have admitted doing so—when they raided his office and, in effect, by their act rendered him bankrupt, I feel rather dismayed. The name of my constituent is Mr. Crawley of Chesswood Floors.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

I am desperately sorry. However, just because there is a posse of murderers in south London and the Metropolitan police did not use their powers and were proved to be incompetent, that does not mean that we get really angry with them. We cannot isolate a few cases and say that just because people fouled up in those, they should be penalised by being stuck with the powers that they had in 1987.

The world is changing. The world of policing is changing. If the Defence Committee had survived for another 12 months, we should have conducted a major inquiry into policing and security in the Ministry of Defence to show those aspects that should and should not interlock, and where powers, competence and training should evolve further.

In conclusion, the MOD police have definitely improved. They want a little more encouragement. Hon. Members shuffle around and issue statements on the one hand proclaiming how much they adore the MOD police while on the other saying, in effect, that they are not up to handling the rather limited changes to their powers that any reasonable person should support. Those hon. Members are saying to the MOD police, in effect, "You're not up to it. You should be stuck with the powers you had in 1987. You should not have evolved. You're a second-class police force. You are not a professional police force and you should stay that way."

That would send the wrong message. I hope that the Minister will send members of the MOD police in Salisbury, Wiltshire and Herefordshire copies of the speeches and check whether they had consulted hon. Members as to whether those powers should remain ossified or should evolve.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

I am tempted to follow the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) down the track on the merits of the MOD police in toto, but that course might be better left until the debate on clause stand part. I am grateful to you, Mrs. Heal, for your indication in that respect. I shall address myself to amendments Nos. 2 and 3 and will try to catch your eye during clause stand part to deal with some of his points.

To put the matter in perspective, I share some of the concerns expressed about the MOD police. However, I note that the amendment tabled by my hon. Friends provides that the MOD police can go to the assistance of other police forces except in matters relating to a serious crime or police raid. I do not share the concerns of my hon. Friends on that matter because if such an action takes place at the request of another police force, which wants the assistance of the MOD police, something as specific as a police raid is exactly when the MOD police might be required to supply numbers, under the direction of the other police force.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) replies to the debate, I should be grateful if he could explain that point. Perhaps I have misunderstood the effect of the amendments. Although I have concerns about the MOD police, it seems to me that the effect of the amendments would be that the MOD police could not operate at the request of other forces—presumably under their direction. I look forward to the remarks of my hon. Friend and the Minister.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Armed Forces Bill Committee report contains some interesting comments. Paragraph 39 refers to the extension of powers when the MOD police are attempting to deal with emergency situations which they come across in fulfilling their normal duties. However, we would be completely opposed to the MDP actively seeking to increase its involvement in general policing duties which are the proper responsibility of local police forces. There is a slight contradiction; the Bill's explanatory notes point out that MOD officers now have greater contact with the public than before. They are far more mobile and may run into various incidents on the way to and from different establishments.

In the greater Portsmouth area, between a dozen and 20 establishments are serviced by the MOD police either full time or in a visiting capacity by a mobile unit. Those police officers move extensively around our part of south Hampshire. For example, Whale island, which has an MOD police presence, is close to the ferry port. In the past, several legal, peaceful demonstrations against the transport and export of live animals through our ferry port have entailed the involvement of the civil police, and occasionally the roads in and around the ferry port, including the access road to Whale island, have been blocked. Perhaps the extension would mean that the MOD police would have the right to be involved in such demonstrations, but they are very difficult matters for them to become involved in.

Likewise, MOD police moving from one establishment in the south of Portsmouth to another at the eastern end of Portsmouth would travel along the seafront. On Friday or Saturday nights, it would not be uncommon to see several police vehicles parked opposite South Parade pier in Portsmouth, and probably at least one patrol wagon from the naval provost. If a significant incident were to occur outside one of the clubs on another part of the seafront while an MOD police patrol was passing, the MOD police might deem it their responsibility to intervene and stop a fight or an affray.

I should be interested to know whether the Minister thinks that the extension would give the MOD police the right to take part in preventing such a disturbance from gathering strength, and whether they would have proper protection under the law and in their job descriptions to allow them to act as policemen. Is it not important that, where a heavy concentration of MOD police is found, the civilian population should be made fully aware of what the extension of MOD police rights involves? For example, people should know when MOD policemen have the right to follow them to their homes and to take action inside or outside their homes, once having seen them commit an offence.

I am full of admiration for the MOD police. I was particularly inspired by their conduct when a young MOD constable at the main gate of Portsmouth dockyard made a very senior Royal Marine general very angry by making him comply with the regulations in operation for other staff going in and out of the naval base. The MOD police stuck to their line, and I am glad that they were supported, but that very disgruntled senior general in the Royal Marines retired from the service, for ever carrying a grudge against the MOD police. Anyone who wants to insist that a general toe the same line as everyone else has my support, and their willingness to stand in the front line and regularly confront such situations involves a pretty worthwhile job—ensuring that rank carries no sway with the police.

As the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) said, the MOD police have been heavily criticised in the past, sometimes cynically and for motives not wholly germane to the argument being pursued at the time. I should like to think that the House will be fair to the MOD police. I am not against their powers being extended, but what those extensions involve, when they can be brought into operation, and what rights the civilian population have if they are confronted by an MOD policemen, alone or with another officer, must all be made clear. It will be no good if the powers are extended but the bulk of the civilian population are totally ignorant of their rights.

Few people who speed on the motorways in and around south Hampshire would slow down when they saw an MOD police car behind them. The implication is that the MOD police might think it their duty to pull those people over and at least caution them, but will they have the power to do so? When did the Select Committee think that the emergency would arise in which the MOD police could exercise their powers along the same lines as the civilian police? I can guess what those circumstances might be, but I should be interested if the Minister or the Chairman of the Select Committee explained what the Committee was thinking when it included that in its report.

I hope nevertheless that the House will support the line pursued in the Bill and extend the powers of the MOD police.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot

I rise to support much of what the hon. Member for Portsmouth. South (Mr. Hancock) said. In quoting the Committee's conclusions, he probably reflected what the bulk of the population feel about the relationship between the MOD police and our own Home Office and county constabularies. Clearly, if MOD police officers come across an incident while travelling between bases, it is entirely proper that they should be able to assist other police officers in trying to prey ant crime. None of us would object to that.

There is concern that what the clause proposes is, to a large extent, open-ended. My hon. Friends have sought to table amendments to seek some limitation on the role of the MOD police. The public would not accept the MOD police being increasingly brought in, as a matter of routine, to support Home Office police forces, which we know are overstretched; numbers are clown by 2,500 since the Conservatives left office in 1997. We are concerned that local constabularies might be encouraged to resort to MOD police forces to make up for their lack of numbers.

The evidence taken on 6 February by the Committee included a letter from the chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers general policing committee to the police resource unit of the Home Office. It said: We have some sympathy with their officers who come across serious incidents and we believe that they should be acting as constables when they choose to get involved in dealing with such incidents. We would point out, however, that many more mobile patrols seem to be undertaken by the MDP officers and in doing so we would be determined to make sure that the officers were not leaving their bases and patrolling in order to find incidents to attend. In other words, there was concern that officers should not seek to exercise their newly confirmed responsibilities and powers by seeking out incidents beyond the wire and outside the base where their principal responsibility lies.

My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) helpfully drew my attention to question 438 in the evidence taken on 25 January, in which he asked a police officer, Mr. Tony Comben: Can you explain a little more about what these standing arrangements are going to be and whether it will mean that the Ministry of Defence police will be patrolling garrison towns, civilian or not—what does it all mean? Given the behaviour of the Welsh Guards in Aldershot at the moment, we could do with whatever resources we could get to curtail some of their excessive enthusiasms: resulting, perhaps, from the absence of training facilities as a result of the foot and mouth epidemic. Clearly, many of those soldiers are getting frustrated because they are unable to go out on exercises.

Mr. Comben replied that the proposal would allow someone at a senior level to say: Okay for the next three months within a defined period where we have some notification of the threat your officers can do this part of the patrol outside and we in the Home Office will do some other part of the operation. That suggests that what is being proposed here is more than the MOD police assisting, on an ad hoc basis, when they see a crime being committed, requiring powers under the Bill to enable them to act in the role of constables. It is, rather, a much more formalised arrangement, which is one reason we have reservations.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans) 8:45 pm, 2nd April 2001

This has been a wide-ranging debate and many views have been expressed.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 would not remove the MDP's basic jurisdiction—for example, on defence land—to deal with serious crime, but they would stop the MDP giving assistance to a local police force in a serious case or on a police raid, as the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) helpfully—at least in some senses—mentioned. For example, a local force may want help simply to carry out an arrest for a serious offence; under the amendments, the MDP would be unable to give that assistance. The amendments refer to those parts of clause 31 that specifically enable police officers or forces other than the Ministry of Defence police to call on MDP officers for assistance. The amendments would limit the circumstances in which an MDP officer could provide such assistance.

By way of background, I should explain that the provisions in the Bill that would be affected by the amendments substantially restate the position in section 2(2)(d) of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987. Where clause 31 differs is in the removal of the geographical limitation in the existing legislation that relates to the vicinity of defence property. Clause 31 also includes the British Transport police and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority constabularies, as well as local police forces, among the forces whose officers may call on MDP officers for assistance.

In one respect, the new power is more restrictive than the old one, in that its operation is specifically limited to a particular incident, investigation or operation, whereas the old power was more generally drawn. Except for its geographical limitation—the limitation to the vicinity of defence land—the present provision has worked very well in practice and I see no reason to provide additional conditions. It is to be borne in mind that the initiation of requests for assistance under the provision rests exclusively with the officer of a police force other than the MDP. I hope that the Committee would have confidence in such officers being able to act sensibly in calling for MDP assistance.

Implicit in the amendments—I accept that it was not intended, but this construction can be put on them—is the suggestion that MDP officers are not competent to be involved in major operations. In fact, MDP officers have training similar to Home Department police officers', so there is no need to limit artificially MDP officers' involvement in particular classes of case if, in the opinion of a Home Department officer, that is necessary.

In summary, we consider the limitation proposed in the amendments inappropriate both because of the constraints that they intentionally impose on the ability of MDP officers to provide assistance when it is needed and because of the erroneous premise that the latter are not competent to assist in the circumstances mentioned in the amendments.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Can the Minister clarify for the House what rank of civilian officer can request intervention?

Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury

It has never been stated.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I think that the House is therefore entitled to be told what rank of officer can request intervention: constable or inspector?

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

It is, in fact, any rank, because the provisions may be applied in an emergency. I think that we would all agree that it would not be proper to expect a Home Department police force to go up through the chain of command to find someone of sufficient standing.

I shall now deal with some of the other points that were made. A very limited extension has been made to allow MDP officers to respond in an emergency to the crimes of violence or events involving the risk of injury or loss of life that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. When an MDP officer is en route from one part of the MOD's jurisdiction to another and comes upon an offence that is being committed that clearly involves a risk to life or serious injury, he has the power to intervene as a policeman, as opposed to as a member of the public.

I can only thank the hon. Member for Reigate for his very sensible comment. As for the incidents mentioned by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth), we can act only if someone cannot get help from the local police—we cannot cruise around hopefully, looking for violent emergencies. I am well aware of the problems that he is experiencing in his constituency and hopeful that we have in hand ways in which to deal with them.

Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury

We are running out of time and the Minister has made his case well. My intention was to clarify what was meant to be going on, and we have been around the course; so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Quentin Davies Quentin Davies Conservative, Grantham and Stamford

I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 32, line 13, after "privileges", insert— ', and be subject to the code of conduct and disciplinary procedures,'.

The First Deputy Chairman:

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 5, in page 32, line 22, after first "privileges", insert— ', and be subject to the code of conduct and disciplinary procedures,'. No. 6, in page 32, line 45, at end insert— '(3E) The Secretary of State shall be liable in respect of torts committed by a member of a police force engaged on relevant service within section 2, subsection (2), paragraph (d) to subsection 3B(b) inclusive; in the performance or purported performance of his functions, in like manner as a master is liable in respect of torts committed by his servants in the course of their employment and shall in respect of any such tort be treated for all purposes as a joint tortfeasor.'. No. 7, in clause 37, page 38, line 37, at end add—'Functions of inspectors of constabulary'(5) Protocols between the Ministry of Defence Police, Home Office Police Forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Police Forces Scotland, shall be laid before Parliament.'.

Photo of Quentin Davies Quentin Davies Conservative, Grantham and Stamford

The Minister was kind enough to say that our last debate was wide ranging; indeed it was. I hope that he will agree that it was also serious and constructive. He cannot claim that there has been any element of filibustering or time wasting. Therefore, by his own statement, he has condemned the decision of his party managers to force us into a three-hour debate. Parliament being gagged in such a manner means that we are less than half way through the groups of amendments selected for debate and we have only 40 minutes to go. What is happening this evening is monstrous and the remarks that I made on the programme motion were, if anything, understated.

It is not the Opposition's view that Ministry of Defence police are professionally incompetent in some way—far from it. We shall certainly not engage in the sort of MOD police bashing that we heard from the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch), speaking on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. On the contrary, we believe that there is a good case for extending the powers of the MOD police—

Photo of Quentin Davies Quentin Davies Conservative, Grantham and Stamford

No, I shall not. If the hon. Gentleman does not like my not giving way, let me point out that my reason for not doing so is that there is no time, and that the reason that there is no time is that his allies in the Labour party have imposed a disgraceful programme motion on the Committee. If he wants to complain, he should complain to his friends in the Labour party. Given the disgraceful way in which the House has been treated, I do not intend to take interventions either from new Labour Members or from their Liberal allies.

We believe that it is sensible to extend the powers of the MOD police. We do not want an MOD policeman to be unable to intervene in an emergency when he is passing. We want MOD police to be able to support the civilian police and to add to police resources in the local community when required to do so. In the Select Committee, I suggested that it would be sensible to give MOD police explicit training to prepare them for overseas police operations—Petersberg-type operations, such as the one being undertaken in Kosovo.

We do not in any way oppose that extension of powers. However, amendments Nos. 4 to 6 reflect our belief that it should be accompanied by an extension of the disciplines, checks, balances, protections and duties that would apply to civilian policemen in similar circumstances. We want to maintain the balance and to ensure that pari passu with the extension of powers goes the extension of protections. Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 would bring Ministry of Defence police under the Police Act 1996 and make them subject to the Police Complaints Authority, just like the civilian officers with whom they would be working in the circumstances envisaged under the clause.

That is important because there is currently great doubt about whether Ministry of Defence police are subject to the PCA. Let me quote the exchange that took place between the Secretary of State for Defence and my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) on 7 March in the Select Committee. My hon. Friend asked: Does the MDP come under the Police Complaints Authority? The Secretary of State replied, "Yes." When my hon. Friend asked, "Under the full jurisdiction?", the Secretary of State replied, "Yes." One cannot be much clearer than that.

It is a matter of considerable concern to the Opposition—and ought to be to the public—that recently, well after 7 March, we received an e-mail from a senior serving officer in the MOD police, who said: police officers in the UK act under a code of conduct made by statutory instrument in 1999. The procedures contained therein derive from the Police Act 1996 and make provision for investigation and disciplinary procedures which propose to protect both the interests of the public AND the officers"— meaning the civil police. The officer continued: Conversely, MDP officers are currently investigated under an internal MOD procedure, inappropriately named the Ministry of Defence Police (Discipline) Regulations 1985 … The stated regulations have no basis in law.Previous statements to Parliament over the past few years, (made indirectly from MDP) have been equally as misleading as the response given to your Select Committee. Such responses have stated that the current discipline regulations 'mirror those of the home department police forces.' This is misleading at the least and at the worst blatantly untrue.MDP officers are neither subject to civil service disciplinary procedures or regulations derived from the Police Act 1996.I feel that it may be misleading to say that complaints against MDP officers are dealt with in exactly the same way as other police forces. The officer continues: In the interim, MDP continue to investigate police officers, make unlawful police inquiries into their private lives, form awards and hearings and award punishments etc. all without any basis in law whatsoever. That is a serious charge, as the Committee will appreciate. In effect, the statements from the Defence Secretary that the MDP are simply subject to the full jurisdiction of the Police Complaints Authority under the 1996 Act are simply not correct. Our suspicions are strengthened by the fact that a written answer given to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) on 22 March, two weeks after the Secretary of State's clear and apparently unambiguous assurance to the Committee, is much less clear. It is plain that the Government are trying to weasel out of the Secretary of State's clear statement. In his written answer of 22 March, the Minister for the Armed Forces states: The Ministry of Defence police complaints regulations are comparable to those of the Home Department police forces."—[Official Report, 22 March 2001; Vol. 365, c. 299W.] "Comparable" does not mean "exactly the same", so we need to get to the bottom of the matter, and we probably do not have time to do that properly. It may well be that the Government, having imposed the programme motion on the Committee, will be able to use lack of time as an excuse for not giving adequate answers on that important matter. A whole area of considerable doubt and proper concern about contradictions in what the Government have told us will never be clarified and Parliament will not be able to do its job.

No doubt you selected Amendment No. 6, Mrs. Heal, because it, too, enshrines the principle that the same kind of protection that applies to civil police should be extended to Ministry of Defence police when they serve or act alongside civil police. The amendment deals with responsibility for torts and its purpose is simple. At present, individual constabularies are responsible for the deeds or misdeeds of their officers. If officers serve outside their own constabularies and alongside other police forces, under section 97 of the Police Act 1996, the Secretary of State is directly responsible for any damage that they may cause or any tort suit that may be made against them. We are simply extending that principle to the MOD police when deployed in equivalent circumstances alongside other police forces. Indeed, the amendment follows exactly the text of the equivalent passage in section 97 of the 1996 Act. The great problem is that we do not understand the true position, because the Government are speaking with forked tongue again.

I am glad that the Secretary of State is now back in his place, because on 7 March, speaking about the accountability of the Ministry of Defence police, he told the Select Committee: the Ministry of Defence Police are accountable through me to Parliament".That is recorded in paragraph 1115, on page 161 of volume II of the Committee's report. It sounds absolutely splendid, but the evidence that we heard directly from the deputy chief constable of the MOD police, Mr. Comben, was not quite in line with it. My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) asked Mr. Comben: What I am now seeking to establish is the independence of the Ministry of Defence Police. My colleague, Mr. Davies, went through this and we established that you are accountable to the Secretary of State. This is very important because if the Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police is completely operationally independent. I think you suggested that he would not get instructions from anybody, he would not even take instructions from the Secretary of State or officials in the Ministry of Defence, is that correct? Mr. Comben responded: That is absolutely so. In other words, Mr. Comben was saying that the Secretary of State could not give instructions to the Ministry of Defence police.

Photo of Quentin Davies Quentin Davies Conservative, Grantham and Stamford

I will give way, if I can finish my quotations first. Then the Secretary of State may be able to answer my question.

In a written answer to the hon. Member for Richmond Park on 3 November 1999, the Minister for the Armed Forces used the phrase: we instructed the Ministry of Defence Police to investigate the matter."—[Official Report, 3 November 1999; Vol. 337. c. 214W.] There is a clear contradiction here. The Secretary of State says that the MOD police are directly accountable to him, and a parliamentary answer refers to instructions given by the Secretary of State to the MOD police, but the deputy chief constable of the MOD police says that he would not accept instructions from the Secretary of State. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has returned to the Chamber, because he may be able to resolve this urgent matter.

9 pm

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

The hon. Gentleman does not understand something fairly fundamental about the way in which all police forces in the United Kingdom operate. They are accountable to Parliament—in the case of the Ministry of Defence police, to the Secretary of State for Defence, and in the case of most other police forces, to the Home Secretary. Their being accountable means that Members of Parliament can approach the relevant Secretary of State with whatever concerns they may have about the problems that arise.

That is how most Ministers are accountable for the activities of those in their Departments. That is what accountability means, as opposed to operational independence—I suggest that the hon. Gentleman looks up the word "accountability" in a dictionary. Operational independence is a basic principle governing the way in which police forces operate throughout the country. They do not take direct instructions on how to deal with matters. He really should not come to the Dispatch Box unless he understands those basic concepts properly.

Photo of Quentin Davies Quentin Davies Conservative, Grantham and Stamford

It is the Secretary of State who does not understand what is going on—at least, that is the most charitable interpretation that one can make. I have just read out a parliamentary answer from his own Department which refers to instructions, so in practice the Secretary of State does instruct the MOD police to investigate matters and to do other things. That is in absolute contradiction of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said at the Dispatch Box, and of what the deputy chief constable told the Select Committee.

The Secretary of State owes the House an explanation of why, on 3 November 1999, his Department gave what he is now telling us was a fraudulent answer, referring to his having given the MOD police instructions that he now tells the House he is not in a position to give. Far from resolving the matter and explaining the contradiction, the Secretary of State has deepened our suspicions and made it plain that the Government have not been entirely frank with the House over this important matter.

The final amendment in the group, amendment No. 7, deals with protocols. That is also an important matter, precisely because no one knows what is going on. The Government continue to put up a smokescreen, behind which they can do what they want in the MOD and with the MOD police.

Under the previous Government, it was plain what the limitations were on the activities of the MOD police, in terms of the kind of criminal case that they would take up. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Sir A. Hamilton) was the relevant Minister, he stated on 27 January 1987: The Ministry of Defence police would hand over responsibility for such crimes"— that is, serious crimes— at once. If the case involved murder, rape or any such thing there would be no question and the investigation of such crime would be handed, straight away, to the Home Department forces".—[Official Report, 27 January 1987; Vol. 109, c. 279.] That is clear. However, as the proceedings of the Committee reveal, the picture now is very different.

The latest annual report of the Ministry of Defence police states: An increasing number of offences of rape and other serious offences against the person are being investigated by the Force; during the past year 30 allegations of rape have been investigated compared to 16 in the previous year. Again this is not necessarily solely an increase in crime, but— I emphasise this point— more a reflection of offences being investigated by the MDP rather than by other police forces. Once again, we see the Government's characteristic subterfuge and reluctance to tell Parliament what is going on. We have an extension of the powers of the MOD police, contrary to previous explicit ministerial assurances and with no intervening ministerial explanation to make it clear what the position is.

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge very reasonably asked Mr. Comben: Why do you think the MDP should be investigating more offences of rape now than they were a couple of years ago?". Mr. Comben responded: Because of the protocols that we agreed with the Home Department forces". In order to know what is going on, we must know what is in the protocols; hence the importance of the amendment.

One might think that the Government would have no problem with that. Perhaps I was too optimistic about the way in which the Government conduct their business—I expected that the Bill would contain relevant provision. During the Committee proceedings, I received an assurance from the Secretary of State that he had no objection to publishing the protocols. At paragraph 1107 I asked: 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 demarcation are, to publish the relevant protocols? The Secretary of State replied: I see no difficulty about that at all. Perhaps he thought that he could brush me off and I would forget about the matter.

There is no reference in the Bill to the obligation to publish the protocols, so we have introduced that through our amendment. Because we are dealing with an extremely slippery and tricky Government, we require the protocols to be laid before the House. They will then be announced in the relevant documentation and will be available to hon. Members in the Vote Office. Nothing less will suffice. It is crucial that we see those protocols, otherwise Parliament will never have a clear idea of what is going on.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Liberal Democrat, North East Fife

It was not my intention to contribute to this part of the debate, but my attention has been attracted to amendment No. 6, to which the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) spoke briefly. The purpose of the amendment appears to be to create a responsibility on the part of the Secretary of State to be vicariously responsible and also to be regarded as jointly responsible. There is a legal distinction between vicarious and joint liability, but amendment No. 6 does not appear to recognise that.

In these days of devolution, we must have regard to a further point. I understand this to be a United Kingdom Bill that should, if it completes all the necessary stages of its passage, become a United Kingdom statute. However, amendment No. 6 deals only with England and Wales and not with Scotland, which has the principle not of tort, but of delict. In so far as the amendment seeks to make clear the responsibility of the Secretary of State, it seems to me that it has confused vicarious liability with joint liability, or at least that it has sought to combine them. It has, therefore, offered a remedy for circumstances south of the border, but not north of it. It would be extraordinary if the House were to agree to an amendment that created liabilities for the Secretary of State south of the Tweed, but allowed him to escape scot free—no pun intended—north of the border.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

Will my hon. Friend the Minister clarify the provision that amendment No. 4 seeks to change? It is important for hon. Members whose constituencies contain military establishments to be clear about the process for complaints by members of the public about the behaviour of an MOD police officer who has been acting under the powers conferred by the clause. Can the public complain to the Police Complaints Authority? If not, to which body will they have a right to complain? If there are procedures for complaints and appeals that might result in disciplinary action regarding the actions of Metropolitan police officers, for example, it would be inappropriate if there were no similar procedures for complaint against MOD officers acting at the request of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. Will my hon. Friend clarify that point?

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

On time-wasting, I point out to the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) that we wasted an hour of the time allocated to this Bill when we dealt with the programme motion. We have also listened to his speech for 20 minutes. I suspect that if both had been a little shorter, we might have had time to cover the rest of the important points with which we were hoping to deal, instead of listening to the self-indulgence of Opposition Members.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 deal with provisions that enable police officers from forces other than the MOD police to call on MDP officers for assistance. The provisions in question confer on MDP officers in such circumstances the powers and privileges that are held by the officer who is being assisted. The amendments are intended to subject the MDP officer to the same code of conduct and disciplinary procedures as those to which the other police officer is subject. That would mean that MDP officers were subject to the disciplinary procedures of another force.

We believe that such provision is unnecessary. There are currently differences between the disciplinary procedures of the MOD police and those of other forces. That is not at all desirable. Accordingly, schedule 5—I refer in particular to paragraphs 1, 3 and 4 of that schedule—is drafted expressly to allow MDP disciplinary procedures to be brought fully into line with those that have existed in Home Department police forces since 1 April 1999. Expectations about the conduct of MDP officers are no less than those that apply to Home Department officers. Indeed, MDP officers are trained to the same syllabus and operate within the same legal framework. Complaints against them are handled similarly and supervised by the Police Complaints Authority. The amendments would add nothing to that process.

On amendment No. 6, I do not intend to get into an argument with any of the legal experts on both sides of the House about the difference between tort and delict. My experience of tort is limited to that which has an "e" on the end.

9.15 pm

Amendment No. 6 intends to make the Secretary of State liable for torts that Ministry of Defence police officers commit, in the same way as, in the quaint terminology of the law, a master is liable in respect of torts committed by his servants. In plain language, the Secretary of State would be as liable as if he were the employer of the Ministry of Defence officers. As they are civil servants, the Secretary of State is already liable for their wrongdoing, in the same way and in the same circumstances as an employer.

The amendment appears to be based on a provision of the Police Act 1997. It makes the Home Secretary liable for the actions of police officers who are not part of a Department when they are working for a Department or, for example, on temporary service for the Home Secretary.

Perhaps there is some misunderstanding about responsibility for Ministry of Defence police. However, I assure the Committee that the Secretary of State, like any employer, is already legally responsible for their actions. The amendment is therefore unnecessary as well as inapplicable to Scotland.

Amendment No. 7 refers to the protocols between Ministry of Defence police and other police forces in different parts of the United Kingdom. The protocols set out guidelines on the respective responsibilities of Ministry of Defence police and other forces. Three such protocols exist: one for England and Wales, another for Scotland and a third for Northern Ireland. They will be renegotiated if the proposals on Ministry of Defence police pass into law. The amendment would provide for them to be laid before Parliament formally. It is not clear whether it is intended to apply to existing protocols or to the renegotiated documents, but the overall intention is clear.

The Select Committee took an interest in the protocols and received assurances about putting them in the public domain. We shall abide by that commitment, but we should prefer it not to be a statutory obligation; that would be the effect of the amendment. The protocols will have to be renegotiated and Ministry of Defence police will be only one of the parties to the negotiations. We need to be sure that the other parties are content with the idea of publishing the documents in their entirety.

I do not want to be difficult about the matter. If we have learned one lesson from the Ministry of Defence police proposals, it is that the appetite for information about MOD police affairs is apparently endless. We shall to try to do even better in future to satisfy that.

I understand the spirit behind amendment No. 7, but I hope that the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford will accept our desire and intention to be helpful and withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Quentin Davies Quentin Davies Conservative, Grantham and Stamford

Someone should remind the Minister and his grinning colleagues on the Treasury Bench that hubris is followed by nemesis. Earlier, I accused the Government of arrogance. It has got worse during the course of the evening. The Minister even had the temerity to suggest that we should not have protested against the attempt to programme or guillotine the Bill and that we should not have debated the programme motion. That speaks for itself.

Photo of Quentin Davies Quentin Davies Conservative, Grantham and Stamford

No, there is no time.

Another insidious aspect of the meretricious procedure is that if we vote for our amendments or against the clauses, we take a quarter of an hour out of our limited time. It does not take a mathematical genius to calculate that if we voted for six amendments or against six clauses, there would be no debate. The Government do not want to hear arguments; they would be delighted if we spent all our time voting.

Although we have not completed our discussion of the important points raised by the amendments, I shall reluctantly but necessarily ask the House to allow me to withdraw the amendment. We can then try to make as much progress as possible on dragging the truth out of a reluctant Government.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury

I do not believe that the clause should stand part of the Bill. The House is clearly not of one mind on the issue. The clause is the one genuinely contentious provision in the Bill. It absorbed the vast majority of our time in Committee and led hon. Members on both sides to ask a lot of penetrating questions. It would be no exaggeration to say that our confidence in the Ministry of Defence police was to some extent called into question as a result of some of the representations made to us. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee felt that there was a lot of serious unfinished business surrounding this issue.

The right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), my old sparring partner, reads me completely wrongly on this matter. I said that successive Governments had been unfair to the Ministry of Defence police because we had not been clear about what we expected them to do. Of course I accept his statement that certain aspects of the matter have moved on a great deal since 1987. Of course they have—and a good thing, too. However, there is still a great deal of uncertainty, and the Bill does not address that. That is why the clause should not stand part of the Bill. This matter should have been the subject of a separate Bill. The provision should have been bigger and should have addressed other issues. The Government should not just have looked at a little bit of the Ministry of Defence Police Act 1987 and tacked on some clauses. We should have been given an opportunity to examine the issue of policing of the military in the widest sense.

The clause arose from the most extraordinary circumstances. That matters, too. What was the motive of the Ministry of Defence for introducing it in the first place? That was revealed to us in a speech by the outgoing chief constable of the Ministry of Defence police to the Defence Police Federation at the end of last year, about the growing role of the CID in the Ministry of Defence police and about the protocols established with chief constables: We have established the Protocols with police forces of the respective UK countries which we police but we still have anomalies in respect of our jurisdiction which is presently legislated for in the MDP Act of 1987. A more recent and poignant example was that of a request from 2nd PUS"— permanent under-secretary— for us to supply police officers on a mutual aid basis during the fuel crisis. I wrote back to the 2nd PUS and told him that he could have as many officers as reasonably practicable but he wouldn't be able to use them for the specific role that the Home Office had intended (that of aiding fuel convoys or policing picketed oil refineries). Having explained our dilemma in great legislative detail it wasn't long before the 2nd PUS was on the case. It has always been a point of great concern that fundamental issues such as where and when we can exercise the power of Constable have taken such a long time to be formally recognised. At last we have the final pieces of the jigsaw in place and ironically, it is the Armed Forces Bill 2001 which is the vehicle we are using to make these final changes. So said the chief constable in one of his last speeches before he retired. He identified the reason why the clause has been tacked on to this important Bill, which allows the continuation of the military service discipline Acts and a number of sensible reforms that we have not opposed. We have agreed with the vast majority of the Bill; we have stuck to the timetable; and we have done what an Opposition should have done in Committee. However, this clause should not stand part of the Bill. It is not complete; it has not been thought through or debated; and it leaves a lot of stones unturned.

Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury

The Minister says that it has been debated. It has been debated fully in Committee, but not on the Floor of the House. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have strong feelings about that. There is a lack of clarity in the clause, and it leaves a lot to be desired, as we have demonstrated in the speeches that we have made in the short time available. That is why, in spite of the warm welcome that we have given to many of the provisions, a lot of people in the House and outside it have severe misgivings about this part of the Bill. We have seen those misgivings written about in the press by distinguished commentators and journalists. Those in the Association of Chief Police Officers have also said that they have reservations. We have not had adequate time to discuss the matter in the wider context, and that is why the clause should not stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

I am not quite certain from the remarks of my adversary or sparring partner, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), whether he is recommending voting against clause stand part. I urge him not to call a vote not because that would waste 20 minutes when we have little time available, but because it would be awful to make the MOD police an issue of party political controversy. [Interruption.] I did not interrupt the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies), but he becomes semi-hysterical on these matters. He virtually accused my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of lying by suggesting that the Police Complaints Authority had nothing to do with the MOD police. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain these remarks in the chief constable's annual report: Of the 54 complaints recorded last year … 23 were informally resolved and, in two cases, the independent Police Complaints Authority (PCA) granted its 'dispensation from investigation'. Obviously, the PCA is more than peripherally involved. I am sorry, I have mispronounced "peripherally"; it is on a par with "nemesis". Perhaps this is my pronunciation nemesis.

Conservative Members have had a good fling. I did not like the Committee procedure and I expressed my dislike more strongly than anybody, but the Bill spent a long time in Committee and we have had a debate today. I hope that the Opposition will decide that, of all the issues to which they could object, this is not one of them, and that they will not call a vote that would throw the MOD police into the political arena, which, frankly, they do not deserve. If there is any group of police officers that has been more investigated, I should like to know which. I hope that we can let the MOD police go along with their marginally additional powers. I hope that the coppers, journalists and Opposition Members who want to do so have had their whinge now. Let us not make the MOD police a political issue.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

Having listened to the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) put his point of view, I can understand where he is coming from in respect of the MOD police. He has taken a keen interest in the force and has been a long-standing champion of it. He will, of course, take a great interest in the remaining stages of the Private Security Industry Bill, not least because of his interest in security issues.

Having been with the right hon. Gentleman when he pursued those interests in Moscow with the Russian Minister of Internal Affairs, I know that his knowledge is widespread. However, I have bean convinced by the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key). I have criticised amendments that he tabled, so I hope that the Committee realises that I come to the issue with an independent perspective.

My experience of the MOD police as a serving soldier, a special adviser in the Ministry and a Member of Parliament has yet to convince me that it is a force with the same talents and abilities as the others in the country. There are proper and serious questions to be addressed and my hon. Friend is absolutely right that it is wholly wrong to tack on to the Bill procedures to deal with the MOD police.

The Bill goes through a five-year cycle and, typically, it is not controversial between the parties. As to making the matter party political, it is all very well the right hon. Member for Walsall, South appealing to Conservative Members' better nature. Of course, there is a considerable amount of it, but the fact is that the measure should not be part of the Bill, which should be free standing, just as the 1987 Bill was.

Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South

As a member and as Chairman of the Defence Committee, I have struggled successfully to avoid any vote since 1982. I take a consensual approach. I was a member of the Select Committee that considered the previous Bill and which tacked on a measure on the sale of Greenwich naval college, so there is a well-established precedent for tacking on.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Conservative, South Staffordshire

The right hon. Gentleman should have voted against that.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

From behind me, my hon. Friend says that the right hon. Gentleman should have voted against that. I do not agree; I am afraid that the measure was necessary.

9.30 pm

We are going to run out of time—which is disgraceful, as ever—but I have experienced an armed raid—

It being half-past Nine o'clock, THE FIRST DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS put the Question, pursuant to Orders [7 November 2000 and this day]:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 308, Noes 128.

Division No. 171][9.30 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeClarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Ainger, NickClelland, David
Allen, GrahamClwyd, Ann
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald (Swansea E)Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryColeman, Iain
Atkins, CharlotteColman, Tony
Austin, JohnConnarty, Michael
Bailey, AdrianCook, Frank (Stockton N)
Banks, TonyCorbett, Robin
Barnes, HarryCorston, Jean
Barron, KevinCox, Tom
Battle, JohnCranston, Ross
Bayley, HughCrausby, David
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretCryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)Cummings, John
Bennett, Andrew FCunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, GeraldCunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Berry, RogerDarling, Rt Hon Alistair
Best, HaroldDarvill, Keith
Betts, CliveDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Blackman, LizDavidson, Ian
Blizzard, BobDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Boateng, Rt Hon PaulDavies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, BenDawson, Hilton
Brinton, Mrs HelenDean, Mrs Janet
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Denham, Rt Hon John
Browne, DesmondDobbin, Jim
Buck, Ms KarenDobson, Rt Hon Frank
Burden, RichardDonohoe, Brian H
Burgon, ColinDoran, Frank
Butler, Mrs ChristineDowd, Jim
Caborn, Rt Hon RichardDrew, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Campbell—Savours, DaleEagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Cann, JamieEdwards, Huw
Caplin, IvorEllman, Mrs Louise
Casale, RogerEnnis, Jeff
Caton, MartinEtherington, Bill
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Field, Rt Hon Frank
Clapham, MichaelFisher, Mark
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Fitzpatrick, Jim
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, PaulMcCabe, Steve
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMcCafferty, Ms Chris
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Fyfe, Maria
Gapes, MikeMacdonald, Calum
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)McDonnell, John
Gerrard, NeilMcFall, John
Gibson, Dr IanMcIsaac, Shona
Gilroy, Mrs LindaMcKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Godsiff, RogerMackinlay, Andrew
Goggins, PaulMcNamara, Kevin
Golding, Mrs LlinMcNulty, Tony
Gordon, Mrs EileenMacShane, Denis
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)McWalter, Tony
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)McWilliam, John
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Mahon, Mrs Alice
Grocott, BruceMallaber, Judy
Grogan, JohnMandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Gunnell, JohnMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Hain, PeterMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)Marshal, Jim (Leicester S)
Hanson, DavidMartlew, Eric
Harman, Rt Hon Ms HarrietMaxton, John
Healey, JohnMeacher, Rt Hon Michael
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)Meale, Alan
Hendrick, MarkMichael, Rt Hon Alun
Hepburn, StephenMichie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Heppell, JohnMilburn, Rt Hon Alan
Hewitt, Ms PatriciaMiller, Andrew
Hill, KeithMoffatt, Laura
Hinchliffe, DavidMoonie, Dr Lewis
Hoon, Rt Hon GeoffreyMorgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Hope, PhilMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hopkins, KelvinMorris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Mountford, Kali
Howells, Dr KimMudie, George
Hoyle, LindsayMullin, Chris
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Humble, Mrs JoanNaysmith, Dr Doug
Hurst, AlanO'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Hutton, JohnO'Hara, Eddie
Iddon, Dr BrianOlner, Bill
Illsley, EricO'Neill, Martin
Ingram, Rt Hon AdamOrgan, Mrs Diana
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Osborne, Ms Sandra
Jamieson, DavidPalmer, Dr Nick
Jenkins, BrianPerham, Ms Linda
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)Pickthall, Colin
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)Pollard, Kerry
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Pond, Chris
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Pope, Greg
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Pound, Stephen
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Powell, Sir Raymond
Joyce, EricPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Keeble, Ms SallyPrimarolo, Dawn
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)Prosser, Gwyn
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)Quinn, Lawrie
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Khabra, Piara SRammell, Bill
Kidney, DavidRapson, Syd
Kilfoyle, PeterRaynsford, Nick
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Kumar, Dr AshokRobertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs JackieRobinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Laxton, BobRoche, Mrs Barbara
Leslie, ChristopherRooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)Rooney, Terry
Lock, DavidRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Love, AndrewRowlands, Ted
McAvoy, ThomasRoy, Frank
Ruane, ChrisTemple-Morris, Peter
Ruddock, JoanThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Ryan, Ms JoanTimms, Stephen
Salter, MartinTipping, Paddy
Sarwar, MohammadTodd, Mark
Savidge, MalcolmTrickett, Jon
Sedgemore, BrianTruswell, Paul
Sheerman, BarryTurner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertTurner, Neil (Wigan)
Short, Rt Hon ClareTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Tiwgg, Stephen (Enfield)
Skinner, DennisTynan, Bill
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)Vis, Dr Rudi
Smith, Angela (Basildon)Walley, Ms Joan
Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)Watts, David
Smith, John (Glamorgan)White, Brian
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)Whitehead, Dr Alan
Snape, PeterWicks, Malcolm
Soley, CliveWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms RachelWills, Michael
Starkey, Dr PhyllisWinnick, David
Steinberg, GerryWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Stevenson, GeorgeWood, Mike
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)Woodward, Shaun
Stinchcombe, PaulWoolas, Phil
Stoate, Dr HowardWorthington, Tony
Stringer, GrahamWright, Tony (Cannock)
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)Mr. Don Touhig and
Taylor, David (NW Leics)Mr. Ian Pearson.
NOES
Amess, DavidFight, Howard
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Beith, Rt Hon A JFraser, Christopher
Beresford, Sir PaulGale, Roger
Blunt, CrispinGibb, Nick
Boswell, TimGillan, Mrs Cheryl
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaGreen, Damian
Brady, GrahamGrieve, Dominic
Brazier, JulianGummer, Rt Hon John
Browning, Mrs AngelaHammond, Philip
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Hancock, Mike
Burnett, JohnHawkins, Nick
Burns, SimonHayes John
Butterfill, JohnHeald, Oliver
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cash, WilliamHowarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Chope, ChristopherJohnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Keetch, Paul
Key, Robert
Clifton—Brown, GeoffreyLait, Mrs Jacqui
Collins, TimLeigh, Edward
Cormack, Sir PatrickLetwin, Oliver
Cran, JamesLewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Curry, Rt Hon DavidLidington, David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)Livsey, Richard
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Duncan, AlanLlwyd, Elfyn
Duncan Smith, IainLoughton, Tim
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterLuff, Peter
Evans, NigelLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fabricant, MichaelMcCrea, Dr William
Fallon, MichaelMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fearn, RonnieMcIntosh, Miss Anne
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidStunell, Andrew
McLoughlin, PatrickSwayne, Desmond
Maples, JohnSyms, Robert
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir BrianTapsell, Sir Peter
Moss, MalcolmTaylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Nicholls, PatrickTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Oaten, MarkTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)Taylor, Sir Teddy
Ottaway, RichardThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Page, RichardTownend, John
Paice, JamesTredinnick, David
Paisley, Rev IanTrend, Michael
Pickles, EricTyler, Paul
Randall, JohnTyrie, Andrew
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnViggers, Peter
Robathan, AndrewWalter, Robert
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)Walterson, Nigel
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)Webb, Steve
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Whitney, Sir Raymond
Ross, William (E Lond'y)Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Russell, Bob (Colchester)Wilkinson, John
St Aubyn, NickWillis, Phil
Sanders, AdrianWilshire, David
Sayeed, JonathanWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Shepherd, RichardWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, NicholasTeller for the Noes:
Spelman, Mrs CarolineMr. James Gray and
Spring, RichardMr. Owen Paterson.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 31 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 32 ordered to stand part of the Bill.