Clause 13 - Interpretation

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 15th February 2001.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 2:45 pm, 15th February 2001

I want briefly to add to the important points made by my hon. Friends the Members for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) and for Reigate (Mr. Blunt). Like my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire, I have large numbers of troops based in my constituency. The Royal Logistic Corps has its headquarters there, and we also have the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst next door, and various parts of the support systems for the defence medical services, including some ordinary soldiers working as ward orderlies and nurses at the Ministry of Defence health unit at Frimley Park hospital. My constituency does not contain as great a proportion of the UK-based British Army as that of my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire, but it holds quite a number.

Sadly, late on Friday and Saturday nights in Camberley, which is the main town in my constituency, substantial incidents involving private soldiers occasionally occur. Usually, they are the victims of attack by non-soldiers, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate said of his experiences, Ministry of Defence police may become involved with certain issues.

My hon. Friend made the important distinction, about which he knows more than I do, between regimental police, the Royal Military Police and Ministry of Defence police, who may police bases. The entrances to the Royal Military Academy and the former staff college at Camberley are on the main A30 and the Ministry of Defence police are responsible for the guard posts on that road as the academy is a service base. Camberley town centre comes right up to the A30, and the guarding officers on the spot, who are Ministry of Defence police, have assisted civilian police during trouble that often begins outside the main nightclub, so as my hon. Friend said, it might be necessary for their powers to be included.

After listening to my hon. Friends and to me, I hope that the Minister and his officials will undertake to consider the matter during next week's recess and that the Government may table an appropriate amendment on Report, although they may not agree to that today. His initial response to my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire was firm, but I hope that, having heard all four of us describe our personal experiences, he will be prepared to consult his officials. He might consult officials in the Ministry of Defence who dealt with the Armed Forces Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate referred to the previous Armed Forces Bill, which was considered in 1996. He served on the Committee and I was the Government Whip for that quinquennial measure, which performs the important function of bringing military law in line with civilian law. I hope that the Minister will contact his opposite numbers to gain from their experience and discuss the interlinking between the two different kinds of police.