HC Deb 28 March 1995 vol 257 cc810-1
2. Ms Rachel Squire

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the MOD police. [14625]

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Nicholas Soames)

The Ministry of Defence police is a disciplined body of about 5,000 civilian police officers, who are also civil servants. It is a national police force with full constabulary powers and all its officers are trained to carry arms.

Ms Squire

Does the Minister agree that full and detailed information should now be provided about the future of the Ministry of Defence police, as members of the force have received only bland general assurances? Does the Minister further agree that the police force performs a unique dual-purpose function throughout the country, a combination of police and security roles? Will he assure the House that the future of the force at UK-wide defence establishments is secure?

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to the hon. Lady, and I understand completely her desire to resolve the difficulties at Rosyth. Although a number of MDP will remain at Rosyth, interim reductions are planned, as she knows, for October 1995 and January 1996, but no final decisions have yet been taken.

On the other half of the hon. Lady's question, I entirely endorse her opinions. Ministry of Defence police are essential protection for Ministry of Defence property, for equipment and for the men and women and their families who live and work on the defence estate. The recent Blelloch study firmly underlined the continuing need for the Ministry of Defence police, whose services we greatly value.

Mr. Key

Will my hon. Friend take it from me that the Ministry of Defence police will always be welcome in Wiltshire, where they perform an important function, not just within the Ministry of Defence estate, but at the vital interface between the civilian, the Home Office police force and the rest of the community? Their presence is welcome as a deterrent against crime.

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. The Ministry of Defence police are an important part of any of the communities where there is a defence presence. They constitute the sixth largest police force in the United Kingdom; they have full constabulary powers and they operate extremely effectively with our own ordinary local police. I am pleased to endorse my hon. Friend's views and am most grateful to him for drawing them to the attention of the House.