HC Deb 18 December 2001 vol 377 cc176-7W
Dr. Palmer

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the Quinquennial Review of the Ministry of Defence Police Agency. [24370]

Dr. Moonie

I announced terms of reference for Stage 1 of this review on 26 April 2001,Official Report, columns 307–08W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Regents Park and Kensington North (Ms Buck). The conduct and outcome of the review have not been connected with proposals relating to the MDP's jurisdiction in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill.

In line with central guidance on Quinquennial Reviews (QQRs), the central question for the review to date has been how far the Ministry of Defence continues to require the services of an in-house civil police force. The clear conclusion from Stage 1 of the review is that the MOD has a strong need for the MDP's services. Following careful analysis of the spectrum of crime risks facing the MOD, it is clear that the MDP provides by far the most cost-effective means of dealing with the most serious threats, of armed attack, public disorder, major theft and financial fraud. The study has clarified that the core role of the MDP is to apply civil police training and constabulary powers to combat these risks.

The MDP will, however, continue to provide other policing services both within MOD, and as now to external customers on repayment terms. They will also continue for the foreseeable future to provide a source of trained police manpower to deploy overseas, where required, in support of foreign policy objectives, as currently in Kosovo.

Although the new articulation of the MDP's core role focuses on specific categories of crime, this does not in any sense preclude the involvement of its officers in dealing with other types of offences on the Defence Estate, where it makes sense for them to do so.

We have also concluded that the MDP should remain an Agency within the MOD, in view of the benefits of improved management and increased visibility and accountability which this has already delivered. Important work continues in Stage 2 of the QQR, including an examination of the role of the MDP in providing policing support to MOD married quarters, the number and day-to-day employment of officers held in reserve to deal with unforeseen contingencies, and the operation of the Ministry of Defence Police Committee.

The QQR has underlined very clearly the vital importance of the MDP in helping to counter the risks to MOD of public disorder and armed attack. Sadly, the need for both these outputs has been highlighted recently by increased protest activity at certain Defence sites, and of course by the events of 11 September. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the officers of the force, and civilians who support them, for the crucial work they are doing during these challenging and dangerous times.

I am placing a copy of the Stage 1 report in the Library of the House.