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    Conference 2004 - Speeches

    Speech by Ivor Caplin MP, Under Secretary of State, MOD

    Mr Chairman, delegates, fellow guests, thank you for inviting me to attend the Annual Conference of the Defence Police Federation and Eamon, thank you for those opening remarks. This is the second time that I have had the privilege of attending and speaking at your Conference and I am very pleased to be with you today, albeit briefly because of other commitments in the North West. You will be pleased that I therefore intend to deliver a relatively short speech and then go straight into an open forum where I would be happy to answer any questions that you may wish to put to me.

    One of the major themes of my speech to last year's DPF Conference was the magnificent response of the MDP and its officers to the challenges presented by Op Telic. Although the past 12 months has seen a return to more standard policing and security operations for the MDP, the threat of international terrorism is as real today as it was 12 months ago and the policing and security services provided by the new Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency are an integral part of the MOD's response to the threat posed to defence assets by terrorist groups.

    There is also no doubt that the MDP are playing a key role as part of the wider UK policing response to the ongoing terrorist threat. We must never be complacent about the ongoing terrorist threat facing this country and it is vital that each and every MDP officer understands that their own personal contribution to the protection of the defence estate is valued by me and my ministerial colleagues within the MOD. Carrying out a night patrol at a remote MOD establishment in the middle of winter might not be the most glamorous job for a constable in the British police service, but without the personal dedication, vigilance and commitment of your officers, the security of the defence estate and assets would not be what it is today.

    Mr Chairman, delegates, we are all acutely aware of the continuing British military commitment in Iraq, which is aimed at bringing stability and democracy to that country through the planned election early next year. At about this time last year the first MDP officers deployed to Iraq in support of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Since that initial deployment MDP officers have become an integral part of the British policing commitment to Iraq and there are now 17 MDP officers working at various locations in Basra and Baghdad. I know that the commitment and professionalism of these officers has been recognised at the highest levels and I would like to take this opportunity to pass on the thanks and appreciation of the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the contribution they have made to support the Iraqi Interim Government and the ongoing work to re-build the Iraqi Police Service.

    The international element to the MDP's business has steadily increased in profile since the first officers deployed to Kosovo back in the summer of 2000. This is reflected by the fact that with effect from April 2005, "International Commitments" will become a new key output for the MOD Police and Guarding Agency.

    The Force currently has around 90 officers deployed in various locations around the world, with the largest contingents being in Kosovo and Iraq. The Force also has 4 officers deployed to Pitcairn and they are playing a vital role in community policing on the Island in what are, as you know, some very difficult times for the small population.

    I am sure 10 years ago the possibility of MDP international deployments would have been regarded with a fair degree of scepticism in some quarters. However, what we have seen over the past few years demonstrates how the skills and professionalism of MDP officers can be transferred to other areas to play a direct and important part in supporting our Foreign policy.

    In the UK we recently have seen the creation of MDP Divisional Support Groups that have replaced Area Policing Teams. Before I go any further it would be appropriate for me to thank all those officers who worked on the Area Policing Teams and I understand that quite a few have transferred into the newly formed Divisional Support Groups. I am sure their skills and experience will be put to good use in their new role. The Divisional Support Group concept has provided an enhanced flexibility to the MDP's ability to deploy its resources more effectively. During my recent visit to Wetherfield it became clear to me that Divisional Support Groups have already proved successful in supporting important operations such as the MDP contribution to the protection of Central London and also the security operation at this year's Edinburgh Military Tattoo which was I understand the first involvement by MDP in this prestigious event.

    It would be remiss of me not to say a few words about the creation of the new MOD Police and Guarding Agency that formed up on 1 April 2004 and brought about the merger of the MDP and the MGS organisations. The creation of this new Agency will enable the MOD to maximise its policing and security resources and this can only be for the good of security across the Department. The new organisation will no doubt provide opportunities for MDP and MGS officers to work more closely at local levels and I am sure that the Chief Constable will be looking to exploit the resources he now has at his disposal for delivering both armed and armed policing and security services to his customers. Having a single Agency within the Department that has responsibility for providing both armed and unarmed security services is a massive step forward for the MOD and will offer scope for taking a more creative approach to the delivery of these services by making best use of all available resources.

    Mr Chairman, during your speech you mentioned the Review of Public Sector Efficiency completed earlier in the year by Sir Peter Gerschon and you raised concerns on the impact this could have for MDP officers if the number of defence establishments in the UK is reduced. Firstly, it is important to remember that any reduction to the number of defence establishments will not happen overnight. The implementation of the recommendations of the Gershon Review in the MOD is the subject of ongoing work and I can assure you that decisions on changes to the size of the defence estate will not be made without an extremely thorough assessment of all options and linking these with what is best for the MOD in the 21st century. All of the standard consultation processes that we have in place will be followed and I can give you my personal assurance that the Federation will be included in the consultation process.

    Eamon, you also expressed concern about the impact of savings to the MDPGA budget allocation over the coming years and the restrictions placed on the Chief Constable in terms of where he can look to achieve these. It is worth stating that all Government Departments have to make the most efficient and effective use of the funding provided to them by the Treasury. The efficient and effective use of resources is a fact of life for organisations across both the public and private sectors and in this regard the Chief Constable is no different from his colleagues elsewhere in the wider police service. I do not need to remind anyone here of the pressures on the money that is available to support public services in this country. It is absolutely essential that every pound allocated to support Defence in this country is spent with a view to supporting front line military capability.

    I make no apology for this approach and when one sees the daily news bulletins showing the excellent work being done by the British troops now in Iraq, the need for effective financial management across the whole of the MOD is put firmly into perspective. In terms of savings over the next few years, I am aware that the Chief Constable has had discussions with Ian Andrews, the 2nd PUS on how these should be best managed and I am sure that he will brief you on the outcome of the Short Term Planning process in due course.

    I noted the point in your speech about any change to the retirement age of MDP officers beyond aged 60. I am aware that the Head of the MDPGA Personnel Policy department has made representations to the Centre of the MOD about the serious concerns the Agency has with any proposals to raise the retirement age of MDP officer above 60. The link has been made to the retirement age of Home Department police officers and the issues surrounding operational effectiveness. This work remains ongoing and I can assure you that the voice of the MDP will be fully considered in the forthcoming work on this issue and am sure that the Federation will be kept fully informed as this matter develops.

    A brief word on the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme for officers who have joined the Force in the past few years and the impact this could have on pay parity. Whilst I am aware that this issue was considered by the Cabinet Office at the time, I am sure you will raise these concerns through the appropriate channels with the Agency in due course. Since last year's Conference there has of course been a change at the top of the Federation with Jim Miller taking over as General Secretary from David King, and you yourself Eamon being elected to the position of National Chairman earlier this year. I am sure that you are both coming to terms with the demands of your respective roles and am encouraged to hear that the Federation's relationship with the Chief Constable and Force management in general remains very positive. This can only be for the good of your membership.

    Looking forward to the next 12 months, I would expect that the integration of the operational activities of the MDP and the MGS will continue and that this will further enhance the security of the defence estate and will maximise the clear benefits of having both of these organisations in a single Agency. I have already mentioned the addition of International Commitments to the key outputs of the Agency and the work of your officers overseas will continue to play a high profile and vital part of this country's Foreign policy. As I said to this Conference last year, the profile of the MDP is now as high as it has ever been. The creation of the new MOD Police and Guarding Agency has further enhanced the visibility of security and policing in the MOD and as the Minister with responsibility for this Agency I would like to thank all members of the MDP for their efforts over the past 12 months.

    It is difficult work, but it also important that I am here to pay tribute to all your efforts and to conclude by saying thank you. I know you will continue with this excellent work in the future.

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