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Police and Guarding Agency

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 21 November 2013

On 27 March 2012, Official Report, columns 116-19WS, following a thorough and wide ranging review of the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) civil policing and guarding policy, the then Minister responsible for defence personnel, welfare and veterans my right hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr Robathan) announced some broad measures to adjust the number of policing and guarding posts at certain defence establishments, in order to maintain effective and proportionate protection, against the main security and crime risks faced by the Department.

Following that announcement, formal proposals for change were developed for consultation with the staff association and the trade unions representing the MOD police and the MOD guard service (MGS). Formal consultation commenced in October 2012, and concluded in June 2013.

This was a complex consultation. I should like to place on record my thanks to the trade union and staff association officials for the professional and constructive approach they have taken throughout the process. I know that my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) met them during the consultation to hear the views and concerns they wanted to express on behalf of their members.

Following the consultation, we have decided to implement the measures set out by my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire, though in some cases with changes arising from the consultation process. For security reasons I cannot give details of our new arrangements, but I can say that while there will be prudent reductions in security personnel at some sites (reflecting the latest assessment of risk), many establishments will now have strengthened overall protection, particularly against the terrorist threat.

I very much regret that, as part of these changes, significant numbers of civilian posts in the MGS have been removed, with their duties passing to military personnel, who can be armed when necessary to counter the terrorist threat.

I would like, however, to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the MGS for the excellent contribution it has made over many years to security across the MOD, and will continue to make at the large number of defence sites where it will still operate.

I would stress that everything possible is being done to support those individuals in the MGS who have been adversely affected by these changes, including those potentially facing redundancy because their circumstances mean they are unable to move to a different location where work is available.

I should also like to place on record my thanks to members of the MDP and the military provost guard service (MPGS) for the very important roles they too perform in support of security across the defence estate.

Overall, these changes represent an improvement in security risk management in the MOD, and they have allowed significant recruitment campaigns to begin in the MDP, the MGS and also in the MPGS who will now play a more prominent role in guarding military establishments.

The House can be assured that the MOD attaches the very highest importance to security, and will continue to ensure that risks are kept under review and that effective protection is maintained at all our establishments.