Nuclear base police cut backs spark fears

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The Independent Online

Defence chiefs are considering cutting numbers of the specialist police who guard military facilities including the UK's nuclear deterrent, an industry leader warned today.

The prospect of reducing the size of the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) is "incredibly worrying", said Eamon Keating, national chairman of the Defence Police Federation.

The Sun reported that 900 MDP officers - a quarter of the total - were facing the axe under an ongoing review into defence spending.

Mr Keating said he was aware that a report into MoD security providers - including the MDP, soldiers and private firms - had been completed and distributed to defence officials.

But he added: "We haven't been given the courtesy of seeing it."

He said the lack of consultation with the Defence Police Federation, which represents the MDP's 3,600 officers, over the possible changes was "incredibly frustrating".

The federation has written to Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, Under Secretary of State for Defence Kevan Jones and senior MoD officials, but so far has had no official response.

Mr Keating said: "I am genuinely worried that there is a potential they are looking to reduce the police by a significant number, which is incredibly worrying not only for my members but also for the security of the MoD."

The MDP is a civilian police force responsible for the security of MoD facilities around the UK.

This includes Royal Navy bases, nuclear installations and even married quarters in barracks.

MDP officers have also served overseas, including in Iraq, Bosnia, Jordan and Kosovo, and a number are currently working in Afghanistan.

Mr Keating said the force was "the world leader" in the type of policing it carries out.

He warned that it would be a "false economy" for the MoD to replace MDP officers with service personnel or private security guards.

He said: "The MoD are looking at cutting costs - on a one-for-one basis a police officer costs significantly more than a soldier or security guard.

"The reality is anywhere they have been replaced in the past, they normally put two or three security guards or soldiers in their place."

Mr Keating will meet Mr Jones on Wednesday to discuss the plans.