Police Oracle - Future of three forces in doubt if Tories win election.The formation of the biggest new police force in years could take place if the Conservatives win the General Election.
The party has pledged to create a national infrastructure police force by “bringing together” the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, Ministry of Defence Police and British Transport Police.
It is an idea that has been examined for some time by the government – with the national media briefed in 2015 that it would be a fully armed force designed to respond to a terror attack using powerful firearms. However the forces involved were informed the idea was being shelved for the next few years two months ago.
Proposals examined by the government in the strategic defence and security review included the possibility of bringing Highways England officers and Home Office forces’ road policing units into the new force.
PoliceOracle.com has asked the Conservative Party for more details about the nature of the new force, including if the proposal is for full-blown mergers, but we are yet to receive any response. Academic and retired officer Tim Brain said: “I think this could be a very significant development.
“When they are talking about a firearms officer numbers they already include national forces, so I expect that this will be presented as part of an uplift and form a sort-of tactical reserve. “I expect they will try and use that national force to try and offset some of the cuts to local forces. “If you look across the channel at what France has with its Gendarmerie and the capability we have seen it use, I think that may have inspired this.” Individual forces have slashed their number of firearms officers in recent years and have not swiftly delivered the uplift in numbers the government pledged following the Paris attacks.
Defence Police Federation chairman Eamon Keating told PoliceOracle.com his priority will be to find out details as soon as possible if the Tories win the election. “This has been looked at several times by different reviews including the last one which went on for just over a year and ended up with a decision that the three forces would work more closely together and collaborate more, and that it would be looked at again after the Brexit negotiations – so at least 2020,” he said. “If the Conservative Party win the election and if this forms part of the new policy going forward we will look to engage immediately with whoever is responsible and ascertain what the implications are.”
British Transport Police chief executive Charlotte Vitty told a parliamentary committee earlier this year that rail companies – who fund the force - were not keen on the proposal. Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock added that the force is already going through the complicated process of being merged into Police Scotland north of the border, and also pointed out that if it was straightforward to integrate the force into others it would already have been.
The Civil Nuclear Constabulary and MOD Police operate across the UK whereas BTP will soon just operate in England and Wales – so where the new force’s activities would start and end is also unclear. The Scottish Conservatives have repeatedly spoken out against the merger of BTP into Police Scotland. At one stage they issued a statement claiming that “transport policing is arguably more of a transport issue than a policing one” and describing the force as “one of the most successful arms of the justice system”.
Drew Hendry the SNP candidate for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, said:"This pledge in the Tory manifesto leaves their position on integrating British Transport Police into Police Scotland in utter chaos, and shows up their overblown rhetoric on our plans for exactly what it is. "How can they possibly support their colleagues in England doing effectively the same thing whilst opposing the Scottish Government doing this here? "Now more than ever, it is vital to have strong SNP voices standing up for Scotland at Westminster - only then can we protect Scotland from the dangers of an unopposed Tory government at Westminster."