MP in fraud warning over military police service cuts

A former defence minister has fired warnings about resources for military police amid a dramatic drop in fraud investigations into armed forces personnel.

The number of regulars serving in the three service police branches has fallen by 541 since 2010 - equivalent to 18% of the total number today.

Further figures released to Parliament show the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Police, which provides specialist policing at various sensitive MoD sites across the UK, has had its budget cut by a quarter over the same timeframe.

These cuts have coincided with a sharp decline in the number of fraud investigations.

In 2010 there were 226 armed forces personnel investigated for fraud, resulting in 28 convictions.

Last year, these figures had dropped to 81 investigations and 10 convictions.

An MoD spokesman said the drop in fraud cases was good news, adding that the service police were still well resourced.

But Labour MP Kevan Jones said: "We know that since the Government came to power £46 million has been wiped from the MoD Police budget.

"Ministers should say if they've ordered officers to turn a blind eye to incidences of fraud within the armed forces and explain the record low rate of investigations and convictions."

Figures obtained by Mr Jones via a series of written parliamentary questions show the amount of money recovered from fraudulent activity in the armed forces has fallen from £409,000 in 2010 to just £17,000 last year.

Further answers show that between April 2010 and December 2016, the number of regulars serving in the Royal Air Force Police dropped from 1,479 to 1,160.

The Royal Military Police has been cut from 1,701 regulars to 1,529, while Royal Navy Police numbers have fallen from 334 to 284.

The Royal Navy Police has been charged with investigating the remaining cases from the discredited Iraq Historic Allegations Team, which is due to be wound up this summer.

The Ministry of Defence Police's budget, meanwhile, has been slashed from £182.5 million to £136.5 million.

One of the force's core capabilities is the prevention, investigation and detection of fraud and corruption at key MoD sites.

An MoD spokesman said: "It is good news that fraud cases have dropped year-on-year since 2010; any serious allegations are investigated by the service police who are well-trained and resourced to do so."

Mr Jones previously raised concerns about service police resources when it emerged items such as a replica sniper rifle, summer house and a "full steel industrial kitchen" had been stolen from MoD sites over the past two years.

"The Government's reductions to regular military police since 2010 was always going to put additional pressures on those who remained in service, and the Government needs to look again at whether service police have the resources needed," he said.