HC Deb 18 August 1894 vol 28 cc1589-98

20. £25,782 (including a Supplementary sum of £3,000), to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Legal Expenses.

21. £177,874, to complete the sum for Supreme Court of Judicature.

22. £3,771, to complete the sum for Land Registry.

23. £18,062, to complete the sum for County Courts.

24. £2,748, to complete the sum for Police Courts, Loudon and Sheerness.

25. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £34,435, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1895, for the Salaries of the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police, and of the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District, the Pay and Expenses of Officers of Metropolitan Police employed on special duties, and the Salaries and Expenses of the Inspectors of Constabulary.

CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)

said, he had to bring forward a question which, although at first sight appeared to be a purely local matter, was one of general interest. But was it advisable to bring it on so late in the Sitting?


The hon. Member might raise it on Report.


If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to reply to me I am willing to go on with it now.


As there is no representative of the Home Office present could not the hon. Member defer his remarks until the Report stage?


Perhaps I had better move to report Progress.


It is of the utmost importance that the business before the Committee should be got on with, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will allow the Vote to be taken and reserve his remarks on it for the Report stage.


said, he considered that any discussion on this Vote should take place in Committee. He hoped, therefore, that the Vote would be postponed in the absence of any representative of the Home Office.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Captain Norton.)


I hope the Motion will not be pressed. The Under Secretary for the Home Office will be here in a few minutes.


I will withdraw the Motion then, and proceed with my remarks.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


said, he was sorry to disturb either the Home Secretary or Under Secretary, but he had made a special journey from the Continent in order to go into this matter, and it would be most inconvenient if it were not taken that evening. He hoped, therefore, the Committee would excuse him for the action he was taking, action which also found its justification in the importance of the Force with which he had to deal. The Metropolitan Police Force was the largest Police Force in existence; it cost £1,500,000 sterling annually; it did duty over a district covering a radius of 15 miles from Charing Cross; it protected property of immense value, something like £37,000,000 sterling; it patrolled 8,000 miles of streets, and was responsible for the safety and well-being of 5,500,000 of inhabitants, drawn, like the Force itself, from all parts of the United Kingdom. Loudon was practically the trade centre of the globe, and the thousands of foreigners who annually visited the city were loud in their praise of the magnificent service performed by the Force. Members of that body had over and over again proved that their physical and moral courage was at as high a level as their splendid physique. It might be asked of him, "Why this praise of the police?" His reply was that it was in order to cut off one line of retreat for the Treasury Bench. He had noticed during the short time he had been in the House that the Members of the Front Bench, when they were unwilling to deal with an admitted grievance, or when they had no argument to urge, retired behind a cloud of skirmishes in the shape of praise towards the aggrieved. He stated not long since that considerable dissatisfaction had for a long time prevailed among the police with the system whereby the Force was provided with boots. That statement of his was contradicted, but as he had hundreds of the men resident in his constituency, he had personally investigated scores of cases. He had asked for an independent inquiry into the matter, so as to decide once and for all who wanted to enter for the "Ananias" stakes, but he was told that no such inquiry would be tolerated, because it would be subversive of discipline. He ventured to suggest that discipline would in no way be affected by it, and he appealed to hon. Members who had spent years in the Regular Forces to say that that suggestion was confirmed by their own experience. Again, he was told that the men could make complaints through their officers with reference to a matter of that kind, but he ventured to reply to that, that such a thing would not be tolerated in any properly-disciplined Force, and, indeed, no man would so complain unless he was assured that the complaint would be welcomed not only by officers high in authority, but by every officer, even down to the lowest grade. The contracts for police boots had been made for five years, whereas the Army contracts were given out for one year only. He on one occasion asked the reason for making the contract for so long a period, and the Home Secretary, owing to the replies put into his hands by the Police Authorities, had, in his opinion, made himself extremely ridiculous in the eyes of the House and of the public by stating that it was desirable, so that the boots might be delivered before they were required and the leather thus have time to season. Any expert in the leather trade would admit that leather was practically at its best when it left the hands of the producer, and leather merchants did not find it desirable to stock themselves largely in advance of their requirements. How was it that the Army high-low at 10s. 6d. was found to be superior to the police boot, which cost 11s. 11d.? It might be said that it was not superior, but those who wore the shoe best knew where it pinched, and men in the Police Force who had also served in the Army—as many of them had—were unanimous that the Army boot was far superior to the police boot. Perhaps it would be said that the latter was made of leather of a superior quality, and was better suited for the special purpose for which it was required, but here again the men's experience was very different, and their view was confirmed by the public, because both classes of boots were frequently sold to outside dealers, and while the Army high-low fetched 7s. or 8s. when retailed to the public, the police boot only realised 5s. or 6s. He would suggest that the difference both in quality and price was due to the system of contracting. Contracts for Army hand-sewn high-lows were divided amongst 30 firms, and were limited to one year. It was therefore clearly to the interest of the Army contractors to supply as good a class of boot as the price given would allow them to do, in order to secure a renewal of, and if possible an increased order for the next year. Furthermore, the boots were passed by a Board of experts. On the other hand, the police boot contract ran for five years, and the goods supplied were passed by an individual who was called an examiner, and who was a practical bootmaker. He received 1d. per pair for passing the boots. He had to pass something like 30,000 pairs a year, value about £18,000, and had to support his wife and family and pay his travelling expenses out of less than £150 a year. He had no intention of casting any reflections on the character of that distinguished artificer, but he ventured to suggest that a contractor who knew his business would be a strange man if be did not induce such an individual to pass any boots he chose to lay before him. An hon. Friend had just informed him that the examiner was not an artificer, but that he was a traveller for a large house, who thus employed his spare time. Then the hon. Member quite understood how the boots were passed. The Examiner was informed by telegram that a given number of boots required to be passed: he at once put in an appearance, and after a sumptuous mid-day repast proceeded with his task. A pair of boots was placed in his hands—no doubt they had been carefully selected—and having examined them, he urbanely remarked, "I do not know how you do it for the money," and, on the principle of Ex uno disce omnes, proceeded to pass the whole lot on the strength of the one submitted pair. He would suggest that the boots should in future be passed in the same way as the Army boots. He was not attacking the boots: it was the system he was complaining of, and in justice to one firm, Messrs. Pocock Brothers, one of the two firms of contractors, he was bound to say that the complaints of quality which he had personally investigated did not apply to boots supplied by them. Taking the 20 largest municipalities in the Kingdom, he found that in 17 the police were made a "boot allowance," and that the contract system bad been tried and failed. The City of Loudon Police had such an allowance; the amount was 3s. a month. He was not asking so much for the Metropolitan Police; he only suggested that they should receive the contract price. That system had been tried on two occasions during the last 10 or 12 years, and had worked satisfactorily both to the men and to the authorities. In 16 out of 20 Municipalities as to which he had obtained information the men received allowances varying from 24s. to 32s. a year, and in the Royal Irish Constabulary it was 26s., and he was told by Sir Andrew Reed that that gave complete satisfaction to him and to the men under his command. An objection had been made that under such a system the men would not supply themselves with suitable boots, that they would purchase cheap articles and spend the balance of the money in debauchery. But he believed they would do nothing of the kind; that they would have too much consideration for their own health and comfort. He had been asked why, if the boot allowance system were such a good one, it was not applied to the Army? But the cases were different. The Army was largely recruited from youths in their teens, who were not competent to provide themselves with suitable boots, and moreover it would be subversive of discipline to have men constantly running into the town in order to see the bootmaker, nor would it be desirable to have competing tradesmen constantly over-running the barracks. Moreover, troops required large supplies of boots when on active and foreign service when the contract was the only possible system. The policeman was in a totally different position. As a rule, he was a man of mature years with home responsibilities, and he was likely to study carefully his own health, and as he had to be continually walking about the streets he would see that his boots properly fitted him, for he could not resort to the shifts employed by the soldier on active service, such as the cutting of his boots, and so forth, nor could he be placed on some duty which would not necessitate his being much upon his feet when he became foot sore. He was bound to do from eight to ten hours out of every 24 on duty in the streets. He had to thank the Home Secretary for the extreme courtesy he had displayed in answering his applications for information on this matter, but he fully recognised that the right hon. Gentleman, having such multifarious and onerous duties to perform, could not personally investigate these matters. Since Sir E. Bradford, one of the best Police Commissioners they had ever had, found that it was impossible to supply the men with suitable boots by means of contracts he thought that proved the case. Even if the quality of the leather was good, any man would prefer a cheap boot of inferior leather that suited his requirements to a boot at double the price and of superior leather which did not. The real fact was that the contract system for boots had been a failure. Upon several occasions he had had to make some inquiries about this contract. He had inquired whether it would be laid upon the Table of the House, or whether a copy of the contract could not be furnished him. From the difficulty which he had experienced in getting at the document, anybody might have supposed that it was a foreign Treaty of the highest Imperial importance. Amongst other things, he asked whether he might be allowed to take down the terms of the contract, and at last he was permitted to go to the Home Office and examine this precious document. He had been told by the Home Secretary that there was no question of bringing the contract to an end until the expiration of the period for which it was made. It seemed to him that what information the Home Secretary had got might as well have been told to the horse marines, as, for example, that leather improved by keeping, whereas they all knew that leather perished by the lapse of time. He should argue that the contract ought to be terminated. Then he wanted a distinct pledge that as soon as the contract expired the members of the Metropolitan Police should receive an allowance at the present rate which was paid for boots. That was not a very great concession to demand. There would be no difficulty in arranging the matter once such pledge was given. He hoped he might not be driven to take a Division upon the reduction of the Vote he had thought it necessary to move.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police."—(Captain Norton.)


stated that his hon. Friend might be satisfied with having made a convert so far as the individual Member of the Government now speaking was concerned. The attention of the Home Office had been directed to this subject, and his hon. Friend's efforts had brought about a considerable change in their point of view. Undoubtedly, it was a more ideally perfect arrangement that one's boots should be adapted to one's feet than one's feet to one's boots. That seemed the elementary philosophy of the subject. As far as the sentiments of the Force were concerned, he found, from inquiries made in his individual capacity as a citizen, that his hon. Friend was right. He found that, having a good deal of human nature in their composition and anatomy, many members of the Force agreed in preferring the system which adapted the works of art to the works of nature. He found, further, that in the municipal towns the system almost universally prevailed of allowing the men to purchase their own boots. The only difficulty, then, lay in the matter of existing contracts. Supposing it appeared that there was a terminable clause in them, though he was not aware that there was, it would be for the Home Secretary to consider the question of terminating the contracts as suggested. If not, the contracts would expire three years hence, and he might say there was no intention on the part of the present administrators at the Home Office to renew them. The ultimate decision in the matter must rest with the Home Secretary of three years hence, and the obvious moral was that his hon. Friends should do their utmost to keep Her Majesty's advisers in their present places.


said, he would withdraw his Amendment, and he desired to thank the Under Secretary for the Home Department for his courteous and satisfactory answers and his witty speech. But would he give a definite pledge, on behalf of the Home Office, that when the existing contracts expired the system of boot money would be introduced?


Yes, Sir, subject, obviously, to the condition that we are in Office. We cannot, of course, bind others. But if we are in Office when the contracts expire, I believe they will not be renewed.


said, he hoped that when the system of money in lieu of boots was introduced the money would be so distributed that the men would receive it in proportion to the wear of boots by each man, and that there would be no distribution of a uniform amount, otherwise, those whose boots lasted longer than others would have the price of two or three pairs to put into their pockets, at the expense of the ratepayers.


said, the system of supplying money in lieu of boots had worked well in most of our large Municipalities. That had been the experience in Hull, where both systems had been practically tried, and he had a letter from the Chairman of the Watch Committee there saying that the allowance was better and more economical than the supply of boots.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

MR.PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

asked what was being done with reference to the provision of matrons for the Metropolitan police stations?


I know that the Secretary of State is fully alive to the desirability of introducing this alteration of system, but I am not in a position to say that such an alteration is to be made. I am convinced that my hon. Friend may be satisfied that the change will be introduced if the circumstances admit.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

26. £361,139, to complete the sum for Prisons, England and the Colonies.


wished to ask the Under Secretary for the Home Department whether it was the fact that, whereas the number of warders in Holloway Prison was supposed to be 20, it was nearer 11 or 13? He thought it was a matter for regret that, owing to the time when the Vote was taken, Members of the House who had been in prison, and others who expected to go to prison, had no real opportunity of discussing the question of the severe and sometimes brutal way in which our prisons were administered.


said, that if his hon. Friend could give him instances where the staff was insufficient they should be at once looked into. He shared his hon. Friend's regret that the subject was not reached till the end of the Session.

Vote agreed to.

The following Votes were agreed to:—

27. £137,117, to complete the sum for Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain.

28. £18,903, to complete the sum for Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.

29. £4:4,998, to complete the sum for Law Charges and Courts of Law, Scotland.

30. £22,711, to complete the sum for Register House, Edinburgh.

31. £51,700, to complete the sum for Prisons, Scotland.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.