HC Deb 15 May 1902 vol 108 cc463-74

1. £29,395, to complete the sum for police, England and Wales.

(11.0.) MR. DILLON

said that he wished to draw attention to a matter of order in connection with the making up of the Notice Paper. They had a little conversation on the first day upon which the new Rules came into operation, and he then pointed out the great and serious inconvenience that would arise to hon. Members if they could not get in the Notice Paper issued for the afternoon sitting some indication of the intentions of the Government at the evening sitting. There was an understanding arrived at, that upon the Notice Paper for the afternoon sitting the order of business at the evening sitting should be set forth as far as possible. At the afternoon sitting today the first order was Supply Committee for the Civil Service Estimates, and this clearly indicated that the intention of the Government was to proceed in the usual order with Supply at the evening sitting, and that no attempt would be made to jump to another class of Estimates, or depart from the usual order in which Votes were taken. Instead of doing this they had broken off in Class 1, and jumped on to Class 3. He did not raise this point, because he had not any fault to find with the Votes which had been taken, but he mentioned the matter in order that they should have some understanding upon the question. Nothing could be more detrimental to the conduct of business than to allow Ministers to skip as many Votes as they liked, and no such thing was possible under the old system. If things went on in this way there would be no limit to what a Minister might do. If a Minister concluded that an advantage could be gained by taking up some Vote unexpectedly, the greatest possible injustice might be inflicted upon the House. He did not in the slightest degree attribute any breach of faith or anything wrong in the course which had been taken, but he wished to draw attention to this matter, because he thought it was a practice which ought not to be allowed, and which should not be established as a precedent.


I feel that there is considerable force in the objection made by the hon. Member for East Mayo. There is no doubt that under the new Rules we ought to make it perfectly clear before the evening sitting begins what business is going to be taken. Otherwise inconvenience may arise, because hon. Members will not know what business they are coming down to consider. According to my view I think as an ordinary rule a different class of Votes ought to be taken at the evening sitting to that taken at the morning sitting, so as to secure the discussion of a larger number of classes. I think the ordinary practice should be that only one set of Votes should be taken at the morning sitting and a different set at the evening sitting, it being distinctly understood that the discussion in the evening should start with a definite Vote. The complaint of the hon. Member for East Mayo is that we did not continue at the evening sitting today the Votes which we began at the afternoon sitting.


said his complaint was that the Notice Paper placed in their hands in the afternoon sitting would lead them to suppose that they were going to proceed with the Votes in Class I at the evening sitting. This had not been done for they had passed on to another class of Votes without any notice. He contended that in the Notice Paper in the afternoon sitting there ought to have been some indication as to the order of the Votes which it was intended to take at the evening sitting. There was no such indication in the notice paper at the afternoon sitting and the Vote for Class III. had come on as a surprise to them.

(11.10.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

One of two courses is to be assumed. If the Government choose, and I think they will commonly choose, in the interest of the House at large, to start with a new class of Votes at the evening sitting, notice of that intention should be given not merely at the morning sitting, but even before that; or, on the other hand, if it is not proposed to start afresh with a new set of Votes in Supply, the evening sitting should be a direct continuation of the morning sitting. I shall take care that this course will be taken in future.


I will make no objection to the course tonight as long as it is not to be a precedent.


said they had been discussing such questions as seats in Hyde Park and hat-racks downstairs, while losing the opportunity of dealing with Votes of extreme importance. These Estimates were all very well, but there were certain things of far more importance which were not included in the Votes on the Paper and which could only be discussed on the salaries of Ministers. They should like occasionally to come to close quarters with the Minister on the Vote for his salary, and that was a thing they had no opportunity of doing. There were such questions as the grave danger of the National Gallery from fire, the work which was being done in Westminster Abbey in connection with the Coronation, and the personnel of the Office of Works, which should be discussed.


The noble Lord is now discussing a class of questions which are not on the Paper at all.


I quite understand the point. May I say that if any demand had been made when Class I. was being taken that the Vote for the salary of my right hon. friend would be a convenient occasion to raise important points, I should have been glad to consider that, but no application of that kind was made.


said he only found out at 7.30 by a chance remark made by the Chief Government Whip to an hon. Member that they were going to jump to Class III. at the evening sitting. He could not see from the face of the Notice Paper what right the Government had to claim to proceed to another class of Votes. It seemed to him that they ought to press the First Lord of the Treasury to revert to Class I.


I think it is impossible to take Class I.; it is not on the Paper.


Yes, it is on the Paper, page 16.


I think it is impossible to take Class I.


That is a question for the Chairman.


It cannot be taken if it is not on the Paper.


I think the actual arrangement we are taking tonight is not the one we ought to pursue in the future. I did give the best notice I could yesterday that we proposed to take Class III. at the evening sitting. I spread the information so far as I was able to do it. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not raise any objection to going on.


said the Police Report for this year had not been issued, and it was a very inconvenient course to put a Vote on the Paper when they had not the report before them. No doubt the Home Secretary would be able to furnish the desired information. He asked what was the number of Army Reserve men from counties and boroughs who were at present in South Africa, how many during the past year had returned to this country, how many vacancies were still left, and how these vacancies were being supplied in the meantime when these men were absent. He further asked to what extent the funds of the boroughs and the counties respectively were being charged in respect of the police who were absent. He was not finding fault with the payment of these police as army reservists, but he was anxious to know to what extent the efficiency of the police force was being kept up. How many of those who were sent abroad had died, how many had been invalided, and to what extent had a burden been placed on the Police Pension Fund.


said the hon. Member had asked a question as the number of police who were abroad on military service. So far as the Metropolitan police were concerned, he thought the number who had gone to the front was 573. He could not inform the hon. Member how many had died; but as to the efficiency of the force, he would point out that, having regard to the large number of police in London, the proportion who had been withdrawn in this way was not large, and in any case where it was necessary the Commissioner had endeavoured to secure that the Metropolis should be properly policed by drawing from places which required less protection the number required to fill the places of the absent men. There had also been a reduction in the number of police employed on public buildings, and these had been available to make up the deficiency. The arrangements thus made would probably prove satisfactory till the return of the men in South Africa, whose places, of course, were kept open for them.


asked the Home Secretary to state the age at which the police entered on duty in the Metropolis. The age at which they entered determined the age at which they retired from the force, and he believed that the early age at which they retired was bringing a heavy burden upon the ratepayers. He understood that at Liverpool a plan had been adopted whereby those who retired on pensions could be re-enlisted. He did not approve of that, because he did not think it was fair that men who had been retired on pensions should be re-engaged. He did not know whether anything of that kind had been done as regards the Metropolitan police force.


stated that it was perfectly true that the age of retirement in the police was low as compared with the age of retirement in other branches of the public service. He thought the House would admit that the police had arduous duties to perform—duties which told very much on their health and strength. There were a considerable number of those men quite capable of doing other work when they retired, yet the strain was so great during the time that they were in the force, working day and night, that an early age of retirement was quite fair in regard to the police. There was great practical difficulty in the way of re-engagement, because the question of their pensions was involved. If after re-engagement a man committed an offence, he might lose the benefit of the pension to which he was entitled at the time of retirement. At the same time he was not at all sure but that it might be a proper thing to make arrangements by which competent men might possibly be re-engaged. During the festivities and other ceremonies which were to take place this year in connection with the Coronation men who had left the ranks would for a short period be re-engaged, but as a rule there was not any re-engagement in connection with the Metropolitan police.


said he could not admit that the duties of the police were so arduous as had been stated by the Home Secretary. There might be districts in the East End of London where the duties were arduous, but that was not the case generally. The Home Secretary had expressed in public views of that kind, and he was sorry he had not an opportunity of replying. He took this opportunity of differing from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the duties were arduous.


called attention to an item of £40,000 for the pay, clothing, and other expenses of the Metropolitan police employed for the protection of public buildings and other public duties, and stated that this was a very vague definition to give. He asked whether that amount was accounted for through the Comptroller and Auditor General in the same way as was done with other amounts. He was informed that that was not so. It seemed to him that they ought not to be asked to vote £40,000 without the usual check of the Comptroller and Auditor General to show how the money had been spent.


asked whether he was aware that members of the Force had made representations that the police desired more relaxation, and especially one day's rest in seven, a Sunday off, like other public servants. He hoped this would be favourably answered and conceded.

MR. MARTIN (Worcestershire, Droitwich)

said he would like to ask whether something might not be done to improve the regulation of the traffic in the streets. The way in which busses and vans tried to pass each other and blocked up the whole traffic had reached such a stage as to become a nuisance-He was quite certain that the traffic would be better conducted than at the present time if the police insisted on drivers keeping on the right side of the road.


said he understood the Chairman to say that this Vote was exclusively for the Metropolitan police, lie found on page 49, Section D., there were three travelling inspectors at a salary of £750 a year, together with £750 travelling expenses for the three, and £25 a year to each for clerical assistance. The allowances for travelling expenses seemed to him to be very large, if the work of these Inspectors was confined to the Metropolis.


drew attention to the case of a civilian having been arrested by a policeman for standing in a doorway drinking. The case came before the Bow Street police court, and the evidence of the civilian was overridden by that of the policeman. The civilian then applied for a summons against the policeman, for assault, but the magistrate refused it. He thought the Home Secretary would see that this was a case which demanded inquiry.


said that the magistrate who had tried the case referred to by the hon. Member who had just sat down, was one of the most experienced magistrates in London, who said that no case at all had been proved against the constable although he added that if fresh evidence was brought forward he would re-open the case. Hitherto no such further evidence had been produced as to the conduct of the constable, but if it were he should cause inquiry to be made. His hon. friend the Member for South Islington had suggested whether more relaxation might not be given to the constables. He was advised, however, that the Commissioner of Police allowed the utmost relaxation that was possible. He felt satisfied that in the great majority of cases no complaint was made by the constables as to the want of relaxation. In regard to the traffic of the streets of London, he was quite sure that those who watched how it was regulated by the policemen must be filled with admiration for the manner in which they performed that duty. There was no power on the part of the Commissioner or on his part to compel the traffic on ordinary occasions to keep to certain routes.


said that what he suggested was that the vehicles should be compelled to keep the right side of the road.


said he never ceased to admire the extraordinary way in which the police conducted the most difficult traffic in the busy streets, and he thought that on the whole there was very little to complain of in the matter. An hon. Gentleman opposite asked whether certain money expended upon police employed for special purposes went before the Public Accounts Committee. It did, exactly in the same way as any other money paid out of the public Treasury. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty had asked a question as to travelling police inspectors. The police in the counties had to be certified as efficient in order to enable them to obtain grants from the public funds; and these inspectors were engaged for the purpose, inter alia, of inspecting the local police and certifying whether they were efficient or not. He did not think £750 a year was too large a sum for their travelling and personal expenses over the whole country, and not as the hon. Member suggested exclusively, or even at all, for London.

Vote agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £340,929, be granted to His 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 1903, for the expenses of the prisons in England, Wales, and the "Colonies."


said that there was a very large increase in this Vote. It was a very curious fact that the only decreases were for salaries and new buildings and alterations. What was the explanation of that, while there was a large increase of clothing, furniture and bedding?

MR. HELME (Lancashire, Lancaster,)

said he wished to call attention to a memorandum which had been forwarded to the Home Secretary from prison clerks and storekeepers, in regard to certain grievances from which they suffer. Having served on a Visiting Committee of Justices, he had been brought in touch a good deal with the management of prisons, and he thought that the demand of the men to be placed on a footing of ultimately receiving the maximum salary of £400 was just. Promotion, too, was slow, because other clerks had been introduced on to the staffs as abstractors, and that should be remedied.


said that this subject, to which his attention had already been called, would be inquired into by a small Departmental Committee which he hoped to complete and set to work in a few days. In regard to the increase on the Vote it was more apparent than real, for a sum of £34,000 which was taken as a Supplementary Estimate ought to be added in calculating the total expenditure of last year. That increase was almost entirely owing to an increase in the prison population of a kind for which it was almost impossible to account, and to the reception of military offenders. The increased charge for travelling expenses was due to the removal of prisoners from one prison to another, necessitated by the increased numbers which had to be dealt with in certain localities. It was an unfortunate necessity, and every effort was being made to reduce it to the lowest possible degree in the future.

It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday, 26th May; Committee also report progress; to sit again upon Monday, 26th May.

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