HC Deb 15 September 1909 vol 10 cc2284-6

Order for second reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Herbert Gladstone)

The intention of Clauses 4 and 5 is plain. Provision is made in Clause 1 for a further contribution of public money towards the expenses of the Metropolitan Police. The finances of the Metropolitan Police have now come to a position that requires adjustment. There is a large and a growing deficiency in the pension fund which has hitherto been defrayed out of the police fund. That fund is now insufficient to make good this deficiency, and we have therefore to provide for that, and in addition we have to provide for the very serious expenses entailed by the one day's rest in seven. I should have been very glad if we could mention in the Bill the sum which we think ought to be contributed by the Government, but it is a matter of great difficulty. My advisers and I have made up our minds as regards the amount which we think the State ought to contribute, in addition to the subvention already made. That amount is now under the consideration of the Treasury, and it is being examined, and a conclusion will soon be reached, but I regret we have not yet been able to agree upon the figure.

The next point is Clause 2, and that deals with a matter of considerable intricacy. The House probably knows that the charge for the Metropolitan Police is defrayed by a charge on the Metropolitan parishes and the Exchequer accounts of the counties concerned in the proportion of 5 to 4, and the total amount has been fixed by statute at an equivalent of a 9d. rate. By the Police Act of 1890 the Pension Fund was constituted, and a separate account had to be kept. Section 19, Sub-section (4), gives power, in the event of a deficiency in the Pension Fund, to raise an additional rate for the purpose of making good that deficiency. We are advised by the Law Officers that the additional rate to make good that deficiency will also have to be paid out of the County and Exchequer accounts in the proportion of 4 to 5. That constitutes a hardship which the House will readily understand in the case of Hertford, Essex, Surrey, and Kent, because the Metropolitan area extends to only a small portion of these counties, and the charge will fall upon the Local Exchequer Account, "which, of course, is devoted to the general purposes of each particular county concerned. In addition to that it affects and disturbs the Exchequer Account of the London County Council, and, as a matter of fact, at the present time, the imposition of even a farthing rate, with its proportionate contribution from the Exchequer Fund, would convert a surplus into a deficit. Therefore the London County Council has made strong representations. I propose in this Bill to take power to make good this deficiency which has arisen in connection with the pension fund, and to make provision for the heavy charge entailed by the grant of one day's rest in seven by a rate imposed upon the Metropolitan parishes. That is really the object of Clause 2.

In Clause 3 we make provision to meet the great increase in the duties of the higher staff. Originally, by the Act of 1856, there was a Commissioner and two Assistant Commissioners. Subsequently in 1885 another Assistant Commissioner was added; but since the year 1885 the population has increased by 41 per cent., the number of inhabited houses by 57 per cent., rateable value 65 per cent., persons apprehended 40 per cent., and the strength of the force by 37 per cent. Extra duties are continually being thrown upon the police, and there has been an increasing strain caused by the speeding up of traffic, the introduction, of motor traction, motor omnibuses and taxicabs. The result is that the staff is overworked, and they cannot attend properly to the higher and more responsible police duties they ought to discharge. The House will remember that the late Commission recommended the appointment of an officer fully qualified by knowledge of legal proceedings to deal specially with complaints arising from disputes between the public and the police. Something like 1,000 cases a year arise of complaints by the public against the police, and we propose to appoint an additional Assistant Inspector, so that the recommendation of the Royal Commission may be carried out.


May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the very interesting explanation he has given of this Bill. It is a measure which will give a great deal of satisfaction to everyone interested in the police force, and to every member of that force. The right hon. Gentleman has always shown the greatest sympathy with the police. I do not wish to discuss the Clauses seriatim. I only wish to say that I think the scope of this Bill is capable of some expansion, more particularly in relation to the financial clause on the Imperial side, because I am afraid it will throw an undue burden on the ratepayers. I hope in regard to the Clause dealing with pensions to the police the right hon. Gentleman will meet in a friendly spirit Amendments increasing the pensions of the dependents of those killed on duty, and that he will consent to substitute for the word "may" the word "shall" in regard to the contributions deducted from their pay. The appointment of another Commissioner will be welcomed by everybody. I believe hon. Members in every quarter of the House who take an interest in this subject will congratulate the right hon. Gentleman not only upon the general provisions of this Bill, but also upon the spirit in which he has moved the Second Reading.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow (Thursday).— [Mr. Joseph Pease.]