HC Deb 02 March 1910 vol 14 cc862-4

asked for leave to introduce a Bill to provide the members of the constabulary with one day's rest off duty in every seven. I desire to ask the permission of the House to introduce the Police (Weekly Rest-day) Bill, a measure which I am sure will command sympathy of every hon. Member of this House. The Bill seeks to secure for all members of the constabulary forces of the country one day's rest off duty in every seven. During the last two years a Select Committee, appointed by this House, has sat to inquire into this matter, and last year it reported unanimously in favour of granting, as a first step, this boon to the members of the Metropolitan Police Force. If hon. Members could spare the time to look at the proceedings before that Committee and examine their Report, they would find plenty of evidence in support of this measure; in fact, the unanimous opinion of the Committee was not only that this was a matter demanding immediate attention, but that it was also one upon which the efficiency of the force very largely depended. The Report of the Committee called attention to the increasing strain which is imposed upon the members of the police force by the service and by the responsibilities which are now placed upon it and which tend very seriously to increase.

The Report goes on to say that a certain number of years spent under present conditions tends to exhaust the vital energy, both physical and mental, of its members, and: That some relief is absolutely essential and that without delay; and are of opinion that the provision of one day's rest in seven would he the best way of affording this relief. They end up by saying:— Your Committee are convinced that, although, of course, an important element in the matter the figure of cost is not the one of primary importance. To say that we all admire the force and are greatly indebted to it is only repeating a mere platitude. As we watch them carrying out their work under the difficult circumstances they are now in I think we may well describe them as:— Commanding, aiding, animating all, Where foe appeared to press, or friend to fall. If there is one Service more than another which demands greater nerve, endurance, and self-control it is the Police Force. It is in order to obtain the conditions necessary for carrying on the work that everybody must admit it is very necessary for the members of the force to be freed, as far as possible, from fatigue in order to carry out their duties. The tendency of recent days has not only been to take away Sunday, but efforts have been made to take away Saturday as well; and there is no doubt that if the police forces of this country had been allowed to organise they would have done so long before this, and would have called public attention to this question of a proper weekly rest-day. Under the conditions of their service they are unable to organise, and naturally they trust to us to see that their interests are safeguarded. Hon. Members of this House may have forgotten that the members of the Police Force get no Saturday half-holidays, and they very rarely get a Sunday to themselves, although they have a very irregular day off every now and then. They have no Bank Holidays, and they do not have holidays on Christmas Day, Good Friday, or Boxing Day, and the least we can do is to see that every member of these Police Forces get at least one day's rest in every week.

Every hon. Member who sat upon the Select Committee will bear me out when I say it was hoped and believed that when public attention had been called to this great want by the Report of the Committee all the local authorities throughout the country would have followed the example set by the Committee, and would have given the members of their Police Force one day's rest in every seven as they have full power to do. If they had done that there would have been no necessity to bring forward another Bill, but unfortunately they have in some instances specifically refused to give the members of their force one day off in seven. For this reason I believe every hon. Member of this House will agree that the Bill which I am introducing is one which ought to be passed without any delay. I should like to say how glad I am that the new Home Secretary (Mr. Churchill) has been able to inaugurate his term of office by granting this boon to the members of the Metropolitan Police Force. However much we may differ in politics from the right hon. Gentleman, at all events he possesses the great characteristic of courage. Many a time has the right hon. Gentleman expressed his sympathy with the workers of this country, and he has declared that his only desire is to have the opportunity to show it. The Prime Minister has said that no social legislation is to be undertaken this Session which can be called controversial, but this Bill affords the Home Secretary an opportunity of gripping this question and assisting to ameliorate the condition of the police force by helping in every possible way to secure that this Bill shall be passed into law. I am sure nobody disagrees with this proposal. The Home Secretary, and those who sit with him on the Front Ministerial Bench, can give us facilities if they like for passing this measure into law. If the right hon. Gentleman does this he will be able to say that he has been instrumental in giving this great boon to thousands of loyal and deserving citizens in this country, and this will enable the police to have more of the pleasures of home life, which, after all, is the joy of every British subject, as well as his right. By taking this course the Government will assist in giving a measure of justice to these men which has already been too long delayed.

Leave given; Bill presented accordingly and read the first time. (To be read a second time upon Monday, 7th March.)