HC Deb 06 July 1916 vol 83 cc1734-8

In paragraphs (i) and (j) of Sub-section (2) of Section 24 of the Local Government Act, 1888, which relate to transfers and payments charged on the Exchequer Contribution Account in respect of the pay and clothing of the police, the expression "pay of the police" shall be deemed to include the pay of any women who may be employed by a police authority to perform any of the duties of the police and are required to devote the whole of their time to such employment.


I beg to move, after the word "pay" ["include the pay"], to insert the words "pension and compensation."

The object of the Amendment is to enable the local authorities who engage the services of women police to assist men police in the discharge of certain special duties for which women are constantly now employed by those authorities, to pay to the women not merely their ordinary pay, perhaps 28s. or 30s. a week, but to award pension and compensation in the same way as policemen are entitled, under certain circumstances, to pension and compensation. I need not weary the Committee by dwelling on the value of the services now being rendered to municipalities by women policemen, but it should not be imagined by those who have not studied the subject that women police are being appointed to take the place of men: in other words, they are not appointed to perform duties where great physical strength is required—to arrest drunkards, or stop motor cars, or anything which would require the exertion of physical strength. The work of these women police is particularly valuable in connection with women and children, or in cases connected with the prevention of crime against children, and in cases connected with the administration of the laws which affect women and children. These women, I must say, are without exception all very well trained, and highly educated women are taking up police work in a very serious fashion. They feel, and I must say I entirely agree with them, that 28s. or 30s. a week is not enough to induce them to take up the work of the police seriously, unless they are safeguarded by some simple arrangement which would enable them to get pension, or, if they become the subject of compensation, as policemen sometimes do become the subject of compensation in the discharge of their duties, then that they should be allowed to claim compensation as a natural right. I am not quite certain whether the Amendment is in the proper place, but I have another on the Paper later which will perhaps make the matter clearer.


The movement to appoint women police is a very new one, and is yet only in its elemental stage, and a very small number have been appointed in many localities. None can render more useful service than these women police in certain capacities. They cannot, of course, perform all the duties of the police constable, or most of the duties of the police constable, which need physical force, and a great deal of it is necessary. They can, however, perform useful functions in connection with the supervision of women and children, and some local authorities have tentatively employed them for that purpose. For a long time the authorities have employed women for several purposes without their being in uniform and without their having to perform duties on the streets. I should be very unwilling to do anything that would frighten the local authorities in regard to the appointment of women police. The Police Pension Fund is a very heavy burden already. Actually it involves an enormous expenditure, in addition to the contributions made by the constables themselves; and I am rather afraid that if the proposal were made that every woman employed in the police force—and she might be employed only for a short time—should be qualified for pension the same as a man, the local authorities, who-are already rather difficult to move, many of them, in different localities, would be greatly prejudiced against the employment of women in the Police Force, and we might have that prejudice strengthened by a proposal like that now under consideration. The police authorities have not been consulted on the subject at all, and the hon. Member has only now handed in his Amendment in manuscript. I should be rather chary myself of imposing an additional burden on the local authorities-without consultation with them. In the-initiation of such a movement we must proceed carefully and warily and recognise that criticisms against it must be gradually overcome, and that we ought not to put too much on the local authorities. I am glad to assure them that they are not to be penalised, and that the Grant from the Exchequer is purely an advantage to them and to encourage them to employ women police. This Amendment would really hold back the cause in which the hon. Member is interested, in addition to which it is in a form which is unacceptable, because the Section to which it applies has nothing to do with compensation or pension and only deals with the pay of the police.


I am sorry that this proposal cannot be carried through now, but I think the way in which the right hon. Gentleman treated the Amendment may be regarded as entirely satisfactory. There is one aspect of this women-police question which I think ought not to be forgotten. If women police are to be successful and are to become a definite institution, as I hope they will, it must largely depend upon the successful engagement of the women who first become members of the Police Force, for it will be they who will set the standard. If you do not offer these women pension and compensation in the first instance, when you are just embarking on this development, you will not get the best kind of women, because those who join without pension and compensation will be stigmatised as inferior and on a different level and will be unfairly treated. I look upon it as essential to the success of this development of our police that at a very early date this reform should be carried through. I very much welcome the way in which the Home Secretary treated this Amendment, and I hope that at a very early date he will proceed to carry through this idea.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words "and the expression 'clothing of the police' shall be deemed to include equipment of special constables."

The object of this Amendment is quite obvious. It is to secure that the clothing of special constables shall be paid for by the police authorities in such a way as to obtain a share of the Exchequer fund. The watch committees in our large cities provide for the safety of the public to a large extent at present through special constables. The number of constables has been greatly reduced because of their having become soldiers, and that has caused the increase of special constables. I think it is only fair to see that the equipment of special constables should be provided in such a way that they can get the Exchequer contribution towards them.


The hon. Member is opening up a very wide question, namely, that of the Exchequer contribution. I am afraid that if we were to accept this we would have many other matters in regard to which the local authorities think they should receive Exchequer contributions. When we were proposing to overhaul the relations between the Exchequer and the local authorities we proposed to make some changes in respect to the Exchequer contribution, but the War intervened. I cannot accept an Amendment which would interfere with the principle which is universally adopted in connection with this matter, and I am afraid this question must remain over with others until we come to revise the Exchequer contributions generally.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I wish to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words "and such women shall be included under the j provisions of the Police Act, 1890."

This is a corollary to an Amendment we were discussing just now. It is true my first Amendment was out of order, or, rather, was impracticable, because it came in the wrong place. No such criticism, I think, can be applied to this Amendment. The point raised is one of fairness or unfairness. If women undertake certain risk and perform certain duties hitherto carried out by men—

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)

I did not quite apprehend until the hon. Member began to explain what the effect of this Amendment is. I think it is to introduce the question of compensation which he put forward in an Amendment just now. That Amendment was negatived by the Committee, and therefore he has taken a decision on the point and cannot reopen it.


On the point of Order The suggestion I made in the first Amendment was that the local authorities should be allowed to pay under the Local Government Act. I have amended that now, and suggest that the compensation should be paid under the Police Act, which introduces a different condition.


I do not want to limit what the hon. Member desires to say, but I would submit that, although the form is different, the substance is just the same. If the hon. Member is allowed to make his speech, I should have to make exactly the same speech as I made on the previous Amendment, with the exception of the last sentence, in which I pointed out that the previous Amendment was wrong in point of form.


I think that is so, and that it is the same point.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.