HC Deb 23 January 1918 vol 101 cc1091-6

Section one of the Metropolitan Police Act, 1912, which alters the limit of the sums to be raised by rates for the expenses of the Metropolitan Police shall have effect as if for "eleven pence" there were substituted thirteen pence and for "ten pence" there were substituted twelve pence.


I beg to move, to leave out the word "twelve," and to insert instead thereof the word "eleven."

I have been asked by the London County Council to move this Amendment, and also to make an appeal to the Home Secretary. I find myself in some difficulty, because at present I know that my right hon. Friend is not able to be here, though I understand that he will be here presently. I dare say that my Noble Friend below me (Lord E. Talbot) will kindly take note of what I say, and at any rate it will be recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am rather sorry to trouble so busy a man as the Home Secretary with this Amendment, but it raises a question which is of great importance. to the London ratepayers and which has been frequently discussed in this House. The Bill deals with that question in a way which certainly cannot. be regarded as satisfactory to London, and it is not possible to allow it to pass without a few observations. The Amendment I move is not one of great importance, but it will serve to enforce the point I desire to make.

The object of the Bill is to provide money for a war bonus to the Metropolitan Police. I say at once that the London County Council is in complete sympathy with that object, as everyone must be who realises the dangers and responsibilities to which the Metropolitan Police are exposed at the present time. Briefly, the position is this. The Bill makes the maximum rate which can be levied for Metropolitan Police purposes 13d. instead of 11d. as fixed under the Act of 1912. My Amendment does not interfere with that proposal. But the Bill varies the Act of 1912 in another particular. The Act of 1912 provides that the Home Secretary shall lay before Parliament a Minute of the reasons for increasing the rate if he increases it above 10d. in the £. This Bill proposes to raise that limit to 12d. My Amendment suggests that 11d. should be fixed instead of the 12d. fixed by the Bill and the led. which now stands in the Act. The effect of my Amendment would be that a. Minute would have to be laid before Parliament if the Home Secretary exceeds. what is now the maximum rate fixed by the existing Act. I will briefly state the grounds on which I think it is reasonable to ask for that. I feel bound to point out that the whole cost of this war bonus is to be thrown on the rates. The Exchequer contribution remains at 4d., although the rate is to be raised from 11d. to 13d. Sevenpence was raised out of the rates this year, the Exchequer contribution being 4d., and it is expected that 8d. will be raised out of the rates next year, the Exchequer contribution remaining the same. The Government are really indulging,in vicarious generosity. My right hon. Friend reminds me of the man of whom it was recorded that. out of his bounty he built a bridge at the expense of a county. My right hon. Friend out of his bounty is going to give this war bonus at the expense of the county, in spite of the fact that all the authorities have found that the Government ought to make a much larger contribution towards the expense of this service, quite apart from the question of a war bonus.

I would remind my right hon. Friend that the Departmental Committee on Local Taxation, which reported in 1914, recommended that one-half the cost of the police service should be borne by the Exchequer. This proposal was adopted by the Government and embodied in the Finance Bill of 1914. It was subsequently withdrawn, for various reasons. The amount drawn from the rates has increased in ten years by 3¼d., which represents an increased annual charge of £830,000. On the other hand, the amount drawn from the Exchequer has increased practically not at all. One hundred thousand pounds is voted annually in respect of special, Imperial, and National services, but that does not represent any contribution to the increased expenditure incurred during recent years. During the current year the net charge for this police service will be over £3,000,000. The proportion which the Exchequer will contribute is about 35 per cent. It is unreasonable that the cost of a service which is administered entirely by the Government should be borne by the local rates to the extent of two-thirds. I urge that the Government should make some temporary Grant out of the Exchequer. It is not possible for me to move any Amendment to do that, because it would throw a charge upon the Exchequer, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will give consideration to the request which has been made to him by the London County Council. I do not think the Home Secretary ought to object to laying a Minute before Parliament if he raises the rate above the maximum fixed by the Act of 1912, especially as he is not bearing any proportion of the increased charge. No case is really made out for the increase of two-pence. The Memorandum by which the Bill is prefaced does not show the extent to which the increased revenue is necessitated by the increase in the war bonus granted to the police. The general bonus was increased from 8s. to 12s. a week, and the special allowance for a child from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. It may be argued, therefore, that these increases involve a charge at the rate of rather less than £200,000 per annum. This sum is equal to a rate of about four-fifths of a penny, therefore no case is made out for raising it by 2d. in the £. There are other questions, such as the cost of special services. I should like to know whether that cost has not increased, and, if so, whether a larger Grant ought not to be made under the Act of 1909. For all these reasons I hope my right hon. Friend will not object to laying the Minute before Parliament in order that those who have to make this increased contribution should at any rate be able to see that what they are asked to contribute is fairly and properly demanded of them.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir George Cave)

The scheme of the Bill is to increase the limit on the Metropolitan Police rate from eleven pence to thirteen pence. Under the Bill, as drawn, we shall be enabled at once to increase the rate by a penny and raise it to twelve pence, but if we desire to raise it by the further penny, that is, to thirteen pence, we shall be compelled to lay a Minute upon the Table of the House, showing how the increase is made up. My lion. Fri end has suggested that we should at once lay a Minute even to raise the rate by the original ld. That is quite unnecessary. We are laying our Minute to-day, so far as the first 1d. goes. We are spending to-day up to the statutory limit that is allowed by law, but the raising of the bonus from 8s. to 12s. will cost as nearly as possible a rate of Id. in the £. My hon. Friend says it is less than £200.000, but it is rather more, and it will leave a deficiency not of four-fifths of 1d., but as nearly as possible 1d. in the £. It would be waste of time and trouble to lay a Minute. as he suggests. for the first 1d. We make our case to-day. I am sure the House appreciates the services rendered by the police and the difficulty they have in living on the present allowance, and will agree to give us the funds for paying the bonus which has been already announced.

My hon. Friend asks whether the special services have not increased in cost. He refers, I have no doubt, to the fact that a sum is paid out of the Exchequer to the 'police for special services rendered to the nation, such as attendance at special functions, and things of that kind. That cost has not increased, but has a little decreased, and no case, I think, can be made out by him or by the London County Council for increasing the Grant for special purposes. The other point he made was that we are granting a bonus at the expense of the county. That is quite true, but throughout the Kingdom similar bonuses are being given at the cost of the local authorities. A case might be made for revising the whole system of police payment and throwing, as the Commission recommended, a larger proportion on the Exchequer, but that would have to be a measure applying to the Kingdom as a whole. If that were done we should ask that some control should be given to the Exchequer over the payments made to the police forces throughout the country. We should ask to have some voice in settling the increase of police pay or bonuses, so that you should not have the difference which you now have between the pay of the police in adjoining counties. That would have to be a carefully considered measure, and provided these matters were gone into I for one should not be at all disinclined to consider the question of increasing the share which the Exchequer would be called upon to pay towards the cost of the police. But you cannot do that in this Bill. This Bill applies to one county only, or rather to one Metropolitan Police district, and you could not possibly make a change here alone. For that reason I hope my hon. Friend will not press the Amendment. I could not accept it to-day, because it would interfere with the first object of the Bill, namely, to enable us to increase the bonus.


If this Amendment be pressed to a Division, I shall certainly support it. The only remark I wish to make beyond that is with regard to the special services performed by the Metro- politan Police. I was pleased, though rather surprised, to find that the cost had decreased. Surely it includes all the air raids The cost of public functions and matters of that kind may be less than in time of peace, but in connection with the Criminal Investigation Department of Scotland Yard I should imagine it was very greatly increased. There have been twenty-four raids in London within a very short time, and I should be glad to know whether all the work which was thrown upon the police in connection with them was done at comparatively small cost.


I will not press my Amendment after what my right hon. Friend has said, but I should like to point out that the case of London differs entirely from that of other cities, because the administration of the police is in the hands of the Home Office, which is not the case elsewhere.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.