§ Viscountess ASTOR
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the dismissal of the Metropolitan women police patrols. The Geddes Committee was set in") in order to save the country £100,000,000, and when they came to women police they saw a paltry sum of £27,000 and they said, "Scrap the lot." It seemed to them to be such a small amount that it did not seem worth while. I should like to know on whose advice the Geddes Committee acted. Who did they consult? Did they only see the Home Secretary? Here is what the Geddes Committee say:We have considered the question of the employment of women patrols. Their powers are very limited and their utility from a police point of view is, on the evidence submitted to us, negligible.I think this is a very important point, and I hope the Home Secretary will tell us what the evidence was which was submitted to the Geddes Committee. The Geddes Committee is not the only body which has considered this question of the employment of women police, because not long ago a Committee was set up by the Home Office to inquire whether they were necessary, and they examined the question from every point of view, not only from the point of view of pounds, 1260 shillings and pence, but whether they were really needed for the prevention of crime. This Committee sat under the chairmanship of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Office. They were not like the Geddes Committee, which had to deal with the Army and Navy and other things, and therefore they were more competent to give advice on this particular question. They asked by circular all the Chief Constables of England, Wales, and Scotland, to lay before the Committee a statement of their views. Of 57 Chief Constables who had employed women police, only six expressed any definite views against them. Several who were at first against them were completely won over, after seeing their work, and were enthusiastic.
Then there was the evidence given by Police Constable Collins on behalf of the Joint Central Committee of Police Federation of England and Wales. The Chairman asked:You favour the creation of a woman police force?—Yes.It must be a regular force sworn in and having power ofarrest?—Yes.This Committee reported unanimously that there was not only scope but urgent need for women police. What right has the Home Secretary to reject the unanimous Report of his own Committee and adopt the Report of the Geddes Committee? As far as I can make out the Geddes Committee only sought advice from the Home Secretary and the Chief Commissioner of Police. I do not think this House ought lightly to reject the unanimous opinion of the only Committee which inquired fully into this question and really took evidence. The Committee appointed by the Home Office, to which I have referred, said that the women patrols should form part of the police force and should have power of arrest. Why did not the Home Secretary act upon that recommendation? In spite of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, the women patrols in London never had power of arrest, and they would have been much more useful if they had had that power.
The Home Secretary only seems to accept advice when it agrees with his own prejudices. He refused the power of arrest to the police women and then tells the Geddes Committee that their usefulness is negligible. Their usefulness would have been far greater if the Home Secre- 1261 tary had only listened to the advice of those who enquired into this question. Sir Nevil Macready, the head of the London Police, said that, not only would he have women police, but he would give them full powers of arrest the same as constables, and he wanted to put the whole question of solicitation in their hands, because he felt they could do it better than the men. I think Sir Nevil Macready has had far greater experience than the Home Secretary when it comes to dealing with this question of the women police. Another very important witness who came before the Committee was Sir Leonard Dunning, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales. He has just issued a report, and I beg the House to listen attentively and say what they think of it. He says:I still believe that a woman, by advico and personal influence, can do more than a man to protect a girl from the temptations of her own nature and those held out to her by the other sex, and there is a definite place for women in the Police Force of any place where those temptations are many.Does the Home Secretary deny there are many temptations in this great city? We have had two tribunals. On the one side the Geddes Committee, who took no evidence and had no time really to study the matter. On the other side was the Home Secretary's Committee, which went thoroughly into the question. Which are we to take—the Home Secretary against women police, or Sir Nevil Macready, Sir L. Dunning, most of the Chief Constables, a witness from the Police Federation, the Home Office Committee, and the whole of the women's organised societies in favour of the women acting in this capacity? We are told sometimes that the women do not do police work but rescue work and welfare work. I should like to tell hon. Members in official language what the duties of the police are. They are to preserve order and to prevent crime and offences against the law. When a policeman preserves order and prevents immorality, we are told he is doing his duty as a policeman, but when a policewoman does that kind of work we are told she is simply doing rescue work. That cannot be denied. I know where the suggestion comes from.
I wish the House could read the evidence given by Sir Leonard Dunning about the preventive work done by the police among boys in 1262 Liverpool. It is only when the work deals with girls that it is called rescue work; when it affects boys it is called preventive work. We have been told by the Home Secretary that this should be voluntary work done by kind ladies. Yet it is these same ladies who are leading the appeal for keeping policewomen. Women who have given their lives to this sort of work declare that the introduction of police women for police work has absolutely revolutionised rescue work. That is the opinion of people who know more about this kind of work than any single Member of this House.
Women's police work keeps the girls from going to prison. It prevents crime, it stops people from becoming habitual criminals. Anybody who has dealt with these cases knows perfectly well that once a girl is arrested and put in prison she is very apt to continue on the downward path. It is more difficult for a woman than it is for a man to recover when once she has fallen. She is too apt to fall still lower. That is the tragedy about these girls. Men can pull up after the first fall. It is very difficult for women to do so and it is only uniformed women with the authority of the police force behind them who can really deal effectually with this kind of girl.
I do not know whether hon. Members realise how this work is done. The policewomen in the first place caution young girls. I am not dealing with the old and hardened prostitute; those poor unfortunate people are beyond dealing with. I am talking about young girls. The policewomen first warn them; the second time they take their address and the third time they threaten them with arrest. It often occurs that the police patrol after taking a girl's address visits her parents and tries to use influence for good in that way. It is a kind of work which nobody but women can do. These women patrols are working in Hyde Park, at Hampstead Heath and at Dept-ford and at Woolwich. Some of these places are not safe for any but uniformed women, and they are not really effective unless they have authority behind them. If hon. Members of this House would take the trouble to read the evidence given before the Committee, they will feel as much horror as I do at the very idea of the Home Secretary going back on his 1263 own Committee in order to save a paltry sum of not many thousands of pounds a year.
When we ask him about it, he declares that a great deal of this work will still be done by women. Our Committee said that women needed to be specially qualified and highly trained for the work, yet the Home Secretary says a great deal of it will still be done by policemen's wives. No doubt policemen have delightful and charming wives, highly cultivated and qualified, but I do not believe they marry them because they will be able to deal with girls and women in a skilled way. To be a good searcher, I should think, was never a quality that a man wants in his wife. Yet this is the sort of work the policeman's wife will have to do. As a matter of fact, I think policemen select their wives on the same line as lawyers and politicians; they select them because they like them, they do not select them because they may be of use to them in police work any more than a lawyer selects his wife in order she, may prepare a brief for him. As to the question of cost, the Home Secretary put it at £27,000 a year. That is not really quite accurate, but I believe the hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) is going to deal with that point later on. I should like to tell the House something of what these women patrols have done. The total number of people assisted by women patrols was nearly 50,000 last year, and that includes getting 6,454 shelters and beds for girls found wandering in the street; 70,140 persons were warned—mostly young girls. What would it have cost the country if these girls had been arrested? One thousand one hundred and thirty-one girls were taken to hospitals and homes, either infected or in danger of infection; 4,956 young girls went voluntarily to the policewomen in the London streets for help; 500 girls every week go voluntarily to these police patrols for help.
These are Scotland Yard figures, not mine. What is to become of these 500 girls? The policemen's wives will not see them, but the policemen are very likely to see them later on when they have fallen further, further and further. You will not be able to get policemen's wives to patrol Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath and other place where women are 1264 doing this work most effectively. Do not let us go in for false economy. The policemen themselves, when they came before our Committee were as keen as the women in favour of having women to do this work. They do not like doing it; they admitted there was certain work which they could not and should not do. Sir Leonard Dunning has declared that many of these women have been saved from the prisons, the police courts and the lock hospitals and infirmaries. These girls are not born criminals: very often they have fallen thoughtlessly to the temptations which in large towns are enormous.
It is the duty of the Home Secretary, and I think the House of Commons will see it is their duty, to ensure that anything we can do to clean up and clear up and help the morals of the streets of our great towns and the morals of the girls and young men shall be done. I think the House of Commons will agree with me it is a question for the House of Commons, and not for the Home Secretary alone. What are we to have—women police and less immorality, or no women police and more girls in the infirmaries and hospitals, to say nothing of the danger to the country? I must speak frankly about this, because we hear a great deal to-day about diseases. These women will come voluntarily to the women police and ask their help. Everyone knows that if you can get them in time you can save them, but if you cannot they become a charge upon and a menace to the community. Both women and men, as citizens and ratepayers, have a right to demand the services of women in the police force. I do not want to make this a sex question, because it is almost a national question. It is the Home Secretary who is making it a sex question; it is not me, and it is not the women.
I would like to ask the Home Secretary if he really thinks that certain investigations ought to be carried on by men. In cases of assaults on young children only women police ought to be allowed to deal with them. When it comes to cases of this kind, there is not a man in this House who would want anyone but a woman to deal with their own children. There is not a man, when it comes to a case of criminal assault on young children, who would want anyone except women police to deal with them. There are 1265 many police stations throughout the country where there are no women at all, and if the hon. Members of the House would only look at our report they would see what a vital question this is. It is a question not only of efficiency but of decency. In Glasgow the criminal assaults against children have gone up enormously, and what are the Vigilance Society of Glasgow saying? They suggest the only way to deal with these cases is to have women police. I ask the Home Secretary not to abolish women police without giving this House a chance of speaking about them. It is all very well for the Home Secretary. We know he docs not want to come back to this House, but there are a good many hon. Members who do want to come back, and he is making it very hard for his colleagues. I appeal to him in that way, if I can make no higher appeal. We say to him, "If you really think there must be economy, abolish some of them, but do not abolish all of them." The reason is this. The whole of the provinces look to London to see what it is doing. If the whole women patrol is abolished in London it will have a bad effect throughout the provinces, where women police in some cases have full powers of arrest and are doing good work. We do not want to go back on a question of principle. I do not want to threaten, because I know perfectly well threats do not do anything, but I want to caution the Government. I am speaking for the hon. Members of this House -who are not speaking for themselves, and I think they are mostly with me. Give them the chance to vote upon this question and see what comes of it.
One of the reasons why we are so interested in this question, is because it is not a question of pounds, shillings, and pence. It is a moral question. If we go back on this we are going back morally. We cannot get round that. You talk about the nation's greatness being founded upon its moral and spiritual outlook. Abolish women police, and you make it far more difficult for thousands of young people in London to lead a higher moral life. That is a very important thing. The Home Secretary says he has to economise, but what has he just done? He has increased the mounted police to 400 in London. I do not say a word against mounted police. We know perfectly well 1266 what are they for. They are supposed to deal with riots and Bolshevism. I am not complaining about it, but we think that the lives of children and young girls are just as important as the houses in Park Lane or the plate glass in Regent Street. If the Home Secretary were to abolish 25 of the mounted police, he could keep the total force of the women patrols in London, and I appeal to him to do that. Keep them and give them full powers of arrest. There used to be a sort of chivalry, which is much needed in these days, when men said that they had to protect their women. We women know what that sort of chivalry costs thousands of other less fortunate women. There is a new sort of chivalry in our land to-day. It is the chivalry which makes men and women speak plainly about things they did not speak about before, and it is that which makes me come to the House of Commons and speak out about this issue of women police, not only from the moral point of view, but from the health point of view. The Home Secretary knows just as well as I do that getting rid of the women police is increasing the danger of one of the most terrible diseases the world knows. The new chivalry does not so much make us want to protect the women, as to make us go and see where there is a wrong, and to put it right if it lies in our province. I appeal to the Home Secretary to think of it from that point of view, He knows as well as I do that men cannot Jo that, and women can, and I beg of him to give them a chance.
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL-MAITLAND
I only knew at a comparatively late hour that this question was likely to be raised on the Consolidated Fund Bill. Though I seldom speak in this House, I could not resist the opportunity of saying a word this evening on behalf of the retention of women police. The hon. Member who has just spoken has dealt with the moral side of the question, and I am the last to belittle it, or to belittle the social utility of the work the women police have done, but may I just offer one or two other considerations to the House on the very score of economy, which is the ground on which it is proposed to abolish the women police. When I read the Geddes Report, I saw it was proposed to abolish them on the score of 1267 economy, they having limited powers, and therefore their utility being negligible. But might I ask the House, as they have listened to some very impressive remarks on their utility, just to ask what saving will be made when we come to the facts? I noticed in an answer by the Home Secretary the other day that the cost of women police, 100 in number, was estimated at about £27,000. I say for one that if you can properly save £27,000 at this moment, if you are really going to save it, and that without losing work which in its way is of vital importance, you certainly ought to save it. Of the importance of the work the hon. Member has spoken, but are you really going to save the £27,000? Might I put that aspect of it before the House. If I were to judge from the right hon. Gentleman's answer I should imagine that if these women are done away with by a stroke of the pen any hon. Member would be grossly deceived if he really came to the conclusion that the Estimates for the next year are going to be £27,000 less. In the first place there are a number of standing charges included in that total which are not connected with the continuance or the abolition of women police which come to between £8,000 and £9,000, and by which the Estimates for next year will not be affected. Therefore, so far as the next year is affected, the total with which we have to deal already is brought down to something like £18,000. Then there comes the question of pensions. I rather gather the Home Secretary said they were not pensionable because as yet they had not been assimilated to the regular Metropolitan Male Police Force. The right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am glad I have not mis-stated the right hon. Gentleman, because when I came to look at the evidence given at Westminster by the present Chief Commissioner of Police, his support of his own case was that the women police were an integral part of the Metropolitan Police Force, and we now have the Home Secretary saying they are not assimilated.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I tried to put it clearly that the ground on which they were not pensionable was that they had not yet been assimilated.
§ Mr. SHORTT
No. The ground that they are not pensionable is that they are individual contracts. Each one is on a special contract of her own. It is a pure question of contract.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
On this we have also a legal opinion. May I at least put it so far—that it is a very questionable legal point at this moment whether, if they are abolished, the Estimates will not have to bear an amount for pensions for them. So that to that extent the sum of £18,000 may or may not have to be reduced by a further sum for pensions.
There is another point. One of the duties of the police is the escorting of prisoners, and when it comes to escorting a woman prisoner, quite rightly, a single male constable is not allowed to do this, but there has also to be a woman with him. There is not, I fancy, a regular police matron for most cases, because there are too few of them, but temporary police matrons, who are generally the wives or widows of policemen. I ask the House to realise the expenditure involved in this perfectly futile extra expense. Supposing women police were properly sworn in, one single police woman could escort a female prisoner without there having to be a constable's expenses all along the line. In provincial towns at present where there are women police sworn in—take Bristol, for example—you get a prisoner brought up from Bristol by one police woman perfectly successfully. So far as I know, there have been no cases of trouble. On the other hand, in the case of a woman prisoner escorted from London to Bristol, the London woman constable is in the company of a male constable as well, and she is properly twitted by her sisters in Bristol for her incapacity to look after her prisoner. So that what happens is that you get two people escorting a female prisoner where one woman constable, properly sworn, is perfectly sufficient. If the House wants to see the ridiculous results we have had, take a case that happened early this spring. 1269 There was a crippled woman who committed an offence at Glasgow. Two able-bodied London constables had to be sent to Glasgow, with the expense of the journey each way and the expense of their maintenance, in order to bring one crippled woman from Glasgow to London. Let me ask the House to calculate what the expense amounts to. I tried to elicit it by way of question, but have been unable to get statistics on points like these as to what the number of these long-distance escorts really is. As far as I could learn from evidence given earlier last year, probably the number of long distance escort journeys made by women police last year amounted to 300 or thereabouts, at a cost of at least £5 for each of the escorters. I should be glad to know the exact number. If they total up, as I should imagine, to 1,000 or more in a year, you get an absolutely unnecessary expenditure of £5 on each of these occasions, and if I am correct in that assumption, you get a sum of over £5,000, which has again to be deducted from that already dwindling amount. If you get the place of the women police taken over by police matrons or by temporary matrons, their pay no less, has again to be taken into account and that still further reduces the amount which by now we have got down to £11,000 per annum.
I next take the type of expense which is involved in taking evidence from young girls and children, and here I think the Home Secretary and the rest of the House will be with me in saying that that is evidence in the nature of the case which ought to be taken by women. Will any Member of the House realise that every detail of all that has taken place has to be elicited for evidence, and he will have a really clear idea that that is the type of evidence, from quite young girls, which ought to be taken by a woman, and a skilled woman, and not by a male constable. That is not work which can be done by an unskilled person. I claim to have had personally a considerable amount of experience at one time in making investigations in London and in the Provinces, and one thing that becomes quite clear is that when you question people, and especially when you question young people, it is skilled work which no ordinary unskilled woman can do, and that was the reason why a skilled person in the person of Miss McDougal 1270 was appointed some years before the War in order to take evidence. But at this moment the body of evidence she has to take has grown so big that a number of women constables have been put on to the same work. What is going to happen if they are abolished? Is it six or seven women constables who are engaged in that work, and, if so, how many assistants is Miss McDougal going to have if they are abolished, and what is going to be their pay, or is she going to have assistants who will have motors to take them about—a suggestion which I heard—and how much expense would that be to the country by which to diminish the sum by £11,000?
May I take just one other point, and that is street work. The hon. Member has dealt with the case of soliciting. It is perfectly clear that work in connection with soliciting and work in connection with taking girls to a home is police work. It is not parsons' work, as has sometimes been said, or, if it is, it is only parsons' Work in the sense that an old police constable of some 30 years' standing said that in his time he had had in the course of his duties to do all kinds of work from that of a parson to that of a midwife. To that extent it may bo parsons' work, but it is police work, and it is within the scope of the instructions of every male constable as well as every female constable. No one can deny that it is not properly constables' work. The best authorities are coming round to the belief that dealing with soliciting can best be done by women police. Dealing with young women who are really—let me put the matter quite plainly to the House—not yet classed as prostitutes, but who are prostitutes in the making, and taking them to homes so that they shall be kept off the streets in the future—that is policeman's work, male or female, which is better done by female police than by men. Let me take another type of work that has to be done every day—the House will pardon me if I speak quite plainly—and that is indecency work in the London parks. Women police are on that work at the moment, and the male police are truly thankful that women police are doing that work. If the women police did not do that work, it is up to the male police to do it, or else it will have to be left undone.
Which alternative is the Home Secretary prepared to face? Is that work 1271 to be left undone, or is he going to appoint more male constables to do it? If he is going to have it left undone, let him say so frankly, and if more male constables are to be appointed, then what becomes of the remainder of the saving? Let me take the consequential savings, though here it is difficult to give exact figures. If a girl is taken to a home by a policeman—everyone knows that there is no power of detention—unless care is taken that it is a suitable home the girl is out on the streets again and comes to the usual end—taken up, convicted, convicted again and again, and after a certain number of years her end is probably in the workhouse. What is the cost to the community of a conviction? I am told that it is between £30 and £40. I have been trying to get the record of the cases dealt with by the women constables who have endeavoured to see that the homes to which the girls are taken are such as will get such a hold on them that they will be turned again into girls leading a decent existence. You are saving conviction after conviction at costs which can be calculated, and you are saving expense to the rates and taxes and the woman's end in the workhouse. The question of venereal disease has already been dealt with. Statistics are not easy to obtain in this country, but if you go to America, to Germany or France it will be found that anything from 60 per cent. to 85 per cent. of the women who walk the streets have got venereal disease. I had one private investigation reported to me some months ago, before this question came up, and I have not tested it sufficiently to feel able to deal with it with absolute confidence, but of 75 cases taken for voluntary examination from the Strand, 71 were found to be ill with venereal disease. That means a great menace to the community, and it means a great loss to the community too. If a policewoman can, as is known to be the case, persuade a young girl to go, in the early stages, and be voluntarily examined, that case, in its early stages, can be dealt with at a total cost of £2 12s. 6d. Some of these cases cure themselves, but a large number do not, and, when later stages are reached, they take, sometimes a month or two, sometimes six months, sometimes years of treatment; and the average cost of six months' treatment for venereal disease 1272 is £96 for hospital accommodation and drugs alone. That is the cost as regards the women, quite apart from the cost as regards the men who are infected, and the loss to the community of their work.
I have tried to deal with the money side of this matter alone, and this abolition of women police means no saving in money whatsoever. It means, if anything, a loss at the moment, and a very much larger consequential loss in its results. I have said little about what I may call the social value of this work to the community. I do not wish to criticise the Geddes Report. I do not think the Committee could have come to any other conclusion on the evidence before them. They pointed out that women's powers are limited, and said that that was a reason for abolishing them. But who allowed their powers to be limited? It was the Home Secretary. Give them the power of arrest, and you do away with one of the reasons for which the Geddes Committee urged their abolition. On the ground of economy, and quite apart from the absolute and undenied social utility of the work, it would be one of the falsest and most retrograde steps this House has ever taken to acquiesce in their abolition, and I shall do everything in my power to prevent it. I would appeal to the Home Secretary, because he, after all, has so many duties at the moment that it is difficult for him to concentrate on one part of them. I would ask him whether he would allow a real inquiry to be made into this question before he takes a step that many of us think—not sentimentally, but after having tried to examine it fairly—is a most retrograde and costly step. Will he have it really inquired into again, or will he, at least, concede this, that, as the Consolidated Fund Bill is not always a good occasion on which to get a decision of the House, the House shall be allowed an opportunity for a free and unfettered decision upon this question before any of the women police of the metropolis are disbanded?
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I much regret that Parliamentary procedure will not allow the House to go to a Division on this matter. In protesting against the suggestion of the Geddes Report that £27,000 should be saved by disbanding the women police, I do not wish to range myself against the present outcry for 1273 economy, but to show that that £27,000 is money well spent, and that, spent in the manner in which it is at present, in maintaining the Metropolitan Women Police, it saves in many other ways in general expenditure. The old adage, "Prevention is better than cure," can be applied to many things, and amongst them to the women police, and also to the question of health. We all know-that, when the Minister of Health wishes to prevent an epidemic from spreading, he realises that to prevent spreading will be to save money, as compared with letting it spread and having to pay for curing the disease when it has spread. Before abolishing the women patrols, let us see on what grounds they were appointed. In 1829, when Sir Robert Peel instituted the Metropolitan Police, his guiding maxim was that the chief work of an efficient policeman was the preventive work that he did, and the cost of convicting persons was large. What applied then to the men police applies now to both sexes. Sir Leonard Dunning said that the cost of preventive work was a flea-bite compared with the results obtained. Male police officers "save" in a great many ways. They prevent people breaking the laws, and they try to prevent street accidents, burglaries, murder, and various other things, which cannot be reckoned in pounds, shillings, and pence. Women police officers prevent disorders. I do not wish to be regarded as underrating the splendid body of men police that we have, but I do wish to urge that the women can supplement the work that the men police do. The process of warning girls in the streets is necessarily rather a delicate matter, and, as has been said, can be done in a very much better way by women police than by men. In 1921 over 70,000 girls were warned in the streets. A large proportion of those 70,000 were prevented by the warnings from getting into further mischief. About 6,000 of them were taken by women patrols to shelters and beds and were put under proper care. Over 1,000 girls were taken to hospitals and treated for venereal disease, and at a time like this, when the country is trying to stamp out this disease, it is a great mistake to withdraw such a splendid agency as the women police at present are.
What is the alternative, expense? A child left in a reformatory school costs 1274 between £60 and £70 a year. A prisoner in a local prison costs the community £86 a year. A remand woman prisoner costs 33s. a week. These are all expenses which will be incurred if these preventive measures are discontinued. What is represented by these figures of cases approached by the women? They represent, first of all, a saving in public health, a saving not only in money but in general efficiency. A healthy girl or woman is an asset to a nation, and an unhealthy girl or woman is a national burden. They represent a saving of money by keeping our children out of reformatory schools and by keeping out of prisons and hospitals and workhouses women who would otherwise be sent there. As I have said, in the case of an epidemic the Minister of Health knows that the isolation laws will prevent a great deal of expense, though it would not be possible, to state the amount in money. The male police prevent accidents in the streets; the female police prevent worse than accidents to our girls and women. The male police prevent burglaries, and save money in that way. The female police give advice and recommend shelters for women, and thus prevent much further mischief. Then there is the searching of women and the taking of statements from young children. Those are necessarily very delicate matters. The women patrols have shown, in the last year or two, how very capable they are in approaching children in a quiet and understanding way.
At present there are 113 of these women patrols in the Metropolitan area. They are well trained, efficient, picked women, and are thoroughly competent. If they are disbanded all their training will be thrown away. Their equipment and their clothes—that "ugly uniform" to which the hon. Baronet the Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) recently took such exception—will have to be scrapped at great expense. We have been told that pensions are not going to be paid to them by the Government. If that be so, one may ask, is there going to be any security in the future for people engaged by the Government? The workers, men and women, are going to lose confidence in the Government, if contracts are to be broken in this manner. Reference has already been made to the Departmental Report of 1920. The Home Office accepted certain 1275 of the recommendations of that Committee, and it was not a Committee of cranks. It included the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir Francis Blake), the hon. Member for Dumfries (Major W. Murray), and the then Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. C. D. Murray). It called many witnesses and took the evidence of many chief constables. Acting on its Report, the Metropolitan women police were appointed. Provincial women police were also appointed, and if the Metropolitan women police are disbanded, it will weaken the Watch Committees in the provinces who have the power of appointing women police. As some economy in the Metropolitan police is necessary, I ask, why concentrate on the entire abolition of one section of it?
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
These women have done special work. They are recognised as having created a better life in the streets of London. I beg of the Home Secretary to look elsewhere if he has to make economy. The total cost of the Metropolitan Police is £7,000,000. The suggested economy is £27,000 which is one two hundred and fiftieth part of the whole cost. If on the question of health we have to economise the Minister of Health does not cut out one whole department. If we are going to economise in education, the Minister of Education does not take one block out of the educational system. If we are going to economise in our own homes, we do not decide to do without fire or to do without food. If as individuals we seek to economise in our clothes, we do not do without hats or overcoats but cut down a little in every direction.
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I plead with the Home Secretary, if he has to make this economy of a two hundred and fiftieth part of the total sum that there should be a partial reduction and a proportionate reduction as between the two sections of the police. The health of the nation is the wealth of the nation and no national saving is an economy if it is at the expense of the wellbeing of the race and our women and girls.
§ Mr. SHORTT
Everyone knows perfectly well that no matter what cut may have been recommended by the Geddes Committee, there are certain people who will oppose it. To-night I am faced with the proposition of supporting a cut which is recommended by the Geddes Committee, but is opposed by a number of hon. Members. They are all sincerely opposed to the recommendation. I fully acknowledge that. One would suppose, hearing the speeches this evening, that, in the first place, no work was done in connection with the police by women until the women police were established. One would suppose that the moment the women police were disbanded, all work done by women in connection with the police would end. That is absolutely untrue.
§ Mr. SHORTT
One would suppose that the women police had done police work as apart from welfare work. There is the whole gist of the trouble financially. I am the last person to belittle welfare work done by women police, Salvation Army girls, or any other person, but the question arises, is it police work?
§ Mr. SHORTT
Is it work which should be put on the. Police Vote, which should be reckoned as that which is entailed in the Police Vote of the House of Commons? That is the whole point.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I listened to the hon. Member for Plymouth while she shook her fist at me, and I hope she will listen to me. Let me say this at once. The disbandment of the women police will not entail the employment of one single additional policeman. [An HON. MEMBEE: "What about Hyde Park?"] There has not been a single policewoman in Hyde Park who has not had a policeman to protect her. The disbandment of the women police will not involve the reorganisation of a single police beat in the Metropolis, and the fact of the matter is that wherever we have employed these policewomen, we have been obliged to employ policemen to protect them in case of need.
§ Mr. SHORTT
It is all very well to say "Oh," but I am stating what is the fact. It is said that policewomen are the proper persons to escort women prisoners. I agree, but do not let it be supposed for a moment that before the policewomen existed, women prisoners were not escorted by women. They have always been escorted by women for the last 20 years, and they always will be. Do not let it be supposed that when women prisoners are searched they are not going to be searched by women in future, as they were before women police were heard of. Do not let it be supposed that children and small girls whose evidence has to be taken are not going to be interrogated by women, and by trained women. They were before policewomen were heard of, and they will be after the policewomen are disbanded. All that will still be done, and done by women who are as highly trained as any of those who are in the police force. I am glad to say that some of the women in the police force we shall be able to continue to keep on, and all that work will still be done by women. It will be done at one-third of the cost of uniformed women, and the whole question is really not whether or not it should be done by women—everybody agrees that it should, and everybody agrees that it will—but whether it is to be done by a woman who wears a swagger uniform or by an ordinary woman out of uniform. That is the whole question before the House. We are told that these women do a great work protecting young girls and young women, and we have had a large number of figures given us to-night of the work which the women police have done. I have endeavoured in Scotland Yard, where these women have been reporting, where all the information ought to be given, to find out what is the truth about these figures of which we have heard. I do not know where the hon. Members got their figures.
§ Mr. SHORTT
No, they certainly did not. They may have got them from some persons who ought to have reported them to Scotland Yard, but they have not got them from Scotland Yard. Do they imagine that they are the only women who bring girls to these homes? Do they imagine they are the only women who are doing a great work, welfare work, 1278 among the fallen women of this town? There is no question about it, and policeman after policeman has told me the same thing. A Salvation Army lassie will bring in many more girls than any uniformed policewoman. I have been told that by policeman after policeman. I do hope the House will believe me when I say it is not a question of belittling welfare work. We agree that welfare work is well done by women, and must be done by women. We are equally agreed that the police must protect women when they are doing it. Who is going to allow a woman to go unprotected into a wild place, where young girls may be, and make an arrest, when she may be attacked by a lot of other women, and even by men and bullies?
I am not belittling the work of the women police at all, but the fact remains that they can do no work without male protection. We have given them that-male protection, and we shall give any woman male protection who docs work in the same way. The whole question before the Geddes Committee was not whether the work being done by these women is good, but is it police work? Is it work which ought properly to be charged to the Police Fund, which partly falls on the Exchequer, and partly on the rates? That is the whole question. Are these women doing police work? Their work is good. I admit that at once, and frankly, just as the Church Army, just as the Salvation Army, just as any other peoples' work is good; and if it be thought that a uniform is of some value, let them wear the uniform of the Ministry of Health, or anything you like, but it is not police work. And, as I said to the Archbishop of Canterbury this afternoon, "It is your work, and not that of the Metropolitan Police." [An HON. MEMBER! "It is everybody's work!"] It is his work, but you cannot get it done without male protection. You could not possibly allow women to go out into the streets, whether they have got the right of arrest or not, without male protection in case of strife.
§ Lord R. CECIL
Do the women police in Bristol, for instance, where they have full power, always have male protection in their work?
§ Mr. SHORTT
We are not discussing the Bristol police at the present moment. Each individual police authority will speak for itself. We are discussing the Metropolitan Police, and I am now giving to the House the best advice I get from those who advise me in the Metropolitan Police.
§ Mr. SHORTT
It is perfectly true that the hon. Member was a Member of a Committee which took evidence at a time when women police had not been tried. We are now discussing the question at a time when they have been tried, and that just makes all the difference. Therefore, what I ask the House to say is this: They do good work, but it is not police work. All moral work prevents crime. Every clergyman who does his work, every Sunday School teacher who does his work and gets home to the young people, is preventing potential crime. All that, in the same sense as these policewomen's work, is police work, but it is not really police work which we are justified in charging upon the Police Fund. These women have done work which will continue to be done by women, but not in uniform, not in these blue coats and that kind of thing, but will be done by women as efficiently and as well as it is being done to-day—quite as efficiently and at one-third of the cost. The £20,000 that we have reckoned at saving is taken into account in the expenditure on the women who have to be employed to-day, but at a much smaller cost. They have done the work with perfect efficiency. It may be said: "Oh, that is all very well; these are the views of police officers." They are. These women are the wives of the sergeants and the constables. They are probably mothers. They know the work, for it does not take long to train them to go and deal decently with the poor little child who has to be interrogated. It needs a woman with womanly sympathy, and you get in the wives of the constables and sergeants women with womanly sympathy, and they can do the work.
1280 It is suggested that we should leave a nucleus, in order that if a change is made the policewomen may be restored. I have looked into this matter, and I trust that the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor)' will believe me when I say that I have honestly tried to get the point of view of those who wanted to restore the women police. I have taken every possible advice I can about it, and I am assured that if a nucleus be preserved, and it is subsequently—say in two or three years' time when times are better—decided to restore the women police, such nucleus would not affect the time of their restoration by one week. If I thought a nucleus would help the restoration I would consider it carefully, but I am assured it would not help in the slightest degree.
We, all of us in this House, are doing our best to cut down expenditure. We do not want to cut down expenditure which in any way is really economical expenditure, but in this particular case all the evidence and all the suggestions that have been brought forward as to what these women police are doing is that it can be done perfectly well by other women, at a third of the price, minus the women police. It can be done perfectly efficiently.
There is no single item of the welfare work that need cease. These are not the only women who do welfare work. There are others, and in any case the work could be continued; but this is not work which is police work at all. You cannot say that it is police work. The whole thing depends whether you ought to put down as police work which is purely welfare work—work most desirable, most commendable, and most valuable to the country, but purely welfare work. The Geddes Committee have said it is not. I am bound to admit, when I am discussing this, that the work these women do is not police work proper. It is welfare work, and the Geddes Committee have said this ought not to be charged to the Police Fund. If the House of Commons wants to vote definite money to welfare work, let the House of Commons do it, but let the House of Commons know when it votes the money that it is for pure welfare work, and not for police work. If the House of Commons sanction a Vote for welfare work, well and good, but it 1281 would be wrong for me to pretend that the House is voting money for police work when welfare work, good and admirable as it is, has nothing to do with it. For those reasons, I am bound to adopt this course.