Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £3,060,591, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, for the Salaries of the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police, and of the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District, Bonus to Metropolitan Police Magistrates, the Con-
tribution towards the Expenses of the Metropolitan Police, the Salaries and Expenses of the Inspectors of Constabulary, and other Grants in respect of Police Expenditure, including Places of Detention, and a Grant-in-Aid of the Police Federation."—[Note: £3,100,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. HAYES
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
There are several matters to which I desire to refer in connection with this Vote. Some will have reference, perhaps, directly to the police service in particular, and others will have reference to both the interest of the police and of the public generally. The Home Secretary is quite aware that during the last few months there has been a good deal of talk with regard to economy. The first note that I want to strike is that I think this is a very suitable opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman to indicate whether there is likely to be any revision of the conditions of service obtaining at the present time as the result of the improved standards which were given some three or four years ago. We have had a statement in the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicating that there is a likelihood of some revision, or a necessity for inquiring into the present conditions; and I want to remind the Home Secretary that two years ago the police were asked if they would take part in the great campaign for national economy. As a matter almost of Hobson's choice, as I think I may put it, they agreed to accept the proposal of the Department that there should be, in addition to the legalised deduction for superannuation purposes, a levy of 2½ per cent. on their pay. Twelve months went by, and the police expected that that levy would disappear entirely, but they found at the end of the 12 months that it was renewed again, on the same ground of economy, for a further period of 12 months. There is a good deal of feeling in the Service that this method of effecting economies is not altogether a satisfactory method, in so far as it takes by a levy that which it would be otherwise illegal to take by a deduction for superannuation purposes. I think, therefore, that we ought to have some indication from the Home Secretary now as to how far and for how long this 2½ per cent. additional levy is to be maintained. I am quite sure that the police of the country have no more desire 1693 to shirk their responsibilities to the nation than any other section of workers, but it is very clear that there is no section of workers who desire to have inflicted upon them, if they can possibly avoid it, a reduction of wages, and, although the status of the police may be fairly satisfactory, we on these benches, anyhow, recognise that, so long as a standard is maintained in the Service, the less argument there is to be used against other workers that it is time further reductions were inflicted upon them.
There are certain economies which I think could very well be effected in the Service, and which would, perhaps, obviate the imposition of this levy. If we take the personnel of New Scotland Yard, for instance, a Department which is closely associated with the Home Office, and if we analyse the number of highly-paid appointments in comparison with the number that existed before the War, we find that we have three most important appointments there which never existed before the War, namely the appointments of the deputy-assistant commissioners. These appointments arose during the War and since the War, and I feel almost inclined to say that they were merely jobs created for the purpose of absorbing officers from the Army, and others, perhaps, who had been engaged on other duties during the War, and for whom some appointment had to be found. That was admitted, up to a point, by Sir Basil Thomson when giving evidence before the Desborough Committee. He made reference to the fact that, when the Director of Intelligence was appointed Director of Intelligence, it was necessary, in connection with the dual control that would exist, to make some special appointment of rank in order that a certain officer could be absorbed as a deputy-assistant commissioner. That appointment was made for that purpose, and now we have, in addition to the pre-War complement of commissioner, assistant commisisoners, and chief constables, three deputy - assistant commissioners, and also two other Army officers who are assisting one of the deputy-assistant commissioners. It does seem to me that these appoinements cannot really be necessary, in the light of the work that is performed at New Scotland Yard, which may have increased in some departments, but has obviously decreased in others. We have at the Yard an Establishment Officer, 1694 but one never heard of an Establishment Officer prior to the War. If it is a policy of economy to appoint these highly paid officials, it is difficult to convince the rank and file of the Service that, if there is to be a real policy of economy, it ought not to be exercised, at least, on the higher ranks at the same time as, or before, it is exercised on the lower-paid ranks, who can ill-afford any reduction that may be made.
There is another matter to which I want to refer, namely, the appointment of military officers as chief constables in the police forces of this country. I am sure the Committee will understand that I have no desire to strike a discordant note in regard to any of the gallant officers of His Majesty's military or naval Services. I merely want to approach this matter from the point of view of what is good business. If we spend huge sums of money in salaries for the most important posts in the police service, the ratepayers and taxpayers have a right to ask that those who are going to be appointed to these posts shall be people who have a real knowledge of their job, and can give good service to the community in the posts to which they Lave been appointed. Out of 69 chief constables in the county constabularies, something like 60 are military officers, and the Desborough Committee, which was composed of representatives of all shades of political thought, made very definite recommendations with regard to the appointment of chief constables. They held the view that, as we explained to them in the evidence placed before them, if you want to make the police service a real profession, in which men will feel that they are men and will have opportunities as other individuals have, you must leave the highest posts of the Service open to them; and the Desborough Committee recommended in those terms. Since that, however, there have been quite a number of appointments of Army officers without any previous police experience. One of the most flagrant cases of the appointment of military officers was the case of the Deputy Chief Constable of Hampshire, Major Nicholson, who happened to be the son-in-law of the Chief Constable. He was residing with the Chief Constable immediately prior to 1695 his appointment, and was probably the only individual in Hampshire who was aware that the resignation of the then Deputy Chief Constable was pending. Consequently, the first applicant for the post was the son-in-law of the then serving Chief Constable, and it is a strange commentary that Major Nicholson, who wars appointed Deputy Chief Constable, knowing nothing of the job, should be put in control. Is it any wonder that under those circumstances you get bad administration in the Service and unsatisfactory disciplinary control of your police forces?
Another question is that of an appeal tribunal. We often hear of very serious cases of men being dismissed from the police service, men who feel they have a grievance, men who have tried to get some remedy for that grievance. Because of that experience, extending over many years, evidence was laid before the Des-borough Committee, who, in their recommendations, said they were of the opinion that an independent tribunal should be established to which police officers, who felt that they were suffering under a grievance by dismissal, might submit their case, and have the best legal advice they could obtain, the same as any criminal. That tribunal has not been set up, and the omission to set it up has created rather a difficult position. The recommendation is on page 9 of the Desborough Report, as follows:On the whole we recommend that the tribunal to war appeals from forces in England and Wales should be a barrister of standing (possibly a County Court Judge or a Recorder) to be appointed by the Secretary of State for the purpose of hearing such appeals. … There should be power to reverse the decision of the Chief Constable or to reduce the penalty, the decision to be final.A very sensible recommendation, which, had it been put into operation, would have obviated many unpleasant cases that have arisen at St. Helens, Warrington, Ashton-under-Lyne, and other places, where we have sheaves of complaints of the methods with which these men were treated. Some of them had to take civil remedy in the Court, which, after all, is not a very satisfactory remedy, because the point at issue is whether there has been a wrongful dismissal, and, of course, the law hold that police authorities can do no wrong as far as police dismissals 1696 are concerned, and, therefore, they stand very little chance in the way of ordinary appeals to Court. I sincerely hope we shall have some indication from the Home Secretary that these matters are under consideration.
There is another, and a very important matter which concerns both the police and public, and that is the conveyance of prisoners from police courts to remand gaols, or on conviction, or transfer from one police authority to another. I think there is nothing more degrading, either for the prisoner or for the police officer, or for the public generally, than to witness the transportation, by ordinary means of conveyance by train or 'bus, of a prisoner handcuffed to a uniformed officer travelling with other members of the public to a place where he has to carry out any punishment that may have been imposed upon him. I appreciate the difficulties at times in obtaining private and closed conveyances, and I want to do credit to the Home Secretary and the Home Office generally in this matter as far as the London area is concerned. I think there is a very genuine desire on the part of the authorities that prisoners conveyed between railway station and railway station should be conveyed in cabs. I do not say it is always carried out. My remarks have particular application to the provincial areas, and only last week in the borough of Birkenhead there arose a question of conveying prisoners from the Birkenhead Petty Sessions to Liverpool across the ferry. The Council, owing to the proposed expenditure of something like £150 to replace the old prison van, decided, in the interests of economy, that they would not spend the money, and the prisoners would have to be conveyed in the ordinary way, by being handcuffed to police officers and taken over, amongst other passengers, in the ferry boat and the usual conveyances.
Police officers do not like it; prisoners do not like it, and it is certainly an additional punishment, which is not, perhaps, looked upon as punishment by the Court in the ordinary way. It is not a good thing for the public or for our young people. The tender minds of children are sometimes given to a strain of humour, which none of us would deprecate, perhaps, in which they do not realise the gravity of the situation, and, perhaps, feeling the freedom of their 1697 child life, may throw out a taunt against some poor prisoner. It is obnoxious to a police officer, who has a heart the same as any other human being, and does not like to think his conduct or the prisoner is being subjected to any unnecessary degradation. In many cases police officers have taken prisoners into refreshment houses, and paid expenses out of their own pocket rather than suffer a sensitive prisoner to that degradation. I hope the Home Secretary will indicate that he is prepared to pay some attention to this matter, and get rid of this unsatisfactory state of affairs.
The next question with which I want to deal will, perhaps, be a thorny problem for the Home Department. It has reference to a very old standing matter. It does not merely affect one particular individual who was in the police office, but it affects the whole police system of this country, and it affects the welfare and safety of the whole community. The reference I want to make is to one whose name may be familiar to Members—Ex-Inspector John Syme, of the London Metropolitan Police Force. One feels it is necessary to recall certain details, and I will inform the House that in January, 1910, 13 years ago, Inspector John Syme was dismissed from the Metropolitan Police. For 13 years this man has waged one of the greatest personal fights that have ever been waged with officialdom. There may be much to be said for and against, according to the point of view of the people who argue the case, but I know this—and it is the considered view of the Service—that ex-Inspector Syme, one of the whitest men who ever wore a police uniform, a man who has undergone untold suffering, was merely playing the real game as an inspector of the Metropolitan Police. In August, 1909, four months before Syme was dismissed, two men were arrested by two constables in a street in Pimlico. The two men prior to being arrested were creating an annoyance by unduly ringing a door bell and disturbing the neighbours. The two officers came along, and as the two men were under the influence of drink to some extent, the officers could get no satisfactory explanation from them, and therefore conveyed them as prisoners to the station for inquiry. The station officer, who was Inspector Syme, carried out his 1698 duties as laid down in the general orders of the Metropolitan Police, and first of all satisfied himself that the offence was one for which there was power of arrest, and, secondly, considered whether there was sufficient evidence forthcoming that would be likely to sustain the charge when the prisoners appeared at the Police Court the next morning. On the first point he was satisfied there was power to arrest, but on the second point he was not satisfied there would be sufficient evidence forthcoming to sustain the charge.
Hon. Members ought to recognise the difficulties of the police in trying to get at the truth from a prisoner in a heated moment in a locality where passers-by are just merely interested spectators, and, therefore, the only place in which you can expect a reasonable analysis is the calmer atmosphere of the police station. Inspector Syme investigated it, as I am sure you would have him, thoroughly, and with due regard to the liberty of the subject. He discovered that the two men had a perfect right to ring the door-bell, as they actually resided in the house in question, and it was simply some domestic difference between the men and their wives that they were locked out. Therefore they had a right to ring their door-bell, and Inspector Syme, in quite a proper manner, recognising the liberty of the subject, released the two prisoners, and everything should have ended quite happily. It was necessary, however, in order to record the occurrence, that Syme should make an entry in the official book known as the Refused Charge book. The following morning the entry was examined by Syme's immediate superior officer, who quite endorsed the action of Syme in refusing to take the charge, but called the two constables to him, and reported both constables for bringing an improper charge to the station, and the two men became defaulters.
Syme, in the course of the inquiry, was called upon for his report. He submitted it, and, in doing so, he justified the action of the constables and his own action in subsequently releasing the two prisoners. But those above Syme felt that there was a case against the constables, and were very much annoyed that Inspector Syme should take the side of those two men. It was not the first occasion on which he 1699 had stood by his subordinates when they had been tyrannised or victimised by other superior officers. In the Service, of which I know more than hon. Members in this House, it is a crime for any officer to protect a subordinate officer, when another superior officer is at all concerned in going for that subordinate. He stood by the men, and attended the inquiry, and said the constables were quite correct. The charge was withdrawn, and the constables were merely cautioned. In the reports and statements made to clear the constables, Syme told the Inquiry Officer, his Superintendent, his Chief Inspector, his Chief Constable, and Commissioner some unsavoury home truths, and he was afterwards reported for bringing allegations against his superior officers.
There is no question at all that the allegations which Syme brought against his superior officers were allegations that were commonly understood by nearly every man at Symes' station. There was a general acceptance of the truth of the statements which Syme had made, and the inquiry proceeded. Syme, of course, was in conflict with every superior officer because of his position. Men, brother inspectors, sergeants and constables who, if it were not for fear of victimisation, would have given evidence which would support Syme were afraid to do so because of the consequences to themselves. It was subsequently proved and admitted by the authorities, and by the official minutes of the Commissioners, that there was some reluctance on the part of certain officials to give evidence because they feared the results, and it was only after an understanding to some extent that they were prepared to say even what they did. The result was that the case against Syme was dismissed. It is reasonable to assume that if an inspector, a man with considerable experience in administrative work and in ordinary police work, who had had a brilliant career up to that time, could bring certain charges against a superior officer there are good grounds for his doing so and if he were given a proper opportunity, if those who could bear testimony to the truth of his statements were free from the fear of subsequent victimisation, I am sure the charges which he has brought would have been more than satisfactorily proved so far as the public were 1700 concerned. But the position was that the charge was withdrawn and it was either one of two things. Either Syme was right or Syme was wrong. If Syme was right the only action the Commissioners could properly take was to deal with the officers against whom the allegations were made. If Syme was wrong in his allegations he ought to have been dealt with as a disciplinary charge. But the Commissioner withdrew the charge. He did not even punish him. After he had withdrawn the charge he directed that Inspector Syme was to be transferred to another station in order to part him from his immediate superior officer, between whom and him there was a certain amount of bad blood.
In the police service transfer is always regarded as a measure of punishment, whether the officials say it is not or otherwise. To transfer him from one station to another more often than not means the transfer of his home. It is penalising his children, who may be receiving their education in the locality. It is changing all the shopping places for his wife, it is disturbing his home life, it is probably taking him out of a decent house and putting him into an inferior one. All these conditions weigh with a police officer when he is forced to have a transfer, and Syme said if his transfer was necessitated because there was bad blood he was not the officer who ought to have been transferred. It ought to have been the superior officer against whom he had made the charge. The Commissioner decided that Syme was to go. Because of Symes' refusal he was reduced to the rank of station sergeant, and one has to bear in mind that Syme is a Scot, and Scotsmen do not take things lying down. It may be all very well for Southerners to say Syme ought to have accepted the inevitable, but if we always accepted the inevitable there would never be a fight made and nothing has ever been done unless there has been a fight made. Syme could not accept the inevitable. He revolted. Any man with spirit would revolt. I would not have served in the police service with a degraded rank. Would any officer continue to serve in the Army if he had any real spirit after a degradation? It is unreasonable to expect it, and if he suffers from any grievance he will fight for the rectification of the grievance, and if he will not fight he is not worthy of the name of a man. That is my conception 1701 of what a man should be. Syme, therefore, was dismissed from the force for refusing to accept a reduction in rank. That was in January, 1910.
For 13 long years this man has fought in and out of season and propagated his cause by post. Members of Parliament and Government after Government have been worried with communications from him and from responsible members of the public. He has held meetings in the open air and indoors. He has had audiences of which any political party might have been proud. He has had support from all sections of the community, and, what is more, he has had an intimation from the Home Secretary himself, not our present Home Secretary—I think our present Home Secretary would have been far more generous—but from Mr. Winston Churchill that, having gone into the whole question he was prepared to reinstate him in the Metropolitan Police if he would accept the reduction in rank that had been imposed upon him by the Commissioner. In other words, "Unless you go back as a station sergeant, I cannot reinstate you, because, even though you may be right, if I put you back as an inspector I have then to punish someone else." Why not? Why punish the innocent in order to save the guilty? It is an argument that no Government Department ought to imply. It is an argument that is unworthy of a Government Department that wants to see fair play and a clean and impartial administration. Syme is now an old man, 50 years of age. Had he completed his career, as everyone had reason to believe he would have completed it, rising to the highest post in the service, he would have been entitled to a pension this year after 30 years' service. He would have been a credit to the community. He is a clean-hearted man. This House would have been proud of him. You are always proud of your policemen, except when they do something, at times, that is unpopular, but I believe quite sincerely you are proud of a clean police force, but do not wait for other people to produce it for you. Produce it yourselves. I believe you will find greater satisfaction in upholding the police service when you have done the right thing by one who has made such a gallant stand against an obvious injustice and iniquity.
1702 In addition to that, Syme has perhaps made certain statements which have taken him before the law. He has made threats against the person of His Majesty the King and against other individuals. Let us examine what the value of those threats is. Syme, as I know him, and as he is known to all those who have been in close contact with him for many years, is probably one of the most generous-hearted men you could wish to find. He is the least likely person in the world to do an injury to anyone. I do not believe he would do an injury either to the King or to any other member of the community. He has made those threats knowing full well that the authorities would be compelled to take action against him, and that would give him the only publicity he could secure, because he had no other means at his disposal. He has served terms of imprisonment. He has been followed from place to place by members of the service of which he was an honoured member at one time. There is no more distasteful job to a policeman than to have to hang round after John Syme. The police service financially supported him and helped him in his fight. Is it to be said it is too late in the day, that it happened so long ago that we cannot reopen the question? I want to appeal to the Home Secretary. This is not a question whether it would be right to reinstate Syme or to give him the inquiry that he has been asking for just because previous Governments have refused to concede it. The Conservative party, however it may differ in its political faith from the Labour party, is at least sincere in its own point of view, and apart from any political question, I ask the House to view this question as one of doing justice to a man who has really never done anything that can be said to be immoral in any shape or form. Previous Governments have tampered with this question of justice to Syme. Here is an opportunity for the present Government not to be tied down by the rulings and precedents of previous Governments, which are often the curse of succeeding Governments. Here is an opportunity to do the right thing, and the police and the public will be proud of them. They will realise that at last we have a Government which is not prepared to kow-tow to the decisions of previous Governments, but that it has a will and opinion of its own. Even if it needs a wrench with 1703 old time traditions, the result will be far more satisfactory to the Government if they do justice to this old man, who would not lift his finger to harm any individual, and thus satisfy the conscience of the community. If they continue to refuse to put out the olive branch to Syme, he will go on with his fight—and what decent man would not support him in that fight?—and it will only serve to intensify the spirit of revolt and rebellion which exists in the breasts of all decent-minded people who understand the pros and cons of this matter.
There is much more that I would have liked to have said in this case, but there is another matter to which I wish to refer. Syme made many allegations about the corruption, tyranny and victimisation which existed in the service, and I know that all that Syme said is, in the main, perfectly true. There is no one prouder of the police service than I am. I was born in the police service. I was brought up in it, and I am of the police service, and I want to see the police service carry out its proper function and be an ennobling profession. It is one of the noblest professions that we can have if it carries out its proper functions, putting out the hand of friendship to rich and poor alike. Syme endeavoured to clean up much that was unsavoury in the police force. I do not wish to wash dirty linen here. It is very unpleasant for all people concerned, but if we cannot get satisfaction outside the House, then this must be the only place in which we can fight these issues. If the Home Secretary will take the bold line and give us this inquiry, I believe he will do the right thing. There are 60,000 men in the service, but there is only a handful of men who perhaps may be wrong ones. The police force in the main is a clean service. It is composed of men taken from all walks of life, and is no better and no worse than any other section of the community. If there is a black sheep here and there, then, like the legal profession, the medical profession, or the clergy, the Press get hold of that particular case and the whole service is tarred with the same brush, as if what one man does every other member of the service must be doing although they have not yet been caught. That is the danger of having to wash dirty linen in public. In the main, 1704 policemen would welcome any inquiry that would tend to eliminate from the police force anything of that kind. It would help them to do their duty fearlessly, without prejudice, and without fear of victimisation, in the knowledge that they will be supported by the Government.
The other issue is the question of the men who rook part in the police strike in 1918–19. I ask the House, and I believe I shall be successful in my plea, to divest its mind of prejudice, and to endeavour to forget for the moment the atmosphere that was created by the Press, and by a set of circumstances arising out of the War, in 1919. Since I have been in this House one thing has struck me very much, and it is that the House does not regard any Member in the light of the reputation which he had given to him, probably by the Press, before he entered the House. Since I have been here, and I learned it very quickly, I have found the hand of friendship held out to me by Members from all parts of the House. There was no unkind reference from any Member in regard to the reputation which had been given to me by certain organs in the Press. For that I want to thank the House, because no one realises as I do what I have been up against since the police strike of 1919. Having asked the House to continue to divest itself of any suspicion or prejudice, I want to deal with a few occurrences in the hope that the House will appreciate the point of view of one who has hitherto been refused an opportunity of stating the other man's point of view. That is what I want to give the Committee to-night.
I am not going to ask the Home Secretary for anything unreasonable. The best case is spoiled by unreasonable requests. Even with a bad case, if a reasonable request is made far more consideration can be given to that request than would be given to an unreasonable request, even for the best case. The request I make to the Home Secretary is not to reinstate the police strikers into the Service—that would be an impossible request until he had satisfied both himself and his colleagues of the Cabinet that there is another point of view besides that which was held by the Cabinet in 1919—but I merely ask that we should have an opportunity of stating our case, and letting our case, 1705 as we state it, be balanced against the case that can be made out against it. We ask for an inquiry. It may be argued that if we are going to ask for inquiries all the time, that we shall be doing nothing else but having inquiries. I would rather have an inquiry every day and have a clean conscience than refuse to have an inquiry and have a good deal of mud-slinging going on behind the scenes, and an unpleasant atmosphere as a result. Before and after Syme was dismissed, discontent in the police force manifested itself. I can remember when I was a little boy, my own father, who rose to the rank of Chief Inspector in the police, being victimised for expressing his point of view, for merely saying that policemen ought to have the right to confer together for the purpose of forwarding their views.
So far many years there was discontent in the services, and after Syme's dismissal things became so bad in the police that men were forced to get together in order to talk over their points of view, and endeavour to place their points of view before New Scotland Yard, the various watch committees, and the chief constables, and even Parliament itself. The answer of the authorities was, "It is illegal of policemen even to collect together to discuss their grievances," and very heavy punishments were inflicted on policemen for having dared to meet together, punishments not only of a monetary character, but men were dismissed from the police force and were deprived of their rights to pension and superannuation, and during the war years they were discharged from the police and immediately placed in the Army. To the credit of those men they served their country well while in the Army and subsequently they were reinstated in the police force. Did the policy of the authorities disseminate the good ideas which the authorities wanted the men to have, eliminate their grievances and prevent them from meeting together to consider them? It did not. What it did was, as it will always do, to force the movement underground.
It compelled the men to speak in whispers; they began to lose their self-respect, and to take their stand apart and not to face their fellow-men. Backbiting and tale carrying were the in- 1706 evitable harvest. Men who had ambition—and it is right for a man to have ambition in the police service—to get on in the force, had that ambition exploited by unscrupulous superior officers so that those men often when told to go out and—to use the expression which we understand in the service—"bring them in," had temptation put before them. I have seen it often. I have seen men charged with perjury at the Old Bailey as a result of this system, men who have had ambition perhaps greater than they should have had, and who, with a lively anticipation of favours to come, did everything asked by their superior officers, whose only aim was results, so that there were more charges and more summonses; that those things did exist no mar of any experience in the service could deny. After the first strike of 1918, after many representations to General Sir Neville Macready, he abolished the allowance of 5s. per week which was a charge allowance granted to sub-divisional inspectors when they reached a certain number of charges and summonses., which meant very often loss of self-respect to young and ambitious policemen, and caused great injustice to a law-abiding community.
Those are only some of the things which served to agitate the minds of the policeman, unsettle them and made them feel as if everyone's hand was against them. When you were talking to your sergeant you never knew whether he was extracting something to go to your superior officer. There was the breath of suspicion wherever you went, misunderstanding and disloyalty, even one to the other, and though you had a Royal Commission in 1909 that did not go to the root of the evils. The evils went on, and they culminated in 1918 in a strike of London policemen. Those who may not have been in London nevertheless may remember how the world was astonished when policemen in London hung up their truncheons and walked out. It was very often said at that time that there were undue influences behind the movement. When the disclosures were made arising out of that strike, both Parliament and the public generally were shocked at what they learned in regard to the condition which obtained in the Police Force.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was Prime Minister at that time.
1707 I notified him that I was about to raise this matter to-night so that he might be present if he wished, and have an opportunity of refuting any statement which was incorrect. With a facility that was not unknown in 1918, he suddenly appeared on the scene, waved the magic wand, and said, "What is all this about?" There were policemen in Downing Street and in Whitehall, off duty—many of them in plain clothes—but every man with an understanding that let any person transgress against the law, though they were on strike they themselves, as members of the community, would carry out their duties to the community in the event of an offence being committed. The Prime Minister at that time stepped into the picture, and he did what the Home Secretary at that time and the Commissioner for many years had refused to do, sent for the leaders of the strike. It is important to remember that the men for whom he sent were the President of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers, the honorary Secretary, and the members of the Executive Committee of that society. One of the first things he asked them was, "Why was I not told about this?" He was very much surprised when he was informed that he had been told by registered post every week for many months, and that we had his signature to acknowledgment of our communication, and it was difficult to understand that he had not some knowledge of what was going on.
In view of the manifold duties which fall upon a Prime Minister, especially in those times, I am not foolish enough to believe that he can see everything that goes on, but still a matter such as this, with the possibility of a strike in the Police Service, was of sufficient importance to claim his attention for a few moments. However, when told what the trouble was, he said: "I think that things are bad." Almost immediately he agreed that there should be a substantial increase in pay, non-contributory pensions for widows, and no victimisation; and he agreed, and it was afterwards initialled by the Home Secretary and the President of the Union, that every man should have the right to join the National Union of Police and Prison Officers, without any fear of victimisation, provided—and I want to be quite fair to the Home Secretary on this point 1708 —and so long as that organisation did not interfere with the discipline of the Service. I want to make it perfectly clear. At the moment that was signed, the Prime Minister said, "Well, so far as the recognition of the union is concerned, the War is still on, and this is not a matter which we can talk about now. We will talk about recognition after the War is over, but for the time being you shall have your committees. You say you have your union, and you have your branches already formed. Very well, go ahead with them and set up the committees on a basis to be agreed upon, and you can go ahead and there will be no interference with you." The last thing the Prime Minister said, before the men left was, "If anything like this occurs again, come along and let me know."
This is what happened: Immediately after the resumption of duty General Macready was transferred to New Scotland Yard from the War Office. Obviously a man with a military mind, he had not the slightest conception of civil police duty, but he was honest enough to say that he was there to do his job. I do not think that anyone who came into contact with him had anything whatever to say against him personally. I liked him as an officer and as a gentleman, but it was impossible for him to see the point of view of the civilian police officer. We mutually agreed to differ on nearly all subjects. His job was, he told us frankly, to bring the discipline of the Metropolitan Police up to the standard of a Guards regiment, and he said he was going to do it. He said he had found that the administration of the police was absolutely wrong and it would be years before it was put right, that many changes had to be made, and he did not know how we could have remedied the position in any other way than by the strike we had had—a very frank admission and a general acceptance of the position in which we found ourselves. But his duty was to smash the organisation that had brought to light the disgraceful affairs which existed.
If the Government in 1918 did not intend to recognise the Union after the War, it would have been far more honest to have said so; it would have been cleaner and more honourable to the men who did join that Union on the Prime Minister's 1709 promise. It would have saved much suffering and humiliation if the Prime Minister had not deceived the ordinary common or garden policeman of that time. After all, deception is a wicked thing. Only the other day I read a speech made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs some time in 1909, not far from the East End of London, in which he said that deception is always a pretty contemptible device, but it is the meanest of all devices when it is practised on the poor. The right hon. Gentleman of 1909 evidently overlooked the poor policeman in 1918. It is a strange commentary upon the position that after that policy had been framed that was the last time that the then Prime Minister ever met the representatives of the men through their Union, although he had undertaken to see them at any time when any matter of this kind arose.
Since 1919 this is the first opportunity I have had of stating the men's point of view, and I hope that the House will be generous in the matter. One of the conditions of the recognition of the Union was the institution of Committees of a certain constitution. In that constitution, which was agreed upon by the Prime Minister and the Union representatives, there was a provision that the Commissioner should receive a deputation elected by the Executive Committee of the Board at any time. General Macready refused to receive a deputation, because he said that that deputation had been insubordinate in representing a certain point of view to him. We appealed to the Home Secretary. We were refused a hearing in the first place, despite the fact that it was a part of the constitution. Then the Home Secretary through the Commissioner said, "We consider that the Boards are quite unsatisfactory and that you must have a different kind of Board altogether." We immediately replied, "But that is not the settlement of 1918, which said that the Board should be on a certain basis. Now you say that you are going to change it. We want you to listen to us." We were refused a hearing again. We appealed to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister ignored us and positively refused to meet us. The matter was referred to the then Home Secretary, Mr. Shortt. He declined to meet the police on this question and the Commissioner forced the police in London to accept a new constitution.
1710 What was the result? When nominations were asked for from the men, there were no nominations forthcoming, because the men refused to have anything to do with the new scheme. Therefore, the Commissioner authorised one or two of his own nominations to stand for election, and when the elections came round there were no men in the service who voted for the candidate except a mere handful. Practically the whole of the Metropolitan Police turned down the new scheme. After that the bombshell fell. The Home Secretary of the time introduced a new Bill, the Police Bill, which contained all the matter for the destruction of the organisation which secured a measure of justice for the police in 1918. The Home Secretary refused to discuss the matter with those who had been a party to the agreement of 1918. We appealed to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister went to Paris. We wired to the Prime Minister. We had a deputation ready to meet him in Paris. He declined to have anything whatever to do with it, and when the Bill came before the House we had not an opportunity even of stating our point of view to the Government.
I remember that when the Desborough Committee was meeting I gave evidence, but no question was put to me with regard to the method of representation within the police service. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant) will remember that the question of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers was not raised by the Committee for some time after the first witness had appeared. It would be extremely interesting to know why. I, who gave first evidence before that Committee, was not asked a question with regard to the composition of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers, nor upon any method of representation. Although subsequent witnesses were asked all kinds of questions with regard to the organisation, that policy was not applied to me, the general secretary of the organisation. The whole thing savoured of a deliberate policy of withholding from all those associated with the organisation any opportunity of stating a case. I am not now appealing for myself, but for those men who, rightly or wrongly, went on strike. I know this is where some hon. Members will feel they cannot go as far 1711 as I do. I would remind them when that Police Bill was before the House, no other channel was open to the service to bring before the Prime Minister the fact that the agreement of 1918 had been violated. A strike was decided upon. That is an ugly word, and it was an ugly situation, but, after all, what was the strike for? There was no question of pay or better conditions. It was merely for the preservation of an honourable principle; for the right which is inherent in every member of the community to meet with his fellows, in common association, for the purpose of representing their common point of view.
Owing to many circumstances which I do not propose to elaborate, the strike was not a success from a numerical point of view. There was a great outcry in the Press that there were Bolshevist and German influences behind the strike, and a Member of this House asked whether any members of the executive were of alien parentage. I believe the question was asked in good faith. The reply of the Home Secretary of the time was that there were two men who had alien parents and one was of German parentage, their names being Thiel and Zollner. It is easy to inflame public opinion in these circumstances. It is easy to cry out "Bolshevist" and "German" and to raise stories of that kind, and it was particularly easy at the tail-end of the War to work up the imagination of people against these men, but the Home Secretary did not tell the House that Thiel and Zollner, who were born in this country, had served in one of His Majesty's regiments of Guards in the South African War and in the Great War with honour and distinction. The Home Secretary did not say that. It was a wicked and libellous impression which was allowed to go abroad. These men had no opportunity of choosing their parents, and if they ever had any German blood in their veins it had been eliminated by their British associations. But the libel went on and it affected every man who took part in that strike. Out of these 2,500 men, no fewer than 1,004 fought in the Great War, having an aggregate service among them of over 7,000 years; 92 of them were captains and lieutenants, nearly 400 were sergeant-majors, sergeants or corporals, 236 had special decorations, 1712 while 1,428 other War medals were earned by these men. Over 25 per cent. of them—282 out of the 1,004—had been seriously wounded. All the executive members of the union were serving policemen, and the only two men who were not policemen were the organising secretary and myself. I had an honourable record in the Service and I only resigned at the request of policemen to take over the secretaryship of their organisation and to do my best for them. All the decisions of the Union were the decisions of the policemen themselves, and there were no outside influences of any kind behind that strike. After all, the crime that they committed, if crime it be, was the crime of fighting for a principle. We have all at some time or other struck some blow for a principle. We may be right or wrong; it may be a proper principle or an improper principle, but there are Members of this House and of another place who—it matters not whether they were right or wrong—in their desire for the protection of a principle which they held sacred, organised unconstitutional acts in 1913 in Northern Ireland. I do not condemn them for what they did, if, they were of opinion that it was the only correct thing to do. What was the difference in method between them and the men in this case. But were they refused reinstatement into public favour? Were they sent to beg for their livelihood and put into the position of common felons? No. They were rewarded, some with promotion to the peerage and some with Government rank. After all, an uneducated policeman, and one may use that term without being misunderstood—uneducated as compared with the people to whom I refer—is surely not going to be branded for the rest of his days and made a felon for something which he thought was right and which was done in an honourable and straightforward way. It may not have met the point of view of hon. Members, but I ask hon. Members to think of the long service of these men and of the fact that they believed in the word of the Prime Minister in 1918. Surely they were entitled to believe that it was a word to be trusted in and relied upon.
I may mention an interesting fact to hon. Members in that connection. During the Boer War, when there was much ado about nothing and efforts were being made 1713 by certain gentlemen who are now Members of this House to cultivate public opinion against that war and to bring defeat to His Majesty's troops in the field, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs went to speak in Birmingham. The opinion of the people of Birmingham was against the right hon. Gentleman at that time, and after attempting to address them in the Town Hall he was glad to don the uniform of a policeman in order to make good his escape. More interesting still is the history of the six-feet-four constable who assisted him and escorted him from the rear of that building and who afterwards became Sergeant Taylor of the Birmingham City Police. That man had 24 years' service, and in his simplicity, if you like, he believed that the Prime Minister, whom he had once escorted from the Birmingham Town Hall, would not go back on his word in 1918. Yet that man was one of the victims of the refusal to honour the pledges given by the right hon. Gentleman; that man lost his pension and prospects, and Sergeant Taylor to-day with his wife and children is suffering untold privations despite his honourable record. It is because of those men and because I believe we have a case that I bring these matters forward. I am not arguing as to whether we were right or wrong in the action we took, but we have proved our claim to justice tempered with mercy. It sometimes happens that justice without mercy is more evil in its results than the justice meted out in brutal passion and it is the mercy of justice for which we ask.
We ask for the reconsideration of the whole position, and for allowances to be made for all the difficulties and the misunderstandings of the past. We have heard of one Syme since 1910. These men have fought together since 1919. I have endeavoured, in my own way, to keep them in the constitutional path. I have preached to them the gospel of political emancipation. I have told them the thing to do was to get to the Floor of the House of Commons and state our case in such a way that Members of the House would at least cause an inquiry to be made in order that proper justice might be done. Now the opportunity has arisen, and I want to prompt the mind of the Home Secretary to a communication which he received in February last from Sir Archibald Salvidge, K.B.E., who will be well known to my hon. Friends 1714 opposite as the organising genius of the Conservative party in Liverpool. He was the one man who pitted the whole weight of the Conservative organisation against me during my by-election. Sir Archibald Salvidge, nevertheless, with all his political opposition to myself, and with all his condemnation of the police strike in Liverpool—where every policeman practically came out on strike, and where the people of Liverpool did suffer as a result of the strike—wrote this letter to the Home Secretary on 5th February, 1923:Dear Sir,—On 5th April, 1922, the following resolution was adopted by the Liverpool City Council:'That these members of the Liverpool Police Force who went out on strike in August, 1919, and who had completed 20 years' service should be recommended pension on a scale to be approved by the Secretary of State as and from the date on which they ceased to serve in the force.'This resolution was duly conveyed to your predecessor, who, I understand, informed the Town Clerk that he did not see his way to take any steps to give effect to the terms thereof. Such a resolution could not have been carried had it not been for the votes of those who, whilst strongly disapproving of the action of the strikers, yet felt the punishment was too severe. This view I share, and I am of opinion that the full punishment meted out to them errs in severity and does not altogether fit the crime. Large numbers of the strikers had to their credit long periods of faithful and meritorious service in the force, and I am satisfied that had it not been for the glamour of agitators, they would not have taken the drastic step they did. Further, the period of time given by the Watch Committee to the strikers to return to duty or be dismissed was hardly sufficient, and I regard this as a point in their favour and mention it as a factor in the appeal I am making for some clemency to be shown to them.By their ill-advised action, the strikers lost everything, even their contributions to the Superannuation Fund, which they had paid for years, and I am told that a policeman after a long period of service in the force is physically unfit to take up other forms of work involving great physical strength. As a consequence, large numbers of the strikers have been unable to find employment, with the further result that many of them are now in absolute want, whilst others have arrived at an age when it is hopeless to expect that they can earn their living.As one who has taken a prominent part in the public life of Liverpool for more than 30 years, I respectfully ask your reconsideration of the resolution referred to herein, and I believe that if you can see 1715 your way to advise some clemency, your action will remove a feeling existing that whilst punishment was right, the severity of it has resulted in injustice.I again apologise for the time I have taken. I have tried to state the point of view that we have never yet been allowed to place before those who sit in judgment upon us. I believe the Government can do the right thing if they will. The honour and prestige of the Government are surely more to them than the question of upholding the old time tradition of one Government endorsing what a previous Government has done. During the War certain people of high social standing endeavoured to use our organisation for the purpose of defaming certain Members of His Majesty's Government. Knowing that we had access to certain information, they tempted us to betray our trust in order that they should become possessed of that information, and their prey at that time was a Member of the Government who is a right hon. Member of this House at the present time, to whom I have never yet spoken a word that we declined to do anything contrary to the interests of the Government or of himself at that time. We were honourable to a degree, and I believe that this Government will prefer to be honourable also, and whatever may have been said in regard to our tendencies in the past, if the Government can bring a measure of inquiry and take a referendum throughout the police service, they will acknowledge that the police service are at least the best judges as to whether their goodwill would go with the reinstatement of these men. I would go further, and say, that if a referendum were taken of the police service of this country to-day, as to whether it would be a popular thing or not to re-instate these men, I and my colleagues would stand or fall by the result of that referendum. It would answer the statement made by the late Prime Minister when he told the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) that the opinion of the police force was against reinstatement, when he must have known it was a deliberate mis-statement. I appeal to the House and the Government to reconsider the whole position and endeavour to do the right thing, despite what they may consider is necessary for the purpose of precedent and upholding authority. Do not reply that discipline has to be considered. Justice and honour 1716 are far more important than discipline. Let not yourselves be drawn into a continuation of the victimisation that has gone on in the past. I thank the House for its indulgence, and I hope the Government will give earnest consideration to our case.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member for Edgehill (Mr. Hayes) has made a very interesting speech, and I do not grudge him the time that he has occupied in making it, but I think it is incumbent upon me to reply to the main points which he has raised, because I know there are other hon. Members who want to deal with prisons and other subjects connected with this Debate. Therefore, I will say the few words that I have to say in reply to his two main contentions at once. He has had an opportunity for which he has been waiting for some time, and I am glad he has got it off his chest. I am not going to impeach the motives which actuated him in the action, which, I think, was entirely mistaken, but I am entitled to say that I think he was wrong in the action he took at that time, and that he is now defending himself for having taken. I have not time to go into all the details of the long and painful story of the police strike, but I will say at once that I am extremely sorry for some of those who are the victims of the strike of 1919. I am very sorry that they took the bad advice which was given to them. Their case has been fully considered, and their grievances, so far as the Government of that time understood them, were being dealt with by a Committee. I think they understood that it was quite clear that the Police Union could not be allowed if it was going to be used for the purposes of a strike, and I think they understood that if they did strike the consequences would be, what they have been, final and irrevocable dismissal from the force. That applies not only to them, but also to the prison officials. They knew what would happen, and they deliberately took the action which they did take, and It would be absolutely impossible to maintain discipline, in a force in which discipline is most necessary for the safety of the public in this country, if we admitted that men who thought it was right to strike at a time like that were tit to remain in the police force. I think it right that I should at once make that point quite clear. I am sorry that they took that action, and still more sorry for 1717 those who took it on the advice of other people, without thinking out the matter for themselves. They knew what they were doing, and I am afraid they must take the consequences.
There are two or three minor questions to which the hon. Gentleman referred. There was one concerning the conditions of service and the 2½ per cent. reduction. That is only for the moment, and will be reconsidered when this year is over. Perhaps the most important minor question he raised was the question of the conveyance of prisoners. I think the regulations are as humane as they can be, but there have been one or two cases where I think some unwisdom has been shown, and where there has been an unnecessary use of the handcuffs. The question must always be considered of the force that is conducting prisoners, and the risk of escape. There are one or two regulations which I think the House might like to know. Women prisoners are always escorted by women officers, and sometimes by men in plain clothes told off to assist them if desirable. As regards men, in the case of unconvicted prisoners it is left to the prison governor as to whether handcuffs should or should not be used In some cases if the prisoner is young, and of a dangerous type, he is handcuffed. In the majority of cases handcuffs are unnecessary. In regard to convicted prisoners, these are always handcuffed, and in cases where there is a large party travelling together the prisoners are linked together with a light chain: sometimes even then they escape. It is unnecessary to state that every care is taken to see that no unnecessary severity is used, but we must take every precaution that they should not escape.
The main point the hon. Gentleman raised was the case of ex-Inspector Syme. I must deal with that at some length, though I hope I shall not detain the Committee too long. However, before I come to that, let me say I have been asked in case of the police strikers to upset the decision of my predecessor.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
That might give rise to ill-founded hopes. I do not feel that at the moment I can agree to that.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree to consider giving these men back their superannuation money? The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that a man or woman may be the biggest scoundrel possible, and be found guilty of any offence, yet they are given back the money they have paid into a superannuation fund. Surely that is a matter which might be gone into?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I do not know about that. As to a public inquiry, if the hon. Member asks me to reverse the decision of my predecessor, I am afraid I cannot. As to the case of ex-Inspector Syme, he has asked me to reverse the whole row of my predecessors at the Home Office.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Well, I thought there was less likelihood of the whole lot being wrong than one being wrong. Here again, before I go into the case, I must say frankly, that I am extremely sorry for this case, and am extremely sorry that Syme has thought fit to ruin his own case—if he had one at all—by the way he has conducted himself. He ought to have considered other people as well as himself. He has chosen to embark on a campaign of abuse of a large number of officials, and others connected with the police force. If he wants to stand as a wise man he should be a little more careful of the way he is acting.
Let me give a summary of the case. It began in 1909, when Lord Gladstone, as he now is, was the Home Secretary. The hon. Gentleman has given his account of the story. I think he has rather exaggerated some points and minimised others. At the time I refer to, there was friction between Syme and his superior officers at Gerald Road Police Station. After an inquiry by one of the chief constables it was decided to transfer him to another station. Syme then began a series of defamatory charges against the superior officers who had caused his transfer. These charges were investigated by a discipline board in December, 1909. The board directed his reduction from the rank of inspector to that of station sergeant, and his removal to another subdivision. He appealed against the decision to the Commissioner, Sir Edward Henry. The transference was a 1719 perfectly reasonable thing. He was not getting on well with the heads, and it was better for them both, assuming they were wise men, seeing they were not getting on well together, that they should be removed from each other. Syme had no right to resent that. Sir Edward Henry confirmed the decision of the board in a considered judgment, of which a copy was presented to Parliament in 1911. This decision was approved by Lord Gladstone. Syme refused to abide by the decision, and claimed the right to appeal to Parliament. He carried on a regular agitation through circular letters to Members, articles in the newspapers, etc., and this conduct could not be allowed by a member of a disciplined force. He was dismissed from the Service.
When Mr. Churchill came to the Home Office in 1910, Syme appealed to him and asked to see him. Mr. Churchill had a prolonged interview with him. The hon. Member did not tell us that when Mr. Churchill offered to reinstate him in the lower position which he held on leaving the Service, he entirely endorsed the judgment of the Commissioner in regard to him. Having been offered an opportunity to return to the lower rank which he had when he left the Service, he declined to accept the position, and then he began using threats against Mr. Churchill, and a great many other people concerned with the case. He also threatened the King, though the hon. Gentleman says he does not believe he would ever have carried his threat out, and I do not suppose he would. If the Leader of the Opposition were here he would remember that Syme sent him a letter threatening to use very violent and murderous action against him.
During the next three years—1910, 1911 and 1912—he was constantly before the Courts on charges of this kind. In 1914, he published a pamphlet entitled, "Fighting Officialdom: A three years' fight against Home Office persecution." For this, a prosecution for criminal libel was brought against him, so that the whole of his charges might be properly investigated in a court of justice. He had always been saying that there were a lot of charges which he wished to make against people which ought to be investigated, and this gave him the opportunity. The case was tried by Judge and 1720 jury for six days. Syme filed a plea of justification. He was unable to prove any of his charges, and it was shown that his allegations were false. He appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal, and the Court confirmed the decision. Mr. Justice Bankes, in delivering the judgment of the Court of Appeal, said he was astonished at the marvellous patience shown by the Judge and the jury. He was satisfied that they fully grasped every point made by the appellant that could tell in his favour. The learned Judge had not stopped any cross-examination on a point which might be material, and there was nothing on which to found the suggestion that there had been misdirection. He came to the conclusion that the appeal must be dismissed. So the appeal was dismissed.
During the War, Syme was on several occasions prosecuted for making statements calculated to interfere with recruiting, and some time in last year he was serving two partly concurrent terms, each of three months' imprisonment, in default of finding sureties; the earlier having been passed in November, 1921. From that he went on to hunger-striking, as the hon. Gentleman knows—
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
It would be very hot weather in which to do it. By reason of his refusal to take food, he had several times been released under the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for III-health) Act, 1913, since on medical grounds he could not be artificially fed. He has since been charged on five further occasions with collecting money in the Park, before it was decided, in February, 1923, by me, to recommend the remission of his outstanding sentences, he having been temporarily released 17 times since November, 1921. He had been released 17 times under what is called the "Cat and Mouse Act," and I hoped that if the sentences were remitted he would perhaps give up the policy which he had adopted up to that time. Since the remission of his sentence he has once been fined for causing an obstruction, and he has written to me constantly, while most hon. Members of the House have received a great number of postcards, asking that something should be done for him.
1721 I think the Committee will see how utterly impossible it is for the Home Office to do anything while he persists in this attitude. What does it mean? Here is a man who considers himself aggrieved, who has had every chance. He has had discipline boards, and has had appeals considered; and although no doubt he thinks he is unjustly treated, he has had every chance which any man in the force could have. The first case goes against him, and he thinks; by adopting this course of bringing charge against other people in the police force, that he will get his own case reconsidered, and some reinstatement. How can a man think that that is the right course to pursue? In the last few months he has brought charges against officials in the police force. He will not put them in writing now. I am perfectly ready to investigate them, and if he puts them in writing he shall have the same opportunity as he had before of proving them, but that is not the way to reintate himself. I ask the Committee, how can anybody in the position of the Commissioner of Police reinstate a man who persists in action of that kind? It means that if there is anything with which he is dissatisfied in the discipline of the force, he has only got to go about accusing everybody of malpractices and creating great dissatisfaction against the honourable force of police of which, as the hon. Gentleman said, we are all very proud, asking that I, somehow or other, in order to reinstate him, should have a sort of general fishing inquiry, in the hope that I should drag up some mud or scandal in the course of it which would damage some of the officials whose action at the head of the police force he resents.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
How would any hon. Gentleman in this Committee like to have an inquiry made into his whole life and whole conduct by a fishing committee, in the hope that some scandal would be raked up which would justify a slander which some other person had chosen to make?
§ Mr. HAYES
Syme's position is this. He feels he has been unjustly treated, and he is endeavouring to prove that the system which unjustly treated him is not 1722 acting fairly in many other cases. It is merely in the endeavour to prove his point that he is compelled to do this. It must be remembered that before he was dismissed he drew attention to many cases, and I could draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to many more.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I am perfectly ready to consider any specific case that could be brought. I always have immediately investigated any specific case that has been brought, but I am not going to believe that the whole of the police force, or any section of it, are guilty of malpractices just because Syme, because he has a grievance, chooses to say so.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
It would be grossly unfair to those who act in the police force if I allowed anybody to think I was going to be influenced, by that sort of accusation, into allowing their conduct to be inquired into by Syme, who would not bring openly a specific charge against them. Any specific charge they would be only too glad to have considered, and so would I, but I am not prepared to have an open fishing inquiry in the hope that something may be found to justify these accusations that have been made. I cannot understand how ex-Inspector Syme thinks that action of that sort can do his case any good. Let him desist from his accusations—
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
He has chosen to take this line; he must take the consequences. I am very sorry for him. He is one of those men who has got a sort of obsession that he is the only righteous man in the whole of the police force, and that everybody else, or a great many of them, are guilty of bad practices. It is an unfortunate obsession. We all of us, I suppose, in the course of our lives, have felt that we have been unjustly treated at some time or another, and we have most of us learned to put up with it, and make the best of it. Really the members of this Committee will see how utterly impossible it is for me to take the course suggested, much as I should like to get it settled and see that the rest of this man's life was left in a peaceful and happy state. I am certain hon. Members will see that it is utterly impossible for 1723 me to take the action I have been asked to take if I am to maintain and defend those in the position of conducting the work of the police force in London.
§ Sir JAMES REMNANT
Before mentioning one or two other subjects, should like to say that I am not impressed, I am sorry to say, by what the Home Secretary has said about ex-Inspector Syme. For many years I have followed this case, but if the present Home Secretary were to tell me that if he had looked into the initial circumstances of ex-Inspector Syme's case, and was satisfied that no injustice had been done, I should unreservedly accept his finding. If the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me for reminding him, when earlier asked if he could not do this or that in reference to a previous note, he said he had so much to do to enable him to catch up the arrears of his work that he would be glad if the House were adjourned for several months. That is just my point. If my right hon. Friend, in whom the whole House has absolute confidence, could state that he had, with a fresh mind, looked into the initial circumstances of this case—
§ Sir J. REMNANT
Then I have nothing more to say. But up to now I did not think he had examined the circumstances of ex-Inspector Syme's case, with whom I have the greatest sympathy; and in spite of all this man has done since his degradation and dismissal, we must feel sympathy for him, and I still have in my mind a feeling that he was unjustly treated.
With regard to the strikers, that is a case which has agitated the whole police force very much. Of course they ought not to strike, and the world was astonished when they did. I will go further, and say that London was ashamed of the police on the day they struck. The police were ashamed of themselves, and nobody regrets that strike more than the police themselves. On the other hand, why did they strike? There can be no two opinions that they had just cause for very serious complaint, and it was only when driven to desperation, and in the belief that attention was not being given to their very hard case, that they took the step they did, and struck in order 1724 to bring their case prominently before the public.
I want to keep this question entirely free from politics. The conditions under which the police work and live should be known and appreciated by all those who have to deal with this very important body of men. When you see at your very door men who were within a short time of being able to receive their pensions absolutely dismissed and cast adrift, for complaints which were admitted by the Government as just, and on the other hand, people who have been convicted of murder and outrage subsequently pardoned and even honoured for political purposes, it strikes me that this treatment is not in keeping with the British idea of fair play. Nobody wants to excuse the original offence, but we cannot deny that these men have suffered very seriously for their sins in the past. When we are trying to get over the effects or the War and start afresh, it seems to me that we have an opportunity now to try and remove some of those grievances which are causing unrest in the police force.
I want now to appeal to the Home Secretary for some information as to what he proposes to do with the poor old pre-September, 1918, police pensioners' widows. I cannot help thinking that if economics in the police forces throughout the country were made, this small difficulty, at all events, could be got over. Why should the widows of the men who because they were not actually serving on the 1st September, 1918, and who had never struck, but were always loyal to their duties, be excluded from their small pension, because one of the conditions of the strike settlement was that the widows of the men who were then serving should receive a pension? Why should there be this distinction? When I brought this matter up the last time, I was told that it would cost too much. The then Home Secretary gave me first one large figure one day, and a smaller one the next day, and to this day nobody can say the number of widows who would be entitled to receive this pension. An interesting return was given in 1918 showed the number of pensions under 20s., and some as low as 9s. So far as I can make out from that return there would be, at the outside, not more than 3,000 or 4,000 of these police pensioners' widows who would be entitled to this 1725 small pension, and I appeal to the Home Secretary to let us know if something can be done to remedy this undoubted grievance. These poor old souls, many of whom are in the workhouses, should be allowed this small pension of £30 a year, to alleviate their sufferings in their old age.
Then we have had a sort of half promise from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that some provision is going to be made for increasing all pre-War pensions. I would like to get something from the Home Secretary on that point, and may I invite the right hon. Gentleman to see that we shall not be put under the same disability as we were on a previous occasion, when we were told by the then Solicitor-General, on moving an Amendment to substitute the word "shall" for "may," that the alteration was quite unnecessary, that the word "may" meant "shall," and if it were used all would be well in the best of possible worlds. We have found that it is not so. The Solicitor-General got our Amendment withdrawn, I will not say under false pretences, for that might be interpreted in a disagreeable way, but he got it withdrawn under conditions which had they been fully realised would not have led to the withdrawal of the Amendment. We have had a most interesting return got out which shows how unwise it is to leave these matters to the sole discretion of the local authorities. Several of them have said that this increase is most unnecessary, that the police are a well-paid force, and ought to have made provision for their own old age. I think those who made that assertion would be the first to complain if they were in the same position as the police. The House may be interested to know that four police authorities in the Kingdom absolutely refused to give any increase whatever, and that 90 police authorities in the country failed to carry out what this House intended they should do, in order to relieve serious cases of pensioners who were not able to make both ends meet. That is the distinct result of trusting to opinions, instead of having the matter laid down in plain words. I trust the Home Secretary, when he deals with this question again, will see that, if in the future the House decide on a definite policy, we shall have the word "shall" used in the Act, instead of 1726 "may," and not leave it to the discretion of local authorities who are always so anxious to reduce the rates, and so make these poor fellows suffer in the matter of pension.
The Police Federation has been referred to by the hon. Gentleman opposite. There are several points I would like to raise, but I am going to bring only one before the attention of the Home Secretary this evening. It is this, that under the rules laid down secretaries of the various committees are appointed, and have to serve for a year. These men are selected for their fitness for a difficult position, and they have to give a great deal of time to the work they do for the Federation. In many cases the chief constable and the local authorities are annoyed became they are constantly away from their police duties, and are drawing pay at the same time. Could not the Home Secretary arrange that, while these men are serving in these positions—there cannot be many of them—they should be given leave on full pay for the whole of the year, and that the cost shall be borne, not out of the local police fund, but by the State. It would get rid of the annoyance caused to their chief officers, and enable them to devote the whole of their time to Federation work, without hindrance.
The hon. Member opposite said it was quite true that when the Committee was appointed in 1919, it urged that, except in some very exceptional cases, the plums of police force appointments should be open to men who have worked their way up from the bottom. It was stated that 60 chief constables have been appointed from outside without experience of police work. That, I think, was before the Committee in question was appointed. No appointment can now be made unless it has the direct sanction of the Home Secretary, but since the recommendation of the Committee was made, a very insidious plan has been introduced of evading it. Assistant and Deputy-chief constables have been apointed from outside for the express purpose of being made chief constables when the vacancy arises. I am sure the House does not desire to see that done, and would wish that a man who during his whole service in the force has proved himself a highly efficient officer should have the first claim to the chief post when it becomes vacant. The Home Secretary's atention might very 1727 usefully be devoted to putting an end to the practice of bringing outsiders into the force, with the sole view of appointing them to the higher positions at the expense of men who really deserve those positions
I hope the Home Secretary will at once put an end to the rumours which are being spread about of an alteration in the standard pay of the force, which was decided upon after so much laborious inquiry. The scale of pay was fixed as one suitable for men who had to do special and exceptional work. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Does my hon. Friend who cries "No" really know what these men have to do, and the circumstances under which they perform their work? Does he know, for instance, that the men on night duty have to make special arrangements with their families, so that they may be provided with food during the night? Does he know half the difficulties under which these men have to work? All I can say is that, knowing him as I do, I am sure if he were aware of the facts, he would be the first to say that these men deserve the pay they get, and he would add "more power to them, may they never have it taken away from them."
I come now to my last point. We hear a good deal about economies in various directions, but after all very little is done. We do not want to have to call for economy from the lower ranks if we do not call for it from the higher ranks, and we do not need to call for economy from anyone if the unnecessary parts of the force are removed. I asked a question the other day as to the appointment of a chief constable in a very small force, and there are forces which go down as low as nine. What does a force of nine want with a chief constable, a superintendent, a sergeant, and so on? In the county of Berkshire, where I now live, there are no fewer than three separate forces, with three chief constables and the extra officers. One force numbers 23, another 70, and then there is the big county force. The county police headquarters are within a stone's throw of the borough police headquarters in Reading. What on earth is the necessity for three chief constables in the county of Berkshire? The, county force could do the work for Reading just as well as Reading can itself, and in that larger force there is a 1728 greater chance for the men themselves to get promotion, and for greater efficiency in the whole force. I believe that if we can get over the idea of a locality sticking up for its own local police force simply because it is its own force, and thinking that, no one can do it as well, and if we put our heads together with common sense and the intention to examine whether we can effect economies, economies can be made, and many other improvements in connection with the police Forces, which require money, can be carried out without any extra expense at all to the taxpayers of the country.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
It seems to me that the Home Secretary, in dealing with the case of ex-Inspector Syme, has made no suggestion whatever as to what Syme ought to have done in the first instance, or what any other man in a lower position is to do when he knows that serious irregularities are going on in the Police Force. There is nothing so far as Regulations or anything else is concerned to provide protection for the men, of whom there are large numbers in the police forces throughout the country, who really desire to see a thoroughly clean and straight police force. I am speaking as one who was for 17 years a member of a watch committee, and for two years was the chairman, and I had the extremely disagreeable task of having to ask one chief constable to resign and of having to suspend a number of Superior officers and clear up a very disagreeable mess that there was at that time. That was some few years ago, but there has been, unfortunately, such an atmosphere as has prevented the continuance of the work that we attempted to do at that time.
The Report of His Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary for the year 1922 shows that the number of probationary appointments was 1,126, and that 27 per cent. resigned during the probationary period. The number of appointments, in consequence of the need for economy, is less than one-third of what it was in the previous year, and, during a time of unexampled unemployment, 27 per cent. of the small number who were appointed did not stop on after the probationary period. The suggestion is made that there should be a closer inquiry into the antecedents of those who are appointed, and that one police force does not sufficiently help 1729 another in this matter. I would point out that, in a force in which, in addition to its pay, housing accommodation, clothing, and ultimately a pension is provided, the position is that not more than 10 per cent. of those who enter the force ultimately arrive at the pensionable age. In the year 1913, in the Sheffield force, only 14 per cent. of the whole force had over 20 years' service, another 20 per cent. had 15 years' service, and another 10 per cent. 10 years' service, so that to a very large extent the force was entirely a young force. These figures with regard to resignations indicate that there is something seriously wrong either in regard to the method of recruiting or in some other direction. I venture to think that one of the causes is that men are not prepared to submit to a certain amount of that tyranny which undoubtedly exists, and that many who really want to do the right thing, and who realise what the police force should be, do not receive the encouragement that they should receive from their superior officers. The Home Secretary, in his reply, said that certain things could not be allowed in a disciplined force. I am going to read a letter which was addressed to the members of the City Council by a man in the Civil Service. He says:During my service at the front, my wife committed adultery. She subsequently made a confession, implicating a Sheffield police sergeant. I availed myself of the law for the purpose of obtaining a divorce, and cited the police sergeant as corespondent. After long delays, the case was heard in the High Courts, but, owing to the respondent failing to put in an appearance, it was not possible to compel the co-respondent to enter the witness-box. I was, therefore, deprived of an opportunity of proving my case against this man. The Court, however, granted me a decree, the costs of which, owing to the respondent having failed to attend Court, will have to be borne by me. Having been deprived of an opportunity in the High Courts to deal with the conduct of the police sergeant, I submitted as soon as practicable a complaint to the chief constable of the sergeant's conduct. In this I was joined by my wife, who, as a consequence of her immoral relationship with the sergeant, had since given birth to a male child, in respect of which the sergeant does not contribute. The whole of the facts in this case have been submitted both to the chief constable and to the chairman of the Watch Committee. The chief constable states that he has no power to compel the sergeant to attend to answer the complaint—as a matter of fact the sergeant refused to attend the chief constable's office to allow the complaint to 1730 be investigated—and the Watch Committee state they are unable to take any action in the matter, having regard to all the facts and circumstances within their knowledge.The following is a sworn affidavit by the sister of this man:In February, 1916, whilst my brother was away on active service, I went to stay with his wife. I stayed with her six weeks. During my visit I noticed that Thomas Jones was on very friendly terms with my sister-in-law. He visited the house frequently and stayed to supper on several occasions. He often called at the house at about 11 o'clock when on duty and used to tap at the kitchen window, his excuse being to ask if we were all right. At other times he was in the habit of showing his lamp up and down the bedroom window in the early hours of the morning when returning home, and my sister-in-law used to leave the curtains undrawn and get up and go to the window. My sister-in-law's conversation on that visit was continually about Jones; she told me he did not sleep with his wife, and I remonstrated with her upon her conversation and familiarity with him in the absence of her husband on active service.That man is still in the Sheffield Police Force. The Chief Constable declines to take any action with regard to him. Is it right that in any police force there should be a man continuing there as sergeant, or anything else, against whom charges of this character can be brought? I have a very large number of other cases of one sort or another, with which I will not detain the House, which show the complete want of appreciation as to how a real, commonsense police force should be run, not by those at the bottom but by those at the top.
Before bringing up the question of the women police, I would like to urge the Home Secretary to consider the case of those poor women and their pensions, mentioned by the hon. Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant). After all, their husbands, when serving as policemen, were grossly underpaid, and it would be a kind appreciation of the services of men who were underpaid. I do hope, therefore, the Home Secretary will take into consideration the case of those women. Then there is the case of the warders, who are to be turned out of their homes. The Home Secretary has given them an extension to the 30th September. I know, if it be possible, he will extend that date.
In that case I will only say that I take an interest in these women. I want now to raise the question of the women police. I do not know whether this present House understands why women police were started. Long before 1914 many social workers pressed for the appointment of women police, but it was only in 1914 that women got their chance, and had the opportunity to show how valuable their services could be. In that year a certain social organisation got these women patrols. They were so valuable, and the police authorities throughout the Kingdom welcomed them so much, that in 1916 Sir Edward Henry, who was then Chief Commissioner of Police, and had given them support, looked into the work of these women, and appointed a few to certain special duties in the Metropolitan Police. Then towards the end of 1918, Sir Nevil Macready, his successor, was at once approached by representatives of practically every religious and social organisation in London to make contributions to these women police, and it was on the record of their splendid work that Sir Nevil Macready decided to give them a chance. One hon. Member said that Sir Nevil had no notion of civic administration. Well, he had a very good sense of moral administration. After looking into the question of prostitution, he said he wanted to put the whole question into the hands of women police. That is no reflection on the men, but he realised that this question was a very difficult one for a man to deal with, and in some cases it was unfair to ask young policemen to deal with it, and Sir Nevil said he intended to put it in the hands of women police if he had the chance.
I may say that the primary duties of the Women Police Patrol consisted in dealing with women and children, ill, destitute and homeless, and those who had been the victims of sexual offences, or were believed to be drifting towards an immoral life. The women did splendid work. There were 100 women properly organised in 1918–19, and in 1920 their work was investigated by a Departmental Committee, of which I had the honour to be a member, and all the other members of which were not social enthusiasts. We had many 1732 Unionists Members who knew nothing about women police until then, and they brought a perfectly unprejudiced mind to bear on the case. Strong evidence in support of the women police was brought forward. We had the evidence of Sir Nevil Macready, Sir Leonard Dunning, and chief constables and social workers, and the Committee unanimously reported that in thickly populated areas, where offences against the law relating to women and children are not infrequent, there was not only scope, but urgent need, for the employment of women police, and they also said that the women should be specially qualified, highly trained and well paid. Then came along the anti-waste campaign, started mostly by people who had done very well out of the War. This very dangerous anti-waste campaign began, and then we got the Geddes Committee, which may have had its uses, but if we had listened to them entirely we should have had very little Navy and very little education, and they tried to do away entirely with the women police. I asked the late Home Secretary, who, I rejoice, is no longer Home Secretary, what evidence that Committee had, and the only evidence the Geddes Committee had on this very important question was from the Home Secretary and Scotland Yard. This is what they said:Women Police. Their powers are very limited, and their utility, on the police evidence submitted to us, was negligible.Why were their powers limited? Because the late Home Secretary absolutely refused to give them the power of arrest; and as to their utility, I should like to ask the Horse what they think of these figures. I am going to deal with round figures. There were nearly 2,000 persons cautioned by these women police for acts of indecency in parks and public places, and these people really should have been arrested, but, owing to the late Home Secretary not giving them the power of arrest, they were only cautioned. Then there were nearly 3,000 persons cautioned for unseemly behaviour in parks, and 2,700 young girls were cautioned for loitering in the streets, and advised as to the danger of doing so. A 1,000 girls passed into homes and hospitals, and 6,400 respectable girls and women stranded at night were found shelter. The Geddes Committee said their utility was negligible. It may have seemed so from the business point of view, but 1733 it is a short-sighted view to mice. On these slender and most unfair grounds the Geddes Committee recommended turning down the women police. Disbandment began and was carried out rapidly, beginning with the most experienced. There was an uproar in the country and the Government decided to retain a nucleus of 20. They were not the best because the highly trained women had been dismissed at once. When the present Home Secretary took office we were very hopeful that this nucleus would be gradually increased, and I think it, will. He began by giving them the power of arrest, but they are really of very little value. They are almost an eyewash for those who do not look into it thoroughly. I am certain the Home Secretary, when he has time, will see as well as we do. They are at present a total force of 20, which means, what with annual and sick leave, that there are only 10 women on duty at a time for the whole of London. The women are allotted to certain stations, and are not interchangeable. Three women may be on duty at one station, and at another all may be absent. They are not properly organised and, being so small a number, are not really efficient for the job they are out to do. The Home Secretary said women prisoners are escorted by women officers. They are escorted by policemen's wives. We want the work that is supposed to be done by women police to be done by trained and qualified women police. The late Home Secretary said it was no use having them trained. After all, the policemen's wives can do it. The hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) and I pointed out that policemen did not marry their wives with a view to their escorting prisoners, but very much for the same reason that other people did, and it was no argument to say that a policeman's wife would be qualified to travel with prisoners.
The most alarming thing of all is that there is practically no women patrolling going on at Hampstead Heath, Clapham, Wimbledon and Putney Commons, and yet it has been proved that this patrolling is the greatest preventative of improper conduct and criminal interference with children. We have had a most moving and convincing speech from the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant). One of the quickest and surest 1734 ways of dealing with assaults on children is patrolling the parks, commons and heaths. It is almost better not to have parks unless you have them properly patrolled. You cannot blame the children. I could not really go into details of some of the terrible things that happen in the parks and heaths. I know of cases of indecent exposure brought up by women teachers at various schools in London, and there was no possible way of getting them until they put on women police, not in uniform, when they were soon found out The question of child assault is a matter that we must think seriously about. It is a terrible thing, and if there is any way in which we can prevent it, it is our bounden duty to do it. Only a very small percentage of the women police are told off to take statements from little girls who are the victims of these offences. They are taken by two ladies who are allotted for this work for the whole of the London district. The taking of a statement from a child is very important. The hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) told of a case to-day where a child had been assaulted, but when they got her into court she got so mixed and flurried that she could not tell her story. It is important not only from the point of view of capturing the man, but from the point of view of getting hold of the child and treating it in a proper way by highly trained women, who know how best to get the thing out of the child's mind. The best man in the world could not do it. There are certain things that only a woman can do. That is no reflection upon a man.
Dealing with the mind of a child who has come through this horrible experience is a very difficult matter. It is not every woman that can do it. Only the highly trained and qualified woman can do it. These women help to explain matters to the child, and they know how best and how quickly to get the thing out of the child's mind. From that point of view it is important, and from the point of view of catching the offender it is very important. There is no man who would want any of there men to get off. The whole future of these children sometimes depends on how they are handled at this time. I spoke to the head of a home which deals with unfortunate girls, and she said, and it is borne out by the 1735 evidence of social workers, that a great number of the girls who go wrong between the ages of 14 and 16 are girls who have been the victims of criminal assault in their childhood. If you can get hold of them soon enough and get the whole thing out of the child's mind, you are doing a service to the State, and probably preventing the girl from going wrong later.
I hope the Home Secretary will re-read the Report of the Committee set up by his own Department. It was proved that to keep up a very efficient women police force only amounted to £18,000 for the whole of London. Therefore, it was not a question really of economy in getting rid of them. We have proved the value of the preventive work done by the women police. Five hundred girls weekly went to these women police and asked for advice. There was a great outcry some time ago about a horrible disease. If these unfortunate girls can be provided with quick treatment and proper treatment it would be not only a saving to themselves, but a saving to the whole community. They would not think of going to ask for advice from a man policeman, and you cannot blame them. They went for advice to the women police, and we have evidence of hundreds being saved and got hold of in time. I believe the Home Secretary will bring a perfectly fair mind to bear on this subject. It is a moral question, to which the country, more and more, will awaken, because women are going to see whether they cannot prevent immorality. We are not so stupid as not to know that there is a good deal of immorality that goes on that no law can stop. [An HON. MEMBER: "Vested interest!"] There is immorality in all classes, and no law can stop it. I wish immorality were confined to one class, because we could kill out that class and get on. We do know that if we only look after our child life and only take proper steps—this women police is one of them—we can save children, and in saving children we can save men and save thousands of lives, and perhaps save many girls from the saddest of all callings.
§ Mr. R. MORRISON
Police administration has been the principal subject of debate this evening, but I only rise for the purpose of asking two questions to which I hope I may get a favourable 1736 reply. The whole tenour of our debate is that the police are exceedingly useful to the community, probably at least as useful as the soldier and the sailor. The policemen are protecting the community, and that being so I want to suggest that the policeman who is wounded in protecting the community should be treated as well as the soldier or the sailor who is wounded when protecting the country. May I give an example of what I mean? Some years ago a policeman was seriously injured as the result of being attacked while he was endeavouring to arrest some burglars in the South-East part of London. He was injured so seriously that he was pensioned off with the maximum amount of £26 a year. That constable, within three years, had received the Royal Humane Society's certificate for saving life in water; the Royal Humane Society's certificate for saving life from fire, a special award for assisting other police, and a special award for stopping runaway horses.
I have not risen to suggest that his pension is entirely inadequate for the services which he rendered to the community. I understand that the Home Secretary intends to introduce legislation to deal with pre War pensions. What I want to suggest is a more minor matter than that. A constable who has been discharged on a pension of £26 a year has to pay Income Tax on that pension. In the list of reliefs for Income Tax payers it is stated in paragraph (2):Wounds, disablement and disability pensions granted on account of military etc. services are exempt from Income Tax.I would ask the Home Secretary if it would not be possible to interpret that Clause as including police service. It does seem to me regrettable—
I am afraid that that does not come in here. It would involve an Amendment to the Finance Bill, but the hon Member has made his point before I intervened.
§ Mr. MORRISON
I hope that the Home Secretary will take the initiative in having this Amendment made in the Finance Bill next year. The second matter to which I wish to refer is one which I endeavoured to raise on a previous occasion by question and answer in this House. Again I will give an exact illustration. On a bank holiday night in 1737 London—most of us know what that is—a London General Omnibus driver driving an omnibus through the London streets found at one stopping place from 150 to 200 people collected. They endeavoured to get on the omnibus, and the driver called out to the crowd, "I am full up!" Immediately somebody in the crowd, probably as a bank holiday joke, not intending any harm, called out to the driver, "You are drunk!" Several of his friends took up the cry, and the cry was raised, "The driver is drunk!" Some one rushed into a police station and told the sergeant in charge that the driver was drunk and fighting with a passenger. The police-sergeant came down and the omnibus driver, who had not left his seat, was arrested. Charged at the Police Court next morning, he was sentenced to 14 days' hard labour for driving an omnibus while in a state of intoxication. The driver, only then realising the seriousness of the position he was in, lodged an appeal, but over eight weeks passed before the appeal was heard. The appeal was upheld by the Judge, who said the case ought never to have been brought, told the driver he was discharged without a stain on his character, that he was entirely sober, and that he had committed no offence
The point is this: During the whole of that time the man had not been free to carry on his occupation and he had lost nearly £40 in wages I asked the Attorney-General the other day whether legislation would be required. The reply of the Attorney-General showed me that possibly fresh legislation would not meet the point. Through no fault of his own this man lost over £40 in wages. The Judge, in upholding his appeal, gave costs against the police. The police entered the costs as merely the costs of one day's appeal. I suggest that the Home Secretary should, if possible, have some fund available to help cases like this. I would not suggest compensation, but the payment of the man's out-of-pocket expenses. That is a fair proposition. The Attorney-General said that if legislation was introduced to deal with the matter the trouble would be that very often the person who was discharged was guilty, although it had been impossible to prove his guilt, and that such cases might lead to what he called whacking damages. I do not suggest anything of that sort, but, 1738 if it is at all possible, I think the Home Secretary ought to have some sort of fund from which money could be paid to a man in the case of a wrongful charge.
The question has been raised of the policeman who is incapacitated from duty, and is called upon to pay Income Tax upon his pension. With all the good will in the world, I am afraid that we cannot discuss the question of not deducting Income Tax from police pensions, because that would clearly require legislation, and I would be out of order if I dealt with it now. With regard to the pensions of the police, I do not think the hon. Gentleman quite realises the very satisfactory position in which the police are now when they are incapacitated from duty. Every constable who is incapacitated by injury while on duty, even if accidental, is entitled to a pension for life on a scale which has been fixed by the Police Pensions Act. Take cases of total incapacity. The pensions vary, according to the period of service, from three-quarters to full pay for non-accidental injury, and from one-half to two-thirds pay for accidental injury. If you take partial incapacity, the pension varies according to the degree of disablement. For non-accidental injury the least pension he can get is one-third of his pay, if he has only just joined, and he gets two-thirds of his pay if he has had long service. If the disablement is accidental the absolute minimum is one-sixth of his pay and the maximum two-thirds of his pay. This compares very favourably with any other Service.
In regard to the second point, that of the Evan-Morris case, I am afraid I cannot give very much satisfaction here. As a matter of fact the money was paid by the police. This man did not have to pay any costs for the action at all. When a question was put to the Attorney-General some time ago he made it perfectly clear that in the case of malicious prosecution the man would have his civil rights to bring an action if he were improperly and maliciously prosecuted. After all, this case is not on any different ground from any other case, or anyone else, where a charge is brought in good faith and dismissed on appeal. It is not only this particular case, but anybody might have suffered in the same way.
§ Mr. MORRISON
The point is that the man was suspended from his employment and not allowed to take work with the omnibus company or to continue his occupation, and therefore his livelihood is gone.
I quite agree that it is a hard case. I have every sympathy with Evan-Morris. I do not think we can differentiate this from any other case, where a man happens to win his appeal, but with a loss of money, the loss of wages, and the loss of employment. If you want really to provide him with a fund of the kind referred to, it will certainly require registration. The hon. Gentleman mentioned some other fund, but I am afraid there is no other fund at the disposal of the Home Office. Therefore, under the circumstances, nothing can be done unless by voluntary effort on the part of his friends.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I want to reinforce the appeal made to the Home Secretary by the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) in regard to the women police. Those interested in the matter up to last year are profoundly grateful to the Home Secretary for the action which I understand he has taken in giving them what is popularly called "the power of arrest." In doing so he has taken away what was considered by the Geddes Committee to be the one great obstacle to their usefulness. But as this is in Committee of a new House, might I ask the right hon. Gentleman to let us know, in the first place, quite how many women police there are at the present time, what they are doing, and the form of their organisation, because, as I say, there has been great confidence in the sympathy with which he has dealt with the subject. I am quite sure that all those interested in the matter would be grateful to know from him what is exactly the present state of the case.
Might I again urge upon the Committee for one moment one or two considerations which were debated fully last year, and which I do not propose to tire the Committee with at any length now. This matter was debated on several occasions last year. The most unfortunate result was that when it came to an issue in the debate on the Home Office Vote that it was decided on a question 1740 of prejudice. The House and the Committee always respond to an appeal for fair play, and on that occasion the inference was raised that there had been an intrigue between the women police in Scotland Yard and certain persons outside the Government service. It was absolutely unfounded. There was no possibility of rebutting it at the time, but I have personal information in quite a number of cases that those who, in principle, were strongly in favour of the retention of a sufficient number of women police voted against them, simply because they thought there had been some discreditable intrigue, for which, in fact, there was no foundation whatever.
The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth has stated the objects which the women police could effectually carry out, and may I add, from my own experience, that I can most heartily support what she has said? No one in their senses supposes that you can ask any woman to be a policewoman, whatever be her training or her temperament, or that you can ask them to do any sort of duties that the ordinary male constable does at the present time. They are useful, if they are well trained, for special kinds of work, and special kinds only, but speaking, not as a sentimentalist, but merely in order to get the ordinary proper police work carried out well, there are some kinds of police work which can better be effected by trained women than by any male constable that exists. The hon. Member for the Sutton Division has referred to some of them. There is the question of questioning small children when they are brought up for examination, escorting prisoners, watching suicides, and dealing with offences of soliciting in the streets. There is no question whatever but that a great deal of that work can be much more effectually dealt with by women constables, if they are properly trained and women of a proper character, than ever they can be dealt with by male constables.
Lastly, I would urge two points on the attention of the Committee. Last year a great deal was said about the expense. That question was gone into in detail, and it was pointed out, item by item, that when the question of expense was really examined, the gain that there might be in largely reducing the numbers of the women police in the Metropolitan Force in 1741 London was whittled away until it disappeared. I take one case that ought to be dealt with as a mere matter of preventive work and on account of the expense that can be saved—on the unpleasant subject of venereal disease. There is no question, from the statistics themselves, but that girl after girl was taken by the women police or helped to early treatment when, under any other circumstances, she did not go for treatment until a later stage, and judged merely as a question of finance, and not as a question either of the moral or physical health or well-being of the community, she was treated for shillings, where pounds, and scores of pounds, would have been necessary at a later stage.
Therefore, since this is a Committee of the new House of Commons, might I urge hon. Members not to lose sight of the importance of this question, judged not merely from a sentimental, but from a sheer business point of view, in doing the police work of the metropolis properly? We do not believe it is a wise economy to diminish the force, and at the present moment the reason why those who are in favour of it have held their peace and have done nothing this Session to press the case more strongly is that we believe that in the present Home Secretary, as shown already by his action, we have a man who sympathises with the legitimate objects that we have in mind, who has
§ already shown it, and who, we trust, will look into the matter for himself and decide in our favour.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I only desire to refer shortly to what my hon. Friend has just said. He asked what was the exact number of the force at present. The force to-day consists of two inspectors, three sergeants and 15 patrols. That forms the number of 20 which it was desired to retain, and the only reasons why the number is not in excess of 20 are reasons of economy. Certain alterations in their status, about which my hon. Friend knows, came into force not very long ago. They are now sworn in as members of the force, have the power of arrest, and perform the duties which my hon. Friend has detailed, and, as far as I know, perform them very well. He may be quite sure that I am a sympathiser with the work of the women police, and I am perfectly convinced that their work is of very great value in many directions, to which he and other speakers have referred. The question of expense is one which I have to consider, however, and I cannot hold out any hope of being able to increase the number. As far as their work goes, it is well worthy of the tributes paid to it.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £3,060,491, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 121; Noes, 205.1743
|Division No. 288.]
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)
|Evans, Ernest (Cardigan)
|Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)
|Attlee, C. R.
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)
|Lawson, John James
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)
|Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley)
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.
|Grundy, T. W.
|Broad, F. A.
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)
|M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.
|Hancock, John George
|MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)
|Harris, Percy A.
|M'Entee, V. L.
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)
|Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)
|Marshall, Sir Arthur H.
|Chapple, W. A.
|Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)
|Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)
|Charleton, H. C.
|Hemmerde, E. G.
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)
|Morel, E. D.
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
|Cotts, Sir William Dingwall Mitchell
|Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)
|Darbishire, C. W.
|Newbold, J. T. W.
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)
|O'Connor, Thomas P.
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)
|Hirst, G. H.
|O'Grady, Captain James
|Duffy, T. Gavan
|Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)
|Oliver, George Harold
|Hutchison, Sir R. (Kirkcaldy)
|Ede, James Chuter
|Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)
|Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)
|Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)
|Potts, John S.
|Pringle, W. M. R.
|Watts, Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
|Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
|White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
|Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
|Strauss, Edward Anthony
|Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
|Roberts, C. H. (Derby)
|Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
|Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
|Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)
|Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
|Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
|Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
|Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
|Salter, Dr. A.
|Tout, W. J.
|Trevelyan, C. P.
|Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)
|Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
|Warne, G. H.
|Smith, T. (Pontefract)
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)
|TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
|Mr. Ammon and Mr. Morgan Jones.
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles
|Foreman, Sir Henry
|Murchison, C. K.
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)
|Foxcrolt, Captain Charles Talbot
|Nall, Major Joseph
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith
|Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Sir Martin
|Furness, G. J.
|Newson, Sir Percy Wilson
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.
|Galbraith, J. F. W.
|Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)
|Ganzoni, Sir John
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
|Austin, Sir Herbert
|Garland, C. S.
|Pease, William Edwin
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence
|Penny, Frederick George
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
|Goff, Sir R. Park
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague
|Gould, James C.
|Peto, Basil E.
|Barnston, Major Harry
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)
|Pielou, D. P.
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)
|Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.
|Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.
|Berry, Sir George
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)
|Rankin, Captain James Stuart
|Betterton, Henry B.
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman
|Halstead, Major D.
|Remer, J. R.
|Blundell, F. N.
|Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)
|Rentoul, G. S.
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
|Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)
|Brass, Captain W.
|Harvey, Major S. E.
|Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chrtsy)
|Brassey, Sir Leonard
|Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)
|Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.
|Robertson-Despencer, Major (Islgtn, W)
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)
|Herbert, S. (Scarborough)
|Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)
|Hewett, Sir J. P.
|Rogerson, Capt. J. E.
|Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)
|Hiley, Sir Ernest
|Roundell, Colonel R. F.
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)
|Russell, William (Bolton)
|Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy
|Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney
|Butler, J. R. M. (Cambridge Univ.)
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
|Butt, Sir Alfred
|Hopkins, John W. W.
|Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.
|Button, H. S.
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)
|Sanderson, Sir Frank B.
|Cadogan, Major Edward
|Houfton, John Plowright
|Shepperson, E. W.
|Cassels, J. D.
|Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)
|Simpson-Hinchliffe, W. A.
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)
|Hudson, Capt. A.
|Singleton, J. E.
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)
|Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton
|Hume, G. H.
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer
|Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)
|Churchman, Sir Arthur
|Hurd, Percy A.
|Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.
|Clarry, Reginald George
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.
|Clayton, G. C.
|Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)
|Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)
|Cobb, Sir Cyril
|Jephcott, A. R.
|Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.
|Johnson, Sir L. (Walthamstow, E.)
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale
|Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.
|Conway, Sir W. Martin
|King, Captain Henry Douglas
|Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William
|Cope, Major William
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
|Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)
|Lamb, J. Q.
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry
|Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.
|Titchfield, Marquess of
|Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)
|Tubbs, S. W.
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)
|Lorden, John William
|Turton, Edmund Russborough
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)
|Lorimer, H. D.
|Wallace, Captain E.
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)
|Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)
|Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.
|Dawson, Sir Philip
|Lumley, L. R.
|Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)
|Dixon, Capt. H. (Belfast, E.)
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm
|Wells, S. R.
|Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)
|White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-
|Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)
|Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)
|England, Lieut.-Colonel A.
|Margesson, H. D. R.
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)
|Mercer, Colonel H.
|Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw
|Wood, Maj. Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)
|Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
|Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
|Falcon, Captain Michael
|Molloy, Major L. G. S.
|Yerburgh, R. D. T.
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
|Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.
|Morden, Col. W. Grant
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
|Ford, Patrick Johnston
|Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)
|Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel
|the Rt. Hon. G. A. Gibbs.
Original Question put, and agreed to.