HC Deb 10 July 1924 vol 175 cc2622-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. A. Parkinson.]



Viscount CURZON


Captain BENN

On a point of Order. The other day an hon. and learned Member opposite wished to divide on this Motion, and you told him, Mr. Speaker, that no division could be taken because no Motion which was objected to could he taken after Eleven. I therefore ask what is the result of the objection which hag been taken to this Motion. Either the Motion can be divided upon, or it is a Motion which cannot be taken as opposed business. Therefore, I submit that as an hon. Member objects to this Motion it cannot be taken, unless a Division is permitted.


I think I have heard that question raised before with my predecessor, and the ruling which I gave last night was in accordance with the precious rulings of Mr. Speaker Lowther.

Captain BENN

Then does this Motion, "That the House do now adjourn" fall within the category of opposed or unopposed business?


It is a Motion on which Members are entitled to raise their grievances until half-past Eleven. I cannot give any other answer than that. I must follow the rulings of my predecessor.

Viscount CURZON

The question I desire to raise was the question I tried to bring up last Monday, when, I regret to say, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was not in his place to hear it. It is the question as to whether policemen employed on point duty at the inadequately lighted points should not be equipped with white overall coats, in order that they may be more visible. The point I desire to raise is one entirely in the interests of public safety. I put a question to the Home Secretary last Thursday, and I got a very unsatisfactory answer; in fact, he would not even give me the assurance for which I asked, that he would carry out experiments. I do not ask for a general distribution of white overall coats but for their use at certain points where it is very difficult to see. The expense would be very limited. The Home Secretary has not given any reason why he has refused to carry out a trial. May I suggest to the Under-Secretary that the reason advanced in the past is that they might get dirty? This is impossible, owing to the fact that the intention is that they should be similar to those used on ships, and would only need to be wiped over to be made quite clean. I would like the hon. Gentleman to see for himself the points where Battersea Bridge crosses the Embankment, and the busy points at Earl's Court and in Cromwell Road.

An enormous amount of traffic passes over those roads, and it is almost impossible in bad weather conditions or at any time of night to see the policeman on point duty. It is said that they have been given white gloves, but only one pair is given at each point, and that pair has to be passed on from man to man. As the gloves get dirty, they have to go to the wash, and unless the men replace them at their own expense, it is impossible for them to keep their white gloves up to the mark. What I am urging the hon. Gentleman to do has been already adopted by no less than 50 county boroughs and four county police forces, including, incidentally, the Home Secretary's own constituency. The Under-Secretary represents Westhoughton in Lancashire. Practically every county borough in Lancashire has adopted these white overall coats. It is, therefore, up to him and his Department to give us a real, tangible reason why he absolutely refuses even to carry out an experiment. If it would facilitate experiment I would be quite ready, at my own expense, to provide one or two outfits, which could be used at the very inadequately provided points to which I have referred. I submit that my proposition is in the interests of safety, not only of the men themselves but of the general workers. I would invite any hon. Member who does not see the necessity for this to go to the points I have indicated, when perhaps it may be raining, and then he will see what the problem really is. There are workers who earn their daily bread by driving motor vehicles who are actually losing their licences through not being able to obey the orders of the police, whom they say they cannot possibly see. I think that alone should commend my proposition to hon. Members, and on grounds on which they ought to be easily satisfied. I hope, at any rate, the Under-Secretary will be able to give some better reason than has yet been given for the extraordinary attitude of the Home Office on this question.


In the first place, I wish to apologise to the House for not being here the other night when this matter was raised. I would also like to congratulate the Noble Lord the Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon) for his persistence in this matter. He raised this issue so far back as 1921, again in 1922 and I think on more than one occasion this year. The Home Office has never yet received any representations on this subject from any representative authority. Scotland Yard has not received any complaint either during the last few years except perhaps from a, few stray individuals who have taken a little interest in the subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] The Home Office was some time ago asked for a Return. The Return shows that four county forces, Durham, Gloucester and the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire, have got these outfits for the police on point duty. Besides these county authorities, 34 borough forces use them generally. Thirteen more use them in wet weather only. They are not in use in about 50 county forces and 70 borough forces.


Canada is a progressive country; they are worn there.


These are not in use in the large forces of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester—if the latter used them they have now discarded them.


What about Liverpool?


If they were used there they have now been discarded. We are told that white overalls were to draw the attention of motorists to the policemen on point duty. All places in London where policemen are on point duty are adequately lighted, but if the Noble Lord can give me instances of such places which are not well lighted I will inquire into them at once. I have already noted the several places which he has mentioned. I would like to point out, however, that it should be the duty of motorists to drive very carefully at all places which are busy enough to require a man on point duty. I repeat that the driver of a motor car ought to be more careful there than at any other place.

Viscount CURZON

It is impossible for anybody not knowing every detail of London traffic to know where he is going to find a policeman on point duty.


If they will proceed slowly they will find them. No evidence has been produced to show that accidents could have been avoided had the police on point duty been wearing white overalls. A minor point I should like to refer to also is the question of the cost. I am authorised to state that the Secretary of State has not closed his mind to the Noble Lord's appeal. He is ready at any time to give full consideration to any proposals if and when it can be shown that they are stronger than those which have been submitted to him already. More than that I have nothing to add. We are not yet convinced that the Noble Lord has made out a case.

Viscount CURZON

Will the hon. Member consent to carry out the experiment if I provide two suits at my own expense?


I will gladly convey that suggestion to my right hon. Friend.


What are the better and stronger suggestions to which the hon. Gentleman has referred?


It is hardly for me to tell the hon. Member what arguments he ought to use on this subject.

Captain Viscount EDNAM

Will the hon. Gentleman supply a sufficiency of white gloves?


If the hon. Gentleman agrees to the suggestion of white gloves, why cannot he carry it a little further? If one is good, surely the other is better?


I hope the hon. Gentleman does not think that the House is unanimous on this question, and that we want a policeman to wear white spats. It is all very well comparing London to the Provinces, but in London the policeman turns his back on the traffic and holds up the first two or three vehicles. In Liverpool and other places where white coats are used, you find one isolated constable standing in the middle of a very busy thoroughfare doing semaphore work, and it is almost impossible to understand what he means. If white coats are introduced for the London police, it will simply mean that there will be attempts to economise in the number of policemen on point duty, and the London traffic will be reduced to the stupid state of that in the Provinces.

s Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-five Minutes after Eleven o'clock.