Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £182,775, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, 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 Contribution 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.
§ Mr. HAYES
I appreciate the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would like to get this Vote before a quarter past eight, but I wish to put one or two points to him briefly. This Estimate has reference to increased expenditure due to arrangements made consequent on a readjustment as to rent allowances in connection with the police services throughout the country. I wish to know if the right hon. Gentleman is taking any particular action to see that local authorities are fulfilling their part of the bargain, to which they were parties by the signature of their representatives on the Committee on Temporary Deductions from Police Pay. I understand there are defaulting authorities and while it may be that the right hon. Gentleman will argue that it is a matter for the local authorities themselves, I may remind him that his department was represented on the Lee Committee—although there is a foot-note or paragraph disclaiming direct responsibility on their part. I certainly think that local authorities which refuse to meet legitimate claims made in accordance with statutory regulations, consequent on the Report of that Committee should be brought to book in some way or another.
412 8.0 P.M.
Another point is that in the Metropolitan Police area there is a growing tendency to economise on the rent allowances by refusing to meet those charges in respect of officers who, on transfer, fail to find suitable accommodation. Action is generally taken under a standing order made by the Commissioner of Police which has the nominal approval of the Home Secretary. It ought to be remembered that when men are transferred, they expect to be able to find accommodation equal to that which they are leaving. In some cases where police quarters are available the Commissioner has asked men—such as the men transferred from the Royal Arsenal to the "K" Division—to occupy police quarters. The men found the quarters were less than the accommodation to which they were accustomed and they were deprived of the rent allowances and in addition had to meet their own travelling expenses, simply because they would not go into quarters regarded by the Commissioner as quite suitable for them. Subsequently, without the quarters being vacant for any period whatsoever, a suitable man was found. Had that man been asked to take the quarters in the first place, those men who had refused them would not have lost their rent-aid or have been suffering the severe penalty of something like £60 or £70 a year consequent on not receiving rent-aid and having to bear the expense of approximately 2s. a day in travelling expenses. I want the right hon. Gentleman to look into these matters, which are causing a good deal of concern. The economy effected by such a process is hardly worth the trouble and discontent which arises and as these cases are almost 12 months old I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider them.
There is another matter which is not specially accounted for in the Estimates, but is referred to in a general way as being consequent on the increase of expenditure that had not hitherto been calculated on. I shall be glad to know, 413 and I have had some correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman on this matter, whether included in this Estimate is the small amount of 4s. 6d. that was contributed by two C.I.D. officers when they obtained admission to a meeting held by police and prison strikers in the western district in London. If so, such a contribution of 4s. 6d.—for we must remember on the right hon. Gentleman's own admission that they were there under a misapprehension and left as soon as they discovered they were under a misapprehension—should not be chargeable on public funds. Having put these few points, I will leave it at that.
§ Mr. HAYES
I do not propose to move a reduction, because we want all the money that is in this Estimate, but I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should endeavour to deal with those points. If he cannot go fully into them, will he give a promise that he will look into the various questions affecting the rent-aid throughout the country and the question of non-fulfilment by local authorities?
§ Sir JAMES REMNANT
I quite agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken that in the short time at our disposal we ought not to take it up by making unnecessary speeches. I agree with all he said and I am only going to make one appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, that is, will he give us some statement that, as far as he can see for some time to come, the pay of these men has really been stabilised at last? There is, undoubtedly, a great deal of unrest in the force owing to these perpetual and everlasting attempts to try to get something further out of the men on the ground that they are overpaid. There is no party question which arises in connection with the police, and nobody will try to make party capital out of it. Therefore we can all join in this Vote, which, after all, is getting something more from the Government. As I know the right hon. Gentleman is one who has great sympathy with the force, I ask if he can give some definite statement that, as far as he sees in the near future, there is no question of further reduction.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
I appreciate very much the way in which the two hon. Gentlemen have dealt with these matters. I will answer exactly the questions they have asked me. As far as the local authorities are concerned who are not carrying out in the full letter and spirit the Lee Award, I will do anything that is in my power to get it fully carried out in all parts of the country. With regard to the men's quarters, if the hon. Member for the Edge Hill Division (Mr. Hayes) will send me details of that, I will go into it. As he puts it to me it does seem a very hard case, but, of course, there may be another side to it. He did not give me notice of the particular point he was going to raise, otherwise I would have answered it now, but I will go into it and communicate with him further, or perhaps he will put a question down. As regards the 4s. 6d., I do not quite know, but it really seemed to me the hon. Member had better get it back from the strike funds to which it was wrongly contributed by these two very zealous detectives who were there, and who apparently, acting on behalf of the Government, contributed 4s. 6d. to a fund which I am rather inclined to agree should not have been supported out of the public Exchequer.
With regard to the point raised by the hon. Baronet the Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant), I should like to say how very much I appreciate the way in which the whole of the police force in the country and the local authorities met me in regard to the difficulties in the force when I was first appointed Home Secretary. I ought now to say a word as to the object of the Vote and what it really is. When I became Home Secretary, owing to the action of the economy started by the Geddes Committee in 1922, there was very serious unrest throughout the police force in the country. The Geddes Committee had directly ensured that a deduction of 2½ per cent. should be made from the pay of the police, from motives of economy, and, in addition to that, a deduction from the rent allowance of 3s. 6d. in the metropolis and 2s. 6d. outside. These were, of course, considerable sums in the aggregate, and were of benefit to the National Exchequer. The police had grumbled very seriously in 415 regard to these two deductions. They were grumbling in 1923–24, and when I came into office in 1925 I rather quickly came to the conclusion that it was not desirable that there should be an open sore of this nature in the force.
I had several conferences with the Police Council. We could not come to any terms and we had a round-table conference of a larger character. That failed, and I announced that I should appoint a Special Committee, with an independent chairman, and with representatives of the local authorities and of the different grades of police, because I was determined, as I told them, that they must come to terms in a friendly way, as between the local authorities and the police. Lord Lee of Fareham, who is well known in this House, very kindly took the Chair of that Committee, and I am delighted to say all sections worked with the desire to come to a reasonable conclusion in order to get rid of those difficulties. The conclusion that was arrived at was, that the 2½ per cent. deduction from the men's pay should be continued permanently as an allowance in aid of pensions, but that the rent cut should be got rid of altogether. Therefore, the 2½ per cent. is now made permanent, or, at least, it will be in a Bill which I am bringing in to make it permanent, because I have power under the existing law to make these cuts from time to time, by Regulations, for either a year or any less period.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Yes, making it 5 per cent. It was very unsatisfactory, and I thought it ought to be stabilised by a Bill which will be brought in during the next week or so.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I have told my hon. Friend I will do my best and I 416 will go into the cases of local authorities who have not carried out the spirit and letter of the Report. In conclusion, I should like to thank all branches of the police and the local authorities for having so fairly met these difficulties. I believe the hon. Baronet the Member for Holborn said something just now about there being dissatisfaction in the police. I do not think that is so.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am glad he did not mean at the present time. The police have met the Home Secretary very, very fairly indeed, and I think the local authorities have met the police force very fairly. At the same time, I do hope there will be no cause of dissatisfaction—there may be on minor points—on a large scale in the near future. I will simply add in reply to the question which has been put to me that, as I told the police myself when I met them at a large conference meeting, if they agreed to come to terms under the provisions of the Lee Report, as long as I was Home Secretary I would do my best to see that that was a final settlement of all these difficult questions, and here to-day, as far as I can see at the present time, there is no possibility looming in the near future of any further cuts in regard to the police. That being so, as this money is needed for the benefit of the police themselves, and as both hon. Members who are interested in the cause of the police force support the Vote, I hope the House will allow me to get it.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I do not want to prevent the right hon. Gentleman from getting his Vote. I notice in the preliminary statement with this Vote we are told that this money is required for various police expenditure, including places of detention, and I wondered if he was anticipating a large increase in crime, because we are told here that part of this money is wanted for places of detention. Understanding that it is the intention to increase the police force as well, I wondered if really it was anticipated that there would be a large increase in crime in the immediate future. If the right hon. Gentleman is improving and increasing the number of places of detention, he ought to tell us what precisely is in his mind. That is a point on which the Committee should have some information because, all things 417 taken together, I do not know whether this is an anticipatory measure for the enlargement of the personnel of the police force and that he is anticipating in the very near future an increase in places of detention.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
It is certainly not the case, and I not only do not think there is any increase of crime likely to take place, but I think we are seeing a gradual reduction of crime. The reason, as I have said many times, that the police force has to be increased is simply the natural growth of the population of this country and the addition of miles and miles of streets which naturally have to be patrolled by the police.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
In spite of the appeal of the Minister I think it would be a great pity if this Vote were allowed to go through at this particular hour. There is only a quarter of an hour before the dinner hour and we are voting £182,775, and some friends of mine are very anxious to raise points on this Vote, and it will be utterly impossible to raise them if it goes through before 8.15. There is one point that I also wish to raise. First of all, I think part of the Vote upon which the police expenses come ought to fall on the Road Fund and not on the Police Vote, but I will not enlarge on that lest I should be ruled out of order. There is one point I wish to put before 8.15 and that is in connection with some questions I addressed to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the prosecution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for breaking the traffic regulations in Parliament Square.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
May I draw your attention to the end of the explanation under Head E, where we find these words:Apart from this, the total approved estimated expenditure of the Police Authorities has proved slightly larger than was anticipated.Is not that all to do with the general administration, and, if so, I submit I am in order in raising that point as being the only occasion when I can raise it. I questioned the Minister at some length on the point and he was unable 418 to give a satisfactory answer. What I want to find out is this, to whom are these passes issued? Are they given to Cabinet Ministers only or to Under-Secretaries?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not in Order. He may ask for an explanation on the Vote itself, but he cannot go into that point on this Supplementary Estimate.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
I believe I am in order in raising the question of the administration of the police.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
Am I not in order in raising questions connected with the control of night clubs in the West End of London?
§ It being a Quarter-past Eight of the Clock, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4.