Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £3,536,260, 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, 1929, 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."—[Note.—£3,596,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
We desire to raise on this Vote the recent announcement of the Home Secretary of the pending resignation of the present Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the appointment of his successor. The announcement of the appointment of his successor has excited a great deal of public interest and concern and has aroused a great deal of criticism, which is by no means confined to the party with which I am associated. A large section of the Press which usually supports the party opposite has expressed very grave doubts about the wisdom of this selection. There will be no differences of opinion when I say that the public mind has been very much disturbed by recent incidents in connection with police administration. In an answer to a question this afternoon, the Home Secretary said that the present Commissioner will not retire until November, when the nobleman who has been appointed to succeed him will take office. It is very unusual to announce the resignation of a public servant so far in 2264 advance and at the same time to announce that his successor has been appointed. It is difficult to dissociate this early statement from those incidents to which I have just referred. The Home Secretary has denied that his statement has been in any way influenced by the present state in regard to police administration, but it is very difficult to dismiss from one's mind the impression that the appointment of Lord Byng has been made in the hope that it might allay popular discontent.
The announcement of this resignation and the appointment of his successor was made at a time when the Tribunal was sitting to inquire into certain incidents in connection with police administration, and one would hardly like to think that the Home Secretary made this announcement in anticipation of the conclusions which might be reached by the members of this Tribunal. I want to make it quite clear at the outset that it is far from our intentions or desires to say one word in disparagement of the high military achievements, the great military gifts and high character, of Lord Byng, which are universally accepted. We base our objections to this appointment on wider public grounds. However great Lord Byng's ability as a, military officer may be, we submit that his training, his experience and, naturally, the outlook and point of view which he must have developed by long years of military service, are not the sort of qualifications necessary for the post of Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police. As a matter of fact, his whole experience has been gained in a sphere which unfits him for the discharge of duties which are of a purely civil character. His achievements, his attainments, his experience in that sphere are, we submit, a disqualification rather than a recommendation for the post to which the Home Secretary has just appointed him. We cannot dissociate the appointment of a military man from other appointments as chief constables and headships of police which for some time have been, apparently, the settled policy. We believe that there is a growing militarisation in the police force, and I think, and my friends think, and. I am quite sure, a great many people besides ourselves think, that it would be disastrous for the efficiency of the police if the police force were given a military character. In 2265 increasing numbers the police authorities in the provinces are making appointments to chief constableships of ex-Army officers, although the Home Secretary himself, some time ago, in regard to the appointment of the Chief Constable for Westmorland, refused to endorse the appointment, I believe on the ground that the man who had, in the first instance, been selected was an ex-Army officer, and that there was at least one person whose experience had been obtained in the police force whom the right hon. Gentleman considered to be more suitable for the appointment.
Why do we say that military experience is not a recommendation but a disqualification for the control of the police? The reason why we say that is that the police have to exercise functions and duties which are quite different from those of the Army. The police are a civil force, and for their efficiency it is necessary that they should have the confidence of the public, that they should have the confidence of all law-abiding citizens. It is important that the police and the public should co-operate. Now in the Army it is quite different. The Army is something apart from the public. The functions of the Army are to exercise effective force which I might describe as violence. The discipline and the organisation of the two forces must be different, because of the different functions they have to perform, and their different relations to the public. In the Army there must be stern discipline. There must be strict obedience to authority. The private soldier is not permitted to exercise any initiative, any independent will or any independent judgment. Now the exercise of those things is most important in the police force. The police officer is very often called upon to act at the moment, to rely upon his commonsense and upon his judgment, to exercise initiative, and I have the highest possible admiration for the way in which, with very few exceptions, the police of this country discharge those duties. If the police force had to be organised on Army lines, then you would destroy, as I said just now, that necessarily intimate, confidential sympathy and co-operation that there should be between the police and the public, and you would destroy the initiative of every police officer.
2266 These, briefly, are our objections to the growing tendency towards the militarisation of the police. I believe that most of the Chief Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police who have been appointed in this generation have been men who had no police experience, who had only Army experience. Has the appointment of men with that experience been a success? The inference can be drawn, from the replies which the Home Secretary has given to questions in the past week or two, that he is not satisfied with the present state of things in the Metropolitan Police. The administration of the Metropolitan Police has been in the hands of military men for a good many year. The present Commissioner, Brigadier-General Sir William Horwood, was himself a soldier, and the general opinion of the public is that, under his administration, the police force has been reduced to a state worse than it has occupied since the police force was established by Sir Robert Peel nearly a century ago, and it cannot be said that the experience of appointing military men to the control of civil police forces has justified itself by practical experience. France is generally regarded as a highly militarised country, and there are few things in France that I would wish to see this country emulate, but, at any rate, they do these things better in Paris than they are done in London. [Laughter, and an HON. MEMBER: "What about Chicago?"] The French would never tolerate the appointment of a military man to the control of the police. Things, apparently, in Paris do not meet with enthusiasm on the part of hon. Members opposite, but I am quite sure that their imagination is not sufficiently strong to conserve what the state of things in Paris would be if the Paris police were under strict military discipline and control.
Our first objection to the appointment of Lord Byng is that it brings in a man who has spent his life and gained his experience in quite a different situation. I do not care how able a man may be, if he has spent 30 or 40 years in one career he gets into a rut, and it is impossible for him to get out of that rut, and he will bring his experience and his training to bear upon any new duties that he undertakes. We profoundly disagree with the Home Secretary when he 2267 said that Lord Byng has just those qualities which will fit him to become an ideal Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. What did the right hon. Gentleman say?The position in the Metropolitan Police is that there are many high officers, all carrying out their duties satisfactorily, but it may well be, and it is my view, having been responsible for three and a half years and having worked with these officers, that neither of them was the right man to appoint to the control of a great force of 20,000 men, involving as it does the safety and happiness of an enormous city of some 8,000,000 people. I felt it essential that I should get a man of great qualifications, great ability, great character, and while I make no reflection of any kind on the officers of the force, who are carrying out their duties admirably, I felt, and still feel, that Lord Byng is better adapted for carrying out the duties than any one of these officers. I never, in any statement of mine, said that there was any question of clearing up a mess. I stated that I asked Lord Byng…to take this important duty, because I could conceive that he had exactly those qualities which are required at the present time."—["OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1928; cols. 1383–4, Vol. 219.]His remark about "the present time" is very significant. The right hon. Gentleman has denied that Lord Byng is coming into this office because there is something wrong in the police force: but I think it is a reasonable inference to draw from what the right hon. Gentleman has said in the words I have quoted, "at the present time," that in his opinion there is some special reason why, a man like Lord Byng in the Home Secretary's estimation is necessary to deal with the present state of things in the Metropolitan Police. I have already given reasons why we dissent from that view. High as are his qualifications, and highly honourable as is the record of Lord Byng as a military man, we consider that that experience and those qualifications are not a recommendation for a civil appointment. Our second objection is against this practice of bringing in outsiders to fill the highest posts in the civil force. I think that, just as every soldier should carry a field marshal's baton in his knapsack, so there should be under the helmet of every police constable a possible Chief Commissioner of Police.
If you take away from men of ability the hope and the reasonable expectation of attaining the highest position, you are striking a mortal blow at the initiative 2268 of the rank and file. Every man of ability in the police service, as indeed in the Civil Service generally, should be able to look forward, if he proves himself worthy by his work, to attaining the highest position in the Service. In my opinion the man who is needed for the post of Commissioner of Police is a man with police experience, but a broad-minded man, a man who understands how to deal with men and to deal with them not as a martinet but in a sympathetic way. I take it that if the Home Secretary had looked through the list of those high officers in the Metropolitan Police service who, he said, "are admirably discharging their duties," it would have been possible for him to have found a man who would have satisfied these qualifications.
The third objection that we raise is on the point of age. There is no precedent for appointing to this position a man of the advanced age of Lord Byng. The ages at which Commissioners of Police have been appointed in this generation have varied from 50 to 56 years. Lord Byng will be 66 before he takes up this appointment, and in the natural course of things he cannot be expected to take the position for very long. The fact that the Home Secretary is appointing a man of that age seems to point to the conclusion that the man is being appointed for special work, because of urgent present problems, and that it is not intended that the appointment shall be long continued, for, as the Home Secretary stated, it is subject to 24 hours' notice on either side. If the Home Secretary felt that Lord Byng was just the man to be called in to deal with something of the nature of reorganisation, it would have been far better to have called him in as a consultant, and for some other person more likely to hold the position, if he proved worthy, for a considerable length of time, to have been appointed to the position of Commissioner of Police.
We object to this practice of finding jobs for retired Army pensioners. Why does a man retire from the Army or from the Navy or from the Civil Service? Because he is supposed to have earned a period of leisure by long service. I will not put it so offensively—at any rate I do not mean it in that way—as to say 2269 that when a man retires it is felt that he has outlived his usefulness and that he is no longer capable of rendering fully efficient service. But I think this practice of appointing men, who have retired through age, to important and well paid public posts, is to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. For instance, what would be said if a very high civil servant who had retired on reaching the age limit was appointed to be Commander-in-Chief of the British Army? The appointment of Lord Byng would be exactly comparable to that. The appointment of a civil servant (whose experience has been gained in an altogether different sphere) because he had shown great administrative ability in the work of which he had long experience and in which he had had a long training—it would never be tolerated for a moment that a man like that should be appointed to the head of the Army. That is what we are doing in regard to this appointment. The appointment of military men to the police was not approved, but was in fact condemned in the Report of the Desborough Committee, and the Government have accepted the recommendations of that Committee. That Committee stated the following:We realise the importance of this question from the point of view of the control and efficiency of the police force, and we should not hesitate to recommend the appointment of Chief Constables from Outside the Service if we considered that the requisite qualifications could not be found within; but after a full consideration we recommend that no person without previous police experience should be appointed as Chief Constable in any police force unless he sustains an exceptional qualification or experience which especially fits him for the position.I submit that this appointment is not carrying out the recommendation of that Report, which, as I said just now, the Government have accepted. Let me sum up our objections to this appointment. The first point is that we do not consider that a man whose qualifications are wholly military, however high they may be, is qualified to take up a civil appointment. Then there is the question of age. It is important that a younger man should be appointed, a man with more vigour, more initiative, and, above all, a man appointed at an age when he can feel that he has a number of years before him in which to take root and do credit 2270 to himself in the post that he occupies. In the main those are our objections to this appointment. I believe that the Home Secretary has acted to the best of his judgment in this matter, but we do not approve of his judgment, and I am quite sure that the public generally do not approve. We think that the right hon. Gentleman has made a mistake. I have little hope that the Debate this afternoon will influence the Home Secretary to alter his decision, but, as I have said, the appointment of Lord Byng is likely to be of a temporary character, and I do believe that the public opposition to and the public criticism of this appointment will have its effect. If this appointment is not cancelled, I hope that when—it seems that it will not be very long—another Commissioner of Police is to be appointed, the objections that we have urged this afternoon will be taken into consideration, and an effort will be made to promote a man from the police to that position, for we believe that that will be not merely in the interests of police administration itself, but that it will give greater confidence to the public.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
I am glad that the time has come at last when I can make, on this subject, a fuller statement than was possible in reply to the various questions that have been put to me. If he will allow me to say so, the right hon. Gentleman has made a very fair attack on myself for the decision which I, after a very great deal of consideration, arrived at, and I publicly thank him for not having made any attack on the gentleman whom I have nominated as Commissioner. In fact, except in one remark that he made about "finding jobs for pensioned men," I really take no exception to his speech. I should like in this Debate to keep out very largely the character and position of Lord Byng. I want to answer the criticisms made by the right hon. Gentleman, and I want to give some history, almost from day to day, of the position. The right hon. Gentleman knows that as Secretary of State I am responsible for advising His Majesty as to the appointment of the new Commissioner. The appointment does not come under the Police Fund, and the appointment is an appointment by the King on the re- 2271 commendation of his Ministers. The Commissioner is paid not out of the Police Fund or the Metropolitan rate, but wholly out of moneys voted by Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman made an accusation or a contention that there had been an increasing militarisation of the police during the last two years. I have taken a good deal of trouble to find out the details about that. It is quite true that in the county police forces, the chief constables of which are appointed by the standing joint committees, there has been very largely a tendency, not only in the last 20 years but for many years, to appoint military officers. In regard to the boroughs, on the other hand, there is almost a certainty that a chief constable will be appointed from the police force itself. Since 1920 there have been 17 county appointments, of which only four have been military and 13 of men who have served in other police forces. In the boroughs there have been 48 appointments, and only one of them was an Army officer. Perhaps hon. Members opposite will say, "You are giving facts which will be used against yourself in regard to this appointment." I desire to give the facts first, and I want to be perfectly frank. For what it is worth, I give to hon. Gentlemen the benefit of the argument I have suggested. In the police forces throughout the country there has not been an increasing militarisation.
In the London Police Force I have had to appoint one Assistant Commissioner, and it is true that I appointed a naval officer. In my time I have had to appoint three or four chief constables. There are five chief constables in London, and we have reserved an equality between ex-service men and policemen. There are today in the London Police Force, largely by my own appointment, five chief constables, two of whom have had military service, and three of whom have risen from the ranks of the police. On the whole I certainly have not attempted in any way—it has never entered the mind of the Government—to militarise the London Police Force during my time.
Let me come to the position at the present time. I need not say a word on behalf of the London police. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted what 2272 a splendid force they are, but he made certain reservations, with which I must deal in a moment. As the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes) knows, there is in existence a Police Federation with which I have worked in very close sympathy. It has been my privilege from time to time to meet the Federation. You cannot call it a trade union, but it is a Federation which is very near akin to the ordinary organisation of a trade union. I appeal to the hon. Member for Edge Hill, who knows the police force of London thoroughly, and who will confirm me when I say, that I have worked in the closest sympathy and harmony with the Police Federation, frequently meeting them in their conferences and in their general meetings, since I have been Home Secretary and have had charge of this great body of men. I should like to explain to the Committee that the Chief Commissioner is in very direct touch with the Secretary of State. He comes and sees me and has direct access to me whenever he wishes to see me. Equally, whenever I wish to see him I send for him, and we have, week by week, and sometimes day by day, long conferences as to matters which arise out of police organisation.
Undoubtedly, at the beginning of this year, and even at the end of last year, there was a kind of sub-acid feeling growing in the public mind to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. There were accusations of various kinds against the police force, but there was nothing definite. These were matters which gave me anxiety, because upon the popularity of the police force depends very greatly their efficiency. You cannot have an efficient police force in a great city like London, properly organised and controlled, dealing with crime and so forth, unless that police force has the full confidence of the public as a whole. It is impossible to imagine the governing of 8,000,000 people and dealing with crime and with all the other things which are not crime with which police have to deal unless the police have the full support and sympathy—as they used to have 20 or even 10 years ago—and the affection of the people as a whole. In the course of various conversations with the Commissioner, he intimated to me as long ago as 22nd February this year that when his time came to an end, as it would 2273 come to an end in November of this year, he did not propose to apply to me for an extension. His period of service comes to an end in November of this year. He could apply to the Home Secretary for the time being, for an extension, which extension could be granted by the Home Secretary if he saw fit; otherwise, there was a pension of £1,000 a year, which the Commissioner would be entitled to take on retirement. He intimated to me in February of this year that he did not intend to ask for an extension.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must ask the hon. Member not to indulge in that kind of talk, or I must ask him to withdraw.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
It is a curious commentary on the present accusation made against me that I announced the appointment of Lord Byng far sooner than was necessary. I am now accused of not having announced the retirement of Sir William Horwood several months before he retired at the moment the information was given to me. When the information was given to me, I naturally felt that the great responsibility during my term of office had been placed upon me of finding a suitable person to succeed General Horwood as Commissioner. It is not to be supposed that like a bolt from the blue I said: "General Byng is the one man for this post." I consulted with General Horwood as to the whole of the staff. We discussed from time to time the whole of the headquarters staff at Scotland Yard—all doing their duty admirably. I never complained of the way they carried out their duties. But it is one thing to be an Assistant Commissioner in charge of one department or another Assistant Commissioner in charge of another department, and quite 2274 a different thing to have a Commissioner with control over a force which the right hon. Gentleman knows numbers some 20,000 men. I reported—as, of course, I was bound to do so—the matter to the Prime Minister, and he and I discussed various names from time to time.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
That was after February this year; between February and the date that Lord Byng was approached.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
What does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean? I see my right hon. Friend every day. Soon after General Horwood said that he was retiring, I said to the Prime Minister in course of conversation with him in his room: "General Horwood is retiring in November. We have to find another Commissioner." I really cannot satisfy the hon. and gallant Gentleman as to what particular day or hour this conversation took place.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I do not want to be misunderstood at all, but it is very important. The right hon. Gentleman himself made a point, when the question came before this House, that it was right back in February that General Horwood said he wished to retire. Surely, it was at that time, in February—on the 22nd February we have heard this afternoon—that the matter was discussed with the Prime Minister. Or was it discussed with the Primo Minister for weeks and on every occasion?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Really, when the hon. and gallant Member joins the Cabinet, he will know that there are the closest and most confidential discussions between the Prime Minister and his Ministers. I cannot say that I walked across directly from the Home Office and said, "General Horwood is retiring," but I told my right hon. Friend at the earliest moment that General Horwood would be retiring in November and that we had to look for a successor. I am not going to attempt to give a date, but we frequently dis- 2275 cussed the matter. I discovered an officer, and the Prime Minister concurred, who, I thought, would make an admirable Commissioner of Police. That officer, whose name I do not wish to disclose, is still a serving officer. His name was submitted to His Majesty who was prepared to confirm the appointment. That officer subsequently declined the appointment for reasons of his own. The Prime Minister and I consulted with some of the heads of the Civil Service as to whether we could get a good civil servant to take it. Again, I cannot give the date. I asked a very great friend of mine in the business world to come and see me. He came and saw me at my house, and I discussed with him the possibility of finding a great business man, a great organiser, to take over the management of this great force. Let me explain. It needs a great deal of administration and organisation to control this force, with all its ramifications throughout London. I could find no help in that quarter. There was one obvious difficulty in that quarter. No business man who controlled or was capable of controlling a business employing 20,000 men with all its vast ramifications would be likely to accept this post for £3,000 a year.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
After that, various other suggestions were made, and we considered many high officers, and finally I sent for Lord Byng, whom I had never seen in my life. I asked Lord Byng if he would come and see me in the first instance. I wrote to him to say that General Horwood was resigning, and I wanted a new Commissioner. I still was not certain whether it would be wise to appoint a military man or a civilian, and I said: "There is no one I know of who can so well advise me of the military men available as Lord Byng." Lord Byng came to see me. It was the first time I had ever seen him in my life. He came to see me at the Home Office. We discussed the nature of the qualifications of the man for the particular post. He decided at once that he could not take it. He outlined to me what he thought were the qualifications of the man who could well fill this post, 2276 and, after half-an-hour's conversation, I began in my mind to consider whether Lord Byng was not the man. I suggested it, and he said, "No" quite definitely and firmly. He declined to take the post. And here I come to a remark made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) about finding jobs for pensioners. Lord Byng declined to take it because of his age, because of his right, having done a great deal of service in the war, having fulfilled a very high and a very onerous post in Canada, to rest, to live the remainder of his life in the way that he had planned out for himself.
He advised me of, and gave me the name of, another officer whom I knew by reputation. He said: "I think he is much better for the post." I said: "Very well. I have asked for your advice, and I will offer it to this officer." I wrote to the officer, and he came and saw me. He was a serving officer of great ability and experience, and he at once said: "No. I am not going to give up my career. I cannot give up my career for this post." He therefore declined it. I then wrote again to Lord Byng. Here arises the beginning of that curious remark about which I have been twitted so much—"the stern call." I wrote to Lord Byng, and I definitely said to him: "I am not offering you an appointment so much as making a stern call to duty"—not a call to stern duty as some hon. Members have said. It is a misunderstanding. A stern call to duty was the only way of getting Lord Byng—to appeal to a man of his great position and great character, great ability, and great services to the country. It was only to make a call to duty that I wrote to Lord Byng, and Lord Byng wrote in reply and said he would accept the post, and serve to the utmost of his ability and put his whole soul into it. I then had a second interview.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
No, I know you could not get business men in that way. I come, if I may, to the reasons, why I thought it was wise to go outside—and in this matter, as I have explained to the Committee, I was acting in fullest 2277 accord with the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government—the ordinary ranks of the police force to get some such man as Lord Byng. I wish to read a few extracts from speeches made in this House on the 17th May last, one or two of which confirm in fact what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the feeling that was abroad in the minds of the people regarding the position of the police force. The hon. Member for Dundec (Mr. Johnston) who introduced the subject—and I have no complaint to make against him—began by saying:It is our duty to offer a resolute and determined opposition to anything in the nature of a Cheka, or the Turkish system, or the Star Chamber method,…or Third Degree."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1928; col. 1304, Vol. 217.]Then my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Luton (Captain O'Connor)—I want to show the feeling that there was in the public mind; and these are representative men—came down to the House the same afternoon and said:I myself have been satisfied that there is a case to be investigated"—I am not dealing with the Savidge case—in regard to these suggested 'third degree' methods. I myself have known of cases which approximate to the 'third degree,' and I should be very pleased to give the Home Secretary, at the proper time, instances…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1928; col. 1319, Vol. 217.]More than that, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson), a man who has been Home Secretary and who has been in charge of and directly responsible for the police for nearly a year, in that same Debate said:I am sure the Home Secretary must be aware that there has recently arisen out of various cases a growing dissatisfaction and may I say, a withdrawing of public confidence in regard to some of the methods adopted by the Metropolitan Police. I do not say whether that is rigid or wrong, but as the Home Secretary said in his closing sentences, so much depends upon the public having confidence in the Metropolitan Police that we cannot afford to allow an increase in this dissatisfaction or a further withdrawal of the confidence of the public in the Police Force."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1928; col. 1316, Vol. 217.]Later on in his speech he pressed for, a larger Commission of Inquiry in addition to the one which was to deal with the smaller point, and he said:The issue with which we are now faced is the coming into our police administration 2278 of what has been characterised as third degree methods.He asked for an inquiry which should be comprehensive, and said:Then probably we shall do something to restore public confidence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1928; cols. 1317 and 1318, Vol. 217.]Those were the speeches made in this House by responsible Members at the time when I was endeavouring to find a successor to the present Commissioner. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is himself a military man!"] Yes, he is himself a military man and, perhaps, I may explain to the House that out of the 10 Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police, seven have been military men and the other three have not been through the armed forces at all. All have been appointed from the outside, and [...] suppose there was never a more popular police officer than Sir Edward Bradford, the one-armed Commissioner of Police, who had been through the Indian Army, and who was beloved alike by the police force and the public. When the Prime Minister and I came to discuss the matter, we both thought it wiser, in these particular circumstances, to go outside and to get a man whose character, whose experience, whose ability and whose idealism would lift the whole thing above any mere petty disputes and would restore to the police and the public that confidence which I have been told on both sides of the House—paiticularly by the late Home Secretary—has been missing for a time. When I sent for Lord Byng the second time and he agreed to accept the post, I told him of my ambition, and I told him of the statements which had been made in this House in regard to the police. I do not see the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) in his place, but I am told by one of his colleagues that he has, waiting for this other Commission, a large number of complaints which have been sent in to him by members of the public in regard to police action.
We cannot allow that kind of feeling to continue—the kind of feeling that there is something wrong with the police. I do not believe there is anything wrong. I believe there never was a force of this kind of 20,000 men, taken on the whole, more admirable, better disciplined, and 2279 more desirous of doing their duty, but we have to consider not merely the police. We have to consider the public as well. We have to carry public favour with us. There must be public respect for the Police Force. I told Lord Byng that I thought he was the man to lead the force—it is no good attempting to drive a Police Force—to lead them, as he led the Canadian troops during the War. Ask anybody who served under Lord Byng and they will tell you that he was the idol of the rank and file. I want him to be the idol of the rank and file of the Police Force. There are in the London Police Force 8,520 ex-service men, many of whom must have served in the Armies under Lord Byng. Lord Byng will not merely be the head of the Force, but will be the protector of the public. He is not a "militarisation" man; he is the very last officer who could be accused of being a military man of the drill sergeant type. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley, described the ideal man for the post as a broad-minded man, as a man who would deal sympathetically with men and not a martinet. The right hon. Gentleman described Lord Byng. The ideal which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed is Lord Byng. It may be said that he is older than other men who have been appointed to this office. I admit it, and both the Prime Minister and I knew that there would be an attack on us for having appointed a man of that age. I take full responsibility. I believe he is the man for the post. I believe he has those very qualities which the right hon. Gentleman described.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me if there was to be a re-organisation of the Police Force. No, but there is to be a re-inspiration. There are many things that have to be dealt with in the Police Force. There are difficult questions to be decided. There will be the report of the Savidge inquiry; there will be the report of the Macmillan Commission, which I hope to receive before Lord Byng comes into office. It deals with street offences, a very difficult question indeed. There will be the Commission in regard to alleged third degree methods for which hon. Members opposite are pressing and which we hope as soon as possible to clear out of the way. There 2280 are questions of decentralisation in the administration of the Police Force, and there are very difficult questions of traffic control to be considered. May I say one word to hon. Members and the general public in that connection. I have formed a conclusion that a great deal of the lack of co-operation between the public and the police, so far as there is any lack of co-operation, has arisen from the increase in motoring. There is to-day a large section of the community who come in contact with the police and who are not criminals in the ordinary sense of the term, but are breaking various regulations. It is the duty of the police to see that those regulations are enforced and the man in a motor car—the lady also I am afraid—who is stopped and told to go this or that way, may indulge in a little "backchat" with the policeman. We all know what happens. It may be a hot day when the police uniform is unpleasant to wear, or it may be a cold snowy day, and there may be irritation on both sides.
These are the situations where patience is needed on both sides and, since I have been Home Secretary, I have never ceased to impress on the police force the necessity of remembering that they are the servants of the public and that courtesy is due by them in all their actions to the members of the general public. At the same time, I should like to make an appeal to the general public to be a little more courteous to the police. Their job is not an easy one at all seasons and in all weathers when people are driving this way and that way. They have a most difficult task, and if the general public would only—let me say it quite frankly—use a little more courtesy and fewer attempts at corruption, it would be better. The policeman who accepts a bribe is, of course, wrong and is liable to dismissal, but the man or women who offers it is worse. I say quite frankly that, while the police are punished if they are caught in such cases, it would be a good thing if a few of the general public could be caught and were equally punished.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
No, I think not. I have tried to go into the matter very carefully, because people have told 2281 me stories of that kind of thing—stories which will not hold water, I have investigated a good many suggestions made by various people, but it is very difficult, indeed, almost impossible, to get a man or woman to come forward and prove a case of that kind. They generally hear it from someone else. There is, however, that feeling which I have already mentioned and which has been referred to in this House, and I want to get rid of that feeling. I want to get the police back to their old-time popularity. That I believe Lord Byng will do. I propose not to fetter him too much in the early days of his appointment. He will, of course, be subject to the authority of the Secretary of State, exactly as I am subject to the authority of the House. I shall be open to be questioned in regard to all his actions, and I shall be responsible for everything that I permit him to do in that post.
Finally, I want to say—and I say it quite respectfully to the right hon. Gentlemen opposite—that this appointment is one which is made by the Government and by the authorities and in a Parliamentary and constitutional manner. It must be the Government who makes the great decisions in this country. I agree that it is quite right for the Opposition, if they think fit, to criticise the action of the Government. I had meant to make an appeal to hon. Members opposite not to criticise Lord Byng but to criticise me. There is no need for me to make that appeal, the right hon. Gentleman has been so fair in his speech. If the Government have done wrong, we are responsible to the House of Commons. I am still quite unrepentant in regard to this appointment. Having given the matter the greatest possible consideration, I still believe that we have found the man for this post. We believe he will bring the right qualities to this great office, which is becoming more and more important as the years go on, with the increasing population, the increase in the Police Force, and the introduction of new methods of dealing with crime. All these things, as I say, are making the office more and more important. I believe we have found the man who will bring to it exactly those great qualities which the right hon. Gentleman opposite demands. Lord Byng has undertaken this great appointment not for pay 2282 or anything of that kind. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman opposite realises that Lord Byng feels it to be a duty and feels it to be something which he can do for his country.
I appeal to the House and the public at large to give him fair play and to give the police fair play. Give the police the chance which they have not had for the last year. Stop this carping criticism. If you have criticism, bring it to me. If you have accusations, bring them to me, and I will see that they they are probed to the very hilt. I would ask the public to try to realise the importance of the Police Force of London, and the magnificence of the character of the 20,000 men serving in that Force. I ask the House and the public to restore the Police Force to the confidence and affection which it used to enjoy, until the last year or two, and to remember that aspersions—ill-deserved as I am satisfied they are—which are often too lightly made, are always very seriously considered by a very sensitive body of men like the police. Now is the chance for re-inspiring that Force, and I ask the House and the public to take the chance.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I do this in spite of the Home Secretary's appeal not to indulge in carping criticism, but to accept his explanation of the reasons why he made this appointment. May I ask the Home Secretary to accept my assurance that I take up this attitude only in response to a stern call to duty, and just as General Lord Byng answered the appeal that the Home Secretary made to him, so the Opposition have to consider their duty and their right to criticise this appointment. I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) in dissociating from our criticism any attack at all upon Lord Byng. We are quite prepared to concentrate on the Home Secretary, and he has told us that it is not merely the Home Secretary but the Government whose conduct is at stake. I am quite prepared to take him up on that issue, and to press this reduction to a Vote, even though it might have the unfortunate effect of putting the Government out of office. There have been certain reasons brought forward by 2283 my right hon. Friend which perhaps might bear a little elaboration, and I wish to add one more to the objections that he has urged against this appointment. That objection is that the appointment has been given to a Member of Parliament, a Member of the Upper House, and later I will ask the Committee to consider the constitutional aspect of such an appointment, but first I want to deal with the action of the Home Secretary in making a military appointment.
He referred to the fact that there were seven Chief Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police who had been military officers, and out of those seven he picked one, Sir Edward Bradford, as being a most popular officer. I am at least at liberty to pick out one or two more who were not so popular as Sir Edward Bradford; nay, who were actual failures in the position that they had taken up. What about Sir Edmund Henderson, who, as Chief Commissioner, undoubtedly failed to maintain the traditions of the Army as applied to the administration of the police force? The Under-Secretary is going to reply, and perhaps he will make a note of that and tell us why it was that Sir Edmund Henderson so quickly passed out of office after entering it. Then what about Colonel Sir Charles Warren, an officer of the Army? Not even the Home Secretary will deny the statement that Sir Charles Warren was an egregious failure as Chief Commissioner of Police. There was yet another military officer, in the person of General Sir Nevil Macready, the unready? Does the Home Secretary think that his appointment justified the selection of a military officer for that post? How long were these three military officers in possession of that important post? Not one of them was in office sufficiently long to justify a pension being granted, even though it is the practice in most Governments to grant a pension on very short service indeed.
Something has been said about the time that the announcement was made, and the Home Secretary has given us an explanation of how it came to be made on that day, the 2nd July. He said that Sir William Horwood had informed him in February that he intended to resign, that he looked about for a successor, and that it was not 2284 until nearly July that the Home Secretary was able to announce in this House that he had found a man, in the person of Lord Byng, suitable to the position, and that Lord Byng had agreed to take up the appointment when it fell vacant next November. But that is no reason why the Home Secretary should make the announcement in that particular week. Does it not strike the Home Secretary as rather peculiar that he should have chosen last week to make this announcement, just a few days prior to the issue of the Savidge Inquiry Report? Even if it was not the intention of the Home Secretary deliberately to make this announcement before the publication of that Report, he ought to have considered the consequences of choosing that particular time to make the announcement. He should have said to himself: "Well, if I make this announcement of Sir William Horwood's definite retirement and the appointment of a new Commissioner at this particular moment, just prior to the issue of the Report of the inquiry into a certain part of the administration of the Metropolitan Police Force"—for that is what it amounted to—"I may possibly be accused of trying to allow the present Commissioner's resignation to be announced prior to the issue of a report which may contain statements derogatory to his administration of the duties of his office." Did not that strike the Home Secretary?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
What struck the Home Secretary was this, that if he announced it before the issue of the Report, he would be criticised, but if he kept it back till after the issue of the Report, he would also be criticised, so he did what seemed to be the right thing; he issued the announcement at the moment the arrangement was completed.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
I do not understand the logic of the Home Secretary's explanation. He should have made that announcement at a time when he would have been free from the accusation of trying to cover the retreat of the Commissioner, who possibly and probably would be condemned in the forthcoming Report, and in any case the Home Secretary was bound to announce the retirement later. There is no doubt about that, but surely it would have been better 2285 to wait even after the issue of the Report of the Street Offences Inquiry, which may make even more serious reflections on the administration of the police force. [Interruption]. That inquiry may conceivably report to the extent of saying, that sufficient care has not been taken by those responsible for the administration of the Force, and that had that care been taken the necessity for the inquiry might never have arisen. The Home Secretary will forgive me if I say that he has not satisfied me as to the propriety of his making the announcement on that particular date.
Does he definitely say that there is nothing wrong with the administration of the Force? Does he say that Sir William Horwood's period of administration, especially in the last two or three years, has been entirely satisfactory to him? I understand the Home Secretary to nod assent. Is that so? The Home Secretary does not nod assent, and therefore I have no answer to that question, but we can draw our own conclusions. I am not saying whether or not Sir William Horwood was a success in the position. I am trying to find out. I have no means of knowing whether he has been or has not, although I have some experience of the magisterial bench. I would not presume to judge the Chief Commissioner on his own record, but I say this, that at the age of 60, with 10 years' extension of office before him if he chose to accept it, if Sir William Horwood had been a success—and he is going to get a pension, whether he has been or not—why did not the Home Secretary say to him, "Sir William Horwood, you ask me to accept your resignation; I make an appeal to you, and I call upon you, as a very stern call to duty, to maintain your position"? The same state of affairs in the Metropolitan Police that caused the Home Secretary to make that striking appeal to Lord Byng could have been made to his predecessor, the present Commissioner, if there had been any desire on the Home Secretary's part to retain him.
That seems to me the most serious aspect of the present position, and it lends colour to the belief that undoubtedly exists in the public mind that it was because there was something to be 2286 kept back, because things were not as they ought to have been during the present administration, that the announcement of the resignation and the new appointment was made at that most convenient time. I think the Hone Secretary's own statements in the different answers that he has given to questions from time to time justify that opinion. He said, in reply to questions put to him, that he felt that the new Commissioner was the one man who was going to put things right. Now, if the new Commissioner is the one man who is going to take a firm hold of the machine, and is going to strike out in the direction which is going to bring about a reform of the present administration, is not that an admission that the present administration is defective? I put it to the Home Secretary that he cannot escape the logic of that argument, and while I do not wish to argue against the appointment of Lord Byng merely because the present administration is not all that it might be, I certainly think the fact that the resignation has been put in in this way and announced in this way is worthy of more than passing comment.
On the question of the appointment itself, I was much interested in the Home Secretary's statement of the trouble that he took and the endeavours that he made to secure the right man for this position, and I am astonished to find that in this progressive nation of ours it took the Home Secretary all that time, and he had to make so many inquiries, before he could find a man who was regarded as a fit and proper person to become Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He went to the Civil Service, and he could get no satisfaction there. He flirted with the Navy, and he could get no satisfaction there. With all that long list of Army officers on half pay and retired pay, he could only select an officer who, however distinguished he may be, has not shown any special qualification for the duties about to be imposed on him. He is actually on the retired list, and not merely out of work for the time being, and is receiving a pension. Yet he is the only man, out of all the hundreds of ex-officers and half-pay officers, who is capable of accepting this job. I take no exception to a military man, as such, and I would go so far as to say that, if I found an officer of the 2287 Army whom I thought would make a good Commissioner, I should consider that he ought to be given a chance, other things being equal, but he must have the necessary qualifications.
The Home Secretary has not convinced me that Lord Byng has the necessary qualifications for this position. Lord Byng himself, judging from what was contained in replies of the Home Secretary to certain questions, seems to have some doubt about it. The Home Secretary mentioned that after much pressure, and after refusing the appointment, he said that he would take it. I can imagine the conversation running on the lines suggested by the Home Secretary's reply. He said that Lord Byng hesitated a good deal, and after a time said that he would take the appointment, but that he would resign within 24 hours if his faculties failed him. It seems to suggest that there is a flaw in this appointment on account of age, if the person who is appointed expects, on account of age, that his faculties may fail him, and that he may have to retire in four years without carrying out those reforms which the Home Secretary may think necessary. At the end of four years, Lord Byng will retire, and he will retire, we may suppose, on a pension. I suggest that that is not good business from the Government's point of view.
When there are many men who are prepared and able to do the work, who are in the prime of life, and who could be expected to carry on their duties for 20 years or more, it is little short of a scandal that a man of the age of 66 should be appointed to this position. I wonder whether the Home Secretary has considered the legality of his decision. According to the Regulations, it is possible for a public servant to retire at the age limit of 60, and in this case it is possible for the service to be extended another 10 years by agreement between the holder of the post and the Home Secretary. Do the Regulations, however, make it legal to go outside the Service for an appointment of this kind, and to have that appointment made at the age of 66? I doubt whether that technical point has been considered by the Home Secretary. If the age of 60 is the normal age for retirement, subject 2288 to extension, it does not appear to me to be sound law that a man from outside can be appointed at 66.
I just want to refer to the other objection that I have to the appointment—that the Home Secretary should have appointed as Chief Commissioner of the Police a Member of Parliament. That is a most anomalous position. The British Parliament consist of two Houses, and it is just as wrong to appoint a Member of the Upper House as it would be to appoint a Member of the House of Commons. The Home Secretary would not suggest for a moment that the appointment could possibly be given to a Member of the House of Commons. If not, how can he justify the appointment of a Member of the House of Lords, who is called upon to take part in the decisions of Parliament on matters possibly involving his own conduct as Commissioner of Police? I submit that if the Home Secretary has not consulted the Officers of the Crown in regard to that point, it would be advisable for him to do so.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I was asked a question by the hon. Member for Acton (Sir H. Brittain) as to whether Lord Byng would be allowed to take any part in the Debates in the House of Lords, and I have received a letter from Lord Byng saying that he would never go to the House of Lords while holding an official position.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am trying to relieve the mind of the hon. Gentleman, who asked whether Lord Byng would attend the House of Lords and take part in the Debates, and I am sure this House would like to know that, while he is Commissioner of the Police, he will abstain from attending the House of Lords.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
I am much obliged to the Home Secretary for his attempt to relieve my mind, but my mind is not in the least relieved. My point was a technical or legal point, but a very vital point nevertheless, for, as all lawyers know, legal points are vital, however insignificant they may appear. The point is that Lord Byng is a Member 2289 of the House of Parliament known as the Upper Chamber. He is summoned to attend the meetings of the House of Lords, just as we are summoned here. He has certain duties which he has sworn to perform, and to give this appointment to a Member of the Upper Chamber is surely foreign to all the traditions of the British constitution. The Home Secretary, I know, said last week that the Commissioner will not be allowed to reply to questions in the House of Lords. No one would suppose that he would, but the fact that he would not be permitted to answer questions is sufficient evidence in itself that he has no right to be a peer and Chief Commissioner at one and the same time. The letter which he has written to the Home Secretary is an honourable letter so far as Lord Byng is concerned, but I am not so much concerned about what Lord Byng is going to do in the matter, as to know what the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown is upon the point which I have submitted. I want to know whether or not the appointment is strictly constitutional from that point of view.
What I have said is the reflection of what the British public is saying outside this House. I have taken the trouble during the past week to go to various persons outside who may be regarded as representative of that class which we call "the man in the street," Conservatives and Liberals as well. I did that purposely to ascertain what the opinion outside was concerning this appointment, and I found in every case that the opinion was against the Home Secretary's action, described in words which I hesitate to repeat in this House. They were sufficiently expressive to enable me to say that they considered the appointment one of the most foolish appointments that has ever been made. If the Home Secretary will take the trouble to go to the rank and file of his party and not merely to consult the benches behind him, who are bound to him by chains of loyalty from which they cannot escape, he will find the same opinion; and, if the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) who is so anxious to get up, has had an opportunity of consulting persons outside, I am certain that their opinions, if the people can be taken as representative 2290 of the British public, must be against the appointment of Lord Byng.
§ Sir WALTER GREAVES-LORD
One has listened with a great deal of sorrow to he speech of the hon. Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor), because, if he parades himself as a reflection of the opinion of the British public, one can only think that he is an extraordinary illustration of a peculiarly small mirror which takes only a very small section of the public, and then says, "There you are; you have the whole of public opinion."
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
I represent all the public who happen to be constituents of mine, but I attend this House as a public representative without regard to section. The view expressed by the hon. Member for South-East Southwark was a sectional view. Perhaps he is not entirely a stranger to that method of getting opinion which obtains the opinion desired. It is extraordinarily easy, if you are asking a man for his opinion, by the very least suggestion to get the opinion which coincides with that which you had intended to express, but it is not fair afterwards to say that that is a fair expression of the other man's opinion. I only want, to deal with one aspect of this question, that is, whether we are dealing with this matter in a purely cantankerous spirit and trying to say that we should never appoint a particular type of man to a particular appointment, or whether we are dealing with the appointment as a whole. Listening to the speech of the Home Secretary, it seemed to me that he has not merely been looking for a man with the qualifications for the job, but for the best man available to fill it. If you take that course, you cannot restrict yourself to one particular type. Nor can you say, "I am going to pin myself to the idea that a man who has had long police experience is the only man who should be appointed to a police appointment, and that I am going to restrict myself so that I get the best policeman available, and not the best citizen." If you are dealing with the choice one must consider what the conditions are, and one must consider also what the qualifications are not only of the particular man who is 2291 appointed but of the type of man if he is to be a successful man.
In the first place, one has to deal with the conditions which exist at the present time. As the right hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion said, nobody can look around without being perfectly satisfied that public opinion is stirred upon the question of police administration in London. There can be no doubt that there is a considerable amount of disturbance in the public mind with regard to matters which have arisen recently and the unfortunate position in which we find ourselves is that time after time statements are made—by this person and by that person, nearly always in circumstances which prevent any examination into those statements—which, if they were true of the Force, would entirely undermine public confidence in it. There could be no greater disaster for this great Metropolis and for the country at large than that public confidence in the police force should be undermined. You have these suspicions stated from time to time without the smallest opportunity of inquiring into them. What is the type of statement? The statement that from time to time policemen do not refrain from saying in the witness box and elsewhere that which is untrue, wilfully untrue; the statement that policemen are receiving bribes; the statement that policemen are usurping their positions, are being officious, are interfering with the liberty of the people among whom it is necessary that they should play an administrative part in the work of the administration of justice or the enforcement of the law. Those statements are made broadcast; and then, from time to time, you get some sensational case which raises sensational criticism; and, if I may say so, one thing about sensational criticism is that it is almost always unfair to someone. It is almost impossible to have the type of sensational criticism which you have to-day of the actions of the police without incurring the risk of very great unfairness to one section of the community or another, and I am rather inclined to think that in the main the criticisms of unfair dealings made against the police are very unfair to the police themselves.
2292 As the Home Secretary has said, the police have an extraordinarily difficult task to perform, and it is not made easier by the fact that a great many of the regulations which they have to enforce, and a great many of the laws which they have to administer, concern actions in which a great many people see no particular wrong. That very fact gives rise very often to some of the most difficult situations in which the police force find themselves. When a policeman is interfering with a citizen for disobedience to some particular regulation about the breach of which there is no moral wrong, about which there is no particular public feeling, the policeman does not always realise how serious a moral wrong he commits if he takes from that person a bribe, which is all too often offered. The difficulties of the police force in these circumstances are extremely great, the temptations to which the men are exposed are very great, and it is virtually necessary that two things should concur: one is that accusations should not be lightly made against the police force, and another is that, when those accusations are proved, the men who are found to be guilty should be justly and properly punished for the infringement of the regulations which they are sworn to support. When you get this atmosphere of general criticism it not only makes the position of the police force difficult, but that difficulty is increased by the extent to which that type of criticism undermines public confidence. In these circumstances, it is vitally necessary that the very best man who is available should be appointed to a position of this kind.
I want to say one word as to why in these circumstances a great military leader may and should be a very great success. I only judge this from the point of view of a civilian who has not seen a very great deal of military officers in connection with their own work. But there is one section of their work in which I have been privileged, on a few occasions, to see military officers carrying out their duties, and that is the work of courts-martial. I do not think anyone who has had even the slightest experience of the work which is done by military officers at courts-martial can have failed to realise this: That when military officers are called upon to perform the type of duty 2293 which a judge has to perform in connection with matters of discipline, breach of law, and so forth, one is struck with the essential justice of the mind of the officers who preside over those tribunals. That sense of justice is portrayed in this way, that there is probably no tribunal in the whole country which is so slow to convict as a courts-marital; and, indeed, that is one of the strongest characteristics of any judicial tribunal because the whole strength of the administration of justice in this country lies in the feeling that no man should be convicted unless every reasonable doubt of his innocence has been cleared away.
Therefore, when you are dealing with men some of whom have come under a cloud of suspicion, the appointment of this type of man ensures that the characters of men shall not be lightly taken away from them. That is one of the first essentials of a man who has to administer, and may have to enforce, discipline in a great force. There is no doubt whatever about it. The Noble Lord who has been appointed to this office has that characteristic in a very large and very emphasised degree. Secondly, it must also be quite clear that when the offence is brought home he will not palter with the man who has committed an offence against the discipline of the force, who has brought disgrace upon it, and has to that extent lowered the administration of justice and the enforcement of the law. There, again, you will get in this appointment a man who will administer justice, tempering it with the right mercy, but at the same time being essentially just and essentially determined that everything which is a blot upon the police force shall be eradicated, and that there shall be no room for lack of confidence in the future.
There is one final characteristic which, above everything else, is important. I was amazed when I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) saying that military office entirely unfitted a man for this type of position. The whole force and strength of a great military leader must lie in his power of inspiring devotion among the men he leads, and that is one of the things which is more than ever essential in a great force like the Metropolitan Police Force. You are putting a man over 20,000 men, over a force which in 2294 a few years will be 25,000 men. It is absolutely essential that that man should be capable of inspiring not only the devotion of those men to himself, but, through his own character, their devotion to the duty they have to perform. I venture to think that from that point of view no better choice could have been made than the choice which the right hen. Gentleman has made. If you once get that devotion to personality, that devotion to duty, that determinaion in the head of the force that these criticisms shall not be lightly regarded and that where there is force in them a just inquiry shall be made and where blemish is found blemish shall be eradicated, but, with it all, a determination to be just and to protect his men against unfair aspersions and a determination that his own devotion to duty shall inspire devotion among his men, then you will breed a confidence among the public which unfortunately many unfair criticisms seem to be dispelling, but which must come back whenever that devotion to duty is definitely and clearly shown.
§ Mr. HAYES
I would like to refer briefly to what I think seems to have been rather the atmosphere created than the definite declaration of a position by the learned Recorder who has just sat down. He rather indicated in the trend of his speech that something was wrong either with public opinion or with the police service. As to whether public opinion is public or opinion is another matter. He seemed to indicate that whatever it was that was wrong, the only person who could be chosen to put it right was a highly-placed military gentleman—at any rate in so far as the observation was directed in support of the appointment of Lord Byng as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. If that be so, it is strange how such an atmosphere should have grown up when the force has for some years been under the control of very highly-placed military men. I should have thought, on the contrary, that it would have been reasonable to have argued, as this situation apparently arises from time to time, that what has been comparatively successful in the provinces might well be tried in the Metropolitan Police as in the provincial police forces. A very large number of the chief constableships are made from the ranks of the police service. Every- 2295 one associated with local government knows that, with very rare exceptions, those appointments have given the utmost satisfaction to the police service, and the general public, and the lesson of the provinces might very well be copied by the Home Secretary and his advisers in respect of the appointments in the Metropolitan Police. I heartily endorse what the Home Secretary said about having an understanding with the general body of police opinion, particularly in respect of the Metropolitan Police.
I know that the Home Secretary has been at some great pains, at times amounting to personal inconvenience, in his desire to take a deep interest in the police service, and this has not always been so prominent in the case of the Home Secretary's predecessors in office. The Home Secretary, from the policeman's point of view, has gained a position which I should like to see maintained all the time, but I am afraid that the appointment that has been made recently will rather tend to weaken, not their confidence in the Home Secretary as such, but it will perhaps tend to make them feel that it is exceedingly difficult to get a Home Secretary who will see the policeman's point of view and the point of view of the public in civil administration purely, and especially in Scotland Yard administration. Anything which I have to say in reference to Lord Byng's appointment will refer not so much to the personal qualities of the Home Secretary as to his judgment in this particular case. I understand that Sir William Horwood will have completed 10 years' service in the Metropolitan Police Force as Assistant Commissioner and Commissioner of Police in October next. I think there was some suggestion that the appointment of Commissioner of Police was not subject to the ordinary police Regulations. I think it is clear that the statutory Regulations made by the Home Secretary apply to the Metropolitan Police. Regulation 94 declares:That these Regulations shall apply to all police forces in England and Wales to which the Police Act of 1919 applies, but shall not apply to any men belonging to those forces which act exclusively as firemen.Therefore, the Regulations do apply to the Metropolitan Police, and under those 2296 Regulations the appointment of a chief officer of police is subject to the condition that on appointment he shall not be more than 40 years of age unless the Secretary of State, upon the recommendation of the appointing authority—which in this particular case is himself—he is satisfied that there are special circumstances which would justify the appointment being made of somebody over the age of 40. The Commissioner of Police is subject to the laws which govern the police forces, and the Commissioner is, in fact, governed in his retirement, if not in his appointment, by the Act of Parliament governing the police, namely, the Police Pensions Act, 1921, Section 2, under which the Commissioner may retire if he has concluded ten years' approved service, and is incapacitated from the performance of his duty by infirmity of mind or body. There is another condition under which he may retire, and that is where a member of the police force is compelled to retire under the Act on the ground of age. In this particular case the age question is governed by Section (1) of the Act, which says:Retirement shall be compulsory in a police force for the Chief Officer of Police on attaining the age of 65.Therefore, when Sir William Horwood reached 60, he had not reached the age under which the law says he must retire, but he had, in fact, completed a sufficient number of years' service to entitle him to retire on a pension laid down in the Act of Parliament as if he had been returned as medically unfit. Perhaps I may refer the Home Secretary to the Pensions Act, 1921, where the scale lays down very clearly: That the basis of the pension shall be one-sixtieth of the pay for each completed year of service. So that on the ten years' period of service of the Commissioner of Police he would be entitled, under the Police Pensions Act, 1921, to a pension of ten-sixtieths of his pay. I understand that his pay since the last adjustments were made will be at the time of his retirement £3,000 per year. From an answer which the Home Secretary gave the other day his pension will be £1,000 a year, and I should be very glad if the Home Secretary could explain how it is that the table of pensions in the Police Pensions Act, 1921, provides only for one-sixth of the pay to be the pension rate, whereas it has been practically declared by the right 2297 hon. Gentleman that the pension will be on the basis of 20–60ths, that is, based on 20 years' service. The right hon. Gentleman may have some explanation of that, but I find it difficult to understand the discrepancy, more especially in view of the fact that Section 25 of that particular Act of Parliament declares:The rates and conditions of pensions of the Commissioner, the Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Assistant Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis shall be regulated by the provisions of the 1921 Act, and not by the provisions of the Metropolitan Police Staff (Superannuation) Act, 1875, subject however, to any special arrangement which may be made in exceptional circumstances in the public interest by the Secretary of State with the approval of the Treasury.If the right hon. Gentleman says that this pension has been granted under exceptional circumstances with the approval of the Treasury, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not hesitate to tell the House what are the special services which entitle the Commissioner to a pension based on 20 years' service amounting to £1,000, instead of a pension based on 10 years' service amounting to £500 a year. I do not raise this question in any spirit of endeavouring to deprive the Commissioner of Police of his pension, but I have in mind that if a little more could be added to the fund for the payment of pensions to the old widows and pre-War members of the police force, it would be very much appreciated. At a time when we find it so difficult to extract money from the Treasury to help these old people, I think a very careful scrutiny should be made when a pension of this kind is suggested.
With regard to the appointment of Lord Byng, I understand that his Lordship will be 66 years of age in November, and, apparently, the Home Secretary relies upon his powers to employ Lord Byng as Commissioner of Police under the existing law which provide that he may give special permission for the age to be extended from 65 to 70. I know the right hon. Gentleman's own statutory regulations give him certain powers of appointment if the person appointed happens to be over 40 years of age, but there is nothing in those regulations that enables, the right hon. Gentleman to appoint anyone over the age of 65. The only provision for dealing with Chief 2298 Officers of Police over 65 years of age is the provision that enables the Home Secretary to extend the service of those officers. Lord Byng will have no police service to extend, and under Section I of the Police Pensions Act the extension from 65 to 70 is governed by these words:Except that in special cases the chief officer of police, or, where the person concerned is a chief constable or assistant chief constable, the police authority may extend any such person's service for a further period, and in no case exceeding five years, on being satisfied that such extension would be in the interests of efficiency.I cannot discover anything in any Act of Parliament or the regulations which enables the appointment of a gentleman over 65 years of age to be made, nor any extension of the age limit to one who is not already serving at the time when he reaches 65 years of age. I raise this point not so much in regard to this particular because there are many in the police service which now numbers 60,000 men, and some of them have particular circumstances with regard to their service. The very ready argument is that if the Act of Parliament can be stretched to meet the special circumstances of special cases, there ought to be a little more stretching done when it becomes a question of some point affecting a constable or other subordinate officers connected with the service.
With regard to the appointment of Lord Byng and the resignation of Sir William Horwood, I would like to make a few remarks upon the question of militarisation. One of the Inspectors-General of Constabulary, Major-General Atcherley, is an excellent police officer. The Home Secretary has stated that he does not know Lord Byng personally. I wish to state that I do not know Major-General Atcherley personally, although I know that there is a general opinion in the service that he is an excellent. Inspector General of Constabulary. Probably he had the same criticisms, levelled against him when he came into his present office because he was a General, but there is this evidence of our broad-mindedness: Major-General Atcherley has a period of 15 years' police service to his credit now, and he is undoubtedly an excellent police administrator.
2299 6.0 p.m.
When looking round for a new Commissioner of Police I wonder how far the Home Secretary made a search amongst the inspectors of constabulary, and how far he examined the qualifications of the various chief constables in the country. I wonder how far the right hon. Gentleman was able to get into contact with real police service opinion in quarters which could have put before him the names of some very excellent and honourable officers in the service who have risen from the ranks. I cannot help feeling that the tendency to appoint Commissioners from the Army and the Navy is not untinged with some desire that social status and rank should attach to the office of Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis. We have at the moment at New Scotland Yard, some eight or nine highly placed officers who have been members of the Army or the Navy, including two Generals and one Admiral—I do not know why the Admirals have come into the business—[Interruption.] The only thing that I can hope is that Admiral Collard was not invited to take charge of the Metropolitan Police. We have also a number of Colonels and Majors. The danger of that is not so much that they hold Army rank, because officers of the Army and Navy are no different from people who have not been in the Army and Navy from the point of view of their decency. No one has complained about that, and probably some of the most charming people in this House have been members of His Majesty's Forces. That is not what we complain about. What we complain about is that they have a military conception of what should be a police officer's duty, and that percolates through the various ranks down to the last-joined recruit. It may be that it is unconscious, but it percolates through. And the effect of such appointments is not confined to the Metropolitan Police, because, in these days of intense organisation in police administration, provincial forces send some of their members for a period of training at New Scotland Yard in various departments, and, if it be the ease that the military mind is having an effect upon the subordinate ranks, the result is to feed even the provincial forces with men with certain military 2300 ideas who, perhaps, would never have had such ideas if they had not come within the training of a force under the control of military officers.
Since 1910 there have been no fewer than 38 appointments, and the strange thing is that they have been drawn from three distinct sources. They have been drawn from the Army; they have been drawn from the Royal Irish Constabulary; and they have been drawn from the Indian Police or administrative services and, perhaps, here and there, from Rhodesia, Nyasaland, or places of that kind. In the main, there are three distinct sources from which a fairly large number of new chief officers of police have been drawn, and to-day we have in the Provinces 45 colonels, majors and captains, while there are nine at New Scotland Yard, unless the number has been reduced by the abolition of the office of Colonel Partridge. There are about 54 in all. It does not stop at the Metropolitan Police. Only last Tuesday the Buckinghamshire Standing Joint Committee had to consider the appointment of a Chief Constable of the county. They had 150 applications before them. A large number of, these came from officers of the Police Service in different parts of the country, but the short list, the six selected to appear before the Standing Joint Committee, included only one police officer, the deputy-chief constable of the county, a very excellent officer, as evidenced by his selection for the short list. The remainder were colonels——
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dennis Herbert)
I do not think that the hon. Member can do more than refer to any questions connected with the provincial police services by way of comparison. The provincial police do not come under this Vote.
§ Mr. HAYES
I can assure you, Mr. Herbert, that I shall not take advantage of the Debate to get in other matter that would be out of order. I merely want to point out that there must be an effect upon the provincial areas, because the Home Secretary must give his approval to or withhold it from the actual appointment which the Buckinghamshire Standing Joint Committee made last Tuesday. I do not know whether he has given his approval, but, whether he has or not, there has been chosen 2301 from the six selected applicants, a gentleman against whom nothing can be said apart from this question of his military service. He joined the Army in 1905, and is still an officer of His Majesty's Army, and one of his qualifications for appointment was, apparently, that he had been studying police methods under the Chief Constable of Plymouth, in the hope of securing this post. It rather indicates that the Chief Constable of Plymouth might have made a better Chief of Buckinghamshire than his pupil. If this gentleman has been in fact studying since 1924, I do not know how he was doing his military duties, seeing that he was then, and still is, an officer in the Army. In any case his age, namely, 42, is two years over the limit under the police regulations. I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman will examine this appointment with the same care with which he examined the appointment that was made some time ago in Cumberland, of a gentleman who happened to be rejected because of certain reasons, although he, too, was in this short list. I mention that as showing the danger of the spread of military appointments.
I close by referring, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) referred, to the Committee of 1919, which went into this question of whether it was good for the police service and for the public generally that arrangements should be made for absorbing officers from the Army into the higher police posts. That Committee was composed of Members of both Houses of Parliament, and I think that everyone who has taken note of its work will agree that it did its work very impartially; I do not think that any party bias at all was shown by the Committee or any of its members. The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) was a member, as were also Sir James O'Grady, who is now Governor of Tasmania, and Lord Gorell. Lord Desborough was the very able Chairman of the Committee, and another member was Sir James Remnant, to whom I should like through this Debate, to offer my congratulations on his taking his seat to-day in the House of Lords. Another Member of this Committee was a late respected Member of the House of Commons, Sir Henry Craik. The Committee went into this question very carefully, and they urged the Home Secretary 2302 to whom they reported to accept their opinion that it really was not good for the police administration of this country that the importation of military officers should be looked upon as a good thing for the service. They wanted the police officers in the country to feel that, by assiduous attention to their duty, by the improvement of their education and capacity, by the growing confidence that the public would have in them, they would at any rate become entitled to expect appointments to be open to them in the higher ranks of the Service, and, what is more, the Committee wanted to get rid of that little mocking tone which does exist, though one does not like to hear it, when these appointments are made. I will give the right hon. Gentleman an example; he will appreciate the humour of it. A highly placed Metropolitan Police officer said to me, "If we go on like this, we shall change our name from New Scotland Yard and shall soon be designated the Army and Navy Stores."
I want to congratulate the Home Secretary on his magnificent appointment and I want to congratulate the country on having a man like Lord Byng. We are indeed fortunate to have people of such public service and such public spirit as Lord Byng. In listening to this Debate I have been very much impressed by the attack of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden). It was not in the least violent; it was considered and reasoned, and, like the attack of the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes), it was on three grounds—in the first place, that Lord Byng was a militarist; secondly, on account of age; and, thirdly, I think, on the question of looking for a job. I should like to tell the Committee the kind of militarist that Lord Byng is. Like the Home Secretary, I am not a personal friend of Lord Byng, and have only seen him once in my life, but I happened to get to know in a very curious and intimate way what kind of man he was.
During the War we had at our base a great Canadian military hospital, and, after Lord Byng had been appointed to the command of the Canadian Forces, the men were always coming back and talking about him, and I used to ask why 2303 it was that, more than any other General in France, Lord Byng seemed not only to inspire devotion, but to have the quality of making men want to do what is right. I once asked a Canadian chaplain, and he said, "Well, you see, General Byng is very unlike most people I have ever met. He is one of those rare people who are always in touch with the things that are higher, and, when he has made his arrangements, and the men are to go over the top, General Byng locks himself up and prays."
That is the kind of militarist that Lord Byng is. The right hon. Gentleman may laugh at that, but I do not think that the people of the country will laugh; certainly the women will not laugh. [Interruption.] This is not an anecdote: I am saying it to refute the story that Lord Byng is a militarist, a stern disciplinarian who will bring a military mind to bear. I know perfectly well what the implication of the term "a military mind" is, and how it is used to denote a man who only thinks of discipline and making men do things, instead of a man who, like Lord Byng, makes men want to do what is right. That is why I, personally, rejoice that Lord Byng has taken over this very difficult task, and I have no hesitation in saying that I rejoice that Sir William Horwood is going.
I am not intimate with Lord Byng. As I have said, I have only seen him once in my life, but this is what I heard from men who had come back and had been thinking things out. It is their opinion of Lord Byng, and I think far more of the opinion of those men who fought and bled than of that of the men who did not. If he is a stern disciplinarian, I am glad, because I know that it is good for men and women to have stern discipline. I am all for discipline; I am all for obedience; and I am perfectly certain that the Front Opposition Bench would 2304 like more obedience and discipline in their party. Far from being a militarist, however, Lord Byng happens to have exactly the qualities that are needed at this moment. As for the question of age, that is just a question of outlook. An old mind does not necessarily go with age. Look at the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton). He, I believe, is 73, but he is one of the most alert members of the House of Commons. Really, age is only a question of outlook. Some of the most prejudiced, narrow-minded men that I have ever met have been young men, and some of the wisest, most broad-minded and most alert have been old men. It is not, therefore, a question of age.
On the question of militarism I agree with the Leader of the Opposition, and would be against a militarist in the sterner sense that he means; and I certainly should be against a tired and weary man, or against a man who was hunting for a job; but hon. Members opposite do not understand, because they want jobs. Lord Byng wants to give up a job. It is not a question of his wanting a job; he is not a job-hunter; and I think that that is a poor argument—[Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite think more of money but Lord Byng is thinking of service. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman speaks from the fullness of his heart. Another thing with which I agree is that every man who enters the Police Force ought to have the desire to get to the very top. That, probably, is the aim of a great many people in all walks of life, but, although we may want to get to the top, there are very few of us who have those qualities which put us at the top, and I am perfectly convinced that, if there had been a man in the Police Force of the character of Lord Byng, he would have been appointed. It is quite obvious, however, that there was not such a man. The hon. Member for Edge Hill said we could take lessons from the borough police, but they are under their municipality, while the Metropolitan Police are under the Commissioner. The character of the Commissioner is of far more importance than any one single thing to do with this police.
I said I was glad Sir William Horwood had gone, and I will explain why. I am not frightened of it. There has been a lot of sham about this Debate. No doubt 2305 hon. Members opposite are glad, too. When Sir Nevil Macready left the police force he saw that there were things to be done. There is, as the Home Secretary said, a rather uneasy feeling throughout the country, but I believe it ought to be more against the laws than against the police trying to administer the laws. I do not believe a company of arch-angels could administer some of our laws justly, because the laws are not just. We want to make things better. Sir Nevil Maeready said 1,200 women in the Metropolitan area were arrested on the word of the police as prostitutes. You cannot arrest persons for being prostitutes. They are arrested under a faked charge of annoyance and condemned, and they have to go through life as prostitutes. There is no other profession open to a woman who is once branded as a prostitute. Those women were arrested on a faked charge. Sir Nevil Macready knew that, and he said that if he had his way he would not let a policeman arrest a woman in that sense.
He left just at the time. That is why he left, and that is why I say I am glad Sir William Horwood is going, because he knew that. There were two Committees that said things were wrong and ought to be changed, but, instead of attempting to change them, he has done everything he could to get rid of the few women who were there. Had our House of Commons Report been carried out, we should never have had this Savidge scandal to-day. I am glad he is going.
I am not blaming the police. If Sir William Horwood had been like Sir Nevil Macready he would have protested and said, "The law is wrong and my police cannot carry it out," and he would have asked for women police to do the job which, as the hon. Gentleman and I know, ought only to be done by women police, trained and qualified. It is asking the men to do an impossible thing. It is putting 2306 them in a very difficult position. If they fail, it is not their fault. It is the fault of the law. Sixty years ago Josephine Butler said you could not have a law which was unfair to even the lowest and most despised of the community without reflecting on the whole community. That is exactly what has happened. We have been pressing for equal lays. What we have got is equal injustice both for men and women. I am delighted that all this has come out. We need a clearing out. We need to see what is wrong in our laws, and we need a man of high moral sense to stand there and help the police. I do not think anyone wants to see the police militarised or changed very much, but there are some respects in which there ought to be a change, and I rejoice to think that Lord Byng will bring that sympathy, tact, understanding and real inspiration that he has brought to every body of men with whom he has had anything to do. We have only 159 women police in the country. Now that we have got this changed outlook in the last 10 years, this uneasy feeling has been growing. It has just corns to a head. I believe there is growing a higher outlook throughout the community ever since women have been in public life. There is a larger and a better outlook. I congratulate the Home Secretary and the country on having secured a man like Lord Byng. There are some Members of the Opposition who are always looking for what is evil and failing to see what is good, and making it very difficult for men like Lord Byng to enter public life by making charges against their characters. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I have read their speeches in the Press. They have said we were appointing one might almost say an opponent of the police. A great many hon. Members opposite have been going round the country trying to work up this feeling against him, but give the country a chance to support him.
§ Miss WILKINSON
The Noble Lady, like many others of her party, is very keen on iron discipline when it is exerted on someone else. I really think her attitude towards Lord Byng is a somewhat sentimental one. The average Tommy knows nothing about a General except his name. There is one thing we know about Lord Byng, that he has been 2307 conspicuously in favour of the militarisation of the boys' training corps. That is a very disturbing fact. In one thing I profoundly agree with the Noble Lady, and that is that Sir William Horwood has left. We feel that his whole administration has been one of reaction. In the Savidge case I think it was Sir Archibald Bodkin who said the same rules were in force that had existed for 100 years. Surely the whole attitude of the police towards crimes and misdemeanours has altered in the last 20 or 10 years. There has been quite a change in the public attitude towards what are known roughly as sexual crimes and misdemeanours. We now realise that these are often matters for the doctor rather than for police methods, which are perfectly simple when dealing with burglars, for example. Surely at this time when the whole public attitude towards women, towards children, towards crimes against children and towards children's offences are altered, we want at Scotland Yard a man who represents the new idea, and who can modernise our police. The whole attitude of the police towards the public needs modernising and it is required to bring in the medical, and esnccially the psychological attitude towards what is sometimes mistakenly called crime.
We are all profoundly disturbed at the police methods with regard to the Pace case. Public feeling was revolted at the fact that children of two, six and eleven were kept at the police court for 11 hours and endeavoured to be used to nut a rope round their mother's neck. I felt, when reading the account of the proceedings, that they ought never to have been allowed there. They will carry to the end of their days, in ways we cannot understand, in their unconscious mind, the awful effects of what they had to go through in their tender infancy. I am not saying these are matters that can be altered in a moment. At this moment, too, you have the bringing of women into public life. These women are responsible electors. They are profoundly disturbed at the attitude of the police towards children, and the rigid attitude which was maintained during that case.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether at this moment he is in line with public opinion when he appoints 2308 a military man, and an old man, to this important position. I do not want to say anything against Lord Byng as a person, because I know nothing about him, but I do want to say that no one can escape the influence of environment, and when a man has lived his life subject to military law and subjecting others to military law, it is surely the most natural thing in the world that he should think that an order, that a command, that rigid discipline, such as that for which the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has pleaded, are the things above all else that concern everybody. When we are dealing with a new attitude, a new outlook in public affairs, surely a man whose mind and life are attuned to the military idea, is just the wrong kind of person to be brought in to deal with these delicate matters. At the very best, a man of 65 must necessarily be a stop-gap. I do not know whether the Home Secretary intends that Lord Byng shall be regarded merely as a stop-gap, but I suggest in all fairness that it is not treating the public rightly at this moment to put in someone to act quickly, on emergency, as a stop-gap, and then to bring in someone later on. This moment is the time when a really radical alteration of the police, force should have been carried through. Therefore, to put in an old man, and a military man, merely as a stopgap, is not treating the matter with that broad public spirit to which one had looked forward in matters of this kind.
I agree with the hon. Member for the Sutton Division with regard to the necessity for new ideas in connection with the women police. I do not know Lord Byng's attitude towards the women police and towards women in public service, but I can only remind the Noble Lady that the lady whom she quoted, Miss Josephine Butler, had most disastrous experiences in dealing with the military. I do not want to pile upon Lord Byng's shoulders the sins of military men 50 years ago, because even the British Army may have altered, but it is a fact that in the highest places Army officers wanted maisons tolérées during the Army occupation in France. I am quoting circumstances immediately following the War. Women have very little for which to thank the military mind. We believe that at this moment the whole question 2309 of women police needs to be considered in a very different way from that in which it was considered by Sir William Horwood.
I cannot help wondering, sometimes, when one sees those unfortunate police women, in their unfortunate uniform, made to look almost like caricatures of male members of the force, whether we shall ever get a really sensible woman brought in to tackle this question. I could supply the Home Secretary with photographs of police women in Germany, where they have an excellently designed costume which, without making them seem a caricature of the male force, is a dignified costume and treats the women as a separate but very necessary part of the police force. I am not one of those who think that women can in every way do the duties of men police. I have always stood out against the extreme feminist attitude that women can necessarily perform the same duties as men. I do not believe that it is possible, but I do say that at this moment when we are getting rid of a man who has taken up a stonewall attitude towards women, to put it no higher than that, we ought to have a young man, a modern man, a highly trained man to come in and put the whole thing on a proper basis.
There is a very important point which, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman has not considered, and that is the attitude of many thousands of trades union men and women towards the further militarisation of the police force. Our experiences during the general strike are still in our minds. I had a good deal of experience and I saw something, and I raised questions in the House with regard to the brutality of the police in certain areas—not the local men who knew the circumstances but the imported men—and the general feeling there that the desire of the Conservative party and of the Conservative Cabinet was to militarise the police in order to hold up the workers of the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"] I am saying what the trade unionists of this country have said in resolutions.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is referring to the police in the country who do not come under this Vote.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I am pointing out that it is unfortunate that there should be an appointment of a military man and that it is unfortunate from the Home Secretary's own point of view, because if he denies the allegation to which I have alluded, and he says that it is completely unfounded, he is giving colour to the allegation by appointing a military man. However, since the appointment of Lord Byng is an accomplished fact, and the right hon. Gentleman's majority will certainly back him up, I do appeal to him that this question should be, regarded from the highest public point of view, and that having got Lord Byng in for the time being, he should get someone who will go into the whole question of the police and their relation to the public from an entirely different point of view, in order that we may have more modern and more humane ideas brought in than we have had in the past.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
This is sup posed to be a Vote of Censure on the Home Secretary for appointing Lord Byng, but I am afraid the Home Secretary must be puzzled to discover what is the precise indictment brought against him We have listened to a number of speeches which have covered a variety of points. The hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes), for instance, who may claim to represent the police to a large ex tent——
§ Commander BELLAIRS
At any rate, the hon. Member has had considerable experience of the police. He devoted the major portion of his speech to the question of a pension to the outgoing Commissioner, who leaves in November. That had nothing to do with the question of a Vote of Censure on the Home Secretary for appointing Lord Byng. When we look at the state of the Opposition Benches on this occasion of a vote of censure—[HON. MEMBERS: "Look at your own benches!"] We are not moving the Vote of Censure. We have confidence in the Home Secretary. We regard the whole of this agitation as bogus, and therefore there is no need for the party to be present. I regret very much that the Leader of the Opposition is ill, because he has occupied the position of 2311 Prime Minister and he knows the difficulty of making these appointments. He knows the importance of having a man with prestige, and who has been tried in difficult circumstances, and I would have liked to have had his guidance on this occasion.
Turning to another point of criticism, I heard one hon. Member making a great deal of the point that Lord Byng is a member of the House of Lords. What difference does that make? We have had Lord Roberts and Lord Wolseley at the head of the Army, Lord Beatty at the head of the Navy, and we have also had Lord Cavan at the head of the Army. They have not taken part in politics. Why, then, should not Lord Byng, who has given an undertaking not to attend the House of Lords, be the Commissioner of Police? I heard one argument used, that we were bringing in outsiders. That was a very dangerous argument to use by hon. Members who may occupy the position, some day, of heads of great Departments. Suppose the civil servants began to say that you must not bring in outsiders. We politicians are outsiders when we come to govern the great Departments.
To say, as was said by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), that military training unfits a man and leads to absence of initiative, is quite untrue. The whole aim and object of Naval and Army officers is to develop initiative, and any man who comes in as head of the police would also have that object in view. With regard to the question of experience, I have often heard the argument about experience used in this House. Have hon. Members ever watched the patriarchal goldfish in its glass prison, knocking its head against the glass prison, in spite of all its past experience? I have on a previous occasion in this House quoted a story of Frederick the Great, who said that he had a couple of mules in his army who had been through 20 campaigns, but they were mules still. So much for the value of experience.
Supposing the Home Secretary had accepted the argument that he must never go outside the police force to make an appointment. That would have left six or eight men from whom to choose in the upper ranks. If he went below the 2312 senior ranks he would probably have the senior men disgruntled, and that would be a very serious thing in the police force. I am not at all sure that the men who are being talked about do not desire to have a man from outside of the great prestige of Lord Byng brought in as head of the force. I think it is exceedingly likely that they do. The Home Secretary has to consider not merely the police, but Parliament and the public as well, and he must have a wider range of choice than six or eight men who may be among the leading men of the police force.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
There are four Assistant-Commissioners and two Deputy-Commissioners, and then, I suppose, you would come to the others mentioned by the hon. Member. Surely, the wide range which is offered by the whole of the British Army and in other directions must lead to the selection of a better man. It is one of the most difficult things in the world to choose the best possible man for a position, and it is a responsibility which cannot be divorced from the Executive. It is a responsibility which cannot be shared by Parliament. The instant that any member of the Government shares his responsibility with Parliament, he loses responsibility altogether. He must take the responsibility on himself. That is what the Home Secretary has done, and I believe that the appointment he has made has the complete confidence of the country. We all recognise that Lord Byng has made a great sacrifice in taking this position, and that no monetary consideration would possibly appeal to him. I think hon. Members opposite will agree with that.
I have heard the question asked on the Floor of the House as to whether there are no men capable of taking this job in the police force. No one denies that there are thousands of men in the police force capable of doing the job, but the man capable of doing the job is not necessarily the best man. That is the point. Lord Byng happens to be the best man that could have been selected. I remember reading once that the Cabinet sent for the great Duke of Wellington and asked who was the best man to take Rangoon. The Duke replied, 2313 "Send for Lord Combermere," and the Prime Minister said, "We always understood that you did not consider Lord Combermere very efficient, but rather a fool," and the Duke replied "He is a fool, a dammed fool, but he is good enough to take Rangoon." In selecting the man for head of the police it is not sufficient to select the man who is good enough but the man who is best fitted for the job. There is only one point on which I should be inclined to reproach the Home Secretary, and that is that he has been far too accommodating in answering questions by the Opposition at Question time. After all, the Home Secretary takes the responsibility for the appointment, and if the Opposition challenge the appointment at Question time all that the Home Secretary need reply is that he has selected the best man.
If the Opposition wish to challenge it they should take the course that is open to them, the course they have taken today, and move a reduction in the Home Secretary's salary. The Opposition at Question Time are not entitled to canvass the qualities of the man who is appointed. If they disagree with the appointment they should put down a vote of censure. If the qualities of men who are appointed to situations are open to be canvassed at Question time it is possible to canvass the appointment of diplomats, and governors, and the appointment of generals and admirals. What would be the effect on the man whose qualifications are canvassed in this way? Does anyone think that if everybody who is appointed to a position is going to be assailed in the way in which Lord Byng has been assailed, that they will accept appointments in the future? It will restrict the area from which the Government will be able to make selections, and, therefore, I say that it is not possible for a Minister at Question Time adequately to defend his action. The best answer he can give is to say that he has selected the best man and, if the Opposition wish to challenge it, they must put down a vote of censure.
Let me refer to the question of the age of Lord Byng. There appears to be confusion of thought in the minds of hon. Members opposite. Different qualifications are required for people in a competitive profession, and people who are 2314 administrators. For the purpose of competition, either in business or war, nobody denies that you must have young men, but the position to which Lord Byng has been appointed is administrative and it is not necessary that the man selected should be a young man. If we were to apply the principle to this House which was applied to the Roman Senate, we should exclude all men over 60. I happen to have two to three years to spare, but the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the hon. Member on the Front Opposition Bench are both young, because a man is as young as he feels. It is a great pity that the Opposition have raised this Debate for they will find as time goes on, after Lord Byng has occupied his position, and has achieved great success, that they have done their best to hamper him in his future work by attacking him on his appointment. I congratulate the Home Secretary from the bottom of my heart for having made the appointment and for the fine defence he has made of it to-day.
§ Mr. J. JONES
We have listened to some of the most extraordinary speeches which have ever been delivered in Parliament. The first speech I had the privilege of hearing was by one of the leading ornaments of the legal profession. I believe the hon. and learned Member sits for the Norwood Division, and I wondered as he was speaking what he would say, what the legal profession would say, if one of the big plums in that profession was given to somebody outside. We should find the Law Society calling a special meeting, and protests would ring throughout the length and breadth of the land. Even the Government would not be safe. Then we had an hon. Member who belongs to the Navy. What would he say if some future First Lord of the Admiralty appointed as head of the Navy one of the Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police Force? Every quarterdeck would ring with thunders of denunciation and this House would be allowed no rest because it had dared to interfere with the historic traditions of that great Service. Then, again, suppose some future Labour Secretary of State for War who was very pacific in his ideas as to the future of relationships between countries, appointed one of the Quaker members of the Labour party as Commander-in-Chief of the 2315 British Army. How would all the colonels and generals of the Army feel about that?
§ Commander BELLAIRS
The hon. Member asks me what I should feel in regard to such an appointment as head of the Navy. If it was the best man for the job, I should have no feeling against it at all, and I would point out to the hon. Member that Admiral Blake was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet at the age of 65, and won victory after victory, although he had never been a seaman.
§ Mr. JONES
The hon. and gallant Member has left half of his history books unlearned. Some of the great Commanders-in-Chief of the Navy were men who came from the mercantile marine. That was before the Navy became a profession. But what would happen to-day if a man from the mercantile marine was appointed as head of the British Navy? The true blues in the Fleet would immediately have blue fits. The same thing would happen in any of the services and professions; there would be great indignation and many protests. I want to deal with this matter, however, from another point of view. I do not know Lord Byng from Adam. Indeed, I know more about Adam than I do about Lord Byng, but I cannot understand how rules and regulations can be changed to suit a particular purpose. When the ordinary members of the police force want rules and regulations altered they have an awful job. The laws of the Medes and Persians would be more easily altered than some of the rules and regulations of the police force. But when it suits the convenience of a Government and a party they can easily forget all about rules and regulations, and simply make it what they want it to be for the time being.
In view of what has happened recently an experiment of this character is the worst kind of experiment that could be made. All the great cities and towns in the country have some control over their own police force. Through their watch committees they have the right to decide who shall be the chief officer of their police, but here in the greatest city in the world, a country in itself, as far as conditions and circumstances are con- 2316 cerned, the people of London who have to find about £3,500,000 a year for the police force, have not a single voice as to who shall be head of this great civic force, and, after all, it is a civic force. We have always been led to believe that the police were not a military body and were not subject to military law. Gradually, however, we can see this growing up. In any industrial trouble military law dominates the situation as far as the attitude of the police and the public are concerned, particularly in the industrial parts of London. This is the time when a change might be made, and instead of having this force dominated by one man, instead of having a military man at the head of the force, it should be reorganised, so that the people who find the money shall have a say in the appointment of the man who is to be the head.
In spite of all the back-handed compliments which hon. Members opposite have been paying to the police force they are, in fact, telling them that they are not fit to occupy the higher positions in their own service. There are 60,000 men in the force, and we are told that there is not one man amongst them who is fit to occupy the chief position. And 60,000 is a large number to select from. There were only 12 to choose from when Christianity was founded, but the best man to lead was chosen. Who will do the work even if Lord Byng is appointed? We know who will do the work. It will not be Lord Byng. His reputation stands high among a certain section of the community, but the real administrative work of the police force will be done by men who are quite as capable as Lord Byng will ever be. What hope is there for any man joining the police force? They have to be physically fit, and pass an examination. They have to undergo training, and yet, when they have done all this, they are to be told, after 30 or 40 years' service, that they are not fit to occupy the higher ranks of the service to which they have devoted their lives. That is the biggest insult the police force has ever received.
We are not afraid or ashamed of this protest. I do not care whether Lord Byng is here or not. I have never seen him in my life, and I am not anxious to see anybody whom I have never met before. I do want to say that as far 2317 as we are concerned we are putting this down as a matter of principle. I am one of those who in another place on the other side of London have always advocated the principle of promotion, for men who have rendered service for many years in various departments, such as town clerks, borough engineers, etc. If we have men in our own employ to hand—and we ought to have or we do not know our job—we think they ought to be fit to take the higher job. It is an insult to our intelligence to say that we have not among the 20,000 men in the Metropolitan Police and the 60,000 men in the police force in the country, one man fit to take this job. I am not blaming Lord Byng, but I say that among the 80,000 men to choose from it appears to me odd that Lord Byng should be the only brand plucked from the burning. If the Home Secretary takes that view, then the Lord help us when Lord Byng goes to his future home, for there will be no one to take his place. He will, in four years' time, be 70 years of age and will probably retire, and the next four years will have to produce a genius. So far as I am concerned, I do not believe it. If the Government put their wits to work, a man could be found in the police force capable of doing all that Lord Byng will be called upon to do.
Unlike the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I think the police force of London ought to congratulate themselves and the Home Secretary, who has only made up his mind after such great care as he has obviously taken, in making this appointment. It is no insult to the police force but rather a compliment that a man of such distinction and outstanding personality as Lord Byng should be deemed to be a satisfactory holder of the office. It would be extraordinary if the appointment of a gentleman of the age of 65, and a reluctant gentleman at that, had not roused some criticism and some inquiry, but I think the Home Secretary may congratulate himself that with the whole battery of opposition turned upon his appointment nothing more relevant or material has been found against his appointment than what we have heard in the Debate this afternoon.
2318 I blame the Home Secretary for two things: first, for not having taken a definite stand on the subject. He ought to have said, "This is my choice. He is tie best man I can find, and I take the full responsibility for it." I know he said that finally, but I do not think the matter was one which admitted of being bandied about at Question time. The Home Secretary was ultimately right in saying that the whole responsibility was his. From all the speeches we have heard this afternoon, there does not appear to be anything really material in opposition to the particular selection which he has made. He may feel well satisfied with the result. But there is another feature which I feel ought to be made a little more plain to the House. It is not uncommon for foreigners, especially, to say that this nation is a nation of humbugs, and a humbug I apprehend to be a person who will not face inevitable facts. Throughout the Debate there has been a reluctance on the part of the House to face certain plain facts. You do not bring a man of 65 into the Metropolitan Police, and a reluctant man, if everything is plain sailing in a body of that sort. Then why make this farce and pretend that everything is plain sailing when everybody knows it is not? Has there ever been a period in the history of the police force in this country when at one and the same time three special Commissions have been necessary to investigate the relations of the police and the public? I think it is a unique experience in the police of this country. I do not think it has ever appeared to be necessary in connection with the provincial police and for many different reasons, one being that in the main they are under the control of Watch Committees, as the Member for Silver-town (Mr. J. Jones) pointed out, and they are therefore under more direct control than I fear is possible in the case of the Metropolitan Police under the control of the Home Office.
But, apart from that, the right hon. Gentleman—I trust I misunderstood him—seemed to suggest that the criticisms made of he Metropolitan Police Force had been made with a certain amount of levity. I hope he did not believe that. When he looks at his concluding remarks, I think he will see that they did not really represent what was in his mind. 2319 Then there is the criticism directed against various police matters in this House, and I assure him that it is directed with the most deep sense of responsibility and not in any casual or light spirit or by people who have not made a point of trying to know something of what they are talking about. I think it is right that he should know some of the things that have after investigation given serious cause for alarm. I mentioned the fact that three Commissions were sitting at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman must know that it is alleged that third degree methods are not uncommon in Scotland Yard. The case investigated by the Savidge Tribunal, which one would not dream of commenting upon at the moment, could not possibly have occurred as an isolated incident. It must be a case which is not uncommon in Scotland Yard. The right hon. Gentleman must have in his mind the Goodwood convictions of a couple of years ago, a case in which provincial policemen, of whom the country cannot be sufficiently proud for their sense of duty, made it their duty to lay information against and bring up for conviction members of the Metropolitan Police Force sent down to Goodwood. He must know it is not merely a matter of one man's or two men's, rumours, but it is currently rumoured among taxicab proprietors that lubrication has to be employed to get their taxicabs passed by Scotland Yard. It is not tittle-tattle. If the right hon. Gentleman will approach any taximan in the ranks in any part of London, he will give him his personal experience in this matter.
It is flagrant that women are arrested and charged as common prostitutes, and it is permitted to put up in that phrase to the tribunal the whole of their previous characters as in a lightning flash. That is not permitted in any other kind of offence. Only a few weeks ago a woman was charged by a policeman and was found on examination to have been a complete virgin, an occurrence which ought to have been impossible if such a charge was to be preferred against her. There are instances almost ad lib. that can be given. There is, for instance, the case of any man who goes down to the Derby on Epsom Downs. He will find 2320 gipsies, cheerfully roping off portions of the Downs which they have no earthly right to do and sticking up notice boards and charging from 7s. to 10s. for permission to introduce a motor car, and he will find the Metropolitan Police complacently standing by and assisting to regulate the traffic. All these things will not brook denial. I can give the right hon. Gentleman a case given to me by a responsible Chief Constable of a county who was asked by a Judge at Assize how he came to have arrested certain receivers in London. He had sent in to London to arrest certain receivers. The Chief Constable's explanation was that he was not taking any chances. Too many receivers had got away when he had communicated through the ordinary channels with the Metropolitan Police.
There are many other matters which obviously and quite plainly require investigation. Believe me, my criticism is not so much against the man in the street. I think at the present moment he is the victim of a pernicious system, and a great deal of this corruption begins at the very top. When you have suspicion of those at the top, that suspicion percolates right down to the man in the street, and he very often gets a good deal suspected in consequence. The right hon. Gentleman knows if he will refer to his dossier, that on the 25th July last year I gave him detailed particulars of a person who was committing an offence, particulars of which could have been furnished to him on inquiry by almost any person who moves about in the ordinary way in London. He had the particulars before him. That person has now been brought to justice, but for a whole 12 months the flagrant violation of the law went on, and, when that person was brought to justice, it was not by the particular police whose duty it was to bring him to justice, but by another body altogether.
I think it right to have said these things to indicate that there are good grounds for saying that reasonable people feel that public confidence has been shaken to a certain extent in the Metropolitan Police. For the task of restoring that confidence, you cannot use ordinary methods and say that you will go by the ordinary routine of promotion. Exceptional methods have to be used, and the real question for decision this afternoon is: In the employment of exceptional 2321 methods and in the search for the exceptional man, are you to exclude the Army and Navy? The whole reasoning of the Opposition seems to me to be that there are two sources of supply to which you must shut your eyes, and those two are the Aimed Forces of the Crown. I do not suggest that there are any exclusively good reasons why a man should be chosen from either of those forces, but there are many reasons which can be advanced for suggesting that they might be a very good place to look for the right man. What I am concerned with is that the House of Commons as a whole, in spite of any carping criticism which may have been directed, should feel that in Lord Byng the Home Secretary has got the very best man in England available for the job, and, as a House, we wish him God-speed in his difficult task.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
Unfortunately by the interruption of the Amendment the subject under discussion is separated from the main question of the Home Secretary's general policy, about which I hope that I shall have an opportunity to speak later. I do not object to the age of a man. At 66 or 86 he may be quite competent for one particular purpose. But the Home Secretary himself has said that he invited Lord Byng to give his general advice on the qualifications for this position, and that Lord Byng himself replied that, knowing his own physical weakness, he had decided that the time had arrived when he should lead a retired life. It is not a question of the age of 66 which we are technically considering, but the age of 66 considered in conjunction with the admission of a patriotic gentleman like Lord Byng, who would not have withdrawn from public service unless he had made up his mind. With regard to membership of the House of Lords I have a different view. My complaint is not so much that the Police Commissioner may sit in the House of Lords: my complaint is that policemen should be considered as robots, and should not have the political rights that leaders in the Navy and Army have.
The real crux of the question that we are discussing is the restoration of public confidence. A lot has been said about public confidence being shaken. The illustrations given so far are of some people who want to drive faster than is 2322 good for them or for others, and of people who want to drink more than is good for them, or want to kiss their girls in public rather than in private, or on their feet instead of on their faces, or something like that. But that is not all. I think the Home Secretary will realise that in the 8,000,000 population of London there are 70 per cent. who belong to the working class. That 70 per cent. realises, rightly or wrongly, that the great class struggle is still developing, and that the police forces are used in that struggle as if they were the servants of a particular and privileged class. The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) just touched upon that point, but did not emphasise it sufficiently. The Home Secretary cannot deny that, apart from motorists who want to drive faster, or people who want to lead a gay life, the 70 per cent. of the population of London has lost its confidence in the police forces in great industrial struggles. The erection of a new watch-tower in Trafalgar Square and the appointment of Lord Byng are not going to restore confidence among the 70 per cent. but are rather going to weaken confidence, and will aggravate the situation rather than ease it.
§ Mr. BROAD
I am very sorry that the discussion, especially from the other side of the Committee, has been so far from the real question at issue. We were very delighted to hear from the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Aster) what a fine and amiable gentleman Lord Byng is and what a fine character he has. But we are not concerned with the mentality or the character of Lord Byng, who may be all that it is claimed he is. What we are concerned with is the mentality of the Home Secretary. When we speak of the military experience of Lord Byng, it is not because we wish to find fault with it, but because there is, and there has been, an obvious policy, as far as the police of London are concerned, that the administrative head should be an ex-Army man. We in London are very unfortunate. Although we have to pay what, I believe, is the heaviest police rate in the country, we have no voice in the management of our police.
In many respects we are very dissatisfied with the control of the police by the Home Secretary. I am not refer- 2323 ring to the men in the Divisions. As far as they are concerned, from the Superintendents down to the latest recruit, I, as a Cockney, say that I do not think the police have ever had such a high tone or that we have had men of such high character as we have to-day. But there is something rotten right at the core. This, I think, is largely due to the fact that at a late age in life the Government transplant into the most responsible position a military man who knows nothing of the business. As one who is interestd in dogs, I know that it is very hard to teach old dogs new tricks. In this matter one would think that the Home Secretary was collecting fossils rather than looking for a vigorous man with an incisive mind who could find out what was rotten at the core. It is to that we object. Because of his age and experience Lord Byng is far from being the right man for the position.
And there is something else. The Home Secretary thought that he was opening his mind when he told us about the steps that he took in his selection of a new Commissioner. Too little candour spoils a case. The Home Secretary told us that he consulted the retiring Commissioner of Police, Sir William Horwood, and that is as much as he told us of any inquiry as to a suitable man in the whole of the police forces of the country. Sir William Horwood is leaving under very peculiar circumstances indeed. I wonder, did he fall or was he pushed? Was he urged to go or was he urged to stay? He was not urged to stay; he is not urged to stay. I do not want to attack the character of Brigadier-General Sir William Horwood. He might be a very fine man, and it may be the Home Secretary who is wrong. Evidently the Home Secretary had not a lot of confidence in Sir William Horwood or else he would have told Sir William Horwood that he desired him to remain. Yet he is the only man whom the right hon. Gentleman consulted as to finding a suitable successor amongst the police. He was the very last man who ought to have been consulted.
I say to the Home Secretary that he ought to have found time, amidst his many spectacular efforts, to have inter- 2324 viewed the higher officers of the Metropolitan Police and of the municipalities and county boroughs. But no! He asked Sir William Horwood, and being satisfied that Sir William Horwood could not recommend a man for the job, the Home Secretary went outside the force. That is not good enough. He could not rely for an impartial and unbiased opinion from the retiring Commissioner, who was retiring at an age much earlier than that at which most men retire from such positions when they have good health. The Home Secretary has appointed an amiable gentleman, we are told. I do not mind whether he is amiable or not. A man who has known nothing of the police force at all is to come in, and he is to familiarise himself with everything connected with the police and to put matters all right. The position is absurd. All that the new Commissioner can rely on, at his age and with the time available, is the reports from the very men over whom he is placed. It is a most disheartening thing. Can we expect that an atmosphere will be created in which even a most capable old man can act satisfactorily? The Home Secretary puts him in this place because there is something wrong, and he has to rely on those who are stated to be wrong in order to put things right. The decision is wrong, and its effects will percolate right down through the police.
This is what is wrong with the police. The ordinary civilian is much more law-abiding than he ever was. Most of the breaking of the law which has demoralised the police is amongst the well-to-do. Not from the pavement came the bribes, but from the motor car, the owners of which are anxious to escape "damages." There are places in the West End where old gentlemen with diseased minds can go for alcoholic or other inspiration. Those are the places where the corruption of the police has gone on, for high police officers have been seen among them. If the Home Secretary had been honest and candid with us he would have told us what he found wrong and why he had found it necessary to appoint from outside a man who from every other point of view is unsuitable for the position, but who, because of his high social standing, will have an authority which no man of lesser 2325 standing, however capable he might be, could have. The whole thing is wrong. The Home Secretary told us that this appointment was made on higher authority than his own. The higher authority acts only on the advice of the Government, and the Home Secretary is responsible. It is not a question of having recommendations from higher sources, and it is not good enough for the Home Secretary to bring in that reference. He and his Government are responsible.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. Member made some reference to higher authorities. What does he mean?
§ Mr. BROAD
When the Home Secretary was first questioned on this decision, he said that the appointment was made by a higher authority than himself. I want to know what higher authority there is than a Minister of the Crown? [HON. MEMBERS: "The King!"] The appointment is made by the King, yes, but according to what we believe in this country the King, as a constitutional monarch, acts only on the advice of his Minister, and it was a great indiscretion on the part of the Home Secretary to bring in any such reference. The right hon. Gentleman must himself take the responsibility for what is a very misguided decision. He knows full well that he himself, after four years' experience of the office, would not be able to go to Scotland Yard and take control.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
One or two questions have been asked in the course of the Debate. The hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes) made some inquiries as to the appointment of the Commissioner. The Commissioner of Police is in a different position from the chief constables who are chiefs of police in counties or boroughs. The Commissioner of Police is a Justice of the Peace and is appointed under an Act of 1829. I am advised that there is no restriction at all as to the person who may be appointed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, nor is there any restriction as to age in that Act. The only serious point that has been raised is that which deals with the question of pensions. As I explained to the Committee a little time ago, the matter of pensions has never been raised by Lord Byng, and no pension has been agreed upon. No pension can be 2326 granted to him at any time except by special arrangement sanctioned by the Treasury. No such application has been made. With regard to the question of Sir William Horwood, I understand that the position was—it was in the time of one of my predecessors—that Sir William Horwood desired to know exactly what his pension would be, and an arrangement was then made that his term of office should cease in November, 1928, unless it was extended by order of the Secretary of State, and that his pension should be £1,000 a year. This appears to have been an arrangement made by the then Secretary of State and sanctioned by the Treasury in exactly the same way as I have stated.
As to the other speeches that have been made, one of the most important was that of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Luton (Captain O'Connor), who has made several quite serious allegations. I needly hardly say that I hope he will send full details to me, as it is a very serious matter both for myself and for the present Commissioner of Police that charges should be made on the Floor of the House of Commons. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will send as full details as he can, and I will cause a full inquiry to be made into them. There is only one point in the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Broad) to which I want to refer. I think he must have misunderstood what I said on a previous occasion, or else I have misunderstood what he has said to-day. I have never said—certainly I have never meant to imply—that His Majesty the King is responsible for this appointment. Again, I state that under the Act of Parliament the appointment has technically to be made by His Majesty the King, the Commissioner being in a different position from that of chief constables appointed in the county and borough forces, but, of course, the appointment is made by His Majesty on the submission of the Secretary of State.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Miss Wilkinson) and my Noble Friend the hon. 2327 Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) appealed to me with regard to the question of women police. The Committee knows that I have not been backward in trying to improve the position of the women police, and I shall be most grateful to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough East if she sends me the promised photograph of the German women police. If I can improve that small detail of the uniform, I shall be delighted to do so. I think the hon. Member will find that as soon as Lord Byng arrives there will be that new spirit introduced into the Police Force for which she is pleading. I have not taken all this trouble and gone through a good deal of obloquy in order to appoint, as has been suggested here, an old man solely because he is an old man with a certain position in the Army. That is not the case. I have tried to get a man full of ideas, full of energy, full of idealism, and I think that, after Lord Byng has been Chief Commissioner for six months, the hon. Member will find those ideals in evidence, and that
§ they will justify the appointment I have made. I will only say again that the responsibility for the appointment is primarily the responsibility of the Home Secretary, and that I have appointed the best man that I can find, whether he is a military man or a civilian, and I ask the Committee to ratify the appointment.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
As far as the first point is concerned relating to Sir William Horwood, I have no doubt that I can get the information at once, and, as far as Lord Byng is concerned, there are no terms whatever as to pension.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £3,536,160, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 106; Noes, 231.2329
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion, in 2330 order to convenience hon. Members opposite who may wish to put it down again.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.