HC Deb 30 July 1931 vol 255 cc2603-20

I wish to speak on a subject somewhat remote from that with which we have been dealing. I wish to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the subject of the women police, the necessity for an improvement of the conditions of their work, and an extension of their useful services. I do not conceal from the House that I have a very peculiar desire to enlist the sympathy and active support of hon. Members on all sides for the work of the women police, the value of which, in my judgment, is far too little known. It was about nine months ago that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) asked a question in the House on the subject of the women police. I dared to put a supplementary question, asking whether it would not be possible to have a woman put on the Police Council, and that question of mine was received with derisive laughter. That indicated to me at once that a very large number of hon. Members were unacquainted with the work of the women police. I determined to pursue the matter, for I was convinced that the House did not know what the women police really were doing. I called a meeting in a Committee room upstairs, and invited hon. Members and representatives of outside organisations who were interested in the subject to attend.

10.0 p.m.

Hon. Members who call meetings in Committee rooms at five or six o'clock are well aware of the extreme anxiety of the organiser lest there should be any Members present or not. They generally consider themselves fortunate if five or 10 appear. On this occasion no fewer than 50 Members of Parliament assembled in Committee Room 14; indeed the room was so crowded that we were unable to accommodate all the representatives from outside organisations. What I felt convinced would happen was exactly what did happen. When Mrs. Keynes, representing the National Council of Women, and Lady Cushendun, representing the National Union of Equal Citizens, had made their statements on the work of the women police, all the 50 Members voted unanimously in favour of the resolution that was then brought forward. One hon. Member after another, after having heard exactly what was the work of the women police, got up and said that he had never realised what the work was. They all admitted that directly they heard of a woman policeman they had visualised a woman struggling with a drunken man, and naturally the picture was repellent to them. The women police, although of course they are thoroughly trained in everything, are seconded for special work. When the Members heard this, their views on the whole subject were entirely altered.

Far from women police having such work as to struggle with drunken men, they are put aside for special work, mainly in connection with women and children in the courts, such as taking statements from women and children, whether the victims or witnesses, in all cases connected with sexual offences, such as criminal and indecent assault, abortion, infanticide, the concealment of birth, attending women and children at courts, the watching of women prisoners (cases of attempted suicides in hospital), and the searching, escorting and supervision of women prisoners. I cannot do better here than quote what the hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Millar) said when we were on a deputation to the Home Secretary a few weeks ago. This is what he said: I refer particularly to the need for taking statements from women and children in all cases in connection with sexual offences. If I may say so from my experience of the Crown Office in Edinburgh, in dealing with crime, I have been impressed with the number of cases where it is essential that you should get a full and complete statement, and that a woman should be in u position to deal with a woman and child directly. It is impossible for police officers with the best intentions or qualifications always to be able to speak with a woman or a child in the same way that a woman can do. Then with regard to escort and conveyance of women and children to homes and hospitals, there again there is a distinct sphere which we feel must he confined to women police officers. We put our case as high as this, that we think in connection with such duties women alone should be the police officers in charge and that those duties should only be carried out by the women themselves qualified for such special purposes. I refer also to the searching and attending on female prisoners at police stations and watching of suicides and others in hospitals. Watching the women prisoners by male officers is a very undesirable thing, we feel, and we are certain that there are very strong grounds which I do not desire to take up your time with in going into them in greater detail that would support the argument that in such cases women should be obliged to be utilised. I will give one or two instances which I feel confident will immediately win the sympathy of the House in favour of the wider use of women police. There was one instance where a young girl in service was charged with destroying her baby. Policemen arrived with a warrant, and searched through all her clothes and belongings and her bedding, and questioned her. This matter was reported to a certain committee asking what could be done to ensure that policewomen should be used in those cases. There was another case where a girl was brought before a police court for attempted suicide in a police cell. A policeman gave evidence that he was patrolling outside the women's cells, looked through the observation window, and saw the girl attempting to commit suicide. This case was given before the Royal Commission. It is true that the case was a newspaper report, but a friend of mine herself went to see the magistrate in question and the gaoler. The magistrate himself said that it was perfectly correct that policemen were watching the women's cells at night, and he heartily agreed that policewomen should be entirely in charge of the women in police cells.

I remember once that a deputation attended an hon. Member on the other side of the House—it was two or three years ago—in an effort to get his sympathy enlisted on behalf of women police, and they enumerated cases to him. When he had heard of many cases in which policemen, in the most undesirable conditions, dealt with women prisoners, he brought his fist down with a great thump on the table, and said, "I wonder you women stand it." The answer to him was that for 10 years we had been trying not to stand it. Moreover, it is not only on behalf of the women themselves that I speak, It is not fair on the policemen, very often, that they should be called to do duties which are repugnant to them and unfitted for them to do, and of which they would gladly be relieved.

I would like to drive home the fact that there is no antipathy at all in the male police force to having police women seconded for this special service. Indeed, they desire it. It is true that there are certain chief constables who are backward and, shall I say, old-fashioned, and who are not employing women police in their counties and boroughs, but the policemen who are working with the women have no antipathy at all to having the policewomen. Here I would quote what Lord Byng said only two months ago to a deputation. He said: There is no antipathy whatever amongst the police of the Metropolis to policewomen. Throughout the force there is a tremendous sympathy and a wish fulness to increase them. I should like to say here that when we urge an increase in the number of policewomen, it is not to substitute them for the male force, but to appoint women in addition. The instance that I have described of a man watching a woman prisoner through the observation window could not take place in the Metropolitan Police Force, because in that force there is an efficient women police service, and not only that, but there has been appointed a woman staff officer of women police. Therefore, I do not wish to be misunderstood. The instances that I have described where, under most undesirable circumstances policemen have dealt with women prisoners, could not to-day happen in the Metropolitan Police Force, although it could and does happen in nearly all of our large cities.

The duties of the women police in the Metropolitan Police Force are to patrol the streets and open spaces in uniform, primarily in order to advise young girls frequenting the streets, to protect children and young people, and to deal with offences against the solicitation laws, also the searching, custody, and escort of women prisoners and juvenile delinquents. Surely it is obvious that women here can render a great service in the police force. Their record in the Metropolitan police is an excellent one, and not only there but throughout the country where the chief constables have employed policewomen. For instance, the Chief Constable of Birmingham says: Women police have been an unqualified success. In Chesterfield the Chief Constable says: Her services have proved very valuable and the experiment quite successful, At Eastbourne, the Chief Constable writes: The services of the policewomen in this county borough have proved to be most valuable and certainly justified in every way. It is an excellent record as far as the Metropolitan police and those few enlightened places where there are policewomen are concerned, but look at the provinces. How few policewomen there are there. Out of 60 counties there are only six with women police, and only 34 out of 121 boroughs, leaving 54 counties with no policewomen to do these special duties and 87 boroughs with no policewomen at all, and that in spite of the fact that the Committee of which Sir John Baird was chairman as long ago as 1920 recommended that there should be a large increase in the women police, and in spite of the Bridgeman Committee's Report. In 1924, when the present Lord Bridgeman was Home Secretary, there was a departmental inquiry, when the whole question of the women police was most carefully examined. Both those Committees recommended that there should be a further increase in the women police force. Let me read a summary of some of the conclusions of the Bridge-man Departmental Committee: That every police authority should provide, as far as practicable, for the statements of women and children when sexual crimes are in question being taken by policewomen. Another conclusion was: That the efficiency of the police service has been improved by the employment of policewomen. Nevertheless, in spite of that, in the provinces only six out of GO counties have women police, and only 34 out of 124 boroughs, and in spite of the fact that for 10 years the Home Office has issued circulars to the boroughs and counties urging them to appoint women police.

Even where women police are appointed the conditions are unsatisfactory and it is to this point that I hope the Under-Secretary will give special attention when he replies. There are no standardised regulations whatever for the women police. The regulations vary throughout the country and regulations in Glasgow may differ from those in Carlisle. The result has been to hinder to a large extent, the recruiting of suitable women. I believe that the Under-Secretary himself will agree with me that while the Home Office has been sending circulars to counties and boroughs urging them to have women police, yet one of the greatest obstacles in the way of recruiting suitable women for this important work has been the failure of the Home Office to define by regulation, either the qualifications or the conditions of service. If I felt that I had unlimited time to-night I would dwell upon this point.

It is well known that before 1919 there were no standardised regulations for the male police and that the dissatisfaction thus caused was so great that it resulted in the unprecedented event of a one-day strike in the case of a police force. Now we have standardised regulations for policemen but none for policewomen, and that in spite of the fact that for 12 years the National Council of Women has been doing very good work by means of resolutions at conferences, deputations to successive Home Secretaries and evidence submitted to Departmental Commissions, in urging two things, namely standardised regulations and the appointment of a woman to the Police Council to help in framing those regulations. I had the honour of presenting a deputation to the Home Secretary two months, ago and on that occasion magnificent speeches were made by the hon. and learned Member for East Fife, the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach) and the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) representing the three parties in this House. They urged the drafting of standardised regulations for policewomen—which is perfectly possible under Section 4 of the Police Act, 1919—and the appointment of a woman to the Council, and I am glad to say that the Home Secretary in reply wrote as follows: The two questions which you and your colleagues stressed were the appointment of a woman to the Police Control and the drafting of regulations so that they might be submitted to the council under Section 4 of the Police Act, 1919. You will be glad to know that I find myself able to meet you on both these questions. I have come to the conclusion—and I am sure you will agree—that no better choice could be found for the Council than Miss Peto and as Lord Byng has consented to her serving she will be summoned to a meeting which I hope to arrange before very long. Now that regulations are to be drawn up for policewomen it is only reasonable that there should be a woman on the council helping to draw up those regulations. In the name of 50 Members of Parliament on all sides of the House who attended the meeting to which I have referred, and in the name of the executive committee which was then formed, I desire to thank the Home Secretary for having acceded to those two requests. There are four points on which I should like a definite reply from the Under-Secretary. First is the Home Secretary prepared to take further steps to secure more policewomen in the provinces and to bring in a Bill making policewomen compulsory throughout the country? I know the difficulty which exists where local authoriteis are not sufficiently enlightened to welcome such a Measure and I know that in the past it has been thought necessary to secure the agreement of local authorities in any progressive step but I question whether we would have policemen throughout the country to-day, or whether we would have such a splendid system of education to-day if we had always waited on the local authorities before taking any step forward. If we had always done so, I am not sure that we would not still be in the Dark Ages. I therefore ask whether it would be possible to bring in a Measure making it compulsory to have policewomen, at any rate in the large cities and I leave it to the Home Secretary to decide as to the size of the cities to be included.

My second question is this. Will the regulations that the Home Secretary is now drawing up follow the recommendations that were made by the Baird and Bridgeman Committees as long ago as 1920 and 1924, and how soon will they be made public? These statutory regulations are being awaited with greater interest and more anxiety throughout the country than a great many hon. Members realise, because on their form and scope will depend the success of the women police movement. We must have such regulations as will encourage women of education and experience to offer themselves for the force. When I use that phrase, I mean women of all classes in life, and if the regulations are to be successful throughout the country, they must be such as will encourage women of education and experience to offer themselves for the service. The responsibility of drafting these regulations lies with the Home Secretary.

My third question is whether the Home Office will be prepared to appoint a woman inspector of police women for the country attached to the Home Office. Is it such a revolutionary suggestion when it was one of the recommendations of the Bridgeman report in 1924? One of the conclusions of that Committee was that it would be desirable when the women police employed in the provinces increased—they have increased since then, although not as much as they ought to have done—that a woman should be appointed to assist His Majesty's Inspector of Police in advising the Home Office and assisting the local authorities in connection with their employment. The duties of a woman inspector would be to help the Home Office, see that the regulations were carried out to assist His Majesty's Inspector of Police with the inspection of police women, and to be available for consultation by local authorities to advise on their employment—to do in fact for the provinces and the large cities what Miss Peto does for the metropolitan area.

That will mean an additional woman at the Home Office. We well know that there is a cry for economy everywhere. Nevertheless, it is not a good thing to economise on the subject of women police. As long ago as 1922, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) wrote a letter when it was suggested that there should be economy on the women police. The right hon. Gentleman, who was in sympathy with the employment of women police and was not a profligate Chancellor, said: I may say to you that when I was at the Treasury it was represented to me that economy could be effected in the cost of the police by reducing the women force. I had, however, come to the view that a force of women police has advantages which cannot otherwise be supplied. I am accordingly of the opinion that a certain force of women police should be appointed in all the large towns. That was written nearly 10 years ago, but so far it is a pious hope. Therefore I hope that with so shining an example as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer when he refused to economise on women police, the question of economy will not prevent the Home Secretary considering the appointment of a woman at the Home Office to supervise the appointment of women police throughout the country. I do not suppose that the Home Office will honour me by asking me to recommend anybody for the position, but I could recommend a woman of experience of whom they could be proud at the Home Office.

My fourth and final point is that the present staff officer of women police in the Metropolitan Police Force has not yet been confirmed or made permanent in her appointment. Miss Peto was appointed first for one year, did excellent service, and satisfied everybody. Then she was temporarily appointed for another nine months or another year. We feel that this work will not be stabilised until the staff officer of women police is confirmed and made permanent by being assigned rank and definite functions. Nobody denies that excellent work has been done, and if it is to be looked upon as permanent work we feel that the appointment should be confirmed.

I have come to the end. I have done my best to state my case quite fairly, and if I have made an error in anything I have said as to the relations between the Police Council and the Home Office I would beg the hon. Gentleman in his reply not to do as Cabinet Ministers sometimes do on deputations. If there happens to be one error in any one of the speeches made by the members of a deputation, it is not an uncommon thing for a Cabinet Minister—I am not referring specially to the present Home Secretary—to devote most of his reply to dwelling upon that one error and forget to deal with important points. If I have made any mistake I would beg the hon. Member—I do not say he should not mention it—not to dwell upon it to the exclusion of some of the questions I have asked. The reply of the Home Secretary to-night, which will be published in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, will be read with keen interest, and may I hope with enthusiasm, by the organised women of all parties throughout this country. It has been proved that the use of trained policewomen creates a better social order in our cities, adds to the well being of prisoners and captives, and is a further step in the civilisation of the nation, and I hope that your reply, Sir, will be all that we desire.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

I rise with the greatest possible pleasure to support the appeal so eloquently and so persuasively made by the hon. Lady. As I do not anticipate ever being in the hands of a woman police officer—[Interruption]—or the arms—I feel that I can support this appeal without the risk of being accused of any motive of self-interest, and therefore I can put more enthusiasm into the appeal than, possibly, many other Members of this House who do not stand in the same position as myself. I know the answer that is going to be given. It is the same answer, probably, that we got on the deputation which was so ably led by the hon. Lady. The Home Secretary or his able Parliamentary Secretary will say that we are knocking at an open door. That may be so, but the trouble is that when we pass through the door and get into the room we find it empty. I do not say empty of a desire to help us, but empty of determination and courage. There is no one in this House, probably, who is more sympathetic towards the women police movement than the hon. Member occupying the Front Bench at the moment, but, nevertheless, the Home Secretary and his assistants at the Home Office lack the courage to impress upon local authorities that it is the intention of the Home Office that women police shall be made a force in this country. That is the whole trouble. We cannot expect local authorities to take a strong and decisive line on this subject unless there is a driving force behind them from the Home Office.

That is our whole trouble to-day, and that is the reason for the lack of enthusiasm for women police. The local authorities are a conservative race, and they do not like embarking upon any new experiments. There is one thing which the Home Office can do, and that is to issue definite regulations on the subject of women police. They ought to give a lead to the local authorities and the chief constables, and then those authorities will feel that they have someone behind them in regard to employing women police. For years the public has been very apathetic in regard to this question. It was not until five years ago, when the Savidge case occurred, that the conscience of the public was stirred, and the Royal Commission was appointed. The subject was then thoroughly investigated, and every effort was made to create a healthy public opinion on this question of women police, but nothing was done.

I remember a deputation waiting on the present Lord Brentford when he was Home Secretary; he expressed himself very sympathetically and promised to engage 50 additional police for London alone, but nothing has been done in the matter. The reason given for not doing anything further in regard to the employment of women police is that the Home Office say they have not proper accommodation for women police, because separate hostels and barracks would be required. I know that Lord Byng has a soldier's mind, but I feel that the type of woman which is obtainable to act as police can be safely trusted in London without the disciplinary methods which apply to barracks. I urge the necessity for the Home Secretary issuing proper regulations so as to give a lead to local authorities and chief constables. This is the Home Office responsibility, and they must recognise it. The Home Office ought not to throw that burden on the local authorities and shield themselves behind them. The result of this policy is that we get nothing done.

I want to make it clear that the Home Secretary is responsible because that is his job. If the right hon. Gentleman does not issue proper regulations, the first people who will suffer will be the women police, and the next people to suffer will be the public. If you do not create among the police force a proper sense of security and get support from the public, then you will not get the right kind of people to offer to serve as women police. We want in the police force women of experience, integrity and education. We want to attract a good type of young girls and young women who will be given good and wise advice, and be sympathetically received.

In Glasgow, there is a policewoman with 10 years' service who is in exactly the same position as a young constable with a week's service. She has one week's holiday each year and nothing to which to look forward. She receives no recognition whatever of her nine years' and 51 weeks' service which she has given to the country. That is unfair and unjust, and will not induce the right type of women to come forward. It has taken us 100 years to build up this great police force of which we are so proud, and, as far as I can see, at the rate at which the Home Office is travelling, it will take us another 100 years to build up an adequate force of women police.

I would say, an conclusion, that there are three or four urgent necessities that can be carried out by the Home Office. One is to issue regulations as to numbers, or, in other words, to create sufficient additional women police to carry out the work for which they are required and are suitable. The hon. Lady has referred to the desire for economy. That word was not used a year ago when motor police were established, or when mounted constables were established only a few years ago. These two types of policemen are presumably for the purpose of saving bodies. Women police are principally designed to save souls. Balance those two things together, and see where you can properly economise. I say, economise on your mounted bodies that run round the roads creating a good deal of alarm and despondency in the hearts of moderate-going motorists who are only seeking to do a quiet day's work in a quiet way, and to have a little happiness and security. Their lives are threatened from behind and in front by these high-power motor bicycles. Remember the word "economy,' I am not belittling at all those magnificent figures that we see at Hyde Park Corner on their horses, waving their hands to the policeman on the beat who does the work. I do not know what particular use they are, though they are very nice looking and afford a tremendous lot of fun to our oversea visitors. [Interruption.] I think they make a very admirable addition to the amenities of London, but when it comes to a question of economy there are some things that can be bought too dear.

There is another point that I want to make, and that is that we want equality of training and duties. We want to ensure that, when a policewoman is appointed to a district where possibly there are not sufficient duties to occupy her full time as a policewoman, she can be passed on and her spare time devoted to doing the work of a policeman. That is a matter of some urgency, and I would impress it upon the Home Secretary, because it can be legitimately advanced that this would not be an economic proposition if women were restricted to one particular type of service; but, if they are trained as men are trained, if they are given police instruction and trained in police duties, they will be in a position to take over a man's job to complete their full-time service. As a final point there must be equality of pay and pension. It is no use training them in the duties of policemen unless you give them a policeman's pay and pension, and there is no other way by which you can get the right type of women into the force. You must give them a feeling of security and hope, and a career of dignity to themselves and of usefulness to the community. There is also the question of equality of uniform. I do not want the women police to be clothed like Ziegfeld Follies or chorus girls, but at the same time there is a great deal to be gained by clothing them neatly, decently, and with a certain amount of feminine attraction—[Interruption.] I say this very seriously. I believe that there is a deep-laid conspiracy the part of the Home Office and the police authorities. They have clothed these women so—



Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

Yes, they have clothed them hideously, with the design of ensuring that no man will risk being arrested by them. It may be in the end a very good policy and, no doubt, if they could have attractive young women, perhaps with more pleasant faces and so on, they would get more arrests. Then the right hon. Gentleman would have the police courts full and the prisons congested. But there is a happy medium, and it would be greatly to the interest of the force, and of the policewomen themselves, if they gave them a slightly more attractive uniform, slightly higher heels, not the great fat clumps that they wear, and make them as they should be, an asset to the community, to themselves, and to the force. The Home' Secretary may think this too humorous a speech. I have not intended it to be that at all, because I believe the development of this women police force, with the right kind of women employed in it, will mean more for another type of women in our midst that we should like to see better safeguarded, looked after and cared for. It will mean a better future for them and a better generation of women in the future. I ask the Home Secretary not to take over the torch of progress, and be satisfied with it, from his predecessor, but to try to burnish it and give it over to his successor a bit better than he found it.


We have listened to two very interesting speeches on an interesting subject which has engaged the attention of a number of Home Secretaries and has been investigated from time to time by a number of committees. Two committees as recently as 1920 and 1924 went fully into the question of the employment of women in the police forces and both recommended that, in so far as women could find employment in the police forces, the employment should be left entirely to the discretion of the local authorities. Successive Home Secretaries have carried out that recommendation, of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman particularly complained. The recommendation of those committees was confirmed in principle by the Royal Commission on Police Powers and Procedure, which reported as recently as March, 1929. While they did, I admit, express the opinion that there was room for an increase in the numbers so employed, they nevertheless emphatically stated that the question of employment should be left entirely to the discretion of local authorities. They said: We recognise that any attempt to enforce the appointment of women police on those who are not convinced of their value would serve no useful purpose and only antagonise local opinion. We are, therefore, in general agreement with the policy hitherto adopted by the Home Secretary of leaving to local discretion the decision whether or not to employ women police, or to what extent, and in what ways. I do not deny that scope exists for the employment of women in the police forces, and especially in those specialised spheres and duties which were particularly mentioned by the hon. Lady the Member for The Wrekin Division, but I think that if we sought, by legislation or by regulations, to enforce some definite establishment or employment of women police throughout the police forces of the country at this stage, having regard to our experiences and to public opinion, we should retard rather than advance the interests of the women in this connection. Despite the views expressed by the committees to which I have called attention, my right hon. Friend did, however, decide to make a test with regard to this matter, and in March, 1930, he brought the question before the Police Council. The Police Council, it may be wise to remind the House, is an advisory body. It was appointed under Section 4 of the Police Act, 1919, and consists of the chief le-presentatives of the police authorities—the chief officers of police, superintendents, and the Police Federation representing all ranks, and the question was raised in such a way as to produce a most frank discussion and expression of opinion on the part of the council.

Major LONG

On a point of Order. May I ask if hon. Members are allowed to put their legs upon the benches?


The seats are intended for Members to sit upon.


I was saying before that interruption that the question was raised in a manner to ensure the widest discussion and the frankest expression of opinion respecting the appointment of police women, their duties, numbers and conditions of service and so forth, and the council came to the conclusion that the time had not come to embark upon any regulations which would prescribe their duties or require the employment of any given number, and they expressed the emphatic view that the employment of women police should be left to the discretion of local authorities.

The hon. and gallant Member opposite complained that my right hon. Friend is not willing to force, either by legislation or by regulations, the employment of women police outside London in the borough and county police. I think that I have given sufficient evidence to justify my right hon. Friend in pursuing a very cautious policy as far as any question of compulsion is concerned. As regards the number of women police, there are 50 employed in the Metropolitan Police Force, and my right hon. Friend has decided to increase the number to 100, and at this moment recruiting is proceeding. I cannot say when the total of 100 will be reached, but it indicates, at any rate, a progressive and sympathetic attitude towards this question.

As regards counties and boroughs, they are at present employing 105 women police, and the further employment of these women must rest for the time being with the discretion of the local authorities. I made some reference just now to placing this question before the Police Council and the attitude they expressed. I am pleased to say that, despite that attitude, my right hon. Friend did submit a set of draft regulations to the meeting of the council on the 14th instant, and the council discussed them clause by clause, with such minor adjustments in relation to the employment of women as were in accord with the Baird and Bridgeman Committees. I am in a position to say that my right hon. Friend, I hope at an early date, will issue these regulations governing conditions of service, hours and the duties which these women will be called upon to perform, and setting out some standard such as I think hon. Members have in their minds.

Some reference was made to allowances and the treatment of women in so far as accommodation was concerned. I have not heard of any provision of barracks such as was suggested in the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend, but, as far as these regulations are concerned, we shall provide for the inclusion of rent allowances based on the main regulations governing men police. It is proposed that they should be provided with the necessary quarters rent free, or receive an allowance at the rate which is now operative for single men. I am not in a position to say what would be the rates of pay suggested in the regulations, because we have yet to complete our investigations and receive reports from the country. There are a variety of conditions operating, and until we can get them together collectively, I should be unwilling, and I hope I shall not be pressed, to make any statement regarding either the basic or starting rates. I can assure hon. Members that the Home Secretary has got this, as indeed other matters of equal importance which will be covered by regulations, under his personal observation. I have dealt with the first two points put to me by the hon. Member for The Wrekin Division, and I turn to answer the third in which she suggested the appointment of an assistant woman inspector of women police to be attached to the Home Office.


The hon. Gentleman will remember that was the recommendation of the Bridgeman report.


I think that the Baird Committee was in favour, and the Bridge-man Committee was against.


I think that the hon. Gentleman is mistaken.


There was some slight reservation regarding the numbers, but, at any rate, there were three members in favour of the appointment, and three against. We have only 105 policewomen employed throughout the county and borough police forces of the country, and we are increasing the number in the Metropolitan Police to 100. The 100 in the provinces are scattered throughout the country; we have appointed a chief staff officer, Miss Peto, who is attached to the Metropolitan Police Force, and my right hon. Friend does not think that the existence of 100 women police, scattered throughout the country in the county and borough police forces, would justify at this- stage the appointment of an assistant woman inspector at the Home Office. The House will realise that if my right hon. Friend is in need of advice he can always call in Miss Peto, who is competent to give advice upon all matters appertaining to the employment of police women.

As regards the permanent appointment of Miss Peto, she was appointed in April, 1930, and the permanent appointment has been held over for another six months. I am entitled to say that my right hon. Friend is highly satisfied with the quality of the work that Miss Peto is rendering, but he does not think at this stage that we have had sufficient experience, and consequently he has delayed the permanent appointment of Miss Peto. I have no doubt, however, and I am now expressing my personal opinion, that with the experience that must come as a result of Miss Peto's retention in the position, my right hon. Friend at some later date will have to consider the desirability or otherwise of making the appointment permanent. I have answered specifically the four points put by the hon. Member for the Wrekin Division.

Finally, I may say that my right hon. Friend in this matter has met not only those who are supporting the employment of a greater number of women police, but he has approached the entire problem in a progressive and sympathetic spirit. He realises that there are duties that rightly and properly fall to women throughout the police forces of the country, but he is anxious in promoting their greater employment and their greater usefulness in the service, to proceed cautiously, having regard to the recommendations of the two committees and the Royal Commission. The House may rest assured that my right hon. Friend is not antagonistic but sympathetic to the whole question of the employment of women police.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Committee for the whole House for To-morrow.