HC Deb 05 June 1931 vol 253 cc578-82

I beg to move, in page 5, line 4, to leave out the words "connected with any," and to insert instead thereof the words: or has at any time been a member of a.


I should like to have a word of explanation from the right hon. Gentleman as to this Amendment. I understand that it refers to the position of an individual who may be a member of a police force, but I am not quite sure whether it does not go rather further than what we discussed in Committee. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will explain what is the reason for the change in the phraseology.


The effect of this Amendment is that Sub-section (3) of Clause 5 will read as follows: It shall not be lawful to appoint as a salaried probation officer for any area or to nominate in a probation order as a voluntary probation officer a person who is or has at any time been a member of a police force. That is to say, it would exclude not only the policeman but also the ex-policeman. That is the whole effect of the Amendment.


I should like to say how glad I am that the Secretary of State has adopted the point of view expressed in this Amendment. The Departmental Committee which reported in 1928 said definitely that the great weight of the evidence they had received was against any association of probation with the police force, and I am very glad to see the two things detached.


It is quite true that there is a general feeling that it is desirable that no policeman or police pensioner should be a probation officer, but it may be found, when the matter is worked out, that this may rule out one or two people who might usefully have accepted such an appointment. The words or has at any time been a member of a police force, certainly go very wide. They would apply to a man who 20 years ago may have been for a month or six months a member of a police force, and that would exclude a large number of persons. [Interruption.] It may not be so in practice, but I simply want to call attention to the fact that the words are certainly very wide. Of course, all these matters are experimental, and we are willing to let it go at that, but it must be understood that all the provisions which we are making here may have repercussions that we do not exactly see at the present moment.

Mr. JAMES WELSH (Paisley)

As one who has had a little experience in dealing with probation cases, I think that this Amendment goes a little further than may have been anticipated. I would point out to the Secretary of State and the Lord Advocate that in Glasgow at present the probation officers are members of the police force, and some of these men who are attached to the divisions have shown themselves to be particularly well adapted to this work and have had long experience of it. I think it would be most unfortunate if the effect of this Clause were to rule out of consideration altogether men of that type. Theoretically there may be objections, as my hon. friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) has said, to employing police officers for this purpose, but there are exceptions to that rule, and I can say from considerable experience, in the course of the last year particularly, that some of these probation officers who are connected with the police force have shown themselves to be in every way capable and well adapted for this kind of work. Some of them take tremendous pains over the work, and I think it would be most unfortunate that anything should be said or done which would completely exclude men of that type from being considered when vacancies in these positions are being filled. I suggest to the Government that, if they left the matter to the discretion of the local authority and the probation committee, it would serve their purpose quite well, and I hope that there will be some reconsideration of this point.


I should like to ask if this Amendment would have the effect of excluding members of the women police who have had to leave the force on account of marriage?


This Bill does not draw any distinction between men police and women police. We felt that it would be invidious to draw any distinction in that matter, but that we were bound to carry out the principle of sex equality. Accordingly, it would apply to all who were connected with the police force. As regards the point mentioned by my hon. friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. J. Welsh), we appreciate that this provision may mean here and there that a person who has been in the police and who is qualified for this work could not be appointed, but we had to consider what was the best rule to lay down, and we came clearly to the conclusion that it was desirable that probation should be completely dissociated from police control and police influence in any shape or form.


What is the position in the case of the special constable? Would all persons who have once acted as special constables be excluded?


I should think that a special constable could be described as a member of a police force, and that, therefore, he would be excluded, and I do not see any reason why he should not be.


I welcome this Amendment, which renders unnecessary the Amendment which I had put down—In page 5, line 4, after the word "is," to insert the words "or has been." In the case of the City of Glasgow, the system has been successful to a great extent, as my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. J. Welsh) has said, but in less congested areas, and certainly in country areas, anyone who has been connected with the police would be looked upon as very undesirable by those who are on probation. If regular visits were made by a police officer with a police connection, it would be commented upon very unfavourably in the neighbourhood, and would do harm.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I should like to follow up the point which was made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot). I quite understand the undesirability of appointing for this work someone who is or has been a member of a regular police force, because I think it is inevitable that one who had spent some years in a police force would get to have a method of approach towards a young delinquent which is not quite the method of approach that is to be desired in cases of probation. But it seems to me that, if the Lord Advocate really abides by the definition he has just given, including within the prohibition anyone who has at any time been a special constable, it is carrying it very far. Special constables are not in any way regular constables. [Interruption.] They may have their share of human vices, as we all have, but do they necessarily have the peculiar vices in the police force, such as they are, which we think inappropriate to a probation officer? Special constables are people in every walk of life and of every kind of experience, who do not have the opportunity of getting into a groove in regard to delinquency which sometimes we may associate with otherwise admirable members of the police force. I should like to ask the Government if they would not think over this point before the Bill reaches another place and endeavour to make it a little less far-reaching in its application.

Amendment agreed to.