HC Deb 20 February 1933 vol 274 cc1547-57

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding£1,950, be granted to His Majesty to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the House of Lords.

8.26 p.m.


This sum of£1,950 is required for the substitution of civilian custodians for certain police in the Houses of Parliament. The Committee may be aware that prior to 1922 the police guarded the Houses of Parliament by night as well as by day, but in that year the police on night duty were replaced by civilians. As a result of that, savings of between£6,000 and£7,000 per annum have accrued. It appeared to the Government that perhaps some further economy might, be made by extending the system, and accordingly a Committee was appointed, consisting of representatives of the House of Lords, the House of Commons, the Treasury, the Office of Works, and the Metropolitan Police. That Committee recommended an extension of the system, which has since been adopted. The result is that the number of police on this duty has been reduced by 41, and their place has been taken by 40 men of the Corps of Custodians. The economy achieved by this change should be£8,800 per annum. The need for a Supplementary Estimate arises because the police are paid in arrear, and, consequently, it will not be until the next quarter that we shall make the saving we anticipate; and there was a small duplication of activity both by the Corps of Custodians and by the police while the change was being made.

I do not think that anybody in the House objected to the actual substitution of custodians for the police, but what Members in all quarters did object to was that a monopoly should be given to police pensioners to take the place of the police who were retired. I told the House at Question Time that I had been very much impressed by certain questions that were addressed to me in that regard, and I am now able to assure the Committee that it is not the intention to confine these appointments to police pensioners. The total number is 40, and, of that number, only 13 are police pensioners. I think that even those who object to the appointment of police pensioners at all would agree that, in order that the new system may be put into operation, an experienced quota of police pensioners must be maintained. It is for that purpose that they have been retained, and the Committee will see in what a distinct minority they are. I hope that what I have said will prove satisfactory to the Committee, particularly as I am able to make this statement because, as I have said, the Government were impressed by the criticisms that were made.

8.34 p.m.


We oppose this Supplementary Estimate. I understand that the£l,950 is being asked for in order to replace the police by civilian custodians under the Department of the Lord Chamberlain. I want, first of all, to say that our objection is not of a personal character. I have not the least doubt that the men who have been appointed are honest men, and men of good character, and I understand that one of them, the superintendent, was one of title best superior officers in the Metropolitan Police Force. So that I want to clear away the idea that we are opposing the personnel on personal grounds. But this is an innovation, and Parliament has never discussed the matter. Ever since the Metropolitan Police were established, one of the main reasons for their remaining under Government control has been their connection with the Palace of Westminster. This is false economy—economy with cheap labour. It is an admission on the part of the Government that there is no necessity for the police in this institution. If you want to go further with economy, and it is safe, why not withdraw the police absolutely from the Palace of Westminster?

Then why are these custodians to be used in the House of Lords? Is it not the House of Lords that is most likely to provoke action involving police protection? After all, this is the House that is elected by the popular vote and, however deluded they may have been at the last election, this is the House that represents the interests of the people, and the other House is the one most likely to injure the interests of the people and provoke hostile action. We object to the method of recruitment and we object to the rates of pay to be given to these men. Constables in the regular police receive, subject to the 10 per cent, cut imposed by this Government, 70s. to 90s. a week, sergeants 100s. to 120s., inspectors 125s. to 193s., and superintendents£550 to£700 per annum. These custodians are to receive not two-thirds of the pay given to the ordinary police who have always been established in the Houses of Parliament.

This is blackleg labour, and on that ground I, as a trade unionist, would be one of the first to oppose a Vote of this kind. They are to have no additions-similar to what is added to the rates of the ordinary policeman. This adulteration of the force is the sort of thing that causes bitterness and ill-feeling and prevents men giving of their best. A third of the custodians are in receipt of pensions which would enable them to live comfortably. We have over 3,000,000 unemployed and there are hundreds of thousands among them who are ex-service men without any pension whatever. If there had to be this adulteration, I should have said men of that kind might have been considered. The Government have nothing to offer the unemployed in the way of work. Their policy always seems to be to support those who do not need it. Even if some of these men have not pensions, it is a shame that they should be appointed to this position in the place of the police at a lower rate of wages to fill a position which calls for the highest standard of trustworthiness and integrity. We would rather that the police had been retained than that these men with pensions and without the need even of this low wage should have been appointed. But if something different should be done, suitable men with no income and without pensions could have been found among the millions who are out of work. In my lifetime the police have become gradually more respected by the people, and we here are jealous of anything that is going to lower their efficiency. I am convinced that the attitude that the Government has taken in lowering the rate of pay at which policemen are to start, and in not providing a gradual means for recruits to come up to the ordinary pay of those who are in the force, will create ill-feeling and bitterness. This proposal will not help to make the police force more harmonious and do their work better. I feel very strongly that this ought never to have been done, and we shall oppose it in the Division Lobby.


Will the hon. Gentleman tell us the method of appointment and, if there are any further appointments to be made, who will control them?

8.42 p.m.


The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken seems to think that, because the House of Lords is a notoriously mediaeval and reactionary institution, the public would be rather disposed to vent its indignation in a disorderly manner against that establishment rather than against our own, if it did so at all. That may appear sound in theory, but in practice I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong. The public, when it is in a mood of indignation, does not bother itself about the House of Lords, because it is of opinion that the House of Lords cannot do very much one way or another, whatever pressure is put upon them. Our experience is that any slight tendencies to trouble that there may have been in the past have always been due to the fact that large numbers of persons have been encouraged to come, to this House and put pressure upon us by presenting petitions, because they realise that it is in this House that the power of the purse resides and it is upon Ministers on the Front Bench that pressure can most effectively be put. Whatever the theory may be, the practice is quite contrary to what the hon. Gentleman says, and any disorderly demonstrations that may ever be made will always be directed against the House of Commons and not the House of Lords.

8.44 p.m.


I should like to ask whether, apart from the 13 police pensioners who have been referred to, any of the other 27 recruits are pensioners also and whether the pensions are derived from the Army, Navy or Air Force or from any business or profession? Will the hon. Gentleman explain in more detail where the economy of£8,000 is to be obtained? That is equivalent to£4 per week per person. Our information is that the ordinary police constable in the Palace of Westminster only receives round about£4 a week in all. If these custodians are to receive£3 or 65s. a week, how does the hon. Gentleman produce his saving of about£8,000 per annum if the number is only 40? It certainly seems to us to be a curious figure, and perhaps is susceptible of more detailed explanation. To the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Sir R. Banks), I would say that my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) is apparently right. While it may be that in the past revolutionary activities have not manifested themselves so frequently in the other place, the time is not far distant when we anticipate revolutionary activity in the sense that the expressed will of the people will be ignored in the other place, and therefore perhaps will need the ordinary officers who not only know the ropes but are capable of securing order. Perhaps the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will tell us, first, whether any of those 27 non-police pensioners are receiving pensions from other sources, and secondly, how the balance sheet was produced which shows a saving of£6,000 per annum by the transference of the duties of 40 police officers to 40 custodians. If the hon. Gentleman will tell us we shall better be able to decide our action.

8.47 p.m.


I have no reason to complain of the questions which have been put to me. I will answer first the question addressed to me by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker)—Who is to engage these custodians? The answer is, the Lord Great Chamberlain, whose Department this is. I will pass to the two specific questions put to me by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams)—Do any of these men draw pensions? The answer is, No. I am speaking, of course, of service pensions. Whether any of them happen to be disabled and have a disability pension I am not precisely informed, but they have no pensions of the kind the hon. Member has in mind. He next asked me the details of economies. Reduction in the cost of police borne on the House of Lords Vote,£6,600; the House of Com- mons Vote,£6,100; reduction in charges falling on the Office of Works Vote for night watchmen,£2,800, making a total of£15,500; less cost of corps of custodians— as I have already shown—£6,700, making a difference of£8,800. That is the balance sheet which I have before me.


Surely the hon. Member is not suggesting that by changing the policemen for custodians you are saving£200 a year on each, because that is what the figures show.


As I have said, this is the balance sheet which I have before me.


It is perfectly plain to the Committee.

8.49 p.m.


It may be plain to the hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight), but I should not imagine that there is another Einstein in the House at the moment. How is the appointment of 40 custodians at a salary of£3 to£3 5s. a week, which is a reduction of from 15s. to£l a week compared with the salary received by the ordinary officers, the mere saving of£l per person per week in respect of 40 men, going to save£8,800 per annum? If the legal knowledge of the hon. and learned Gentleman is allied to his expert ability in manipulating figures, perhaps he will be good enough to help the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote to tell us exactly where the saving comes in. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is under no delusions that one or other of the figures given to him must not have been strictly accurate. Either the number of persons appointed must exceed 40, or alternatively the actual saving of£8,800 must be from some other source than the mere transfer of police officers to custodians.

8.51 p.m.


The hon. Member says that the salary is a matter of£3 5s. per week. Supposing you have 40 officers and the saving is 10s. 'a week in respect of each officer, it will bring in only£l,040 a year. If the saving is£1 a week, it will be£2,080 a year. I cannot follow whence the£8,800 comes.


I am sorry that my hon. Friends are in some confusion.


Excuse me, I am not in any confusion.


I thought that my hon. Friend could not follow it at all.


I can follow.


It is not so amazing as my hon. Friend seems to suggest. Each policeman costs 23s. 6d. per day.


They do not get it.

8.52 p.m.


I say that the cost to the State, including boots, light, and other allowances—we pay it out—is 23s. 6d. per day. It is not the least amazing, as my hon. Friends will see, that the total which comes under that head, is£15,500, and that the cost of the corps of custodians is£6,700, making a difference of£8,800. I confess that when I was interrupted it seemed to me the interruption was well-founded, but since I have made a calculation, I think that my answer is well-founded. Those were the specific questions asked of me, and if there are any other questions I will reply to them.

8.53 p.m.


I have a question to ask arising out of the financial statement. For the benefit of the outside world we ought to clear up the matter, and it is exclusively for that reason that I pursue the question at the moment. Are we to understand from the hon. Gentleman that the net cost per policeman, not actually received in the form of salary or wage but for clothing, boots and any other commitments, is round about£8 4s. 6d. a week. If so, I ask the hon. Gentleman what additions there will be to the 60s. a week wage of the 34 custodians? There must be uniforms which are accounted for by£120, but what other charges will fall to be divided among the 34 custodians, plus the superintendent, inspectors and assistants 1 If we knew what the Estimate was of the other charges against those 40 custodians, either weekly or daily, if we had a comparable figure given with regard to the police officers, it would be easier arithmetic and would not require any expert of the Nottingham type to clear up the matter so that we on this side of the Committee could understand it.

8.54 p.m.


As these custodians will be our servants we ought to be as much interested in the care of their health as their pocket. Do I gather that the sole contribution we are suggesting for the care of their health is a mere fraction—the£22 set down on page 4? One can well conceive that in the depth of night there might very well be a ghastly accident, and there is no provision made for their care when they are sick or injured.

8.55 p.m.


It would appear at first sight that there would be a saving in the transfer of the duties of the police to custodians. I take it that the police originally employed here will go back to their ordinary duties in the force and, therefore, instead of any real economy being effected you are adding to the cost of the police, whilst finding employment for those who had hitherto had nothing to do. Is not that the case?

8.56 p.m.


The Financial Secretary says that we now pay£l 3s. 6d. per day for a policeman. We know that the policeman does not get£l 3s. 6d. a day. I should like to know to whom this money is paid. Is it paid to the Metropolitan Police Fund? In the case of the custodians, who are to receive 60s. per week, is their pay to be paid directly by the Government to the men, or does it

go to the Metropolitan Police Fund? If the Financial Secretary could give us information on that point it would enable us to understand something of the saving.

8.57 p.m.


Details of police administration would be more appropriately discussed on the Police Vote. I am not seized with all the details concerning the police. The point raised by the hon. Member does not actually arise on this Vote, otherwise I should have received information about it. I have, however, obtained some information, and that is that the police, in addition to pay, receive quarters, uniform and certain allowances. The custodians will only receive uniforms. The total saving is£8,700 by the change. The hon. Member for Mile End (Dr. O'Donovan) is naturally, being a medical man, solicitous about the health of the custodians. I am bound to inform him that no arrangements additional to those usually provided for members of a State service will be provided. If my hon. Friend thinks that something additional should be done, perhaps he will communicate with us on the subject. I do not know what his actual suggestion would be. I do not know whether he thinks an ambulance station or something of that kind should be set up. Nothing additional is provided at the present time.

Question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 173: Noes, 25.

Division No. 50.] AYES. [9.0 p.m.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Goldie, Noel B.
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Colman, N. C. D. Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas
Aske, Sir Robert William Cook, Thomas A. Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John
Atholl, Duchess of Cooke, Douglas Hales, Harold K.
Atkinson, Cyril Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Craven-Ellis, William Hammersley, Samuel S.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Croom-Johnson, R. P. Hanley, Dennis A.
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Crossley, A. C. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernaro Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Bernays, Robert Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C. Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Blindell, James Dickie, John P. Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)
Boulton, W. W. Dower, Captain A. V. G. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Hopkinson, Austin
Boyce, H. Leslie Elliston, Captain George Sampson Hore-Belisha, Leslie
Brass, Captain Sir William Elmley, Viscount Hornby, Frank
Broadbent, Colonel John Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Horobin, Ian M.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Horsbrugh, Florence
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Ford, Sir Patrick J. Hume, Sir George Hopwood
Burghley, Lord Fremantle, Sir Francis Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)
Burnett, John George Fuller, Captain A. G. Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Ganzoni, Sir John James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Gillett, Sir George Masterman Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Gledhill, Gilbert Kerr, Hamilton W.
Castle Stewart, Earl Glossop, C. W. H. Kimball, Lawrence
Clarke, Frank Gluckstein, Louis Halle Kirkpatrick, William M.
Clarry, Reginald George Goff, Sir Park Knight, Holford
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Nunn, William Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Latham, Sir Herbert Paul O' Donovan, Dr. William James Soper, Richard
Law, Sir Alfred Percy, Lord Eustace Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Petherick, M. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n) Storey, Samuel
Lennox-Boyd, A. T, Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Stourton, Hon. John J.
Levy, Thomas Procter, Major Henry Adam Strickland, Captain W. F.
Lindsay, Noel Ker Pybus, Percy John Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Sutcliffe, Harold
MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
McKie, John Hamilton Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Thorp, Linton Theodore
Macmillan, Maurice Harold Reed, Arthur c. (Exeter) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Magnay, Thomas Reid, William Allan (Derby) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Maitland, Adam Rentoul, Sir Gervals S. Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U. Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Ropner, Colonel L. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Mander, Geoffrey le M. Rosbotham, Sir Samuel Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Ross, Ronald D. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Marsden, Commander Arthur Runge, Norah Cecil Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Martin, Thomas B. Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury) Wells, Sydney Richard
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Rutherford, John (Edmonton) Wills, Wilfrid D.
Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Mills, Major J. O. (New Forest) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Moreing, Adrian C. Selley, Harry R. Withers, Sir John James
Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. Womersley, Walter James
Morrison, William Shephard Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Worthington, Dr. John V.
Muirhead, Major A. J. Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Munro, Patrick Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Smith-Carington, Neville W. Lieut-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward and Dr. Morris-Jones.
Normand, Wilfrid Gull[...] Somervell, Donald Bradley
Attlee. Clement Richard Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) McGovern, John
Banfield, John William Edwards, Charles Maxton, James
Batey, Joseph George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Milner, Major James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Parkinson, John Allen
Buchanan, George Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Price, Gabriel
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Hicks, Ernest George Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Cripps, Sir Stafford Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Daggar, George Logan, David Gilbert
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Lunn, William TELLERS FOR THE NOES —
Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. Tinker.

Question put, and agreed to.

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