§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Gilmour)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is related to certain changes which have become necessary in the organisation and administration of the Metropolitan Police Force. Members of the House have had before them the White Paper which, following upon the report of the Commissioner of Police, has been in their hands for some little time, and it is, of course, unnecessary for me to enter into any very elaborate explanation of the various changes which are dealt with in that White Paper. I hope, however, that I may be meeting the wishes of the House if I deal in general terms with some of these problems, in addition to describing the Clauses of the Bill itself. There are the considerations of the policy which lie behind the Bill, and, first of all, on the question of the particular reforms which are now proposed, I think we may ask ourselves two questions—first, why is the reform now necessary in the Metropolitan Police Force; and, secondly, why are the Government proposing to apply the reform to the Metropolitan Police Force alone, instead of applying it to the police forces generally all through the country?
It may be right to remind the House that the Metropolitan Police Force has been in existence for something over 100 years, and that it has charge of Greater London, which comprises an area of some 700 square miles. In 1829, when the force was first formed by Sir Robert Peel, London ended at Hyde Park in the West, the Angel at Islington in the North, Whitechapel in the East, and Kennington Oval and the Elephant and Castle in the South. Sir Robert Peel, when he was dealing with the problem at that time, saw clearly that it was essential to make the area for the Police Force a larger area than that which I have just described, in order to prevent criminals from being driven from the Metropolis to the suburbs and outlying villages, and he 944 had the wisdom at that time to include a district with a radius varying from four to seven miles from Charing Cross. Ten years later, in the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839, this area was extended practically to its present limits, that is to say, to an area roughly 15 miles from Charing Cross in every direction. Since 1839, the population of this district has grown from about 1,500,000 to 8,500,000, and during the same period the number of the Metropolitan Police Force has increased sevenfold. The force, as it was origiNaily established by Sir Robert Feel, was one of about 3,000 constables, and today its establishment is slightly in excess of 20,000.
The enormous growth of London, and the increase in the force have been accompanied, of course, by very great changes in the character and habits of the population and in the circumstances with which the force has had to deal. It is no longer the fact that a policeman is mainly concerned with drunkenness and disorderly action, or, indeed, with the local burglar. On the contrary, he has now to deal with a much wider aspect of the matter, with new sorts of crime and with developments of habits and technique which have undergone material changes, including the development of mechanical resources, which, of course, while available to the police, are also available to the classes with whom they have to deal. This altered character and scope of their work has, I think, been recognised by the far higher status and the improved pay and conditions which the police enjoy Since the Desborough Committee, and which, as the Higgins Committee pointed out in their report of last March, are relatively higher than in 1919. In spite of all these changes and developments, there has been little or no change in the organisation of the Metropolitan Police Force, indeed, its structure is substantially the same as that which was devised origiNaily in very different circumstances. That is the explanation of the reforms which we are now contemplating, and I think it is really less a matter for surprise that these changes should be contemplated now, than that, in spite of the greatly changed conditions, the complicated machine has gone on for so long without fundamental alteration.
945 The next question to which I should like to refer is the question as to why the proposed reform is limited to the Metropolitan Police Force. There are two reasons for this. In the first place, the Government, and the Home Secretary as the instrument of the Government, have a direct responsibility for the administration of the Metropolitan Police. It would not be proper that I should go into the question why this is a right method of dealing with the matter, but I think that, in view of the fact that London is the Capttal city of our country, and that every Government and parties of all sorts in this House have regarded it as a proper and essential function of the central Government, there will really be little difference in any part of the House on that matter. The second reason is that the size and the scope of the functions of the Metropolitan Police Force far exceed those of any other police force in the country. The next largest police force is only about one-tenth of the size of the police force here. Perhaps it would convey to hon. Members some idea of these responsibilities if I reminded them that the Metropolitan Police District includes the whole of the counties of London and Middlesex, parts of four other counties, Surrey, Essex, Kent and Hertford, and 42 boroughs, three of which, Croydon, West Ham and East Ham, are county boroughs. The district is just a little smaller than the London telephone area, it is three times the size of the London postal area, and six times the size of the administrative county of London.
The changes that are proposed in the White Paper are essential elements in the process of adapting the Metropolitan Police Force to modern conditions. The Bill is not concerned with all these changes nor, indeed, with every part of any single change. The discontinuance of the present system, by which the members of the force receive direct payment for police duty from private employers, the saving of official time which can be achieved by reducing the number of meetings of the three metropolitan branch boards and their joint executive committee without any loss in the effectiveness of these representative institutions and the desirable improvements in the recreational and club house facilities of the force, these changes can all be made 946 available and require no legislation. They can be brought into being by administrative action and, indeed, arrangements to give effect to these changes are already in hand. There remain those items in the programme to which effect cannot be given without legislation. Of these the most important are those arising out of the proposal to establish a police college as a training ground for the higher ranks of the Police Force and the recruitment of a proportion of the rank and file on short-service engagements.
Clause 1 is directed to the removal of the present statutory limitation of the number of assistant commissioners to four, and I think on that I need only say two things. In the first place, this problem of how many assistant commissioners there should be will remain always subject to the jurisdiction of this House and can be discussed on the annual Estimate for the Police Vote. Secondly, it is proposed to increase the number of assistant commissioners from four to five with the object of relieving the Deputy Commissioner of his present responsibility for dealing with work in the office and of letting him be available for service wholly at the disposal of the Commissioner for general duties. Clause 2 relates to the age of compulsory retirement in the higher ranks. Partly in order that a sufficient proportion of the senior posts in the force shall be held by young and active officers, and partly for the purpose of obtaining a regular flow of promotion, it is proposed that officers of and above the new rank of station inspector who fail to get promotion to the higher ranks shall normally be required to retire at earlier ages than are now prescribed, and the Clause provides, accordingly, for the fixing of such retiring ages not being less than the age of 45, as experience may show to be necessary in the interests of the force.
I emphasise that point because it must depend upon experience and practical working as to what actual ages will be adopted. The House should note that the Clause does not apply to anyone now employed unless he consents. I think, however, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, because after all this is a matter of importance to the force, I ought to make it clear that during the period of reorganisation it is proposed to make use of the existing provisions of the Police 947 Pensions Act, 1921, so as to ensure that superintendents and chief inspectors shall normally retire on pension so soon as they have attained the ages respectively of 50 and 47 years, provided that they have reached the maximum of the scale of salary for their rank and have qualified by length of service for the award of a pension at the rate of two-thirds of their annual pay. So that the existing members of the force are safeguarded and the new regulations will come in with new entrants.
By Clause 3 it is proposed to amend, in its application to the Metropolitan Police Force, the constitution of the Police Federation as prescribed by the Police Act, 1919, to ensure that the new ranks in the Metropolitan Police Force shall be outside the Police Federation. Under the present constitution the federation includes all ranks below that of Superintendent, and it, therefore, includes the existing ranks of Inspector, Sub-Divisional Inspector and Chief Inspector. The effect of this Clause, therefore, will be to confine membership of the federation in the Metropolitan Force to the ranks of Inspector, Sergeant and Constable. The new ranks which, as stated in the White Paper, will be introduced—those of Junior Station Inspector and Station Inspector—will be outside the federation. It follows necessarily that the existing ranks of Sub-Divisional Inspector and Chief Inspector will have to be similarly excluded in order to avoid the anomaly of having senior members inside the federation while their subordinate officers are outside it. The reasons for this change are clearly stated in the White Paper, and I do not propose to go into any long explanation. I think it is sufficient to say that it would not be consistent with the position which the superior officers of the force are to occupy under the new scheme that they should form part of an organisation set up because the channels by which the various ranks could make representations to the authorities were found inadequate under the old regime. It is undoubtedly intended for the future that the rank and file shall be able to count fully on the advice and help of the higher ranks in all matters affecting their collective or individual welfare.
Clause 4 provides for such adaptation of the existing law as is necessary in 948 respect of the scheme for the appointment of constables on short service engagements. In particular, the Clause enables gratuities to be awarded on the conclusion of the specified period of service, it provides for the application to constables so recruited of the benefits provided by the National Health Insurance Act and the Widows, Orphans and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, and it is intended, further, that the short-service constables shall be eligible for the benefits of the Unemployment Insurance Act. While provisions are not made in this Bill to deal with that matter, they will be provided for and included in a Bill that will be introduced by the Minister of Labour during the current Session. I have dealt, I think, with the specific proposals of the Bill, and if the House will bear with me for a short period longer, I should like to touch, in more general terms, on the underlying principles of the Bill, and, in particular, on the proposed change in the system of recruitment for the higher ranks of the force and the proposal to employ a certain proportion of the force upon short-term engagements.
The essence of the new scheme for recruitment to the higher ranks is the establishment of a Police College, where men will be trained in the college for the higher ranks, and the admission to the college of candidates will be from within and without the service. One of the main defects which the new system is designed to remedy is the fact that under the present system no Metropolitan constable can become a superintendent until he has served for between 20 and 25 years in the successive ranks of constable, sergeant, station sergeant, inspector, sub-divisional inspector and chief inspector, and that no one who has begun as a constable has very much prospect, under the existing system, of climbing the ladder to the top rank of his profession. As an illustration of what I have just said, let me quote the fact that Sir James Olive, who is the first and only man to rise from the ranks to be an assistant commissioner, took 48 years to reach that place The scheme proposed by the Government is, I think, no new or novel proposal. As is pointed out in the White Paper, substantially the same change that I am submitting to the House to- 949 day was recommended by a committee appointed in 1868 to inquire into the organisation of the Metropolitan Police after its foundation by Sir Robert Peel. There is the further fact that the Royal Commission appointed in 1929 proposed, and strongly emphasised, the necessity for some such change. They stated emphatically that the present system was inimical to the public interest, and I think I may fairly say that public comment on the Government scheme for the establishment of a Police College has, on the whole, been favourable. Objections to this plan for a college I have heard come from persons who agree that it may be necessary to have a Police College, but who argue that admission to the college should be restricted entirely to those men who have completed a considerable period of service in the ranks. I think that that plan fails completely on two grounds. First, I do not think that it would be likely to succeed in attracting to the force a steady and ample supply of men of the requisite standard of general education. Secondly, it fails because men of liberal education—
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The education which is open to practically every citizen in this country, and, coming from a Scotsman who knows well the wide opportunities that are given to entering the universities in Scotland, that kind of remark does not carry much weight. Secondly, the plan fails because men of liberal education who entered the force with the rank of constable would be very largely wasted and their ambition dulled if they remained, as I have explained, under the existing system for a long period of years with no possible outlook or hope of promotion within a reasonable period of time. I think that this general observation is no less true of the Police Service than it is certainly true of the Civil Service. I do not think that there is anybody in this House who has considered this problem who would desire to alter the present arrangement of dealing with the administrative class in our Civil Service, and to suggest that, in order that they might serve the State with advantage, they should, for a long period of years, be subjected to purely mechanical work in the office.
950 The other objection which I have seen urged against this new system of recruitment is, that the scheme is undemocratic and based on privilege, and that it means the establishment of an officer class. There is not a word in the White Paper or in the Commissioner's report about an officer class, and the phrase, with its underlying idea of social distinctions, is entirely misleading. Social privilege or social status has nothing whatever to do with the matter. Let me emphasise that the door of the Police College will be open to the man who joins as a constable, as well as to candidates from outside the Service. That is the scheme; it is not only applied to men inside the Service—and this is a point which, again, I wish the House to realise—who can pass a certain standard of examination who will be taken in the college, but if they show during their service in the police special qualities, irrespective of the book examination which they may be able to pass, those special qualities, undoubtedly, will be taken into consideration in selecting candidates for the college.
I think that I have already indicated to the House that, broadly speaking, higher education throughout the country has been largely democratised. It is thought in some quarters that people will be kept out because they have not the money to pay for this kind of education, but if you look at what has happened in your universities you will find that they contain not far short of 50,000 full-time students and about 14,000 part-time students, and that this includes an increasingly large body of men and women who cannot be attributed solely to the wealthy classes. On the contrary, they come from rich and poor, and it is interesting to note that almost half the students of the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge are men and women who receive financial assistance from other than private sources. So that it cannot be said that, even if they come from the universities, there is class distinction. If one might quote the expression of views of a student of social problems who used to be in this House, Mr. Percy Alden, I think we might take what he said:The university population is gradually becoming democratised and higher education is no longer a monopoly of the rich. In fact, it may be said that during the last few years the general conception of the relation between the university and the nation has 951 been entirely changed Since our leaders in all departments of the State and our officials in both local and central government are now drawn from every part of the community.I think I have said enough on that ground about its democratic character, and the attacks which are made on it. But there was another criticism which I have seen and it may be repeated in this House to-day, that this is established with the idea of introducing militarisation into the Metropolitan Police Force. I confess that I think there could be no suggestion more fantastic than that. Indeed, one might as well argue that the Civil Service of this country, which is recruited on exactly the same principle as is proposed in this Bill, is a militarist organisation.
I want to turn to the short service scheme for constables. The proposal which we make is that a proportion of the force should be recruited upon a short service principle. The establishment of the Metropolitan Police Force for London has in it something like 17,000 police constables, and we propose that in future approximately 5,000 of these constables should be recruited on short service engagements for a period of 10 years instead of being recruited to the force for a life's career. The reasons which have led us to come to this decision are set out in the White Paper. Briefly, the object of the change is to provide a remedy which will counteract the adverse effect on efficiency of continuous employment on the same kind of routine duty over a long period of years. As was pointed out in the White Paper, we have something like 8,000 constables in the Metropolitan Police Force at the present time who have lost all prospects of promotion, and have little or nothing to look forward to but their pensions. Of that number, about 4,000 are men with not less than 17 years' service and, if the present arrangements were continued, naturally, the position would become worse in the next few years. Of course, it is quite clear that when men go through a long period of duty like these men do, with no possibility of promotion, it must have, humanly speaking, a deadening effect upon their service.
I would point out, that while it is true that we propose to have 5,000 on this 952 short-term recruitment, that, of course, will still leave a large number of men in the force who will be on the long-term service. Police duties are many and varied, and some of them, like detective and special inquiry work, and so on, are of great interest, but other duties, especially the ordinary beat duty, are very monotonous, and I think: it will be obvious, for reasons of economy and efficiency, that the application of the principle of the division of labour in the Metropolitan Force, owing to the size of the force, leads to the necessity for having a certain number of men who are young and active, and who will do that part of the work. Normally, the work of the constables on beat duty is monotonous, but it may, of course, at any time call for mental alertness and physical activity. What is needed in the special circumstances of the force with which we are dealing is that we should have a larger proportion of young men able to cope with this problem. It is with that idea that we propose this change.
It may quite properly be objected that the scheme will result in the discharge of police constables just at the time when they have fully learned their work and become capable and experienced policemen. The answer to that objection is that there will still be a very large proportion who will remain in the force with over 10 years of service. Further objection may be taken to this scheme on the ground that the men will have less Incentive to effort and good behaviour than the long-service man has under the present system. It may be said that if you take away the constable's pension, you take away the one thing for which he is working and to which he is looking forward. For my part, I could not subscribe to the view that a police officer decides in favour of good or bad behaviour according to the balance of financial advantage. I agree, of course, that humanity, whether it be policemen or persons in any other walk of life, is in all the better heart for having something to which to look forward. But do not let us suppose or assume that the short-service policeman will not have something to which to look forward. During the 10 years of his service he will get a training and have the advantage of gaining knowledge and of developing habits which are eagerly looked for by outside employers. 953 I am confident that men who do well in this short-service scheme will have no difficulty in finding suitable employment. At any rate, we propose to set up an Appointments Board which will be available to deal with this problem.
These considerations provide the answer in some measure, in my judgment, to the further objection that the short-service scheme will mean the recruitment of an inferior type of constable. It is clear that the short-service scheme will offer many essential attractions, and, even if this were not so, I am certain that there are many young men who are prepared to come in and take a share in this kind of service without having completely pegged out their life's career.
I have explained to the House the Clause of the Bill providing for the exclusion from the federation of officers entering the higher grades through the Police College, and I should like now to say a word or two in reply to an allegation that the changes proposed in the White Paper are an attack upon the Police Federation. I can deal with it in a single sentence. The Government do not intend to interfere with the rights provided by the Police Act, 1919, for the purpose of enabling the rank and file of the police in every force to make representations to higher authority in matters touching their welfare and efficiency. More than that, the federation are entitled to receive from me protection against any unfair or malicious attack which may be made upon them. I have, for instance, seen it stated in the Press that the loyalty of the men of this force has been undermined by Communist influence. Today it is not merely my duty but my privilege to disavow and denounce that mischievous allegation.
At the same time, I should be less than frank if I did not refer to undesirable manifestations of the existing system which have come to my notice. I have had to take steps to make my position very clear, and I do not wish to have to repeat them, but I trust that what I have said will be remembered by those in the Federation and that they will not misuse the rights and privileges which Parliament has given them. As Members are aware, arrangements are being made to reduce the number of the meetings of the Branch Boards, and of 954 their Committees. It is impossible to justify the enormous amount of official time which has been devoted to this purpose, and for which no parallel is to be found in any other Police Force in the country. May I emphasise that the abuse of the privileges which Parliament has given to the police has only been here in London and not in any of the great cities like Liverpool and Manchester, where, no doubt, the rights of the rank and file are properly safeguarded.
§ Earl WINTERTON
May I ask my right hon. Friend if there is any other country in the world in which a police federation exists? Is it not equally true of every other country besides the provincial forces?
§ Sir J. Gilmour
I find it sufficient to deal with my own force. I am not aware of what happens in other countries. I hope that I have not wEarled the patience of the House in dealing with these important changes. I believe that they are necessary in order to come into line with modern requirements. The citizens of London, and of the country as a whole have reason to be very proud of the position and traditions of the Metropolitan Police Force, and I believe that such changes as we are making are not infringing upon any rights which this House has given to the police in the past. It is opening up to them an opportunity of greater promotion within the force, and it holds out, through the Police College, the clear promise, in the course of time, of men rising from the rank of constable or of men coming in from outside to achieve, through police training, and after experience in police work and conditions, the control and management of this great force. I should hope that these reforms will be accepted in the spirit in which they are intended, that the relationship of the Government with the rank and file of the force may be improved, and that it may be through co-operation and good will on both sides, that the future and greater efficiency of this force will be achieved.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the 955 end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:this House views with profound distrust the proposals of His Majesty's Government on the organisation and administration of the Metropolitan Police, and declines to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which, accompanied by contemplated administrative changes, will impair the democratic constitution of the police force, will introduce a substantial measure of militarisation into a force whose strength and efficiency is rooted in its civilian character, and is calculated to create grave dissatisfaction in the ranks.It is impossible for me to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having given us any reason for the proposed revolutionary changes in the administration of the Metropolitan Police Force. I listened very carefully to his speech, and, except for a variety of general statements, the right hon. Gentleman has not advanced a single argument as to why these things should be done. He has not told us of any failure in the working of the Police. He has not put his finger upon any piece of work which at present falls to the Police Force which is not being carried out in an efficient manner. I expected to hear something more from him than is contained in the book which I hold in my hand and which he took for granted we had all read, as I have read it in common with other hon. Members. It contains only a series of general statements on the subject. I am very much disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman was not able to tell us what has happened in the Metropolitan Police Force to compel him, on the advice of the Commissioner, to bring forward these proposals. I should have thought that if there was anything really wrong this House would have been asked to consider the matter through the medium of a Committee. It is rather revolutionary, one week to issue this Blue Book, the next week to issue a White Paper, and the week after that to bring in a Bill from out of the blue. It may very well be that the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) is in the confidence of Scotland Yard and of the Home Office, but the bulk of us are not. We have no knowledge as to the genesis of these proposals.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I cannot help seeing you, you know. The point remains that, if the Home Office and Scotland Yard, who are themselves responsible for the Metropolitan Police Force, think it has reached such a state of inefficiency that these very revolutionary proposals must be put into operation, a Committee of this House ought to have been asked to examine the matter, and to bring in proposals for remedying the evils. But nothing of the kind has happened. We have heard a statement to-day which has left the question in the air, and left us quite as ignorant at the end of the statement as we were at the commencement as to what is behind these proposals. The statement that we have now 20,000 men and that we have a larger area to cover does not at all justify what is proposed in the Blue Book or in the Bill. The area over which the police have jurisdiction has not been added to in recent years. It has been fixed for a considerable number of years, and the growth in the population has not come all of a sudden, but has been progressive, and, within the framework of the constitution of the Police Force, has developed outwards. As far as the ordinary work of the police, except in places where there are not sufficient men to do the job, to which attention has sometimes been called in this House, I have not heard any general complaint against the efficiency of the police. They do not fail in regulating the traffic, in carrying out all those amenities which are associated with the Police Force of the Metropolis, and in dealing with crime, if we are to believe the answers to questions which have been given by the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor.
No case, as far as I know, has been made out for this proposal at all. Until the last three weeks if any hon. Member had dared to stand up in this House and cast any reflection on any individual constable in the Metropolitan Police Force, he would have been shouted down by hon. Members opposite. We have been told that it is the most perfect police force in the world; that it is the admiration of the world; that foreigners come here and 957 almost kneel down to worship the man on point duty; that the London policeman is always calm, never loses his head, and that he can speak all kinds of languages. One remembers a great picture that was once circulated, showing his Majesty or her Majesty, the baby, with a constable escorting a perambulator and a nursemaid across the road. That poster went all over the country as typical of the kindness, the courtesy, and the efficiency of the Metropolitan Police, even down to taking charge of a little baby.
Now, all of a sudden, out of the blue, comes Lord Trenchard. This wonderful genius of the air has discovered that this Police Force wants revolutionary treatment. I have great admiration for people who fly, whether that person be Lord Trenchard or anyone else, but what police experience has Lord Trenchard ever had? When did he ever arrest a drunk and disorderly? I have no doubt that if it came to fighting on the Continent, or putting down a not with a few bombs from the air, Lord Trenchard could organise with the best of them. [Interruption.] Hon. Members must not forget that during the War time a couple of aeroplanes did fly over a body of men who were meeting at Coventry, and they were threatened at that time what might happen if they did not behave themselves. Lord Trenchard and the Air Force could quite easily organise an air raid on any set of men whom they considered likely to enter upon a riot, but as to experience as a police officer—
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I would point out that I am the person responsible in this House. Lord Trenchard is not in a position to answer for himself in this House. The right hon. Gentleman is well aware of our custom, that we deal with the Minister responsible and not with a civil servant.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I have no desire to make Lord Trenchard responsible for what the Government are proposing, but I must hold Lord Trenchard for the document on which the White Paper is based and on which the Bill is based. The right hon. Gentleman excused himself from defending his proposals by saying that he took it for granted that we had all read this document. If I am not 958 allowed to criticise the document, I should like to know how I am to deal with the Bill or the White Paper. I must say that I think the Commissioner of Police who brought out this report condemning the administration of the Police Force did it without any real knowledge of the business. I could have understood it if he had had long experience in the Police Force, or if he was advised by men who had had long experience of the Police Force, but we know that his assistants are not gentlemen who have served anywhere else in the administration of the police, so far as we know, either in this country or elsewhere. As far as we are given to understand, we must take them as the military and naval gentlemen that they are. Surely, if it is our opinion we are entitled to say that we do not think that these gentlemen are in any sort of position to base a judgment on the Metropolitan Police. The idea of the appointment of these gentlemen is that no one in the ranks is fit to become a Commissioner, yet the chiefs of police in almost every city and town in the country have risen from the ranks.
The Home Secretary said that this is not a proposal to militarise the police. I have always maintained that for years past the police have been steadily militarised, and this is another step in that direction. The right hon. Gentleman talked as a Scotsman to his fellow Scotsmen below the Gangway. I am speaking as a Londoner, who has lived in London all my life, and I say that during the past 30 years the police have steadily come under the military mind and been turned from a purely civil force into a semi-military force. The chief posts have always gone to outsiders. That is a point-that I should like to make to the right hon. Gentleman. We do not hear these stories about the police in the other great cities, but here in the Metropolis, where the police have been for 30 years or more under the control of specially selected Commissioners, if there is all this inefficiency which we have to put right now may it not be that it is the fault of the gentlemen who have been appointed, people of inexperience, who know nothing about the business and have had to learn everything from the people in the force? They may be great office organisers, but as to dealing with crime any knowledge 959 that they would acquire must be acquired after their appointment.
In the White Paper and the Bill it is proposed to give the authorities power to appoint more Assistant Commissioners. We do not know whether it will be one Assistant Commissioner or 100, because the number is unspecified. I feel that there are enough of these jobs and that we ought not to add to the number. No one will say that any of these gentlemen pass an examination before they axe appointed. Nobody will say that they have shown any knowledge or any ability in dealing with the police. They are always appointed from the Services, and I think that it is an insult to the serving men in the police force to say that none of them are capable of filling these positions. We object to giving power to appoint more of these men who, in the past, have been appointed without any examination. They are just selected persons, and they are usually selected from the classes and not from the masses.
Another pernicious proposal is to restrict the right of promotion by selecting public school men, university men, or boys from secondary schools to fill posts that are already filled from the ranks. We look upon this proposal as a piece of downright class administration. In spite of what the right hon. Gentleman said, what will happen will be that a number of men serving in the ranks will be shut out, and gentlemen from the classes are to be appointed by patronage to fill positions which are now efficiently filled by men from the ranks. If that is not so, let someone stand at the Box and tell us that the men who are to be replaced are not efficient. Let them tell us of the failure of the men who now hold these positions, and who have won the positions by hard work in the ranks. They are to be replaced. The right hon. Gentleman was at some pains to prove that the statement that I have just made cannot be substantiated either from the White Paper or from the report of the Commissioner. Let me read an extract from page 5 of the White Paper:Under present arrangements before a Metropolitan police constable can become a Superintendent he has to serve for a certain number of years in each of the ranks of Constable, Sergeant, Station Sergeant, Inspector, Sub-Divisional Inspector and Chief Inspector. No doubt a better supply of qualified men could be obtained in the higher 960 ranks if constables possessing the requisite education, character and personality were given earlier opportunities of advancement, and it is an essential part of the new scheme that such opportunities should be given.Here is the point that I want to make:But this will not by itself meet the needs of the case. The time has clearly arrived for bringing the system of recruitment to the Metropolitan Police Force into line with the practice of the other public services and the steadily growing practice of business undertakings.That means a breakdown of the system by which entrance into the Civil Service should be by examination and men go from the bottom to the top. I have always felt that that was an insult to the bulk of men and women in the Civil Service. Here is what the Government are proposing. Hon. Members will deny what I say if I do not read it:His Majesty's Government propose accordingly that a certain number of young men shall be recruited by a system of competitive selection"—What on earth is meant by that? I have heard of patronage tempered by efficiency, but this is patronage tempered by competitive selection. Perhaps someone will tell us what that means.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
It may be all right for the Air Service, but we do not want it for our police. We do not want a class-ridden Police Service, even if you have a class-ridden Air Service—with or without written exiimination—for appointment, after suitable training, to posts of the Inspector grade. These men will be selected from those who have joined the force as constables and from candidates from secondary schools, public schools and universities,.We look upon it as a barefaced scheme to find jobs for university men who are unemployed through the inability of industrialists and business men to find places for these educated persons. The Prime Minister yesterday talked about the rake's progress; this is another step in the rake's progress to reaction. At the present moment the Government are stopping secondary education in every possible way because they fear the competition of working-class boys. [Interruption.'] It is exactly the same as Anglo-Indians who opposed the Indianisation of the Civil Service in India because 961 they were afraid that the jobs which they had formerly, and which they look upon as their freehold, might go to Indians. I have heard speeches about the futility of educating working-class children, and now that the Government have the power they are using it to cut down that education because there are not enough jobs to go round. According to this report there has been an extra number coming from public schools and universities into the ordinary serving ranks. We should like to have a report on these gentlemen to know if they have shown extra ability in capturing anyone or in dealing with evil doers. We should like to know how it has worked out; whether they have shown themselves so much better.
I am sorry that the Minister of Health is not in his place, but I undertake to say that if a local authority were to attempt to bring in this sort of patronage in the appointment of their chief officials the Minister of Health would call it graft and corruption. If anyone on this side wants to see someone get a job questions are put in this House as to what Poplar has done in regard to a trade union official, or as to what some other borough council has done; but when the Gentlemen opposite do it, it is done in the name of efficiency. I should like the Home Secretary to tell us how he proposes to select these geniuses from the universities and public schools. It is not a competitive selection. I suppose someone will know them. There will be someone's counsin or nephew, someone's brother-in-law, somebody's young cousin's nephew's brother's sister's brother. Really, I should like to know. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to take those young men, who perhaps would be among the very best, who organise the rags in the universities, chivvy the police up and down the streets, or come up to Piccadilly and give us a beano on certain race nights. No one will imagine that these young men, these brilliant young men, will preserve law and order better than the average policeman. We are confident that they will do nothing of the kind.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that it takes a man 20 years to get to the top, and that it took one man 48 years. Whose fault was that? It was the fault of the administration which brings in men from outside and appoints them to these jobs. There is no reason why it 962 should have taken all that time. Will someone also tell us what particular thing it is in a university training which enables them to deal with crime more efficiently than other people? Crime is on the increase in certain directions. The other day the right hon. Gentleman told us that the increase was not in the worst form of crimes, and that is also stated in this report. The increase in crime in our big industrial centres, and in London, is due almost entirely to unemployment. The Home Secretary talked about the methods of the modern criminal, and said that in these days of science you have to deal with a more scientific sort of criminal than ever before. Jack Shepherd was not a bad sort of cat burglar; at any rate, he got away with it. I do not think that any modern cat burglar can hold a candle to him. In my own day there was Charles Peace, but nobody said that because Charles Peace got away with a lot of murders and burglaries it was the fault of the Police Force, and that it was necessary to call in the universities to redress the balance. It is too nonsensical for words. To say that because criminals know a bit more to-day you must have varsity gentlemen to deal with them is too stupid for words.
The higher forms of crime such as frauds which are committed to-day are committed by gentlemen on gentlemen; and it may be that varsity gentlemen can deal with them. I have always said that the working class can never produce the sort of corrupt-minded people such as those who have been convicted of graft, and the sort of evil which we are told is on the increase in these days. But are they on the increase? The financial juggler has a wider field over which to operate and, therefore, there are more of them. Stock Exchange and company frauds, and all that sort of thing, are, apparently, on the increase, but it is because there are more of us, that is all; there are more of us to be fleeced. I never felt indignant like some hon. Mmbers about the fellows who are caught. I do not want to mention names—they are well known; those who have gone through the courts—but I have never once sat in judgment upon them. The point is that if they had succeeded they would have been down below by now. Why do you want a varsity-trained inspector to deal with little boys who steal? Why do they steal? Do you 963 imagine that they do it simply because they have a double dose of original sin? We chuck them out of the schools, they have nowhere to go, nothing to do, no money in their pockets; and they either steal food or go in for adventure. To tell me that you want varsity men to deal with them is, I repeat, too ludicrous for words.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
Does the right hon. Member mean that a university education is no good; and does he object to the ladder which has been erected from the schools to the universities?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The hon. Member should have waited to hear what I was going to say. As far as we are concerned, we welcome into the ranks all classes, peers and labourers, all sorts and conditions, but we want them in the Police Force on equal terms. We want the road upward to be a road upon which there shall be no patronage, no selection, but promotion by merit. These proposals do not mean that and that is the reason we are opposing them. I understand that you want these specially educated gentlemen to deal with the sort of crime which is committed by the type of criminal who gets a motor car, or jumps a shop or a man carrying wages. The men to deal with these matters are the men who are at present doing the job. I do not think that men trained at any university will be better than the men who get their experience day by day.
When you come to the short-service system of recruitment, we really think that it is a social crime. The whole argument of Lord Trenchard is a fallacy, and the right hon. Gentleman in backing that argument is supporting a fallacy. The notion is that there is room at the top for everybody, but if everybody got to the top you would topple over. Everybody cannot sit on the Front Bench in the House of Commons; there is not enough room. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite do not die quickly enough, nor do they go up to the other place quick enough. The fact is that in this House there is a lot of brilliant men quite capable of sitting on the Front Bench or on the Front Opposition Bench, but there is not room for all. I do not believe that hon. Members are a lot of duds because they do not sit on the Front Bench. The argument in 964 regard to the 10 years is that you must not keep a man at the same job all the time. No employer will say that a man who is unable to rise to the position of a manager or foreman in a works employing thousands of men, although he is an efficient workman, should be discharged at the end of 10 years in order to give the employer a change. That also is rubbish. The statement here is based on the old nonsensical doctrine that every soldier carries a Field Marshal's baton in his knapsack. Here he is going to carry the "Order of the Boot." Let me read what an ex-officer of the Metropolitan Police has written to the"Times"today—not the "Daily Herald." I am sorry to weary the House with it, but it is well worth hEarlng.
I am speaking as an ex-officer of high rank in the Metropolitan Police. I know many of the men still serving, and they feel that in opening their hearts to me they are speaking to a friend. They are restless and unhappy as to their future, and feel that their motto might well be ' Quo vadis? ' They feel, too, that the importance of examinations can he made too much of, that success in that field does not guarantee the making of a good police officer, and they know that the best thief-catcher is often ah indifferent scholar, and that character, personality and intelligence are the things that count.I agree with that completely. There is this further passage to which the House should pay attention.
They view, too, with a hopeless mistrust the introduction of an 'officer class 'labelled' for promotion as a death blow to their own ambitions. Tried officers of wide experience will tell you that it takes nearly 10 years to make a thoroughly efficient policeman.We are going to "sack" them after 10 years when they are efficient. The letter goes on:Such a man must be able to sense the temper of a crowd, to know how to act in unusual circumstances, and how to deal with every class of person. As I understand it, a large number of young men, enlisted for 10 years' service, with no pension to look forward to, probably no trade to fall back on, and no option of extending their service, would in due time be let loose upon the public.Even now the temptation of 'graft' is always with the police. For these short-service men, with nothing to come but a small gratuity, the temptation. to try to get rich quickly and to lay by for the future might well be irresistible, and the force become corrupt.I hope, Sir, that you will use your great influence to urge that these proposed re- 965 forms be considered by experts in police service before our great London force is bound by them.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
He signs himself "An ex-officer of the Metropolitan Police." I do not suppose the "Times" would print the letter without authentication. I have never got an anonymous letter into the "Times," and I do not think anyone else will get a letter published unless his name accompanies it. Hon. Members may disagree with the contents of this letter, but I happen thoroughly to agree with it. I think an impossible burden is being put on these men. The Home Secretary said that provision will be made for them. I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman lives or in what world he lives. I am not saying it unkindly at all, but honestly. The right hon. Gentleman should inquire of the employment agencies for men discharged from the Services. Let him go and look at their books and sec the number of men who are there waiting for jobs. There is an office in my division. They have come there out of the goodness of their hearts, and are doing their best, but everyone knows that in the East End of London there are hundreds of these men for whom there is no job. Yet the Government does its best. Every Government Department is obliged to take these men when there is a vacancy. But there is an enormous mass of ex-Service men out of work now. To chuck a number of these young policemen into the maze of this whirlpool of unemployed people is, as I said earlier, really a social crime.
Let us turn now to the Federation. I want to ask how the Home Secretary and the Commissioner square the criticism of the Federation with the very eulogistic message which was circulated by Lord Byng when he left the Police Service. We know perfectly well that both the Commissioner and the Federation officials at that time exchanged friendly messages. They got on very well with each other. The present Commissioner is proposing these changes. He proposes not to allow the higher grades to continue in the Federation. We look upon that as a very bad move indeed. Take the case of the Railway-men's Union. You get off at a railway 966 station and often find the whole staff is in the union—stationmaster, booking clerk, platform men and everyone. No-one has yet said—I am sure the Dominions Secretary would never dream of saying—that that arrangement has worked other than well. No-one has told us to-day, and nothing is said by Lord Trenchard in his document, as to what evil effects have followed the work of the Federation.
The Home Secretary in rather vague language seemed to me to be threatening discipline if certain things do happen Why not put all the cards on the table and be done with it? Why not tell us all that there is against the Federation? For what was the Federation formed? To look after and to bring to the notice of the authorities matters affecting the welfare and efficiency of the force. Why not tell us in what way it has done wrong? There is one case given here, but one swallow does not make a summer. What evidence is there that these minutes and statements that have gone out are so bad? Is it a fact that before they go out they are passed by the authorities at Scotland Yard? I want to know. Are they seen? If so, why did Scotland Yard allow them to go out with out calling the attention of the Federation to them? Any body of men can overstep the limits on occasion; I do not deny that; but I do say that the Commissioner, before this was sent out into the light of day ought certainly to have consulted the Federation officials and ought to have pointed out to them what he proposed to do. Then I dare say some arrangements might have been made to obviate the necessity for doing what he is doing now, always supposing that his complaint was right. I do not admit that it was right, because I have no evidence, and no evidence has been published.
That brings me to another point. Has the Police Federation sent any memorandum or any statement of the men's case, for no alteration in their conditions and their constitution, to the Home Secretary? If the men have done so I ask the right hon. Gentleman now publicly to give it to the House and to the country. The men are entitled to be heard. The charge is made against them that they have abused their position. Otherwise, obviously we would not have this change proposed. I want to know 967 what the Federation has said about it and what the answer of the Minister is. I would like the House to remember these words:It was clearly never intended that the organisation should be used as a legalised, subsidised machine for fomenting discontent, stimulating resistance to Government decisions, and still less for assuming disciplinary powers.I admit that there is one case of something that happened at a certain station, but I ask: Does the Home Secretary with his sense of fairness think that that statement should stand without giving the men against whom that charge is levelled an opportunity of answering it? What discontent have they fomented? What is the basis of this discontent that they have fomented? Has it to do with their wages or their status or their demand for restoration of the wages cuts? If it had to do with any of these things I (maintain that it came within the scope of the purposes for which the federation was established. Therefore, I want the Home Secretary to answer, first, whether the minutes which contained this subsidised propaganda were passed and printed at Scotland Yard? It was not done in secret; it was done openly and in the light of day, and attention should have been called to it instantly and consultation should have taken place as to the why and the wherefore. I want to know also whether the federation has made any representation in answer to these charges. I say that the police have as much right to discuss and object to the cuts in their wages, and to ask for those cuts to be restored, as had His Majesty's judges last year.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Yes. Then I would like to say that I am not in love with the present organisation of the Police Federation. I would like to see a different kind of organisation. I say this quite frankly to the House: We on this side fully understand that for both the Services, for the Civil Service and for men and women employed in, the public service generally, the whole question of trade union status and the right to organise, is one which we will have to face if ever a Socialist State is created here. That is perfectly true. But we 968 also say that that will only be met when men are conscious that they have had a fair and square deal. These men in the Metropolitan Police Force do not believe that they have had a square deal, because they have been condemned unheard up to the present time. If my information is wrong I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will prove that it is wrong. Our information is that these matters have not been discussed at all, and, if this Bill goes through without the men having an opportunity to put their case to the House, then we may be sure that discontent and unrest will increase.
We look upon this proposal definitely as one to establish a police force controlled by officers selected from what are described as "the classes." The Metropolitan Police Force in its higher ranks has been dominated during the last 30 years, at least, by men chosen, not because of police experience but because of military experience. These men have come into the force usually well beyond middle age and some of them about middle age and with no police experience in this country—at least that is my recollection—and there has been no chance for men in the force to rise to these positions. It seems to us that nowadays, Since the coming into existence of the present House of Commons, there is a definite move to get everything as far away as possible from the working class.
I have had experience ox this Police Force in a hundred different ways. I have been fallen on by them—accidentally—and I have been "run in" by them, but I will say this, that, taking them man for man, they are as fine a body of men as you will get in any country. I see them every day. Outside my door there is a school where children who are not very well attend for open-air training. The kindness of these men to the children could not be matched if you paid them a £1,000 a day. I see them along the Mile End Road at half-a-dozen points taking no end of pains when children are crossing, to see to the safety of the smallest and the biggest alike. I see them dealing with people who are fighting and quarrelling, and I am amazed at their genius for conciliation. I have been in big demonstrations with them; I have had occasion to find fault with them, and I have had occasion 969 to praise them, but I look upon this Measure, as we say in the East End, as "throwing dirty water in their faces." You are saying to them in effect, without giving a word of proof,, "You are inefficient; you cannot do the job; it has grown too large for you." We do not believe that, and we do not believe that the introduction of class will make this force more efficient. We do not believe that bringing men from universities to be officers will make for good will in the force. We believe that it will be a disintegrating influence.
We want a classless Police Force; a Police Force within which any citizen will be proud to serve and within which the humblest constable may have the right to rise to the highest position—no nonsense about them all being able to rise to it. We want a service which will give the man in it the satisfaction of knowing that while his health lasts and while he does his duty, his job is still there. If you are going to cut such a man off in the middle of his career it is a most vicious thing to do. We feel that the continued bringing in of military and naval men and men from other services to rule this force is all wrong. We think that the post of Commissioner should be filled from the ranks as is the case in Manchester, Liverpool and elsewhere, and it is for all these reasons that I move this Amendment.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I am at a disadvantage compared with the Leader of the Opposition in that I have never yet been "run in" by a police constable, but I hardly think that the lack of that valuable experience disqualifies me from endeavouring to reply to some of the contentions which he has advanced against this Measure. It was not without considerable interest that I listened to the right hon. Gentleman championing the cause of democracy. Those who have been privileged to follow his political career as long as I have will ackowledge that he is equally effective and convincing whether he is advocating democracy, oligarchy or even tyranny. But whether this Measure cuts across democracy or not seems to me irrelevant. I do not propose to pursue the right hon. Gentleman's argument beyond insisting that this Bill, far from cutting across democracy, comes to its assistance at a point where it has, so far, dismally failed to justify 970 itself. To explain, I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that the reorganisation of the Police Force has afforded openings for secondary school scholars. Democracy in its wisdom has furnished elementary schools with scholarships by means of which those who are successful can enter the secondary schools and even the universities. Up to that point, democracy has served a very useful purpose, but it has failed to find appropriate situations for those for whom it has provided superior educations. Surely the Leader of the Opposition cannot complain therefore because there is an opportunity now for those who sorely need it, of obtaining situations which can give scope for their superior intellect and training.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I do not if object to them coming in. What I object to is competitive selection. If they join the force in the ordinary way I do not object. The working class will whack them anyhow.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I propose to deal with the question of competitive selection later on, but what I thought the Leader of the Opposition was complaining of was that secondary school scholars should be selected and, as democracy has provided scholarships enabling elementary school pupils to enter secondary schools, I failed to see where his complaint was justified. I pass from that aspect of the case and at once address myself to what presumably will be one of the most controversial features of the Bill, namely, the future of the federation. When the federation was established under the provisions of the Act of 1919 many of us, while admitting that, within the limits of the Act, it served an extremely useful purpose, anticipated that it might develop in directions which would be prejudicial to discipline. If what is stated in the Blue Book and the White Paper can be accepted, events have justified those misgivings. I make no apology for reading the pertinent passage:The purpose of the Federation and branch boards is to enable members of the forces to consider and bring to the notice of the authorities matters affecting their welfare and efficiency. It was clearly never intended that the organisation should be used as a legalised and subsidised machine for fomenting discontent and stimulating resistance to Government decisions, and still less for assuming disciplinary powers.971 After some years the whole matter now comes up for review and there is a certain amount of plausibility in the contention "if you tolerate Whitley Councils in the Civil Service why should you not apply an analogous organisation to the Police Force?" I served for three years on the National Whitley Council and, while admitting that it was in every way appropriate to the Civil Service, to say that such an organisation ought to be introduced into the Police Force is to ignore the essential difference between the two services. The Police Force is, like the Army, Navy and Air Force a disciplined force. Our argument will centre round the derivation of the word "discipline," and I should have thought that in this connection it meant unquestioned submission to authority. There are certain organisations in our modern life in which such discipline is inherent, indispensable and inviolable. I cannot conceive that such a unit as the Police Force could continue to function without this description of discipline. The moment, therefore, that the Federation prejudices discipline—that moment may not be reached—it ceases to justify itself. Moreover, this consideration applies with far more effect to the police than to the other disciplined services, first because the police unlike the Army, Navy and Air Force is always on active service, and, second, because the prime function of the police unlike that of the Army, Navy and Air Force is to keep the community in order. If an element which is subversive of discipline were allowed in the force, it would be highly anomalous that those whose discipline was suspect should be in control of our morals.
Let me give an illustration of what I intend to convey. Suppose that Mr. Speaker, invested as he is, with all the authority and dignity of his illustrious office and his high place on the table of precedence, being outside the sacred area governed by the Standing Orders attempted to cross the road, and the latest-joined recruit in the Metropolitan Police Force did not wish him to do so and Mr. Speaker disobeyed him, the consequences to Mr. Speaker would be disastrous. But such a contingency is not likely to arise for the very good reason that Mr. Speaker in conjunction with all decent law-abiding persons willingly gives his submission to the authority of 972 even the lowest ranks of the Police Force. We do this on one condition, and one condition alone, and that is that the policeman on point duty, who, despite his humble station in life, is the repository of law and order, and whose demands must be obeyed, should in his turn be completely under the authority of all those set over him, all that chain which reaches right up to the Throne itself.
It is for this reason that I deprecate any of those activities of the federation which are subversive of discipline and welcome any curtailment of them. It is clear that the activities of the federation have exceeded the limits of the provisions of the Act. If hon. Members will refer to the White Paper, they will see it stated there that long argumentative resolutions have been tabled and have been posted in police stations which have even disputed decisions at which the Government, or the Home Secretary, or the Commissioner of Police, have already arrived. What is that but insubordination?
Let me address myself to another feature of the police reforms, namely, economy, by which I mean economy of finance and of time. If there is anything in the old adage that time is money, they are synonymous. The Secretary of State, in endeavouring to check the waste of man-power and man-hours, has, I think, proved himself very ingenious. There is no doubt that in recent times there have been two developments in the force which have embarrassed the police. The first is an increase of functions which, in spite of what I must call, without, I hope, offence, the rather cheap gibes of the Leader of the Opposition at university men, certainly require very specialised knowledge, and the second is an increase of functions which are highly inappropriate to the police qua police and of which they should be relieved without delay.
The Secretary of State has drawn an informing picture of how much wasted time there is in this connection. Perhaps the House will forgive me for relating a recent experience of my own, which well illustrates the argument that there is a considerable waste of the time of the police, which might be better employed in pursuing smash-and-grab burglars or people engaged in any of those other congenial occupations which, while they may not make the lot of the police- 973 man a happy one, at least invest it with a certain glamour and wholesome excitement. Recently, a constituent of mine who wanted to obtain a licence as a hotel-keeper asked me to endorse his claim, a request with which I readily complied. A few weeks afterwards a loud knocking at my front door proclaimed the presence of an outside police constable, who demanded an interview with me. A hasty mental retrospect of my lurid past did not serve to mitigate the trepidation with which I faced this unaccustomed ordeal, but to my relief he withdrew from his pocket, not, as I had anticipated, a pair of handcuffs, but the identical hotel licence; and he told me that he had been sent to inquire whether the hierogyphic at the foot of the document was my signature.
If every Member of Parliament, every time he signs an official document, is to have a constable in attendance to identify his handwriting, I think universal service will have to be applied to the Police Force. I do not know how many man-hours this particular constable wasted in that way, but if he had wasted one man-moment, I should have said that it was an egregious waste of the time of the police; and I speak feelingly on this subject, as one who has recently been burgled, but whose property has not been traced. I tell the Home Secretary that I would willingly run the risk of having my signature counterfeited if thereby the police could have more time in which to catch burglars and secure the return of stolen property.
I should like to say a few words on the reorganisation of the Police Force, with which in most respects I am in hearty concurrence. There is one point, however, that I should like the Home Secretary to elucidate. He has commented adversely on the fact that there are 8,000 constables—he will correct me if I am wrong—who have lost all prospect of promotion, and who have nothing to look forward to but their pensions' on account of the fact that they have failed to enter for or to pass their promotion examination. But almost in the same breath he suggested the employment of a proportion of the police on short service, who will not be eligible, I understand, for transfer to any other basis. Surely, exactly the same arguments which are brought forward with regard to those 974 8,000 constables apply to the new short-service constables. If I have the facts correct, may I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to make the rule too rigid, and to reserve to himself the right to make exceptions in the few cases where there might be constables eligible for transfer to another basis?
For the rest, I have nothing but congratulations for the Secretary of State, and particularly on the provision that candidates for the new officer grade will be exempt from any written examination if they can otherwise demonstratethat they have already reached a standard of education which makes this unnecessary.I think the Leader of the Opposition made a mistake in thinking that that selection without examination would simply be confined to the brothers-in-law of Cabinet Ministers or Peers of the Realm. I think he forgets that later in the same paragraph in the White Paper the system is also applied to recruits from within the force, who will be excused if their educational attainments are not up to what is called examination standard, whatever that may mean, but if they are otherwise suitable for higher posts. I think that answers the right hon. Gentleman's question.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
In any case, I think the whole system of examinations has been sufficiently discredited, and I hope, that other authorities in other spheres of life will follow the Home Secretary's example in this respect. Let me endeavour to bring some consolation to the mind of the Leader of the Opposition and his followers, who seem to be so disturbed at these innovations, and let me refer them to a passage in the White Paper which says that many years will elapse before the scheme in the Bill takes full effect. Surely the Labour party can derive some relief in the reflection that at some time in the course of those many years they will assume office again, and that then, under their benign rule, there will be no more need to have police or to administer this Act, but I appeal to them to allow this Measure to pass through under a National Government, till the time comes for their beneficent rule once more. At present the Labour party are almost alone in their opposition to this Bill, but not quite. They will find themselves in alliance with 975 another section of the community, not a very large one, with which this Bill is going to be thoroughly unpopular. I refer to the more enterprising and intellectual of the criminal population of these islands, whose ingenius activities will be considerably curtailed by this Bill.
In conclusion, let me say that I welcome this Measure, not because I do not hold the police in the highest esteem. On the contrary, I yield to none in my admiration for this, the most magnificient body of men in the world. It is just because I entertain so great an admiration for them, it is just because I am jealous of the unique position which they occupy among similar organisations in foreign countries, that I want to see everything done for them to meet their changed needs, and everything eliminated that in any way detracts from the splendid reputation which they have acquired by a hundred years of duty to the community, nobly and consistently performed.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
If I venture to ask the attention of the House, it is only because I have had three terms of office at the Home Office and have been brought into very close touch with the organisation of the Metropolitan Police during those periods, once as Under-Secretary of State and twice as Secretary of State. I am in fact a recidivist so far as the Home Office is concerned. My experience of the Metropolitan Police leads me in the main to the same conclusion as that which the hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan), who has just sat down, expressed in his final words, that the Police Force as a whole is highly efficient, can be regarded as uncorrupt, and is not surpassed in any other country. But that is not to say that everything is perfect and that no further improvement is possible. Certain classes of crime have been increasing of late years, and the methods of crime have been changing. We hear much of the mechanisation of industry and the mechanisation of the Army. There is also to some extent the mechanisation of crime, and the Police Forces have to be alert, up-to-date, and highly efficient to meet the new circumstances, in a society which is far more complex 976 in its organisation than our society has been hitherto.
There are many defects in the organisation of the Police Force as it is now. One of the chief defects is that when the higher ranks are filled from those who enter as constables, it takes so long a time for a man to attain his post that he no longer has, as a rule, that freshness of mind which is more than ever essential. The Home Secretary has said to-day that to reach the rank of superintendent takes as a rule from 20 to 25 years' service, and then, above that, there are the ranks of chief constable, assistant commissioner, deputy-commissioner and commissioner; and it has been found by Governments of all parties that the higher ranks have usually—in fact, almost always—to be filled from the outside, because those who have risen from below have reached a time of life and have had a somewhat limited experience, which, however efficient they may be in many respects for their own particular functions, does not really qualify them for such difficult duties as those that have to be performed by the chiefs at Scotland Yard.
Furthermore, the present organisation is unsatisfactory because so very large a proportion of the men who enter at the bottom never rise any higher than the bottom ranks. The great Majority of the constables leave the force as constables, and nothing more, and there are in the force to-day no fewer than 8,000 men, as the Secretary of State has said, who are still constables and who have no chance of any promotion above that rank, a fact which does not make really for zeal and alacrity in the performance of duties. Policemen, of course, have, as we all know, very great, qualities which we all admire and esteem. I think the Police Force of London have the esteem and the affection of the population of all classes in London. They have kindliness, helpfuiness and courage; they are called upon constantly to show resource, to deal with novel situations.
I read in the "Times" a few days ago that in Coventry Street, Piccadilly, a 10-foot python was discovered on the pavement. The nearest constable was summoned, and he promptly arrested it and took it to the police station. It does not follow that because they have these qualities further improvements now 977 are impossible. Indeed, the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member proposed the establishment of a Police College. Mr. Clynes, the then Home Secretary, prepared a scheme which was worked out in some detail. It was not proceeded with, mainly for reasons of finance. That proposal was welcomed by the Police Federation. If everything is all right and there is no need for any improvement, if we are to draw from the right hon. Gentleman's speech to-day the conclusion that any new action is unnecessary, that we get all the education and training that we may require within the Police Force as it is now, then why did he and his colleagues propose the establishment of a Police College?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
All that may be very true, but will the right hon. Gentleman out of the abundance of his knowledge tell us why this particular class of men should be brought in by competitive selection? We are in favour of anything that will help to move men up, but we are not in favour of another lot of men being spatchcocked in.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I am trying to draw a moral from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends agreed, and the Police Federation agreed, that there is need in the Police Force for a Police College in order to give a higher training to members of the police, to give them a specialised study of crime, and the prevention of crime, and the newest police methods that are in vogue in other countries of the world and in other towns, and generally to raise the level of efficiency of the force. The right hon. Gentleman agrees to that. It is an answer to a very large part of his speech, which was devoted to saying that all is well in the Police Force, that they perform their duties with the greatest efficiency, and that they have the confidence and regard of everyone, and that therefore no reform is needed. The right hon. Gentleman is in favour of some reform, however. Let us carry this a stage further. The right hon. Gentleman says that what is now proposed is anti-democratic, that to bring in people who have 978 had the advantages of the best education in the country, and who are not willing to start at the bottom of the scale and work up from constable to sergeant and to inspector, is undemocratic. It was the gist of his speech that democracy should rely for its servants upon people who come in at the bottom and rise step by step to all the different grades.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman's cheers give assent to that doctrine. On the contrary, I hold the view as a democrat, believing most deeply in the principle of democracy, that democracy should be eager to obtain its own servants wherever it can get them best. That is a principal doctrine of democracy, and that is the best means of securing an efficient democracy.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The right hon. Gentleman misses the whole point. We are in favour of any set of men coming in and going to the College and making the appointments from them, but what is proposed is that a certain number of men shall be brought in and that somebody shall judge their qualifications by some sort of competitive examination.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I do not object to the right hon. Gentleman interrupting me, but it is not really necessary to interrupt me twice to say the same thing on a point to which I was just coming. I endeavour, however unsuccessfully, to pursue a certain course of argument in the hope of being able to convInce those Members of the House who are open to conviction, and if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will pursue my argument step by step. I have, at all events, brought him a little way along to agree, first, that it is necessary to have a Police College in order to raise the standard of the training of the force, and, secondly, that we want to take men of the best education into the Police Force as constables. I am coming to that point in a second; I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I will not leave it out.
I say that it is a false idea of democracy to refrain from adopting whatever methods are practicable to get the very best talent in the service of the State. Whether this is the best way or whether another way is possible, is a point we are 979 about to discuss. The right course, I suggest, is to democratise our system of education, to give full equality of opportunity, which is what the State has been trying to do for many years past, to draw our students from all classes, and to obtain for the public service the very best persons that that system of education can produce whether from the secondary schools or the great public schools, or from the universities. That is true democracy, and the right hon. Gentleman, who has had experience in administration and in the working of the Civil Service, knows the immense value that the State obtains from the system of recruiting the higher divisions of that service. If the whole Civil Service consisted only of persons who came in is the second division, and were afterwards promoted in the course of time through efficiency to the higher posts, it would not as a whole be the marvellously effective instrument of Government that it is.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
That is, I think, the general opinion, including the opinion of very many Members who were in the Labour Administration. They found the Civil Service an admirably effective instrument for carrying out a policy, which may be good or which may be bad. It is equally at the service of Labour Ministers and Ministers of other parties. Similarly with the local authorities. A great many Members opposite have had long experience of local administration on town councils, county councils and other bodies. If all the men at the top of the various Departments of our great corporations had been required to come in at the very bottom of the public service in those municipalities, and to work up step by step and grade by grade until late in middle life they were able to become the heads of Departments, I feel certain that the process of municipalisation and municipal Socialism would not have gone so far as it has done or secured such a measure of success as has in fact been obtained.
Then comes the question—and this is the right hon. Gentleman's point—whether, if we have a police college and limit ourselves to recruiting it from those who have entered the police service at the bottom as private constables, we shall 980 really attain our object. Shall we secure a sufficient number of men with really high education who would be willing to go, not merely for one or two years as apprentices, but for a considerable period of time as constables, then as sergeants, then as inspectors, with the prospect of later becoming superintendents in order to fill the higher posts? That is the point on which I differ from the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that we should get these men in sufficient numbers, or, if we did, that we should be able to promote them sufficiently quickly to secure them their position in the highest posts before they were too advanced in years. If we did promote them in this way—that is to say, if we took young men from the public schools and universities as ordinary constables—it might create more friction and jealousy and more accusations of class favouritism than if we adopted the other course which is now suggested Admissions to the college are to be recruited from the ranks, and the college is intended to serve those in the ranks as well as the comparatively small number coming from outside, and I agree that the selection of both these classes should not have regard mainly to intellectual qualities. I am sure that that is not the intention of the Home Secretary and the Commissioner of Police. Everyone knows that what is wanted for a successful administrator of the Police Force is not merely a scholar, but a man with knowledge of the world, with a capacity to handle other men, and generally the qualities of tact, capacity, zeal, efficiency and so forth which are of great value in all walks of life, and of the greatest value in this particular one.
One point in this connection will have to be carefully safeguarded. It is that the opportunities for promotion now enjoyed by the men who are at present in the Police Force should not be prejudiced, and there are assurances to that effect in the White Paper. If the present serving policemen, the sergeants and the inspectors, who are expecting to come up in a few years to the higher ranks, were to feel that by these changes a number of younger men, of a different standard of education perhaps, were coming in from outside and that their promotion would in consequence be slackened or stopped, there would be a very serious feeling of 981 grievance through the force. That, of course, is fully realised by the Commissioner and the Home Secretary. The White Paper says:It is clearly necessary to take all proper steps to ensure that these men will not be penalised by the alteration of system …every effort will be made to safeguard the interests of those who had joined the force on the existing terms and qualify for promotion.That is a matter of the first importance, and I am sure that it will be so regarded by the authorities. As to the method of selecting those from outside, I do not know precisely what the Home Secretary has in mind, but I presume that what is meant by competitive selection is that which applies to many branches of the public service. For example, in the Home Office the factory inspecting staff, which is an admirable staff commanding the entire confidence of hon. Members opposite, is recruited by a method which I took the initiative in starting many years ago as Under-Secretary. The method is first to advertise the posts and to receive long lists of applications. A board selects the most suitable persons who have certain obvious qualifications and are not suffering from any obvious disqualifications. Then those on the shorter list have a competitive examination, and the most successful are appointed to the posts. I do not know whether that is the scheme which my right hon. Friend has in mind, but some such selection—fair selection and not favouritism or mere nomination—will no doubt be adopted in this particular case. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that this point will require extreme care in handling. There are dangers in the points that he has mentioned. There is a risk that there will be discontent in the force because of accusations of favouritism and class selection. I know that some of my hon. Friends who sit by me have serious doubts on this point, which no doubt they will express in the course of the Debate.
Another point also must be borne in mind in this matter; it is in some ways a real danger. The Police Force of London is efficient and successful because it has, in the main, the confidence and the good will of the masses of the population, and that is really its most precious asset. The people do not regard the police as an antagonistic force, they are all friends together, and I would even 982 go so far as to say that, with some exceptions, that observation applies even to the criminal class. They bear the police no ill will, and the police bear them no animosity. There are, it is true, some bad men of an extremely violent and cruel character among criminals, who have to be run down like wild animals; but there are few of them. The mass of the criminal population commit offences against property, and very seldom offences against the person, and the police do not bear any grave ill will against them. The old criminal who has been in prison several times is well known to many members of the Police Force, who usually call him by his Christian name, and from them again, there is no violent hostility. We have not any class in England like the gangsters of Chicago or New York, and that is partly because our penal law is so much more scientifically framed and more humane, and partly because of the way in which the police themselves handle these classes. I think it may be true to say that every Police Force has the criminal it deserves.
It is of the utmost importance that this state of things should not be imperilled, and if this Measure were to be in any degree a Measure for the militarisation of the Police Force I agree that it should be most strongly condemned in this House and by public opinion; but I do not believe it is. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, after saying that the Police Force was becoming more and more militarised year by year, and that it was very wrong to appoint one soldier after another as Commissioner, remarked incidentally that when Lord Byng retired—and he was a soldier if ever there was one, a field-marshal—the federation expressed their utmost good will for him. They were, to use the right hon. Gentleman's own words, on good terms with each other.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Oh. I am sure my right hon. Friend does not really and seriously think that during Lord Byng's term of office the Police Force was in any degree converted into a military body, or even tended that way.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Lord Byng was Commissioner for several years, and if it were going on progressively, if it was getting worse and worse, it must have been going on during his régime.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
But when he retired, the federation expressed their appreciation of his services, and they were all on good terms. As students of our history know, very much the same statements were made when the Metropolitan Police Force was first established by Sir Robert Peel in 1829. Before that time there was no police force. It is for that reason that every evening now, when the House rises, the police throughout the building call out: "Who goes home?" Members used to band themselves together for fear of the footpads who, centuries ago, used to assail them on their way to their homes. When Peel proposed to replace the old watchmen by a disciplined, centralised force, directly under the Government, large sections of the people were up in arms against it. The new police, as they were called, were intensely unpopular. The creation of the force was regarded as a measure of militarisation, and it was to meet that criticism that Peel attired his policemen in white trousers, tail coats, top hats and whiskers—in order that they should, in the eyes of the public, not in any way have the appearance of a military force. In those days there might have been some ground for those who were jealous of popular liberty objecting to the creation of a force of this kind, because that was before the days of the great Reform Bill, when the Government of the country was a class Government. But now that the situation is different, and it is not necessary to defend the liberties of the people by popular upheavals—the defence of liberty is in the vote and not in the riot-I, for my part, regard this accusation of militarisation as nothing more than nonsense. There is no foundation for it whatsoever, and I feel convInced that when these measures have been carried into force, it will remain the wholly civilian force in form and in spirit which it has always been, and I believe the country will insist that it always shall be.
984 I wish, briefly, to touch on some particular points in this Bill. First, there is the introduction of short service. There, again, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there are dangers, and it may be there are disadvantages, and we have to strike a balance between the disadvantages that may perhaps attach to the system of introducing 5,600 men with short service and the disadvantages that attach to the present system. Because there are grave disadvantages in the present system, as the Commissioner points out in his report and as is indicated in the White Paper. First, there are the long, long years of routine in which a man does nothing or very little else than patrol the streets—a somewhat deadening employment if it is continued over the whole of a man's public service. By the introduction of short service that will be to a great extent mitigated. Secondly, if there is short service for a large part of the force, it gives a much better opportunity for promotion for all the rest of the force. That is one of the main reasons for introducing this system. Thirdly, the present system is exceedingly costly. We employ numbers of men for 20 or 30 years, doing this comparatively simple work of patrolling the streets, with no chance of promotion, and at the end they retire, when they are not very old, and they get a very considerable pension. It is anticipated that the new system will save the State, without any loss of efficiency, a sum of about £500,000 a year by it not being necessary to pension these people off at the end of a long period of routine service.
Then it is said that we shall be throwing men upon the streets, that it will become a blind-alley occupation. I do not think it will. I think that for men of good character and good physique, who have had the training of the Metropolitan policeman for 10 years, and who leave the force with a recommendation, there will be abundant opportunities for employment in all sorts of occupations. In any case, it seems to me that this is an experiment which might properly be made. If it is found that the disadvantages which are forecast do, in fact, occur, and that on balance it is not a success, why, then, the experiment can be stopped. There is nothing permanent. Power is taken to introduce 985 this by legislation, but there is no legislation which would necessarily perpetuate it.
With regard to the relations of the authorities with the Federation, I would like to take this opportunity of bEarlng testimony in this House to the good service which is rendered by the Police Federation, it performs a most useful function in the State, and it has received, and it ought to receive, from the Home Office a full measure of consideration and good-will with recognition of the difficulties which the officials of the Federation have sometimes to face in bringing their own rank and file to a reasonable frame of mind. I think the Federation ought to welcome the excision of any abuses that may have arisen in the course of time, particularly the excessive numbers of committee meetings and other meetings attended by large numbers of officers, taking place at short intervals, and all of them in police time, every hour spent by every one of those officers paid for from the rates and taxes. Undoubtedly abuses have crept in there, and the Federation ought to be glad if some outside authority intervenes and alters a system which they might find it somewhat difficult themselves to reform. Another really grave abuse is the fact that a custom has grown up in London, though nowhere else, of the police being employed on police work out of police hours for their own private profit. That, clearly, is not right. If they are employed on 'overtime they ought to be paid for overtime, but any sums that are received from the individuals on whose behalf they are employed ought undoubtedly to go into the public purse, for these men are being employed on professional duties for which they are engaged by the State.
FiNaily, let me say this. I believe that this Measure may be open on some points to consideration on the Committee stage, and that it will have to be very carefully watched in its operation, but, on the whole, I believe it will increase the efficiency and the success in working of the Metropolitan Police Force, and that is really what is the policeman's own chief interest. The policeman who goes in as a young man and spends practically the whole of his working life in this force, until, in middle age, he reaches the time of retirement, devotes 986 his whole working life to an organisation which is becoming less a force than a profession. It is his highest interest that that force shall be thoroughly efficient and successful, respected by the whole population and esteemed by the nation to which it belongs, a force, a profession, in which he can take a full pride and satisfaction. So far as this Bill conduces to that end, so far it serves what is, really, the highest interest of the men in the rank and file.
The right hon. Gentleman and others—I do not think he said it to-day—have spoken of a tendency in some countries in Europe to introduce Fascism as a substitute for Democracy, and it has even been suggested in connection with this Measure that the Police Force might be perverted to be the instrument of some form of despotism. The real test of Democracy is in its efficiency. Even though measures may have to be taken from time to time which are unpopular with certain sections, unwelcomed by certain classes, the real test of Democracy is whether a Democratic Parliament and a Democratic Government are willing to take those measures in order to make the system of government work, and work successfully. If we are ready to face some measure of unpopularity, now and then and here and there, in order to secure efficient public service, our Democracy will be a success; if not, it will be a failure, and it is because Democracies have been a failure in their working that they have been superseded by other systems of government. And so I draw the conclusion that it is in the best interest of the State, and the best interest of a democratic State, that we should support the reforms proposed in this Bill.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I am not going to follow the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who has had great experience in the office of Home Secretary. My own experience in that Department has been of much shorter duration. I want, however, to make one or two criticisms on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and his comments on the Leader of the Opposition. In doing so I wish to bring the House back to the problem of choosing the officer class of the Metropolitan Police Force when persons who 987 have passed through public schools and universities are admitted into the force. The right hon. Gentleman will see at once that there is no university in the land that concentrates upon training young persons in the task of being a policeman. If there were classes in the universities of this country to train young men in the art of detecting crime and pursuing criminals, there would, without doubt, be some reason for the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman; but I do not know of any such classes yet. There would be some point if the Government initiated that kind of work, and commenced to train young men in that way, instead of doing what they are proposing to do in this Bill.
Let me carry the point a little further. Suppose that a young man of keen intelligence in a police force shows himself competent in every respect, that another young man from a university comes along who is a Batchelor of Science or a Batchelor of Arts, and that both apply for the same high post. I venture to say that a board who had to select one of those persons for a position in the superior class of officers in the Metropolitan Police would automatically come down in favour of the one who had been university trained, although he had less qualification in police work, rather than in favour of the excellent policeman with no university training at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] That appertains in every other walk of life. The people who will choose officers for the Metropolitan Police under this scheme are no different from those who choose officials in other walks of life. The right hon. Gentleman was surely wrong when he argued that because other branches of the Civil Service attract persons who have passed through the universities that the same must apply with regard to the police. Every Member in this House wants a more intelligent Police Force as the years go by. That is taken for granted. It is not true, however, that the Civil Service always attract young men who are trained outside the Civil Service. An illustration was brought before this House the other day of young men trained to be accountants outside the Civil Service and who have no chance whatever of entering the Civil Service at any point as accountants. It is therefore not true to say that in every other 988 branch of the Civil Service young men who have been trained outside are admitted because it is desired to absorb the best brains of the community in the Civil Service.
I have a fear that these proposals will tamper with the most delicate instrument in the administration of the civic affairs of the Metropolis. Let us beware lest we undo the good work of a century by a single stroke. A change, and a change for the better, are two different things. I am absolutely certain, with the little knowledge that I possess of the Police Force, that the changes which are now proposed will not be changes for the better. The proper thing to do in discussing these proposals is to ask ourselves what are the functions of a police force. A police system is devised primarily to prevent crime and to pursue criminals. That is the common function of the police forces throughout the world. A police force can, however, be used for other purposes, too. It is employed, of course, to regulate public order, and to enforce good government; and in doing this it has on occasions become an engine of repression. Let me tell the Home Secretary why we are very suspicious of these proposals.
Some of my hon. Friends and myself can recall the days of the Tonypandy riots. What was the force that was sent there? It was not the Police Force of Gloucestershire or of Bristol; it was the Metropolitan Police who went down to Tonypandy to deal with the situation there. The right hon. Gentleman has not said very much to-day on that aspect of police work; but some of us are satisfied that there is more behind this Measure than the Government are willing to admit. We are suspicious of these proposals. We are asked, in effect, to say that the present Metropolitan Police Force is an inefficient instrument to deal with crime and public order. I was a little astonished at the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I do not know whether this non-committal attitude is typical of the Liberal party. First of alt he said, "The Police Force is efficient and competent in every respect," and then he proceeded to support these proposals. No hon. Member can honestly say that the present Metropolitan Police Force is efficient and competent, and support these proposals at the same time.
989 What is the test of the efficiency and competency of this Police Force? I should have thought that the test was: Is crime increasing in the Metropolis? Is not that a/good test? I will quote the statistics of the Commissioner of Police himself and use his figures for my answer. It is amazing that we are asked to adopt these proposals to-day, as if crime were growing in London by leaps and bounds, and as though it were almost dangerous for men and women to walk the streets. That is the sort of fear that animates the Government. Let us see what the Commissioner himself has said. On page 53 of his report for the year 1932, he points out that the number of persons arrested for all offences during 1928 was 58,477, and that in 1932 the figure had dwindled to 47,782; there was a decline in the period from 1928 to 1932, of persons arrested for all offences in the Metropolis, of about 10,000, in spite of the fact that the population had, in the meantime, grown by 500,000. I completely fail to understand, therefore, how it comes about that we are asked to adopt these proposals. I should have thought that the test of the competency and efficiency of the Police Force would have been measured very largely by the number of persons committing crimes among us.
If hon. Gentlemen will look at the records, they will find that it was stated on authority, nearly a century ago, that one out of every 22 of the population of London was a criminal. That is far from true to-day. It may be stated with truth that the population of the Metropolis— and it is also the case throughout the country—have improved in their behaviour year by year, as the statistics will show. In order to prove my case let me repeat a statement that has been made several times. The right hon. Gentleman will know that the greatest crime that man can commit against his fellow is to kill him. Strange to say, the number of murder cases in this country has remained stationary, while the population has more than doubled. It is not correct, therefore, to argue from these figures that the police force is inefficient and that criminal statistics lend colour to that argument. Take the case of drunkenness—I am still arguing the point that criminal statistics do not warrant the violent changes that the House is asked 990 to pass to-day—and drunkenness with aggravation. Cases of this kind declined in number in the Metropolis from 32,688 in 1922 to 13,762 in 1932, a decline of about 28,000 in. 10 years.
I wish now to make one or two observations upon the Blue Book issued by the Commissioner. He says on page 9 that it is a somewhat remarkable fact that about 99 per cent. of constables who fail to secure promotion, or never try for it, leave the force as soon as they have sufficient service to their credit to receive a good pension. Just imagine: The Commissioner of Police is complaining that 99 per cent. of the members of the police force leave it merely because they have a pension for life. Surely that is not peculiar to the police force. I should think that that would apply in any walk of life. Municipal employes all over this country fall into exactly the same category, and so do workpeople covered by superannuation schemes, and every group of people in professions and in ordinary occupations too.
We would not, of course, do anything to prevent the educational development of the police. Let me bring this point to the notice of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. We are in favour of the establishment of a college to train our police forces. Once a young man joins a police force he ought to have the opportunity of training himself and of enlarging his knowledge, in order better to fit him for his job. We say very definitely, however, that in the test for the post of a superior offier, as between the university man brought into the Police Force and, on the other hand, the best-qualified constable who has passed through the Police College, the tendency will always be to appoint the university graduate rather than the constable.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I think that it is inevitable. There will be so much prejudice in the minds of those persons who will have such an appointment in their hands, that it is no use asking the reason why, or giving that reason. That has always happened, and always will happen; and all the public services are 'alike in that respect. It is argued, in effect, by these proposals, that you cannot possibly secure a commissioner, an assistant-commissioner 991 or a superintendent unless you have recourse to the universities. The same statement used to be made in the coalmining industry. There was a time when this very tendency prevailed in the coal industry, but, as a matter of fact, nearly every person who wants to become a general manager of a coal mine must now, first of all, pass through most of the stages underground before he can qualify. Under the law of the land you cannot today bring a master of arts from a university to be a colliery manager. I should have imagined that the best way to proceed in this case would have been to train your own men from the bottom, to give them a police college education, and to promote them as opportunity occurred.
Nothing has been said in this Debate about the evil effects of the economies inflicted by the Government upon the Police Force. I do not know whether it is commonly understood that there has only been an increase of, if I remember rightly, about 87 in the number of constables in the Metropolis Since 1923, and that number includes the women police as well. I feel sure that the economy proposals of the Government have had a great deal to do with what Lord Trenchard calls inefficieny and lack of skill. He points out in one or two paragraphs of his report that a man in a very high office has only one clerk. Surely, if an officer in the Police Force requires an additional clerk, we do not need this Bill to remedy that deficiency. Further, complaint is made about the number of meetings of the federation. I will tell the House what is behind this Bill in part, so far as the federation is concerned. I am afraid that I am partly responsible for the attack on the federation. The Police Federation called a meeting in the Free Trade Hall at Manchester some time ago. Wisely or unwisely, they asked me to speak, and, of course, I told the meeting what I thought of this Government. There was a good Conservative Member of Parliament on the platform as well, but that did not matter; they asked me, a Labour man, to speak, and that has bothered the Government and the police authorities ever Since. If I had not been there, I suppose there would have been no attack on the federation.
992 We claim that the proposals of the Government are definitely intended to divide this force into two categories, and it seems to me to be inevitable that, once persons are admitted into the Police Force who have passed through the universities, hardly any ordinary constable will ever again qualify for the higher ranks in the Service. I think that that will follow without any doubt. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary if he can explain how the Police Force are going to recruit young men from the secondary schools, as is suggested in the White Paper. I thought that young men left the secondary schools at 16 or 18 years of age. I believe, indeed, that some leave earlier; some matriculate now at 16 years of age. The Police Force, however, will not admit a young man under 21 years of age, and I should like to know, therefore, what these young men are going to do in the meantime. Are they going to be recruited direct from the secondary schools into the offices at, say, Scotland Yard, and then transferred into the Police Force at 21 Will the right hon. Gentleman also tell us whether the Government Actuary was consulted before a decision was reached to allow these short-service, ten-year men to be brought within the National Health Insurance and pension schemes? There is nothing here to show that the Government Actuary has had a hand in this business, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us why.
The Home Secretary was, I think, very much offended when the Leader of the Opposition quoted what Lord. Trenchard had said about the Metropolitan Police Force. His Lordship has been very frank in telling the public what he thinks about the Police Force; may I say, with due deference, what I think of him? He was brought up in the Army, and was colonel of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He was a distinguished member of the Bushmen Corps in South Africa, and afterwards he became an air-marshal. In 1931, of course, he became Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. The most remarkable thing of all, to my mind, about this gentleman, is that, while he complains bitterly in this document that there are men still in the Metropolitan Police Force at 60 years of age, he joined the Metropolitan Police Force at 58 himself.
993 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen seemed to quarrel with our assertion that the Metropolitan Police Force has been militarised. Surely, the argument is that a gentleman has been placed in charge of the Metropolitan Police Force as Commissioner who has not been a policeman, but who has been a soldier. Let me ask any hon. Gentleman here to reverse the order for a moment. What Government would ever appoint a chief constable to be a field-marshal? [HON. MEMBERS: "The Russian Government."] The Russians would have more sense than that. I think it may be taken for granted that the police authorities have for some time past been looking for ways and means of stiffening the discipline of the police forces. This is not the only Police Force that is commanded by an ex-military officer. There has been a tendency, not only in London but in the provInces, to my own personal knowledge, for ex-Army officers to be given posts as chief constables.
It is said that it is almost impossible to produce a chief constable or commissioner of police from among the constables in this country, but let me give a case to the contrary. At the moment the Chief Constable of Manchester, which has one of the largest police forces in the provInces, is an ex-coal miner. I believe he is a Scotsman, and, of course, that is an advantage; if he were a Welshman he would be more efficient still. I think that those who know something about police administration will agree that there are chief constables in this country who- have once been ordinary workmen, who joined the Police Force, and who are more efficient as chief constables than some of the ex-Army officers who are given similar posts in other parts of the country. I think, therefore, that we can rightfully support the Amendment which has been moved so eloquently by the Leader of the Opposition.
We are opposed to this Bill on two or three grounds. In the first place, it has not been proved that crime is on the increase in the Metropolis, and that, in my view, ought to be the fundamental test as to the necessity for this change. It is said, of course, that the tactics of the criminal have changed, but something else has changed too. I think there is too much heroism about crime 994 in this country, as painted by persons who write for the Press and who tell lurid stories about criminals. I should imagine that the smaller the amount of crime that is committed in any country, the greater the noise there is in the Press about it. I am almost sure that that is the case. We are opposed to the Bill also because we are satisfied that the Government have a notion that there are subversive political forces in the Metropolis, and they want to be ready to pounce upon them when the occasion occurs. I should imagine, incidentally, that, if these short-service 10-year men, after being trained in the police force, fail to get a job, they will probably join the Fascist party or the Imperial Legion. They will probably be fitted for that sort of occupation later on. Moreover, we are opposed to the Bill in principle because it means that there will be less chance even than there is now for the ordinary constable without university training to reach any of the top grades in the Service. For all these reasons, while we are as anxious for order and good government as the Members of any other party, we are very anxious also that nothing shall be done to this Police Force which will militate against its good will towards the community and the good will of the community towards the force itself.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander BOWER
I speak as one having a slight knowledge of the Police Force, in that I am myself the son of one who was for 30 years one of those wicked military officers in command of a county police force, on two occasions I very nearly became a county chief constable, and I have devoted a certain amount of study to police problems. The attitude of the Opposition this evening seems to me to be full of contradictions. Indeed, there are so many contradictions that they more or less cancel each other out. It appears to me, in the first place, that these proposals will have the eventual effect of enabling the Police Force to be ruled and governed by police officers, and not by the Army officers to whom the Opposition object so much, and, therefore, I cannot see why, from that angle, they should oppose these proposals. Again, they appear to think that everything that this Government does is 995 wrong. The education policy of the Government is wrong, the Army is all wrong, the Navy is all wrong, the Air Force is all wrong, but, thank Heaven, the Police Force is all right and does not need changing, although it has hardly been changed for 100 years. That also seems to me to be very inconsistent.
I feel, however, that in this matter the Opposition are a little unkind to the idea of an officer class. As a member of that officer class myself—and there are a great many of us in this House—I do not think we are such a bad lot of fellows after all. Some of us have quite good qualities, and I really think that in our own line, in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, we have played our part in the building up and maintenance of those great Forces. In fact, I would go so far as to say that those Forces could not have gone on without us. The same applies in a minor degree to the police.
There is, of course, a fundamental difference between the police and the armed forces of the Crown, and I, for one, am just as strenuously opposed to militarising the Police Force as anyone on the Opposition benches; but I see nothing in these proposals in the direction of militarisation. On the contrary, I think they go in the other direction. At the same time, one has to remember that the police, with all the vast complexity of their duties in these days, must be a disciplined force, and I would go so far as to say that the system of discipline which has been worked out for centuries in the armed forces must be the basis of discipline in the Police Force, although, of course, not carried to anything like the extremes to which it is carried in the Services. In this connection I would point out that even discipline in the Services has altered very much in the last few years, and, to my mind, it has altered in the direction of the desirable state of discipline which should exist in every police force. We have aimed, particularly after the lessons that we learned in the War, at developing a kind of common background among the members of every force, so that all these men, with their differing temperaments and differing capabilities will, if faced with a given set of circumstances, act in approximately the same way; and 996 that, I think, should be the basis of discipline in a police force.
The policeman is, after all, fundamentally a civilian, and, as hon. Members in all parts of the House have said, the real basis of the confidence which exists between the public and the Police Forces of this country is a basis of fellow-feeling and absence of ill will between the criminal class and the Police Forces. For this reason I welcome very much the idea of the Police College, and I wish it could be extended to the county and borough forces, at any rate, perhaps, to a limited extent. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that step because, when all is said and done, with modern methods of transport, when both the police and criminals get about so quickly from one area to another, it is essential that you should have this common doctrine permeating all the Police Forces of the country. There are many other anomalies which, I hope, will be ironed out in the near future in the way of small borough constabularies.
With regard to the proposal to bring in young men from outside, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) that, if we are to get the best people, we must take them from where we can get them, and it is by no means certain that the avenue through the ranks, starting right from the bottom and working up through years of routine service, is the best way to get to the top. There is no doubt that for a great many men this avenue holds out very little chance of advancement, but I hope that these proposals, when they are formulated in detail, will see that every young man of real ability, character and personality suited for high rank in the Police Force—I do not say necessarily educational attainments—who enters through the ranks of the constabulary will have a first-class chance of competing with those who come in from outside and getting to a higher rank. There is no doubt that, speaking generally, the educational system of the country in this respect has rather failed in that many of the lower ranks of the Police Force have not the necessary attainments to fill these highers posts. We are spending a lot of money on education, and that fact has to be faced. Therefore, I think the only thing to do is to take in young men from secondary schools, grammar schools, 997 public schools and the universities. I really think it most inconsistent of hon. Members above the Gangway to maintain that it is unfair to bring in these young men from the secondary schools.
In the town where I live there is the oldest established grammar school in the country where there are very many young men of working-class parents who have given their children the best education they could afford, and it is a very good school. I went there last summer to distribute prizes, and the headmaster said to me: "For goodness sake give these young men a line of country and tell them what to do, because we are turning them out by the dozen and there are no jobs for them, and they are apt to be too particular about the jobs they get." I advised them to join the Police Force if they could get in, because it has been apparent to anyone who knows the Police Force that some reform of this character was coming in the near future. For years I have regarded the Police Force as a very good avenue to good jobs and wonderful careers for young men of any class. For a son of mine I should not mind whether he joined as a constable or went in from a secondary or public school as long as he got in and had a good chance of getting to the top. But the success of this scheme will rest with those who start at the bottom, who have the necessary ability, being given an equal chance with those who come from the public schools. I do not agree for a moment that those from the public and secondary schools will always be regarded first. I do not believe that that sort of graft really goes on, although I know it is a very common suspicion that people of our party are trying to use the Police Force as an instrument of the class war—that is the usual Socialist jargon. I believe that is all nonsense, and all sane and sensible people will regard it as nonsense. At any rate, I have far too great a regard for Parliament and the police, and our whole constitutional system of Government to think that that sort of thing would go on to any extent, though we all know that it goes on to a minor extent in certain councils which have Labour Majorities, but even there I think it is sometimes exaggerated.
998 With regard to the Federation, we in the Army and the Navy have had certain troubles of the same description as those which have arisen in the Police Federation. I do not think they are very serious, but I do think that, in the interests of the men themselves, abuses of that sort should not be tolerated. The Federation was set up to deal with certain questions, but I do not believe it was ever intended for the ventilation of extreme sentiments or of differences of opinions on the policy of the Government. We have somewhat analogous bodies in the Navy—the welfare committees. Their functions are strictly limited. But, with a so-called officer class set up in the Police Force, the police will have the help and advice of these officers and, although I have heard hon. Members above the Gangway rather scoffing at the idea, there is no doubt that in the fighting services that help and co-operation on the part of officers in stating their grievances and seeing that the men get justice is highly valued and much made use of. I deprecate any idea that the so-called officer class need be at loggerheads with the men. It does not obtain in the other Services, and I see no reason why it should obtain in the police service.
I hope that the police themselves will realise that these reforms are all to their own advantage. As far as promotion goes, the short-service system which is to be given a trial will mean that there will be fewer long-service constables and, therefore, the chances of promotion will be greater. That alone is a step forward. I regard the short-service system as being purely experimental. Until it has been tried, I do not think we can really pass an accurate judgment. But these men, after 10 years of police service, will be certain, provided their character has been good, of obtaining remunerative employment. I have never yet known an ex-policeman fail to get remunerative employment, and I do not see why they should fail in this case. Taking it all in all, I think these reforms will be most valuable, and the arguments that have been put up against them are based on a false idea of undemocratic class prejudice which will not be accepted by the Majority of people either in the Metropolitan Police Force or outside it.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I support the Amendment for reasons similar to those placed before the House by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think anything has been said Since which has answered the case that he put up. Certainly the Home Secretary presented the Measure to the House in that very sketchy manner of which he is such a master and which usually, I must admit, achieves the end desired, but adds very little to the knowledge in possession of the House. This Bill, in particular, is one on which, I think, we are entitled to fairly full information, because the important things that it is devised to do are not in the Bill. The really important things are all to be done altogether outside the scope of the Measure. I wish the right hon. Gentleman had taken the House a little more into his confidence and told us precisely how this college was going to be run, what was the nature of the entrance examination, what were the subjects in which the candidates were to be tested, what was the course of study they were to pursue when they entered into their college training, what period of time the training was to last, and what were the ideas that were to be put into the minds of the students there as to the general purposes and functions of a Police Force. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken against the existence of the class struggle wants a disciplined force, and other speakers have insisted that the police must be a disciplined force, and they draw parallels with the Army and the Navy. I think that lies right at the very root of this business, because the police are not wanted as a disciplined force in the Army, Navy and Air Force sense, unless they are to be used in mass.
§ Lieut.-Commander BOWER
The point that I wished to make was not that a military discipline was required, but that the Army, Navy and Air Force had centuries of experience of discipline between them, and that a police force which was required to move together and to work together required discipline, and the best place to learn it from was the armed forces of the Crown.
§ Mr. MAXTON
There is a discipline in the learned professions. There is a discipline in the medical profession, the legal profession and the teaching pro- 1000 fession, but it is not a discipline where one man snaps out an order and 100 jump to attention. It is a discipline in which every man knows the principles that govern his profession and applies them as his own intelligence guides him in the particular circumstances that he has to confront. Normally the policeman does his work as an individual. It is only when he comes to deal with masses that he acts as part of a disciplined force. When we hear all this talk about discipline, we are bound to be driven to the conclusion that the Home Secretary, and those supporting this Measure, are thinking of the police in different terms from those in which the population has ordinarily come to regard the police; that they are thinking of a force not of individuals carrying out individual duties, namely, as against individuals, or in support of individuals, but as a corps of disciplined people who will act against any large section of the population who may show discontent in one direction or another.
A whole lot of this desire for special recruitment of educated people, I feel, has not been founded on a real study of the problem. It has not been arrived at after a study of the criminal statistics. I think it arises through a prevailing social entertainment throughout this country in recent years which affects every Member of this House, including the Home Secretary—that of reading detective stories. This sort of thing gets its inspiration from Edgar Wallace where the smart young fellow, who knows how to wear a dress suit, and handle a fork and knife, walks into a West End restaurant, with a lady who is equally well dressed, and who, when he sits down at table with his cigar, is indistinguishable from the gentlemen in the place. He overhears a plot that the gangsters are arranging at the next table and telephones to the policeman on the beat, who arrests them when they come out at the door. That is good enough in fiction, but I am surprised at the Home Secretary. It is from Edgar Wallace that he gets his inspiration.
The hon. Members who have been sent here by the ancient universities do not, in any view, display a superior capacity for tackling day-to-day problems which confront the House, or its various Com- 1001 mittees. This passionate belief that you get a superior person because he has been educated in a more expensive way than the other fellow is quite fallacious, and it seems to me that perhaps those who support it are lacking a little in good taste when they are sitting in this House under the leadership of the Prime Minister, who has presumably risen to a higher place in the State than even the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police. They are supporting a Government in which one of the most distinguished figures is the Dominion Secretary. But they are coming to us here and saying, "You may get the one and only Prime Minister, you may get a very exceptional Dominion Secretary, without calling in the ancient universities to educate them, but, when you come to a lieutenant of police, then we are treading on different paths altogether. That, indeed, requires a high order of intelligence; that requires scientific knowledge; that requires that intangible and imponderable something which only the ancient universities can give. Is not that awful bunkum?
That is what the Home Secretary is asking us to vote for, and that is what the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken supports. I am prepared to agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the men who are carrying out these important duties should have a good education. Lord Trenchard, in his report, says that 35 per cent. of the recruits to the Metropolitan Polios have at least a secondary education. There is to be further specialisation in the police college. Good! Every one of this 35 per cent. is capable of taking advantage of additional training, even supposing he is going to be only an ordinary policeman on the beat. I do not subscribe for one minute to Lord Trenchard's view that a man in any walk of life who is not expecting promotion, or is not working for promotion, is not going to throw himself into his day-to-day job with enthusiasm and keenness. Nor am I going to accept the view that he is an inferior creature. Is there any private Member in this House who regards himself as an inferior creature to the people who sit on the Front Benches? They have had promotion, but does any one of us think they are there because they have superior qualities to ours.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I want hon. and right hon. Gentleman to notice the response of the House. There was no hon. Member prepared to admit their superiority, and one hon. Member dared to describe them as distinctly inferior.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The big proportion of us here do our day-to-day job honestly and genuinely. Then we come to the age question. I have many differences at the present juncture with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. He is not a boy, but for energy, enthusiasm, zeal and assiduity, the right hon. Gentleman compares very favourably with many of the languid young men of 24 who have wandered in from the ancient universities.
When examined on ordinary common sense ground, the Bill presents no justification for its presentation at all. It has to be noticed that this is to cost money. This is an economy Government that has pared in every direction during this Parliament, and has deemed it necessary to take steps which jeopardise even the old age pensions of the unemployed man; which has said that the straits the nation is in are so severe that we cannot afford to pay maternity benefit to the wives of men unemployed for a certain period; that has said that the widows and orphans of unemployed men, after a certain period, cannot take pensions because the national situation is so difficult. But the same economy Government, which has pared down the incomes of the poorest and most unfortunate section of the community, can find money to provide a special officer class for a Police Force against whose efficiency and conduct, up to now, no serious charge can be brought. I think we are entitled to say that his Bill is brought here for reasons ulterior to those in the Bill, and to those that are in the Trenchard report, or those stated by the Home Secretary to-day.
The clause dealing with the federation seems to me to be additional proof of the fact that there is a class bias involved. Why should not the chief of the force be in the same professional organisation as the constable? Why cannot they mix and meet on common grounds? You can do that in the Law. The Lord Chief Justice 1003 and the junior barrister are members of one guild. You can do it in medicine. The chief of the medical profession is in the same professional organisation as the new graduate from the university. You have it in politics. The Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Council, the Leaders of the parties are in the same professional guild-in the same guild as the man who walks on to the Floor of the House from an election. Does anyone lose dignity or authority by day-to-day association? Only if he is an inferior man. The men who have real qualities of command get the respect from their fellows that their qualities claim. The do not have to be shut off in a separate, exclusive place of their own. This segregation is a definite indication that you want a group of men at the top so tied to the ruling powers in the land that they will issue instructions to a force as a force, and not give guidance, advice and inspiration to the individual members. They will issue instructions to a force which has been so trained and disciplined—as one hon. Member put it—that their response to that command will be automatic rather than the conscious response of men who have applied their reason to the thing they are asked to do.
Therefore, I oppose the Bill, first because I believe that it is unnecessary at the present time; secondly, because it involves an expense upon the community which the Government say they have not been able to afford in matters much more urgent and necessary than this; and, thirdly, because it is just another bit of the mettle of which we saw an example yesterday. Yesterday the Government were engaged in legislation which aimed at weakening the position of the working classes, and to-day they are putting forward legislation which aims at strengthening the wealthy classes of the community. I want to say a word to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), the ex-Home Secretary. These fellows who have been in the job tend to get the police mind very quickly. When the Home Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen were speaking, I could not keep out of my mind the memory of that Gilbertian character in the "Yeoman Of the Guard," Wilfrid Shadbolt, the Chief gaoler and assistant tormentor. 1004 How they love to turn the key, and with what joy they put out the lamp and lock the door of the prison. Both the Home Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen seem to revel in the duties of that office.
I want the friends of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen to ask him if it is really the view of the Liberal party that the test of democracy is efficiency. If that is true, and if it is accepted, every Liberal theory of the past is wiped out, because Liberalism meant that individual liberty was such a priceless thing that it must be preserved at all costs, even if there was some loss of efficiency in the maintenance of liberty. Liberty was so dear, and if the Liberal party are throwing that away now and saying, "Efficiency," they are on the straight road to autocracy and dictatorship. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] A Liberal Member below the Gangway says "Why not?" A great many of us realise that that state of mind is fairly prevalent in this land to-day. It is the idea that democracy has failed; liberty can be maintained at too expensive a price. I am looking for a great, strong man. I have looked for him for a long time. I have looked for the great, strong man who knows more than all the rest of us, who thinks better than all the rest of us, and who has clear and definite ideas as to how to take us out of our difficulties to-day. He is the man the hon. Member down there is looking for, and he does not know him now. It is because we know that that mind is abroad that we regard a Measure such as this which, read superficially and casually, seems to be the very trivial changing of some of the minor relationships of the Police Force, with the most profound suspicion as being an attempt in the truly British way to proceed from the methods of political democracy to the methods of Capttalistic dictatorship.
I learnt a very long time ago that it was some business to resist the beginnings of evil rather than to wait until the evil was flourishing big and strong. Every Member in this House who really believes that a group of men, pooling their minds and their brains freely together by methods of reason rather than by methods of force, and by methods of liberty rather than by methods of suppression, and take this country through its difficulties into a newer and 1005 better type of social order, will reject this Measure and say, "We do not need it." With forces of this kind in this country, we believe that the common sense of the population will enable Us to solve the problems which confront us.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Sir GERVALS RENTOUL
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) facetiously suggested that the Home Secretary and those who were supporting the Bill were suffering from what he called "the Edgar Wallace complex," but I cannot help feeling that he does not escape the same tendency when he insists upon declining to consider these proposals on their face value or to discuss them on their merits, but insists in seeing only some dark and deep laid plot on the part of the Government, or the Capttalist classes, to exploit and crush the workers in the country. No doubt he Sincerely holds that view, but I do not think that it is a view which will commend itself to more than a very few people in this House, or to more than a handful of commonsense people outside these walls. He suggested also that the Police Force has no necessity to be a disciplined force in the same way as the Army and the Navy, and with that proposition we would all agree. But does he admit that a certain degree of discipline is essential in a body which is called upon to perform the kind of duties which the Metropolitan Police Force has to carry out? We all know that one of their most important tasks is the controlling of vast but not criminal crowds of people who gather from time to time in various parts of London for different purposes.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
I admit that they have done it remarkably well, and they have done it because they have been up to now a disciplined force. I understand that part of the criticism which is aimed against these proposals is that they are going to preserve that discipline and to make the Police Force more efficient in that direction. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. E. Davies), who, I regret to say, is not in his place, made a great point—because he repeated his arguments three or four times—of the suggestion that, with regard to the selec- 1006 tion of candidates for the Police Force, if there was an energetic and enthusiastic young police constable whose name had been put forward to the Board of Selection for admission to the Police College, and if, on the other hand, there was a university graduate, or some man of that stamp, there was no question about it that the latter would get the preference. He said that that really did not admit of argument. If he holds that view, he must also imply that the Selection Board will disregard the specific instructions which will be given to them, because it is distinctly laid down in the White Paper thatAll candidates will appear before a Selection Board which will examine their past records and assess their qualifications, and in all selections, whether from the force or from outside, weight will be given not only to educational qualifications, but to the other attributes of a good police officer.Presumably, if there is an energetic young police constable whose name has been recommended for selection, it will be because, in the opinion of someone, he has shown some of the attributes, at all events, of a good police officer, and consequently, if the Selection Board disregard those qualifications, they will be flying in the face of the very specific and definite instructions which they have been given. Incidentally, I would point out, in view of certain suggestions which have been made, that an important part of the training of every young man, whether he is entering the Police College from the ranks or from outside, from the secondary school, university or anywhere else, will include a period of work as a uniformed constable. That is also laid down. It means that in every case, no matter from where the candidate comes, he will have to undergo a period of service, which, I agree, is undefined, as a uniformed police constable. Therefore, there is obviously no idea of pushing men into the higher positions of the force without giving them that training in the ranks which is an important part of the experience which they will require.
It is very easy for hon. Members opposite, and the hon. Member for Westhoughton, to import prejudice and say that they view it with deep suspicion. Where is the evidence that anything of the kind is intended? The hon. Member may say that the Selection Board will not do its duty properly and honourably. He is entitled to make that suggestion, 1007 but it is not a suggestion which ought to be made without some evidence being produced in support of it. He went on to say that the House is being asked to declare that the Metropolitan Police Force is an inefficient force for dealing with crime. No such suggestion, as I understand it, has ever been made. The suggestion is not that the Metropolitan Police Force is an inefficient force, but that it is an insufficient force for the tasks it has to undertake.
The hon. Member said that there is no evidence—in fact there are figures to the contrary—to show that crime is on the increase. I agree to this extent, that I think it is remarkable, when one takes into account the difficult circumstances through which we have been passing, that crime has not increased to a greater extent. Unfortunately, however, so far as I have been able to follow the figures, it is not true to say that crime is not increasing. If hon. Members will refer to some of the figures given in the Report of the Commissioner, they will see that crime has increased. The hon. Member for Westhoughton referred to certain of the figures, but he omitted the most important. On page 37 of the Report it is pointed out that in 1932 there were approximately 83,000 indictable crimes committed, as compared with 79,000 in 1931, an increase of 4,000 in the year. There is no doubt that there has been a very considerable increase in crime against property. There were 13,800 in 1932, compared with about 12,300 in 1931. The number of cases of embezzlement amounted to 666 in 1932, as compared with 552 in 1931. The number of motor vehicles reported stolen was 5,880 in 1932, as compared with 5,086 in 1931. I do not want to make too much of these figures, but in face of these statistics it is not correct to say that crime is not on the increase.
The whole argument upon which these proposals are based is not in any way that the present Police Force is inefficient. The suggestions that are put forward are suggestions for reform in no sense derogatory to the existing Police Force. They are proposals of far-reaching importance, and I submit that they deserve the unbiassed consideration—I would emphasise the word unbiassed—of hon. Members, irrespective of any con- 1008 siderations of party politics. The whole purpose is to make the force more efficient for its duties. It is remarkable, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, not that these reforms are now brought forward but that they have been so long delayed. Will these proposals achieve the object that they are designed to meet? If so, then surely the House ought not to be misled by mere phrases. To talk about militarisation is beside the point. I wish the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would have given us a definition of what he means by militarisation. Militarisation may mean the importation of a spirit of arrogance, overbEarlng tyranny—
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
In that sense it is militarisation, but on the other hand it may mean simply a spirit of discipline. It is no argument to say that this or that proposal is to be condemned because it imports a spirit of militarisation. What are the admitted facts? No one will deny that the problems that the Metropolitan Police have to meet to-day are very different from the problems of 100 years ago, or even of 20, 30 or 40 years ago. The criminal is more skilful and more mobile, and the police force has to keep its position and get ahead of him as far as it can. To do that it must attract into its ranks men of educational attainments, particularly those who are to occupy the higher posts. Are these likely to be forthcoming from the ranks? If they are forthcoming from the ranks in sufficient numbers, then that might be an argument for retaining the present system, but I think the evidence is all to the contrary.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
There are certain rather disquieting facts in some respects that are mentioned by the Commissioner in his report, namely, that 80 per cent. to 90 per cent. of the accepted candidates in 1919 had not passed beyond the elementary stage in their education. That has been the position until quite recently, when he suggests that economic forces of a temporary character have had some influence in persuading a number of men of higher educational endowments to enter the force.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Is it the argument that that 80 per cent. have not carried 1009 out their duties in a proper manner? A body cannot be an efficient body as a whole if 80 per cent. of recruits have only a certain standard of elementary education and are inefficient?
§ Mr. JANNER
Will the hon. Member say what is his own view as to the proportion of people he would expect to be brought in from the secondary schools? Does he think that 30 per cent. is not more than sufficient, in view of the arguments that he has used?
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
A good deal of reference has been made to the 30 per cent., but I would remind the hon. Member that that percentage only applied to last year, and there is no evidence that it is going to continue. In regard to the question by the right hon. Member opposite, I am not suggesting and no one is suggesting that the rank and file men have not done their duty. The whole point is whether there is a sufficient supply of men of higher capacity to fulfil and carry out the more important posts in the force. The Royal Commission put the matter much better than I can hope to do, when it used these words, on page 20:Also we wish to emphasise that long experience and good service in the lower ranks of the force are not the only, or even the most important, qualifications for the higher posts, which ought to be filled in all cases by men who, besides being themselves upright and fair-minded, are capable of impressing their own standards on their subordinates. We should therefore regard as inimical to the public interests any system which limited appointment to the higher posts to those who had entered the police as constables, and we are of opinion that such posts should be filled by the best men available, irrespective of the source from which they are drawn.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
1929. It is the report of the Royal Commission. That is a very important passage in the report of the Royal Commission. I do not know whether there is any suggestion made against the impartiality or the fairness of that Royal Commission. It undertook a very exhaustive inquiry and heard a great deal of evidence, and that was the view at which it arrived. The position seems to be this, that, without any reflection on the great body of men in the Police Force as to how they carry out their routine duties or duties other than 1010 routine, it is not attracting men at the present time of the type and in sufficient numbers who will be capable of filling satisfactorily the higher posts in the force. What is the reason? One main reason is because promotion at the present time mostly goes by seniority and not by merit. There are insufficient prospects of rapid advancement. On the other hand, there is in these new proposals no position in the force from the bottom to the top that will be barred to the serving police constable who shows his capacity, yet we are told that something almost diabolical is being done by the Government which will undermine the whole democratic constitution of the Metropolitan Police Force.
There are four proposals put forward, three of them directly affecting efficiency, while one is a matter of internal discipline and administration. The three which affect efficiency are an earlier retiring age, recruitment for the force and short-service enlistment. All of these have been strongly criticised, and it is curious that the criticism should have come entirely from those who like to label themselves as the progressive parties in the State. In this respect, at all events, they have shown themselves more conservative and more reactionary in the sense of being opposed to progress than anyone sitting on this side of the House. As to the earlier retiring age, not much has been said about it, and for the very good reason that, however inconsistent they may be, hon. Members opposite can hardly carry their inconsistency to the length of opposing that proposal, because I have always understood that it is one of their suggestions for dealing with the present industrial crisis that industrial workers should be placed on retirement at a much earlier age.
The main attack has been made against the suggestion of creating a so-called officer class, building up class distinctions and class divisions. What is the alleged grievance? No man under the new proposals will get promotion except by merit, and I see no evidence to support the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite that selection will be merely a matter of patronage. Where does he get that idea from except out of his own imagination? Every police eon-stable in the ranks will have exactly the same opportunity, and the interests of 1011 the men at present in the force will be fully safeguarded. I agree with the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) that that is a matter to which we should attach the utmost importance, namely, that these proposals, which in the very nature of them are bound to take a long time to carry to fruition, must not be used in order to prejudice the men at present serving, in regard to promotion or anything else. What is the grievance? We are told that nothing can make up for the actual experience of a police constable serving in the ranks. I have already pointed out that it is proposed that part of the period of training shall be service in the ranks for every candidate.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
I do not know how long. It is not specified. One must give credit for the ordinary amount of common sense on the part of those who are carrying out these proposals, and that the period of service in the ranks will be sufficiently long to be of value to supply the experience that is required. The whole idea is that it is a waste of time and a discouragement to keep suitable men not for a period in which they can gain experience but for long years at routine work. In the case of some men who afterwards rose to higher posts, they served 20 to 25 years in the ranks. That sort of thing is likely to choke off the very kind of men who in other and better conditions we should desire to see serving in the Police Force. In regard to short-service enlistment, that is an experiment which will have to be watched with a good deal of care. The main requirements underlying all these proposals is to attract a higher and better type of recruits, who are prepared to take up the Police Force as a career. Nevertheless, there will always be a certain proportion of men who are prepared to do their duty but who are not desirous of promotion, men who want a good steady job and will serve honestly in that capacity. Such men will be attracted by the short-service scheme, which will increase the opportunities for promotion to those who are making the police their life career.
Let me say one word on the Police Federation. That is a truly administra- 1012 tive matter, but it is a matter of considerable importance. Complaint is made of the excessive number of meetings. I cannot understand how that evil practice has been allowed to grow up. Surely it could have been dealt with from an administrative standpoint long ago, because a certain number of meetings is laid down under the Statute, and if meetings in excess of that number are held special permission for them has to be obtained from the authorities. If there was a growing objection on the part of the authorities to the meetings becoming excessive in number I do not follow why steps were not taken at an earlier stage to put an end to that undesirable tendency. Hon. Members have emphasised what we all feel, that the Metropolitan Police, and the Police Forces of the country generally, is a matter of the utmost pride. These proposals will render it better equipped for the tasks it is called upon to perform, and it is extremely difficult to believe that any reasonable person can find in any of these proposals a legitimate grievance. The tendency is to take a long view, which is what the Government and the Commissioner have in mind—not that things are wrong at the moment—and remove sources of possible discontent by making a career in the Police Force one which will be attractive to young men of the right type. There is nothing derogatory to those who are now serving, but these proposals will provide a bulwark against any risk of a gradual decline in the efficiency and repute of a great force to which we attach so much use and value.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. BRIANT
I am in the somewhat unusual position of differing to a considerable extent from my own leader on this matter. I have always been independent, and I happen to belong to a party where independence is not followed by excommunication. I speak with some intimate knowledge of the work of the Police Force, and of the actual influence it has on the lives and habits of a normal crowd in the Metropolitan district. There is no one who will deny that the Metropolitan Police Force is one of the most efficient it is possible to conceive, although there is no force in the world which is as efficient as it might be made. No one is opposed to anything which will make for efficiency and, of course, it is 1013 quite correct to say that the last 10 or 12 years have brought new problems in crime which have to be dealt with, problems which were unknown a few years ago. The technique of the criminal is much more advanced. The criminal has learnt how to adopt those things which now make up the ordinary amenities of life for his own devices and for the perpetration of crime. Therefore, we have to reconsider some of our methods for dealing with crime and criminals.
In connection with that subject I cannot understand why the college which it is proposed to set up should not be used for every man who joins the Police Force. By that means you would soon be able to pick out the man of superior intelligence for advancement to the higher posts. If every man spent a period in the college you would soon be able to find your man, the type of man you want for the work he will have to do; and if you want to attract men of greater intelligence surely you will attract them all the more readily if they know that if they work well and show superior intelligence they will get promotion quicker. I believe in efficiency. I am not attacking, nor do I wish to attack, anything which will increase the efficiency of the Police Force, but the House must remember that we have been given a very exaggerated idea as to the number of crimes in this country. One would think that the average crime is burglary, housebreaking, wife beating and attempted murder. Let the House examine the figures of crime. The number of persons charged with offences during the year is about 700,000, and out of that number 64,000 are indictable offences, and another 48,000 non-indictable offences, somewhat akin to the indictable offences. About 609,000 of these offences are dealt with summarily. If you take out the indictable offences, which consist of a number of petty offences like pilfering and minor assaults, out of the total of 700,000 you will find that the number of crimes in which you need this wonderful technique comes down to a mere few thousand—and that is all it is.
But what other duties devolve upon a policeman? His main duty is in the street, to prevent disorders which may arise, and which may easily become dangerous. They have to deal with 1014 drunken disturbances which may easily lead to assault, and even to greater disturbance; and at the present time the way in which the average policeman deals with these disturbances is in a way which gives no sense of grievance to the parties concerned. That is their average work; and you cannot educate men in the college to deal with cases like that. The only education which will fit a man for such duties is the school of experience, by which he gets to understand the mentality of the people and their habits and their methods of thought. You may go to all the 'varsities in the world and remain there as long as Methuselah lived and you will still be absolutely hopeless in dealing with a London crowd. It is to the everlasting credit of our London police that they have brought knowledge and tact, which is so essential to this work. I have been in some London crowds. I like a crowd. A London crowd is wonderfully good tempered if it is handled properly. It is no good putting a man from a 'varsity to handle a London crowd. It may be a positive disadvantage, and if a man is inexperienced in handling a crowd he is helpless. You may have a very threatening situation but the experienced man comes along and says, "Move on please," and it is settled.
A friend of mine returned from the Continent where he had seen an outbreak in one of the Continental cities which ended in bloodshed. He said to me that 10 London policemen would have settled it all—and that is a fact. During the General Strike I was visited by three Americans who listened to the Debates in this House and in the House of Lords. One of the Americans, a gentleman of high standing, said to me: "This is a wonderful House of Commons"—he did not know it quite so well as some of us—"but it is not the most remarkable thing I have seen here." I asked: "What is the most remarkable thing?" and he said: "Your General Strike." He went on to say that he found no difficulty in getting about London, and if this had happened in the United States there would have been barricades and guns. He said: "I have been walking down the street and I have seen one of your constables standing next to a picket and laughing and joking with him." There 1015 could be no greater vindication of our Police Force. The reason is that the man in the street believes that the man in uniform is very much like himself. I remember a Communist denouncing a policeman because he said that he was fighting against his own class. It was not true; but the Communist did regard the policeman, evidently, as one of his class and not as one of a superior race come down to command and order. This is more important than may appear to those who do not know the Police Force and their relationships with the man in the street; and I am confident that if you have swords and revolvers the moral power of the Police Force will go down immediately. They will lose all the influence they now have.
I cannot conceive how these proposals are going to work. No man with any ambition will go into a Police Force if he is told that after 10 years he will have to leave it. We want to attract the most efficient and the best educated men, and that is the type of man who is least likely to come in with a 10 years limit of service. As to the federation, I am not concerned as to whether they have too many meetings, possible they have, but I should have thought that a little calm and judicial conversations would have settled that matter. The officials of the federation are not unreasonable, if they are approached in the right spirit; nor are the heads of the Department unreasonable. But I do not want the Police Force to get the idea that they are not to be allowed to express their views. That is a most dangerous thing. The safety of London depends on the safety valves. Hyde Park has saved many a not in London, indeed saved almost a revolution and, therefore, for the sake of the community I say that we must not let the police think that something is being done to prevent them expressing properly their grievances and their views on subjects which affect their employment. I shall not vote for this Bill. I am not concerned as to whether I am in agreement with the Majority of my party, but whether I am or not I am going to speak and vote according to my convictions, which are the result of my experience. The efficiency of the police can be increased if the subject is approached in the right way; but I regret that the Bill has been introduced.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Captain GUNSTON
I am glad that the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant) has decided to vote in a different way to his leader, because if he had voted with his leader it would have created a precedent of the Liberal party voting in the same Lobby twice running. The hon. Member criticised the Bill in a very moderate way, and made one very significant statement. He said that this is not a party matter. But I cannot help thinking, after having listened to some of the speeches to-day, especially the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, that every effort was being made to turn the Bill into a party matter. The Leader of the Opposition in Hyde Park made very much the same speech as he made in the House this afternoon. One would have thought that when a proposal to reform the Police Force was being made the Leader of the Opposition would treat the matter very delicately and not say anything which might upset the good relations between the force and the authorities. It is very regrettable that the right hon. Gentleman should have made a speech in Hyde Park in which he said:The Government could not trust a working-class Police Force to do their will, and therefore Lord Trenchard was called in. His report is a disgrace to him and his administration.I am sure that on reflection the Leader of the Opposition regrets having used those words, for he knows that the Commissioner of Police cannot reply in this House. One of the surprising features of this Debate has been the attack on the educational system of this country. We have had attacks before from hon. Members opposite because of the cutting down of education, and it is rather surprising that to-day they should be attacking the educational system which the country has set up. No one in criticising this Bill and in attempting to defend the present system has been able to show that at the present time promotion works at all well, or that it gives an opportunity to the young and brilliant man to advance. I believe that the proposal that has been made will be of the greatest value in enabling the young and hard-working policeman to feel that his initiative will not. be killed by 1017 years of walking the streets and merely hoping for promotion to come by seniority.
Reference has been made to the Civil Service. Everyone knows that the Civil Service administrative branch is recruited in two ways, by direct examination and by promotion from the lower ranks. Many of the most brilliant men in the administrative branch of the Civil Service have risen from the ranks, in the same way as many brilliant men have entered the Service and have obtained promotion through their intellectual attainments. I know that the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) will be the first to pay a tribute to the great services that these administrators gave to one and all of his colleagues when the Labour party were in office. If the Civil Service can benefit by this admission into the administrative branch of men of great brilliance in examination, I cannot see why the Police Force should not also take advantage of the brains of the country.
After all, the one party who have no right to complain of selecting people from the public schools for promotion are the Labour party. I heard the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) say that when the selection board was established and had to choose between two candidates, the policeman of brilliance and the man from outside, the selection board would in future always select the university man and not the man who had been through the ranks. Have the Labour party any right to complain about that? I have taken the trouble to go through the records of the late Labour Government. Do I find that the Members of that Government were men who had served in the ranks, who had been trade union leaders only? Did they not bring in anyone from outside? In fact it used to be a jest in this House that the only way to became a Member of the Labour Government was either to be a trade union leader or to have been educated at Eton. It is rather startling now to be told that we must not select men from the university, when the Labour Government have gone out of their way to give promotion to men of what they call the classes. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) was made Solicitor-General and a Member of the Government even before he 1018 became a Member of Parliament. Had he gone through the ranks? Was not that going outside?
§ Captain GUNSTON
I am not saying that you would. The selection may or may not have been right, but the Labour party did go outside their ranks. The hon. and learned Gentleman had been educated at Winchester. Then we have the hon. Member for Limehouse. He did not go through the ranks. He is a brilliant product of Halleybury. So we go down through the list. We find that Dr. Dalton, who made some brilliant speeches in this House, was selected from outside the Labour ranks. He was a product of Eton. Then there was Sir William Jowitt, whose brilliance of intellect was equalled only by his rapidity of political movement. He was educated at Malvern. Mr. Pethick-Lawrence was educated at Eton. The party opposite not only selected men from the public schools, but men from the most exclusive public schools. I was educated at a more democratic establishment, and ex-scholars of my school were not honoured by the Labour Government.
But let us turn our attention to a point which has been rather neglected in this Debate, and that is the value of youth. If you are to have a Police Force which is to deal with crime you must attract into it more young men, and you must have more young men in responsible positions. My hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth asked, "Why not put the whole of the Police Force through the Police College?" I do not think he could have been serious, for there are 20,000 men in the Police Force. Then the hon. Member said that the education a policeman required depended more or less on the job that he did. He went on to prove that there was not very much crime, but that it was very important to have an educated "man of the world" to deal with the crime. I quite agree with that statement.
§ Captain GUNSTON
The hon. Gentleman said that what was wanted was a man of experience to deal with crime. I agree. On the other hand you also want 1019 the young man, the efficient man and the clever man to deal with outbreaks of crime. What is the proposal? It is that through the College you will attract from the ranks and from outside young men who can specialise in the more scientific part of police work. But you will also keep in your ranks the policeman whom we all know, rather well covered, a good fellow who is an invaluable asset to the country. If we can maintain the best of the present system and bring into the force new recruits of that type, the proposal will be of very great value.
It is always rather dangerous to talk about the Army, because one is promptly accused of wanting to militarise the police. I will use an illustration merely as a means of comparing one body of men with another. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) the other day paid a great tribute to the officers of the Army for the way they looked after their men. He said he wished that employers would look after the unemployed as Army officers looked after their men. What has happened in the Police Force has been that promotion has been so slow that there has been a great gap between the inspectors and the young constables. I believe it is necessary to try to attract the young type of inspector who can, through his youth, be much more in sympathy with the young constable. Everyone knows that the duty of a young officer in the Army is to know his men, to know their families, to know where they come from. It is necessary also that he should engage in the same sports as his men.
I believe that a lot of the trouble among the police in the past has been that there has been no bridging of the gap between the inspector who had been in the force for many years and the young constable. I hope and believe that the young men who are now to come in will supply that want. They ought to do what they can to gain the confidence of the young police. They ought to look after their amenities, and do what they can to help them out of police hours. I believe that that will result not only in creating a valuable esprit de corps, but will result in a great diminution in crime. I believe that with a system of that kind there would not be the difficulties which arose some years ago, leading to the granting of powers to the Police Federation. The Leader of the Opposition 1020 criticised my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for the action which he is taking in regard to the Federation and suggested that there was little ground for that action. I do not want to say anything which might create bad blood. I hope that everybody will be careful about what they say on these matters, but there are certain things which I think ought to be stated in justification of these proposals, especially Since they relate to a disciplined force.
The right hon. Gentleman said he realised that when there was a Socialist Government there would be difficulties in regard to demands of the Civil Service and so forth, but I do not think that he would claim that any body which serves the Government, such as the Army, the Navy, the Police Force and the Civil Service ought to act in any way which might be looked upon as a criticism of the policy of the Government; of the day, the Government which they serve. I do not say that the Police Federation have done these things from deliberate policy. I do not think they realise how far they have gone but there are some passages in their publications which ought not to have been issued by a body such as the Police Federation. Some of the comments which they make are all the more extraordinary when we observe that officers of senior rank belong to the Federation. I have here a report of the Joint Central committee in which there is a criticism of the action of one of the police forces in allowing uniformed men to do plain clothes duty without receiving the extra allowance. This document states:We do not believe at all in the idea of employing the men for the sole purpose of variation from ordinary police duty and we would be surprised if this was ever intended as the real purpose. If, however, the idea of a change from ordinary duty for the mere sake of relieving monotony was the primary purpose of the introduction of such an order, we can only say, why not carry it a stage further and allow men to remain in dry places during stormy seasons or go on duty when it suits them best. We should then have a wonderfully contented force without any regard to real efficiency. We consider that men who have volunteered for this duty without the plain clothes allowance are not free from blame.I do not believe that any hon. Member opposite really thinks that a statement like that ought to be sent out in the name of the Police Federation criticising the Administration. Then, in a report 1021 issued by the Police Federation, it is stated in regard to the economy cut:It has been done because of the alleged economic situation in which the country finds itself.I think it is very wrong that a force which is serving the Government should thus criticise the policy of the Government of the day by talking about "the alleged economic situation" and hon. Members opposite will agree that the same sort of thing might happen when they were in office.
§ Mr. TOM SMITH
Does the hon. And gallant Member then expect the police to accept the cuts and to have no grievance? Does he believe that the rule for the police in these matters should be, "theirs not to reason why"?
§ Captain GUNSTON
The federation was set up to bring the grievances of the police to the notice of the proper authorities, but it is monstrous that a disciplined force should be allowed to criticise the policy of the Government of the day when their duty and their loyalty must be to the Government of the day. I do not wish to go further into that matter. I have given two instances, and I hope that this sort of thing will not be continued in future, because it does not help the police or the opinion which the country holds of it. I would like to say, although hon. Members opposite may not believe me, that we on this side thoroughly appreciate the great work which the police have done in the past and will, we hope, do in the future. We put forward these proposals in the belief that they will lead to improvement in the force. I believe that the short-term service condition will not jeopardise the efficiency of the police, because it will enable those men to get employment after they leave and it will lead to further opportunities for promotion for the men who do not join on the short-term service condition. An hon. Member has asked, "Why should we not give opportunities to the men in the ranks?" In the future, men who joined for long service will know that there are also the short-service men and that there are greater opportunities for promotion than there were in the past. It is because we believe that by these proposals we shall be giving new life, new hope and new efficiency to the Police Force that we support this Bill.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I am pleased to take part in this discussion, because, although I am not a London Member, I have considerable knowledge of the police in the provInces, having been in daily contact for 29 years of my life with the police of the city of Liverpool. I am surprised that to-day in the House of Commons a Minister occupying the responsible position of Home Secretary should dare to come forward with a proposition so revolutionary as that contained in the Bill. Let us analyse the position. I have been asked to deal with the facts and with the situation as it presents itself and that I shall do. No indictment has been made by the Minister against the efficiency of the Metropolitan Police Force. No hon. Member has dared to say that these men are not giving the community the best that is possible for men in their position to give.
What is the complaint? The complaint apparently is that the organisation of the force, rather like the National Government, is suffering from senile decay. We are told that the force was established by Peel a hundred years ago and that it is necessary to bring it up-to-date. I need not say much about the matters which were touched upon by the Leader of the Opposition in his wonderful address, but I would like to point out that the growth of the force has not been a mushroom growth. It has been gradual and steady. Formerly covering an area of only 15 square miles, it now covers 225 square miles, and I think the statistics prove that the men of this force are doing their duty wonderfully well. Their bravery, their heroism, their courtesy, their general tact are admired by all, and no one in this House dare get up and say that there is any fault to be found, as regards this body of men, to whom these drastic amendments are being applied in order to bring into the public life of our great city something which, to my mind, is inimical and likely to lead to the most disastrous results, not only to London but eventually to the provInces.
Surely any up-to-date force is able to deal with the criminal. You have your specialists in the force, and I have yet to learn that the London force is illiterate. If in be so, those who are at the head of things in London are to blame. 1023 The men of the force with whom I have come into contact in London rank second to none in any part of the Kingdom from the point of view of ability, and I do not think that anyone could say that we have an inefficient force. We are told that a new type of man, or rather of boy, is to be brought into the force, that this great ability, this great genius from the university and the secondary school, not the elementary school, is to be brought in, not to purify, not to speed up, but because he has that wonderful knowledge that can be obtained at school, which is to be applied in the great Metropolis to criminology. No one outside a lunatic asylum would for a moment think that your schoolboy or your 'varsity man could come into this great Metropolis to deal with modern criminology, to solve the riddle of crime in this great city.
I can imagine that in one of the small rooms you might find one of these 'varsity men, sitting down dealing with the isosceles triangle, or doing a proposition in Euclid, or dealing with the fifth dimension or with Einstein's relativity, and another man looking in and saying, "There is another from Colney Hatch." From the point of view of being in any way beneficial to the police force or doing a policeman's duty, I do not think that such a man would be of any value whatever. I have some knowledge of how the police perform their duties, not only outside on the street, but inside, in their technical work, which is most wonderful and which is hidden from the public eye, and I maintain, no matter how erudite the Home Secretary may be, from whatever school of thought he may have emanated, that the school for a policeman is the training that he gets on the street, that no college that you may set up can give him the great knowledge that he can obtain in the street. Crime is not put down in a room. C.I.D. men, plainclothes men, and the ordinary constables in uniform are only able to learn their business and to be in any way useful to the community if they get the proper training on the street.
I know of nothing more absurd than to bring in the university man. I have seen him brought in, in the provinces, only that he might put on his uniform for three months or six months, and then, because his father was an 1024 important man in the Army or the Navy, a head constable's job was ready for him. That can be found in the records of the 'varsity man. The man who joins the force in London can wait 48 years. He can be honest, he can be a man of integrity and of unblemished character, but it takes 48 years in London to rise to a high position. If that is the way in which you deal with promotion, it is no wonder that men prefer to walk the streets rather than to become constables, but it will be in no way beneficial to the Police Force or to the country if what the Home Secretary asks this House to adopt comes into operation. To-day there is security of employment for every man who joins the force, provided that as a probationer he gives satisfaction, provided that his character and his health are good, and provided that he does not do anything that is wrong in the force. That man is subject to supervision and receives the best attention of his higher officials to see that he does the right and proper thing, and he may become a sergeant, an inspector, or a superintendent; in fact, he may become a commissioner in London.
What are we going to get out of your new service? We are told that we shall get new blood, new life, and we are going to offer, in this wonderful business of a well-equipped service, 10 years' security of tenure for the honest man, the healthy man, the intelligent man, the man who is to be the pride of the city, the man who has to guard, not only the shops and valuables, but the lives of the people of the Metropolis. You will give him a guarantee of 10 years. I remember very well those two words"10 years." They sound quite familiar. I believe it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who said that the first 10 years of our depression would be the hardest, and I wonder what the first 10 years of the policeman's life will be under the new conditions that are offered here. Can the Minister tell hon. Members who support him in this House to-day that he can get men of sterling character, capable of doing all the exacting duties that will be required of them in the Police Force of London, under these conditions, comparable with the service that he is now getting from men who know that at the end of their days, when they have served the whole period of 1025 time, there will be a pension, and that only by dishonesty, disobedience, or some breaking of the rules are they likely to lose their job?
Knowing human nature as I do, I make this statement, that there is not a young man who can join the Police Force in London under these conditions, getting rid of the old service and bringing in. the new service that gives no security of employment and no guarantee for the future, who can be expected to give honest service. It is ridiculous to think that you are asking 5,000 men to take short service, and it is ridiculous to maintain that, because you are going to save half-a-million of money, because you are going to get rid of your pension scheme and bring in your varsity man and your secondary school boy, you will get a service that will be worthy of this great Metropolis. I want to know from the Home Secretary how far this method is going to extend. I believe that when it is adopted in London it is possible that it will extend to the provInces.
The Metropolitan Police is the only police body over which the Home Secretary has jurisdiction, and I would like to remind the Police Forces of the country of the great danger to them of the proposal which is now before the House. If it is carried, how long will it be before the Treasury says that if the service for London is 10 years, the grant to the Police Forces in the boroughs will only be on the level of a 10 years' payment? What will be the position then with regard to recruits in the provInces, over which the Home Secretary has no jurisdiction, but where the Treasury has the right to make grants? Will the municipalities then have to make arrangements for a recruiting system on a 10 years' basis? Imagine a disturbance in a city like Liverpool; what interest would policemen have to protect the public if they had only one year or 18 months to go? They could not be expected to risk life or limb when they had no security of employment, and were liable to be thrown on the scrap heap of the unemployed. What a spectacle it would be to see time-expired policemen standing outside Employment Exchanges in queues waiting for relief. We would have our unemployed police as we have our unemployed ex-soldiers and what a laughing stock the Government would become. This is a serious problem. It may be that money 1026 will be saved, but there is something greater than that to be considered, and that is the prestige of the nation. Whatever party may be in power, it can only rule if there is an impartial body of men on the streets, but if there is no security of employment, and when their time has expired they have to share the common lot of the unemployed man, what kind of Police Force can we expect?
In these days we have to protect ourselves against modern methods of committing crime, and the only fit and proper class of men to do that is the class which has served from the bottom. It is an insult to the Metropolitan Police to say that there are not men who are capable and fit to manage the force. It is an insult to them to bring in men of the Army and Navy for the higher posts when there are men in the force available. It is no use, however, speaking to the House of Commons. The House is supposed to deal with political issues. It may be reported in the morning papers that I have spoken almost to empty benches. No matter what the hour, the House is always nearly empty, and Members give a vote without having heard the pros and cons of a case. I do not understand the mentality of those who say that the police are not able to govern themselves when they themselves will come here later and record their vote although they have never heard the case, for or against, which has been put forward. It is more like a lunatic asylum. It will be far better if we let the police manage their own business and let the schoolboy have his proper place as any other recruit and apply for the job as other men have to do. If he is accepted, let him go through the ordinary channels, but to give preferential treatment to the boy from the universities is an insult to the democracy of this nation, most of whom are unemployed and not able to get any preferential treatment.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
It is with some misgiving that one rises to take part in this Debate, because so much that can be said in favour of the Bill might be taken as criticism of the Metropolitan Police, and to criticise the Metropolitan Police as it is to-day is the last thing in the world that I want to do. A great many hon. Members are agreed that it is desirable to recruit into the Police Force 1027 the best material, no matter from what class it may come. Our only difference is whether it is better that these men should work their way up from the bottom and not reach the top until they have passed their prime, or whether they should be given an opportunity as boys of joining the police when there is a prospect of reasonably rapid promotion. It is idle for the Opposition to suggest that this is a scheme whereby boys should be allowed to step in at the top without going through the mill. The point is that unless we are going to give these boys a hope of mounting to the top without a very long period of dull routine work, we shall not get the most intelligent type of lad to consider the Police Force as a career unless he has already tried and failed to find more promising employment elsewhere. That is not good enough. We must have the very best men in the Police Force who will regard service in the force as an ambition and not merely as a last resort.
I would emphasise that it is not suggested in this Bill that officers of the Police Force are all to be recruited from outside, for it is to be possible for constables to be selected for the Police College without passing through an examination. Whatever hon. Members may think about examinations, it is most important that we should not count the ability to write the correct answer to an examination paper as the only way in which to decide whether a man is suitable for promotion in the Police Service. I think the assurance which we have that men from within the force should be recruited without examination, if they are in other ways satisfactory, and the further assurance we have that examination is not to be considered as the only requisite for selection to this college, does away once and for all with any criticism that is levelled that this college will only produce more theorists who will be of no practical use. I would like to emphasise further that this police college system would not have prevented any of the best of the present senior police officers from attaining the rank which they hold to-day. On the contrary, I believe that all those senior police officers who have risen through the ranks would, under this proposed scheme, have risen a great deal earlier.
1028 The question arises of the relations of these college-trained police officers with the Police Federation. Frankly, I must admit that I welcome the knowledge that they will owe no dual allegiance to duty on the one hand and to the Police Federation on the other. I welcome the fact that their only duty in the future is to be the service of the State. I do not want to be misunderstood when I talk of dual allegiance to the Police Federation. I am quite aware that service in the Police Force and membership of the federation may well be compatible with one another, as was to be the case under the 1919 Act, but I submit that when one finds no fewer than 480 meetings being held during the course of the year in the Metropolitan Police Force, and that all those meetings occupied time which otherwise would be spent on the police duties, one is bound to realise that, to a certain extent, attendance at Police Federation meetings is at the expensce of their duty at police officers.
As to the attendance of senior grades of inspectors at Police Federation meetings, it is worth while to note that the Federation Report refers to what it regards as the disappointingly poor attendance of inspectors at the annual Federation meetings. If inspectors do not attend the meetings when they are allowed to do so, I do not think it can be regarded as a hardship if they are debarred from attending in the future, and the fact that these senior and experienced inspectors considered, apparently, that attendance at the annual Federation meetings was not worth their time, influenced me in Colning to the conclusion that a large number of the Federation meetings held hitherto must really have been unnecessary.
Another point concerns the proposal to have 5,000 short-service constables. Frankly, I regard that with misgivings. I am a young man myself, but I should hate to think that I was never to be a more useful servant of the State than I have been so far. To my mind, a middle-aged man is more useful in almost any capacity, barring only athletic pursuits, than a young man, and I should have thought that that was particularly the case in the routine work of the Police Service. In much of this routine work tact, knowledge and experience are far 1029 more important than anything else. Whenever I have come in contact with the police, whether for leaving a motor car in the wrong place, or some such thing, I have been inclined to resent correction from a younger man which I would have taken meekly from a man of more mature age. I do not deny that there may have been very little Incentive to these old men to work on. There may be no hope of promotion, but surely, as an hon. Member has said, that applies to 90 per cent. of the people engaged in any occupation to-day. We are not all scrambling for promotion, and there are a large number of men who will do their work conscientiously whether they have a hope of promotion or not. I suggest that it is quite possible for a policeman to be too keen, and perhaps in an excess of zeal to "make crime" which otherwise it would have been unnecessary to discover.
I only throw out these suggestions to my right hon. Friend in the hope that although in this Bill we give power to appoint 5,000 short-service constables he will go step by step and gradually before he appoints all that number of young men. Let him proceed, rather, by the method of trial and error. If young men prove themselves more satisfactory than the older men, go ahead; otherwise, I would suggest that he should go slowly.
It is apparently the express intention that these short-service constables should be discharged at the end of their 10 years. I am prepared to accept the arguments in favour of that, because I appreciate how important it is from the point of view of getting employment for these men that employers should know, when they take on one of these retired short-service constables, that they are not merely getting a man who did not prove good enough to be taken into the permanent branch of the force. They should know that they are not getting the cast-offs, but getting the very best of the 10-year men. Further, I appreciate that they have a value as a reserve. Another point is that undoubtedly there would be a feeling of hardship if some of the young men were allowed to extend their period of service while others with equally good characters were not allowed to do so. I say this that in spite of my own most firm belief that one of the principal justifications of the Capttalist system as we have it to-day is that a man has the 1030 chance to work his way up to the top of the tree, in whatever walk of life he is, provided, and only provided, that he is man enough to do it. In this case that consideration scarcely arises, however, because the recruit who joins under the 10-year service scheme is well aware that he joins for a definite period of short service with a view to leaving for civil employment. He can have no sense of hardship in knowing that promotion does not await him. If he wants promotion in the Police Service he must, of course, join the permanent branch.
FiNaily, nothing that we can say in this House will guarantee the success of this scheme. It lies with the police themselves to make it work or make it fail. It is because I believe that we can rely on the Police Force, whether they may or may not agree with all the details of this scheme, to do their level best to work the scheme and make it a success that J believe it will succeed.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I have been wondering, during all the hours that I have been listening to the Debate, what we expect from the police. I have always assumed that we expect from the Police Force that they should be able to preserve order in an ordered society. If those who are in charge of the Police Force institute a regulation to make it difficult, if not impossible, for the police to preserve order, those to blame for such a condition of things are not the police, hut the responsible body overriding the police. Hon. Members have quoted figures of an increase in crime, and I could not help feeling that behind those statements was a sense of grievance against the police on the ground that the police were responsible for allowing such a condition of things to arise. They argued that, as a consequence of that increase, the time had arrived when the Police Force should be strengthened, not merely in numbers, but in ability to see the causes for the increase in crime and to combat them.
Everybody who has attempted to give a reason for the increase of crime has given an accurate one, which is that it is due to the condition of unemployment which prevails among large masses of the people who, because of their lack of ability to obtain the ordinary means of life, have 1031 taken to crime. Surely no one would blame the police for that. If any body of people is responsible for that, it is the people who sit along the Government Front Bench. The blame cannot be in any way attached to the police. I have had a fairly close association with members of the Police Force, and I like them. As in the case of the hon. Member who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench, they arrested me on one occasion. I do not feel any grudge against them because of that. They were extremely kind and courteous to me during the period of my arrest, and it was probably because of the testimony given by the police officer who arrested me that I got no more severe sentence than to be bound over for 12 months to keep the peace that I had never broken.
With what are the police charged? Is it with lack of courage? I do not think that any hon. Member would charge the police of London with lack of courage. Is it with lack of courtesy? I have heard one hon. Member after another speak of the courtesy of the London police. Is it with lack of humour? I do not think that that could be laid to the charge of the London Police Force. The police have a sense of humour which is unequalled by that of any other force and was perhaps only equalled by the humour of the men who used to drive the cabs in the old days. Is it with lack of tact? Any hon. Member who has seen policemen handling vast crowds, such as were referred to by the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant), would not say that they lack tact. Is it with lack of initiative? I have been surprised on many occasions by the initiative that has been shown by the police in very difficult circumstances. It does not appear to be a lack of any of these things; the only thing that I can imagine to be at the back of the minds of those who are responsible for this Bill, is that the police are charged with a lack of knowledge. Knowledge of what? Is it knowledge of the duties of a policeman? Certainly not. Nobody would charge the average policeman with a lack of knowledge of the ordinary duties of a policeman. Apparently, it is a lack of knowledge of what one might consider to be the higher considerations, such as the laying out of the plans for 1032 the general work of the force and controlling an area and a multitude of different kinds of circumstances. If that is so, who is responsible? I think that it is the Commissioner himself, and, of course, he is responsible under the Home Secretary. The Commissioner is responsible for laying out the general plan, and under him he has a staff, who are the staff officers of the Police Force. If there is any failure in the police, it is certainly the failure of the staff officers.
I do not want to be in any way severe upon Lord Trenchard, who is the chief of the London Metropolitan Police, but I say that in all the charges that he brings against the police and against the Federation, he reveals his own inability to control, and makes an admission of it. He says, in effect, in his Report, which I have read: "I, the head of the Police Department, with my assistant-commissioners, over whom I have control and whom I instruct, have failed to control the Police Force. We admit our failure, and we show the way in which our failure is expressing itself in the force." Broadly that is what I read in the whole of the report issued by Lord Trenchard. I do not believe for one moment that that is just the report of Lord Trenchard; I cannot help feeling that right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Government Front Bench, when the House is more full than it is at the present time, may have played their part in producing the report that appeared over the name of the Commissioner of Police. However that may be, the report is an admission of the failure of the staff officer, and it is nothing else, so far as I can read into it. No charge is brought against the police; there are only general statements.
I was interested in what was said by the hon. Member for North Lambeth. In regard to the Federation what is stated against the Federation? Some of the members stopped too long at a meeting; the meetings cost too much to the Police Force, and there were too many of those meetings. It appears that no member of the higher staff of the police on any occasion made representations to the officials of the Federation that these things were going a bit too far, and no attempt was ever made by those who are in control of the Police Force to modify conditions that were operating through 1033 the Federation. There is no reference to it. What is the Federation? Who is responsible for setting it up? Members of the Government set it up. They created its machinery, and they are responsible for its machinery. If the machinery is wrong and will not work, the Federation is not responsible, but the people responsible are those who created the machinery—the Government. What are we expected to get out of the changes that are to be made? We expect to get, I presume, a more efficient Police Force through the instrumentality of the college, and a different type of recruit.
I sometimes try to picture these young men from the universities coming into the force at the age of 18, 19 or 20 years with the spirit of the university still in them. That was referred to by an hon. Gentleman to-day as a good spirit of order. Some of us have seen expressions of that spirit in the West End of London after the Rugby International match. I can quite imagine some of these young gentlemen going down to Shoreditch or Bethnal Green, places which I know, or coming into Walthamstow, a place which I know still better, on a Saturday night, when the ordinary residents of those places are doing what they usually do, congregating around corners, because nothing better has been provided for them to do by the National Government, or by any other Government that we have had in the past. I can imagine these men with the Oxford drawl going down to talk to the chaps at the corners or round the public-houses in Bethnal Green, and I do not think their influence will be as good as that which would be exercised over an ordinary crowd of Londoners by the ordinary London "Bobby."
One hon. Member who spoke a little while ago referred to the advantages of the 10 years' service, and asked if anyone imagined that during those 10 years of service these men would not come in contact with the public as uniformed police. Of course they will come in contact with the public as uniformed police, but they will be unfitted for it by their whole experience and their whole training at the university, and their contact with the public will probably end disastrously both for them and for the peace of the district into which they are imported. They will have had no experience, they will know nothing of the 1034 people, of their lives or their methods of living; their whole atmosphere, their whole early training, their childhood and their upbringing in the university will unfit them for the position of a uniformed policeman, and all that they will be able to do will be to institute riots or trouble wherever they go among the average members of the public, at any rate in any poorer class London areas, while even in the West End I am not sure that they will be tolerated for very long if their conduct in the police is anything like the conduct which we have witnessed among them.
With regard to the question of waste of time by members of the federation, we do not hear anything about time being wasted by the police in other directions, but I could easily make a case to show that in many other directions the police of this country are wasting as much time as ever they have wasted in connection with federation meetings. Only yesterday I was reading an account of the preparations that are being made by the mounted police for a show of some kind. Members of the mounted police are practising for it. That is all being done in police time, and their attendance at the show will all be in police time; and everyone in the House knows that police are engaged in that kind of thing every day in the week in almost every town in the country, but no complaint at all is made about it. Complaint is only made when they get together to look after their own interests, when they know that an injustice is being done to them, as in the case of the recent reductions, and when they complain about that injustice and about other injustices in connection with their everyday work. It is only then that complaints are made by the ruling class—because you know that you are the ruling class, and this is just another step that you are taking to preserve your ability to rule. None of us are taken in by the plausible speeches that are made to the effect that you would not do anything to cultivate a class war. You do not need to cultivate it; it is there; every day of your lives you are giving new examples of its existence, and this is merely another one.
You will get your Bill; you have got your power; but you have got your power by fraud, to be quite plain—by fraudulent statements to the public; and, hav- 1035 ing got your power, you are using it in the way that you charged us at the time of the election with desiring to use it. I have not forgotten the story of the Post Office—I only refer to it in passing—nor the fact that when you had your power you used it just as you said we would use it. You are trying now, by this Police Measure, to preserve your rights to continue your privileges. The Police will no doubt fall in for it, as they fell in for many things that were prepared for them by the ruling class in the past.
I want to see a loyal Police Force, a Police Force loyal to the Government, whatever sort of Government it may be so long as it is a Government that carries on or desires to carry on in a constitutional way. If the Government is not constitutional, it has no right to expect loyalty from the Police or anyone else. If you want a loyal Police Force, it must be a Police Force to which you are loyal, to which you give reasonable opportunities, and which you do not intend, as in this case, to shut up. Specific charges have been made against the Police Federation. Statements have been made with regard to them generally, putting them before the British public as a set of people who desire to waste public money. Serious charges of disloyalty have been made against them in a general way, but you do not give any specific case, and that is what I am complaining about. I ask the right hon. Gentleman who is going to reply on behalf of the Government, will he give the Police Federation an opportunity to reply publicly to the public charges that have been made against them by the Commissioner? After all, he is the commanding officer of this force, and I have never known in history, nor do I think any military or naval officer could give an example, of any case where the commanding officer of an army has definitely charged the men under him in the way in which these men have been charged by their commanding officer, Lord Trenchard, in the report that he has issued. I say it is cowardly in the extreme, these charges having been made against the men as a body, to refuse to the representative body of the Police, namely, the Police Federation, an opportunity to reply publicly to charges which have been publicly made.
1036 I was somewhat surprised when the Home Secretary complained while the Leader of the Opposition was speaking. When my right hon. Friend mentioned Lord Trenchard, the Home Secretary was immediately on his feet to say, "Lord Trenchard is not the responsible person; I am"; and he rather indicated that it was unfair for the Leader of the Opposition to make any statement in reference to Lord Trenchard, because Lord Trenchard could not have an opportunity of replying. He can reply in any way that he likes, but will the light hon. Gentleman give the same opportunity to the members of the Police Force through their Federation; and, if not, why not? Why are these men to be charged with disloyalty? Why are they to be charged with wasting public money? Why are all these charges in Lord Trenchard's report to be levelled at a body of men who may or may not be guilty, but who, at any rate, have no opportunity to reply to the charges? I say that it is cowardly in the extreme, and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should attempt to closure a set of men against whom grossly unjust charges, in my view—I may be wrong—have been made, and that he is responsible for refusing to allow these men to come out in public, to Members of this House and to the public generally, to reply to the definite and specific charges that have been made against them. I hope to-night that the right hon. Gentleman who will reply for the Government will be able to tell us that the men will have this opportunity. When they get it, the Homo Secretary can talk as he talked to the Leader of the Opposition to-day, but, until he is prepared to give that opportunity to the men to make their reply to these statements, he at least ought to be the last to talk about any sense of injustice that Lord Trenchard may labour under because of strictures cast upon him by the Leader of the Opposition to-day.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
I think there is unanimity on one point, and that is that everyone desires to see an efficient Police Force, not only in the Metropolitan area but in the provInces as wed. The Bill goes a good deal further than the Police Force of the Metropolitan area. I shall try to show at least one of its effects upon the provincial force. The question 1037 to me is whether the Bill will or will not make for greater efficiency in the Police Force. I think efficiency is dependent not only upon the standard of education but also upon the contentment and satisfaction in the force itself and upon the good will of the public towards it. Some years ago there was a good deal of dissatisfaction and discord, and, in order to try to do away with it, the Police Federation was formed. It was an obligation upon members of the force that they should join the federation. I do not think anyone will doubt that the work of the federation in many respects has been perfectly wonderful, and that it has been a good thing not only for the force but for the safety of the public generally. There is one complaint that I want to make. Although the Home Secretary paid a Sincere tribute to the Police Federation, nothing of its good work is mentioned in this report, but a double coat of black paint is given to every criticism in it. The report is very one-sided-from that point of view.
As far as I am able to gather from the Bill, the Government intend to alter the basis of recruitment for the Metropolitan Force. We are told that the present basis does not produce the right type of man for executive positions. I am very doubtful about that contention. The Home Secretary spoke of the tremendous length of time that it takes for a man to rise from a constable to an executive position. I think he mentioned 25 years. But surely this is a matter of administration. Why should it take 25 years to rise from the lowest ranks to an executive position? It is not the fault of the man but the fault of the system. It is no reflection on the man. It reflects on the system itself. I can see no earthly reason why, if a man shows the necessary ability and understanding of human nature, promotion should not be given a good deal more rapidly under the present system than it now is.
I do not know anyone who desires to see an efficient Police Force who has any objection at all to the formation of a Police College, but some of us believe that those who enter that College should enter it by the front door. I am sorry to have to disagree with my own leaders, but I do not take much notice of the analogy which has been stated several times between the Civil Service and the 1038 Police Force. You can make the conditions in the Police Force such as to attract the type of man that you desire. It seems to me absolutely essential that men should serve in the ranks for at least a few years before they are capable of being efficient administrators. There is one question I want to ask. I do not want to enter into any class distinction. It is not striking me from that point of view at all. At what age are these young men to enter the Police College? If they are to enter at the age of 21 or 22 and to remain there for two or three years, is it really suggested that men of 25 or 26 are fit to take an executive position as inspector or sub-inspector?
I do not accept for a moment the contention that men cannot be found in the ranks capable of filling administrative positions. The whole history of the Police Force is to the contrary. Take the provInces. I do not think that the Home Secretary or an inspector of constabulary would suggest for a moment that the chief constables of great cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Bradford are inefficient chief constables. They have come from the ranks. The new methods for the detection of crime and for the general improvement of the efficiency of police forces have come from those very men. Take, for instance, the latest thing. Where did the suggestion for electric signals come from? Certainly not from the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police. Where did the police box system come from? From the suggestion of a chief constable. You have efficiency. The difficulty has been that the Metropolitan Force has gone outside for its superior officers and, if there has been inefficiency, I think that is largely the reason. I have nothing whatever to say against Army or Navy officers. I should be the last men to cast any aspersion on their ability, but you cannot possibly take a man with 10, 20 or 30 years' experience of naval or military affairs and put him into an executive position in a great city like London and make him an efficient administrator of police. I sat for two months last year on a Select Committee dealing with the amalgamation of police forces. We came to unanimous conclusions, and this was one of them.
Your committee were impressed by the evidence they received as to the dissatisfaction amongst all ranks in the Police Service which is caused by the appointment of per- 1039 sons without police experience as chief constables. Their attention was drawn to the provision contained in the police regulations by which every appointment to the post of chief officer of police in any county or borough police force is subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, and no person without previous police experience may be appointed to any such position unless he possesses some exceptional qualification or experience which fits him for the post or there is no candidate from the Police Service who is considered sufficiently well qualified. It was, however, suggested to your committee that a very liberal interpretation had been placed on the term 'exceptional qualification' and the representatives of the Police Federation stated that they considered that in some cases the spirit of the regulation had not been observed.Your committee desire to express the opinion that unless the spirit of the regulation is adhered to in the future more strictly than it appears to have been in the past, the advantages that they hope will be gained from carrying into effect the recommendations they have made will be to some degree counterbalanced by the dissatisfaction in the service.That was exactly in agreement with the recommendations of the Desborough Committee. It is very strange, indeed, that we have not heard one word about the Desborough Committee to-day. That committee gave to the Police Force what is termed the Policeman's Charter. The Desborough Committee made no suggestion whatever, to my knowledge, of anything that is contained in this Bill. We were convInced in our committee that some positions of authority should be given to men within the force. I believe that that applies equally to the Metropolitan Force. There is one question I want to put particularly, because I do not think the point has been raised to-day. I said in my opening remarks that this Bill not only affected the Metropolitan Police but would indirectly affect the provincial forces. I understand that there are to be 30 or 40 entrants each year into the Police College, but I cannot see 30 or 40 vacancies in executive positions arising each year. Are the men who have been in that college during their two or three years' term then to be allowed to apply for the chief constableships in the provInces, because, if so, what is going to be the Incentive to an intelligent person or ambitious person to join up in the provincial forces? That is a point which the hon. Member 1040 for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant) made. I do not object to the Police College at all, but I do object to it merely for the Metropolitan Police. I do not want to say too much on the effect of an officer class on the good will of the community. We were undoubtedly of the opinion on that Select Committee that a good deal of the good conduct in this country and the efficiency of the Police Force and the easy way in which we secure order was attributable to the good feeling between the citizens and the Police Force. I think everybody will agree with me on that point. We also agreed on another point, that that was partly due to the knowledge of local affairs that the policeman had, and the feeling of comradeship between the two. I am not certain that in creating a particular class you are going to make that feeling quite as good as it is to-day.
The time is passing, but I want to refer to short-term service. Honestly, I think that is the worst thing in the Bill. It is very amusing to me to read the Commissioner's Report about men losing ambition and interest in their work after they have served a term of years. I cannot possibly see how you are to get a real live interest in the work if you are to say to a man "At the end of 10 years, however efficient you have been, out you go." I cannot possibly see the logic of that argument or how you are to get more efficient men because they have a shorter term of years to serve. It is perfectly true that they may be more physically fit because they are not as old. There is one other point to which I want to allude. It is true to say that by this method you are creating blind alley employment. I do not accept the contention made to-day by many speakers that it is easy for a police constable with his service of 10 years to get a job. Let me ask this question. Is it easy for a soldier or sailor who has served a term of years to get a job even if he comes out with a good character? I do not think that that could be stated as fact. It has always been accepted as a fact that it takes 10 years to make a good constable, so that exactly when the man has reached a state of efficiency you propose to dismiss him. This is the first time in my experience that I have found anybody willing to dismiss a man as soon as he becomes efficient. It takes two or three years to train him to any 1041 extent to become a constable at all, but what Incentive is there for him to pa* his best into his job if, after that training, he has the knowledge that he has to get out in 10 years? I do not like to talk for more than a moment upon the question of temptation. I do not think there is a bigger proportion of police: men who fall to temptation than there is in any other phase of life. It is common to every phase and every class of life, but I do suggest that it is a bigger temptation to a man who knows he is going to finish at the end of a short period of service, for he has very little to lose with a short service.
I think something rather derogatory was said about the man who behaved himself because of the pension at the end of his period. I do not think anything derogatory should be said about a man taking up that position. As Members of this House we have always said that a man who provides for his old age is to be complimented and not to be denounced. The knowledge that if his behaviour is of such a character, he can at the end of a period settle down and enjoy the remainder of his days in peace and comfort, is probably an Incentive to a man, and I do not think it is anything against him or any reflection upon him that he should take up that attitude. I think also there is a great danger with this short service in setting up two distinct classes of constables. Here you have a short-term man and a long-term man, and I do not think it is going to do any good. I have heard reference to esprit de corps to-day, but are you not more likely to get that very desirable thing if men are serving under the same conditions? It is when conditions are different that you do not get that esprit de corps. A good deal has been said to-day about discipline. I was not very long in the Army, but I had some experience of the discipline of the Army. I probably needed it, but what I want to say is, "God help the Police Force if the discipline served up to me and many others is handed on to the Police Force." The discipline I got was that when I had a complaint to make and tried to make it a man behind me said "Shut up!" There is little chance for the man to say 1042 anything there. I agree that discipline is necessary in all forms of life, but I am afraid that sometimes the discipline there is not the type of discipline which is good either for officer or man. You do not need military discipline in a civil force. I challenge that idea. I do not believe that the Home Secretary for one moment desires to see the creation of a military force, and it is our business to see that, whatever he desires, he does not get any Bill which might tend in that direction. I believe that the Government are Sincere in desiring to improve the Metropolitan Police Force, but that they are going the wrong way about it. They do not need a Bill of this kind. I suggest that their powers are sufficient now, and that it is the administration which is at fault.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. RAIKES
Unlike the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holds-worth), I am a whole-hearted supporter of the Bill, which shows great courage and statesmanship on the part of the Government. I know that my friends of the Opposition do not like it. Fond as I am of the Labour party persoNaily, I detest their political views. To-night we have had a very curious example, because we have seen Members of the Labour party, one after another, tEarlng down arguments, which have not been raised by the Government at all, in order to make a case against the Bill. We had the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. E. Davies), in a most eloquent speech, pointing out that drunkenness was decreasing, and that crimes by violence were in no way as bad as they might be. On our side of the House, we do not pretend that in London to-day we are back in the old days of banditry, but we say that there are weaknesses and defects in the present system, and that we are out to improve the system, and, as far as we can, make the Metropolitan Police Force even a better force than it is at the present time.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) made a most humorous speech about our older universities, and pointed out what a poor lot we really were. There would have been some point in that speech if the object of the Bill had been to turn the ordinary Police Officer out of the force and to make a new Police Force entirely composed of university men. I have not heard in the course of 1043 the Debate, nor has my study of the Trenchard Report given me to understand, that we have the least intention of making an entirely University Police Force. At any Tate, I have been cheered by one thing. Apparently my hon. Friends in the Socialist party do not regard a recent resolution passed at one of the ancient Universities as being representative of that University, or they would have welcomed a Police Force composed of University men. We have heard a lot about nepotism, universities and militarism, whatever that may mean. They are mere words which tend to obscure a very simple issue.
Are there, or are there not, certain defects in the Metropolitan Police Force at the present time, and are the steps which are being taken by His Majesty's Government the right steps to remedy those defects? We are all, I think, more or less agreed on the first defect, which is the slowness of promotion. Beyond that there are two other Major points. There is the view which the Government hold, and which I hold very strongly, and on which there is some controversy, that there is an insufficiency in present circumstances of educated men within the Police Force to-day. There is the third point which is again a non-controversial point. Undoubtedly there is a certain lack of Incentive for the rank and file of the Police Force when they have passed the period of promotion. I think we are all agreed upon that matter. The slowness of promotion has been dealt with by speaker after speaker, and it is obvious that under the old system by which seniority up to the rank of superintendent took the place of merit, you are bound to have atrophied the gift of leadership wherever it existed, very often in a man who for years had to trundle along on much the same job and beat without any real opportunity of advancement.
You are bound to change that system, and the Government are bound to try to find a way out by which those men will have greater opportunities of promotion. The Police College, among other things, will do that. On the other hand, we Have been criticised because we do not simply confine the Police College to members of the existing Police Force. If by casting opportunities to men outside 1044 the existing force it is possible to bring into the net good men who otherwise would not be brought in, we are justified in doing it for the sake of the Police Force as a whole. It was stated quite fairly a little time ago by a certain gentleman, who was very closely connected with the Police Strike of 1918, that had we had the present plan in operation at that time we should have removed one of the biggest grouses in the Police Force, that promotion went by seniority and not by merit. That grouse, at any rate, has been tackled.
I confess, like a good many other hon. Members of the House, that I am a little worried over the question of the short term service. I realise that very strong arguments can be raised against it on the ground that these men, with no pension to which to look forward, at the end of 10 years may become unemployed. The strength of the criticism depends very much upon the administration produced by the Government and by the Metropolitan Police for finding those men jobs. If the experiment does not give a fair chance to a good man when he comes out of the Police Force to get a good job, the experiment will fail, and will do a great deal of harm. I do not believe for a moment that the Government propose to allow good men to drift into unemployment if they have done their jobs decently in the Police Force for 10 years. The argument on the other side is that under the present system, when a man has passed the period of opportunity of getting promotion, he has not much to which to look forward, except that as long as he is not in disgrace he will get his pension. That is not much Incentive. Under the short-term service, if the scheme is properly run, he will know that the better he does, the better will be the job he is likely to get. The man who does his job the best during those 10 years will be the man who will be most pressed forward and given the best opportunity.
§ Mr. RAIKES
It is impossible, naturally, for me to say actually what job would be obtained by any particular man. 1045 If you have a man who has been in the force for 10 years and done very well, and he goes out with high qualifications for honesty, perseverence and for dealing with men, I should have thought that he would be just the sort of man who, backed up by the Home Office, might have been taken on in a number of positions of responsibility by firms dealing with the keeping of money, and so forth.
§ Mr. RAIKES
It may be the old story, but I do not think it is a bad story. My hon. Friends of the Labour party are too pessimistic. A good deal of this Debate has shown an under-current of feeling on the part of the Opposition that we Tories are all out to play a dirty trick on the working-class.
§ Mr. RAIKES
We shall be judged at the next Election not by Members of this House who sit on the Opposition Benches, but by the working-classes who time after time have preferred us to them. There is one further matter with which I should like to deal, and that is in regard to the Police Federation. A good deal has been said regarding that matter. It is pretty obvious from the activities of the Federation, the number of meetings held and the anxiety shown that the Police Force are not absolutely and entirely contented. I am in favour of the Police Federation so long as there is need for it. I do not believe in simply wiping out or trying to wipe out any form of organisation that has arisen because men need protection. The better the officers you can get in the Police Force the less need will there be for so many meetings of the Federation. The more trust you get between the men and their superior officers the better, and I believe that one object of the scheme is to work for closer co-operation between officers and men. Many of the men who will be trained in the Police College will learn there to develop their gift of leadership, which will enable them to be trusted by the Federation and by the men whom the Federation represent. Trust and trust alone will make the Police Force a success.
1046 Under the scheme there will be an increased number of higher posts, which will increase the opportunities for able men to get promotion. There will be increased opportunities for younger men to rise to the top. It is not a bad thing for a man between 40 and 60 years of age to have a chance of getting to the top jobs. There are men who hold top positions who are considerably older, and in certain circumstances they may have passed their prime for that particular position. The Government are doing well in bringing forward the Bill. I believe the scheme will lead to higher efficiency and quicker promotion, to greater power of leadership among the men who are to be the future officers of the Police Force, and that outside this House the bitterest critics of the scheme at the present time are the very men who will applaud it most warmly in the days that are to come.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
I rise to support the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I have listened with great interest to many of the speeches which have been delivered and have been particularly interested in the statement regarding the men's federation, and the apparent criticism of the frequency of meetings, all of which, I understand, have been definitely approved and none has been held to be out of order. Opportunities given to a group of persons, whoever they may be, adequately to discuss any difficulty or grievance leads to greater understanding, greater efficiency and greater co-operation, and I should resent very much any attempt to limit such opportunities. My right hon. Friend asked the Home Secetary, or whoever is to reply for the Government, to state whether a reply had been received from the Police Federation in answer to the general statement about it, and whether the Home Secretary will cause the reply to be laid on the Table or to publish it in some other way. I understand that the Home Secretary is the only mouthpiece that the federation have, and, if the reply submitted by the federation is not to be laid upon the Table or communicated in some other way, then the opinions so expressed by the federation will be stifled, and the rights of the federation will be denied. It would help matters if we could be in- 1047 formed whether the reply of the federation will be published.
I think the Government will not regard this side of the House as being so politcally simple as to look upon the introduction of this Bill as something merely to give greater educational facilities to the Police Force and to correct a few little defects in the force. There is a general distrust of the Bill on the points which were stressed by the Leader of the Opposition. We regard the Bill as of a quasi-military or semi-military character. The proposal is to make the force a more physical instrument than it is now, more of a physical force, and it comes too recently after the Liverpool, Birkenhead, Belfast, West Ham, Croydon and other incidents of last winter for us to imagine that it has no connection with those incidents. In the attempt to build up a physical force the Government are going against the general understanding and the general wish of the public. There is a feeling inherent in the British people that Britons never shall be slaves. They do not like the idea of employing force to put them down. I think the wisest military strategist and the greatest military captain of all times, Napoleon, said that the moral factor was as three to one to the physical factor.
In these strenuous times in these days of difficulty they are compelled against their wishes to come out into the open and demonstrate their discontent with things as they exist, and if you are going to meet that by force instead of by reason you are definitely changing the proportion of the moral factor to the physical force factor, a change which will undoubtedly react to the disadvantage of the country. If you destroy the moral props upon which this country is generally maintained, if a peaceful settlement of all disputes is frustrated, if a belief in law and order is taken away, you have all the conditions available for a revolution. If you apply the bludgeon you cannot expect the people to respond in a healthy way. There is no time for me to develop the points I should like to have dealt with but I may have an opportunity at a later stage. I feel that the approach to this problem is not one in which there is a desire to extend the democratic principle.
1048 The people of this country are not so innocent or so simple as not to know that nearly all the positions in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, in the judiciary and the Civil Service, are not open to the general community. Whilst the Government know what they want by this Bill, it is a link in the chain of power which they are seeking to obtain, there are a large number who believe that it is just an ordinary change which has come about because of a certain inefficiency in the Police Force, and that it is for the purpose of making the Police Force more efficient. Our policemen have always behaved wonderfully well. They are courteous, efficient, sober, very dependable. Children look to them for assistance and grown-ups often consult them. I have always found them courteous and helpful. In spite of not having attended a university they are able to deal with crowds in London and to communicate to the crowd the desirability of a certain form of behaviour, or dispersal. It is a mistake to under-estimate their value and their capacity. It is said that many years elapse between the time they enlist in the force and the time they get promotion, but it is the machine that has prevented quicker promotion. There are plenty of ShErieck Holmes in the Police Force if they only had the opportunity. There are plenty who could rise to the highest ranks, given the opportunity.
It is assumed that the efficiency of the Police Force has not kept pace with modern crime. The policeman lives in the same street as the ordinary man; their children go to school together, they understand each other, and I regret that any attempt should be made to say that the officers of such a force must be brought in from the universities, some young bloods, the scions of nobility, because it is only those whose fathers are wealthy who can enter the universities. [Interruption.] The opportunities for education for the democracy are being restricted and denied by this Government instead of being extended. I must oppose the Bill, and in concluding I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us, in the interests of fair play, whether the reply of the Police Federation to the charges made against them will be published. I trust it will. This Bill is not a move in the direction of demo- 1049 cratic control. It is right away from it; it tends in the direction of reaction.
§ 10.2. p.m.
§ Brigadier-General NATION
I have listened to the arguments put forward during the Debate from both sides of the House with great attention, and I must confess that the proposals brought forward by those who are opposed to the Bill have not convInced me of the un-desirability of the reforms which are suggested. In every walk of life, whether it is private business or the public service, there inevitably comes a time when the whole system has to be reorganised to meet changing conditions. There is no service, private or public, which can remain at the peak of utility for all time. Since the War we have had a complete reorganisation of a number of Government Departments. The Colonial Office has been broken up into two Departments. There has been a complete reorganisation of the Army, Navy and Air Force. There is also the reorganisation of the transport services, broadcasting, and in civil life there has been the amalgamation of the great stores. Even in this House we have seen a change in the fiscal policy during the last year. All these changes have been unpopular at the commencement but they have all proved beneficent, generally, in the end.
I confess that for some time I have been hoping to see a reorganisation of our Police. There is no one who admires the individual policeman more than I. He has a very hard job, in all sorts of weathers, to perform, sometimes attended with great danger and sometimes he is under great provocation to keep his temper. But it is the system which I want to see reorganised to meet modern conditions of crime, which have been brought to this country to a large extent from the United States of America by the cinema. We have to keep pace with crime, and to do that the Police Force must be brought up-to-date. Home Secretaries and Commissioners of Police have come and gone and have made small changes, but none has tackled the job as a whole with courage. Now at last we have a Commissioner who is a man of proved ability and great organising power. With great respect I say that I think he is comparable with Lord Kitchener in his best days. This Commissioner served for 15 to 20 years in 1050 the Army before he went to the Air Force. That our Air Force to-day is second to none in efficiency, in organisation and in up-to-date methods, is almost entirely due to Lord Trenchard. He has produced a report which we have all read, and I think that for clarity and honesty of purpose that report is hard to beat. There is one aim running throughout the report, and that is a single desire to produce in the Metropolis the most efficient Police Force that it is possible for us to have.
It is proposed in this scheme to make the Police Force a real profession, a career, not simply a place for men to remain in and stagnate for 40 years or so, but one in which those who join in the lowest grades have a prospect of rising to the highest position. We have seen in a number of other services how depressing it is to have men brought in for the higher posts. We have seen it in the Diplomatic Service, where (men have been brought in from outside, and how that has upset those who have spent their lives in that career. We have seen it in the Colonial Service, where Governors have been nominated for some of our Colonies when they have hardly been in the Colony before. I think I am right in saying that we have never yet had a Commissioner of Police who has risen through the various grades in that force. Under this new scheme the highest grades will be open to those who join in the lowest rank.
Let me touch on one or two of the suggestions that are made. As to recruiting, I welcome the 10 years proposal. I think it will make for youth and vigour in the lower ranks. But I would ask this question: What is proposed for these men at the end of their 10 years' service? I cannot believe that it is the intention of the Government just to put them on the scrap-heap with a gratuity. Is it the intention of the Government to form a police reserve? Is it intended to take a certain number of them and extend their service? What is proposed? It is not clear either in Lord Trenchard's Report or in the White Paper. I suggest to the Government that some of these men may have their service extended, and that those who are so selected should be employed on traffic control. I certainly think that if a police reserve was formed those men would be 1051 more useful in times of emergency, or for great ceremonials, when a large force is required, than the special constables are, in spite of their energy and desire to serve their country. If men of the police reserve were called out they should receive a full day's pay for a full day's work.
The Police College, I think, is an excellent idea. The only thing that I am not happy about is the direct entry to the college. I think it would be better if everyone who came into the police started in the lowest rank as constable, from whatever seat of learning he came. Any man who wants to make the police service his profession or career should start in the lowest grade. After that there might be an age limit, say between 20 and 25, at which all constables could compete for entry to the college. After passing through the college they might start in the lowest officer grade. I believe that a system of that kind would make for good and would give satisfaction throughout the service. It would provide an equal opportunity for all. I see no harm, whoever the individual might be, in his starting as a constable and working as a constable for a year or two.
With regard to the college I have asked two questions within the last two or three days, but have not got quite the answer that I want. Where is this college to be? What is to be spent on the building and on the site? I have in mind what was said in the Debate on the Army Estimates about the amalgamation of Sandhurst and Woolwich. I still think that that amalgamation should be carried out. If it were carried out there would be a redundant college at Woolwich admirably suited for this purpose, with sufficient buildings of every kind, class rooms, living rooms, gymnasium, swimming bath, training ground, recreation ground and every kind of amenity that is required in a police college. Not only that, but it could be combined with the police school. I. understand that the present police school is no longer suitable for the purpose. By combining the college and school in one building we would make for greater efficiency and economy. I make that suggestion to the Home Secretary, and I shall be glad to know what is in the Government's mind about it.
1052 With regard to those who pass through the college and who then enter the officer grade of the Police Force, it seems to me, having looked through the White Paper, that there are already too many grades in the officer class The new proposals regarding grades would add two more, and eventually, if the scheme goes through, we shall have no fewer than 11 officer grades and only three of the lower grades in a force that numbers only 20,000 men. I think also that the names of the grades are very confusing. For instance, I think that a chief constable, who ranks extremely high in the present force, may be confused with a constable, and one might think that the chief constable was a man little higher than a constable. It is not so, for the chief constable comes immediately under the Commissioners, who are in the highest ranks. Under the new scheme there will be five different grades of inspector—chief inspector, sub-divisional inspector, inspector, station inspector and junior station inspector. It sounds rather like the different kinds of eggs that one can have, ending up with the election egg and I think there is room for simplification in that respect.
Schemes of reorganisation in any service are always unpopular at the start because they displace a certain number of men and cause a certain amount of grievance. But, in almost every case, after a year or two, reorganisation is found to be beneficial and I think that will be the case with these proposals. I think the constables themselves after a short time will recognise that the new system is better than the old and that there are better chances of promotion to the highest grades. I also think that the new system will serve the country better than the old and I have no hesitation in giving my hearty support to this Bill—a support which I confess I have not altogether felt for some of the recent Bills introduced by the Government. On this occasion I have no doubt whatever that these proposals will be beneficial and I shall vote for the Bill.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The Home Secretary took occasion during the speech of the Leader of the Opposition to object to certain criticisms which he made of the Commissioner of Police, Lord Trenchard. 1053 I think that complaint was not well-founded. The right hon. Gentleman has introduced a very important Bill dealing with the future of the police. He did so with his usual charm and courtesy but with exceedingly little disclosure of the ideas which were animating him. He based himself almost entirely on the Trenchard Report. [HON. MEMBERS: "The White Paper!"] Well, the White Paper is really based on the Trenchard Report. The anonymity of the Civil Service is a well-established principle but where the whole case for a Bill is based on a report made by an individual it is necessary to examine that report. This is a very remarkable report. It throws light, (1) on the Police Force and (2) on the Commissioner and most remarkable is the light which it throws on the Commissioner. I do not think I recall another report by the head of such a body as the Metropolitan Police Force in which one can search in vain for the slightest appreciation by the author of the report of the men serving under him. I have never seen a more coldly critical document. He describes the men serving under him as people who come there to what is simply a resource for those who have failed. The whole thing breathes a spirit of distaste for the ordinary police constable.
I was surprised when I heard it said that unfortunately we had a Commissioner who did not like the police. I did not credit it until I saw the report. There is no doubt there is something wrong in the Police Force, but the House must consider whether it is the organisation or the people who are running it. I do not want to make anything in the nature of a personal attack on the present Commissioner. He has had a distinguished military career and has done wonderful service for the Royal Air Force, but I do say that this report shows him to be less effective as the head of a Police Force. I am quite sure that reports of this kind would never have made the Air Force what it is. There has been very grave discontent in the Police Force during his very short regime. There is a general dissatisfaction throughout the force, and I must say that this report explains it, because I do not consider that this report is in the least bit fair.
1054 Take the case of the Police Federation. It is suggested in this report and the White Paper that the Federation has been actively fomenting discontent. The Federation was set up by the Government of the day to be the vehicle whereby discontent should be brought forward. The function of the Federation is to be the place where discontents are ventilated. We are told that they have passed minutes of meetings and had them circulated through the force to foment discontent, but we are not told, as is the fact, that all these minutes have to be passed by the head of Scotland Yard and, in the case of the inspectors, by the Home Office, and it is not mentioned that only on a single occasion were they objected to. We are not told either of the appreciation that Lord Byng showed of the Federation on his retirement and of the very happy relations that reigned between him and the Federation.
There is another great point made of the time lost over the federation meetings. It is all added up, and it is made out to be very great, but why is not the same thing done with other activities, such as the bands, the minstrel troupes, and the men going in for competitions and games? These are not added up. The whole of this report is biased against the federation and against any democratic idea whatever in the Police Force. There is a further reason for what has been taking place in the force. It has been denied, but there is no doubt that there has been a steady drive against the ordinary constable, to see that he brings plenty of cases in the police court. Whether it is because those in authority think a constable is not doing his duty unless he pinches a certain number of people, or whether it is merely, as is quite possible, a part of the great May push for reducing costs all round, I believe there is no doubt that the policemen who have been doing their duty well for years have been warned, and that there has been a deliberate encouragement of the type of constable that secures the most convictions. It is not the man who makes the most convictions Who is the most efficient constable, but the man who prevents crime in his district and stops trouble.
I think this false Army discipline is a mistaken idea, and I think the whole 1055 attitude towards the federation shows a type of not very up-to-date military mind. In any case, it is extremely bad to apply the military system to a police force, and that the idea of discipline expressed in the words, "Do this, and he doeth it," is out of date. The right kind of discipline is where the man does what he should do and takes action on his own initiative. The whole tendency in a police force is to cripple this activity altogether if you lay down meticulous rules of a narrow discipline and do not have the wider discipline in which the men are trusted to carry on. That has been the whole basis of our Police Force, and it is one of the reasons for its extraordinary success. I want the House to realise the importance of such questions. The question of a police force in any State is an extremely difficult one and it is a test for any democracy. One notices that wherever there is a tyranny it is exercised through a police force, and eventually the tyranny in question generally comes to be controlled by a police force. It is one of the successes of this country that we have kept a democratic police force and, for a very large part of the country, a democratically controlled force.
The result is that instead of the policeman being considered only as the instrument of the executive, he has to a large extent become the friend of the community. I do not know whether people realise how very rare it is in the world for the policeman to be regarded as a friend. It is a high tribute to the type of man who goes into the Police Force. Policemen themselves will tell you that the type of man who has made the Police Force what it is has been the agricultural labourer. The enlistment has been democratic. We are not saying that there should not be a wide enlistment in the Police Force. We only object to having a privileged class which is to come in at the top. I want to stress the importance of a democratic police force, because it is really vital. In a society such as ours, which is based on private property and a very wide inequality of individual fortunes, the mass of crime is almost necessarily likely to come from the poorer classes of the community, and the people suspected of crime for the most part come from those sections, so that the Police Force is 1056 brought into contact far more vitally with the lives of the working people. For that you do not want one who has studied philosophy or even taken a course in psychology. You want the practical psychology of the man who knows and understands the people with whom he has to work. That is not a thing that can be learned at a police college, or a thing that can be learned right away.
We therefore want the Police Force to be recruited widely and not to have people put in a position to give orders who have not had practical experience. We have heard of the man who walked his beat year after year until he was apparently dead beat. That type of man would know the people in his district, and would know how to handle them. There is a good deal of nonsense talked about the wonderful superior trained person who assists in the detection of crime. That is all very well in the detective novel, which most of us read and which I persoNaily enjoy. But the mass of crime detection is not done by the ShErieck Holmes and by these wonderful inspectors, but by the men of the Police Force because of their wide knowledge of the people with whom they have to deal.
When we come to these proposals we find some very remarkable things. First of all we have this curious suggestion, that if there are a great many people in a force there is a terrible lack of Incentive. That point was put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Brigadier-General Nation). He was quite impressed by it. I would like him to tell me how many people in the Army have a chance of rising to the top. They may have the chance, but they cannot all do it. However you select your people in a force of 40,000 men there are not many who are going to come out at the top, there are not many who are going to come into the second grade, and yet we have this curious statement in the White Paper:It is not generally recognised what a large number of constables in the Metropolitan Police Force are men of considerable service with no prospect of promotion.It is not generally realised what a large number of Conservatives in the House are men of considerable service with no prospect of promotion. They have passed their turn for promotion. [Interruption.'] We can ask the Chief Whip. It 1057 is not because they are slack and do not turn up, and so forth. That is the kind of statement which is being put up to support this elaborate plan. You can take men from where you please into the force, but only a limited number will be able to get to the top.
We suggest that there is a very obvious design behind this plan. The first thing is the idea of creating an officer cadre of people who are drawn from a different class, who it is thought will have different interests, who it is thought will have different sympathies, and that class is not to be the working class. They are to be kept out of the Federation so that they shall not be tainted with any trade unionism. They are to be introduced in order that you may divide up your Police Force. The Police Force have shown that they have too great a sense of comradeship, so it is said, "Better divide them up and not get too much sympathy between the higher and the lower grades, and perhaps they will be more easily managed." They are to be brought in from outside and that is to be done by this wonderful system of selection, tempered by an "exam." I should think they will all be well advised to come up wEarlng the old school tie. An hon. and gallant Member interjects an observation, but I would reply that what happened in the Labour Government is not very relevant to the point. The hon. and gallant Member for Thornbury (Captain Gunston) did not do justice to his own place of education. He rather suggested that it had been neglected. As a matter of fact, it is the only public school that provided two Cabinet Ministers for the Labour Government, and if those people had not been included we should have been accused of a narrow class spirit. After all, the Labour movement has a political side, an industrial side and a co-operative side, united, and we were still more united after the events of last night. There are men like myself who, although educated at a public school, have, after all, been through the mill to some extent, have done some 25 years' work in the movement; and so, perhaps, the hon. Member is wrong in suggesting that there is any parallel between us and this plan.
§ Captain GUNSTON
Will the hon. Member mention a single Labour Member 1058 of Parliament educated at Eton who was not a Member of the late Labour Government?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I do not correctly know, but, if that is so, I can only say that I quite agree that there was a Member of the Labour Government who had a very great appreciation of people who came from certain circles, but he is not now in the Labour party. There are two things to be considered. First of all is the question of reorganisation of the Police Force. In that connection, it may well be that you need youth at the helm, but the Government are always bringing in old age at the helm. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition will not mind that. I regard him as perennially youthful. When a previous Conservative Home Secretary wanted something done, he got someone who was 65; that was bringing in youth. This time they brought in someone who was 58. We shall believe in the idea of youth at the top when we see it carried out. There is a case for a proper organisation, in which people are selected for promotion at an earlier age. I tried to apply that myself when I was at the Post Office. I believe that it is a proper principle that, right the way through, you should have people coming in on a level, so that there could be an earlier selection for ability. That has been done most happily and democratically in the Post Office.
I believe that at the back of this Bill there is something very different. I do not think that the present Government believe in democracy. I have always noticed that they have played the political game very nicely and according to the rules, so long as they were winning, but when they were losing, they either wanted to change the rules or the umpire. I have a strong suspicion that this is intelligent anticipation that the country is getting pretty sick of them. I have the greatest suspicion that this is an endeavour to wean the police force away from sympathy with the masses of the people, and to build up a class force. We have had no explanation of the extraordinary proposal for short-service police, which obviously has every disadvantage. Directly your men are trained, they have to go out. The only suggestion that I have heard has been from an hon. and gallant Member who suggested that what was wanted was a big police reserve. 1059 I want to know what that police reserve is wanted for. We are profoundly suspicious of the whole of the idea. We consider that in this Bill, as in so many others, the National Government is proving exactly what it is. It is a class Government.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
We represent the people who are not rich enough to take a first-class. They are third-class Parliamentary. The hon. Member represents the rich first-class. We have very great suspicion that this Bill is put forward with an ulterior motive, and we shall oppose it to the utmost limit of our power.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Douglas Hacking)
This Debate, if I might be allowed to say so, has been characteristic of the House of Commons at its best. The discussion has been carried on with an absence of bitterness and ill-temper which, had it been present, might have been excused, if only on account of the great interest, and even excitement, which the proposals contained in this Bill have aroused in many and different quarters. I hope that in the course of my remarks I shall say nothing which will disturb the even temper of the Debate. I rise to reply to some of the many questions which have been put to my right hon. Friend. I say, "Some of the many questions," because the House will realise that, if I had to attempt to answer all the questions which have been put, the Debate would not be concluded for at least a couple of hours. I also desire to deal at a later stage with the official Amendment which stands in the name of His Majesty's Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition was disappointed that no examples were given to justify the proposed changes. The examples were not given deliberately. My right hon. Friend is only too anxious to bury the past. He desired that any irregularities or cases of insubordination should be forgotten. If the right hon. Gentleman presses me for cases, of course I must comply, but I should only comply with reluctance.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The whole point is this: Has the Federation put up an 1060 answer to the case made there, and, if so, may we see that answer? Then we can judge whether we want to ask for something more.
§ Mr. HACKING
That is another question which the right hon. Gentleman puts to me, but he did ask that specific cases should be quoted in this House. That is what I do not desire to do. If he presses for that, I am quite prepared to give the chapter and verse or one or two cases.
§ Mr. HACKING
I prefer not to do it, and, if the right hon. Gentleman does not press for them, they will not be given.
§ Mr. HACKING
No; the right hon. Gentleman will not see the other document unless he has already seen it; he will not see it at the hands of my right hon. Friend. If he makes conditions on those terms, I very much fear that we cannot accept the conditions. May I leave it there—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The point which the right hon. Gentleman is putting to me is, I understand, this: I have asked on what evidence the case for the White Paper and the Bill is based. The right hon. Gentleman says to me, "You ask me for that; I am not willing to give it unless I am pressed to give it." I leave it to the right hon. Gentleman and his chief to decide themselves as to whether they will comply with my request; they must not put the responsibility on me as to whether they answer a Parliamentary question or not. I asked the question, and I wanted an answer. I would not have asked the question otherwise.
§ Mr. HACKING
That puts me in a very difficult position. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman desires to have these detailed cases or not.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
It is for you to decide that. I have asked the question. This is an altogether new doctrine. I tell the right hon. Gentleman and his chief that I asked for that; information, 1061 and it is for them to decide whether they will give it to me or not. I want the information, and it is their responsibility if they do not give it.
§ Mr. HACKING
If the right hon. Gentleman insists on putting that question, I will give him two cases which will be quite sufficient. The first example of insubordinate language was contained in a resolution passed by the Joint Executive Committee of the Police Federation at a meeting held on 14th August, 1931. This is the resolution:That, having considered the Commissioner's reply, dated 5th August, 1931, to resolution No. 10 relevant to representations made on matters in connection with the Police Orphanage, this Joint Executive Committee notes same with profound regret.Then it proceeds with criticism and continues:Can it, therefore, be wondered at that the members of the service consider the whole business to be a travesty of justice and fair dealing and hold strongly to the view—in spite of the denial given by the Commissioner—that it is a direct attack upon branch board representation? A report of some of the remarks made at the general court would help to convInce the Commissioner of this.If that is not insubordination, I do not know what is. Let me give another illustration. This is a copy of a notice which was posted up at Cannon Bow and some other police stations after the Home Secretary had warned the Federation against the publication of such objectionable resolutions:Police Federation of England and Wales.Metropolitan Police Branch Boards Joint Executive Committee, 26th October, 1932.I have to inform you that at a meeting of the above committee held at New Scotland Yard to-day a resolution was carried unanimously and submitted direct to the Secretary of State and a copy to the Commissioner. The principal points contained in the resolution are as follow: The serious concern created in the force consequent upon the decision to inflict the second cut submitting that it is no longer necessary to continue with the first cut as the Budget has been balanced: submitting that it is a deliberate attempt to reduce our standard of living: suggesting that no serious attempt has been made to effect economies in administration.There is a definite charge made against my right hon. Friend which certainly ought not to be published by any federation or any people in a disciplined force. Every Member of the House can make up his mind with regard to the propriety of 1062 those two resolutions, and I do not fear the result. We are told by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. B. Davies) that no changes are necessary in police administration because there has been a reduction in crime, and the hon. Member quoted from this Blue Book figures to justify his statement. But, instead of quoting from the crime figures, he quoted the number of persons arrested and showed that, whereas in 1928 there were 58,477, in 1932 there were only 47,872 arrested. But that does not mean that there has been an increase or a decrease in crime. It only shows that there has been a decrease in the number of people arrested, and, when you deal with the most serious crime, that dealt with at Assizes and Quarter Sessions, we find that, whereas in 1928 there were 1,520 persons convicted of crime, in 1932 that number had risen to 2,510, which certainly does not show a decrease.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Will the hon. Gentleman read the number of convictions dealt with by the magistrates?
§ Mr. HACKING
I was taking the more serious crimes. If hon. Members will turn to the report itself and read what the Commissioner has to say about crime, they will see that there has been a definite increase in indictable crime. In 1932 the figure was 83,000. It was estimated that if the 1931 returns had been compiled on the principle now adopted, the figure would have been approximately 79,000, showing an increase in 1932 of about 5 per cent. Then we read:The crimes which occupy the great bulk of police attention are the various forms of robbery and theft.…It is estimated that breakings increased by 12 per cent. in 1932 over 1931 …. The proportion of breakings and larcenies remaining' uncleared up is still disturbingly high. The percentage cleared up … is practically the same—a little over 13 per cent., leaving over 86 per cent. as a 'debit' in the police books… Larcenies from vehicles represent a special problem… there were more than twice as many cases in November and December as there were in July and August.I have said enough about the increase of crime to show that we are not in too happy a position in regard to the detection of crime in the Metropolitan area. Those are the only examples with which I am going to trouble the House.
I, will now turn to other criticisms. The hon. Member for Westhoughton con- 1063 demned the system of allowing certain young men to enter the Police College through the universities, because no police degree was given by a university to qualify for the service. As far as I know, no university has a Home Office degree to qualify people to go into the Home Office, nor is there a university which even has a parliamentary degree to qualify people to come here. Surely we can learn something of our job after we leave the university, and we hope that certain people who do leave the university and go into the Police College will learn something of the job of the police when they have that opportunity.
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that the Commissioner's Report was a cold one, and that there was not a single good word for the men. I suggest that if he reads the report again, he will see that the blame for the present position is in the main attributed to the system, and not to the men. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in justifying the good character of the force over the last two years, said that Lord Byng, on his retirement, had given some glowing farewell messages to the men, speaking highly when he bade them farewell as to their excellent character and so forth. I hold a very strong view that farewell messages should never be accepted as evidence, and I leave it at that. Then the right hon. Gentleman asked me whether the Federation had sent a memorandum to the Home Secretary, and whether it would be published. The answer to the question whether it will be published is "No." The report is a report to the Home Secretary, for, in accordance with the Act of Parliament, it is the duty of the Federation to present a report, if they care to do so, to the Home Secretary and not to Parliament. May I quote from Section 1 of the Act to prove my case?(1) For the purpose of enabling the members of the Police Forces of England and Wales to consider and bring to the notice of police authorities and the Secretary of State all the matters affecting their welfare and efficiency, other than questions of discipline and promotion affecting individuals there shall be established in accordance with the Schedule to this Act an organisation to be called the Police Federation, which shall act through local and central representative bodies as provided in that Schedule.1064(2) The Police Federation and every branch thereof shall be entirely independent of and unassociated with any body or person outside the police service.I only read that second sub-section to show that there is a difference between the Police Federation and any ordinary trade union. The point which I make is that in accordance with the Act of Parliament they have to send these notices and their grievances to the police authorities and to the Secretary of State. That is what they have done. It; is not the duty of the Home Secretary to do anything more than carry out the law.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The Commissioner has issued a report in which certain proposals are made relative to the federation, and I ask whether any memorandum has been received from the federation countering it, and, if so, why cannot it be shown to the House of Commons and to the public at large? Surely, the men have a right to their side being heard. It is only common fairness.
§ Mr. HACKING
They have a right to represent their case to the Home Secretary. They have done that, and the Home Secretary has considered their case. My right hon. Friend warned the federation only two or three days ago that they must not publish those documents in the Press, and it is a little unfortunate—I will not put it any higher than that—that a very accurate account of this memorandum appeared in a certain newspaper this morning. That does not show that there is really every form of discipline which is necessary. Another question the right hon. Gentleman asked me was, Did the Commissioner know that the insubordinate statements contained in the resolutions were being printed? I think that that was the question he asked me. The position as to the branch board minutes and resolutions is that facilities have been provided by the Scotland Yard authorities for the printing of such documents, but it would not be true to say that those documents have been endorsed by such authority. May I say, in passing, that the Blue and Yellow books, with which probably the right hon. Gentleman is conversant, in which there are many unfortunate statements, were neither printed nor endorsed by Scotland Yard?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The right hon. Gentleman said "endorsed." It is a fact, is it 1065 not, that the resolutions passed by these boards are passed for printing and circulation by Scotland Yard authorities—not endorsed, but passed for circulation?
§ Mr. HACKING
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by "passed." Some of them may be seen or may not be seen, but they are not in any way endorsed by Scotland Yard.
§ Mr. HACKING
They are printed there; they are not endorsed. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of competitive selection. He said that he did not quite know the meaning of competitive selection but he alleged that every one in the Civil Service is recruited by written examination and comes in at the bottom. Both those statements are wrong.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I think that when the right hon. Gentleman sees the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see that I did not say that.
§ Mr. HACKING
I took it down very carefully. As a matter of fact, many civil servants are recruited by competitive selection without written examination, in such cases as engineers, factory inspectors and many other classes, and even for the non-technical work of the Civil Service it is not true to say that every one comes in at the bottom. These are the facts. There are three main doors of recruitment: first of all, for clerical work from the age of 16 to 17; for executive work from the age of 17 to 19, after a full secondary school education; and thirdly, for administrative work at the age of 22 to 24, after an honours course at a university. Administrative posts are recruited partly in accordance with the last method, that is, from the universities and partly by promotion from amongst the men engaged on clerical and execuive work. That is precisely what is proposed in the new plan for the Metropolitan Police Force.
The hon. Member for North Lanark (Mr. Anstruther-Gray), the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) and the hon. Member for East Essex (Mr. Raikes) appeared to be a little nervous lest the men on short service, after 10 years in the police service, would join the ranks of the unemployed. That is a very natural criticism, but may I remind 1066 the House that we are looking 10 years ahead in this matter? None of these short service men can leave before that time. Trade may have improved. I believe that at this moment there are fewer men unemployed at the age of 30 than there are at the age of 20. In any event, an Appointments Board is to be set up to look after the interests of these men, and I hope that they may be successful in their efforts. May we look at the question in this way? If a man came to ask me for a job at the age of 20, with hardly any testimonial, and another man at the age of 30 asked me for a job, and he had a splendid testimonial of service in the Metropolitan Police Force, provided that second man was strong and able to perform the work, I should have no hesitation in choosing him rather than the man without any recommendation, without any testimonial, although he was 10 years younger. If the short service scheme breaks down on that account because people when they come out of the force are not absorbed into employment, there is no reason why it should not be discontinued under Clause 4 as at present drafted. The service could be extended under Clause 4 without any amendment being made.
I do not always agree with the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). I hope he will not think I am in any way impertinent on this occasion if I say that I was in complete agreement with almost every word he said. He spoke with great knowledge and great authority, and I am sure the House will be grateful for his valuable contribution to the Debate.
May I now deal with the Amendment in the name of the Opposition? It begins by viewing with profound distrust the Government's proposal. Of course, it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose, and I wonder if the reason why the Opposition is distrustful on this occasion is because they find it somewhat difficult to discover sufficient argument to carry out effective opposition to the Government's scheme. The Amendment continues by saying that the Bill,accompanied by contemplated administrative changes, will impair the democratic constitution of the Police Force.Does that mean that the Opposition are satisfied with the present democratic condition of the force? We have heard to-day a good deal of criticism that the 1067 administration is at fault. We have heard repeated statements to the effect that the present method of selection and appointment is unsatisfactory, and that the Commissioner cannot possibly have sufficient experience of police work to warrant his taking up successfully such a position at the head of the force. That statement has been made by hon. Members opposite. In the Amendment we read that the Opposition is terrified lest the present democratic constitution should be impaired. Under the present democratic constitution which they are supporting, during an interval of 104 years the Metropolitan Police Force has not produced a single Commissioner. [Interruption.] Surely the Opposition are not satisfied with that? The fact that the Majority of the chief constables have to be introduced from outside is surely not what the Opposition mean by democracy? Note the difference under the Government's scheme. Under the changes suggested by the Government Sit will be possible, it will be probable, it will be almost certain, that future Commissioners, Deputy-Commissioners, Deputy-Assistant Commissioners and chief constables will have risen from within the force itself, and instead of these officers having had but one and a half year's experience, it is much more likely that they will have had 10, and 20 and more years experience in the force before being called upon to occupy high responsible positions. The Amendment concludes by saying that the Billwill introduce a substantial measure of militarisation,I suppose that the word "militarisation," being a long word, was put in to make the Amendment look more important. The word "militarisation" seems to frighten the Opposition. If they mean that we want to turn the Police Force into an armed fighting force, or into a force with an excess of military spirit, they may disabuse their minds at once. There is no such intention. In talking about militarism surely the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is caught on the horns of a dilemma. In answer to a question put by the right hon. Gentleman for Darwen, the right hon. Gentleman said that there had been a great increase in militarisation during the last 30 years, and in 1068 the very sentence previously be said that the force was perfect. Is this degree of perfection at the present moment due to this gradual increase of militarisation? Even the Leader of the Opposition cannot back two horses and expect both to win. If by militarisation the Opposition mean a disciplined force, that is what the Police Force is now. It may be that the new system will increase the degree of discipline, but would that be a disastrous thing? We all have to submit to discipline. There is, or should be, discipline in every political party, there is discipline in every home, there must always be a head of every household—I admit it is not always the husband. A disciplined home is generally an exceedingly happy home, and it is the same in the Police Force. A disciplined force will be much more happy than an ill-disciplined force. I am sure that the House will not be satisfied with the present conditions in the force, and that on reflection even the Opposition will not agree with such things as officers and constables receiving direct payments from private employers, or in fact the present large number of branch meetings of the Police Federation. Twelve thousand man-days were given over to the work of the federation by members of the Metropolitan Police Force last year in official police time. Surely it will be possible for the federation to have this number of man-hours considerably reduced without impairing the lawful effectiveness of their work, in which no one desires to interfere, so that more time may be given by the police to the service of the public?
Then I am confident that in no part of the House will satisfaction be expressed with the present recreational and housing and club facilities for members of the force. It is proposed to make much improvement in these desirable facilities. These and certain other matters can and will be dealt with by administration. Hon. Members opposite have said, "Why have these things not been dealt with already by administration?" There have been many difficulties in the past, with which I do not desire to deal to-night, but it is sufficient to say that support of the Commissioner has not always been forthcoming for his many suggested reforms. If the support of the Government and of this House is given to-night, 1069 he will obviously be in a much stronger position to make great alterations.
I have a few moments left to deal with the Bill. There must be many proposals with which the Opposition are in agreement. They surely do not oppose, for example, the increase in the number of Assistant Commissioners. They will surely not disagree with the earlier retirements, provided they mean, as we believe they must mean, more rapid promotion. I suppose the Opposition will never be convInced that it is better for the discipline of the force that officers above a certain rank should not be members of the Police Federation. When the federation was set up in 1919 the then existing organisation of the Metropolitan Police did not provide satisfactory channels for making representations, but under the new organisation the position will be different and it will no longer be necessary or convenient for senior officers to be members of the federation.
The Opposition, I submit, agrees with many of the proposals contained in the Bill. But there is a doubt expressed not only by Members of the Opposition, but expressed by Members of other parties in the House—a justifiable doubt as to the administration of this scheme. There is going to be no sudden change. There is going to be no complete change which is going to take place to-morrow. The process will be very gradual. It is bound to be gradual, and each year—for that matter, several times a year—the degree of change can be discussed in this House. The House will act as a check on any hasty action on the part of the Home Secretary or the Commissioner of Police.
§ I only desire to make this concluding observation. There is one part of the scheme which is bound to be applauded by every section of the House and it is this. In future, the system of promotion will be much more carefully guided along the channels of ability, efficiency, personality, character and enterprise. We must all agree that mere seniority alone should play a much less prominent part in the field of promotion than it has done in the past. Whatever Members of this House, or critics of the Bill outside may say against the provisions of the Bill, its objects are clearly defined. In brief, they are three-fold—first to make the force more efficient; second, to make promotion more rapid and more equitable; third, to make the members of the force better disciplined, happier in their surroundings and more contented. These are, at any rate, the objects to which the Government has set its hand. These are the ambitions which we hope and believe we shall achieve. In a firm, in a friendly but in a resolute manner, we are determined to do the right thing and the best thing for the Police service of the Metropolitan area. It was in that spirit that we approached the subject of reorganisation and it is in that same spirit, that I now ask the House to reject the Amendment put down in the name of the right hon. Gentleman and his fellow-Members on the Opposition benches and to accord a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 321; Noes, 60.1073
|Division No. 188.]||AYES.||[11.17 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Burghley, Lord|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Burnett, John George|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Butt, Sir Alfred|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Cadogan, Hon. Edward|
|Albery, Irving James||Bird, sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)|
|Alexander, Sir William||Borodale, viscount.||Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Bossom, A. C.||Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Boulton, W. W.||Caporn, Arthur Cecil|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Carver, Major William H.|
|Astbury. Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolte||Bowyer, Capt. sir George E. W.||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Castle Stewart, Earl|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E.R.)||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Brass, Captain Sir William||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Choriton, Alan Ernest Leofric|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Broadbent, Colonel John||Christie, James Archibald|
|Ballour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M||Brown, Col. O. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||Clayton, Dr. George C.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Colfox, Major William Philip|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Buchan. Hepburn, P. G. T.||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B.(Portsm'th,C.)||Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.|
|Conant. R. J. E.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Pownail, Sir Assheton|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Jennings, Roland||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Copeland, Ida||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Ker, J. Campbell||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Ray, Sir William|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Kimball, Lawrence||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Crookshank, Col.C.de Windt (Bootle)||Knox. Sir Alfred||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quintan||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Renter, John R.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Davidson. Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Law, Sir Alfred||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovil)||Law, Richard K. (Hull. S.W.)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Leckie, J. A.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Doran, Edward||Lees-Jones, John||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Leigh, Sir John||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Dagdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Liddall, Walter S.||Russell. Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Duncan, James A. U.(Kennington, N.)||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Eady, George H.||Little, Graham-. Sir Ernest||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J,||Llewellin, Major John J.||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Locker-Lampion. Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)||Salt, Edward W.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Loder, Captain J. de vere||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Mabane, William||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Shaw. Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Foot, Isaan (Cornwall, Bodmin)||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||McCorquodale, M. S.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Macdonald, Capt. P. O. (I. of W.)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Gibson, Charles Granville||McKeag, William||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon, Sir John||McKie, John Hamilton||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Somerville. Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Soper, Richard|
|Glyn, Major Raiph G. C.||Magnay, Thomas||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Goldie, Noel B.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Spens, William Patrick|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Graves, Marjorie||May hew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Stevenson, James|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Meller, Richard James||Stones, James|
|Grimston, R. V.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Storey, Samuel|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Milne, Charles||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Moore. Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Moore-Brabazon. Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Hales, Harold K.||Moreing. Adrian C.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Ztl'nd)||Moss, Captain H. J.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Munro, Patrick||Thompson, Luke|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nail, Sir Joseph||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Harbord, Arthur||Nail-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H||Train, John|
|Hartland, George A.||Newton, Sir Donglas George C.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenningt'n)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||North, Edward T.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Nunn, William||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Wallace. John (DunferMilne)|
|Headlam. Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Palmer, Francis Noel||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P||Patrick, Colin M.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Peake, Captain Osbert||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G||Pearson, William G.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Peat, Charles U.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Penny, Sir George||White, Henry Graham|
|Hopkinson, Austin||Percy, Lord Eustace||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Hornby, Frank||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Petherick, M.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'Pt'n, Bilst'n)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Piekford, Hon. Mary Ada||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Potter, John||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Womersley, Walter James||Worthington, Dr. John V.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)||Mr. Blindell and Lord Erskine.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Banfield, John William||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Batey, Joseph||Grundy, Thomas W.||Maxton, James|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Milner, Major James|
|Briant, Frank||Harris, Sir Percy||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hicks, Ernest George||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Buchanan, George||Hirst, George Henry||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cape, Thomas||Holdsworth, Herbert||Price, Gabriel|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Janner, Barnett||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Cove, William G.||Jenkins, Sir William||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cripps, Sir Staflord||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Daggar, George||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thorne, William James|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, David||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dobble, William||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Or. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Lunn, William||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McGovern, John||Mr. John and Mr. Groves.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.