HC Deb 24 February 1938 vol 332 cc535-7
53. Mr. H. Morrison

asked the Home Secretary whether he has now had an opportunity of examining the evidence submitted to him by the right hon. Member for South Hackney purporting to show that police constables are being threatened with the loss of long-service increments unless they prove their zeal and efficiency by an increasing number of arrests and summonses; and whether he will publish the terms of a recent communication published to the force on this matter?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)

Yes, Sir, I have had before me a copy of the communication in question, and examination of its terms does not appear to bear out the interpretation which the right hon. Member places upon it. The order, which was issued by an inspector in charge of a particular station on his own initiative, contained no reference to arrests and dealt only with cases reported for process, of which the large majority are connected with traffic offences. The order pointed out that nearly two-thirds of the cases reported for process at the station in question during the year 1937 were reported by officers temporarily attached and not by the officers normally doing duty at the station, and said that this disproportion and the inspector's own observations clearly showed a lack of initiative on the part of the latter officers. The order went on to say that the majority of these officers are in receipt of one or two long-service increments and to draw attention to the provision in the General Orders of the Metropolitan Police that the retention of these increments is dependent on the constable continuing to perform his duties with zeal and efficiency. It was the duty of the inspector to bring to the notice of the men concerned indications of slackness, and it is not justifiable to draw from his order an inference that an officer is liable to be penalised because the number of cases in which he makes an arrest or applies for a summons are few, or to be rewarded because the number is large.

The Commissioner of Police fully realises the danger which must arise were the number of arrests and summonses to be regarded as anything more than one amongst many considerations which have to be taken into account in judging the work of officers, and there is no practice of keeping statistics of the number of cases for which individual officers are responsible. On the other hand, when, as in the present case, there is an obvious contrast between the activities of different officers or groups of officers, this contrast cannot be ignored. It would be disastrous to efficiency if senior officers of the Metropolitan Police were precluded from drawing attention to shortcomings and from warning their men against either slackness or excessive zeal.

I am glad to have had this opportunity of making it clear that there is no policy of measuring the efficiency of officers by mere figures of summonses or arrests.

Mr. Morrison

Is the right hon. Gentleman clear in his mind that the complaint of the officer against the men appears to have been based on the fact that they had not reached the general statistical average which had been reached by other constables, and does he not think that that is exceedingly dangerous, and that the preferable course would be to deal with individual police constables, if it is shown that they have not done their duty, on concrete evidence available?

Sir S. Hoare

No, Sir. I have investigated this matter very carefully and I am clear that that was not the case. It was one of many considerations, as I have stated to-day. I hope I have made it clear that the test of efficiency in the Metropolitan Police is not the number of cases.

Mr. Morrison

In that case, can the Home Secretary tell me why it was stated in the Order: I have checked through the process reports, and I find that the majority of officers at this station only found it necessary to report one or two cases during the 12 months, and is that not a situation in which there is a complaint of assumed slackness because of the number of cases?

Sir S. Hoare

No, Sir, I do not think that is the case. The Order may have been clumsily worded, but, whether that be so or not, the comparison was between two sections of men in the station. The superintendent is taking into account as a significant fact that certain police coming into the station seemed to be carrying on their duties more actively than others. It was merely a comparison between two sections of constables.

Mr. Attlee

Are not these facts capable of quite a different interpretation? Is it not significant that, in one case, you had temporary men who might be described as aspiring to be permanent, and in the other case you had men of great experience who managed their districts adequately without frequent arrests?

Sir S. Hoare

No, Sir, I am sure that that was not the case. These men were not temporary in the sense of being in the service for a short time; they were temporarily attached to the station, and there was a significant comparison between the two classes of men. I am satisfied that my statement will make that quite clear.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

On the average, are police officers who are temporarily attached to a police station of the same seniority with those who are permanently attached?

Sir S. Hoare

That is another question, which the hon. Gentleman should put down.

Mr. Stephen

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider his own statement carefully again, because he also accepts in it the suggestion that an officer should be rewarded by the number of cases?

Mr. Lunn

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the answer which he has given to-day on this matter is conveyed to all police authorities throughout the country?

Sir S. Hoare

I think that sufficient publicity has already been given to it, but if any further publicity is needed I will consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

Mr. H. Morrison

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's reply and of the public importance of this matter, I propose to raise it on the Adjournment at an early convenient date.