HC Deb 10 December 1942 vol 385 cc1700-3
60. Earl Winterton

asked the Home Secretary whether he can now make a statement as to his intentions in the matter of the amalgamation of police forces?

Mr. H. Morrison

With Mr. Speaker's permission, I will make a statement at the end of Questions.


Mr. Morrison

I am glad to have an opportunity of informing the House of the proposals which I have made for the amalgamation of police forces under the powers conferred upon me by the Defence Regulations. In accordance with the undertaking which I gave during the Debate on 14th October, I have forwarded details of the proposals to the police authorities concerned, and until I have considered their views I am not in a position to take any final decisions. The proposals which I have communicated to them are as follow:—

That in Kent, where, in addition to the county force, there are nine separate borough forces, all these forces should be amalgamated with the county force:

That in Surrey the borough forces of Guildford and Reigate should be amalgamated with the county force:

That the Isle of Wight county force and the Winchester borough force should be amalgamated with Hampshire county force:

That the borough force of Salisbury should be amalgamated with Wiltshire county force and the borough force of Penzance with Cornwall county force:

That in Sussex all the forces should be amalgamated, so that the two county forces of East and West Sussex and those of the county boroughs of Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings and the borough of Hove will form one force.

In the course of the Debate I said that I did not propose to interfere with the larger, substantial police forces, and that if I did I would make a special announcement to the House. Except in Sussex, each of the forces to be amalgamated with the county force has an authorised regular strength of considerably less than 100. In the case of Sussex more substantial forces are involved. The two county forces have each an establishment of over 300, and Brighton of over 200. The military importance of Sussex needs no emphasis, and it is clearly desirable from the point of view of military operations that there should be one police force for the whole area, more particularly in view of the fact that at present responsibility for this important part of the south coast is divided between no less than six forces. Despite the fact that three substantial forces are involved, I am of opinion that, subject to any representations which the police authorities may put before me, I ought to proceed with the scheme. Before doing so, however, I think it right, in accordance with the spirit of the undertaking which I gave, that the House should be informed of this proposal.

Earl Winterton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that more than one of us representing constituencies in the areas affected believe that his proposals are absolutely necessary in the national interest and very much hope that he will stand by them, after having listened, of course, to representations from interested parties?

Mr. Morrison

I am very much obliged to the Noble Lord. He may be sure that I have given very full weight to all the considerations involved, but naturally, as he says, I must take into full account the representations of local authorities.

Mr. Clynes

Does my right hon. Friend's statement mean that until final decisions are reached there will be further consultations with interested parties?

Mr. Morrison

Yes. Arrangements have already been made for the Home Office to meet police authorities, and that is actually proceeding.

Captain Peter Macdonald

Before a final decision is reached in these amalgamations, will the right hon. Gentleman give special consideration to the position of the Isle of Wight, in view of the fact that in this case two separate county forces are to be amalgamated, each with their own separate organisations and forces? This is essential, in view of the geographical stiuation of the Isle of Wight and its importance in the defence of the country.

Mr. Morrison

Yes, I will take that fully into account. The fact that the Isle of Wight is an island leads to arguments both ways. But it is an area of importance, and I think it is important that it should be tied up with a big force. I will, however, certainly give consideration to the point the hon. and gallant Gentleman has mentioned.

Sir William Wayland

Are we to understand that this is only a war-time measure?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, it is taken under the Defence Regulations.

Sir I. Albery

When the right hon. Gentleman explains the position to the police authorities I hope it will be made clear to them that his proposals have not received final approval in the House and that negotiations with him will in no way be interfered with?

Mr. Morrison

I shall conduct these negotiations as a responsible Minister. Indeed, the Defence Regulation under which I am acting is already in force, but naturally I am the servant of the House, and I must conduct myself as the Minister responsible for the Department and carrying all the responsibility.

Sir A. Knox

Is the right hon. Gentleman taking any other action?

Mr. Morrison

At the moment this is all I am doing, but it does not necessarily preclude me from proceeding elsewhere if and when I am convinced that military considerations require it.

Sir Adam Maitland

Has the right hon. Gentleman had consultations with the Association of Municipal Corporations—I understand that he promised that that would be done—and has he had any objections to the proposals? Is it perfectly clear to the House that the measures are purely for the duration of the war?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, there were consultations, not only with the Association of Municipal Corporations, which I think I saw twice, but with the County Councils Association and the Association of Non-County Boroughs. The Association of Municipal Corporations and the Association of Non-County Boroughs objected to the Defence Regulation. On the last point which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, the action is taken under a Defence Regulation, which lapses at the end of the war, but obviously I cannot prejudice the action of any Government at the time which may wish to bring in legislation to continue it.

Sir A. Maitland

Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Association of Municipal Corporations with regard to his proposal?

Mr. Morrison

If the hon. Gentleman means this particular proposal, no, and I gave no such undertaking. The undertaking that I gave was to consult the police authorities concerned, and that I am doing.