§ 31. Sir Robert Bird
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the reasons why he has refused to approve the appointment of Superintendent Ballance as Chief Constable of Wolverhampton.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Yes, Sir; I am glad to have this opportunity of making a statement which will, I hope, clear up any misconceptions there may be about this incident. In March last I came to the conclusion that it was my duty to withhold from Wolverhampton the half-yearly instalment of the Exchequer grant in aid of their police expenditure because I was not satisfied that the police force was efficiently maintained and properly administered. My reason for this conclusion was the failure of the watch committee to appreciate their responsibilities as the disciplinary authority for the Wolverhampton police force. At about the same time, the watch committee selected Superintendent Ballance, the deputy chief constable, to fill the vacant post of chief constable. The appointment of a chief constable is, under the provisions of the Police regulations, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, and I had to consider whether it would be in the best interests of a force of which the efficiency had necessarily been affected adversely by the unfortunate errors of judgment of the watch committee in the administration of discipline, that the post should be filled by an officer whose experience was comparatively limited and had been entirely confined to service in the Wolverhampton force. I came to the conclusion that this would not be desirable, and so informed the watch committee. Subsequently, I received a deputation from the watch committee and discussed with them fully and frankly both the withholding of the grant and the question of the appointment of a chief constable. The watch committee resigned, and I am glad to say the town council took the proper course of appointing a new watch committee. To a deputation from the new committee it has been explained—as had been explained to the former committee—that the reasons which led me to the conclusion that it would not be right to approve Superintendent Ballance's appointment as chief constable were quite unconnected with my decision to withhold grant (except, of course, that this general state of affairs made it more than ever desirable that the best officer available, and preferably one from outside the force, should be appointed) and, therefore, that the decision was unaffected by the resignation of the old committee. I have considerable sympathy with Superintendent Ballance's 1499 position and I am glad to have this opportunity of making it clear that my decision does not imply any reflection whatever upon his reputation or his personal or professional qualities; the position is simply that I regard it as essential in the circumstances that the new chief constable should be a man possessing wider experience than Superintendent Ballance can claim.
§ Sir R. Bird
Whilst thanking the Home Secretary for his very full reply, may I ask whether he has been informed that, over a period of several months, Superintendent Ballance has been carrying out the duties of chief constable, to the general satisfaction; and, furthermore, whether he realises that the statement which he has just made is a denial to Superintendent Ballance of the hopes of promotion founded upon this emergency service, and upon an honourable record of some 25 years in the Wolverhampton Police Force?
§ Mr. Morrison
In reply to the first part of my hon. Friend's question, I was informed that that was so by the watch committee, when the deputation was received. On the second question, I am sorry about this, but I am perfectly clear in my own mind that it is desirable, in the particular circumstances of Wolverhampton, that there should not be a promotion from within the force and that it is desirable to have the appointment from outside.
§ Sir R. Bird
Will the Home Secretary do his best to see that, in all the circumstances, the career of an esteemed and competent officer does not suffer by what has happened?
§ Mr. Morrison
I did make it clear in my answer that there was no reflection on the professional career or abilities, or upon the character, of Superintendent Ballance. It is for the local police authority to settle, in the first instance, who their chief constable should be, but the circumstances leading to my decision in this instance are based upon the peculiar situation in Wolverhampton, and, in my judgment, ought not to prejudice the fair consideration of Superintendent Ballance elsewhere.
§ Mr. Morrison
On that, as I have explained in my reply, the stoppage of the grant had nothing to do with the appointment of the chief constable, but was decided upon because the watch committee had failed to administer the force efficiently. Restoration of the grant as from a current date must depend upon my being satisfied that the force is now in a state of efficiency. Any further long delay in appointing a chief constable may have a material bearing upon this question. I can make no promise about the instalment for the past year when the administration of the force was manifestly inefficient, but I would, of course, consider anything the watch committee might wish to say to me about that.