HC Deb 13 March 1946 vol 420 cc1221-40
Mr. Ede

I beg to move, in page 26, line 31, at the end, to insert:

"9 & 10 Geo. 6. c. 26. The Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions)Act, 1946 So much of Pan II of the First Schedule as re to the Defence (Amalgamation of Police Forces) Regu1ations], 1942."

The House will know that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, when he was Home Secretary, promoted certain schemes for police amalgamation in the South of England to deal with the situation that had arisen during the war. These Regulations have been continued in the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946, but Clause 13 of this Bill provides for their being carried on only until the appointed day, instead of until 31st December, 1947, which is the latest date in the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act. Therefore, it is desirable that that provision should be repealed, and that there should be no doubt that the amalgamations remain in force up to the time when this Bill comes into operation. The police administration of those areas will be carried on under the provisions of this Bill and not under the Defence Regulations.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

9.21 pm
Mr. Grimston (Westbury)

I do not want to allow this occasion to pass without saying a few words on the Third Reading. When it first came to the House this Bill gave the Home Secretary very wide powers. I would like to express my appreciation, and the appreciation of hon. Members on all sides of the House, for what the Home Secretary has done to meet us in limiting the scope of this Bill. He has not gone as far as we should have liked, but I do not want to let that limit the appreciation I express to him for the way in which he has met us. There is, however, one point which I do regret. That is that on Clause 1 we were unable to impress him at all. As the Bill now leaves the House, on a certain day every non-county borough which has a separate police force will, so to speak, suffer execution. Many of us think that it would have been much better had the Home Secretary followed the suggestion of the Select Committee of this House in 1932 and allowed these non-county boroughs of over 30,000 population to fall into Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill as it now stands.

We have had a long and fair discussion today, and I do not wish to delay the House now. I would, therefore, conclude by saying that I believe this Bill will be a useful instrument in promoting the efficiency of police forces. We have limited its scope in the direction that we wanted, but not so far as we should have liked. In view of the concessions of the Home Secretary, and the spirit with which he has met us during the discussion, we shall not propose on this side of the House to divide against the Bill.

9.23 p.m.

Mr. G. Lang (Stalybridge and Hyde)

I will not detain the House at any serious length at this time, but I cannot allow this Bill to leave without saying a few words. On the Second Reading I criticised the Bill in some detail and expressed the hope that on the Committee stage it might be amended to make it more suitable, more palatable. It has been amended but not, I think, to any great extent to satisfy a number of us. In fact, as I have read, the Committee stage of the Bill has had a most unfortunate time. The Bill was damned with faint praise, and praised with faint damns from the start. Nobody seems to be very enthusiastic about it. At the end of the Committee stage the Home Secretary held out this rather unwanted offspring, whose paternity I am not too sure about, and said it was really better that it should come in. Somebody courteously agreed but there was no great enthusiasm. It is absolutely unwanted, I believe, by anybody at all. As I see it, it is unnecessary, and, certainly, so far, no case has been made out for introducing it at this particular time. In view of the fact that the Boundary Commission will be reporting presently, it does seem to me that it might well have been held over.

There are two things that seem to have been mainly put forward as the justification for this Bill, and the first is the blessed word "efficiency." No standard of efficiency has been described, and perhaps none could be, but we have not been told what was the measure of inefficiency. One does not question for a moment that the Home Office police inspectors are thorough end excellent, but we are not told that it is upon the reports of these inspectors that these smaller forces are to be sacrificed. Does anybody really believe that the larger the aggregation, the bigger the force and the bigger the area, the more efficient the detection of crime? I can scarcely conceive that I could commit a crime, but, if I did, I would not attempt to commit it in Hyde or Stalybridge, but in this city, where I could do it with far more impunity, and far less chance of being detected. Even when all the forces of Scotland Yard here have failed to lay a murderer by the heels, we, in some cases, have caught their men for them and despatched them to the Central Criminal Court. It is much more dangerous to commit a crime in these quiet areas, than it is in these enormous aggregations.

I see no case for efficiency made out under this Bill, which is now to receive its Third Reading. In my constituency, we are to lose our two borough police forces—not a very cordial vote of thanks to give to those people for having sent me here to support this Government, nor any great encouragement to the electors, who, in the one borough, have completely captured the council for the party to which we belong, and in the other, have made themselves equal to the combined opposition. Never was an enlightened electorate so truly rebuffed, and I am quite certain that if I had asked the electors to send me here to abolish their police forces, the House would have been deprived of my presence.

Lieut.-Commander Gurncy Braithwaite (Holderness)

Did they send the hon. Member here to abstain when it came to a vote?

Mr. Lang

I am glad the hon. and gallant Member mentioned that I am stained just now, because I will never interfere in other people's business, but, surely, if the Opposition could leave things alone in the case of vast and important matters like the American Loan, I may leave alone a matter like that Clause. I was saying that these two non-county boroughs of my constituency will lose their police forces, and I greatly regret it, because they are efficient and competently managed, and they have, I believe, proved themselves efficient. I greatly regret this loss of power and this loss of patriotism in localities. It is said that it is parish pump politics. Well, what is wrong with that? When our men are far away on the battlefield, they do not think of Scotland Yard. With great respect, I suggest they think of a village home—


I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I am not quite sure,-but I think he is talking about an Amendment which has not been accepted. If so, that is out of Order on Third Reading, when he may only discuss what is in the Bill and not what has been left out.

Mr. Lang

I am greatly obliged, Mr. Speaker. Of course, I accept your Ruling, I really was not discussing that Amendment, but was talking on the Bill, which deprives my two boroughs of their police forces. We are steadily pushing forward to larger aggregations, and I do not like it. Conscription, control and the removal of these local powers are all bad things. We are regimented enough, we are pulled about enough, we are remote enough from real home contacts, and I hope that that will not continue. I do not like the Bill and I am quite unable to give it my support. If it comes to a Division I will be obliged on this occasion to cast my vote against the Bill.

9.31 p.m.

Mr. Stubbs (Cambridgeshire)

I welcome the opportunity to make a few observations with regard to this Bill and particularly in regard to the Clause re- garding representation on the police committees. I want to deal with the position of Cambridge. Whilst accepting the Bill, my county council strongly object l to the representation laid down in this Clause. The amalgamation was accepted, and negotiations have taken place between the borough council, the county council and some department of the Home Office. I am not sure, but I think the Home Secretary has seen representatives from our county council on at least two occasions, and in conference before Christmas the Home Secretary agreed upon the representations submitted by the county council. He said that the new police committee would consist of an agreed number of members, half of whom would be appointed by the borough council and the other half by the standing joint committee of the county council, the borough representatives to include a number of representatives appointed by the Senate of the University as provided for under an Act of 1856. To the amazement of the standing joint committee and the borough council watch committee, the Home Secretary has run away from that. He says that the borough will have to accept an alternative proportion of representation, namely, 10 members from the borough council, 10 from the standing joint committee, and five nominated by the Senate of the University. Under the Act of 1856 the University have five members sitting on the borough watch committee. They are not appointed by the electorate but by the University.

Under this new arrangement the county council is to have a much smaller representation on this committee. My county council think that it is manifestly unfair, and that it is certainly undemocratic. This scheme, of course, for the purpose of representation has been based on the various populations. If we take the 1931 census, which I think are the only reliable figures, it shows the population of the county to be in excess of that in the borough. On account of the extension of the borough boundary, however, the population has passed beyond the figures in the 1921 census and the borough now has a population of 70,169 and the rural districts a population of 69,835.

It will be appreciated, therefore, that while the population of the borough is slightly in excess of that in the county, the population in the "county borough contains 4,000 or more students who will be represented by [he five members appointed by the Senate of the University Thus, from 4,000 to 5,000 university students, who are inhabitants of Cambridge for only about six months in the year, will have five representatives. Surely that is contrary to democracy and is wrong. Everybody will agree that that is not fair representation. The other inhabitants of the county, who are about 69,000, will have altogether only 10 representatives I would ask the Home Secretary whether he would be willing to add just a few lines to the Clause to provide as follows: Under any scheme as aforesaid, the number of representatives of the county borough of Cambridge shall not exceed the number of representatives of the council of the county of Cambridge. Our county council would be perfectly satisfied if my right hon. Friend would do what I am asking We shall, in any case, at some other time, press for an Amendment of this kind in order to remove what we consider to be essentially an injustice.

It is a far cry to go back 90 years to 1856. A lot of water has flowed down the river Cam since then. We get these undergraduates for only about six months in the year. It was very clever of the Home Secretary, but he did not give us any reason for what he did. After all, we have to have special arrangements in Cambridge, because the Senate had a provision in the Act of 1856. What for? To keep the undergraduates quiet? Is that to be said of people who come from good homes, and ought to know how to behave themselves? That is what those arrangements are for. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh, but if the ordinary workers in Cambridge were to do some of the things which the undergraduates do, they would be brought before the bench. If the Senate at that time had a scheme to deal with discipline I fail to understand why they now need five members upon the watch committee to deal with something for which they say they provided. It is not only that; these five members deal not only with undergraduates but play a part in the general administration of the council. They are not elected. They are on a property vote. We have got a long way from "One man, one vole." Those people directly represent the University. Perhaps the Home Secretary would give us an assur- ance on this point, because the University will get more out of this than they ever anticipated- They will have more representation than they anticipated, and certainly more than that to which they are entitled. If the Home Secretary will add those words which I have suggested, the position will then be satisfactory to my county council.

9.40 p.m.

Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)

As one who wishes loyally to support the Government, I find myself in a certain difficulty with regard to this Bill in so far as it deals with the position of the larger non-county boroughs. This Bill takes the police from every single non-county borough, except in the case of a non-county borough which may achieve county borough status. In doing that, my right hon. Friend applies exactly the same standards to any non-county borough, whether it is a small borough of 10,000 inhabitants or a large one of 70,000 or 80,000 inhabitants.

I would like to say a word or two about the major local authority which I represent—the borough of Accrington. We hope that, as a result of the Report of the Boundary Commission, we may find that we have a population of perhaps 70,000 persons. In other words, we will not be up to county borough status, but we will have a substantially larger population than a considerable number of county boroughs. Nevertheless, our police are to be taken away from us with no further ado, whereas a county borough will either be able to keep its police or will be able to make a satisfactory arrangement for amalgamation. No wonder the people of Accrington are disappointed by this Bill. They take great interest in their local government. I can give an example of that, in that at local government elections we have a poll of from 70 to 75 per cent. Every member of the town council is against this Bill, and it is not a case of party interest. Labour, Liberal and Conservative are equally against it. Indeed, even the police themselves have submitted a memorial asking not to be handed over to the county council.

May I say a word about the position of local government generally? There seems to be an idea that only the larger units of local government are suitable for efficient administration; by this, I mean the county councils and the county boroughs. In my opinion, that is not the case, and it is not the size of a borough which matters but the spirit of the people and the calibre of the representatives whom those people elect. If we continue nibbling away and taking these things from the non-county boroughs—one year we take education, the next year we take the police, and the third year we take something else—the people will cease to have that interest in the administration which it is so desirable they should have. It will be a bad day for this country when we cannot retain the interest of the people in the small local authorities where they are closely bound up and allied to the councillors whom they have elected

On the Second Reading of the Bill my right hon. Friend promised to consider any reasonable Amendment which might be put forward, but, although the Bill has now gone through the Committee stage and has reached the Third Reading stage, we are in exactly the same position as We were on the Second Reading. On the afternoon of the Second Reading I was a loyal member of the party although I was not at all happy about it, and voted for the Bill. Tonight I cannot do so; in fact, I must take the opposite course. This is not a party question; it is not, in my view, a political question: it is an administrative question purely and simply. It is a question of tidy administration balanced against the wishes of the people. I am all in favour of tidy administration, as one who has had something to do with administration Nevertheless, as one who believes in government of the people, by the people, for the people, when there is a clash between tidy administration and the wishes of the people, in my view tidy administration must, if necessary, take second place.

9.46 p.m.

Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)

I am glad to have this last minute opportunity of making an appeal to the Home Secretary to see if he could not make some modification of that part of the Bill which abolishes the status of non-county boroughs as police authorities. Though the right hon. Gentleman has shown, I understand, a very helpful manner during the day, I am afraid he is perhaps of a too determined and unchanging disposition to give me much hope that tonight he will have second and wiser thoughts. I think we all applaud and agree with the Home Secretary in his determination to have the maximum efficiency in police forces, and we realise that he must take drastic action against those forces which do not come up to his standard of efficiency. We all recognise that some of the very small forces cannot be efficient and, therefore, must be amalgamated. We also all realise that the easiest way of dealing with that is the way he has chosen, to abolish the status of non-county boroughs of all sorts, regardless of their size and regardless of their standard of efficiency. I suggest to him that that labour-saving device, so far as his Department is concerned, may not be very admirable from the point of view of the country. It would be worth while involving his Department in the extra labour of making an inspection of those forces which were not efficient, and only taking power away from the local authorities who did not have efficient police forces at the present time.

I realise very well that the town which I represent is not typical in many respects. However, the same conditions do apply to many of the larger non-county boroughs whose future, as far as the police force is concerned, is threatened. I only speak of that town because I know the conditions there. It is a large seaside resort, where the main industry is that of providing holiday facilities for workers of all classes, and a very important industry it is. I suggest that that does require perhaps rather different and specialised handling by the police, and a more tolerant attitude in certain respects than might be suitable for an industrial town. Moreover, that town—and no doubt similarly with many others—is very remote from the capital town in which the police authority will reside in future, namely, about 70 miles away. In future, presumably instead of having a very efficient chief of police we shall have a more junior official who will have to refer his decisions to a more distant authority, thereby depriving the town of some of the efficiency it has at the present time.

The final point I would like to impress on the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues is that there really ought to be a very considerable improvement in efficiency to justify diminishing the powers of the local authorities. I suggest that may have very unfortunate results I agree with what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliott) said on that point just now. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that already he is looked upon with rather lukewarm favour by non-county boroughs, in view of the considerable part he took in belittling their position at the time of the Education Bill. The taking away of police and other powers does diminish the status of these places, and if we do that there will be a great risk that the most responsible and ablest of the town's officials will tend to look elsewhere, where they think there is greater scope. Further, we shall tend to see the ablest and most responsible citizens, whom we want to take an increasing part in local affairs, become discouraged and give up to attend to their own business. This diminishing of the status of the larger non-county boroughs may have very unfortunate results for the country as a whole.

9.51 p.m.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

I believe that this Bill is a better Bill than it was at the time of its Second Reading in this House, and if the Home Secretary had taken the advice of some of us who have tried to help him during its progress, it would have been a much better Bill even than it is tonight. We sought to improve the Bill by not removing from the local authorities that measure of pride which is necessary, and those important -functions which they need to have to perform if men of good will and spirit are to continue to take part in local government. I was hoping that during the progress of this Bill we might at least have made one improvement in local government administration which I think is long overdue. I refer to the continued existence of standing joint committees.

Mr. Speaker

That is not in the Bill. We can discuss what is in the Bill and nothing else. We cannot discuss what we should like to see in the Bill now; we have passed that stage.

Mr. Jones

With due respect, Mr. Speaker, standing joint committees are still in the Bill, and I was hoping that we might have removed them. I think the day of standing joint committees has long since passed. We should provide some new method of governing police forces in this country. With the passing of this Bill my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to provide for it much more extensively. He has provided for joint police authorities, and I suggest that he could have improved this Bill far more by abolishing standing joint committees and providing for watch committee powers for all the joint police authorities.

9.54 p.m.

Major Symomls (Cambridge)

I have no wish to detain the House long, but in view of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Stubbs) about Clause 17, I feel I must say a word to correct some of his misapprehensions. Unfortunately no Member representing the University is here tonight, and so I must try to say a word for both borough and university. In putting forward the case which he did, my hon. Friend used census figures. These, unfortunately for him, were out of date. He did not mention the fact that the latest available figures show a considerable advantage in favour of the borough as against the county, 79,000 population as against 72,000. I have no wish to stress that, because my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, realising that populations may have readjusted themselves to some extent during the war, has decided to call it fifty-fifty and has offered equal representation to the borough and to the county. As regards the idea that this proposed authority is undemocratic, I would point out that the hitherto existing authority for the county which my hon. Friend represents has been only as to one-half an elected body. One-half has been nominated. On the authority proposed to be set up under this Bill there will be 15 out of 25 elected members. In other words, on the new authority the majority of the members will be democratically elected.

Then as to the proportion of the University representation, as things are at the moment, Cambridge University has five out of 15 on the watch committee. In future, under the new authority, it will have five out of 25. In other words, the proportionate representation of the University has been considerably reduced. My hon. Friend made great play with the fact that the Cambridge Award Act has existed since 1856 and argued that, therefore, it must be bad. I have no wish to defend it on account of its age. I am not concerned with whether it was passed in 1856 or 1756 or at any other date. I am supporting it because it is a practical working proposition at this moment. It has worked and is working well, and it is accepted as such both by the borough and the University. It is assumed by my hon. Friend that the University representative must be in the pocket of the borough. I think that is a quite unjustified assumption, and as my fight hon. Friend has given the borough and the county equal representation under this Bill I should like to thank him for it. I feel he has done the best that could be expected in the circumstances.

9.57 p.m.

Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyne)

I rise, a very nervous and worried man, because I have on this occasion to defend policemen, and I do not like police-men on the whole. Almost from my earliest years they have been a source of misfortune to me. In school the teacher made us learn pieces of poetry, and I have not liked poetry since. He asked us to select a piece of poetry descriptive of the career we should like to choose. I thought, then, that it would be fine to be a policeman, because as a policeman I could boss people about and be important. I read out: I should like to be a policeman, and flash my bullseye out, If there were not so many thieves, and naughty men about. You will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that I was quite young at the time. My teacher was a rather robust personality. He said I ought to read it with more emphasis and put some action into it, to show that I should really like to be a policeman. So I read out again: I should like to be a policeman and flash my bullseye out," — and I flashed my fist out and struck the eye of the pupil next to me. He emitted a terrific roar, and I was thoroughly castigated. From that time I have always been very respectful to policemen, but I have not liked them, except in individual instances. Nor do I like lawyers. There is some affinity between them and police-men.

As regards the present situation in relation to this Bill the Home Secretary, if I may use the word without offence and if he will not misunderstand it, is a most deceptive man. He is deceptive in this sense: he is so benign and benevolent in countenance. I like the right hon. Gentleman. He knows that I like him. But I do not think that in this Bill he has been as generous and understanding as he might have been. London today is a burglars' paradise. More swag is being appropriated as a result of the so-called police regulations, in London, the greatest city in the world. It is not my case now, however, to criticise the police for that. What I am concerned about is the effect of the Bill on my own borough. My borough was represented for many years in this House by no less redoubtable a figure than Josiah Wedgwood. I should like to invoke the shade of Josh Wedgwood at this moment. I am positive that if he had been in this House now there would have been some fundamental alterations in this Bill. If it had not been for the personality of Josh Wedgwood, my borough, of which I am proud, which is progressive, and which has a charter 700 or 800 years old, would have been incorporated in Stoke-on-Trent. No more terrible fate could possibly befall a borough than that. It was saved on that occasion, but now the Home Secretary would appear to be making depredations, because we have a population of only 70,000. When the Boundary Commission gets to work—and I understand there will be a lot of roving by the gentlemen who will make inspections—we shall probably have a population of 90,000. I understand it has been computed that we may even attain the status of 100,000. It is then that we shall begin to become a county borough. We are being fobbed off by the Home Secretary who tells us, that when we are a county borough, our problem will be solved. We are concerned, however, as a non-county borough with what is to be our status.

There has been some talk about civic pride. I deprecate references in this connection to politics. When all is said and done there are towns in this country which take great pride in their civic administration and I believe that to be one of the fundamentals of good government. No Government can maintain its reputation, unless it has behind it municipalities which take a pride in their administration, with men who work with- out remuneration for long hours, giving of their best. I submit that my borough is an example in that respect. We have all political parties represented, Communists, diehard Tories, and Liberals. They are all united in a desire to maintain their own police force in Newcastle-under-Lyne. I say, quite frankly, that if we are to be put into a county, these people will be prepared to put up a fight. There may be a safeguard in the appointed date of 1st April, when events may happen to enhance our status and give us the possibility of becoming a county borough. But we are apprehensive about this matter.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has acted in a dual capacity in this House in that he has also done excellent work on the educational side. I commend to him the principle of excepting districts under the Education Act for the purposes of this Bill and I ask him to allow retention of police forces in cases where the existing forces are efficient. There are only three towns which are in a special category, Chesterfield, Luton— which will resolve itself into a county borough by virtue of its population of 100,000—and Cambridge, which I mention with reserve, because it has universities and riots and so on. My right hon. Friend cannot roam about every constituency, and I would not like him to do so, and besides I am not sure that he would be a good judge of the efficiency of police forces. But he will have other people roaming about—perhaps they will be called judges or inspectors of constabulary—who will advise whether the police are efficient or not. The fact remains that the police force of my borough is very efficient. I ask my right hon. Friend therefore to give consideration to it, and to remember that I am voicing not only my own point of view, but, what is even more important to the House and to him, the views of the whole population of the town in saying that they are determined to retain their police force.

10.5 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

We have reached the last stage of this Bill, and I would like to thank the hon. Member for West-bury (Mr. Grimston) for the opening words of the speech which he made on Third Reading. This Bill, as he quite rightly said, and as has been demonstrated by this Debate, puts a strain on a good many party loyalties. When we were debating the question of non-county boroughs in Committee, no Labour Member voted against me, but one of the hon. Member's hon. and gallant Friends voted with me, and it was quite evident that there were some divisions on that side of the House as well as on this side. I would like to thank the hon. Member also for the helpful way in which he dealt with many of the Amendments in Committee and again today. I think that we can say that, although feelings have run high, the Debate has been conducted at each stage of the Bill with good temper and clear statements on both sides. My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Lang), made a few ecclesiastical comminations—I would not dare use the word he did, because I am quite sure that you, Mr. Speaker, would rule it out of Order if it were used by anyone not in Holy Orders. Apart from that, he questioned the paternity of the Measure. Despite all that has been said about this child tonight, I claim to be its one and only father. When I became Home Secretary there was no Bill. There were not even the heads of a Bill, and I am sure that the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) will agree that there were none when he left office.

Therefore, I stand quite unashamedly to defend this Measure as it is now presented to the House for Third Reading. I say quite frankly that it is a better Bill now than it was when it was introduced. After all this House exists for government by discussion, and I hope that in all the controversial Bills which it has been my misfortune to submit to the House during my career as a Minister, I have always shown willingness to listen to people who differ from me. I have endeavoured to see that any Measure which has left this House represented the best of the views that have been put before the House. This Bill I say is better now than when it was introduced because of suggestions made from both sides of the House which I have found possible to incorporate, without destroying essential principles.

No one except the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde himself has ever suggested that Stalybridge should remain a police authority with less than 30,000 people. It is the hon. Member's own ewe lamb, for whom nobody but himself has shown the slightest affection or respect. With regard to the other borough of Hyde, it only became a police authority by mistake.

As regards the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Stubbs) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cambridge (Major Symonds) respectively, I met the representatives of the borough, the county and the University on two occasions each. I gave no positive pledge to any of them. What I said was that I would convey to the other parties what each one said. I was warned that if I got them inside the same room together, the combined police force in their areas would not be sufficient to control the resulting disturbance. It is true that no one got out of this all he wanted. That is not unusual when there is compromise. But I was faced with the fact that Cambridge has this Act of 1856, which ensures to the University five seats on the police authority. It differs from Oxford in this, that the police have jurisdiction throughout the whole borough, whereas in Oxford, a place where I understand there is a University, I am told that the police jurisdiction does not extend inside the portals of some of the colleges, and judging by the products I can well understand that. I was assured that nowadays there is a complete understanding between the borough, the University authorities and the undergraduates, which is a distinct improvement since I was an undergraduate 42 years ago. But discipline of a residential university in a comparatively small town like Cambridge does present difficulties when the police force have as large powers and as circumscribed powers as they have in Cambridge, and it would be necessary, in my view, either to put the University into some fresh, extraordinary position with regard to discipline, or to arrange that the University should be represented on the police authority.

Therefore, I decided to put into the Bill on the Committee stage that arrangement whereby the University will have the number of representatives on the police authority to which the Statute of 1856 entitles it. I do not believe that on every occasion the representatives of the University will vote with the representatives of the borough. In fact, there must have been a very considerable change in the relationship between the University and the borough since my day, if it is likely to happen on very many occasions, and I should have thought that the sound rule laid down by the Junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) in "Tantivy Towers '' should hold: They who mix with County Must do as County do. I cannot help thinking that on many occasions the University will find itself more attuned to the county atmosphere, than to the borough atmosphere. I am certain of this that no other arrangements for the policing of Cambridge than that which I have placed in this Bill, could be expected to work, without asking the House to set up some new police disciplinary authority for a residential university, and that I am quite sure all sides of the House would be reluctant to do.

We have had several speeches from hon. Members representing non-county boroughs. They have spoken very resolutely and loyally for the non-county boroughs which they represent in the House. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) has overlooked the fact that the county boroughs which he cited as being smaller than his non-county borough are not very likely to survive under the instructions which the House has given to the Boundary Commissioners. I have to point out to the House that, since 1888, with the exception of Hyde, where a mistake was made, no non-county borough has been granted police powers, and it has been the consistent policy of the House to reduce the number of non-county boroughs enjoying police powers. At no stage during the passage of this Bill has anyone suggested that any non-county borough not now possessing police powers should be granted police powers. Except for the 47 specially privileged non-county boroughs out of a total of 226, outside the Metropolitan police district, no one has suggested that a non-county borough ought to be a police authority.

With regard to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne (Mr. Mack), I have taken special precautions in the Bill to preserve for non-county boroughs the right to become police authorities the moment they receive county borough powers. On that day they will have all the rights, duties and powers of a police authority. I think that should be a sufficient acknowledgment of the desire I have that this vast, vague national police force, fears of which rather oppressed the House on Second Reading, is not a thing that I desire to see, or which I imagine any Home Secretary in the future will wish to see; but in spite of what the right hon. Member for North Leeds said earlier this evening, we have to provide a police force to meet the needs of today, and not provide a police force that might have been adequate for the circumstances of 50 or 60 years ago. We have to face up to the resources that are available to modern criminals.

May I say here that I do not accept for a single moment the criticisms that have been made of the Metropolitan Police Force or the state of crime in the Metropolitan Police District, as compared with other parts of the country. The Metropolitan Police Force always has very particular and peculiar difficulties to confront, but without saying that it is better than any other force, I say there is no other force in the country which is better than the Metropolitan Police Force. I would like to feel that it is the first among a very considerable number of equals.

In conclusion, I want to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman). There are many places under a county police force which have to face, and face efficiently, all the problems that confront Scarborough. Worthing is one. I was there only a week ago, and can say that it is a place to- which trippers occasionally go. Worthing was first under the West Sussex county constabulary and is now under the temporary joint police force for the County of Sussex, and I am sure that no one there feels that they are worse looked after by the police than are the people of Scarborough. As a -last word I would repeat that I believe that local government in this country has to adapt itself from time to time to the changing needs of the people of this country. What may have been a good and efficient layout 50 years ago, 30 years ago, or even under the Act of 1929, will need adjustment periodically as facilities for travel improve, and as the circumstances of our times alter. I believe that this Measure—which will enable the new police authorities to consider how much they can advance police administration by voluntary amalgamation—is one means by which local government in this important sphere will be able to adapt itself to the changing needs of the populations it serves.

10.22 p.m.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

I have watched this Bill closely from its inception and I willingly join in thanking the Home Secretary for what he has done to improve it. I believe that when it first came before us it was susceptible to a great many improvements. Upstairs the Home Secretary met us, listened to our arguments, and accepted many suggestions which were made from all sides of that Committee and have now been embodied in this Bill. There is only one streak, or possible hint, of ingratitude in the very few words that I wish to say about the Bill in its last stage. It is that, in all these matters, whether they affect local government, police, or the community through the intermediary of local government, there is a danger that the Minister responsible may have to involve himself in private conversations with representatives of local government. Those conversations, in themselves, bind the representatives who meet him to secrecy. We all know that that is essential, but there is a grave danger that it may be carried too far, and that, after consultations with only a section of those representing local government, their feelings and their opinions may be taken as fully representative of all others. Legislation is therefore hurried through the House—I am not imputing anything whatsoever against the Minister—on the assumption, which may not always be correct, that it will be acceptable to all those affected. The truth is that all those affected may not have had sufficient time to examine the effects of that legislation.

The only note of caution I would utter, whilst thanking the Home Secretary for what he has done, is that should he come before this House again, or should the Government come before this House again with Measures such as this, they should, if possible—I am not claiming anything unfair—give more time for the consideration of the proposed legislation. Fair consideration should be given by all those affected, before the Measure comes before the House and in all its stages, not only the first stages. After all, we represent the electors of this country, and it is our duty to protect the electors who sent us here from the too rapid passage of legislation through this House. I think the Home Secretary has dealt with us very fairly in this case, stage by stage. The right hon. Gentleman and his Department have had a great deal of additional work, because a little extra time was not given, in the initial stages, to consideration of the effect 01 the proposed legislation. As a private back bench Member of this House, I think it my duty to say that I feel there is very grave danger in hustling legislation through this House—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman can discuss the Bill and what is in the Bill, but hustling legislation through this House is not in the Bill. This is not the Second Reading.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Yes, Sir, but as a result of the steps that were taken and the efforts—the very gallant last-minute efforts—made by the Home Secretary, it was necessary, in one respect at least, to recommit this Bill this afternoon in a manner which would, I believe, have been unnecessary—because I know the Home Secretary's intentions were perfectly correct—if further time had been given to the consideration of the effects of this legislation at an earlier stage.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

Forward to