§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I rise for the purpose of initiating a Debate on a subject which, in my opinion, badly needs discussion and ventilation in this House—one, indeed, on which we have not had a discussion for very long past, if ever—namely, the reason and the remedy for the serious shortage of recruits in the Metropolitan Police Force and, inferentially and indirectly, in the provincial Police Forces. For two or three generations past we have been assured—and we certainly agree with the assurance—that our police are wonderful. I should like to make the observation that they would be even more wonderful if their numbers were not so woefully short of establishment. My task in raising this important matter is agreeable for two reasons. The first is that there is no party political issue at stake, and the second is that while we on this side of the House differ most strongly with the right hon. Gentleman's political views, we recognise him as a leading and respected Member of our assembly and believe him to be a fair-minded and successful administrator of his high office; therefore, I hope and feel sure that any points raised in this Debate will receive his consideration.
My first point is this: What is the shortage in the Metropolitan Police? There is some difference in regard to the interpretation of the figures, but not, of course, as to the figures themselves, between those with an intimate knowledge of the police, as was brought out in a Debate in another place, and the Government on the extent of the seriousness of the manpower deficit. The figures which have been given, not only in another place but outside, by Lord Trenchard are that there is a shortage in the Metropolitan Police today 2592 of 5,000, or 25 per cent. of the establishment of 19,700. I think that is the largest shortage there has ever been in peace-time.
I wish to make this comment on that shortage: I am very doubtful if the establishment is high enough—I believe that it roughly resembles that of 1939—if allowance is made for the increase alike in population and crime per head of population in the Metropolitan Police area. According to published figures, 1,935 recruits joined the Metropolitan Police Force in 1947, of whom 866 left voluntarily, about 470 of whom were in their first year of service. That represents a serious state of affairs. I do not know the figures for this year. No doubt there has been or will be some temporary enlargement of recruiting due to the fact that the Palestine Police Force is being disbanded. There was an announcement made in one of the newspapers—I do not know whether it is correct—that something like 1,000 men have been drawn from this source.
I should like to draw attention to one sinister aspect of these figures, although "sinister" is perhaps not a very happily chosen word, but there is one aspect of these figures which causes us grave concern, as I am sure it does the right hon. Gentleman. According to the published information, in the last three months of 1947, 388 men joined the Service, and in the same period 120 men left with less than one year's service. The Lord Chancellor in another place—and I am entitled to quote what a Minister of the Crown says in another place—used the phrase that the situation was "pretty grim." He went further than Lord Trenchard, because he said that the shortage was 6,000—not 5,000. The Lord Chancellor also went on to admit that there is a large proportion of recruits resigning voluntarily. He tells us that the situation might appear worse than it was if one failed to take into account that the average intake recruited and retained since the end of the war is 1,500 compared with the average of 860 before the war. Personally, I do not find any satisfaction in these figures. One would have supposed, with demobilisation on the large scale that it was, at the end of the war that there would have been a considerably larger intake than before the war.
Before I come to the remedies I wish to present to the House, I should like 2593 to bring out one or two other facts. I believe that the efficiency, prestige and morale of the force, both Metropolitan and provincial, is as high if not higher than ever it was. If there has been a proportionate increase in undetected crime, it is due, firstly, to the general increase in crime; secondly, to the shortage of police manpower, and, thirdly, to the extent to which the police are employed in interpreting and endeavouring to enforce ever-increasing numbers of governmental rules and orders. I said that I did not want to make a political speech, and I am only stating the facts when I say that if the State insists, by law or Order in Council, on making what had previously been innocent acts criminal, then the police, in endeavouring to enforce these laws and orders, have physically less time to prevent or detect more serious crimes, such as burglary, theft, murder, serious assault and the rest. I strongly repudiate, as I am sure the Government repudiate, certain suggestions which have been made in some quarters that the police are less successful than they were in detecting crime. I believe that they have as good if not a better system than they have ever had for detecting crime.
I think there is far less internal trouble within the Police Force than there was after the last war. There was a certain amount of trouble then, although I do not want to go into details, because it is an unhappy story, and one has to be careful, even after 25 years, not to make a breach in the Official Secrets Act, as I was in office soon after the war and had access to official information. There were certain causes of an external kind which made for trouble in the Police Force at that time. If there is some discontent with conditions today, it in no way affects the value of the service given. There is nothing like "go slow" methods in the Police Force today.
What are the causes of the shortage, and what are the remedies? I have already said that the prestige and morale of the police is as high as ever, and that their efficiency is as good as ever. What, therefore, are the reasons for such a large proportion leaving before they finish one year's service? I believe that the ruling factor is this. In former days, in addition to the honour and prestige of being a policeman wearing what may be called "the King's Blue," in pay and prospects, 2594 including an assured pension, the Police Force, both Metropolitan and provincial, could compete very favourably with any comparable profession. The prestige remains, but pay, pensions and conditions no longer enjoy that favourable priority.
I am told by the former commanding officer of a famous regiment in the Army that a very large proportion of the finest and best N.C.Os. who were in that regiment 20 years ago wanted to go into the Police Force. I believe I am correct in saying that they retained their Army pension, and were open to any form of advancement in the police to which their merits entitled them, and that they were certain to get, at the end of their service, an assured pension. Today, as I have said, there is no such priority and such men leaving the Army can obtain employment, in the Government's service or out of it—in the Government's service is important, as they can obtain employment in certain Ministries as inspectors—which is at least equal, as they think, in pay, prospects and position to what they would get in the police. I would submit to the Home Secretary and the House that an under-manned State organisation such as the police must have incentives to make up for the shortage of manpower, in the same way as the coalmining and agricultural industries. I will not attempt to say how and in what form these incentives should be given, but the whole matter does demand instant and urgent consideration.
My first suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman is that there should be a committee of inquiry, composed of-influential non-official members as well as civil servants or police representatives, to be appointed, not as the Government apparently intend, at the end of this year, but at once. They should be asked to report in time to enable the Government, after considering their recommendations, to state in the King's Speech next October, if they accept the recommendations, that they will put into operation legislative and administrative plans to give effect to that acceptance. I would most earnestly beg the Government not to reject that suggestion. It would please Police Forces—and I am glad to have the assent of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) who has very considerable knowledge of these matters—if they were 2595 told today that there was to be an immediate committee of inquiry with wide powers to inquire into the question of pay, conditions, pensions and promotion.
On this question of methods of promotion there was a committee which reported in March of last year, called the Committee on the Higher Training for the Police Service in England and Wales. I may be wrong, and I do not say it in any spirit of undue criticism, but in my judgment that committee was not composed of a sufficient number of outside people of responsibility. It was too much an official committee and I must say, quite frankly, as has been said elsewhere, that I consider the report of that committee a most dubitable one, which was to some extent biased by its composition of membership. As I have said, it was concerned with higher training in the Police Service with a view to promotion, and I will quote one phrase from their report to support my view that their findings were of very doubtful value. Talking of the proposed police college which is to take the place of the Hendon College, founded by Lord Trenchard, they use this phrase:In particular, the proposed college is not a contrivance for giving undue weight in the struggle for promotion to youth, brains, personality or scholastic proficiency as compared with proved police ability and leadership.That I consider to be a most reactionary statement, in complete discord with the whole spirit of promotion as it exists in the three Fighting Services today, where youth, ability and intelligence, irrespective of class, are considered to be the proper passport to rapid promotion. The Home Secretary will correct me if I am wrong, but the effect of the report of this committee, when put fully into operation, as I understand it is to be, is that no man can go to the college to qualify for a higher rank until he has at least four years' service in the Police Force. That is absolutely contrary to what happens in the Army. The clever young private soldier, or N.C.O.—and I welcome it, Tory as I am, because I think it is a proper democratic method of promotion—can go to an O.C.T.U. and obtain promotion by that means. But on the finding of this committee such a man cannot get promotion in the Police Force until he has done at least four years' service. The committee apparently 2596 think it is a good point in their favour when they say that the average age of a man who would be at this college would be 35, which I think is much too old.
I say that the best type of policeman is probably the boy from the humble home who goes to an elementary school, on to a secondary school and then, via scholarship, to a university, then does one year's military training perhaps, and then joins the police. But since he has youth, brains, personality and scholastic ability, he must not, in the opinion of this egregious report, be given undue preference over proved police ability and leadership. I hope that the committee which I am advocating should be appointed now will also consider this question of promotion. I am not saying that everything in the report of the Committee on Higher Training is bad, as it is not, or that everything in the former Police College at Hendon was good. Some of the things done at the college might have been dispensed with but, on the other hand, I think some of the things recommended in this report are not in accord with modern thought.
Now I come to a familiar subject, on which I spoke from this bench recently in relation to the Army. I am informed that one of the principal deterrents—my sources of information are not official—for the shortage of recruits is the poorness of accommodation, especially of married quarters. I made this contention from this bench a week ago, in respect of the Army. The shortage of police married quarters in London is lamentable. I know the point could be made, and I would not resent it, that this shortage existed before the war, and I say that it is no credit to pre-war Governments and Home Secretaries. They are, however, infinitely worse today, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to assure us that the Metropolitan Police will be given reasonable priority in the matter of married quarters in comparison with other members of the public. Perhaps "priority" is not a happy word to use, but I hope men will be given more favourable consideration than they are getting today when they apply for married quarters. We are only indirectly concerned with this matter, but I think it is in Order to make a reference to it as the salary of the Inspector-General comes under the appropriation.
2597 The position in the provinces is also very bad. There, the chief constables and watch committees of some places have begged their housing authorities to provide married quarters, but those authorities have treated the matter as being of no importance at all.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede) indicated assent.
§ Earl Winterton
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, and I am glad to have his assenting nod, to say something rather strong on that subject. I hope that he will give an assurance that he will discuss the whole matter with the Minister of Health, who has the power in this matter.
There are other grievances which are important, although some may seem of a minor character. I am told that the police do not like point duty in London or any-'where else. I think that I remember an announcement which was made in the House at the time the traffic lights were first introduced by the then Home Secretary, that, apart from the efficiency and efficacy of the new system, it would relieve the police of a duty which they very much disliked—having to control traffic. It is an arduous and unpleasant duty and a great deal has been done to remove it, but not enough. There are places in London where, in my opinion, traffic lights could be well substituted for police on point duty, if there was more relationship or more liaison—I do not know whose fault it is—between the Home Office and the traffic authority..
I can give an instance in my own locality. I live in the neighbourhood of Victoria Station on the South side—and I might say, in passing, that it is becoming a rather roughish neighbourhood. We have had three murders within 600 yards of the house where my wife and I live, of which two were detected and one undetected in the last three years—and I resent seeing four policemen on point duty every day within 200 yards of Victoria Station. I believe the traffic lights, could perfectly well deal with the situation there. I know that there are some places where it is impossible to have traffic lights and where policemen must be on point duty; but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to go into the matter again, or get his Under-Secretary to do so. I ask him to go through 2598 this whole question of policemen on point duty in London with a sieve, so to speak, to see if there cannot be a reduction. I think that the police would be very glad to know that that matter was receiving attention.
I do not want to keep the House any longer, and I will sum up by saying that what I want from the right hon. Gentleman—and it would seem that the House is in general agreement—is the affirmation of his immediate determination to inquire into and, if he possibly can, remove the reasons for the shortage of recruits. I would say that few of the multifarious and most onerous duties which he has to perform can be of more importance than the position and welfare of the Metropolitan Police. If he can solve this problem of obtaining enough recruits for the Police Force, and keeping them, by the example he will give, he will greatly encourage the provincial forces to do likewise, and he will, if he can achieve this and find the remedy, put the Police Force in a much more favourable position to get recruits than they are today. He will also embellish and make noteworthy his term of office.
Many people have stood at this Box and at the Box opposite and expressed their praise of the British police. I do not know if I can say anything particularly new. I think that it is not a sign jingoism or of an undue sense of patriotism to say that the British police and those of the Dominions, Colonies and a very few Western European countries certainly enjoy honourable distinctions over those of every other country. They are not appointed on political grounds; they carry no lethal weapons; they do not accept bribes from political parties, criminals or anyone else, save perhaps in a few individual cases. They use the minimum of force in making arrests or dispersing crowds. A force with these admirable qualities needs every commendation and encouragement from this House, and I hope that as a result of this Debate which I have initiated, they will get it.
Whenever one has been abroad, and has seen what I will describe—I hope without offence to any citizen of any foreign country who may be present here—as the lavishly embellished "cops" looking very grim and aggressive, and has then returned to this country and here seen on 2599 the British airport or on the quay when looking over the side of the ship, a single, quiet, confident, courteous figure in blue, who is all that is required to keep order here, one says to oneself, "I am pleased and proud to be back in this country." One feels that one can confront with more courage the nauseating coffee and terrifying meals at the station buffet and in the train, and one can say that, although our cooking is the worst in the world, undoubtedly our Police Force is the best.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
There have been two broad streams of thought in regard to the criminal. One is the stream which believes in severe punishment, and the other the stream which follows the way of reformation. The broad stream of severe punishment flowed freely and widely a century ago. That stream today has become a trickle on both sides of this House. I think that we are all more or less united on the Criminal Justice Bill, which is passing through this House, in our desire to encourage by every means the reformation of criminals. The danger today is that, with the great increase of crime, there will be perhaps a wave of indignation from the public, which will tend to make the present stream of reformation hesitant. That would be, in my submission, a deplorable thing.
There is no doubt that we suffer a great shortage in our Police Force. In answer to an hon. Member last September the figures given of the permitted Police Establishment in September, 1947, were 66,935. The Police Establishment last September was in fact 54,324. That is a shortage of 12,611 in the Police Force of the whole country. I see in "The Times" today that the shortage is put at 15,000, and I am told that if we include Scotland the figure is even larger. As I came into the House today, I asked the first constable who gave me a smile and a touch of his hat, "What is wrong, in your opinion, with the Police Force?" I thought that I would get a quick response. He said, "First, petty regulations; secondly, poor pay; and, thirdly, there is not much chance of promotion." That was a spontaneous reply from an officer doing duty within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster. I would ask the Home Secretary to ponder that reply from the man on the beat.
2600 We all know that it is essential that we should have discipline in the Police Force, but good discipline is ruined by pettifogging regulations. In my view there are far too many chief constables in this country, who take an unnecessarily severe view of these matters. I would urge the Home Secretary to use such influences as he possesses to see that the standard of the best chief constables is set for those who have the worst standard. Recently there came into my possession a report of the Chief Constable of Blackburn, and he sets out the facts and conditions in that city. He says that of the new appointments during the year under review 19 police officers were recruited. Fourteen of them were men and four of them resigned before the end of 12 months. That is not a very satisfactory thing to happen. The chief constable, Mr. Looms, goes on to say:In spite of every effort made to attract recruits and the formation of district Recruiting Boards, the effective strengths of the Police Forces of the country still remain considerably under establishments, and in this borough there was a deficiency on 3rst December, 1947, of 25, as against 28 on the same date last year.In that city they had only made good on three out of 28 possible appointments in the course of 12 months. He has no doubt as to what the real cause of the shortage is, for he says:A serious difficulty experienced in the recruitment of men for appointment of probationary constables in the Borough Force has been the shortage of housing accommodation.I should like to stress that. He goes on:Many of the men appointed or seeking appointments are married men with families who come from districts outside Blackburn.Though I am dealing with Blackburn because I have this report, I feel that this must also be so in most police districts.Nine married men have been forced to obtain accommodation either in lodgings or in apartments.That is not a satisfactory state of affairs.By reason of housing shortage, in six instances I have been compelled to ignore the condition of service which states that a Police Officer must reside within the Police District in which he serves, namely, in the County Borough of Blackburn.Six men had to travel daily from outside the Borough to carry out their duties. He finishes by saying:I am convinced that recruiting would be accelerated and the serious deficiency in the effective strength of the Force alleviated if the housing problem were not so acute.2601 There is no ground for hoping that within two or three years we shall catch up with the housing problem of this country, and, therefore, I would reinforce what the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has said. There must be some—and I use the word without hesitation—priority for police officers. The citizens of a police district are all engaged in separate avocations, many of them privately employed, many of them employed by Government departments, but each and every person in the police area depends for security and protection upon the police constable. That gives the police officer some prior claim for housing accommodation, because the whole of the borough order and security depends upon the strength of the police force. I notice that the Lord Chancellor in another place also ascribes the chief difficulty in recruiting to the housing situation.
As the noble Lord indulged in a personal reminiscence, perhaps I may be allowed so to indulge. I have been burgled twice in three months within the Metropolitan area—[Laughter]—and now it is rather beyond a joking position because, though we may face that with a smile, our women folk do not look at it like that if they are confronted with difficulty and insecurity and if every time they put a key into the door they wonder whether they are going to find someone inside or that the house has been forced. This is a situation which calls for prompt action.
I hope the Home Secretary will be able to expedite this Committee of Inquiry. I observe that in another place some technical reason was given why the committee should not sit until 1949. We cannot wait as long as that to recruit the Police Force, because, as I pointed out at the beginning of my remarks, though most of us in this House now believe in the way of reformation because we apply our minds to criminology and penology, the great mass of the people outside, unless they are protected and protected soon, will begin to agitate for severe punishment, particularly in respect of house-breaking burglary, shop-breaking and warehouse breaking. I am sure the Home Secretary is fully alive to the problem, and that he will accede to the suggestion which has come from the Front Bench opposite and get this matter going without any further delay.
2602 I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will also speak to the Minister of Health and see that the housing programme can be settled, for if that were done we should see a welcome recruitment to the Police Force and thus a diminution in criminal statistics. As "The Times" said today, those who have always pleaded for reformation rather than punishment have urged that the really effective way to reduce the criminal statistics is to have an effective Police Force, which will detect as high a percentage of crime as possible. The certainty of conviction which will face the offender if apprehended will be a much better deterrent than any kind of severe punishment.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has dealt principally with the problem of the strength of the Metropolitan Police, and important as that is—and no one would minimise its importance—the strength of the provincial forces is perhaps only slightly less important. I am a member of a provincial police authority, the Hampshire County Authority. Most provincial authorities are very definitely short of numbers necessary for the efficient carrying out of the policing of their respective areas. There is a shortage of practically all provincial police forces, and, because of that shortage, there must be some very definite risk.
Apart from the shortages in the police, there is quite definitely an increase in crime, not only in petty crime but also in serious crime, and the quantity of work done by the police is not made any easier to deal with by the variety of functions which have been created by that galaxy of orders and prohibitions which have been introduced in late years and which cannot be described as crime, but with which the police have to deal and breaches of which they are supposed to prevent. The police in point of numbers are definitely overworked. They cannot cope with the work which they have to do, not to mention the work which they ought to be able to do.
Recruiting varies among the various Police Forces. Some forces are more popular than others and attract more recruits. Police Forces are not allowed by the Home Office to accept all the suitable recruits who offer themselves. In my 2603 county of Hampshire—I have no doubt this is true also of other counties—we are given a quota which we may accept in any year. Recruits offering themselves beyond that quota go to a pool and are offered employment in other Police Forces. Some recruits only want to go into their own county force. I know actual cases of men with good qualifications who applied to enter the Hampshire county force and had to be refused admission because the quota had already been reached. They declined to apply to enter any other force. Consequently, those recruits were lost to the police. I do not say that that is entirely the reason for the shortage of recruits, but it is undoubtedly part of the reason. I quite understand the idea of the Home Office. They do not want any Police Force to go short while a surplus of recruits is applying for admission to other forces, but I am not sure that the plan works out in the best possible way, because many recruits, when they cannot go where they want to go, are lost to the police altogether.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
I did not quote the further statement of the Chief Constable of Bolton. In his case, the force were not able to get even the quota they were allowed. Would the hon. and gallant Member agree that if there were housing accommodation many of those recruits might be willing to go elsewhere?
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I was coming to that point a little later. I think the hon. and learned Member will find that I entirely agree with him. There is no doubt that there is a definite shortage of recruits all over the country. There is another point to be remembered. A great many policemen resign after a comparatively short time in the force, and sometimes after a very short time. There must be a definite cause for these resignations and it must be looked for in the conditions of service. I do not think there is discontent or bad treatment, or anything of that kind at all, certainly not in my county. I do not believe that such discontent or bad treatments exists in any force that I have heard of.
In connection with the conditions of service, we must look first at the pay. The present scale of basic pay compared 2604 extremely favourably, when it was laid down, with the pay in civilian occupations, certainly for the young man with no special skill and of good character and physique. Great increases have taken place in the pay given in every trade and occupation since then, and police pay does not compare so favourably, and in a good many cases does not compare favourably at all, with civilian pay. That is the first matter to which the Home Secretary will have to devote his attention.
The next points are hours of duty, time off, and leave. Policemen's wives come into these questions quite a lot. Some policemen get married very young. Their wives complain that they do not see enough of their husbands and do not think their husbands have as much time off as other occupations in civilian life, particularly at night. The wives often object very strongly to night duty because it takes their husbands away from home or prevents them from going to places of amusement. I believe that these influences considerably affect recruiting and are responsible for policemen leaving the service at an unduly early age.
This matter is very difficult to deal with. Night duty is obviously essential for the police, and must be taken into consideration. The position might be met by special pay for night duty, or higher rates of pay altogether, as some compensation. Everybody will agree that the first duty of the police is the prevention of crime. It is essential that the Police Force must be adequate in numbers and that there must be an adequate number on duty. Too much crime is able to take place simply because there is nobody looking on and able to stop it. Too many people in these days have not succeeded in grasping, either at school or elsewhere, the essential principles of right and wrong.
Now I come to the very great disadvantage related to housing accommodation, certainly in my own county. It is extremely difficult to find houses for the police. It has not been considered necessary by the Ministry of Health to grant priority for the building of houses for policemen. We have a large police housing programme in Hampshire, but we are not able to get on with it as we cannot obtain the necessary priorities 2605 from the Ministries of Health and Supply to obtain the materials. Meanwhile some of our police are inadequately housed and some are not housed at all and have to make do in lodging. I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to prevail upon his Ministerial colleagues to give a real priority to police authorities for the provision of houses necessary to house police adequately.
There ought to be an inducement held out to men from the Fighting Services to join the police. Men who have served an inadequate time in one of the services to qualify them for a pension might be allowed to join a Police Force and to count their years of service in the Fighting Force as part of their qualification for a police pension. A man who has served four, five or six years in one of the Fighting Forces should have them reckoned for pension in the police. I do not wish to detain the House further. I would merely repeat that in other Forces besides the Metropolitan Police Force there are grave shortages and the causes of those shortages must obviously be looked for in something to do with the pay and conditions of service. I have mentioned a few points to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will devote attention. I feel confident that if some of them were really attended to, better recruiting would ensue.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Skinnard (Harrow, East)
I am emboldened to join in the Debate because I have had brought very strongly to my attention by members of the Metropolitan Police Force and also by members of provincial Police Forces, particularly in the South-West of England, the truth of the statements already made by hon. Members as to the present deterrents to men joining the various forces which are so badly undermanned. I would like to join issue with the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) on the recommendations of the Committee which he criticised. That Committee recommended a two-streamed recruitment of police to higher training centres. One of those streams was to draw in the young able new recruit who might have been in the force only a month or two, but at the some time provision was to be made for older, experienced officers who had gained valuable experience and similar qualities through actual work in the Police Force.
2606 At the moment the trouble of loss of strength seems to be in the number of men who leave the forces during the first year of their service. Most recruits to the Police Force now are already married. In the past that was not so, and the men lived in section houses as bachelors and got their initial training, and later on, having gained experience on the beat, they got married and moved into houses among the community they serve. Now we get men married, and even with children, coming in as recruits. They are unable to obtain accommodation suitable for their families. There are equal opportunities as regards salary and status in other occupations, and they leave.
If it were possible to put everything right for these young recruits and keep them in the service—even give them houses and provide them, as the noble Lord wished, with a monopoly of the opportunities of promotion—we should have just as difficult a position with the older constables who would naturally resent the closing to them of all avenues of promotion. It seems to me that the Committee has done the right thing. It is wise to effect a compromise, to encourage initiative among the recruits by giving early opportunities for promotion and at the same time to reward conscientious service and valuable experience by other opportunities of promotion. After all, when the men go to the higher training centre, they enter on an equal basis, and we shall get a balanced force.
The principal objection to the old Hendon Police College among the older and more experienced members of the Police Force, was that They saw promotion going for ever. They were to have an officer class, who had never known the asperities of the beat and the fatigues of point duty, being put above them and commanding them, and they felt they would have no chance of getting into that class. The new idea is a much better one because we shall balance the various qualities which are needed. I cannot see the objection to it; indeed, I welcome it.
I have already agreed with those hon. Members who have mentioned the difficulty of keeping the policeman once he is recruited because he cannot be adequately housed. If there is any basis for our belief—and I think there is—that our Police Force is second to none, and probably better than any, in the world, it is 2607 because it has never been a force apart from the people which it serves. If I may follow the example of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Peters-field (Sir G. Jeffreys), in speaking of his own provincial force, in my county of Devon we regarded the village policeman as one of ourselves and gave him as much respect as we gave to those other well known characters of the village—the vicar, the Wesleyan minister and the schoolmaster. They were a quartette of public servants who lived among us, were known to us all and whose children played with us, and we did not feel in any way apart from them. The value of our Police Force is that policemen are not regarded as people to be feared, but as people to be consulted, people who are readily accessible and, when off duty, just members of the community—and very highly respected ones at that.
That is why we should look very carefully at the character of any special provision it might be thought desirable to make in the way of housing for the police. I would very much deprecate any suggestion that we should have anything in the nature of barracks specially provided for the police. We do not want any glorified section houses with married quarters to keep the police apart from the community. After all, the policeman is never off duty and therefore it is much better that, as far as possible, he should live in the area he serves. Instead of having to go to one street to find all the police in an area, we ought to be as likely to find a policeman in our own road. Because he is never off duty, the policeman should never be segregated as regards his housing.
The way out is for an agreement to be made with housing authorities whereby there shall be a definite allocation of houses for police. When a housing estate is built today, we put up a special kind of house with a waiting room and rooms which can be converted into a surgery for a doctor. We make provision for people with various jobs. Why should it not be the same for the Police Force? After all, the policeman does not need special housing provision. He needs an ordinary house like any other citizen, but he should have a definite allocation, and houses for the police should be scattered throughout the area where the police are required.
It is a regrettable omission that nothing has yet been said in praise of the way the 2608 authorities are making up for the difficulties by greater scientific training and especially by making our police more mobile and effective. I had recently to draw attention to a lack of adequate supervision in a suburban area where small children were being molested. It was rather difficult in that quarter to have a resident constable or a regular beat which would serve the purpose I had in mind, but because of the use of the latest scientific methods of police detection and the mobility of the present force, the difficulty was met within 24 hours, and that neighbourhood has been considerably cleaned up. I do not want us to put all our faith in large numbers of police, for, after all, it is the ubiquity and the mobility of the police which will defeat the modern criminal. If you know where a constable is to be stationed, obviously you will not commit your burglary anywhere near—I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I meant the burglar——
§ Mr. Skinnard
You will admit, I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I made a graceful withdrawal just in advance of your rising. The burglar, obviously, if he is an enterprising burglar, will not commit his burglary where he knows a man in blue is likely to make a point, or where he knows a man in blue is resident. He will go where he thinks he knows the police are not, and therefore the job of the policeman is to make sure that he is where the burglar least expects him. Mobility and ubiquity depend on a fairly constant stream of young recruits, because it has to be recognised that police work is of different kinds and that each policeman will do different jobs at different periods of his service. So it must not be thought that the policeman is a stock figure doing all the jobs required for the service. That is why I welcome the new type of selection for promotion, so that the various parts of higher police work can be performed adequately by differing types of officer, and selected both from the older men and the eager new recruits, who will not stay in unless they are promoted—that is true of some ambitious young men who come into the police force that they get disheartened if they do not get quick promotion——
§ Mr. Skinnard
I agree that it is also true of the profession which the Home Secretary himself adorned and, indeed, it is a great pleasure to the teaching profession that the member of the greatest distinction in the profession at the moment occupies the position of Secretary of State for the Home Department. However, he only reached that eminence by getting out of the teaching profession. The same applies to some equally ambitious young police constables who realise that their only way of becoming the head of a great Department of State is to get out of the Police Service as quickly as possible.
This, I am sure, is not the wish of any hon. Member of this House. We want to keep the young, keen, intelligent recruit with initiative and zeal, but it is equally important that he should not be dissatisfied either with the conditions of his present service or with the prospects of advancement. Very well, then, the part of the Committee's report which provides an institution for testing for promotion will give him his chance, but, again, we do not want the older constables dropping out and taking other jobs because they find they have no avenue of promotion. So, if there can only be allocation of housing on a definite basis for the Police Force, if a balanced form of recruitment for promotion is assured, then I think that the difficulty of the Police Force not getting a superior salary to other professions will not prove such a big drawback to those who wish to serve their community in the blue of the Police Force.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
I would like to say a few words about the background to the specific problem we are discussing today. We are, of course, always engaged in a continuous war against crime and in this war, as in the other kind of war, it is essential to measure the adequacy of the defensive army, not only by reference to its own past standards but in relation to the strength and character of the army of attack with which it has to deal. I do not differ from what the noble Lord said as to the skill and morale of the Police Force at present in relation to its own past and its own standards but I felt a little more doubtful when he said that they are now as successful as ever in detecting crime—not that I allege that they are less skilful than they have been, 2610 but because I think they are up against a tougher proposition.
We have to face the fact that in this war the armies of defence are not at present winning against the attacking armies. These forces of attack are of different kinds, analogous to guerilla bands, the disciplined commandos, the individual enterprise of bandits and so on. For reasons with which we are all familiar—largely resulting from the war, the present economic conditions of this country, inflation, and so on—they have been increased in strength. As against that, the defending armies have been depleted. If the Home Secretary would now make a comparison between the number of burglaries and the number of houses of the kind most attractive to burglars, and would also consider in what proportion the burglars have been caught and the goods recovered, the result would be startling. I do not wish to hazard anything like an exact proportion, but I suggest that, in a place like London, for considerable categories of houses it is probably rather the exception not to have been burgled in the last two years than to have been burgled, and also that of the burglaries that took place, a very small proportion of the criminals have been caught, or, of the goods they took, recovered. That was what I meant when I said that at present, whatever be the precise reasons, the armies of defence are not winning.
There are several causes and several remedies for that, but it is clear that in some way or other the Police Force must be made more attractive in relation to other forms of occupation. I do not wish to enter into a detailed comparison of rates of pay, and so on, in the Police Force as compared with other occupations. I have not the knowledge to do that, and it is a difficult thing to discuss in detail in a Debate like this. I remember, however, as older Members will remember, one extremely unfortunate episode in the history of our Police Force many years ago when it was proved afterwards that what happened was largely due to a culpable delay in the Home Office in dealing with what were legitimate and indeed intolerable grievances. I do not suggest that there is an equal laxity or culpable delay at this moment, but it is clear that the Police Force is not attractive enough to recruits of the right type. Obviously, there are difficulties, and money may be involved.
2611 In that connection I may perhaps recall to the House a fact of which not all hon. Members may be aware, namely, that in many, if not most, burglaries, the principal financial beneficiary of the burglary is neither the burglar nor the receiver, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his official capacity. What happens is that an article of value is taken; whether it is insured or not, when it is replaced one has to pay not only what would be the cost of the article, which may be more or less covered by insurance, but also 125 per cent. Purchase Tax. That means that every time the Home Secretary fails to do his job successfully in protecting the individual citizen, his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets a very handsome premium—that is not "Pay as You Earn," but "Pay As You Do Not Earn" —to say that it is unearned increment is an understatement. It means that the victim has really paid three times over for an article of value; first, when he bought it, then over a period of years its value in insurance premiums, and then, when he replaces it he pays not only its intrinsic value but also 100 per cent. or 125 per cent. by way of Purchase Tax. It is certainly rather hard on a victim, who is not acquiring an additional article, but only replacing one, when police protection has been insufficient, that his loss should be doubled by this payment to the Treasury.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
In my case I am happy to inform the right hon. Gentleman, the insurance company—a tariff company—paid replacement value. It may be that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that case may fail to benefit because that loss of mine will be set against the company's profits as well as expenses.
§ Sir A. Salter
That may be so, and one may insure against replacement value. But in that case it means that the victim has paid more over a period by way of premiums. One way or another the victim is paying more by additional premiums or Purchase Tax on replacements. I do not, of course, suggest that the Home Secretary will be so concerned to give a bonus to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this fact will be a dis-incentive to him in his effort to improve the police, but it is a fact worth mentioning.
As to the remedies, as far as there is a difficulty in fully replenishing the Police 2612 Force, something can be done, as the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said, by relieving them of some of their duties. A very considerable part of the duties of the police are at present in relation to things which have nothing to do with crime, such as point duty, and so on.
§ Sir A. Salter
Quite apart from watching for breaches of the traffic law, there are duties which are scarcely related to crime, such as point duty which might be replaced in some cases by traffic lights, and so on. In addition, police are engaged in seeing school children across the streets, and things of that kind. Then there is the great mass of new crimes. It would be interesting to have a statement about the effective priority measured in terms of manpower, given by the police to the new crimes, such as that of driving a car outside its prescribed routes, on the one hand, and the more serious crimes, such as burglary. The results might be striking. I think that a change in priority might help in stopping some of the more serious crimes.
The police have, I think, some responsibility in regard to publicity, because the Press get information from the police. Great publicity is given to the burglary, but comparatively little to the detection of the criminal, the punishment, or the recovery of the goods. The impression is given that the criminal always gets away with it successfully, and that is not all. In one case with which I was intimately acquainted there was very prominent publicity and one paper remarked that all the furs were taken, but the jewels were untouched. I said at the time, "That is a public invitation to the next gang to come and get them." The invitation was accepted within three months. Something might perhaps be done to influence the Press in the matter of the publicity they give in such cases.
Lastly, I come to my most substantial suggestion. While it is of the utmost importance to replenish the Police Force along the lines on which the Home Secretary is now working, I do not think that will be enough. Among the serious criminals today I believe there are highly organised skilled, specialist criminals with a chain of organisation running right 2613 through to the receiver and methods of disposal. I do not think any increase of the ordinary Police Force will, by itself, deal with this largely new problem—new in its present extent. I make this suggestion to the Home Secretary. In this war, as in the first war, it was proved that we had a comparatively small but very important number of people who showed a kind of genius in the services of military intelligence, naval intelligence, espionage and counter-espionage work, in penetrating the plans of the enemy and discovering their secrets. I suggest that the association of some of the best of these with the higher organisation of the force for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible might be an extremely valuable addition to the police system.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mrs. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
It has been said on many occasions that the point of view one takes in reference to a commodity depends upon the side of the counter one is on. I have been on both sides of the counter. I have been in a position in which I have seen the Police Force charging with batons drawn upon me, and I have also been a member of the Liverpool Watch Committee for the past 12 or 13 years, on the other side of the counter.
The situation today is one in which we are demanding from the Police Force something different from what we demanded 30 years ago. In those days, we demanded very tall policemen, with plenty of brawn and very little brains. Now we are demanding of our Police Force plenty of brains, plenty of intelligence and plenty of ways of dealing with different types of crime with which they come into contact. It is true to say that the types of prosecutions with which they are concerned demand a knowledge of a tremendous number of subjects and of the general well-being of the people with whom they are dealing. They approach the whole question quite differently from the old days. We have to face an entirely different situation.
In regard to the Police Force with which I am concerned, there have been numerous requests to know what is the matter, and why men do not stay in the force. I have been surprised at the small things which deter men from remaining in the force. For instance, one of the 2614 matters they put to me is that they are continually in uniform, that they have to leave their home, in uniform, to report for duty, and that they cannot go anywhere until they have been home and taken off their uniforms. That adds considerably to their working day. If places could be arranged in their stations where they could change out of their uniforms when they go off duty, so that they could leave their uniforms there and be able to proceed wherever they wanted to go, it would be a small matter, but it would add considerably to the amenities of the police.
Another matter concerns good canteen accommodation. The number of policemen who suffer from stomach troubles is appalling. It is due to the fact that they are on shift duty. Often they do not get a good hot meal at any time during the day, and when they do get hot meals, they are at different hours. If it were possible, particularly in industrial areas, where men have to stand and walk about in very bad weather, to ensure that every one of them, on whatever shift of duty he might be, could obtain an easily accessible hot meal during his turn of duty, it would mean—although again it is a small matter—a tremendous lot in improving the life of the policeman.
The question of promotions has been dealt with by many hon. Members. That is something about which the ordinary policeman has considerable feeling—the question of what he has to do, how long he has to remain in the force, what particular important and additional attributes he must have before anybody considers him sufficiently suitable for promotion. The number of senior posts in the force is a matter which requires attention, because if there are only a few senior posts there are but few possibilities of promotion. As we are extending the boundaries of industrial areas, and the length of walk which the policeman has on the outskirts of these areas, we ought to be able to increase the number of senior positions in large Police Forces in order to give the men a better opportunity of promotion.
I wish now to refer to the standard of conditions in the police stations. I have been amazed at the completely deplorable conditions in some of them in industrial areas. In my own city for example, there is little provision for recreation, and in most of the police stations the places 2615 where the men have to sit down to have a cup of tea when they come in have been converted from some of the old cell accommodation which is not being used. In very few places have new stations been built with any decent accommodation for the men.
Another important matter is the height of the police—how tall a man has to be before he can be considered as an applicant for the Police Force. In these days of modern ju-jitsu, I do not think it is quite so necessary for an applicant to be very tall. There are men of excellent physique and mental ability who have not the necessary height to join a Police Force. I know that in the London area the minimum height for applicants has been reduced, but in other areas a man still has to be very much above the average height before he can be considered as an applicant for the force.
Another question is that of transport over the distance which a policeman has to travel from his home to his point of duty or to the station at which he has to report. Under present transport conditions, when many policemen are living on the outskirts of industrial areas, the difficulty of obtaining transport to the central area, if they are attached to a central area station, is terrific. In Liverpool we have had to deal with that position in order to keep some of our men in the force. We have had to make arrangements for transport for them from the outside areas into the central area of the city. These matters may seem fairly small, but they matter to the man who is considering whether he will join a Police Force or not.
There is the question of rates of pay. They have been much increased, and are much better than they were 10 years ago. The question of rent allowances and the taxation of those allowances have been dealt with on numerous occasions, and they are being dealt with constantly. Yet the absolute standard of salary of the new recruit on joining a Police Force is insufficient to attract men. There are areas, where there are docks which present additional difficulties to the police, where they are responsible for policing the dock areas. There are further difficulties because there is such a tremendous amount of stealing going on at the docks. That means that additional numbers of police have to be put on duty to watch the transport to and 2616 from the dock area. Instead of having a set rate for a new recruit to the force, or a definite flat rate at various levels, there ought to be additional pay for additional difficult duties, such as dock duties.
Housing has been referred to, and it has a most important effect on applicants. There are policemen whose wives were evacuated from industrial areas during the blitz, and their husbands have been unable to find accommodation in their areas to which their wives could return. A terrifically high moral standard which is expected from a man when he goes into the force, and we must realise that if his wife and family are separated from him and have to live at some distant place because of evacuation, with no possibility of their being able to return, that man will be discontented and will not pay the same attention to his work as he would do if he had his family with him.
The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) referred to married quarters. I do not think that at the present time we should proceed on the lines of building barracks or areas where there is a whole section of police. Our intention ought to be to spread out our police in the new housing areas at decent intervals, so that they can take part in the ordinary life of the community, rather than to bring them together in police barracks or at police headquarters or——
§ Earl Winterton
I entirely agree. I was referring to the action of local authorities who should supply the accommodation.
§ Mrs. Braddock
I quite agree. I do not think we should envisage for a moment the idea of building vast premises where there are none other than policemen living, unless they are places to be used as police training centres. The whole idea of the life of a policeman has altered very considerably. He is now part of the community, and has a right to take part in all community affairs. He obtains more respect and attention and assistance if he is living as part of the community in either one of the older housing areas or one of the newer housing areas.
The questions of food, uniform and housing may not seem very important, 2617 but they are things that a man will consider when he is thinking of what particular profession he intends to enter. In considering whether to become a police recruit he does take into account the amenities and the advantages which he can obtain for himself and his family. If he sees that there are all disadvantages, even a rate of wage which is possibly very high will not entice him into the police service. These are not matters of high policy, but they are things which should be considered if we are to attempt to recruit into the Police Forces of this country the numbers of men which are so urgently needed.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I apologise for having a sore throat, but there is a moral even in this sore throat. It is the result of shortage of labour here in this House, and the shortage here last week was due to unreasonable delay in dealing with the grievances of a particular body of workmen. We have to deal without delay with the grievances of the police. What I wish to say can be compressed into three sentences: one, the police situation is very bad; two, the police situation, in all human probability, will get worse; three, we ought to get together quickly to make it better.
We have been told that we are something like 20,000 short of full strength, if the Police Forces of the country are taken as a whole. As other hon. Members have said, that shortage is partly responsible for the failure to keep up with the crime wave. It is not responsible for the crime wave. Whenever there is a great war, there is a partial collapse of ordinary standards of morality, and when a great war is followed by a prolonged period of scarcity, that collapse in the ordinary standards of morality tends to last very much longer than it did after the first world war. While the shortage of police is not the cause of the crime wave, it is a great obstacle to dealing with it.
I would suggest to the Home Secretary—and I do not think he will disagree with me about the weight of the argument—that we must expect in the years to come that the calls on the police will be very much heavier than they are today. What I mean by that is this. We have been given plain notice by the Communist Party in this country that 2618 they intend to wreck the Marshall Plan if they can. They intend to wreck whatever Government plan there may be, at the moment, in the shape of the White Paper, to stabilise conditions in England. They will use their penetration into the trade unions to make trouble. The upshot of that process may be seen in today's report in the "Daily Mirror," of the situation brought about in Queensland, where there is a Labour Government, by quite a small minority of Communists infiltrating into the trade union life of the country and using their key positions to precipitate trouble. There is in the "Daily Mirror" today—it is not a paper for which I personally write——
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
—there is on the front page an example of what can happen, and what a heavy and responsible burden can be placed on the police, when there is a determined minority who mean to make trouble anyway.
Everyone taking part in this Debate wishes to be helpful to the Home Secretary, and not to make his difficulties greater. I suggest to the Home Secretary that he should start his consideration of the whole problem of the police by a recognition of the fact that, first, we are far too short of policemen, and second, that the burden placed upon the police hereafter will, in all human probability, be substantially greater than it is now. In other words, I do not think that the nominal shortage of 20,000, if that be the right figure, reflects the real shortage that we must attempt to cater for, if we are to have regard to the risks and difficulties of the position.
Why have we this position? I think the answer can be put in a single sentence. Circumstances have so changed as to diminish the attractive power of those elements in the conditions of Police Service which have hitherto served us extremely well. There are three elements in particular—security, pay and pensions. The element of security was at one time in the Civil Service, which I know well, the teaching profession which the right hon. Gentleman knows well, and the Police Service which I know indifferently well and he knows extremely well—a strong attractive power, particularly in 2619 times of insecurity. But if circumstances arise which provide full employment for pretty well all the people the element of security loses a good deal of its pulling power. Similarly, with a pension. At the time when there was no State pension scheme, or any considerable State pension scheme, other than the original 5s. a week with which Lloyd George started back in 1912, the attracting power of the police pensions was very considerable. But with the greater provision made in the ordinary social service legislation in the country, the police pension loses its relative attractiveness. I do not say it has no attraction, but I do say that its attraction has diminished.
With regard to wages, it is true that we have adjusted them and I am very glad to recognise that. But when the policeman weighs up the disadvantages of his daily life against the slightly more advantageous financial treatment he gets as compared with what he might receive elsewhere in the labour market, the slightly additional value in money is not enough to keep him in. After he has had some months of all the inconveniences of the police life, with its various domestic difficulties, the difficulties of night duty and sometimes the pin-pricking discipline he thinks the additional wage no compensation. I should be grateful if the Home Secretary would give attention to that. The police have to be a disciplined force, but they have not to be a "schoolmarmed" force. There are chief constables in England whose treatment of what we should regard as trivial things create a sense of resentment that even a bigger grievance might not create. We have to replace the niggling "parade-ground" sense of discipline with a social and civic sense of discipline in relation to the Police Forces of this country. Those attractive things which I have mentioned have largely lost their attractive power. If we are to recruit a Police Service adequate to our needs we have to consider how to replace those things, or to provide something in their stead.
I am not an opponent of the Government's White Paper on wages. I do not see what else they could do on wages but what they are doing. But I regard this case of the police as one of the cases that ought to be an exception to the ordinary 2620 rules. I would certainly adopt the suggestion that where men can be recruited from the Army the Government should allow their previous military service to count towards pension in the Police Force. That, I am sure, is a considerable element in a man's calculation. I would certainly improve the pensions system. The Minister is taking power to do that under the Bill we discussed the other day. Above all, I would certainly provide powers to deal with injury and death—the injury of a man and the widowhood of his wife in case he is killed. That I regard as an extremely urgent matter.
But I do not think that we ought to allow police conditions to drift from year to year, and then, every so many years, have a Parliamentary row and the appointment of a committee of inquiry. I want to see proper machinery provided within the police force itself for the day-to-day regulation of conditions of employment and the settlement of grievances as they arise. It is altogether anomalous in the 20th century that we should have to wait for a Consolidated Fund Bill, and a formal Debate on police services, before we can get an adequate discussion of the difficulties in the Police Services in this country. I have begged many Home Secretary's—and I will continue to do so as long as my voice will last—to create the necessary machinery for the settlement of grievances and difficulties as they arise instead of allowing them to accumulate over a period of time, and then having a Parliamentary row and the appointment of a special committee of inquiry or something of that kind.
I am not against the proposal of my noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) for an immediate committee on this matter. I support that, because there are arrears to clear up. But when we have cleared up the arrears I beg that we shall have proper machinery for dealing with these things day by day. The noble Lord knows, as I know, that the degree of a grievance is determined not merely by the seriousness of its character, but by the period during which it is allowed to foment and fester beneath the surface, without proper attention and remedy. I think that it is potentially a much greater cause of trouble inside the Police Services than almost anything else.
We are told that because the police are in a disciplined service, any idea of a 2621 trade union amongst the police would be wrong. I regard that as the rankest of heresies. I affirm a contrary principle. I would agree at once, of course, that we cannot have the Police Force going on strike. I would agree that we cannot have a police trade union interfering with discipline. Obviously, there can be no right to strike in the case of a service like that. Nor can we have a union interfering with discipline. But those two things do not make it impossible to allow the police to have a union of their own, a union deliberately restricted to dealing with the wages and conditions of service, and the social aspects and amenities of their life. I see not only no reason why that cannot be allowed: I see every reason why it should be allowed.
The logic of the thing is this: if the service is so essential that a strike cannot be allowed, if it is so essential to maintain it as a disciplined service, then we are under not the minimum obligation, but the maximum obligation, to provide adequate machinery for the peaceful day-to-day settlement of difficulties as they arise. As I tried to say during consideration of the Police Pensions Bill the other day, I do not think that anybody, on either side of this House, can regard the Police Council, which, in any event, is only an advisory body to the Minister, and whose composition is quite inadequate from a trade union point of view—it contains three constables out of a total membership of somewhere about 25 to 30—I do not think that anybody can regard the Police Council as a satisfactory substitute for what we have in Government Departments generally.
The Civil Service is a disciplined service. The prison officers are a disciplined service; but in both cases, and in many others, the men are allowed to have a union which can bring up difficulties day by day. They are allowed to have a Whitley Council, where representatives of the men meet representatives of the administration at monthly intervals, or thereabouts. They have an agenda which they themselves compile. Either side is free to put what it likes on the agenda. I believe that if we are to get peace over a long period of years and, above all, if we are to get the recruits, we must not deny to the policemen the right we conceded to any other working man in Britain—the right to belong to a proper trade union organisation, the freedom to 2622 join an organisation which can, from day to day, without long festering periods of delay, bring grievances to the surface and give the opportunity of putting them right.
Time is of the essense of this contract. I support all that the noble Lord said. I hope that we shall have an immediate inquiry, and not a deferred one. It is perfectly possible for a dozen men sitting round a table to find what is wrong with the police force in a period of time of less than one year. When we have found out what is wrong and what ought to be done, let us put that right next Session. From then onwards, let there be proper organisation and machinery for the settlement of grievances which will make it unnecessary for this House of Commons to debate, at long intervals of time, grievances and difficulties which ought to have been disposed of when they arose.
§ 5.47 P.m.
§ Major Bruce (Portsmouth, North)
I would like to dissent from the argument advanced by the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) that the police are fighting a losing battle against crime. I think that anybody who has had an opportunity of reading the latest Report available, which is the Report of His Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary for 1946, issued in July last, can agree with the conclusion that there has been an increase in indictable crime. Moreover, it is true that in the case of certain county forces there has been a slight decrease in the percentage of the numbers detected. But there has been no very drastic decrease in the percentage. In these circumstances, I do not think that one can say that the police are fighting a losing battle.
The disturbing thing is that crime itself is on the increase. A number of reasons have been given in this House today. I think an endeavour was made to show—I may be wrong—that a good deal of it arose from the fact that there was an increasing number of regulations and rules and orders made by this Government. That may be so, because, of course if there is an increase in the variety of offences, it is reasonable to assume that this in itself accounts, at any rate in part, for an increase in the total number of crimes committed. All one can say is that in the latest Report available, which is the one to which I have referred, and also 2623 in the Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, these suggestions do not appear. In the first Report, the reasons for the increase in crime are given. They are stated to be:The whereabouts of many of the older type of active criminals are not now known because of the changes brought about by the war. A new and younger group which has become operative as a result of war conditions. The scarcity of goods and the readiness with which, when obtained, they can be disposed of at high prices in the 'black market.' The tendency of many members of the public—for reasons on which it is not for us to comment—to have in their houses very large sums of money and valuables.It also says—and this is a point to which I want to give some emphasis—that the increase in crime is to some extent due to the fact that the numbers of the police on the beat themselves are not sufficient. I draw attention to a very serious remark by the Inspector of Constabulary in his Report, in which he saysIt is clear that the depleted beat strength has had some bearing on these questions, and when one ascertains from chief constables the actual number of men they have had available for beat duty during the various parts of the day, the incidence and nature of crime during the year are not surprising.From the Report of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, one finds the further rather disconcerting factor that a large amount of the crime has occurred amongst young people.
§ Sir A. Salter
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he dissented from what I said, and I should not like it to be understood that I said something more than, in fact, I did say. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that crime was increasing and that a smaller proportion of the criminals are caught. That is precisely what I said. I said very specifically that I did not dissent from the noble Lord's statement.
§ Major Bruce
I am pleased to accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation. I gathered from what he said that he thought the police were fighting a losing battle. The other disturbing factor about the present position is the remark made by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in his Report about the increase of crime among young people. The Report says:A disturbing feature is the number of serious crimes attributable to youths in the age groups 14–20. It is seldom that these 2624 youths are found to be responsible for one offence only Cases are frequent in which, when arrested, they admit a long series of breakings; five or even ten cases are not unusual, and in one case the offender asked for so cases to be taken into consideration.If there is a body of men who should be able to make up their minds as to the reasons for the increases of offences, particularly amongst young people, I submit that it is the police themselves. When one comes to the Combined Report of the Joint Central Committee of the Police Federation of England and Wales one finds here, very coolly and carefully stated, one of the reasons for the increase of the incidence of crime among young people. The Report states, at page 59:The general shortage of personnel to perform beat duty means, in addition to being unable to adequately protect property that proper attention is not paid to children and young persons who are really in need of extra care and attention, after being so much at a more or less loose end during the war years. This failure to provide correction, and to prevent many of the smaller offences, simply gives encouragement to those so minded to embark on something larger and more venturesome. And so it is that those who, through lack of attention, become petty pilferers or commit other minor offences grow up with the thought that their chances of being caught or checked are negligible.That is the opinion of the Police Forces themselves on this matter, which is linked directly, as the noble Lord pointed out, with the actual strength of the Police Forces in this country.
I know that the establishments of the Police Forces have been increased recently, and possibly their present strength in relation to their prewar establishment is not so bad. I believe that, on 30th September, it was something like 13,000 short, including women police, and now, under the new establishments, it is somewhere near 20,000 short. It is not only a question of the overall shortage of police. One finds that there is a maldistribution of police in some areas. One finds, for example, in places like the city which I have the honour to represent, with 280,000 inhabitants, there is one constable to 782 persons, each policeman covering 26 acres, whereas, in Southampton, with a population of 150,000, there is one constable to every 414 persons, which means, roughly, that the people of Southampton are about twice as well served numerically as are the people of Portsmouth, and, incidentally, the acreage coverage of each con- 2625 stable is approximately the same. There is a maldistribution in Police Forces which requires attention.
The principal question now is this: why, are not more recruits coming in, and why are such a high proportion leaving in under 15 years' service? There have been many explanations given this afternoon. The housing shortage has been touched upon, and there have been various other motives given. It is, therefore, interesting to have a look at what the Police Federation say themselves about this matter. They say:The attractiveness of other professions and the prevailing conditions in industry have done much to attract the attention of the would-be recruits, and have caused many to resign the service when they realise what police duty meansIn case it should be thought that financial considerations are always the dominant ones—and financial ones have been touched upon in the House today—I wish to record the view of the chief constable of Portsmouth on this subject, as he does not think that the financial considerations are the greatest. He said:What we do frequently learn is that the nature of the work is tedious, night duty is irksome and lonely, after the companionship of other Service life, and restrictions upon leisure time are burdensome.Whatever the real reasons may be for the extremely low level of recruitment, and whatever may be the reasons for people leaving the police before they have served their time, the first submission that I want to make to the House is that we should find out very quickly what these reasons are, and, on that account, I would urge on the Home Secretary the necessity for the Committee which is to investigate pay and conditions in the Police Force to start its operations rather earlier than 1949. I ask my right hon. Friend why it is necessary to wait until 1949 for this purpose. I have some idea that, when he was negotiating pay and conditions a little while back, it was agreed with the Police Council that the new methods of pay would be allowed to remain in operation, I think, to the end of 1949. Possibly, the appointment of this Committee has been held up for the time being because he has not wanted to prejudice any of the existing rates of pay.
We are not only concerned with actual pay, but also with conditions, and, in reply to a Question on 20th February last, by the hon. and gallant Member 2626 for South Portsmouth (Sir J. Lucas), the Home Secretary admitted himself that the conditions in which the Police Forces were working were not all under his control. If there are a number of conditions in which the police are working which are out of his control, and they are having an adverse effect upon recruiting, then it is extremely important that this Committee should be appointed right away. I think that the figures which have already been quoted in regard to the shortage of police below the establishment, together with the already recognisable increase in the incidence of crime in the country, provide an overwhelming reason why this Committee should be appointed with the least possible delay. As it is, we must discuss these matters in so far as we know them at the present time, and without the guidance we should possibly be able to obtain from such a Committee if it were appointed and made its report fairly expeditiously to the House.
One of the matters touched upon was, of course, the question of pay, which has already been dealt with by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham and the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys). In general, I agree with what has been said. At the present time —that is, under S.R. & O. 1603 of 1947, which is the latest amended Police Regulation—a police constable receives, on appointment, five guineas a week. He gets no rise for two years, but, in the third year, there is an increment of 3s., and, thereafter, his pay rises by yearly increments of 3s. until, after 10 years, he receives £6 12s. a week. The Police Federation recommended that the initial salary should be in the region of £5 10s. and should rise to £7 10s. after eight years. In the case of a sergeant, the existing regulations provide that, on appointment, he shall receive £7 10s. with five yearly increments of 3s. bringing his pay to £8 5s. The Police Federation proposed that, on appointment, he should receive £9, and £10 5s. at the end of five years.
It is not for me to say whether the Police Federation's demands are too high or whether the Home Secretary's concessions, as incorporated in the present regulations, are too low. All one knows at the present time is that insufficient recruits are forthcoming. It is quite true that there are special increments for zeal which can be given by chief constables 2627 after five years' service. It is also true that additional increments can be given to people of exceptionally long service of 15 or 16 years. But the question to which the public, as well as this House, has to address itself is, are these rates really adequate? The Federation say that they are not, and, when one comes to compare them with rates obtaining in other countries with substantially the same cost-of-living standards, such, for example, as New Zealand, one finds that the pay of constables on appointment is considerably higher than in this country.
The higher rate not only applies to pay, but also to such things as rent allowance. Fortunately, by a concession made by the Home Secretary, and which was warmly appreciated by all ranks in the Force, rent allowance is now free of tax. But no rate of rent allowance is laid down in the regulations. In some parts of the country very small rent allowances are paid by the police authorities. The Police Federation complained of one case where a man was getting a rent allowance of as little as 2s. 6d. a week. There are also, of course, other allowances which are not generally applicable to all policemen, but only to those employed on special duties. For instance, there are the detectives' allowances, and so on.
Hours of duty have been touched upon, and I submit that they are extremely important. The policemen are a little disturbed—and this rankles with them— that quite a considerable amount of the work they do, which can properly be attributed to their tour of duty, has, nevertheless, to be performed in their spare time. For example, the time of return to the station after relief does not count as part of their normal tour of duty. Again, engagement on casual escort duty does not count as part of their normal tour of duty. What is not generally known is that, if a continuous tour of duty of eight hours is performed, only half an hour is allowed, under regulations, for refreshment.
But most serious of all are the restrictions upon leisure which quite a number of hon. Members may not appreciate with the same intensity as those who labour under them. In this, I have no firsthand experience, and no means of checking any of the available data put forward about it; neither have I had any specific 2628 representations as such made to me by the Police Federation, or by any member of the Federation. All that one can go on are the reports of the Police Federation itself, which can be obtained publicly. When one looks at some of the restrictions on leisure about which complaints have been made by the Police Federation from time to time, quite frankly, one cannot wonder why, to some extent, certain police authorities have such difficulty in obtaining all the recruits they need.
For example, in some county police districts it is the practice, instead of holding weekly pay parades, for pay parades to be held at irregular periods outside the men's tour of duty, and for the opportunity to be used for ordinary parades and lectures. In the case of one local authority complained of by the Police Federation, members of the force on sick leave were not permitted, without consent, to attend a place of amusement. I believe that all hon. Members, on whichever side they sit, would not care very much for that. Again, policemen in other districts are required to hold themselves available at all times, which means, in practice, that before he goes anywhere, a man has to inquire from the authorities whether he may do so. For example, in some boroughs according to the Police Federation's Report, the permission of a superior officer is required before a policeman may leave the borough on pleasure. There are plenty of other instances; I cannot name the authorities concerned specifically, but the cases are presumably serious enough to be reported by the Police Federation. There is a whole series of what we would consider quite unwarrantable restrictions on the leisure life of the constable himself.
Before we can expect any very great increase in recruitment, or any great diminution in the number of those who go out earlier, many of these anomalies, and, indeed, those touched upon in earlier Debates, will have to be dealt with. I sincerely hope that the Home Secretary will not consider himself irrevocably bound by the contents of the White Paper on Police Pensions. I trust that, between now and the time that he formulates his regulations, he will find an opportunity to deal in the upward direction with those pension matters discussed by us, and on which contributions were made from all sides of the House some three weeks ago.
2629 I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) on the necessity for the police organisation itself having rather wider powers than it has at present. At the moment, the Police Federation is able to act as a negotiating body on behalf of its members with the Police Council. I believe that my right hon. Friend has told the Federation that if it cares to submit further constructive proposals about its part in possible arrangements for arbitration proceedings, he would welcome them. I fully appreciate that the Federation labours under one big disadvantage. At the present time, it is forbidden under the regulations to employ any civilian staff which it is obviously necessary for it to do if it is to conduct an office of its own, and, above all, if it is to inform the public. It is of very great importance that, although one may not go all the way with the hon. Member for Rugby and his trade union proposals, the existing police negotiating machinery, whatever its defects may be, should be entitled to have at its disposal an organisation through which the ordinary general public can be made aware of the point of view of the Police Federation. I should have thought the case for that was practically unanswerable.
It may well be that a good number of the changes demanded from both sides of the House will involve extra cost. That cost, in some instances, will fall upon the police authority and, therefore, ultimately upon the rates. No one should advocate concessions which he is not prepared to justify, save as part of a rectification of a social balance which he feels to be unjust. The prospect in which I prefer to put the matter is this. Many of us would prefer to pay more than we might have to pay, for instance, in terms of a child knocked down at a school crossing who might not have been knocked down had there been police available for more regular traffic guidance; or in terms of a growing increase of crime amongst the young people, who could be checked and guided if more adequate numbers of police were available.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Maude (Exeter)
I have listened with great attention to the well reasoned speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce). I do not want to argue with him apart from referring to one matter which is in his mind. If 2630 Southampton is, in fact, better provided with police than Portsmouth, one of the reasons is probably that Portsmouth has naval patrols and Southampton has not. There must be some reason, but I do not know that the rates of crime are any worse. One city may vary tremendously from another. When I listened to the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) I could not imagine a speech less likely to attract new men into the Police Forces. I can imagine her telling a young man who is thinking of joining the force that he must have a tremendous knowledge; that he will have continually to be in uniform; that there are hardly any canteens; he will get stomach trouble, and he must be much taller than the average height. Furthermore, the transport leaves much to be desired, there are not enough senior posts, conditions in the stations are deplorable and the quarters are very undesirable.
That may all be true—I do not know and I cannot say. It may be all absolute hell if one is allowed to say that, but in 25 years I have had very little experience of that. Not only will the Home Secretary, in his recruitment drive, apparently have to contend with this, but it is said that many chief constables are enforcing pettifogging regulations, inflicting trivial pinpricks, and so on. That may be so but I did not hear much cheering at it in the House. The public must not be allowed to think that all these things are anything but the small points which the hon. Lady admitted they were. The hon. Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) said that the policeman was never off duty—it is one of those slogans connected with the men in blue. People who go about all over the country saying that the policeman is never off duty will never get anybody to join the force. Of course the policeman goes off duty; of course he has time to himself.
To think, as one hon. Member does that the crushing of crime depends upon the mobility and ubiquity of the police is nonsense. What we have to do is not only to prevent offences but to catch the men after they have committed them. We cannot put a policeman at every street corner or have a policeman walking up and down every street. What we want to do is to catch the man when he has committed the crime. There is something else I would like to put on record once 2631 again. The criminal, properly so called, will always go on with crime so long as he thinks there is a sporting chance of getting off altogether, that is to say, not being detected. At present, as some hon. Members have pointed out, a great number of individuals obviously think they have a sporting chance of not being taken.
The right hon. Gentleman the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) drew a lurid picture of the tremendously skilled criminal—a sort of university graduate, so far as I can see, or doctor of criminology—going about all over the country. That is a completely false conception. The ordinary crook who gangs up is a nasty, sordid, mean-minded person possessing nothing more than cunning. Nor is it true to say that the police are fighting a losing battle. That is not so. My experience is that the detection rates are now very high. As I am sure hon. Members will know, that means that out of every 100 crimes of the invidious and most tiresome sort—burglaries and so on—they were very low. It is not in the public interest to mention exactly what they were. There is no doubt that the figures have been rising recently. At the same time, it is no use pretending that a losing battle is being fought. It is a battle which will go on with very great surprises to the crook.
I would refer to the questions of pay and of housing. It is irresponsible and cruel for any hon. Member to urge on the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health that houses should be allocated for the police as a priority. That is wrong and wicked. It might be all very well, however, if we could, in fact, build many more houses. I wonder whether those hon. Members whom I have heard this afternoon would dare go to their constituents, and say to people in houses where there is tuberculosis or bad overcrowding, "Yes, I urged upon the House of Commons that, instead of your getting a house, a policeman should get it." It is no wonder that the local authorities have hesitated to take such action. It is only human that one should bow, not merely to disease, but to all sorts of miseries, and feel that they should come first in treatment. A far larger number of houses is required before allocations can be made to the police.
2632 We must turn our minds to the problem proper, that of wages. It is true that one can point to food and separation allowances, rent allowances—which is not subject to Income Tax—and so on, but it is my honest belief that the amounts are insufficient. Certain things connected with these wages are really ludicrous. I can speak on one matter which is known to me and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be able to contradict me because I have tried to verify my facts. My example is that of a uniformed Metropolitan Police sergeant who takes an examination to rise to the rank of station sergeant. First, he has to undergo an educational examination—the Civil Service examination—from the second class, I believe it is called, to the first class. Then he has an examination on what are called general orders—the disciplinary code, law procedure, and so on. I do not suggest that it is a tremendous difficulty, but not everybody gets through. Something like 50 per cent. of the entrants are ploughed. Those sergeants who do get through and hope to be made station sergeants then appear before a selection board, but not everybody is selected. The percentage selected is something like 29 per cent. Then the man has to wait. All this is quite right and sensible, but what happens on the question of pay seems a little stupid. As I think the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) mentioned, in respect of a constable, the increase on starting as a station sergeant is 3s. a week.
What happens in the case of the sergeant of whom I am thinking? What I have to say will appeal particularly to hon. Members opposite who understand the value of bicycles to the working men as opposed to the cost of bus fares. The sergeant gets 3s. a week, but not all of it, because some of it goes to the pension fund and some goes to P.A.Y.E. In fact, he gets 1s. 9d. extra in his pocket. Whereas in his old job he used to bicycle to work, in his new job he has to pay 2s. 4½d. every day on bus fares. Hon. Members will see that 3s. does not cover that. At the end of the week he has paid out in bus fares 14s. 3d., and he has a rise in pay ostensibly of 3s. but in fact 1s. 9d. Therefore, that man will say to a young man who is thinking of entering the Police Force, "Look out. Sometimes these wage arrangements do not work out very well. Do not pay 2633 attention to those who say that all the time you are earning a pension because, young man, at the end of my time, if I remain a station sergeant, I will have added 45. 6d. a week to my pension, but if you check the figures carefully you will see that I am paying out very much more."
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)rose——
§ Mr. Maude
I am sorry I cannot give way, much as I would like to. I have already been speaking for some time. I have taken one example only. There are other considerations. A police officer has one Sunday off every month. On the other three Sundays he has an early duty, from 6 a.m. till 2 p.m. or he works from 2 p.m. till 10 p.m. or from 10 till 6 or 11 till 7. There is no extra pay. There is no time off on bank holidays, although perhaps a day might be granted in lieu. I have heard that it will be granted, but it has not been announced yet and it has not appeared in orders. When the man goes on night duty his wife has an added nuisance in her life. She is not only getting meals all day long, but she has to get another one at 7.30 or 8.30 for her husband.
The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the efficiency of the Police Force, and I have not the slightest doubt that he will do everything possible to see that it remains efficient. At the same time, I know perfectly well, and nothing that he might say could alter my opinion, that when he goes to the Despatch Box tonight he will have behind him the shadow of the Treasury. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the remarks which have been made by many of my hon. Friends and in particular the excellent idea of my noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). This House should satisfy itself on this matter not in 1949 but in 1948. We should pay no attention to the remarks of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) that the Police Force will be more heavily employed because of Communists. I do not believe it for a moment. I do not believe that everything should be looked at afresh because the Home Secretary might be rushed into doing something because of Communists, but there is an optimum number, and the police are well below that number. Six thousand is much 2634 too low. It is an intolerable nuisance to everybody in every class, and it is intolerable that something should not have been done about it before.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Grimston (Westbury)
The background of this Debate has been anxiety on both sides of the House at the size and seriousness of the present crime wave. I think it ought to be put on record that during this Debate there has been no note of criticism of the police. In fact, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) has pointed out, the rate of detection has actually gone up recently. What there has been is concern on all sides at the handicap under which the police are working through the very large shortfall in their establishment at present, and there has also been a remarkable unanimity that something should be done quickly to remedy this state of affairs.
Having listened to this Debate, to put in a nutshell what it is necessary to do one might say that something must be done to make service in the Police Force more attractive, compared with outside occupations, than it is at present, and as, in fact, it used to be before the war. I would like to look at both sides of this question. What is it that is likely to deter a man from joining the Police Force? First, there is a certain natural dislike of disciplined service, particularly after a war. There are, of course, irregular hours. There is a good deal of night duty and there is also boredom for a great deal of the time. We read in the papers of the incidents which occur, from time to time, but one must not forget the long hours of sheer boredom which have to be passed by many members of the police force, during which time, among other things, there is a lot of time to think about their conditions. There is not the same freedom as there is in outside occupations, and that point has already been brought out. Last, but certainly not least, there is the attitude of the wives, which has already been mentioned, and I think that we as Members of Parliament, or perhaps our wives, will certainly see that point of view.
Some of these things a new recruit does not find out until he has actually joined the Police Force. I believe that it is the realisation of these disadvantages, compared with the sort of jobs that his pals 2635 have outside, together with the somewhat rigorous and gruelling early training which there has to be, which causes such a large proportion of recruits to fall away and retire voluntarily during the first year of their service. There is little doubt that that is one of the reasons for it.
I now turn to the advantages of joining the Police Force in the past. First, there was the prestige and the honour which my noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) mentioned, and which undoubtedly still exists. I am sure we in this House will always do all that we can to maintain it. But in the past there has been security; there has been the gaining of a comparatively large pension at a comparatively early age; there have been superior pay and conditions, and although perhaps a young man on joining the Police Force does not think so much about the pension which he will get in 25 or 30 years' time or more, he thinks about the pay and prospects. Today the pay and prospects which a young man can get in the Police Force are nothing like so superior to those conditions, prospects and pay which he can get in civil life.
The attraction to the Police Force, compared with that of other occupations, is not nearly as great. There can be no question of direction into the Police Force, and that gap between what can be obtained outside and what can be obtained in the Police Force has, in my opinion, to be widened somehow if we are to get the men we require. So far as prospects are concerned, it is quite obvious that all the men who join cannot rise to the highest positions; that is impossible. I think it has to be made obvious, however, that the avenue of promotion is open to those who can make the grade.
We come back again to pay, conditions and pensions. So far as pensions are concerned, we have recently been discussing the Police Pensions Bill and, as a result of the discussions in this House, the Bill emerged in such a form that a man who joins the Police Force can know his pension conditions are absolutely tied up by Act of Parliament and can know, in that respect, that nothing can be worsened by any act of the Home Secretary, although there is, in the Bill, power under regulation to improve conditions at any time. The Home Secretary will shortly be making a fresh set of regulations. I ask 2636 him, when considering these regulations, to have an eye to the recruiting question. He will have an opportunity of clearing away many small points and grievances which emerged during the Debates on the Bill and which, no doubt, will have been put to him from other quarters as well.
Speaking of pay and conditions, I would reinforce the plea for a very early setting up of this Committee. I think the desire that this Committee should be speedily set up has been expressed on all sides of the House, and I very much hope the Home Secretary will see his way not to delay it till 1949 or even 1950, as has been at present announced. While not agreeing with everything said by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), I think one of the terms of reference of that Committee might well be the question of representation and the speedier resolving of any grievances there might be. I will not say more than that, but it certainly seems to me that that question might well come within the purview of that Committee.
May I turn just for a moment—because I want to allow the right hon. Gentleman to reply as soon as possible—to one other aspect; the question has occurred to me whether the police cannot be used, if I may put it in this way, more economically. My noble Friend touched upon a controversial point, and although I do not want to introduce it into this most uncontroversial Debate, we all hope, with the passage of time and for one reason or another, the police will be less employed than they are at present with looking after the various controls. Apart from that, I had a personal experience the other day, and I should like to mention it to illustrate my point. It is necessary for anyone who wants to obtain a liquor licence to get a reference from people who are responsible enough to support the application or to give a reference. I happened to be asked for a reference by someone who wanted a liquor licence——
§ Mr. Grimston
Not at the moment. I received a form which I filled in, and I supported the application. The next thing that happened was that I was telephoned from a police station and a most courteous sergeant came round to see me merely 2637 to ask me whether I was the person who had given the reference, and so on and so forth. It occurred to me that a job like that might well be done by someone else, rather than taking up quite a considerable amount of the time of this sergeant in making an inquiry from me, the answer to which I had already put on the paper. If that is happening up and down the country, with every application for a liquor licence, a great deal of time is wasted by members of the Police Force on a job which I should have thought could quite well have been done by someone else. I merely give that as an illustration and I ask whether the Home Secretary will not look into some of the duties now done by the police and see whether they may not be relieved of them without detriment to the public interest.
Before I conclude, I should like to add my tribute to the tributes paid on all sides of the House to the excellence and the high standard of our Police Forces in this country. I think it has been well said that we should remember that "while soldiers are policemen who act in unison, a policeman is a soldier who acts alone." I must say they do so as friends of the public, with infinite resources of tact and patience. Many a time we see what might be an ugly situation retrieved by the friendliness, tact and quiet firmness of the police in great contradistinction to the harsh methods that go on in other countries. This Debate shows the concern on all sides of the House at the present state of affairs, and I think the Home Secretary can be assured that he will have behind him the support of the entire House in any steps that he takes to attract more recruits to the Police Force. In conclusion, I would again urge him to set up this Committee as speedily as possible, and I hope that perhaps it will be one of the results of this Debate.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I have listened to every word of this Debate and I would like to thank all the right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in it for the way in which they have addressed themselves to the subject and for the tributes they have paid to the existing members of the Police Force. I would like to add my tribute to theirs for, in times of very 2638 great difficulty, these men have not shirked their duty. They have preserved that good humour, that tact, and that ability to deal with awkward situations in a way which deflates all the blown-up pomposity that sometimes is associated with awkward situations. They have done this in a way which is quite traditional. I would also like to thank the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) for the very kind personal references he made to myself.
The noble Lord, possibly owing to his former acquaintanceship with the Home Office, is the only Member who has shown a real appreciation of my exact position in this matter, for he differentiated between my relationship with the Metropolitan Police Force and my relationship with the provincial Police Forces. I am the police authority for the Metropolitan Police. It is true that my powers are limited as to the directions I can give, but I am the authority and I can be questioned in this House, I understand, with regard to any individual act of any individual policeman in the Metropolitan Police Force. My position is very different, however, with regard to the provincial Police Forces, and that is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the British Police Forces as compared with foreign police forces. The real cause of the difficulty which led to what happened in Czechoslovakia the other day cannot happen in this country, under present circumstances. I have only to approve one member of each of the provincial Police Forces—the chief constable. All the other appointments are made by the local police authority who employ the police, and what has happened abroad recently is, I think, a very good justification for the continuance of this fundamental principle in our police system.
However, it involves this disadvantage, that I have to consult and carry with me the provincial Police Forces and the provincial police authorities in the reforms I would like to see. It is true that I can be held more responsible for the Metropolitan Police Force, but it would be a bad thing if conditions in that force got out of step with those in the provincial Police Forces. While that is no justification for there being anything wrong with the Metropolitan Police Force, I desire to see all the separate Police Forces of this country regarding themselves as one 2639 organic whole which, while having separate local jurisdiction, is yet governed in the main—in fact, I hope entirely—by common principles and common ideals. However, I hope hon. Members will realise that this makes my position rather more difficult and some of the problems not quite as easy of solution as some of the speeches have suggested, when it has been said that I should do this or that.
For instance, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Major Bruce) read out a list of pettifogging regulations which applied to the police. I have just published a uniform set of regulations for the whole country in which all those are abolished, and I hope that will be one of the things that will arise from this Debate. They were the most amazing regulations. One laid down that "A constable must not play cards." I cannot help thinking it was meant to mean "must not be found playing cards." I am reading these from police regulations in different provincial Police Forces:A constable must not consult a solicitor without the consent of the chief constable.As he might want to consult him about the chief constable, that did not seem to me to be a very helpful one. Another says:A constable must not rent an allotment.What reason could there ever have been for that? Another says:A constable must wear a hat with plain clothes in the streets of the borough even when off duty.Another:Members of the Force over the age of 35 must not play Rugby football.Another one:Members of the Force must not unbutton their tunics in the canteen.Really, Mr. Speaker, one sometimes wonders what was the mentality of the person who drafted such a regulation as that. All that kind of thing I have wiped out and, as far as the policeman is concerned, he should be given the status of a responsible citizen who has undertaken very heavy and responsible duties. He is amenable to a disciplinary code, but it ought to be a disciplinary code with some relationship to the importance of the job on which he is engaged.
I hope it will be realised that I desire to see a police force in which the men 2640 can take a pride, and in which petty and ridiculous limitations on their individual liberty will not be tolerated. Particularly I want it to be known that I regard a policeman as capable of choosing his own wife, and I have abolished the regulation in some forces which insisted that, before he was married, he should consult the chief constable as to the suitability of the lady of his choice. I have known constables who suggested to me that they should have had the opportunity of advising the chief constable. I want to give this as a background to my attitude as Home Secretary towards the forces.
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) dealt with the problem of police representation. That will be one of the things which will come within the purview of the committee. In 1946 and 1947, at the annual gatherings of the Federation, I invited them to submit to me their views as to the way in which negotiating machinery should be built up and should be made finally effective in the event of there being a disagreement when the negotiations have reached the critical stage. I am still awaiting their views on that matter, but it is my desire that the negotiating machinery, when set up, should be thoroughly representative of the ranks of the Police Force involved on the one side and the police authorities on the other, and that in the event of disagreement there should be some way in which that disagreement can be resolved. That, again, I hope will give to the Police Force a feeling that they are being organised on lines in accordance with the modern methods of dealing with such matters as pay and conditions of service. When I announced on 5th November, 1946, the new scales of pay, they were generally recognised as acceptable in the House; in fact, the hon. Member for Rugby congratulated me on having managed to reach a settlement on those lines.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
I was delighted that the right hon. Gentleman had got something out of His Majesty's Treasury.
§ Mr. Ede
It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman was behind me from his point of view, but I was glad that I was in front of him for my own. It was agreed by the Federation and by the local authorities that that agreement on pay should remain for the years 1947, 1948 and 1949, and there was an undertaking on my part 2641 that early in 1949 I would appoint a committee which, before the end of 1949, should report on pay and conditions generally, so that when the existing scales came to an end at the end of 1949 they could be replaced by other scales and conditions of service. That is why 1949 has been the date mentioned with regard to the committee; it was all part of an agreement which, at the time, was welcomed by everybody connected with the service.
I will ask the House to allow me to quote certain statistics relating to the strength of the force, because various figures have been given, and it is desirable that we should get the figures as accurately as we can. I can give a final figure showing the establishment and strength of the force on 29th of last month, which is as up to date as I think I ought to be expected to be. On 29th September, 1939, there was a total establishment in the country of 63,228 and a strength of 61,364, giving a deficit of 1,864. That figure most nearly relates to the outbreak of war; the second figure, which I will now give, most nearly relates to the end of the war. On 29th September, 1945, the establishment in the country was 63,209 and the strength 42,259, so that the strength was 20,950 under establishment. The force was maintained only by the existence of 15,197 Police War Reservists. On 29th of last month, the establishment was 67,980 and the strength—I am dealing with the country as a whole—was 54,746, giving a deficit on that date in England and Wales of 13,234.
That deficit is distributed in this way: Metropolitan Police Force, 5,048; City of London, 259, and the provincial Police Forces 7,927. This deficit is very unevenly distributed in the provincial Police Forces. Speaking as a whole, the largest forces seem to suffer most. There are other places, and some with a not inconsiderable Police Force, where there is hardly any deficit at all. For instance, in County Durham, the West Riding of Yorkshire, Leeds, Nottinghamshire and Nottingham there is hardly any deficit. The shortage of establishment in Nottingham, I was told one day last week, is only two, a matter which may be put right almost any day in the week. And in Nottingham, no relaxation of the physical requirements of the force has 2642 been made. It really is a very great tribute to the Nottingham City Police Force that they should be in that condition. It makes it quite apparent that it will be a good thing to have an inquiry as to why certain local forces are able to maintain a very much higher standard of recruitment, while in other cases this has not been achieved.
§ Earl Winterton
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but there seems to be some discrepancy in regard to the shortage in the Metropolitan Police Force, which it is important should be cleared up. The Lord Chancellor, in another place, gave the strength as about 6,000 on 13th February. Has there been an improvement to the extent of 1,000 in the last month?
§ Mr. Ede
I have not got that information by me. In view of the difficulties of explaining statistics to the House, I just took out the figures at convenient intervals, but I will certainly look into the point which the noble Lord has raised. The figures on 29th February are: establishment for the Metropolis, 19,767, strength, 14,719, making a deficit of 5,048.
Various suggestions have been put forward as to the reasons for the failure to attract and hold recruits. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) was somewhat sarcastic at the expense of my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock). She said that she was speaking about the force she knew. I do not think that her description was much over-painted as to the disability suffered by that Police Force. Prior to the war, considerable pressure was put on the City of Liverpool to improve all the kinds of accommodation about which she spoke. There is no need for a policeman to go from his home to his station in uniform, if arrangements can be made at the police station to keep his uniform there—of course, he would have to go to the station properly clad. There is no such accommodation in Liverpool. The same is true in regard to canteens. I have been in some most excellent canteens in other parts of the country where policemen can get a meal in comfort— and a very good meal. These are matters for which the local police authority are responsible, and where I only have the duty, as Secretary of State, to attempt to 2643 spur on lagging authorities to make conditions reasonably worth while. I attach very considerable importance to the kind of points which were raised by my hon. Friend, and there are certain Police Forces in the country which could, I think, with advantage pay attention to what she has said.
The question of housing is a very serious one. While I accept some of the things which were said by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, I think that we are entitled to ask for more assistance from some housing authorities than we have received. In fact, I authorised the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, when being pressed very hard by some suburban local authorities to allow a few more police to be stationed in their areas, to say that we would send them the police if they would provide the houses in which they would live. I hope that there will be some reciprocity between the police and the housing authorities in these matters. The county forces have always regarded the provision of at least some houses for their policemen as one of their duties, but the borough forces have found that in the main the men prefer to find their own houses within the limits of the borough, making their own arrangements with regard to tenure and occupation.
Recent recruits, have, of course, not been in the position of having the free choice which was generally available to the policeman of prewar days. I hope that the borough Police Forces will take such steps as they can to deal with the housing position, and to provide appropriate accommodation where necessary. Here again, I should like to take the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool, which was endorsed by the noble Lord in the interruption he made during her speech, that we do not want married quarters on a barrack system. The policeman is an ordinary citizen, and what is more, the policeman's wife is a very ordinary woman; she does not want to live in a block of buildings in which every woman she meets is also a policeman's wife. I hope that where these things have to be done, the arrangements will be made to place these houses so that the policeman is not put into a little community of policemen living by themselves.
2644 The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) gave a list of things which he thought acted as a deterrent to the recruitment of police. I agree with nearly all of them. The hours of duty, the amount of time there is free to the policeman and the amount of leave are all things that in these days mark off the Police Force as a service in which conditions are bad. It is very awkward in an era when so many people are enjoying the five-day week to ask people to go into a force where there is a six-day week, where there is a very great deal of night duty and where the hours are so very irregular. It is quite clear to me that for all those things we must have additional manpower. It would be quite useless to inaugurate a five-day week and lessen the call on individual men to undertake night duty in the present state of strength of the force; because that would bring the actual working of the force almost to a standstill in those hours and times when it is most essential that the police should be on duty. I want the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Petersfield to feel that I realise the importance of the points he has made. They are amongst those things which the Committee will have to investigate and we shall look forward to receiving helpful suggestions in regard to them in that Committee's report.
Both the noble Lord the Member for Horsham and the right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) alluded to the question of higher attainment in the Police Force and the effects on promotion. Let us realise that promotion is a thing that can to some extent be stated in almost precise and mathematical terms. There are so many senior police posts and there are so many men junior to those posts who are hoping later to fill them. In an interjection in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard), I said that I left the teaching profession because the avenues of promotion seemed to be closed. There were so many people senior to myself between me and the headmaster's position that I thought the best thing I could do was to leave my colleagues a little better chance to get one of those headmasterships. We sometimes over-emphasise the secure nature of this job. We want to attract into the police men who have a sense of adventure. If we merely get men in because there is a fine pension in 3o years' time, and unless they 2645 do something very wrong they will still be in the job at that time, I do not think we will get men who are the right type of recruit.
§ Earl Winterton
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but that is exactly the obverse of the argument I used. I said we wanted to get the younger men in and get them early to the higher rank, as is done in the other Services.
§ Mr. Ede
That is precisely the point I was coming to, although I was approaching it by a different route from that of the noble Lord. While I like to travel as far as I can along the road with him, I do occasionally like to wander into a by-path of my own. One has to be careful how much one becomes a fellow traveller. I desire to get into the police forces as many young men of ambition as I can, and I want to keep alive in them the hope of fulfilling their ambition. I do not think I shall do that by bringing in a number of men rather later in life and saying to them, "If you get through the college you can become a junior station inspector straight away." There can be no better way of frightening the ordinary young ambitious man out of the force than to do that. I am not convinced that five years is of necessity the least time that a man should serve in the force before he is allowed to go to the college. These men are to be promoted as police officers and this is a means of promotion inside the Police Service.
I want everyone who comes into the service to feel that there are no back ways by which other people can get in to the detriment of the type of man that the noble Lord has mentioned—the young man who has gone from the primary school to the secondary school and then possibly to the university, and who comes into the Police Force at the appropriate age. I want him to feel that, if he comes in as a policeman and proves that, in addition to the qualities of intellect and study that he has demonstrated by his academic career, he also has the making of a good policeman, his other training will not be a detriment to him when his suitability as a policeman is being considered.
§ Sir A. Salter
The right hon. Gentleman would not push that to the extent of saying that no people such as the 2646 special class I have mentioned should be brought into the higher ranks of the Police Force?
§ Mr. Ede
I have been considering the point that the right hon. Gentleman the Senior Burgess for Oxford University put to me in a conversation I had with him some time ago. The proper place for such people is as consultants, and I am taking steps to see that such advantages as we can get from association with them will be gained. I want the young man coming into the Police Force, especially the man coming out of the Services, to feel that promotion in the Police Service will depend upon his character and his ability as a policeman. His intelligence must be an integral part of the consideration as much as his police experience. Therefore, I would not for a moment consider opening any college on the lines of the Hendon College. In my opinion no inconsiderable part of my difficulties with the existing Police Force is due to the disappointment and ill feeling that was caused by that experiment. The experiment I am now trying will be more advantageous to the Police Force and will not have the detrimental effects that the other experiment had.
I have endeavoured to cover the points that have been raised by hon. Members. I recognise that what was of necessity right on 5th November, 1946, may not be right on 22nd March, 1948. We live in times when circumstances change fairly rapidly, and what I had the right to bring before the House on 5th November may now be regarded as something that needs review. I have, therefore, decided that as far as the Committee is concerned I will set it up as soon as possible. I want the members of that Committee to make a thorough survey of the whole position, and to deal with all the points, both large and small, that have been raised here today. I agree with the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool that some of these seemingly small points probably occupy positions in the police officers' minds out of all proportion to their real importance. It would not be right of me to promise the noble Lord that I will see that something is put into the King's Speech in October of this year. That was a very gallant effort on his part, and one always desires to meet the father of the House when he displays the result of his long experience here, but 2647 I really cannot undertake that I will go so far as that.
I will undertake that this Committee shall be appointed, with instructions that will indicate to them the feeling in the House today, that this is a matter of urgency and of great importance. I will undertake that when I get the report I will study it in conjunction with the local police authorities, with a view to doing what appears to be the right thing. I must again emphasise the fact that in this matter I am to a large extent in the hands of the police authorities. My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and Mr. Thomas Johnston who was then Secretary of State for Scotland, appointed a Committee on 26th May, 1944, which consisted of the appropriate people to inquire into a matter of this kind. The Committee issued a number of valuable reports between 30th June, 1946, and 1st May, 1947, which I sent to the Association of Municipal Corporations and the County Councils Association in April and June, 1947. I regret to say that I have not yet heard their views on those important recommendations.
As a member of a local police authority, I desire to work in the closest harmony with the local police authorities and to have the benefit of their advice on all these matters. But, as has been said more than once in the course of this discussion today, delays in these matters lead, as the hon. Member for Rugby said, to a festering of grievances; and I would ask all concerned with the police—the federation, the representatives of the superintendents and the chief constables and the representatives of the local authorities—to regard the appropriate handling of the difficulties of the Police Force as a matter of very great urgency in which sometimes a reasonably quick decision may save a great deal of bad feeling, which in the end leads to inefficient organisation and sometimes to considerable expense.
I am pleased to be able to say that the rate of detection of crime—I think that I ought to say this in view of what has been said—is now as high as it was in the prewar days. The percentage is almost exactly the same as it was in 1938. To those hon. Members who complain of burglaries, may I say that I was burgled seven times between the two wars and the burglars were never detected. At any 2648 rate, some hon. Members have been more fortunate than that. I would like, in conclusion, to express my thanks to the House for the way in which they have discussed this matter and for the interest which they have shown in the welfare of this Force, upon which our daily security and much of our happiness depends.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
Is it intended that the case of the Prison Service officers should be gone into by this Committee?