HC Deb 20 January 1949 vol 460 cc326-8
44. Mr. Skeffington

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the present deficiency in numbers of the Metropolitan Police Force; and whether he is satisfied with the recruitment campaign.

70. Mr. Norman Bower

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the public anxiety caused by the recent increase in the incidence of crimes of violence in London; to what extent this increase is due to the fact that the police are insufficient in numbers to discharge their protective duties adequately; and what steps he is taking to stimulate recruitment to the Metropolitan Police Force.

71. Mr. Vernon Bartlett

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to increase the Police Force so that it will be able to deal more effectively with the disquieting incidence of crime.

Mr. Ede

I am afraid, Sir, the answer is rather longer than is usually the case. According to the latest available figures, the Metropolitan Police are 4,291 and the county and borough police forces outside London 7,420 men short of establishment. During 1948 there was a net increase of 755 men in the regular strength of the Metropolitan Police and of 2,451 in the forces outside London. The need to improve the rate of recruitment in some parts of the country was one of the reasons for the appointment of the Committee under Lord Oaksey's chairmanship which is now considering police conditions of service. As regards the incidence of crimes of violence in London, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has recently pointed out that the number of armed robberies reported in the Metropolitan Police district in the first 11 months of 1948 was 43, 15 less than in the corresponding period of 1947, and that the percentage of arrests in respect of all robberies in the Metropolitan Police district was 22.9 per cent. greater in 1948 than in 1947. I am nevertheless fully aware of the public concern at the reports of recent crimes of violence, but I should not feel justified in proposing any substantial changes in police conditions of service, with a view to accelerating recruitment, in advance of the Oaksey Committee's Report.

Mr. Skeffington

While I thank the Home Secretary for his full reply, may I ask him how many special constables there are in the Metropolitan Area and how far they relieve the position?

Mr. Ede

Not without notice.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

In view of the great urgency of this matter, does the right hon. Gentleman know when the Oaksey Report is likely to be available?

Mr. Ede

I had a conversation myself with Lord Oaksey yesterday and he hopes to have the Report in my hands well before Easter.

Mr. Vane

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether men now employed in agriculture or coal mining are free to join the Police Force if they wish, or are there still obstacles in their way?

Mr. Ede

No. Two or three months ago, perhaps a little longer, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour removed the bar on these men enlisting in the police forces.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Will my right hon. Friend consider the advisability of asking the police authorities to give a little less attention to the more petty forms of traffic offence or to the unnecessary chasing around the streets of barrow boys?

Mr. Ede

It would put me in a quite wrong position with the police forces if I indicated to them, in the light of their knowledge of the particular area they serve, the kind of crime on which they should concentrate.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that where there are traffic lights there are usually enormous numbers of traffic police trying to trap motorists, and that they are really not doing much good?

Mr. Ede

I gave a reply recently which stated that over 700 police were saved in the Metropolitan Police Area alone by the use of traffic lights.

Captain Crowder

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask local authorities to do their best to provide suitable accommodation, especially for married policemen because, as he knows, it goes against recruiting if a married man and his wife cannot find suitable accommodation?

Mr. Ede

I am very grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for putting that question. I have made many appeals to housing authorities to help me in this matter. I am certain that the biggest bar to the retention of suitable recruits is the difficulty of providing a married man with a house in the neighbourhood of his employment.