HC Deb 18 June 1951 vol 489 cc20-2
30. Mr. David Renton

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that, apart from London Transport and dock police, the railway police are the only police force in the United Kingdom which are not controlled either by a democratically-elected local authority or by a Minister answerable to Parliament; and whether he will introduce legislation to secure that the railway police will in future be controlled in one or the other of those ways.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)

No, Sir. Railway police are not the only police force of this kind. There are similar police forces for docks and harbours. In the special circumstances in which they are employed these police forces serve a necessary and useful purpose, and have been in existence for over 100 years. The control of police forces generally by a Minister or by local authorities is of a strictly limited character, and, in fact, the police are always ultimately responsible to the courts for the enforcement of the law, which is clearly proper. In the circumstances, therefore, I have no reason to think that legislation on the lines suggested is necessary.

Mr. Renton

Is the Minister aware that the railway police are the second largest force in the country and have powers and responsibilities as great as the ordinary police? Does he not agree that both the public and the members of the railway police are anxious to see their status regularised by democratic control?

Mr. Barnes

I agree that they are the largest police force of this character in the country, but I am not aware that the public are uneasy about the form of control. This has existed for a long time and there has been very little difficulty. I do not see any necessity for any change at present, but the matter is always open to review if public opinion were to change.

Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at this matter from a point of view which I suggest is quite reasonable? If a Minister could answer for matters of importance, not of day to day administration, in the same way as the Home Secretary answers for matters of importance concerning local authority police forces to which, of course, he makes a certain grant, I am sure that that would calm some of the apprehensions that have been expressed.

Mr. Barnes

The fact that I have answered this Question today indicates that I appreciate that circumstances may arise when it is necessary to make a statement. I will look at the matter which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has put to me, and I observe particularly that he did not wish to bring in day to day matters of management.

Mr. Henry Hopkinson

Is it not a fact that these officers attend the same schools and colleges, pass the same Civil Service examinations as officers of other forces and police forces, and are awarded the Police Medal, but, because they are not under the Home Office or any other Ministry, are still, after two years, being paid less than the members of other police forces in the country as they do not enjoy the benefits of the Oaksey award?

Mr. Barnes

That appears to me to raise issues other than that which is involved in this Question.

Mr. Mitchison

Has the Home Secretary any responsibility whatever for local authority police?

Mr. Barnes

That is a question that my hon. and learned Friend should put to the Home Secretary.

Mr. Renton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the only reason why this Question was on the Order Paper today was because the Prime Minister was willing to answer it, and I could not get a Question down to the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Barnes

The hon. Gentleman has succeeded, and I do not know what his difficulty is now.

Mr. John Hynd

As these policemen are mainly responsible for the operations of railway employees, is the Minister aware that no complaints about them by railway employees have been received in the last three years?

Mr. Barnes

I am aware of that, and also that there have been no complaints from the general public.