HC Deb 10 December 1953 vol 521 cc2146-8
1. Mr. Shepherd

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made towards a system for dealing with minor motoring offences which will eliminate the present waste of police time.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

I have under consideration the report of a working party which was set up to consider and report on measures which might be taken to save the time of witnesses at the summary trial of minor offences. Some of the proposals considered by the working party would involve legislation and will require further consideration, but they have also put forward a number of other suggestions with a view to dispensing with the attendance of unnecessary witnesses and to saving the time of those witnesses whose attendance is essential.

I hope shortly to issue a circular commending some of these suggestions, which might do a good deal to lighten the burden of the police, to the consideration of magistrates' courts.

Mr. Shepherd

In view of the interest in this matter, and particularly as one can see, every day, dozens of Metropolitan police officers engaged on trivial tasks, will my right hon. and learned Friend publish the report?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I will consider that point, but I cannot give any promise about it.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Has the Home Secretary taken into account the observations of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary who, in their last report, also drew attention to the wastage of manpower involved in using the police for this kind of offence?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe


Major Anstruther-Gray

Will my right hon. and learned Friend get into touch with the Secretary of State for Scotland in this matter?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I will consider that.

28. Sir H. Williams

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will furnish an estimate of the number of man-hours occupied by police officers in the Metropolitan police district during the month of November at magistrates' courts for the purpose of giving evidence in cases of alleged obstruction.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Approximately 2,500.

Sir H. Williams

Having regard to the fact that these prosecutions have no effect at all on obstruction, and as the Commissioner of Police is always moaning about being short of manpower, would it not be much better if these policemen were doing ordinary beat duty?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

But obstruction has to be considered. As I estimate it—I should like my arithmetic checked—the total number of man-hours is about 4 million, which makes this 0.125 per cent. or 1/800. Obstruction has to be borne in mind for the general convenience of the public.

Mr. H. Hynd

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman promised me a considerable time ago, in reply to another question, that he would look into this general matter of the time spent by police officers in courts dealing with minor offences, can he tell me the results?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in when I answered Question No. 1, but I did say that the working party had reported and that some of the recommendations that did not require legislation were to be the matter of a circular within the early future. I am not trying to underestimate the problem of the proper use of police manpower. That is one that is constantly in my mind. All I am saying is the obvious point, I think, that I have to consider obstruction and convenience of the public.

Mr. Callaghan

How will the right hon. and learned Gentleman stop obstruction in London until there are adequate parking spaces, including underground car parks? Are not these fines becoming rents for parking in the street?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I agree that that has to be considered, and it is being considered.

Mr. Paget

Is there any reason why police reports in this sort of case should not be acceptable as evidence without the attendance of the police constable—[Hon. Members: "Oh."]—unless the defendant requests his presence?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I do not think it would be generally acceptable to go as far as the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. I should like him to elaborate it at a convenient time. What I am trying to do is to bring into being procedure for finding out, in advance, the cases where the defendant does not want to attend, and, therefore, does not want to dispute the matter, or where he will indicate he will plead guilty, so that the attendance of, at any rate, one or two witnesses can be dispensed with.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there are in London far too many "no obstruction" and "no parking" signs which the motorist believes are badly sited, so that he ignores them?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I will bear that in mind.

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