HC Deb 10 December 1953 vol 521 cc2151-2
12. Mr. Ede

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the variations in strength of the police forces in the cities and boroughs of England and Wales during 1953 and in the strength of the Metropolitan police force during the same period; and say what steps are to be taken to bring these forces up to establishment.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Between 1st January and 31st October, 1953, the male strength of the city and borough forces in England and Wales fell by 14 and of the Metropolitan police force by 144. Thirty-five city and borough forces increased in strength, six were unchanged and 33 showed losses. Although the rate of recruiting is still high by pre-war standards, and fairly good progress had been made up to the beginning of this year, the loss in strength since then gives cause for anxiety.

As regards the second part of the Question, advertising for the Metropolitan and certain other police forces has recently been intensified, and a new illustrated brochure is now being distributed to organisations which assist young men in the choice of a career. It is my belief that, with the improvement in conditions of service introduced since the war, the police service offers an excellent career and a worth-while job for young men of the right type and that it is desirable to see that particulars of the police service as a career should be widely known.

An important development has been the bringing into force of the new negotiating machinery, and as the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Police Council for Great Britain recently held its first meeting. The Council is at present considering an application for increases in pay.

Mr. Ede

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider instituting an inquiry into the conditions of service, particularly as they affect the domestic arrangements of the police, for undoubtedly some of the wastage is caused by the fact that policemen's wives do not like their husbands being on this particular job?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I agree that that is a most important aspect. It is constantly in my mind, but I shall direct special attention to it.

Major Legge-Bourke

In the case of counties where there has been a fall in the number of police, is that in any way associated with a shortage of housing?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I do not think that is a very important matter in relation to these falls, although, of course, housing is tremendously important. At the moment, speaking from memory, I believe the number of police houses alone is being increased at the rate of 200 a month. I think we are beginning to see our way through the problem.

Mr. Mellish

Is the Home Secretary aware that the great problem here is created by lack of promotion prospects? Will he bear in mind that the Oaksey Committee says that to ensure that he will get the higher rate of pension, a policeman has to stay on at his job for something like three years beyond the normal time? Is he aware that this is clogging the whole machine? Where there is a sergeant who should retire, and who will not retire because he wants the higher pension rate, the vacancy is not filled. Something will have to be done about it.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

That point has been very much in the mind of both the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me in this office and myself. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we have it in mind and will continue to consider it.