§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
On a point of order. Can we have some guidance from you, Mr. Speaker? I understand that the debate on the Question before the House will go very wide. There are certain Amendments on the Order Paper, but I understand that notice has been given to you and to the appropriate members of the Government that -the Opposition wishes to raise the question of the Overseas Information Services. I would be obliged if you could inform the House at what stage you think that it will be appropriate for us to raise this matter.
§ Mr. Speaker
Strictly speaking, I propose to call the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Moody) to move his Amendment to the Motion and if that is disposed of the general question will be open to the House, as is customary. But the practice with regard to this Motion on the Civil Estimates is that only those matters of which notice has been given in an Amendment to the Motion can be discussed. The only advice which I can give to the House is that if Supply is disposed of ultimately, and time remains, that topic could be raised on a Motion for the Adjournment. It would not be in order to raise it earlier, because no Amendment embodying that matter is on the Order Paper.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. A. S. Moody (Gateshead, East)
I beg to move, to leave out from " That " to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House urges Her Majesty's Government to consult with the police authorities and the Police Council with a view to bringing the 562 police forces of the country up to establishment by improving the conditions of service, having regard to modern social circumstances.I hope to speak to this Amendment in the interests of the nation as a whole, and not in any partisan spirit. I am sure that hon. Members fully appreciate that, next to the restraining influence of all shades of Christian thought and teaching, the best preventative of crime in this country is our police. I am satisfied that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with our police forces. I believe that they are still a shining example to the world and I am sure that many hon. Members who, like myself, had the privilege of watching the review of the police by Her Majesty in Hyde Park last summer must not only have felt proud to be British, but felt proud of those forces who, without any arms whatsoever and so small in numbers, are able to maintain law and order in this country.
Nevertheless, there is an uncomfortable feeling that for a long time our police forces have been considerably under strength, and I hope that out of our discussions today a contribution can be made from both sides of the House which will go a long way to meeting the deficiencies which are now appearing. I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Home Secretary will fully appreciate that I have no vested interest in this matter, for never at any time in my life has there been any likelihood of my being a policeman. The fact is that so fine is the British way of life that the powers that be are satisfied with an established force of fewer than 73,000 men and just over 2,000 women. Unfortunately, for so long the actual force has been much below what is regarded as a correct number. Today, its actual strength is about 64,000 men and nearly 1,800 women.
Therefore, after we have given every credit for a law-abiding population—and we deserve some credit for that—there still remains the fact that the police forces are short of 8,700 men and nearly 200 women. I believe that if conditions in our industrial areas were such that the forces could have been brought up to establishment, we should be confronted with applications for increasing the establishment. The only reason the establishment has not been increased is that it would be of no use when we cannot 563 fill the present establishment which was decided upon as being the correct one.
In the County Borough of Gateshead, part of which I have the honour to represent in this House, in the last three full years of police recruitment we have had a net gain of only 10. In 1952, 101 men applied to join the force but only 18 were appointed. In 1953, 94 applied to join; only 11 were appointed. In 1954, 102 applied; only 18 were appointed. I want to impress upon the House the fact that in three years from those applications only 47 people were appointed.
That is not the end of the story. Out of this number 10 resigned or, for various reasons, were dismissed. In the same period 27 others reached retirement age or resigned for other reasons. Thus, in the three years, in Gateshead we had a net gain of 10 policemen. In the neighbouring town of Sunderland, in two full years of recruiting, ending on 28th February, 1954, the force actually decreased from 226 to 224.
I wonder how many hon. Members who are interested in this problem have severe misgivings when we consider the men who have been rejected. Everybody understands that there is a fairly stiff medical examination and that there is a height standard. If a man does not feel in his heart that he is likely to pass that standard he will not apply to join. Of those who face the examination the number of rejects is alarming. Many of us have looked at some of these rejects and wondered what was the matter with them and why they could not be accepted.
The figures for Gateshead may be regarded as typical. The number of applications shows that the recruiting campaign has had a large measure of success. I believe that the cadet scheme has been all to the good and that, in the light of experience, it may be amended and improved so that it will be very helpful for recruiting purposes.
However, the trouble is not in recruiting. It is in what we do with the men when they make application. In my experience as a builder I often found, especially in the early days of the war, when on demolition work, that I was bothered by petty thefts of lead. We used to try to co-operate with the police in locating the marine store dealer who was receiving the goods. We often had a 564 little difficulty in finding the man, but when we came to identify the loot that was a different story.
A plain-clothes officer used to come along, and the remarkable fact was that he was true to type and that as soon as ever his nose appeared round the corner the word went out to the dealer and the loot was in the melting pot before it could be identified. I used to think, in those days, that perhaps if I had gone along—or someone else of small stature —I might have had a better opportunity to find out what was going on. I commend the idea to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Home Secretary. It may be worth considering.
In view of the standard we demand of the policeman, not merely physically, morally and intellectually, are we asking too much? I know that between the wars, to me as a craftsman, the " perks " that went with a policeman's job looked good—an early pension, a regular job—but with the Welfare State that value has deteriorated. The pension towards which they contribute is not much greater than National Assistance. These things have an effect. A lot of the value has gone.
We should bear in mind the growing responsibility of the average policeman. He has much more to do today than ever he had before. Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman place any value on the policeman's perpetual resistance to the pitfalls that beset him far more than the average worker in any other industry? There is always on the attack with the police officer the mystic, unseen power of environment. He deals with crime and criminals. He thinks of it; he sleeps on it. It is not a difficult matter, after being associated with crime and criminals for a number of years, hearing the talk of easy money, to begin to think that, after all, the crime may be in getting caught, or that what one first thought was terrible in the extreme may be not quite so bad.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows of the temptations which many policemen find in their way. Their responsibilities increase year by year. After 10 years, they carry enormous responsibilities. Very often they have to act without consultation with their superior officers in circumstances which are certainly dangerous and sometimes likely to prove fatal. Do we really think that the remuneration is sufficient in view 565 of what we expect of them? While we appreciate what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his predecessors have done to improve the conditions, I think that, with the changed times, we, in 1955, might still be thinking that what was good enough in the first half of the century will be good enough in the second half.
If we look at the matter in that light we might yet come to think that after five, 10 or 15 years, with the added responsibilities, there is added reason why the pay of the ordinary constable who does not get promotion should be increased systematically. After all, we can have only a certain number of sergeants in proportion to the number of ordinary privates. Many business executives are searching for such supermen, and, I think, would be prepared to pay them more than we are paying our policemen at present, and consider it a good investment.
I do not regard conditions in our police forces as fundamentally wrong, but a number of irritations might be removed which would make the lot of policemen happier. The most frequent cause of resignations is the duty rota system; the fact that a policeman may find that he is on duty on nearly every holiday and on nearly every weekend. A policeman likes to take his wife and children for a walk in the park just as much as I like to take mine. Policemen's wives often complain about the inconvenience of the duty rota. Would it not be possible to consider reducing the number of tours of night duty? Has everything been done to mitigate the oft-recurring trouble of changes in the duty rota at short notice? Such changes, which have been too common in the past, make it difficult for a policeman to arrange with his family how they should spend their leisure time.
One force—I am glad to say that it is in Yorkshire, the Leeds City Police—has tackled the problem of duty rotas. In the annual report of the Joint Branch Board the view is expressed that terms of duty should not be changed except for the most compelling reasons, and then only with the consent of the officers concerned. Details are given of a new system of duties for all officers engaged on outside duty and I should like the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to take note of it. The main feature of this new system is 566 the maximum deployment of men between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. and the minimum deployment between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. There is a ratio of one-third night duty to two-thirds day duty, and a minimum period of 12 hours between tours of duty. Alterations are made only in the most exceptional circumstances, and even then the consent of the officers concerned must be obtained.
The Joint Branch Board is convinced that the new system is a great improvement, for it is no longer possible to inflict that barbarous sequence of night turn, late turn and early turn which, at worst, might mean 16 hours off duty and 24 hours on in a 40-hour period. I commend the Leeds system to the attention of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman because I believe that it should be universally adopted. I am not unmindful of the difficulties, which arise mainly because of the lack of recruits. Nevertheless, if the Minister could do his best about this matter it would help to retain men in our police forces, and reduce the number of resignations.
Another thing which irritates police officers is the extraneous duties which they have to perform. A man with the physical and educational standards which we require of our policemen does not like the job of sticking election notices on chapel doors. After the course of training he is given, and the high standards we demand of him, some of us consider that a policeman should be doing more useful work than that. The Herefordshire Standing Joint Committee decided that after 1st March this year members of the county force should not serve summonses for non-payment of rates—which may be a good thing for some of us. Neither have they executed distress warrants nor posted election notices. I can assure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that policemen are sick of being the " Cinderellas " of local government. They prefer to do police work.
If time permitted, I could refer to the incentive which would be given to young married policemen were they provided with houses. I know that substantial progress has been made in the provision of such accommodation, but I hope that a better understanding may be arrived at with various local authorities so that a more generous accommodation allocation may be made to the men and women who 567 spend their time preserving law and order. I am sure that policemen would like to live as the neighbours of ordinary citizens, and not be housed in police barracks or blocks of flats.
At Question time today I was reminded of another sore point, the length of service. In these days, when the expectation of life is greater, the position is different from that of the first half of the century. As the Amendment suggests, we should bring our regulations more into line with modern conditions. It is true that, after flogging the beat for twenty-five years, an unfortunate policeman may be thankful when the day of his retirement arrives. But, with the added duties of all kinds now thrust upon our police, I believe that the work could be broken down, so that after a man had spent approximately twenty-five years on the beat, some inside work, or a less exacting occupation, might be found for him. There would then be no need for him to retire so early. Ratepayers sometimes think that police pensions cost a lot of money and that policemen should work a little longer.
Efforts are being made to attract able and ambitious men to serve as policemen. Is it seriously considered that such men will join a police force at the age of 20, knowing that twenty years later, no matter how they have studied and worked or what kind of position they hold, willy-nilly they will have to go? I believe that if the duties could be broken down, and there were more specialisation, men of 50 could give yet another five years, or even ten years of useful work to our police forces. The rewards now offered, when coupled with rejectment, willy-nilly, after thirty years, are not quite sufficient. Many of my hon. Friends, and, I am sure, some hon. Members opposite, will wish to join in this debate, so I will not prolong my remarks.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will remember that on 1st February I and other hon. Members had an enjoyable conversation with him on the question of police widows' pensions. I hope that this conversation is in the mind of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, so I will not labour the point, except to say that the pre-1948 widows still have a grievance. The small amount of money which would be necessary to remove that 568 grievance would be money well spent from the standpoint of recruiting. All over the country there are women who are suffering and complaining about the unfair treatment of the two classes of widows' pensions.
I hope that today the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to tell us something about this, and that we shall be able to remove this anomaly, because he promised to bear that point in mind, and to examine the subject afresh. I am sure that, were I doing that, I should come to only one conclusion, and I trust that the Home Secretary will come to the same conclusion.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
I am very pleased to have the opportunity of associating myself with the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Moody). Although it does not appear that the subject is particularly enthralling to hon. Members of the House, it is quite certain that, since it is some years ago that the Oaksey Committee made recommendations, many of which have not been considered properly, the time is ripe for a discussion on our police forces and the need to improve conditions in order to encourage recruitment.
The Liverpool Watch Commitee, of which I have been a member for some time, is greatly concerned about the wastage in its police force, and the fact that its establishment is so much below strength. At each meeting of the Watch Committee, we are faced with the position that more and more policemen are leaving the force long before the expiration of twenty-five or thirty years' service, for various reasons. I can give the House the latest figures for Liverpool.
Today, the Liverpool Police Force is 500 men short of establishment. It is very difficult indeed, in a highly industrial area like Liverpool, with docks, warehouses and an expanding city area, to give to the citizens the necessary police protection and patrols when the force is so far below establishment. Five hundred men out of a force of 2,264 is a very considerable shortage. In Liverpool, we have taken the precaution of obtaining these figures. The Minister will remember that I asked him why men were leaving the police force before the end of the time during which 569 they were entitled to be employed in the force.
I know that some forces do not keep these figures. They do not ask the men individually why they leave the forces. Because we in Liverpool have been so concerned since 1946 about this situation, we have made it our business to interview separately every man who leaves, or indicates that he intends to leave, the force. We ask him: why?; is there anything wrong?; what is the particular reason why you desire to leave the force?
I have the Liverpool figures right up to date—up to the present moment in fact—and they are very interesting. The Minister sent out five questions to be answered by various forces, asking for information about wastage in the forces. He asked: how many men left the forces to emigrate? how many went in search of more remunerative employment or were leaving to resume former employment? how many left because they were dissatisfied with police service conditions? how many left because they were unsuitable? and how many left to join other forces?
I do not want to bore the House with the figures since 1946, but I think that those since 1951 are very interesting indeed, so I will quote them. In 1951, 11 out of 67 left the force to emigrate; 46 left in search of more remunerative employment or to return to former employment—a very large number, indeed—three were dissatisfied with conditions; six were unsuitable; and five left to join other police forces. In 1952, the comparable figures were 10; 17; 5; 8; and 9. Forty-nine men left the force, the biggest percentage of them to find more remunerative employment.
In 1953, the figures are even more startling. Out of 108 who left the force, 39 were in the first category, 50 in the second-50 men who, a short time after joining the force, were leaving in search of more remunerative employment—four in the third category, 14 in the fourth, and one in the fifth. I will give the figures for 1954. In the first category, 26; in the second, 33—again a large number—in the third, four; in the fourth, 27 and in the fifth, two. Out of 92 men who left, 33 left to look for more remunerative employment.
That, of course, should give a lead to the Minister. It should be an indication 570 to him that the pay of the police is far below what they could obtain in other employment. I must say a word about that, because it is very important. It is admitted—and I think it ought to be taken into consideration much more than it is by the men themselves—that a job in police has a very great degree of security.
The job is not dependent upon the workings of trade. It is not dependent on the amount of work done in any one industry as against another. It is very seldom—I do not think it has ever happened to my knowledge—that when things are bad, the number of police is reduced. Usually, when employment is hard to get, and men are discontented, additional police are required. I think that the men in our police forces should look at the matter from that point of view rather more than they do.
When we are talking about recruitment, we must, of course, bear in mind the position of the constable. I think that this debate must be largely about constables. If the Minister will make inquiries, I think he will find that one of the great grievances and one of the detriments to recruiting is the starting rate of pay of the constable. A constable enters the force about the age of 19 or 20 just at a time when, perhaps, he has married or is thinking of marrying and of starting a home and a family. His expenditure at that time is very high indeed, and, therefore, any inducement given to him to join the force must be given on recruitment. I have here the scales of pay and the time it takes for the ordinary constable to reach his last increment. It takes a long time—twentyfive years. The length of time between each increment is also very long.
Recently, I swore in a number of police recruits, both men and women. One of their main concerns is the starting rate, and how they are to manage on it. Then they look at the progressive increments up to 25 years of service. A constable can qualify as a sergeant after five years, though he has, of course, to serve twelve months before he is actually promoted.
As there is only a limited number of sergeants, there can only be a limited -number of promotions, and, of course, the best among those who apply to be made sergeants are picked out for promotion. 571 When a man is promoted to sergeant, his remuneration is immediately increased.
The constables themselves feel that there ought to be additional remuneration for those who cannot qualify to be sergeants and whose pay, if they remain in the force, can only increase on the basis of the increments. The men feel that if there was an intermediate grade between that of constable and sergeant and between that of sergeant and inspector, thus giving to those who are unable to be accepted for promotion to sergeant or inspector, because of the limited number of those ranks but who are quite capable of doing the job, an additional opportunity of promotion and of increased pay, it would be an additional incentive for constables to remain in the force.
I mentioned the Oaksey Committee's Report. I feel that the Home Office rather wait for the Police Federation or the Police Council to discuss matters, and that it has been very lax indeed in itself making recommendations which it knows should be discussed by the Police Council. In passing, I hope that tomorrow the Police Council will be able to announce that it has come to an agreement on the 44-hour week. If it does, it must be borne in mind that the 44-hour week will be of no use unless the police forces are up to full establishment so that advantage can be taken of the shorter hours.
It is very difficult to offer incentives for recruitment if the establishment is so much below what it should be that one man has to do two men's jobs. Therefore, we must look seriously at the question of incentive for recruitment and incentive to remain in the force. I do not think that the Home Office has done all that it could have done in submitting to the Police Council those things which it knows that the Council should consider.
The police forces throughout the country and those who control them are very far apart in what they think is necessary. If a force or a federation puts forward a point of view which those in the rural and country areas think is no use, they say, " We do not agree with it," and immediately there is an idea that it should not be discussed at all. I think that the approach to the Police Council must, in many instances, be made by the Home Office itself.
572 As the Home Secretary knows, we in Liverpool have for some time been running a cadet scheme, and it has been very successful indeed. I can give the Home Secretary the figures of those who have been recruited, who have gone into the Armed Services and who have come back to the police force. I have no doubt that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman may have the figures, but it is worth while their being put on the record.
The recent decision that service in the police force should count as service in the Armed Forces may give a further incentive to boys who leave school at the age of 16 and whose fathers are, or have probably been, in the police force. One of the features of the police forces is that service in them is largely a family affair, from grandfather to grandson, and so on.
I know that there is a division of opinion about police service counting as military service. Many people take the view that if a policeman has not been in the Armed Forces, he can be talked down to by those who have. I take rather a different point of view. I think the fact that a boy comes under discipline at the age of 16, and continues under that discipline until he leaves the force, is just as good a training as being taken out of the police force at the age of 18, being compelled to do two years military service, and then, if he desires, coming back into the police force.
I think there is a lot of wastage in that direction, and I ask the Minister to look at the question of the cadet force with a view to seeing whether it is something which could be extended to other parts of the country, because I am certain that it is through that field of recruitment that we shall eventually get the best type of men. The cadets start off with the necessary training and background, and there is no break. They can stay in the force, and, in some instances, may become a chief constable, or may even be promoted to the highest position in the force.
§ Mrs. Braddock
This is an important aid to recruitment which must be looked at seriously and extended if possible. Liverpool's figures 573 in relation to its cadet force are interesting. Since the start of the scheme, 172 cadets have joined. Those who have returned to police service after serving in Her Majesty's Forces number 52, which is about one-third. There are 56 at present at the school; there are 45 at present in the Services, and those who resigned due to being medically unfit, or were dismissed, etc., number 19. The wastage arising in respect of those who have left the force altogether, because they resigned, were medically unfit, or were dismissed, total only 19 out of 172. I am sure that through that method we shall get the recruits we want for the police force.
I should like to put on record the remuneration received by these cadets. At 15 a boy leaving school, passing all the necessary tests and becoming a cadet, receives £3 5s. 2d. a week. At 16 he receives £3 12s. 11d.; at 17 he receives £4 Os. 7d., and when he is 18 he receives £4 8s. 3d. Out of that he pays 27s. 6d. a week for board at the school. If he has a day off and does not have his meals at the school, he receives an allowance of 4s. 6d. That is an exceptionally good scheme, and the Minister should examine it very seriously to see whether it can possibly be extended to other parts of the country.
I must return to my opening comments about the starting pay of the constable and the annual increments. His weekly rate of pay, upon appointment to the force, is £8 10s. 7d. After two years, it rises to £8 14s. 5d.; after three years, to £8 18s. 3d.; after four years, to £9 2s. ld.; after five years, to £9 5s. I Id.; after six years, to £9 9s. 9d.; after seven years, to £9 13s. 7d.; after 10 years, to£9 17s. 5d.; after 15 years, to £10 ls. 3d.; after 22 years, to £10 5s. 1d.; and after 25 years, to £10 10s. 10d. He has a very long time to wait before he reaches his maximum salary, and the annual increments are very small.
I have discussed this matter with several people, and I should like to make a suggestion in respect of this salary scale. I do not say that my suggestion is perfect; it will probably require some adjustment, but perhaps the Minister will examine it after the debate and discuss it with the Federation or the chief constables of 574 police forces in industrial areas, where recruiting is bad, such as Liverpool, Birkenhead, Sheffield, Cardiff—I understand—and one or two other such areas, to see whether my suggested alteration might improve recruiting.
I suggest that upon appointment a constable instead of receiving £8 10s. 7d., should get £9 1 ls. 8d.; after two years, instead of £8 14s. 5d. he should get £9 15s. 6d.; after 10 years, instead of £9 17s. 5d. he should get £10 3s. 2d., and he should then, as now, receive the maximum of £10 10s. 10d. after 25 years. This suggestion is capable of amendment, but the increased starting salaries would provide a better incentive to younger men who are thinking of entering the police force. This suggestion should apply if it is impossible to give a general, all round increase. If agreement cannot be reached about that, the alternative is to adjust the commencing salary and the yearly increments.
I agree that the question of the rent allowance should not be forgotten, and I expect that the Home Secretary will mention it. I should like to point out, however, that some authorities are not paying the full amount-Liverpool is, but some authorities are not. That is another point which is worthy of consideration. I do not want to say too much about that, however, because it does not appear to have a great effect upon recruitment.
Police officers feel that some of the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee which should have been examined have been ignored. The Report of that Committee has been available for some time now. It made many suggestions in respect of which it was anticipated that agreement would be reached, and many recommendations to help recruitment. The main concern of the Committee, besides the question of wages, conditions and discipline, was the question of recruitment and the maintenance of sufficient establishments in the various forces.
One suggestion was that the promotion examination should be standardised and conducted under the auspices of the central authority. This has been done in Scotland for quite a while, and I am informed that the Police Post-War Committee, in its second report, recommended a centralised system in respect of England and Wales. The Oaksey Committee also recommended the introduction of such a 575 system. But this question shelved.
From the information at my disposal it would appear that that action was taken for reasons of economy. If we are to shelve these schemes we shall never succeed in getting our forces up to full strength. I suggest that the Minister should discuss these recommendations very carefully and see whether he can get a concensus of opinion from the men in respect of them. We are very often far too ready to take heed of the opinions of chief constables, chief officers and police commissioners, who, in my opinion, know very little about the actual conditions of service. They dictate from the top, and, if they do that, there is nothing done to assist those who are actually doing the job, and who, very often, are not considered in any way.
I have mentioned promotion and the fact that a constable can qualify for promotion to sergeant after five years' service, and I have suggested that something might be done about that. Of course, the Oaksey Committee referred to pensions after 20 years' service, and recommended that a scheme should be introduced which would provide for the voluntary retirement on pension of constables after 20 years' service and before 25 years' service had been completed. It may be said that this would mean more constables leaving the force, but that does not really follow, because it is inducements to recruiting that we ought to be talking about, in order to make it easier to recruit men and make the job of a constable more attractive. These are the things which I think ought to be looked into.
There is another matter about which the police themselves are very concerned, and it is the question of the eradication of disciplinary records from their case sheets. Sometimes, a young policeman may not have handled a situation in the way in which he ought to have done; he may have made a slight mistake. Under the disciplinary code, he goes before his chief constable, and I can give instances where this has happened in the case of my own chief constable. Perhaps some disciplinary action has been taken, or a fine imposed upon him, and this is recorded on his case sheet. That may 576 In the following years, he may have gained distinctions, may have had credits or have received awards for good service or for something he has done in the ordinary way of his police duties, yet this business of that disciplinary record still being on his case sheet will worry him. The man might think that he had then been in the force a long time, had done a very good job, perhaps had been commended upon it, and that he ought to be able to make application, in view of his good service since that time, to have that disciplinary record removed from his case sheet altogether.
That is not allowed. Under no circumstances is anything which has been recorded against a young policeman in his early days in the force ever allowed to be removed from his case sheet. This is very unfair indeed. It is something that narks the whole of the force. The entry cannot be removed. It remains on the policeman's case sheet as long as he is a member of the force. Many policemen are very worried about it, and many good men who have been in difficulties early in their service cannot understand it.
Let us take an imaginary case of a young constable on a very cold night during the Christmas period patrolling the outskirts of a city, simply padding up and down. Let us suppose that somebody, out of the kindness of his heart, wishes to give a constable a drop of whisky, or something like that; a thoughtful person makes the suggestion, and the constable accepts. Let us suppose that, at the time he does accept, his sergeant comes along. What happens depends on the sergeant or upon his superior officer.
To take another example, although I cannot make any personal comment about this, suppose that the policeman is " dying for a smoke," and gets out of the way somewhere and has a couple of puffs at a cigarette. I would not know what that means, because I am a nonsmoker, but I do know many people who like to smoke at a certain time. Let us suppose that one of his senior officers comes along and catches him doing something which he should not be doing on duty. It is not a terrible thing to do, but, nevertheless, he is reported in the ordinary way of discipline and goes before his chief constable.
577 It is quite true that there is no question that what he was doing was wrong, and, in the ordinary course of discipline, he might be fined and be reported to his local watch committee, which has to endorse what the chief constable has done. Why should a record of that offence appear for ever on the case sheet of that constable? If the constable puts in a long period of exemplary service and has done well, why cannot that entry against him be removed? It would mean so very much to the man concerned.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden)
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. Is she aware that, in some branches of the Civil Service, that sort of thing does happen now? Mistakes of this sort, especially minor mistakes, are reviewed from time to time, and, if the subsequent conduct of the officer is good, then the records are automatically expunged and are not taken into account in any promotion scheme in which he may be concerned.
§ Mrs. Braddock
I certainly think that when we are talking about recruitment, and inducing more people to join the force, we ought not to say that, because a man did something wrong and incurred a disciplinary penalty as a young policeman, that should remain with him while serving for 25 years in the force.
§ Mr. Grxine Finlay (Epping)
Does the hon. Lady not think that the police authorities are capable of looking at these small blots on an officer's record with a certain amount of circumspection, and attaching the weight which should or should not be attached to very small offences?
§ Mrs. Braddock
I quite agree, but there is a code of discipline, and, while very many items of this sort might be overlooked, the circumstances of the case have to be taken into account. Such a heavy penalty for many of these things is, I think, a little out of place, and I say that while we are having a discussion on recruitment we ought to look at them very seriously.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I can see the point which the hon. Lady is making, but she will surely realise that, to some extent, the same argument would apply to any organisation which has the sort of discipline which we find 578 in the police force. Is she trying to argue here that the police ought to be placed in a completely separate category from any organisation with the same sort of discipline or that it should be comprehensive?
§ Mrs. Braddock
I am dealing only with police recruitment. I am dealing with matters that are worrying the police.
We must recruit more men to the police force. In the industrial areas, particularly, we must find some way of recruiting into the force men of the highest possible character. For a long time, as a member of the Liverpool Watch Committee, I have been very jealous of the integrity and truthfulness of the police force. In 1932—and it is for this reason that I take so much interest in the police forces generally—in Liverpool, my husband was sent to prison for six months on the evidence of 13 policemen who were deliberately lying. Eventually, the sentence was quashed, but I was with him, and I knew they were lying. That cannot be allowed to go on; it cannot be allowed to happen again, because the liberty of the subject and the integrity of the police force are dependent entirely upon the highest honesty of the men who are recruited into that force. I have always been very concerned, both as a magistrate and as a member of the Watch Committee, to see that no person who is apprehended by the police shall, for any reason at all, ever be placed in the position in which my husband found himself.
The police force is very much better than it was twenty years ago, and I do not think that sort of thing goes on to any extent now. Even the worst criminal must never be afraid of wrong evidence being given against him by the police because he has a criminal record. That is why we need to have policemen of high honesty and integrity, and why we should create conditions which will induce such men to join the police force. That is how democracy in this country has been maintained. There may still be isolated instances of the other kind, but they are now very isolated indeed.
Because of the incident which I have mentioned, and because I knew what had happened on that occasion, I felt it was incumbent upon me, as a representative of a local authority, to see that conditions in the police force were made so good that we could recruit men who would not 579 stoop to temptation. There is temptation in the police force. In the Liverpool dock area there is a lot of property; warehouses are filled with valuable stuff. Temptation is there for a policeman. If his income and his security are sound, he is not tempted to " wangle " something extra for himself. He can resist the temptation to get something beyond his weekly or annual pay.
I have spoken about the things which I think are important, but I have not gone into the higher aspects of the matter. There was recently a supplementary question on the subject of a policeman being allowed to leave his uniform at his police station. This is an important matter. A policeman's hours are long and he cannot go anywhere in police uniform when off duty. In Liverpool, many policemen live six or seven miles from the centre of the city, especially if they are attached to the central division because of the standard of duty they have attained. The central area is the most difficult of the 12 in our city from the police point of view. When his turn of duty has finished, the policeman must get on a bus in uniform and travel the seven miles. He may have been on duty since the early morning and may want to go to a theatre or take his family out, so he must go home and change. That journey adds to his hours of employment.
Some police areas already deal with this matter. Following some comments I previously made on this subject, a letter has been sent out to police forces. I wish that the Home Secretary would impress upon local authorities who have not taken action, particularly if they are under-established, that the question of allowing a policeman to leave his uniform at the station is important to police officers. If he can change into civilian clothes in the station the policeman can meet his wife in the central area without having to go right back home.
The Home Secretary would be well advised to give local authorities and police committees a date upon which this matter should be dealt with. If they need additional assistance by way of grant, the payment would be well worth making, in order that we might be able to say that all policemen can go into their local stations after their term of duty, change, and become civilians if they so desire.
580 That would not lower the standards of police duty. When once a man has been sworn in he will take action, whether he is in uniform or not. This is something which might be looked at carefully, and a date might be given on which it will be brought into force all over the country.
I have spoken for rather a long time, because I feel that these matters are important. Although they may seem minor matters to some hon. Members they should be seriously considered if we are to encourage recruiting. I hope that the Home Secretary will look again at the recommendations in the Oaksey Report that have been shelved, and at the items I have mentioned. If the Home Department and the Police Commissioners know that constables want certain things, if they get reports from inspectors of constabulary that certain things ought to be dealt with, I hope they will look at them as Home Office matters without waiting for them to be put into regulations, that full discussions will take place, and that the matters will be dealt with promptly.
I must say a few words about the women police, to whom we must pay a very great tribute. They are of excellent type and are doing excellent work, especially in localities that are below police establishment. They are relieving men of many arduous duties. In my own area, women police do traffic duty in all sorts of weather. They are doing a marvellous job. if police forces that are below strength desire to increase their women police, they should be encouraged so to do.
Women of the highest integrity and of excellent physique are coming into the force. They are doing a very necessary job. We are in a period when high wages can be obtained by men, who do not always look at the long-term security aspect of things but at the actual monetary position at the moment. While that situation continues, we ought to take every advantage of women for police service. If women desire to come into the force, we should encourage them.
I thank the House for listening to me. I hope I have made constructive suggestions, and that we can get down to the job of bringing up to full strength police forces that are now below establishment.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Moody) for giving us the opportunity to pay a tribute to the magnificent work of the police and to make constructive suggestions to improve pay and conditions in the forces. I am certain that the hon. Member, whom I compliment on his excellent speech, will agree, however, that the outstanding speech has just been made by the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock).
We know, from hearing her on previous occasions, that she has given a good deal of study to police forces, and speaks with great experience, especially from watching the work of the police force in her own division. She has covered the subject widely, and has made many suggestions. She has, in fact, left, for those who follow her and who want to support her, very little to be said.
The hon. Lady referred to the difficulty of giving adequate protection in industrial cities like Liverpool, where the police are very much under strength. I should like to reinforce that observation. Quite recently, in quite a large town, I found to my dismay that there was only one police constable available for night duty. I shall not give the name of that town. otherwise all the crooks in London will be there by the morning train. It is most deplorable that a police force, responsible for the welfare of a very large number of citizens, should be able to muster only one constable for night duty, often for many weeks at a time.
I was glad that the Minister of Labour, in answer to a Question which I put to him, was able to announce that cadets —up to a ceiling of 2,000—who stayed in the regular police until 26 years of age would be excused National Service. That should be made as widely known as possible. Unfortunately, at the present moment, the absence of newspapers will mean that this debate will get little publicity, but I hope that the Home Secretary will seek to give the utmost publicity to this fairly recent announcement. I am sure that it will have a most encouraging effect on recruitment.
The hon. Lady mentioned small matters of discipline. I agree that if, in his early days, a police constable has committed 582 some very minor misdemeanour he should be allowed, after some years of exemplary conduct, to have it struck from his case sheet. That should apply to members of the other Forces also. Such entries must weigh with any commanding officer, whether in the police forces or the other Forces, who may not, for various reasons, have a great knowledge of the man. There is certainly a good case for having such entries struck from the case sheet.
Herbert Spencer once said:Policemen are soldiers who act alone; soldiers are policemen who act in unison.It is because a policeman is so often called upon to act alone to safeguard the welfare of citizens that he has to be a man of outstanding character and personal integrity and be capable of accepting personal responsibility. It is also very important that he should use that responsibility with discretion. It is so easy for a policeman to put a foot wrong by, perhaps, allowing the knowledge of his powers to override his sense of responsibility and so landing himself and the force in which he is serving into disrepute, because he has used his responsibilities unwisely.
A constable has also to be very fit physically. The hon. Member for Gateshead, East mentioned that at least one-third of a constable's service is spent on night duty in all conditions of weather. That requires a high standard of physical fitness.
He must be courageous. He often has to face dangerous situations armed only with a truncheon. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said last May, in a debate on the Metropolitan Police, a policeman's truncheon cannot lightly be drawn. If he draws it, much less uses it, he must put in a report at his station. It is a tremendous tribute to the courage of the police that they maintain order as they do without any weapon worth talking about.
The quality of moral courage is needed —even if only to serve a Member of Parliament with a parking summons. Occasionally, too, the police are apt to be shot at for taking what appears to be unpopular action in trying to maintain law and order. Not so long ago such a case occurred outside this House, when the police had to take certain action which attracted considerable criticism. 583 They were doing what they thought best for the citizens as a whole.
Tact is also necessary. If hon. Members want to see first-class examples of that quality, they need do no more than look at our own House of Commons police. Those men are outstanding in their tact, and, in the answers they give to constituents who come to the House, might, indeed, provide a model to hon. Members themselves.
As can be seen by this recital of his virtues, a constable is a man above the average—he must be. Does he get an above-average reward? The latest figures I have, which are for October, 1954, show that the average industrial earnings were then £10 5s. 4d. a week for a 40 to 44-hour week. At present a police constable does a 48-hour week. We hope that it will be reduced but, as the hon. Lady for Liverpool, Exchange has pointed out, it is one matter to deal with that on paper and another to put it into practice.
The policeman has to work Saturdays and Sundays and is lucky to get one week-end off in seven. He is rarely paid overtime. In theory, if he works beyond his normal hours he gets time off in lieu; in practice he often works the extra hours without time off in lieu and without overtime payment.
In the 1920s, a police constable's pay was above the average industrial wage. It was equivalent to the average foreman's wage. The civilian equivalent of a constable is roughly a foreman and, in the case of the Army, a sergeant. We must have some basis of comparison, and I have looked at comparison of rank.
I am told that the comparable ranks in the Army are as follows. A police sergeant is said to be equal to a lieutenant; an inspector to a major; a chief inspector to a lieutenant-colonel and a superintendent to a colonel. Police pay, however, does not compare very favourably with that in the Army, even after allowing for rent or free quartering allowance which policemen may get in addition.
A constable's pay starts at £8 10s. 7d. a week, plus allowances—
§ Mr. Hall
Yes, less 5 per cent. for superannuation; and, I think, other deductions as well.
584 His pay can be said to approach the industrial average but not that of the foreman in industry, which is the comparison we should make. So, by comparison with equal work and equal responsibility in civilian life there is little doubt that these officers are underpaid. That is probably one of the reasons why there is such a wastage from the police force into better-paid civilian jobs. I was interested to learn from the hon. Lady's figures the number of Liverpool constables who emigrate. It shows at least a spirit of enterprise and initiative which one expects, of course, from the police.
In the higher ranks—inspector, chief inspector and superintendent—the comparison with civil life is even worse. It is true that a good starting rate should be given as an incentive to recruitment, but it should also be possible for the constable to look forward to progressing to the higher ranks and getting a rate then comparable with what he could get in civil life.
Police recruiting suffers from many of the disadvantages and difficulties which face the Army. The constable has to undertake long hours of duty under uncomfortable conditions; he is often parted from his wife in the evenings: he is unable to take his family out in the evenings, and has to work at week-ends. Those are disadvantages which apply also to the other Forces.
We are told that increased pay is not the answer; that it has been tried and has not worked. I think that it has not worked because we always increase the pay after industrial rates have risen, and not before. We are always a little behind the rates of pay which may be obtained by men of comparable ability in civil life. If we really want men who are above the average we must pay above-average rates of pay and give above-average conditions of service. Otherwise I am sure that we shall not get the men we want.
The hon. Lady also talked about the women police. Until we can attract more men by the process of giving them much more favourable rates of pay than they can get in civil life, we ought to do all we can to stimulate recruitment into the women's force. I join with the hon. Lady in paying tribute to the efficiency of the women's force. As a man, I 585 would add that I think they are extremely charming and good-looking.
I have never seen so many good-looking women in any service as in the women's police forces. I do not know whether it is the new uniform which was introduced not long ago or whether they are hand-picked—not by the wives, obviously, but by the commissioners. They are undoubtedly extremely attractive, and I hope there will be very many more of them. I am sure it would be almost a pleasure to be arrested by one of them.
As I said earlier, the hon. Lady has left very little for us to say in the way of making helpful suggestions. She has covered a very wide field and made a number of valuable suggestions which I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will note with care. I support everything that has been said so far about our giving pay and conditions of service to the police force commensurate with the ability and the service that we as a community demand from the police. We depend upon the police force to maintain law and order throughout the length and breadth of the country, to handle all sorts of difficult problems with tact and good humour, and to put up with conditions of service which many people in civilian life would not accept, and, therefore, the police deserve special consideration.
I conclude with a quotation from Tennyson, from " The Princess," which describes the policeman as,The lidless watcher in the public weal.a man who never sleeps, and is constant in his vigil.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
On the occasion of a debate like this hon. Members who are really interested in the subject are in the House, and I think that on such occasions the House is at its best. I am certain that in the debate today there will be no political controversy. When one is dealing with a matter such as the police forces and any aspect of them, it is good that there should not be political controversy involved in what is said.
We must all be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Moody), who chose this as his subject when he was fortunate in the Ballot, and for his excellent speech. We must 586 also give praise to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). Whenever she speaks on matters like this she does so with the greatest knowledge, and also with the greatest feeling for the people for whom she speaks. I add my thanks to the thanks already expressed to her.
We are today concerned with considering ways and means, not only of recruiting more men and women to the police force, but, having recruited them, of retaining them. One of the problems facing us today is the great wastage of men, and, to a lesser extent, women, once we have recruited them. The policeman or policewoman is, by the very nature of the job, asked to give up certain rights of citizenship. That means that we are asking a very great deal from these people.
I will give one instance of a right about which I should be greatly worried if I had to give it up. Men and women in the police force are debarred from active political work or propaganda. To hon. Members, that would be one of the gravest denials of the rights of citizenship. Yet, that has always been accepted by the police in this country. More than that, that obligation which we as a nation have placed upon the police has always been honoured.
It seems to me that as the police are expected by us to give up certain of their rights of citizenship, a real duty is imposed upon us to ensure that they get the very best conditions possible. Even if the strength of the forces was what we want it to be, the duty would still be placed upon us of ensuring for the police the very best conditions that we as a nation can give.
We cannot be too lavish in our praise of the men and women in our police forces. Those who have already spoken have referred to the work that the police do, how they do it unarmed, the grave dangers which they sometimes have to face, and the great courage which time and time again they have to show in the face of those dangers. It has always: seemed to me to be one of the greatest attributes of British democracy that we have such a force and that it is of such a calibre, and it is in that spirit that any suggestions of mine are made.
The duty of the police is not only to detect crime. That is important, but an 587 equally important duty imposed upon them is, wherever possible, to prevent crime. My hon. Friend the Member for the Liverpool Exchange, has given us what I can only describe as appalling figures about the lack of strength of the police forces in Liverpool. I gather that the number needed in Liverpool to bring the force to the required strength is greater than the number needed for the whole of Scotland. That is why I say that these seem to be appalling figures.
If the police are properly to carry out their duty of preventing crime, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that nothing is left undone, by the citizens, the police authorities or the central Government, which could be done to bring the police forces up to the required strength. The shortage of officers is the greatest problem facing the police authorities.
In preparation for the debate, I examined Reports relating to the last few years by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, Mr. S. A. Kinnear, which have proved to be very interesting reading. The latest figures in our possession dealing with the police forces in Scotland are those for 1953. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to bring them up to date when he speaks.
§ Miss Herbison
The figures are for year ended December, 1953, published in May, 1954. The establishment rose to the extent of 30 men and 31 women, and the strength in respect of men dropped and that in respect of women rose. The deficiency represented 4 per cent. in the case of men and nearly 17 per cent. in the case of women. Mr. Kinnear, in his Report, emphasised that these figures did not represent the true deficiency, and that the authorised establishment for police authorities in Scotland required to be increased.
If we were to take into account what he considered the establishment should be the deficiency among men over the whole of Scotland would be 13 per cent. and, among women, about 20 per cent. I am not sure about the percentage in regard to women, but in the case of men it would be 13 per cent. and not 4 per cent., as given in the Report.
588 In the Scottish forces at present there are men who have stayed on beyond 30 years. They have done so in order to qualify for the maximum pension. That again shows that if we are to take care of the future—the immediate future—the strength of our police forces and the numbers recruited will have to be increased considerably.
I find from the figures that 337 serving police officers have more than 30 years' service and 1,160 men more than 25 years' service. In a very few years these men will be out of the service. Although the figures are serious enough at present, if something is not done to ensure, first, greater recruitment and, second, to keep the men and women we do recruit, the figures will be very serious indeed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange dealt with the question of wastage. In the latest report I have the wastage figure is 523. I want to deal with the question of resignations, because others have left, either because they have been discharged for one reason or another, or for medical reasons. If we examine the reasons why these policemen resigned that should give an indication of what we must do to try to dissuade others from resigning.
During their probationary period, 75 men and four women resigned. After the probationary period and before completing 10 years' service, 111 men and 14 women resigned. After 10 years' or more service 18 resigned. Although all those figures are serious, the most serious is that showing that 111 men left after probation and before completing 10 years' service.
Seemingly, all over Scotland we do what has been done in Liverpool—we find the reasons for resignation. Of the numbers I have mentioned, 82 resigned because they wanted more remunerative employment. That seems to tie up completely with the point already made by hon. Members to the effect that we need to devote far greater attention to the question of remuneration. There is a lot in what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange about what must be done at the lowest end of the wage scale to attract recruits and about the rate of increases in order to keep recruits in those early years.
589 I had meant to say more on this subject, but my hon. Friend has done it so well that I will not do so. I should like the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is the Minister responsible in Scotland, to examine the points made by my hon. Friend.
I find that 47 gave as their reason for resigning that they were about to emigrate. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) suggested that that showed a spirit of adventure. I thought it showed that policemen were tired of the conditions in the police force and, because they did not like those conditions, they decided to go abroad. Forty-five said that they disliked the conditions, and 30 resigned because of other reasons. I think we can say that the main reasons for resigning are more remunerative employment—with which I would link emigration—and the dislike of conditions under which policemen must work.
When we are thinking of the economics of this matter we should take into account the wastage of public money on recruits who resign during their probationary period, and particularly on those who leave the service between probation and completion of 10 years' service. Much money has been spent on their training. When examining wage scales as an incentive for recruitment and for retaining men, the Ministers concerned should take into account that the loss of money through wastage might be avoided.
At present the minimum age for recruitment is 19. Two hon. Members who have spoken have suggested that they are in agreement with the decision that has been announced by the Home Secretary that up to 2,000 young men will be allowed to be police cadets and not do military service.
§ Miss Herbison
That is what I mean, 2,000 in any one year.
I am sorry that I cannot agree with acceptance of that suggestion. If a young man leaves school, becomes a police cadet, and then goes straight in a regular police force he will have had no chance at all of mixing, as he should be able to mix, with the general public, either in industry or in the Forces. I think that 590 would be a very bad thing for the police forces in Britain.
When that announcement was made, I found that I had backing for my point of view in paragraph 201 of the Oaksey Committee Report, which says:Our main objection to any considerable expansion of the cadet system is that policemen have to deal with people in all walks of life and should have had as much experience as possible of men and manners outside the orbit of the police service.I think that is important.
The Oaksey Committee was willing to accept an extension of the cadet system on the understanding that, when he came of age for military service, the cadet should do his two years in the Services—at that time it was 18 months. When doing his National Service he would be mixing with men from all walks of life and be subject to the broadening influence which the Oaksey Committee felt was of the greatest importance. That would be my main reason for doubting the wisdom —I put it no higher at this stage—of the decision of the Home Secretary and of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
There is another reason which adds to my doubts. I am thinking of places like Liverpool and Glasgow and other areas, where our policemen sometimes have very tough assignments. It would be a bad thing from the point of view of the whole police service if a young tough in Liverpool or Glasgow could taunt a young police officer by saying, " You are a police officer only so that you could avoid National Service."
I agree with the hon. Member for Wycombe about the courage that is needed, particularly in certain areas, to be a police officer. But that would not prevent those taunts arising, and they would hurt not only the police officer against whom they were aimed, but would harm the whole of the service. I would be very loth to accept anything that would reduce the high prestige and standing that our police service in Britain has, not only in this country, but throughout the world.
§ Mr. John Hall
Would the hon. Lady agree that other people whose professions and callings exempt them from National Service meet with the same taunts in their day-to-day work?
§ Miss Herbison
I would say that that question is quite irrelevant.
The others who have exemption are not asked to do the work that police officers are asked to do. The authority and standing of the police officer is of the greatest importance. I put forward those ideas, backed up by the Report of the Oaksey Committee. They should be seriously considered by the Ministers who are responsible for the police forces.
I turn now to the police cadet system in Scotland. We would like to have an extension of that system. I understand that only 10 forces in Scotland employ cadets, and the latest figure is that the total strength is only 63, which is very small indeed. I wonder whether certain police authorities in Scotland are against the recruiting of cadets or whether, with conditions as they are for cadets at the present time, they find it difficult to attract them.
I have been told that sometimes the police cadet does not get sufficient work of interest to hold him. If that is so, we should consider the whole system of police cadet training. We should not only train the cadet in his duties as a future policeman, but give him a broader education. By this means the police cadet's work might be made more attractive. That might be another way of attracting more men to our police forces in Scotland.
Now, I come to the question of women in the police services. The hon. Member for Wycombe—I am sure he did not mean it—said that until we could attract more men, we ought to do our best to attract more women. I should not put it that way. We need to attract both more men and more women, and the women should not be regarded as a stopgap to take the place of the men whom we cannot get.
Time and time again in the Reports for Scotland, Mr. Kinnear states that there is still room for improvement in the authorised establishment for women. As far back as 1952, he said:I must emphasise again. as I did in my Report for the year 1951, that there are insufficient policewomen and that many of them are engaged on purely clerical duties instead of on police duties proper.I want to know what the Joint Under-Secretary of State thinks about that.
592 There is one point that I want the hon. Gentleman particularly to examine. In England there is no marriage bar for policewomen, but in Scotland there is. As a result, each year we lose trained policewomen merely because they marry.
Mr. Kinnear says, in his Report, that the fact that the marriage bar does not apply in England does not seem to cause embarrassment or difficulty. Why should it cause any difficulty in Scotland? By removing it. not only might we be able to retain the women whom we have attracted to the police forces. There are many careers today in which a young woman knows from the beginning that when she marries she can continue in that career, and many women will not enter the police forces so long as Scotland has this marriage bar. The women in the service are doing excellent work. Do let us get rid of any bar that hinders recruitment of them or that pushes them out.
Matters other than wages have to be considered. Like other hon. Members. I realise that there must be a disciplinary code and that it must be observed, but are we sure that the greatest care is taken in every instance—I know it is taken in nearly every case—to ensure that there is not what might be called overbearing discipline? Can we be sure also that the greatest care is taken to ensure that there is no form of victimisation? I know that in 99 cases out of 100 these suggestions do not apply, but a policeman who is disgruntled for any reason does not perform the same function that the happy policeman would perform—that of encouraging recruitment.
A young police officer to whom I was speaking said that in earlier days in the Highlands, when agricultural wages were low and conditions were not very good, if a young man felt dissatisfied with his job there, a policeman would often say to him, " You are a fine upstanding young man, and you have intelligence. Why stay here? Join the police force." We need only look at the numbers of Scots policemen who police this House and at the numbers who are to be found in the Metropolitan Police and in many other forces. That sort of thing is not happening today. In other words, those who used to be the best recruiting sergeants for the police force are no longer recruiting sergeants. We must 593 take into account wages, conditions, and, in some instances, the question of discipline and anything else that helps to make those in the police forces discontented.
I know that very satisfactory housing progress has been made in many areas since 1945. There are still 3,250 men in receipt of a rent allowance. I do not think that is a bad thing. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East that where it is at all possible to have the policeman and his wife and family living in the midst of other citizens it is a good thing. I am not at all worried about that figure, but is the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland quite satisfied that there are not, in some areas in Scotland, police quarters or police barracks, as they are sometimes called, where the sanitation and the conditions generally would influence a young man against becoming a policeman if those were the conditions to which he would have to take his wife and children?
I know that in my own village the police headquarters at one time could only be called dungeons. The conditions there were shocking, but now new police headquarters have been built. Are there many places like that place in Shotts still in existence in Scotland? I know that a great deal has been done to try to get rid of these black spots, but how many remain?
I have tried to deal with the various factors that might be said to cause discontent. I know that the police forces generally are pleased that they have a Police Council, negotiating machinery, sometimes called Whitley machinery, and also means of arbitration. They think that these forms of negotiation are good and have had a chance to prove themselves. They are now asking that they should be incorporated in a statute. That is a pretty simple and worth-while claim, and I ask the Ministers concerned to consider it.
We need to consider the question of an examination of the wages to discover whether they attract recruits, an examination of increases in order to keep recruits, an examination of conditions, of discipline, of hours and the shift system, and the question of housing. All these are subjects to which we should give the greatest attention. All of them would 594 help in the effort to attract and to keep men and women in this service, of which we can be really proud and which many people all over the world admire.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Commander C. E. M. Donaldson (Roxburgh and Selkirk)
My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) spoke in an attractive manner about the attractive appearance of the women in our police forces. I agree with him. I am sure that he, too, will agree with me when I speak of the attractiveness of the speeches made by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). Both have spoken with knowledge and exactitude on a number of problems which face us in police recruitment and maintenance and, we trust, in the advancement of progress in the numbers of our police forces. I shall devote myself not to particular points, but to one or two more general observations.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North referred to police housing. I think that there is a dual point in relation to that subject. No doubt she was thinking of police housing not only in North Lanarkshire but in Glasgow and the more concentrated built-up areas. In my part of Scotland, in the south-east and in the borders of Scotland, there is not so much congestion, but I am not completely assured that the building of police houses as such is necessarily a good thing to attract young men, with presumably young wives, into the police force if it is at all possible to provide other facilities to house policemen in more attractive conditions during their hours off duty.
We have heard how the policeman is always under observation. In Liverpool and other large cities he travels considerable distances to and from his place of employment, but he is also under observation as a citizen in the community in which he lives. While police houses are necessary in some areas, I am convinced they are not necessarily the best attraction to young men to join a police force. I hope that the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Joint Under-Secretary will keep that point in mind. No doubt it has been put to them before, but it needs to be emphasised.
595 I agree entirely with the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North that the police are required not only for the apprehension of a criminal but for what is a more important class of their work—the prevention of crime. I am convinced that that is where the emphasis should lie in the effective employment of our police forces. I have seen examples of that in south-east Scotland in the use of police patrol cars.
We have hundreds of miles of fine, first-class roads. Tourists who come to Scotland in large numbers are inclined, in going from place to place in the borders, or in travelling from there to Edinburgh, to travel at high speed in high-powered cars. But they are learning. The pale blue police patrol car can be seen a considerable distance away. The use of these cars is doing a great service to the public, not in the apprehension of people after an accident but in their effect on the motorist. When the cars are seen several miles away on the rolling hills of Scotland they have an immediate and effective influence on those who might otherwise be inclined to travel too fast. That kind of work and the attitude of mind on the part of the police which it exemplifies is to be encouraged.
In the rural areas of the more remote parts of Scotland, and no doubt of Wales and other parts of these islands, the policeman is there not only for his required duty in the prevention of crime and the apprehension of law-breakers but, in large measure, to carry out duties which may not be definitely imposed upon him by a police code but which he does from natural inclination and training. Indeed, he acts on many occasions as a friend and as a counsellor, one who is asked for advice because he is respected in himself and for the uniform that he wears.
At times the policeman may be called upon for many other duties, some of them out of the ordinary. I saw a case recently where a policeman in a remote area had to carry out the duties of a midwife, and if there were a policeman to be commended for a medal for some form of gallantry I should say that a young policeman like that should have such a commendation.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange, was quite right in referring to 596 the fact that once a record is made of a man's history that never can be expunged. I have some knowledge of history sheets in the naval sense, and I see her point. I trust that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary may be able to give a reasoned answer to the case which she made, because I do not think that a man who has committed one misdemeanour should have it held against him for ever. There are means in other Services where such a record in due course can be expunged.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) was also right when he said that in some Services it rests with the commanding officer—it would be the watch committee in the case of the police or the commissioner—to use discretionary powers. There might be an injustice, and that is where the hon. Lady and I are agreed.
§ Mrs. Braddock
It is not left to the discretion of an officer to take the record away once it is put on record.
§ Commander Donaldson
Perhaps I did not make myself clear to the hon. Lady. What I said was not that he could remove the entry, but that it surely lies in his discretion even though it has not been erased. However, I will not pursue the matter further.
What is required in recruitment is an incentive and some form of security at the other end of the career. Equally important is not just a sense of security for the man himself, but that it should also be given to the man's wife or to his fiancée, because, as hon. Members will know, although I speak as a single man, what a woman looks for in life is security. I am not making a proposal, but merely expressing an opinion. A woman requires security and a young man who hopes to have a normal, happy married life is entitled to provide his wife with the sense of security which she will wish for even when she will not actively argue about it when they are in the process of love making.
I do not wish to keep the House much longer, but I should like to pay tribute to the excellent work that I observe being done in the whole of the south-east of Scotland and not only in my particular constituency. I think the police have the right attitude of mind, that they have a greater interest in the prevention of crime 597 than finding the law breaker for minor offences, although they will do that if it is necessary.
I trust that every endeavour will be made to find recruits for the police service, and that we shall bear in mind that in this age of full employment we are less inclined to get the numbers we want unless we make the conditions sufficiently attractive. Without that it is impossible to get the right type of man who is essential if we are to maintain efficient and powerful police forces not only in Scotland but in the rest of the country.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)
I should like to join in the expressions of appreciation made by other hon. Members to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Moody) on being successful in the Ballot and on choosing this subject to give us this rare opportunity to go into the question of our police forces. I was interested to hear the very well-informed and expert speech speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock), during which it occurred to me that one of her predecessors in the representation of that city was the only policeman who has ever been a Member of this House. Mr. Jack Hayes, was, I think, the Member for the Edgehill Division of Liverpool. There must be something in the representation of Liverpool that makes their Members interested in this most valuable service.
My hon. Friend spoke with great knowledge, authority and experience of the administrative side, and I will refer to her speech again in a moment or two.
As a general comment, we have the opinion of the late W. S. Gilbert thatThe policeman's lot is not a happy one.In contrast to that, in the County of Yorkshire, from which my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East comes, there is a popular description of a sinecure as " a bobby's job." I do not know which of these two variations is nearer the truth, but to my mind my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East made a valuable point. He talked about the early age of retirement. In these days there are divisions and sections of police work which could be done efficiently and effectively by policemen who retire too soon.
598 I want to mention one other aspect of that problem which links up with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) on the question of police housing. I am sure it must be a contributory cause to the prevention of recruitment when the older policeman, nearing the age of retirement, finds himself faced with the grave problem of housing. If he lives in a police house and he knows his date of retirement, what happens is that he goes along to his local authority and tries to put his name on the housing list. This has happened in the Metropolitan Police area, and in many other areas as well. He is told he cannot be accepted, that he has no priority and no points because he has already got a house. But he is not permitted to stay in his police house a day beyond the date of his retirement.
It is worrying for a policeman, nearing his retirement age, to be faced with homelessness and to be unable to obtain housing accommodation. That is a contributory argument to the case advanced by my hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, Exchange and Lanarkshire, North that policemen should be housed, as far as possible, in our towns and cities as they are in our villages, among the other residents in ordinary houses with normal living conditions, and they should be allowed to retain those houses on retirement. Accommodation could easily be arranged for the policeman who arrives at the station to take the place of the man who has retired.
There have been many tributes to the quality and the integrity of our police. It is a natural temptation for an hon. Member who rises to speak in a debate in which there has been such unanimity to try to find an adverse argument to those put forward by everyone else. I cannot find it in my heart to disagree with the chorus of general approval. In fact, I wish to add to it by recounting an incident which proves it and which has travelled across the Atlantic and back again. I think it is worth while recounting as a striking tribute to the integrity and value of our police.
A young American soldier who was stationed at one of the camps near London was taking a message to his embassy in Grosvenor Square on a motor bicycle. On passing, for the first time, the orators' 599 corner at Hyde Park, he thought he would like to stop for a minute and hear what was going on because he had heard so much about this spot. He stopped his motor cycle at the corner. The speaker nearest to him, to whom he was listening, was one of those people with a persecution complex against the Metropolitan Police in particular and against the police forces of the rest of the country in general.
According to this man, the police force of Great Britain was corrupt, was guilty of thuggery and every crime in the criminal calendar. This amazed the young American, who had been brought up on the theory, which is justly popular in America, that the British police are wonderful. He was thinking that he would shock his fellow citizens when he got back to New York by telling them the facts of the situation, when the policeman on duty came up to him and said, " Excuse me, Sir. Would you mind turning off your engine? People cannot hear what the gentleman is saying." That story need not be taken any further.
I have in my constituency the Police College for Scotland. I do not want to say much about it, but there has been considerable public criticism about the cost of that college. People have been complaining in the Press and elsewhere about the high cost of training our police in that college. They do not know what they are talking about. This is one of the best investments of public money that we make in Scotland. The college is excellently controlled, it does excellent work. If I may use a perhaps unfortunate phrase, the quality of its end-product is to be seen in the high quality of our Scottish police force. I hope that that will silence those critics and make them careful about how they criticise that college, because it is a valuable asset of our national life.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I think my hon. Friend is wrong in suggesting that people are criticising the cost of training police officers in that college. The point of criticism was the cost of the building and of equipping it for the purpose, not the training.
§ Mr. Taylor
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, which strengthens my point. That criticism is equally ill-informed. It is true that the building is a good building, it is true that the equip- 600 ment is modern equipment and that it cost a great deal of money, but if we are to attract recruits—and that is what this Amendment is about—we want to be able to show them that we think so highly of the service that we are prepared to give them the best training equipment in the best possible conditions and surroundings.
My next point is not quite so happy. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will satisfy himself that the conditions in which our police work in their headquarters are all they ought to be. I can think of the headquarters of one of the most important police forces in Scotland. I will not mention which one, because there are reasons why it should not be publicly mentioned, but the cramped conditions there would not be tolerated for a moment by workers in commercial industry. Indeed, I strongly suspect that existing laws are being broken there by crowding people into intolerable conditions.
There is one room in which important police work is done which is no bigger than the space behind Mr. Speaker's Chair. There are five desks in it, with police officers working there throughout the day, and sometimes the night; it is a semi-underground room, almost a cell. Indeed, the entire building is inadequate. I am prepared to discuss this matter with the Joint Under-Secretary, but I dare say that he knows which police force I have in mind. Tomorrow we are to discuss the question of non-industrial employment in a debate that could well apply to the police force.
We hear on occasions rumours of unhappy things that are supposed to be done by our policemen. A few weeks ago charges were made in the House about improper action by the police on the day we resumed after the Christmas Recess. We were disturbed by reports and we made inquiries to satisfy ourselves that the report given by the Home Secretary was adequate and correct, because some of us had received representations from our constituencies. I would like to put it on record that, having made inquiries, not only from members of the force but from members of the public who were present, I am satisfied that the police on that occasion acted with fairness, with tolerance and with wisdom, giving every chance for that demonstration to be 601 peacefully and properly concluded. I am equally satisfied that there would have been no trouble in Parliament Square had there not been the will and the desire to create trouble on that occasion.
I conclude by joining in the tributes that have been paid to our police force and by making an observation as to the best methods of recruitment and of maintaining the high standard of honesty and integrity of the forces we have built up. I believe that they are the best in the world. Our police forces are unarmed in the conduct of their duty and carry out that duty in a much better way than any of the armed forces of police. I believe that the best way of maintaining recruitment and keeping up establishments is to continue to improve the conditions of service and the pensions, to remove the anxieties—such as the one on housing at the end of their careers—and to offer to policemen of good health and strength who reach retirement age an opportunity to continue in the force rather than to go to jobs outside, such as opening the doors of taxicabs, and work of that description.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Henderson Stewart)
I intervene for only a few minutes to attempt to deal with the Scottish questions which have been put by hon. Members on both sides of the House during the last hour. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary will be speaking a little later and will deal with the broad aspects of this problem, for example, many of the points raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) and other hon. Members.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) voiced the spirit of the House when she said that this is a subject which we should not approach in any party sense. I am sure that that is what we would all like. I agree with the hon. Lady in the praise she offered to the police force as a whole. Without doubt it is a magnificent body of men and women, who perform a high service for the nation.
Like the hon. Lady, I am sorry that the Report for last year is not yet available. It has been our custom in Scotland to make our police year terminate on 602 31st December whereas in England the police year terminates in September. Consequently, the English Report is always published a month or two ahead of ours. I am not going to say which is the better time to report, but we hope that our Report will be available shortly in May as usual.
I want now to give the establishment figures. On 28th February of this year —these are the latest figures that I can get—the authorised male establishment of all forces in Scotland was 7,685, and the actual strength was 7,338, leaving a deficiency of 347. Almost half of the deficiency this year, as in the past, is to be found in Glasgow. Over the last five or six years the shortage has never been running much above 300. In the case of policewomen, the authorised establishment is 216 and the actual strength 199, the shortage thus being 17.
I am very glad to be able to tell the House that the numbers of women police have been improving each year since the end of the war, but six authorities in Scotland have not yet got policewomen. My personal opinion is that that is rather a pity, and we hope that in due course—
§ Miss Herbison
I wonder whether it would help if the hon. Gentleman would later name the six authorities. The Scottish Press is functioning even if there is no English Press at the moment, and it might make the authorities do something about it.
§ Mr. Stewart
I will try to give the hon. Lady the answer before I finish my speech.
As to whether the strength is rising or declining, the House may like to have these figures. During last year 522 men left regular police service and 570 entered it, so that, I am glad to say, we had a net gain, which we have not had for some time. One hopes that we may continue to have net gains. I express that hope, because during the first few months of this year the gain appears to be continuing. Let us hope that that may be so.
§ Miss Herbison
I am sure the hon. Gentleman would be the first to agree that the gain is very small and that if it is compared with the deficiencies against establishment and against the 603 numbers who will fairly soon be due to leave, there is no room for complacency. I am sure the hon. Gentleman is not complacent, but that point ought to be made.
§ Mr. Stewart
I agree with the hon. Lady and am obliged to her for saying that, for it gives me the opportunity to take up a further point which she made.
If we look at the wastage figures in the Report of two years ago, as the hon. Lady did, it is interesting and a little distressing that so many who have served their probationary period but not completed ten years have left. It means that it is the young men who have left, and I suppose that it is natural that it would be the young men who move. The figures show that those who complete ten years scarcely ever leave. Obviously, we must try to take measures to keep the young men in the police force, and we must persuade their wives to encourage them to stay in the force. Incidentally, I am sure that the whole House was impressed by the interesting remarks about wives, love, and all the rest of it by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Commander Donaldson).
§ Mr. Stewart
In the Spring a young man's fancy…I have noticed that it is always the bachelor who seems to know most about these matters.
We really must do all we can, and in this I agree with the hon. Members who have spoken. Wages and salaries are obviously very important. It is the task of the Police Council to consider these matters, and it considered that matter not long ago. It is open to the Council to review the rates of pay at any time. It was said that the Police Council is not at the moment a statutory body. That is true. Whether it should be or not I should like to leave to my right hon. and gallant Friend to deal with.
If I may express a personal view, it is a new idea and has not been going very long. It was thought by everybody whom we consulted to be a good idea to try it on a non-statutory basis for a while. I am not sure that we have had 604 it long enough on trial before going for the statutory position. However, that is a matter of opinion, and the views expressed tonight will be taken into account.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
The hon. Gentleman says that that was the view of everybody, but was it the view of the police?
§ Mr. Stewart
Perhaps it was a little strong to say that it was the view of everybody, but it was the view of most of those who were consulted. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be dealing further with the matter, and my right hon. and gallant Friend will no doubt be taking it up later. There is a great deal more that one could say on the matter, but I do not want to take up too much time.
I now pass to the next main topic raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North, which was whether we could get more cadets. I gather that she thought there was something to be said for the idea. At present, cadets are to be found in 10 forces in Scotland—Edinburgh, Inverness Burgh, Paisley, Angus, Dumfries and Galloway, Dunbarton, Inverness County, Perth and Kinross, Renfrew and Bute, and Stirling and Clackmannan—and there are 63 cadets. It is for local police authorities to decide whether they want to use the cadet system or not. We do not feel that it is proper to put any pressure on them, but the views expressed by hon. Members will, no doubt, be considered by the local authorities concerned.
The question of deferment of call-up of cadets was raised. First, why was it done? I would refer the hon. Lady to the Written Answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour on 22nd March, when he said:This decision has been taken having regard not only to the vital part played by this disciplined and uniformed force in the preservation of law and order in peace-time, but also the heavy burdens which would fall on them in the unhappy event of war."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 22nd March, 1955; Vol. 318, c, 176.]Those were the considerations that led the Government to take the step.
Let us be clear what the step is, however. There is no compulsion. In effect, all that is said to the police authorities is that they may use the system if they like. They need not if they do not wish to. We shall just have to see how the 605 authorities whose names I have given make use of the provision. It is intended principally for the areas which are most hard pressed about getting recruits, which is what the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange pointed out.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North also referred to women police and their insufficient numbers. I agree with her. We should like a great many more. It was said that too many were employed on clerical duties.
§ Mr. Stewart
That is so. It is up to the authorities and the chief constable to see that that sort of thing is not done. I met the police authority of the Lothians and Peebles not long ago, and this very problem was raised. I tried my best to persuade them to get civilians into their offices to do what is really civilian work. I think that idea is now going over and the number of civilians in employment is quite considerable.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
Before the Joint Under-Secretary leaves that point, will he allow me to make another comment on what might be the best use of the limited force available to us in the general shortage of manpower, not only in the police forces, but in industry generally? I have often been very surprised to see an enormous number of police constables present to give evidence when a magistrates' court is sitting. I know that the administration of justice demands that, but it seems to me that far too many police officers are called upon to give evidence of road traffic offences that could be given by some other agency if we are to make the best use of our forces.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's views will be considered by the Home Secretary. In 1950, 715 full-time civilians were employed by police authorities in Scotland, and in 1955 the figure was 737. That is growing a little and one hopes that it may continue.
The hon. Lady raised the question of the marriage ban. It is quite true that in England policewomen can marry and continue as policewomen, but in Scotland that is not so. The hon. Lady asked if that was a good idea. The proposal to remove the marriage ban has not yet 606 found universal acceptance in the Scottish Police Council and my right hon. Friend has not felt able to carry through the proposal against that opposition. We shall have to take this matter stage by stage.
§ Miss Herbison
We now have a Police Council of Great Britain. Surely it would not be too difficult to get it through that Council, where there are more English and Welsh representatives than Scots representatives. If we felt strongly about it, and let that be known, I rather think that even the Scottish representatives on that Council would not object.
§ Mr. Stewart
There, the hon. Lady is using a dangerous argument. She is suggesting that the weight of the English-Welsh vote should overwhelm the Scottish vote.
§ Miss Herbison
What I was trying to suggest was the use of influence, not the weight of vote. It is by regulation of this House that there is a ban on marriage. If it were shown that we felt strongly about it, the influence of the greater number of English and Welsh representatives on the Police Council of Great Britain could be used so that this foolish ban could be swept away.
§ Mr. Stewart
I hope I have done the hon. Lady a service in enabling her to make clear that she meant influence and not vote. I quite see her point, but it would be altogether imprudent for the Secretary of State to try to push this through until he feels reasonably sure that Scottish opinion generally favours it. That is as far as I can go. After all, the hon. Lady only asked us to consider it and I assure her that we shall certainly do that.
I should like to return for one moment to those forces which do not have women police. They are Airdrie, Perth and Kinross, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Shetland. The hon. Lady recognised that the police is a disciplined force and has to be. She was a little concerned lest in some cases—she said they were exceptional—discipline had been too hard. She talked about overbearing discipline and victimisation. That, as she knows, is a matter for the chief constable. The police force being a disciplined force, the chief constable in any area must be in charge.
607 We all know that each policeman has a right of appeal to the Secretary of State and we have both in our time had that experience. I think she would agree that in Scotland, at any rate, it is a fair system. At least, one hopes that it is and one tries one's best to make it fair and I can only say that we endeavour to avoid any cases of that kind which are not at all happy cases.
The hon. Lady spoke about housing. I can give the House a few figures. The number of policemen in Scotland living in houses owned or rented by police authorities has risen from 2,238 in 1950 to 3,291 in 1954. Since the Oaksey Report appeared the number of houses built by police authorities has been 1,477 and they are now building in Scotland at the rate of about 250 a year which Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary in their Annual Report say is " very good progress."
The hon. Lady said that while it is a very good thing for policemen to get such houses, policemen, like other people, like to live in houses of their own. The fact is that there are opportunities for doing that. There is a call for more houses and there seems to be a duty upon the police authorities to play their part in overcoming the shortage. All one would expect is that they will do their fair share towards meeting the shortage.
I want next to deal with headquarters such as the one at Shotts. Of course, these black spots exist. The one in Shotts has gone and the one of which the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) spoke will one day go, too. None of us likes them. I have seen these awful places and I should like to have them changed as soon as possible. I hope that I have covered all the points except the matter raised by the hon. Member for West Lothian, who also referred to the police college.
I do not want to enter into that tonight at any length, but I was grateful to him for the comments he made upon it. The college has, naturally, been rather expensive and has attracted some criticism. But the fact is that in Scotland, as elsewhere, police have to be trained if they are to be any good and we have had to spend a certain amount of money to make that a good and sound training establishment.
608 One can only hope that having spent that money and started well—as we think —and having brought police training under this one roof, we shall get in Scotland an even more highly trained body of men than we now have. I thank my hon. Friends on both sides of the House, on behalf of the Secretary of State, for the kind things which they have said about the police force in Scotland.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
One of the advantages of having a double debate—England and Wales and then Scotland—is that some of us who do not represent Scottish constituencies have had the chance of looking at the Scottish Report of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary for the first time. I should like the Home Secretary to note that the Scottish Report is infinitely better in its lay-out and printing than the English one. This is not all-important, but it is something.
The Scottish Report also bears a stylish coat of arms. [An HON. MEMBER: " And better grammar."] I do not know about the grammar. I have not got as far as that. Its price—I do not know if we can draw any conclusions from this—is 6d. instead of being 1s. 3d. Obviously we have a lot to learn from each other. Perhaps the Scots can learn from us about married policewomen and we can learn from them about producing a report.
I want immediately to refer to the England and Wales Report. It makes perfectly clear that there is an appalling problem of a shortage of police in the large industrial cities. There are 19 forces in the large cities such as Liverpool, where there are deficiencies of more than 12½ per cent.
There are certain large cities where the position is not so bad. My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Moody) mentioned Leeds, where the position is fairly good. I know the position in Nottingham, where the force has a great tradition, a good city government and an excellent chief constable. Nottingham is a large city without this problem. On the whole, many of the smaller cities have forces which are up to strength. The City of Lincoln has a particularly good record. At the time of this last Report there were only six vacancies.
609 However, we must face the fact of this appalling deficiency. In paragraph 56 of the Report, the inspectors use these words:…one of the most important contributory factors in the reduction of crime is the gradual build-up of the uniformed branches of many forces.Most people who have studied the problem agree with that comment. It is, therefore, most alarming to see what is happening, as is shown in paragraph 14, and to realise the number of resignations of men who have completed their probationary service but not qualified for pension.
The Oaksey Report drew attention to the fact that the retention of trained policemen was infinitely more important than the recruiting of new men; yet last year the number of resignations of trained policemen increased by 28 per cent., compared with the previous year. I am thunderstruck by the words of the Report. I know that, as a nation, we are addicted to understatement, but this is a masterpiece. Having pointed out this increase, the Report says:This cannot be regarded with equanimity.This state of affairs is likely to prove disastrous unless it is tackled immediately.
About three weeks ago, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) put down a Question and, as far as I could work out the figures, the answer showed that during the last six months of last year there was a reduction of 600 in the strength of the police.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Yes, but over the whole of England and Wales there is a reduction.
If it continues at the rate of 100 a month it will bring us to a situation more serious than that in the months preceding the 1951 Eve award of between £70 and £135, which was given because the situation was regarded as extremely serious. If the figures which I have quoted are correct—and I should like the Home Secretary to comment on them—we are in a worse position than we were just before the Eve award. What is being 610 done about it? Is there a similar increase on the way? If not, why not?
It appears to me that what the Government are doing instead is to rely on this new cadet scheme. I describe it as the new scheme, because the old cadet scheme was a small and admirable one. The Oaksey Committee examined it, and said that it was a good scheme, subject to two safeguards. The Committee accepted the scheme, and said that it was good because it was small and because the boys who came in at 15 or 16 years of age would later do their National Service, which would give them greater experience of the outside world.
It was on those two conditions that the Committee gave a reluctant approval to the scheme. I intervened when my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) was speaking about the cadets. Of course, there have been extremely good cadets. One of the most distinguished chief constables of today, Colonel Young, of the City of London Police, was himself a cadet. The Oaksey Committee said, in paragraph 201:Our main objection to any considerable expansion of the cadet system is that policemen have to deal with people in all walks of life and should have had as much experience as possible of men and manners outside the orbit of the police service. At the present time the National Service Acts ensure that police cadets get away from the police atmosphere…before they are old enough to join as regular members of police forces, and that seems to us adequate; but only so long as the cadets provide only a small proportion of recruits.But to solve this problem of shortage, the Government have done away with both those safeguards. They contemplate having 2,000 cadets a year. That is about two-fifths of the present intake of the police force.
Furthermore, the Government are exempting the cadets from National Service, thus doing away with the second safeguard. Surely that is going far towards introducing a completely new conception into our police service, that these boys will come.in at 15 or 16 years of age and live the rest of their working lives apart from the rest of the community. Surely the whole basis of our police system is that policemen are citizens—citizens in uniform—and not a class apart. This scheme, which envisages two-fifths of the 611 annual intake from boys of the ages of 15 and 16, will strike right at that conception, and do great harm to the whole basis and tradition which makes our police forces more popular in the eyes of the general public than are those of any other country.
Having said that the position is dangerous, with the numbers falling so rapidly, especially the number of trained people, having argued that the Government scheme to solve this problem with cadets is wrong and undesirable, it is right that I should suggest what should be done. I should like to consider three aspects, conditions, pay, and the rather difficult question of esteem for the service itself.
On the question of conditions we must face the fact that the hours of work are too long and must be reduced to 44 hours a week. Secondly, the men must have leave of, say, three days in every 14, and the rotas must be adjusted so that they can take two days together. Other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East, have pointed out that policemen, like other people, have wives and families, and that the worst recruiting sergeant is the wife who is scarcely ever able to spend a week-end with her husband, because he is on duty.
§ Mr. de Freitas
As bad as being a Member of Parliament; but we have certain other compensations which are denied to most policemen.
Consideration should be given to hours of work, the rota system, and to the question of overtime for week-end and evening work. I have already indicated that I believe that immediate increases in pay are needed, because we are faced with the problem of trying to man our police forces in a time of full employment.
Only last week—I quote this as an example—I read in a Bedfordshire local paper that 13 policemen had resigned:A Bedfordshire policeman left the Force because he found he could get £5 a week more than his police wage, the Chief Constable…. told the Beds. Standing Joint Committee… He said so after County Alderman "—612 so-and-so, the chairman—had regretted the resignations of 12 men and one woman from the Force since December 30.That is happening throughout the country, as is proved by the figures which were quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange in respect of Liverpool.
We must recognise that when, after the Eve award of 1951, certain adjustments were made in 1954, they did not even keep pace with the rise in the retail price index figures between those two years. We know that the cost of living rose considerably in that period. The Government owe it to the police to ensure that they do not suffer because of this rise in the cost of living. We should remember that, if they do, the community will also suffer.
I do not believe that there is any need to increase the proportion of pay which goes to a policeman's pension. I think that a pension of two-thirds of his pay after 30 years is a good one. But we must re-examine the " averaging." I realise that there are complications, but the way it is working at present results in promotion being blocked. Sergeants are discouraged, because senior ranks can stay longer than they would normally in order to take advantage of the " averaging."
Our police forces compete with industry in the matter of recruiting. That fact must be recognised and faced, and appropriate wages paid to our policemen. We must also remember that, like agricultural workers, policemen do not go on strike, which means that the Government have a particular obligation to see that policemen receive special consideration.
In addition to the questions of pay and conditions, there is this difficult question of esteem. It is a sad thing that publicity has recently been given to offences committed by policemen against the criminal law. Of course, it is right that publicity should be given, if offences are committed, and in these cases offences were committed. In this year's Report it is pointed out that 20 policemen were found guilty of criminal offences and dismissed. I wish that the Home Office would make some endeavour to get this matter into perspective, because that is a very small proportion of the total number of policemen in England and Wales.
613 I hope that the Home Office will do as much as possible to see that our policemen are given such duties as will enable people to admire them. Hon. Members have shown that in certain police forces there were pettifogging duties to be performed, which annoyed the policemen, and also tended to lower the esteem in which they were regarded by the public. I feel sure that is an important matter, and that our policemen should not be expected to perform menial tasks.
The police of this country are more popular than those in any other country in the world, and that is an asset which must not be squandered by any shortsighted policy of financial saving. I regard this cadet scheme as a deliberate attempt to solve the problem without paying regard to the real need, which is to increase the pay of policemen.
Our judges have received an increase in their remuneration, although there was little difficulty in manning the Bench. We now have a great and increasing difficulty in manning the police forces of the country. We must face the fact that the pay of policemen must be increased. It is no use saying that we cannot afford it. What we cannot afford is to attempt to obtain law and order on the cheap.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
Opening this debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Moody) quoted the Leeds police system as an admirable example of what could be done about duty turns. I am glad that it was the Leeds police who were referred to with approval, because the predecessor of the present Home Secretary was obliged to take certain action about that force not long ago. A full-scale inquiry was held and there were some dismissals.
One is glad to know, therefore—and I can confirm it—that happily those days are past. It so happened that most of those events took place in my own constituency, where policemen were associated with burglary and other kinds of law-breaking. One appreciated the degree of uneasiness which existed then among members of the business community and people who were alone at night, and one appreciated also the value of the confidence placed in the police by the public.
I wish to join issue on the whole of the arguments deployed today about our 614 police forces. I disagree fundamentally with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). People insist on endeavouring to give to the police conditions apart from the general public. There is a certain social basis upon which wage claims and wages policy may be established. I consider that the shortage of policemen has been overstated. We find that there are shortages in certain parts of the country, but not in other parts. Speaking generally, where we find a shortage of policemen there will also be found a shortage of teachers and similar people.
I have had experience, not only of representing workers on the factory floor, but I have been a leader on the employers' side—on the local government side—on wage-fixing bodies. Since the war years, during which there was no training of any sort, we have had it continually urged upon us that, somehow or other. by the continual increasing of the salary scales and wages scales of certain people —mostly in protected industries or employed in local government or by the State—we should be able to recruit more people. But the fact is that in so doing we are really feeding off our own tail.
We must examine the problem of the shortage of policemen against the background of the available manpower in the country. One of the prices to be paid for full employment is that we move into an inflationary society in which a man can sack his boss. If we had a recession of employment in this country similar to that in Northern Ireland, there would be 2 million unemployed tomorrow; and jobs in the police forces, the teaching profession, local government, the Post Office, and so on, would suddenly become popular again. We should find that there was a sudden rush of men to become policemen.
§ Mr. Pannell
It would happen in the case of teachers too, but my hon. Friend should not try to divert me from my argument. If I mention one or two other professions and trades it is merely to show that such a reaction would be general.
Let us consider the example of sanitary inspectors. The Parliamentary Secretary 615 to the Ministry of Health recently answered a number of Questions about them. There is a statutory requirement in this country that there should be one sanitary inspector for every 10,000 of the population, but that is not the position today. One has, therefore, to decide whether a sanitary inspector or a policeman is more important. Broadly speaking, the young man who is a sanitary inspector, and who has the academic qualifications and the necessary amount of grey matter between the ears, goes on to become something more in these days.
The sanitary inspector whose job, if he possesses three certificates, may bring him in £500 or £600 a year, generally has a standard of education above that of a policeman. But local authorities have not been able to get sanitary inspectors. What do the local authorities do? They bring in young men as office boys and train them up to the job. They give them one day off a week to train on a county college basis and then they send them to college for three years, and so get out of the difficulty of being short of men.
What about teachers? Immediately after the war we had to have an emergency training scheme for teachers. Speaking as an engineer, we had to have dilution in engineering during the war years, and it was not unreasonable that that had to be done in the case of the teaching profession. In spite of the teachers' training scheme, and the fact that there was a degree of official pressure to get new teachers to go to certain areas, they could not be got. Generally, we could not get teachers any more than we could get policemen. Places like Birmingham have never had their quota of teachers or policemen. Anyone who knows Birmingham will know why, and I leave it at that.
I am trying to put policemen in the perspective of their proper station in society. We have argued on these benches that the scavenger—the dustman —is one of the most important people in the community. Local authorities cannot get dustmen today. The local authority on which I serve has spent a lot of money on mechanical sweeping because it cannot get dustmen.
Not long ago the Secretary of State for Scotland suggested that the position in Glasgow with regard to the police force 616 was a matter for concern. Glasgow is the Liverpool of Scotland. It matches what my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange said about places like Liverpool, Birmingham, and so on. Of course the West Riding Constabulary is up to strength, and so, in the main, is the Leeds Police Force.
We have applied all sorts of baits to get policemen. Generally speaking, pressure has been put on local authorities to allow policemen to have council houses. The Minister of Housing and Local Government recently suggested that the local authorities should do the same for soldiers. So we get these attempts to create groups of sheltered people and privileged classes in society.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Surely there is a great distinction between finding a house for a policeman—he needs a house to bring him into the community—and the point about the soldier. It is necessary, when a soldier retires, to treat him as an ordinary citizen. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that the two cases are completely different.
§ Mr. Pannell
I agree that they are different but they both add to the demands on the housing pool of the local authority. No one has ever suggested that private property owners should set aside a certain percentage of their houses for policemen and soldiers. It is always the local authority that should do it.
§ Mr. John Hall
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the soldier will be in a privileged position when he comes out of the Army and goes on to the housing list?
§ Mr. Pannell
Possibly the word " privileged " in that context is an overstatement.
It is difficult enough for local authorities to make a fair allocation between one section of the community and another. I am trying to say that we are now having pressure for council houses for policemen and for soldiers. I admit all that the hon. Member says about soldiers.
There is pressure on local authorities for this allocation. The police have had as good a crack out of this as the soldiers are going to get. But society cannot live on sheltered occupations. In the main, it has to live on the producers. It is even 617 more necessary to provide a house for a tool-maker in order to get a new factory started up, than it is to find a house for a policeman.
Having posed the difficulty, I think that it is incumbent upon me to say what I should do about it. I think that the cadet scheme is a most cock-eyed, lopsided scheme. We start with boys, give them some exemption from National Service, and keep them in the police force all the time. In fact, we bring them in when they are too young and very impressionable, and that is the wrong way to go about it. We have to get men of high character and intelligence into the police forces. How are we to do it? I think that recruitment is retarded by the bullheadedness of the Home Office. I am speaking, not about the present Minister in that regard, but of all the general prejudices; and he will have to look at this question of recruitment again.
I think that we should allow the young National Service man, when called up, to have an option for the police force. We could then sort out the best young men of good character, and with the required physical capacity. That is far better than giving exemption to the cadet already in the police service the young man who, possibly, has not found his place in life. It would give the undergraduate of Leeds University the opportunity to continue his course of studies.
We in the engineering trade know the difficulty of getting technicians. We break off their training at the most valuable time in their lives. Alternatively, they can undergo their National Service in the middle or at the end of their apprenticeship. If they break off in the middle of it they are never, generally speaking, posted to technical units. I have given a good deal of thought to this subject, and have written about it. It needs much examination. I shall try to speak of the benefits which would flow from this practice.
If we gave this National Service option we should, after all, if war broke out, quickly get a police war reserve. No one can say that the police War Reserve let us down during the last war. It certainly did not in London. We should get a succession of young men of good character and of varying political views passing through the police forces who would ingratiate the force in increasing measure 618 with the public. In fact, there would be a continual procession of young men who would remember with some sort of pride that they had served in the police, and would feel themselves identified with the service.
§ Mr. Pannell
I am merely suggesting that they should have the option of serving their period of National Service in the police force. That would help to solve the problem of promotion. We should have young men who would not look for promotion in that period of service. They would be police constables, and as each passed through there would be more chances of promotion for those people who were continuing in the force. There would not be this two-year wastage all the time.
We should, on that basis, not have to compete against the demand for dustmen, sanitary inspectors and teachers, and so avoid all these things getting out of gear. There was a time when the policeman had a higher salary than the teacher. I do not know whether that was a good or a bad thing. We have to take into account the academic qualifications of the teacher and considerations like that.
In fact, if we had this levelling by this body of young men continually passing through the police forces, it seems to me that we should solve most of our difficulties. I have spoken to police officers, and they give me all sorts of old-fashioned arguments, but no one considers the National Service man, except as a temporary soldier.
We safeguard the rights of the soldier to write to his Member of Parliament. Generally speaking, in the society in which we live today, we have said to the. young men of our country, " If necessary, we shall send you to the ends of the earth to defend the British way of life." Is it a great hardship that they should defend that British way of life in these islands? I do not think it is. I will leave that idea with the Home Secretary, because I believe that we must do a lot of fresh thinking on this matter.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln is completely on the wrong lines, because, directly the police receive an increase in their pay, people in all sorts of other occupations, in teach- 619 ing and in local government, will again begin comparing their rates of pay, and up they shall go. I have lived with this problem too long in local government and on other bodies to be satisfied that by giving a sop to this group and the other we shall overcome the problem. I do not think that we shall.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange raised another matter. It was the question of leaving a blot on the constable's record for a comparatively minor offence. All sorts of endorsements are made on motor driving licences for quite heinous offences which are removed after a period of three years, or even 12 months. It seems to me that if we are prepared, in the case of a citizen who breaks the law, to remove the endorsement after a probationary period, there is some force in my hon. Friend's suggestion that we should treat the police in the same way, and that any blot on their record should be removed after three years.
There is one other matter which I must raise. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will remember that I took it up with him during his period of office, and I should like to raise it again now. I am not at all satisfied with the methods of recruitment into the prison service, or, at least, that they are above suspicion. They require a lot of examination. I protested to my right hon. Friend when he was Home Secretary—and my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln knows this very well—over a period of years, not in one case, but in many cases, as the Member of Parliament sitting for the division which contains the great Armley Gaol, that there is a long procession of men who go into the service of Armley Gaol, but who, for one reason or another, are turned down after a period of probation.
I think that I have had as much experience as anybody of appointing people to various posts and of sitting on different examining boards, and so on, and I must confess that I find the methods used in this matter completely inexplicable. After one month, or perhaps three months, the young man is turned away, completely mystified as to why. I know of a man of the petty-officer type who received a service medal and who had been in charge of a naval 620 prison, who was treated in this way. The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Mr. Kaberry) and I have often discussed this matter, and I think it is nearly time that we had a full inquiry into the methods used for recruiting to the prison service.
I receive the same sort of letters every time I raise a case of this kind, but I refuse to believe that the Home Secretary, whatever party he may belong to, has been right. I have been too close to this sort of thing for too long, and I think that the Home Office has been fobbed off by explanations which would not stand the light of day if one investigated them.
I hope that nothing that I have said will cause the House to feel that I am not seized, equally with everyone else, of the necessity to see that the police service is adequately manned with men of good character and ability—the sort of people who will give us the increasing confidence that we have in the police. One is conscious, not only in public life but also in private life, of the many kindnesses which from time to time one receives from the police. I suppose that most hon. Members would like to see that confidence increase, but I do not feel that the ideas put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange and by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln are likely to meet the case. We need something far more ambitious and far more imaginative than we have had to date, and I hope that what I have suggested will be one way of achieving what is necessary.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I must apologise to the House for the fact that I have not been able to listen to a large part of this debate, as I should have liked to have done. However, I do not think that, generally speaking, the period of my absence from the House can be a matter of complaint. This afternoon I was summoned to a meeting of the Committee of Privileges, which is investigating a matter recently referred to it by the House, and I thought it my duty to be there. I well knew that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) would be saying things about the police force from a depth of practical experience which would render my presence unnecessary, at any rate at that time.
621 I wish to join with other hon. Members in complimenting my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Moody) on selecting this topic for discussion in this important phase of the financial considerations of the House for the year. I think that the smallness of the attendance today, although regrettable from one point of view, is also a striking testimony to the general sense of confidence in the House in the conduct of the police force. In fact, it is in striking contrast to the prophecies made when Sir Robert Peel introduced the Bill that established the Metropolitan Police in 1829.
It was then said that the Bill was an excuse for bringing over large numbers of Irishmen to depose His Majesty King George IV and to put the Duke of Wellington in his place. As between King George IV and the Duke of Wellington, one would have some doubt as to who would be the more objectionable person on the throne.
At any rate, the police force has long since dispelled any fears that it might become the weapon of any political faction in this country, and long may that continue, because that, after all, is what distinguishes this country from the police State, where people believe that the knock of the policeman on the door is a thing to be dreaded by even the most law-abiding citizen. I hope that the feeling that there is no political investment in the police force by any party in the country will remain not merely tradition, but the actual practice of the people.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East said, it is really an astonishing thing that a population of 45 million in England and Wales can be kept in a very high state of respect for law and order with a police force of rather less than 70,000 which, for many years, has never been up to establishment. The fact that an unarmed police force can thus control a population which, in previous centuries, was occasionally regarded as a population liable to turbulence and turmoil is a striking testimony to the improvement in the respect for law and order which the police force has managed to engender in the public.
I recollect that very distinguished civil servant, Sir Alexander Maxwell, who was Permanent Under-Secretary of State to the Home Department when I first went 622 to the Home Office, once remarking to me that it was really a remarkable thing that in the early years of the nineteenth century, when faced with political and industrial troubles, the Home Department was able to carry on without having any real police force at its disposal.
When one recalls that just after the establishment of the Metropolitan Police Force in 1829, every cavalry soldier in England was sent to the three counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex in an effort to deal with what were called the " Swing " riots and the burning of the ricks, one gets some idea of the advance in the respect for law and order which our people have attained in the 125 years which have passed since that date.
I have no doubt that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman shares the feeling of the rest of us that the shortage of this establishment is a serious matter for the country, and especially for the police authorities. It is quite easy to say that we should improve conditions. The trouble is—and it confronted me for all the six years during which I was at the Home Office—that we cannot improve conditions without having increased numbers of men, and we cannot increase the numbers without improving the conditions. We are going round in a vicious circle, which is frustrating to everybody, including the serving members of the police forces.
It is, therefore, in no spirit of criticism of the Government that we put forward this Amendment; in fact, it has been carefully drawn so that there shall not be a single word that could be taken to imply criticism. I hope that in considering our police force we shall not develop a kind of competition between the parties, with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman saying, " In six years you recruited so many police; divide that number by six and that is the annual result of your efforts. Since my party took over about three and a half years have elapsed, during which time we have recruited so many men." If the numbers were divided I do not think there would be very much to dispute about in the end, and I hope that we shall never get into that frame of mind in our consideration of the police service.
But a serious situation does exist. I want to deal with the figures for 1954, which are to be found in a series of 623 tables which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman supplied to me in a written answer on 7th March of this year. The Metropolitan Police Force, at 31st December, had an establishment of 19,696. At the beginning of the year the deficiency was 3,791, and at the end of the year it was 4,029. There was a quite substantial increase in deficiency in the force during the year. In the county police forces the establishment as at 31st December was 30,305 and, during the year, the deficiency rose from 1,719 to 2,080.
§ Mr. Ede
Yes. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North dealt with the Scottish situation, and she was replied to by the Joint Under-Secretary.
In the cities and boroughs, at 31st December the authorised police establishment was 22,794. The deficiency at the end of January was 2,506, and by the end of December it had risen to 2,649. It is rather astonishing, but apparently the cities and boroughs lost less than the other two groups.
It is true, however, that some of the cities and boroughs afford the greatest cause for anxiety next to the Metropolitan Police Force; in fact, I am not quite sure that, proportionately, the situation in Liverpool does not provide a more striking problem for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the police authorities—it always was for me—than, that of the Metropolitan Police Force, bad as is its position, which I am quite sure no one would wish to minimise. We de not want to adopt the attitude of my Sunday school superintendent who, years ago, said, " We lost 35 scholars during the past year but, thank God, the Methodists lost 49." The deficiency which exists is a serious matter, and in a city with the big problems of a great seaport such as Liverpool the position is one which quite rightly causes anxiety.
I do not put these figures forward in any way as a criticism, but in an effort to give some idea of the way in which the problem is increasing, at a time when we had hoped that we might be finding a solution for it. My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East refers in the Amendment to the need to bear in 624 mind modern social circumstances in considering the police force. He is right to do so, because, until just after the war, the social circumstances of police officers were considerably better than those of the people from whom the force in those days was mainly recruited.
There was not only regular employment; there was a free medical service, a regular rest day and, although the number of days was very limited, there was a specified time for holidays. A pension was obtainable at a comparatively early age, and it enabled a man who retired from the police force when he was less than 50 years of age to take quite remunerative employment, for the due discharge of which his pension was, to some extent, a bond—because if he fell down on that job and got into trouble with the law he might lose his pension. In some positions of trust it was, therefore, a very considerable guarantee that a man had been a police officer, even if not of very high rank.
The establishment of the Welfare State has very largely diminished the social advantages which policemen enjoyed in pre-war days. I do not think that any of us has yet thought out the full implications of full employment in circumstances of this kind, although I am quite sure that we are all determined that full employment, as far as we can secure it, shall remain the policy of the country.
I recollect being told, as a young teacher, that times of severe unemployment—and, in the first few years of this century, they could be very severe—were good for recruiting for the Church, the teaching profession and the police. Although the remuneration for none of them was very high, at any rate, at the end of the month, one did know what one was getting, unlike the fellow in the skilled industries who, at the end of a week, might find that his employment had gone, and, if unemployment re-remained for a few weeks, might be on the mercies of the Poor Law of those days.
Of course, that position has now gone. We have to think out—and I hope we shall be able to think it out in this House with a fair degree of good will on all sides—what we are going to do for those who perform the inconvenient jobs that are so essential. We used to be asked who, under Socialism, would collect the 625 dust. As far as I know, there is no trouble about obtaining scavengers at the moment. [An HON. MEMBER: " Yes."] Well, there may be in some places, but I have never heard it quoted as very acute in the local government circles in which I move. We have to think that out, and one of the things which I am quite sure we have to do is to recognise that people like the police are entitled to a rather higher social status than they have had in the past.
Although it is a small thing, one of the best things that came out of Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve's adjudication on the police force was the change from a weekly wage to an annual salary. I know that this is a small thing, but it gave the men a step up in social grading. I firmly believe that all of us in this House will have to give our minds to other ways in which the same kind of recognition can be given to people who do the inconvenient jobs.
I understand that the hon. and gallant Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Commander Donaldson) alluded to the position of the policeman's wife. I am quite sure that the reason why some men leave the police force in their early years is that their wives will not stand any more of it. The policeman is almost certain to be on duty on a Bank Holiday, certainly the summer Bank Holidays, and, in a good many counties and boroughs, he is required frequently for Sunday duty, for the same reason—dealing with the traffic that is going out to the seaside or the country.
As the prosperity of the country rises, and people have further opportunities of enjoying that kind of facility, the strain on the police force will become greater. One can imagine the reaction of the policeman's wife—" On Bank Holiday duty, or Sunday duty, again? I believe you ask to be put on it." It is no good the man trying to prove to her that he did not; that is the point of view which she takes.
Again, the frequency and length of night duty is very much detested by policemen's wives, and I hope that a way will be found to deal with the problem of night duty. Of course, we have sound warrant for it that certain classes of people love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. The job of the police is to prevent evildoers from 626 carrying out some of their evil intentions, and efforts have been made to deal with that.
I think that among the encouraging things is the comparatively greater success of the women police. I understand that the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) paid a tribute to their good looks, but I want to pay a tribute to their good uniform, because I presided over the mannequin parade at which it was selected. If it is true that every couturier is entitled to be proud of his own creations, I think it is the best of all uniforms worn by members of the women's Services. I think, also, that one should bear in mind the looks of the young woman, because no inconsiderable part of the duty of a woman police officer is to give advice to members of her own sex, rather younger than herself, who may be in need of that advice.
What I said at the time when we determined to go on with a serious campaign for recruitment was this, " I do not want to have too many women in the force who, when they give advice to a young girl, may cause her to look at them and say to herself, ' I suppose you never had any fun? ' " If we have a woman who has the address and reasonably good looks which cause the other girl to feel that she was entitled to speak to her, because she may have had, at some time or other, the same difficulties with which that girl was confronted, I think it gives that policewoman's advice a great deal more strength.
I want, too, to pay tribute to the way in which women police have taken over traffic duties in quite difficult localities. There was a young woman who used to take traffic duty for the Somersetshire County Police in Yeovil, whom I have seen several times at a very difficult road junction managing the traffic with an authority and a grace that marked her out as a very competent officer indeed.
I hope that the women police will be granted equal pay with men police. I say that because, when the present Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation was Financial Secretary to the Treasury, he told me in answer to a series of Questions which I put to him, that that was not the intention of the Treasury. I know that the Treasury can be flint-hearted, 627 but I hope it will be recognised that these women can now be called upon to perform any of the operations of a constable, and that, in fact, on occasions, when called upon to do so, they have performed some of the most dangerous operations with conspicuous success.
I well recall the first woman whom I recommended for the King's Police Medal. I was assured in those days that, after all, that was a medal which could only be given to men. My view then was that if a woman rendered a service which would entitle the doer of that service to the King's Police Medal in the case of a man, it ought to go to a woman if she courageously and appropriately performed good service.
It was not so many months ago that we had the case of a woman who brought down, with a flying tackle, a person breaking the law in one of the streets of London, and handed the malefactor over to a commissionaire standing by while she went off to telephone for the appropriate police van to come along and pick up the culprit. In the face of these things, one cannot feel that, if the Civil Service, the teachers and other local government officers receive equal pay, it should be denied to members of the women's police force.
The question of police cadets has been raised. I associate myself with the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North. It is regrettable that police cadets are to be able to get deferment from military service merely because they are police cadets. I hope we all feel that the first duty of the police is to prevent crime and to give advice to youngsters who look like drifting into crime, sometimes aimlessly. I feel sincerely that we do not assist the police in getting the right amount of public esteem if a youth can turn round and say to an officer, " You are only there because you dodged the column."
I would object to this deferment if it were proposed for teachers. I object to it for police cadets. These are the people whom we want to put into a position where no allegation of being less than full citizens can be made against them. My own fear is that if this goes on with the police cadets it will be detrimental to their position when they come to be full members of the force.
628 I am glad that the Police Council for Great Britain, although not statutory, has been formed. In the old days, there was always some difficulty about getting the English Council and the Scottish Council into line on things where parity of conditions was demanded and ought to have been achieved. Such disparities as still exist will now, I hope, be speedily removed as the result of the meeting of the Police Council for Great Britain.
I understand that we have now reached an astounding position. The national Police Councils are still statutory; that is to say, the English Police Council and the Scottish Police Council still have to meet, but the business is really done at the non-statutory Council. It is said that members of the Police Council on the local authorities' side are busy people and do not want to attend unnecessary meetings, and that if a quorum can be assembled for the Council that will be sufficient. A very good working arrangement has been made, but it is somewhat derogating from the statutory position that that kind of thing goes on. I hope, therefore, that the full implementation of the Oaksey Report in places where it still requires statutory confirmation may be undertaken, and that the full benefit of the Report in these administrative senses will be given to the Police Council of Great Britain.
May I say how pleased I was to see that in the composition of this Council one woman is included? I remember having a very stormy interview with the Police Federation when they came to tell me that a woman member of the police force was not their concern, and that she was not entitled to come into the Federation because the Act of Parliament said " Policemen."
As a matter of fact, in all the statutes on this subject we find not the word " policeman " but the word " constable," who is a person of any rank in the police force. I am glad to know not only that there is a woman on the Police Council but that policewomen have substantial representation, having regard to their numbers in the force, at the annual meetings of the Police Federation, to which the Secretary of State goes each year.
I hope it will be recognised that the woman police officer has all the rights and duties of a constable and that she is just as immune as a male constable from 629 getting orders from above restricting her activities. I remember when a constable arrested the mayor of a neighbouring borough. I will not mention the borough. It caused some comment at the time. The chief constable of that borough said to him, " You cannot arrest a mayor." The constable said, " I have, and he is in the ' jug '." It took a lot of time to get him out of the " jug." It should be understood, as part of the tremendous value of our police forces, that these men and women who take a particular oath cannot be given orders from people above restricting their activities while they are discharging their oath.
Police officers get into very little trouble with the general public. When we think that until a comparatively few years ago we brought a man into the police force one day and put him on the streets in uniform the next day, with all his powers over the lives and reputations of his fellow-citizens, it says a good deal for the sense of humour of the recruited policemen and for the ordinary British citizen that so little friction has ever occurred. I recollect that in 1851, when the Surrey Police Force was first formed, two constables arrested a deputy assistant quarter-master general, from Aldershot, as a deserter. There had been no war in those days since Waterloo, or the constables would have known that nobody in a quarter-master's department ever deserts. How few cases of that sort there have been in the 126 years since the Metropolitan Police was established!
I trust that all that was hoped for from the Oaksey Report will soon be a matter of statutory recognition, where statutory enactment is required. One of the difficulties that confronted me up to the time of Lord Oaksey's Report was the fact that the police were wedded to the Desborough Committee's Report. A Report made in 1919 had become somewhat out of date by 1945.
If local authorities are still a bit " sticky " about some of the requirements I hope that the way in which this voluntary Whitley machinery has worked during the past three or four years will encourage both the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland to say to their respective local authorities, " We have seen how this thing works. It certainly has the confidence of the men 630 and you have nothing very much, if anything, to complain about in the way it has worked from your angle." That would be one way in which confidence could be given to the police force that their legitimate aspirations are recognised.
I am greatly impressed by the increased sense of responsibility which is being shown by the Police Federation. Since the war, it has had the advantage, I believe, of having been led by men who have a very considerable sense of responsibility and who recognise the status that this force ought to have in the community. Inspector Mobbs of Worcestershire who, I think, has returned to the chairmanship of the Federation, is a man who held office for some time, as did Sergeant Griffiths of the Mid-Wales Police Force. They were leaders who were entitled to be regarded with high esteem and gratitude by the force that they served.
Before Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, Sergeant Griffiths dealt with the case in a way that was recognised by everyone in the room as being a very able, moderate and thoughtful presentation of the case of men, who, at that time, were labouring under a great sense of grievance.
The increased sense of responsibility shown by the Federation warrants the local authorities regarding the establishment of statutory machinery for pay and conditions as something to which the men are entitled. After all, these men are denied the right of belonging to a trade union. I think they recognise that that is right. I certainly think it an advantage that they are in a position of complete independence from outside pressure, and are able to present their own case while having regard to the peculiar conditions of their own service. The more that can be done to show that this spirit of responsibility is recognised the better, I am quite sure, it will be for all concerned.
We urge the Government, in consultation with the police authorities and the different organisations into which the various ranks have been organised since the time of the Desborough Committee, to consider what can be done for the force in the light of modern social circumstances. I am quite sure that this is one of the cases where we all must feel that we do not go back to normal. There is no going back. What we must try to 631 do is to move forward as soon as possible to conditions and organisations that can be regarded as normal for the world into which we are moving, and into which, during the last seven years or so, we have been moving at very considerable speed.
I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will feel that nothing has been said today to make his task any harder. We have endeavoured to bring before the House and the country the difficulties that confront this great force which is so typically British, and which draws its support among our population from the fact that it is a civilian force. I was rather shocked when I heard the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland say that civilians were employed in police offices. Every policeman is a civilian.
§ Mr. Ede
I knew very well what was meant. It is precisely because the hon. Gentleman's words did not convey that meaning that I am saying this.
We do not want anyone to get the idea that in some way or other a policeman is not a civilian. He is. He has to obey all the laws just as have the rest of us. Only a week or two ago the chief constable of one of the biggest counties in England was stopped by a member of his own force for a minor traffic offence. The constable prosecuted him and he was fined a couple of pounds. That is what we want to keep constantly before the people of this country.
One thing that can be immediately done is to build fewer police houses in terraces and to build more, where they have to be built, as single houses. If there are a few police houses together then, once again, the policeman's wife comes into the picture. If one of the husbands has the misfortune to get into some disciplinary trouble and his pay is stopped, or something like that happens, his wife may see two or three of her neighbours talking as she comes out of her front door. They may be talking about things far remote from her, but she is quite convinced that they are talking about her troubles. If the policeman lives in a cottage similar to that in which live the people for whose safety he is responsible 632 he is more likely to have the chance of living the ordinary citizen's life.
I hope that as a result of today's discussion this great force will get encouragement, and that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will feel that there is a great desire on the part of everyone in the House to see that the conditions of the force are made such that, even in these days, we can expect to get good, intelligent, honest recruits.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)
I should like, first, to join with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides who have thanked the Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Moody) for tabling this Amendment and so giving us the opportunity for this discussion.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has just said that he hoped that nothing which has been said today would make my job harder. I can assure him that the speeches which have been made will not do that because many of them were full of practical suggestions from hon. Members who have experience. I was particularly interested in the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that while obviously, in the time available, I cannot deal with all the points raised, I have taken note of them and that they will certainly be considered.
The right hon. Gentleman said the smallness of the attendance for this debate was, in many ways, a tribute to our police forces, and I agree with him in that. But, at the same time, I wish that more hon. Members had been here to hear about a body of men—and women —which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, is one of the most valuable in the community. Our police forces are held high in the esteem of their fellow citizens, and have established a record which is second to none throughout the world. I fear—and I hope the House will forgive me—that I shall have to take some little time with my speech, but I want to deal with the subject as fully as I possibly can.
The main instruments for the preservation of law and order are the police, and I think we can count ourselves extremely fortunate that this important responsibility is in such good hands and that 633 the police service is fully maintaining a tradition of which we are all so proud. We have heard tonight many comments on the problems which face the police service, and, in particular, the problem of bringing certain of our police forces up to full strength.
The Amendment refers to the changes in social circumstances, and I appreciate that those changes have created problems in a number of callings where, before the war, the prospect of steady employment and a substantial pension attracted men and women of the required personal qualities in adequate numbers.
As the hon. Member for Gateshead, East pointed out, the police service has not been alone in feeling the impact of these changing social conditions. Ever since the war successive Administrations, in consultation with police authorities, have given constant and painstaking attention to the conditions of service of the police to ensure that the service would continue to attract the people with the necessary qualifications. When one is faced, as one is today, with recruiting difficulties, which are acknowledged on all hands, there are, I think, broadly speaking, three things that can be done. One can reduce the quality required, one can, within the limits of what is financially possible, improve the attractions of the job itself, and one can try by various means to do the essential jobs with fewer officers.
It has been generally accepted that the standard of character and of education which should be required in candidates for the police could not reasonably be reduced. That has been stressed by hon. Members. I notice that the hon. Member for Gateshead, East referred to the differing practices of the authorities in the question of height, and I am glad to be able to tell him that I have some figures here on that subject. He is not the only one who shares the view that it is not always the tallest who are the best.
There are 20 forces in England and Wales, compared with three in 1949, which take men at 5 ft. 8 in. Fifty-eight take men of 5 ft. 9 in., compared with 30 in 1949. Obviously, the hon. Gentleman's point of view is shared by people who know what is wanted. But there can be no question—and no one has seriously suggested it—of any reduction in quality, as far as character and education are con- 634 cerned, in candidates for the police force. Therefore, attention has been concentrated on the study of conditions of service and various measures to ensure that police officers are being used to the maximum advantage on police duties proper.
I shall try to explain as shortly as I possibly can the various steps that have been taken in these matters, but before coming to that I should like to give some particulars of the scope and nature of the problem which we have to face, and which has been referred to by many hon. Members. Everybody knows that there are serious shortages of men, but these should not be allowed to obscure the very considerable success that has attended the building up of the strength of police forces.
The number of men now in post in the regular police in England and Wales is 63,987, which is about 2,000 greater than at any time before the war. If account is taken of the considerable increases in clerical and other ancillary staffs who have released officers for essential police work, the real rise is actually greater. I took care not to call them civilians. The real rise is greater than 2,000.
Since 1946 there has been a net increase in police strengths of over 16,000 men, and the average intake of recruits since the war has been well above the average of the years before the war. But the substantial number of new recruits, let us face it, has been seriously offset by the serious losses through resignations. It is clear that the factors which impair recruiting tend also to increase resignations. The right hon. Gentleman gave figures, and I will not repeat them now. There is another factor which aggravates the situation, and that is the increase in responsibility which the police have been required to assume.
In a number of forces the strength still falls short of establishment, and establishments themselves are not everywhere as closely related to need as we could wish. The service in England and Wales is still short of nearly 9,000 recruits. Even this number, substantial as it undoubtedly is, would not be so serious if the deficiency were evenly spread, but, unfortunately, this is not so.
There are forces which are almost up to strength, but there are areas, as the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, 635 Exchange pointed out, mainly in London and in some of the big industrial centres, where a substantial increase in recruits is of the utmost importance. There are 24 forces out of the 126 in England and Wales where the deficiency in strength is higher than 12½ per cent. of the authorised establishment.
Looking at the situation broadly, the authorised main establishment of the forces has been increased from some 62,000 in January, 1946, to 72,795 in December, 1954. During that period the male strength increased from 46,614 in 1946 to 64,000 plus in 1954. Most of that gain was made in the earlier years of that period, and the difficulties in building up the strength have tended to increase in recent years.
The figures which I have given to the House relate to male officers, but as has been pointed out by many hon. Members, including the right hon. Gentleman, women police are taking an increasingly important part in the work of the services. In this respect the situation is more encouraging. In 1946, the authorised establishment of women police in England and Wales was 1,145. Today, it is 2,264 and the actual strength is 1,970. That is a much more encouraging picture than we get in the case of the men. Fortunately there is not the same difficulty in maintaining women police at full establishment, because recruits of a high quality are coming forward in every part of the country, which is a good thing.
There are not as many women with a long experience of police work as we might like, since many marry after a few years and leave the service. This is not surprising in view of the tribute paid by the right hon. Gentleman to their attractive appearance. As a result, the rate of recruitment and resignation is rather rapid in some forces. However, some married women are remaining with the service and capable leaders in the various forces are showing considerable ability.
I want to dispel any impression there may be that women police are a substitute or second-best for men. There are many aspects of police work for which women are more suited than men; indeed, they have shown beyond dispute that they play an essential and irreplaceable part in the modern police service.
636 I turn to the question of police cadets. The deficiency of men has been serious and persistent and there is the further consideration that large numbers of men will be eligible to retire on full pension in the next two or three years. It is against this background that the Government have decided to try new measures. It has been found that even in those areas where it is most difficult to recruit men as constables there are numbers of youths of a good standard of education and character who wish to take employment with the force as police cadets. Some of these cadets have completed their National Service and are beginning to return as constables to the force with which they were formerly employed. Inevitably, however, some of them decide to take other employment or to stay on in the Armed Forces, where they often gain commissions.
We have decided recently to make a change in view of the vital part played by the police in the preservation of law and order in peacetime, and in view of the tasks which would fall to their lot in the unhappy event of war. Here, I want to disagree with one thing said by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think there would be any question of police " dodging the column " in view of police duties in the possibilities we have to face. When we look at Civil Defence and at the measures which have had to be taken, including the use of the Armed Forces for Civil Defence, I do not think that anyone can doubt that we shall have to look to the police as an important factor in Civil Defence. It is an essential part of the service.
That is why up to 2,000 cadets under the proposed scheme may be exempted from National Service in the Armed Forces so long as they continue to serve as cadets, and subsequently as constables, in a regular police force. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that when they go into the police forces as constables they will do so, as now, at the age of 19.
No cadet will have his call-up deferred unless he wishes it, and if he leaves the police at any time before his 26th birthday he will immediately become liable for call-up.
§ Major Lloyd-George
That may be so, but it is at least 26. If he goes in for this scheme he is, in effect, taking on a period of service which is greater than some of the regular service before the First World War, because from 17 to 26 is nine years. The hon. Lady said that this was an experiment. Of course it is an experiment. She will be interested to know that out of 126 forces 102 are running this cadet scheme. We are watching it with interest, and we hope it will go some way to overcome the serious manpower difficulties with which we are faced.
§ Mr. Ede
I hope the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will permit me to say that I welcome the police cadet scheme. I admit that if war came the objection I raised might disappear, but I live in the hope that war will not come, and in that case what I suggested might occur in some of the most difficult districts.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I hope it will not. Because it is a disciplined force, I do not think it will. In any case, as the service is so vital for our national safety, I am sure that the experiment is worth while.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman deal with the argument which I developed at some length, that the idea of this cadet force was contrary to the principle of the citizen police force -the Oaksey argument?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I thought I had made it plain that a man joins as a constable at the age of 19. He cannot, in two years before then, have got into such a state that he ceases to be a responsible citizen. I cannot appreciate the argument of the hon. Gentleman. The young man goes into the force, if he is accepted, at the age of 19, and that is the age at which he joins now.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I do not think I shall pursue that point. I am permitted to have my own opinion, and it is that I do not think that will happen. I am not saying that the Oaksey Report is nonsense.
§ Major Lloyd-George
It was pointed out that the deficit in Liverpool alone is greater than the entire deficit in Scotland. Therefore, the same manpower problem does not exist in Scotland. The deficit in one city in the north-west of England is greater than that in the whole of Scotland, and half the deficit in Scotland is in Glasgow. So it is a somewhat different problem.
In the Metropolitan Police Force, the gap between male strength and establishment has caused my predecessors and myself considerable concern. Such matters as pay, pension and allowances are dealt with by regulations which apply, in general, to the police as a whole. Other matters, such as the recruitment and the employment of cadets, the employment of people other than policemen where possible to release police officers from duties for which the exercise of police powers are not necessary, the advertising and selection of candidates for the force, and so on, are constantly kept in mind both by myself, as the police authority, and by the Commissioner of Police.
One recent change is worthy of mention. The Commissioner of Police has recently decided, with my approval, to simplify the procedure for the selection of candidates to the force. Hitherto, the various stages of interview, examination and medical examination have taken two days, but it is now proposed to reduce this to one day by shortening the written examinations. While there is no question here of lowering the educational standards required of candidates, there are grounds for thinking that some suitable candidates have, by the previous arrangements, been put off from pursuing their applications.
I am also glad to be able to tell the House that my predecessor recently approved a settlement of long-standing difficulties about the arrangements for providing canteens in the Metropolitan Police district. The administration of canteens—the responsibility for deciding 639 where they shall be provided and how they shall best be run—has been handed back to the men, with whom it rested before the war. My noble Friend was able to recognise the important contributions which canteens can make towards maintaining the health and efficiency of the force by agreeing that during the next five years a contribution not exceeding £115,000 a year might be made towards the cost of the canteens from the Metropolitan Police Fund.
To return to the question of non-police staff, a police officer is, today, a highly trained and skilled man or woman. The cost of employing a policeman is high, and it is important, if we are to attract and retain the best type of recruit, that he should be used to the best possible advantage and should not be employed on work which does not specifically call for the exercise of police powers which he has been trained to use.
Members of police forces—this was referred to in the debate—used to be employed on work which did not call for the exercise of police powers or for the qualities associated with police duties proper. Scientists, clerks, and shorthand writers are all trained to perform tasks which are essential to the running of an efficient police service, but which are not police duties in the strict sense of the term.
All police forces in England and Wales now employ non-police labour either full-time or part-time, so that police officers can be released to perform proper police duties. At the end of the last month there were just under 6,200 full-time civilian staff—that is an easier term to use—excluding police cadets, compared with some 4,800 at the end of 1950. These figures do not include civilians employed at school crossings, who now ably supervise many crossings which used to be controlled by police officers.
I want now to refer to another matter which is raised in the Amendment, the question of pay and allowances. The Amendment calls particular attention to the need for improving the conditions of service of the police. The present Government and the previous Administration, together with local authorities, have tried hard in the post-war years to improve 640 conditions, and it is right that I should remind the House of some of the things that have been achieved. I think we sometimes forget how great the changes have been since the war, and I feel that it would be of some interest to the House, particularly as we are talking about conditions, that I should go through them.
Let me mention, first, the material benefits which the service now offers to the man of 19 or 20 who enters as a recruit. The starting pay is £445 a year as a constable, rising to £550 a year at the maximum, less 5 per cent. pension contributions. A London constable receives an extra allowance of £20 a year. I remember the point made on this by the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange, and I shall take note of it.
In addition to the £445 rising to £550 a year, a police officer is provided with a rent and rate-free house or quarters, or a tax-free rent allowance. The hon. Lady said she thought that some authorities were not doing all that they should. I am advised that it is mandatory upon authorities to do this. The police officer is also given a uniform or a plain clothes allowance, and a boot allowance, and he enjoys 18 working days' paid leave, plus public holidays.
After 25 years, he may retire with a pension at half pay; if he continues after 25 years, the pension rises for each six months of service to a maximum of two-thirds of pay after 30 years' service. The police pensions scheme is a very advantageous scheme, providing comprehensive benefits which are available at an earlier age and at less expense to the officer than many other superannuation schemes.
In moving the Amendment, the hon. Member for Gateshead, East referred to the less favourable pensions to police widows whose husbands died before 5th July, 1948. He was good enough to come to me with a deputation, and he knows well, as I told him, that this is a problem which has exercised my predecessors and involves very difficult questions of principle. As I have said, I received a deputation some time ago, and I am considering the arguments they presented, as I said I would, very closely. I said that I would approach the matter afresh, I have done so, and I hope shortly to be in a position to communicate with the hon. Member.
641 Apart from that special problem, one improvement which would supply a long-felt need is a contributory scheme to provide enhanced pensions for future widows. Proposals for such a scheme are at present being discussed by the Police Council.
Reference has been made today to those resigning from the force. Notwithstanding the favourable pensions scheme, a number of men leave the police force before qualifying for pension, and I have made a special inquiry, to which the hon. Lady referred, of certain of the larger forces which have manpower difficulties, in order to get an analysis of why men left.
In the forces of which I made inquiry, during the two years 1953 and 1954 1,477 men resigned before qualifying for pension, or, after deducting 108 who transferred to other home police forces, 1,369 men left. The hon. Lady has given the figures, and I will just give the percentages. They are as follows: 22 per cent. left because they thought the police duty was uncongenial; 13 per cent. mentioned domestic difficulties; 17 per cent. emigrated or joined a colonial force—most from the Metropolitan Police Force and Liverpool; 2 per cent. left in connection with discipline offences; 35 per cent. preferred other employment; 2 per cent. mentioned housing difficulties, which is rather interesting, because it is a low percentage; and 7 per cent. gave various reasons.
I now come to the question of working conditions. There have been changes in the working conditions of the police in the last few years, all of which have been directed at increasing the attractiveness of the service without lowering its standard. I think the House will agree that, taken together, they amount to a considerable improvement in conditions.
First, hours of work and holidays. At present, the policeman works at 48-hour week and an eight-hour day, including a meal break, which in 1949 was increased from half an hour to three-quarters of an hour. There is at present before the Police Council a claim for a reduction to a 40-hour week. Negotiations on that claim are now proceeding, and I know that the House will not expect me to say anything more about that today.
642 If an officer is required to work overtime, he is compensated either by time off or by payment. Before the war, time off was given only if the number of hours worked exceeded nine, and the time off from duty was equal to the overtime worked. Now, any time after the conclusion of the eight-hour day counts for overtime and is compensated for either at the rate of one hour for every three quarters of an hour overtime worked, or payment calculated on the same basis.
When a man is recalled to duty after his eight-hour tour, as sometimes happens, all the time spent in going to and from duty counts as overtime. When a man is recalled, or is required to work on his rest day, or on a public holiday, he is either compensated by a day and a half off in lieu, or by payment at time and a half. Before the war a policeman got two weeks holiday a year. In 1947 this was increased to three weeks, that is, 18 working days, and, in 1948, public holidays, which make an additional six days, were added. Those are the conditions so far as time is concerned.
Since the war there have been great strides in training. I think that this has done a great deal to improve the efficiency of the police service and to equip it to deal with its ever increasing problems and also to increase in its members a pride in their service and an increased awareness of its high tradition.
At the end of the war police authorities and the Government realised that special measures would be needed to train the large number of candidates who would be required to bring the depleted forces up to strength and they set up district training centres. These centres enable police authorities and chief constables in each of the eight police districts to concentrate their training facilities. They proved to be so successful that it was decided to continue them as a permanent arrangement after the post-war period. On being accepted for employment—I remember that before the war he was accepted for employment one day and went on duty on the beat the next—every recruit in whatever force goes to one of these centres for 13 weeks' residential training before he does any police duty at all. On his return to the force, his training continues on the ground under the supervision of experienced officers and 643 special atention is paid to his training until his probation period of two years is completed.
Higher training is provided at the Police College, which was established in 1948. Courses of six months' duration are provided there for selected officers of the rank of sergeant who are about to be promoted, or for newly promoted inspectors. Courses of three months' duration are provided for officers of the rank of inspector and chief inspector and there are shorter courses for more senior ranks.
The College is a lively and developing organisation and it has already made a marked impact on the efficiency and bearing of the service and commands the fullest confidence of all ranks. The Government acquired Bramshill House, in Hampshire, in 1953 as the future permanent home of the College and the Government have agreed to proceed as soon as possible with the new building at Bramshill which will be necessary for this purpose. The Police College is one of the most important developments in the police forces since the war and performs an essential part in carrying out the accepted policy that it is for the police service to provide its own officers.
There are, as has been said, some disadvantages attached to the police force which are inseparable from the nature of the service. We do not accept these disadvantages passively. We have done and are doing our utmost to mitigate them, but it is no good ignoring the fact that they are there. The police is and must be a disciplined service and must expect, and, in the last resort, exact, from its members a standard of conduct and general character above what is demanded from the community as a whole.
I might perhaps mention here that this consideration—that the police are a uniformed and disciplined service—was much in our minds when we decided on the deferment of call-up of police cadets. Whatever lowering of other standards there may be, the standard of conduct and character of the police officer must be maintained. Perhaps I might mention here the point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange about expunging small offences from a policeman's record. I am informed that smaller offences can be expunged after three years —are expunged, I think, after three years —and more serious ones after seven years.
§ Mrs. Braddock
That is quite contrary to my information. My information is that there is a complete refusal to issue a new duty sheet and that the duty sheet is always there and never altered. There may be additions, but there is no expunging of minor offences at any time. If, of course, that has been altered without anybody knowing about it, it is very useful to know.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I think there are differences between forces. Some forces destroy the record and others cross it out. That is the information I have, but I shall look further into the matter. But what can be done is to ensure that the discipline code is both fair and certain in its application. With the support of all ranks, the disciplinary procedure was overhauled in 1952 and a new code of regulations was adopted.
There is another important matter to which I shall briefly refer which must affect conditions of service, and that is the restrictions on the private life of the police officer. I know that the right hon. Member for South Shields attached great importance when he was Home Secretary to the removal of unnecessary restrictions on private life. It was at one time usual to require an officer to obtain the concurrence of the chief constable before he got married. I do not think that anyone will dispute that this condition is quite incompatible with modern ideas and it has been swept away. There used also to be restrictions on membership of clubs and other off-duty activities, adopted originally with the object of safeguarding the reputation of the service.
These matters are now accepted as more appropriate for the exercise of personal discretion than for detailed regulation. All these regulations were small in themselves and well intentioned, but their tendency was to segregate the police officer from the ordinary community, and I am glad to say that their removal has given rise to no difficulties.
Another cause of irritation, insignificant though it might appear, has been the nature of some of the work that policemen have been required to do in the past. That has been referred to by more than one hon. Member today. I am glad to say that they are no longer expected, for example, to clean out police stations, but there are many other duties of which we are all aware which are outside police 645 duties. A Committee recently examined the whole field of extraneous duties which, in the course of time, have fallen on the police and recommended that a number of them should no longer be performed. Those recommendations have been brought to the notice of police authorities.
Another point which has a tremendous bearing on conditions of service is that of the hours of work. A further point is that of shift work and recurring night duties. Both these hindrances are, as the right hon. Gentleman hinted, unfortunately an inherent part of police work. Some experiments have been made in staggering the hours of duty, and in new forms of policing which mitigate the boredom of police patrolling for it is boredom which is the greatest trial to the policeman on beat patrol. We are watching these experiments with interest.
At one time the normal method of policing the beat was in three shifts-6 a.m. to 2 p.m., 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., and 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the shift turning over at intervals of a week or a month. In recent years a number of forces have adopted staggered shifts. An analysis has been made of the need of police at particular times of the day, and the shifts are so arranged that the greatest number of men are on duty at times when they are considered to be most needed.
The 24 hours may be divided into five, six or seven overlapping shifts, and, while the primary object has been the most effective use of the available men in order to reduce preventable crime, it has been found that the system has, in some instances, been welcomed by the men, and by their wives, as reducing the incidence of duty in the period after midnight.
Team policing is another experiment which has shown its value in some areas. The essence of the system is that it does away with individual responsibility of the constable for a particular area or beat, and substitutes the responsibility of a group or section under a sergeant for a district. It is said that the system enables a greater variety of work to be done, and fosters individual keenness. It is not a universal substitute for the man walking the beat, but that these experiments are being made is indicative of the keen interest taken by chief constables in adapting their forces to present problems.
646 Another important matter which, undoubtedly, has a bearing on the attractiveness of the police as a career is housing. Since the Oaksey Committee reported, in 1949, police authorities in England and Wales have built more than 11,500 houses, making, with those built in the period 1945–1949, a total of about 13,000 additional police houses provided since the war. This is more than the total number of police houses which existed in 1939. Further new houses are at present being completed at the rate of about 2,200 a year. That shows a great improvement.
Although a uniform level of attainment by all police authorities has not been achieved, and there are still deficiencies in certain areas, notably where the general housing is also less satisfactory, it is, nevertheless, fair to say that so far as concerns England and Wales, the worst problems are now behind us. Figures for Scotland were given earlier by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary. In many places houses have been provided for police officers on the normal basis of individual tenancy; in others housing authorities have granted tenancies to the police authority. In others the housing authority has acted as agent in the construction of new houses. This collaboration has been greatly valued by police authorities.
The House may be specially interested in the situation in the Metropolitan Police district. In 1949, there were barely 1,500 dwellings for married police officers available in London. An objective of 4,000 quarters was set, and progress has been such that it has been possible to increase it to 5,000. Towards this new total there are now available in the Metropolitan Police district over 3,750 quarters and a further 1,350 are in the planning stage or under consideration.
Because of the density of building in London, the acquisition of sites is creating particular difficulty. There are still about 1,000 officers in the Metropolitan Police area urgently requiring quarters, and I am most anxious to see that these men are housed satisfactorily as soon as possible. Everything which can be done will be done.
I wish to say a word about police stations. There, again, we are up against the difficulty of accommodation in some of the older police stations. It is a matter of regret to us all that some policemen 647 will have to continue using old stations instead of stations designed to meet modern needs. I had the pleasure recently of opening a new police station in Birmingham, and the accommodation there is what we want in other parts of the country and what we hope to obtain over a period of years. In spite of the progress which we have made, there is still a great leeway to make up, and in the next five years I hope that we shall see substantial improvements.
I have been speaking about the improvements in the conditions of service and I think that the House will expect me to say something in general terms about the future, and in particular, to refer to an important and comparatively recent development, the establishment of the Police Council for Great Britain.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Police Council is functioning by agreement of all parties on a non-statutory basis, although we hope to make it statutory as soon as we can find the necessary Parliamentary time. But we shall be able to obtain the advantage of experiment before legislation is introduced, and I hope that we shall avoid any difficulties which might have arisen had the Council been established without any experience of the manner in which it would work.
The Police Council is a body on the Whitley model. It is charged with the negotiation of matters of pay, hours of work, annual leave and conditions of service for the police forces in Great Britain, and it may advise the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland on other matters affecting the service. Any of the constituent bodies can raise matters which are negotiable, or refer to the Council matters affecting the service on which they wish my right hon. Friend or myself to receive advice.
The Home Office does occasionally initiate something with the Council. That point has been raised. Not only has that been done, but it has been done on more than one occasion. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that the Council has been asked to consider things.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I think the right hon. Gentleman might complain that in those days there was sometimes too much " one-way traffic."
So far, the Police Council has considered three main claims. The first was a straightforward claim from the Police Federation, representing the constables, sergeants and inspectors, for an increase in pay; and an agreement was reached just over a year ago, after two meetings of the appropriate panel of the Council.
Then there came a rather more complicated claim by the Superintendents' Association, not only for an increase of pay but also for the abolition of the division of superintendents into two grades. This claim is a good example of the two functions of the Council in negotiation and advice. The claim for an increase in pay is negotiable; the claim for the abolition of grading is not, but is a matter on which the Council can advise.
My right hon. Friend and I have accepted the advice of the Council on grading, and agreement has very recently been reached on the pay claim. A claim by the chief constables for an increase in pay was referred to the independent arbitrators appointed by the Prime Minister, and, under the constitution of the Council, the decision of the arbitrators constituted an agreement which my right hon. Friend and I at once accepted.
A claim by the inspectors and chief inspectors is still before the council, as is also a claim for a 40-hour week to which I referred earlier in my observations. I hope that I have said enough to show that the setting up of the Police Council for Great Britain is a new development of major importance in the history of the police service. It enables the police themselves to take the initiative in raising matters concerning their conditions of service and to negotiate agreements on them, and to refer other matters to the Council or its appropriate panel and to share in the advice given to the Secretaries of State.
There are bound to be differences of opinion from time to time, but our experience so far suggests that they can be resolved in a friendly spirit. I have 649 great hope that the Police Council will do much to maintain and improve the status of the police service, to ensure the contentment of its members, and to enable our police forces to maintain the high traditions of efficiency, impartiality, integrity and helpfulness which distinguish the British police, and which has earned for them a deservedly high reputation.
I apologise to the House for the great length at which I have spoken. My only excuse is that I have tried to answer as many points as I could. Those points which I have not been able to answer I will look into later. I am sure that after what we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman we can expect that the Amendment will be withdrawn.
§ Major Lloyd-George
The right hon. Gentleman knows that I will look into it, but I certainly do not want to deal with the question at the moment.
§ Mr. Moody
In view of the information which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has given to the House I am fully satisfied that he is fully seized of the problems which we have mentioned today. With the concurrence of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I have listened to the debate with interest, and I was on the point of thinking that both sides of the House would be kissing each other because there was so much agreement. In listening to the debate I noticed that there was one section of the police force that was forgotten today. He is often a cartoon figure—that is the village policeman. People often forget, when watching a policeman conducting the London traffic, how much knowledge the village policeman is supposed to possess.
650 Although I cannot now raise the question of that neglect—I think that it is time that someone attacked the Government a little—in raising this matter of the neglect of the small farmer I should like, in passing, to pay tribute to the village policeman, who is of such great aid to the farmers at various times. It is often forgotten how much knowledge of agriculture and rural craftsmanship is needed by a skilled village policeman.
Having said these kind words, I am now going to say—I never say unkind words—a few sharp things about the Government and their neglect especially of the small farmer. When they fight a General Election—and they seem to be expecting another one soon—are they going to make the same kind of promises about my lady's shopping basket and to the farmer as they made at the last General Election?
I want to point out this evening, very briefly, that they have not even kept their promise to their strongest supporters in Britain, namely, the small farmer and the people of Britain's countryside. I remember vividly the last General Election; I enjoyed it and the cut-and-thrust of debates in the cattle market. There I heard the poor, honest hill farmers, who have to work hard and get very little income, as I shall soon show, honestly and implicitly believing in the election address of the party opposite.
I warned them, and I warn them again, but I now have evidence to back up my warnings. After five weeks of intricate negotiation, we have at last arrived at a price mechanism and a Price Review. While I am attacking, I also want to be strictly fair. I think that, taking all things into consideration, this Price Review has met, so far as is humanly possible, with the approval of the majority of the people in British agriculture. But the Price Review was so economically anchored that it did not really pay regard to the very small farmer of 10, 15, 20 and 30 acres.
It is a first-class Price Review for what. for lack of any other words I can think of at the moment, I would call the capitalist farmer. It is a first-class Price Review for the tycoon of the City who farms in the Cotswolds but who does not often come to Leek and into the hill country. He looks for much better territory. For 651 him, the Price Review is really excellent. But it is not so good for the small, hardworking farmer on the plains or in the hills, as I shall try to point out.
This machinery, which was introduced by the Labour Government in their Agriculture Act, will have to be used. Despite whatever silly speeches are made at General Elections, the Price Review must be used in the future economics of British agriculture because we cannot neglect agriculture. It is an important line of defence, and one which must be built up.
Three years ago, according to the Economic Survey, British agriculture saved Britain about £400 million in its balance of payments by the production of food at home, thereby reducing purchases from abroad. If this year we could save a little more in our balance of payments, not only would it strengthen our economy, but, just as if we could get another 10 million tons of coal, it would strengthen our bargaining power in international affairs.
However, we do not seem to be doing that. If one looks at the Economic Survey which came out yesterday—a good many people have missed it because of the sad fact that many newspapers have not had the opportunity of analysing it—we see that we are told, on page 55 of that document:Weather conditions for agriculture were very unfavourable during 1954.I remember the same sort of weather conditions in 1947 and 1948. The Labour Government were then accused of having caused them, but when we discussed the economy of British agriculture we were not allowed to mention the weather of 1947 and 1948. If we had introduced it into the Economic Surveys of those years it might not have been considered in the best of taste.
Nevertheless, it is now a recognised fact by hon. Members on both sides of the House that, strangely enough, the good Lord treats the Conservatives in the same way as he treats the Labour Party with his weather. As I have said, the Economic Survey states:Weather conditions for agriculture were very unfavourable during 1954. At the beginning of the year ploughing and cultivation were impeded, and this contributed to a reduction of about 500.000 acres in the tillage area, as compared with 1959 "—
§ Mr. Davies
Yes, " 1953." I was anticipating the Labour Party's return to power.In consequence of these conditions, the index of agricultural net output, now revised to 155 for 1953–54, is not likely to be higher than 153 in 1954–55.Paragraph 141 says:Broadly speaking, the new arrangements allow farmers to market their stock to the best advantage either through auction markets (liveweight sales) or by private treaty (mainly on a grade and deadweight basis). The Fat-stock Marketing Corporation, newly set up by the National Farmers' Union, has rapidly established itself as the largest single trader in slaughter stock.Paragraph 142 says:Marketing and disposal problems for the future include the adjustment of pig supplies to the seasonal requirements of the markets "—That is rather a neat way of saying that, despite the fact that farmers were en-now being told not to produce any more pigs. The Survey continues—and the development of a new form of egg marketing, probably under the Agricultural Marketing Acts…That is enough for the moment.
Here are two vital agricultural products in the hands of the small farmer, upon many hundreds of farms—pigs and eggs. They are two items of the agricultural economy which are now getting the least support and encouragement from the Government.
Let us take another aspect of this problem. I now quote from the " British Farmer," which says:Financially 1954–55 has been a bad year for the industry. While industrial prosperity has been increasing, actual farm incomes have fallen. Between 1953–54 and 1954–55 actual net farm incomes decreased by £40½ million, or 12½ per cent.I pause there, because I want that fact to sink in. This Government told Britain's farmers—and the Conservatives can afford to put forward much more publicity in the countryside than my poor party can—that they would uplift Britain's countryside and give it prosperity. Yet we find that, because of their policy, whilst there has been an increase in financial and industrial incomes, the income of the very backbone of Britain's defence and economy—agriculture—has decreased by 12½ per cent.
653 The burden of that has fallen not upon the large farmer, who has thousands of acres of land, but upon the small farmer, with between 10 and 70 acres. In fact, the number of bankruptcies were much higher last year than they were under the Labour Government or in the years before.
What are the Government doing about this serious agricultural and economic fact? Looking complacent, making long speeches and producing beautifully illustrated pamphlets in blue from the Conservative Party Central Office—the " horror comics " of agriculture. After allowing for the increased costs of feeding-stuffs for pigs and poultry, which are subject to special arrangements, we find that there has been a net increase in the Review of about £33½ million, but for the small man, looking at these huge figures, there is no comfort.
Since the 1954 Review, production costs have risen by £45½ million. The main increase, of course, has justly been in respect of labour, because the agricultural worker is gradually attaining his rightful place in the British economy. Poets and essayists have written about him, and politicians have made pontifical and pompous speeches about the wonderful British agricultural worker, but when it comes to the question of feeding him and giving him enough on which to keep his wife and children, or giving his children a secondary education or even an agricultural education, that is a different story.
When our Government came into power—[Laughter.] Let my hon. Friends observe the smiles coming from the other side of the House, but this is the truth. When we came into power for the first time, we gave, both to the farmer and to the agricultural worker, in our six years, more status than the party opposite has given them in 60. It is a fact.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells) rose—
§ Mr. Davies
Let me finish this very sharp argument, which is obviously bringing Government supporters to their feet, and I will give way. We have had a very placid Chamber this afternoon, and hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like this placidity.
Costs have risen by £45½ million, and the main increase has been in labour 654 costs, which have risen by £16.94 million. The feedingstuffs bill has gone up by £11.67 million, and the cost of seed and fertilisers has risen by £7.88 million. Before I give way to the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, I repeat, on this question of feedingstuffs and fertilisers, as I said in a speech in this Chamber a few days ago, that our small farmers today are surrounded by a lot of ogres and monopolies in the fertiliser industry, in the petrol industry, and also there are huge combines in the machine industry confronting the modern small farmer.
What is the party opposite doing to break the monopoly in fertilisers, to break the monopoly in oil, and to break the monopoly of the middlemen which is sucking the blood out of the honest Conservative, Liberal and Labour farmer working in this country today? Nothing at all. Nothing has been done to investigate these monopolies.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I thank the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) for his courtesy in giving way. He suggested a few moments ago in his speech that the late, lamented Labour Government had done something for the education of the children of those living in rural areas. Can he name one secondary modern school which was built in a purely rural area during the whole six years of office of the party opposite?
§ Mr. Davies
The Lord has delivered the hon. and gallant Gentleman into my hands. It so happens that I represent about 1,000 square miles of this lovely old country of ours, and in one rural area the Labour Government put forward plans for a secondary modern school up in the mountains, but the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh), who was Minister of Education, immediately stopped the building programme, and that school has not yet been built. That was one school in a rural area, and I am speaking within the range of my experience.
§ Mr. Davies
This is the type of question we get, " Why do you want to build it in the mountains? " I will tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman why: because the children living in those mountains 655 have to travel 15 miles to school, including 12 miles to Leek, in buses. During the last three weeks they have been stranded in a blizzard. Two village rural policemen became lost in the drifts looking for them. The children were travelling from the town where they were in school to Leek. For three years in succession these children have had to be put up in a village pub because they could get no further up into the mountains. And the hon. and gallant Gentleman asks, " Why do you want to build the school in the mountains? " Because these children were born in the mountains and live in the mountains.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I did not know that there were any mountains in the hon. Gentleman's constituency in Staffordshire.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. and gallant Member must allow me to go on with my speech.
The House has not been able to discuss agriculture. We have now reached the position in which we get up at Question Time and ask the Leader of the House, " When are we to have a full-scale debate on agriculture? " and we are always put off. We are told to arrange one for a Friday, which is private Members' time. There was also a Motion on the Order Paper a few afternoons ago; but we can never get this Government to give a couple of days for a debate on agriculture.
Are the Government going into a General Election without telling the brightest jewel in their crown, the countryside voters, what they are going to do? Are they going to leave everything to be the subject of only nebulous promises? Has not the time come for the Conservative Central Office to produce more promises for the small farmer? What happened to the promises made last time to the small farmers, who are the bulk of the people on the land?
At the last Census it was shown that there were 1,080,000 males and females in agriculture and horticulture in Britain. About 712,000 of them were employed, and 81,000 were tractor drivers. More than 250,000 of them were working on their own account. They included not only the farmer, but his wife and sons, whose incomes are never taken into 656 account. If we analysed the average agricultural income we should find that those farmers were getting less than £400 a year after they had paid all their debts.
I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans), who has talked about agriculture as the " featherbed " industry, because from 80 per cent. to 90 per cent. of British farming is done by hard-working honest people. The man who has a good farm often has a good wife. Her services are not taken into account when these figures are given in Economic Surveys. There are, therefore, a quarter of a million farmers who, with their wives, are working on their own account—with, perhaps, one or two employees. From the national income Blue Book I think it is clear that they are not getting more than £400 a year all in.
What is the policy of the Government? This is not only an economic, but a social —and from the point of view of the country's defence, a strategic—question. I assume that it is accepted that, in an industry in which one has to purchase commodities, the big man has the small man at a disadvantage. That applies even more where a quick sale is needed. What is the present position of the small farmer in regard, first of all, to selling? Is the small farmer better off because we have so-called free markets, or is he once again slung into the economic chaos of the old laissez faire capitalism?
§ Mr. Archer Baldwin (Leominster) rose —
§ Mr. Davies
I will give way in a moment.
What is happening as a result of the so-called free market? Once again the small farmer and his wife have to push their wares more cheaply in markets often ten or twenty miles further away than those they previously used; because already rings have been formed at the cattle markets and auctions of the countryside.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I should like to put the hon. Member right on this matter. The small man is not at the mercy of a free market. He has the opportunity of selling his stock entirely through his own Fatstock Marketing Corporation. He need not go to a market at all. So it is not correct to say that he is left to the mercy of the big man.
§ Mr. Davies
Yes, if it can take it. Nor do I think that is quite true of eggs and bacon.
This is important to both sides of the House, whatever politics the farmers sitting opposite me may have. [Laughter.] I say that knowingly, because it is very difficult to ascertain the politics of half the farmers in Britain, though sometimes it is useful to be a member of the Conservative Party, because increased sales might result.
According to the 1950 Census of Distribution, foodstuffs wholesalers had a gross profit margin of £60 million on a turnover of £644 million. They paid £151 million in wages and salaries and about the same on transport. That is not a bad rake-off on £644 million, but it is the small farmer, the horticultural producer, and the housewife who are paying.
What is the Government's policy on wholesale distribution? This is something which has been discussed for 40 years, and though my party has already started to think about it I have not seen anything produced by the tycoons of the Conservative Central Office.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South) rose—
§ Mr. Davies
I am glad to see hon. Members opposite are wakening up, but my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has an important subject to raise on the Motion for the Adjournment, and I do not think it fair to him that I should keep on giving way.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
Perhaps my hon. Friend will give way to me. I hope that he will keep the benches opposite somnolent. If he wakens them up my Adjournment Motion will go for ever.
§ Mr. Davies
We have sought the advice of the British Co-operative movement, and have suggested that co-operative methods of distribution could be adopted but nothing has come from that.
It is even more aggravating to be surrounded by big trusts. Farming may be poor, it may be subsidised and it may have many small men in it, but curiously enough its suppliers and purchasers are 658 all mighty. The firms in the fertiliser trade, the machine and machine tool industry, are big, as also are the oil combines, but farming is supposed to be poor. It is quite obvious there is something wrong here, and this House owes it to the farmer to penetrate these monopolies and secure reductions in prices.
Let us consider fertilisers. Their price has gone up by 75 per cent. since 1949. Although Imperial Chemical Industries, in its reply to Transport House, denies the figures that were given, it cannot deny the fact that the price of these fertilisers has increased three-quarters since the middle of 1949. Then there is Unilever, which handles feedingstuffs on a world basis to the extent of £104 million, over and above other products in the food industry. It made a profit of £77 million in 1953. Yet we have perpetually to subsidise agriculture without looking at this matter.
Enough fuss is made about subsidising council houses. If a man with £15 a week is discovered as a tenant of a council house dear ladies belonging to the Conservative Party write long illiterate letters to the local papers about these people. But they say nothing about these profits. Members of the Housewives' League, during its period of power, rode from Scotland and Wales in buses decorated in red, white and blue to the House of Commons to tear up ration books and put them on bonfires outside Westminster Hall. But quietly the League accepts these profits and prices, and says nothing about these monopolies which are pushing up the prices which housewives have to pay today.
My last point concerns the mechanisation of the small farm. The rate of accidents in agriculture, as I shall show in my speech tomorrow morning, is higher than in any other industry. Some of these people smirk before they know the facts. It is as silly as saying, why build a school in the mountains.
Let me read this extract from " The Times." It is a sedate newspaper which unfortunately is out of print at the present moment. But this is what it said:Farming is more vulnerable and complex than it was before the war. Mechanisation and the impact of science have been the mainsprings of the rapid rise in both production and productivity of the past 15 years. But they have made farming less self-contained "—659 this is the problem to be faced by both sides of the House—the farmer now buys oil for his tractor instead of growing oats for his horses. They have swelled his fixed costs—based on constant 1945–1946 prices, the industry's annual bill for machinery depreciation is 2½ times pre-war. They have added, in innumerable ways, to the day-to-day burden of management.For these small farmers that burden is very real indeed. To drive tractors one needs petrol, and in the half-year to 30th June, 1954, Royal Dutch Shell, for instance, made £124.7 million in profit, an increase of 10½ per cent. I could bring Roumanian petrol to this country, if the Government would give me a licence. We could also get Russian oil products, though everybody might think that the local motor cars would take on a hammerand-sickle disease, or something like that. But it is time something was done, because the oil industry is holding the farmers to ransom, and we should have the power to tackle the monopoly in the British oil industry.
I should like to say something about bankruptcies. It is a fact, as was mentioned in another place on 28th January, that in 1954 the number of bankruptcies in agriculture was higher than ever. And in power were this Government who made rich promises to Britain's countryside.
§ Mr. Davies
Some hon. Members can understand these points quickly, but I want to impress this on hon. Gentlemen opposite in view of the fact that they ask why we want schools in the mountains.
How does the small farmer build up his capital resources? How can he do this out of a gross income of £400 or £500 a year? We are told of the importance of this by the Institute of Directors, by the chairmen of big firms. It is true of all small firms and small farms, and it is still more true of the latter. We do not want to see our small farmers losing their capital and dragging on to bankruptcy. This loss is a loss in skill, a loss in good will, and it is an irreparable loss to the nation, whatever our politics may be.
What policy can we adopt to save the small farmer from bankruptcy? In brief, we need co-operation amongst the farmers. I think also that the organisa- 660 tion set up by the National Farmers' Union is worthy of note by this House. I am referring to the Credit Services Unit, which helps the small farmer whose project is legitimate. I hope sincerely that the Government will do all they can to strengthen that unit.
Lastly, I believe that we must do something to cut out the great waste of the profit of the middleman. While we might guarantee an nonest profit, I wonder sometimes how honest are these profits. I remember that when I studied logic—and may I say to Saxons that Celts do study logic sometimes—we talked of the undistributed middle, which we learned was a kind of silent partner.
Therefore, I appeal to this Government to tell us clearly what is their policy for the small farmer because the Leader of the House seems to be afraid to allow us to have a debate. Whenever the General Election may come, I assure the party opposite that it will never again get as many votes in Britain's countryside as it had at the last Election.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Denys Bullard (Norfolk, South-West)
I am glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). I thought a few times that he was more partisan than he need be, but he more than made up for that by his good humour, and he has raised an important question.
My only wish is that the hon. Gentleman might have addressed himself more particularly to it, rather than making attacks on various monopolies, justified though some of them may be. I wish he had made more detailed and positive suggestions for solving the problem of helping the small farmer without making things unduly good for people who farm bigger acreages, on good land, as I happen to do myself. I wish that the hon. Gentleman had given us suggestions for overcoming this supreme difficulty in agricultural policy.
I regard the matter with great seriousness, partly because I come from small farming stock and started with 50 acres of land—good land. I grant, and different from some in Staffordshire—and partly because there are a very great number of small farms in my constituency which are also of a different kind from those in the hon. Member's constituency. By 661 looking at the figures one sees that this is a supremely important factor in British agriculture, because out of 380,000 holdings in England and Wales listed in the Agricultural returns, 300,000 are under 100 acres. It may be said that some of those are not agricultural holdings at all, and that may be true, but the predominance of the small farmer in the British farming system is something of which anybody responsible for policy must never lose sight.
There are fundamental problems inherent in the small farming system. There is the difficulty about capital, about:over-capitalisation, and the big costs 'entailed in equipping a small farm today. There is the difficulty over sharing the machinery which is required. I have been concerned with co-operative machinery systems, and I know how very difficult it is to arrange for the machines to be shared among a number of producers.
Therefore, in order to comply with modern farming conditions, the capital cost of a small farm can be very high. There is also vulnerability to weather. The fact that the farmer is almost invariably strained financially to the utmost in equipping his farm means that it is difficult to ensure that the reserves to carry him over from one season to another are sufficient to enable him to withstand a difficult season like the one which we have just had.
Credit facilities might overcome some of the problem. There is something to be said for the extension of credit facilities for the small farmer, but we must bear in mind that by nature he is not a borrower and he likes money in his pocket. Having been brought up in extreme suspicion of borrowed money, based probably on many generations of experience in my family, I understand his point of view, although I believe it is sometimes a mistaken one in modern conditions.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
Would the hon. Gentleman favour a land bank being created to give small farmers loans on cheap terms for specific objects, such as the erection of new farm buildings—for fixed investment in the actual property?
§ Mr. Bullard
I do not know that I should like to say that I was in favour 662 of a land bank, but I think that the National Farmers' Union effort is a good one, and that a case can be made out for special credit facilities for the small farmer. It is, however, very necessary to ensure that the unit is credit-worthy, and special measures are needed in that respect, but, broadly speaking, a case can be made out.
I am sure that the primary requirement is money in the bank or money in the pocket. His returns are what the farmer will look at. The small farmer is, generally speaking, concerned either with milk production or livestock rearing, or both, in, say, the West of England and the North; or, in the East, he is a vegetable, potato or sugar-beet grower, being engaged in intensive arable cropping. Broadly speaking, those are the two lines open to the farmer.
Let us look at the price mechanism, to which the hon. Gentleman referred in general terms, though I do not think he brought it down quite closely enough to the cases with which his Amendment was concerned. Let us take the milk price, for instance. As hon. Members will know, there is a special provision in the system of payment for milk whereby the first 500 gallons in the summer and 400 gallons per month delivered in the winter are subject to a special price bonus. That is a deliberate measure to help the small farmer.
It is a thing which the strict economist, I have no doubt, will think terribly bad. In fact, I have heard many people speak against this provision. It gives a man, on the first 400 gallons of milk produced, a special bonus, at present amounting to 3d. per gallon. That is a positive measure for the small milk producer. Suppose the same man or his neighbour is also concerned with the rearing of stock, not with the fattening, but the rearing. Under the last Price Review the calf subsidy—restored by this Government—has been raised from £5 to £7 10s., and that gives him money early in the rearing process, which is of extreme value to him.
I see that the hon. Member for Leek is leaving the Chamber. I hope that he does not wish to be discourteous. I am trying to direct my argument to his problem. He dealt too much with generalities, and I was trying to come to the particular items. I hope that he will not go away to correct his speech just now, because 663 that will wait for a little while longer. Very definite, positive measures have been taken to help the small farmer with livestock. They may be inadequate, and I shall probably always contend that help for the agricultural industry is inadequate so long as I am a Member of this House, because I think it is supremely important.
We now come to the other class of small farmer, who in my experience, and certainly, in my part of the world, is concerned with potatoes, with sugar beet and with horticultural crops. There is still a fixed price for potatoes this year, and the Potato Board, subject to the consent of the House, is to operate for another year. For sugar beet there is a contract price, which, incidentally, has been raised this year. The difficulty with small farmers in my area is to deal with problems like sugar-beet eel-worm and potato eel-worm —technical and rotational problems—rather than price problems.
The Government have raised the tariffs on many forms of horticultural produce. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), who speaks a great deal and very knowledgeably on these matters, put a question on today's Order Paper to ask the President of the Board of Trade if he would reduce tariffs on cauliflowers and cabbages. It so happens that, because of the long cold season the cabbage supply is getting short; incidentally, the price has not been high during the cold weather, though the winter has been so long that it is not surprising that prices are rising. I do not think that the hon. Member's suggestion of permitting more imports would be particularly helpful to the small farmer.
I wish to refer briefly to pigs and poultry. The hon. Member for Leek overlooked the fact that in the Price Review the egg price has been increased by I d. a dozen. Perhaps that is not a magnificent increase. A penny a dozen does not sound very much, but it is an increase, and he must bear in mind that the small farmer has improved his methods of production enormously over the last year or two. I can testify that on many small farms in my area, in the Fen area particularly, a number of poultry houses are run intensively; they are lit up at night and are extremely efficiently run. Production has increased by leaps and bounds 664 over the last year or two, and has provided an extremely valuable supply to the poultry side of the small farming industry.
An effective point about pigs was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) in an intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Leek. My hon. Friend said that the Fat-stock Marketing Corporation would, in fact, take a single pig from a holding. I admit that there are aspects of pig marketing which are not satisfactory, but if the pig is up to quality and the farmer has previously supplied pigs of good quality the Fatstock Marketing Corporation will send transport for a single pig. That is illustration of the fact that the small farmer has an alternative, with a definite price, if he decides not to use the market.
One of the factors which hit the small producer was that the price of young pigs fell. Nevertheless, the guaranteed price for pigs has been of great assistance to small farmers. That I think is the answer on the question of pigs and eggs.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
Would the hon. Gentleman consider it impolite of me if I left the Chamber now, because, having been here for a few hours, I want to eat?
I imagined that the hon. Gentleman's interest in this matter was so great that he would be prepared to wait for a few moments to hear the rest of my speech. In the course of my agricultural pursuits as a farmer I have often gone without my dinner, and tea as well. No doubt all the hon. Gentleman's Friends are eating already. There are very few present on the benches opposite to support him, at the moment.
§ Mr. Bullard
I do not want to detain the House for much longer, but I do not propose to wander off and to discuss some of the arguments which the hon. Gentleman used, because many of them were not relevant to the topic which I am anxious to discuss, which is the possibility of giving special help to the small farmer.
My concern is that there should be more small farmers. I have always taken a great interest in the smallholdings movement. It is a matter of regret to me that we are not making faster progress. In Norfolk there have been one or two additions to 665 the smallholdings estate. In Huntingdonshire the other day a farm of 200 acres of good land was bought—all smallholdings must be of good land to be successful —which is to be added to the smallholdings estate in that county. These are good developments. Rather than decry all that has been done and say that it affects the small farmer adversely, I say that I want to see more small farms established for people who are waiting for them.
I was interested when the hon. Member talked about monopolies. There is such a thing as a monopoly in land. He talked about being surrounded by the big corporations. In Northumberland recently the Co-operative Wholesale Society bought 5,000 acres of land. Good luck to it. I am sure that it will farm it extremely well, but that is not exactly a movement to help the small farmer.
There is a monopoly in land as well as in oil and the other commodities which the hon. Gentleman mentioned. I wish that, instead of decrying the position of the small farmer, the hon. Gentleman had applied his efforts to aiding me in what I want to obtain—an increase in the number of small farms.
I hope that I have not given the impression that I am complacent about this matter. I began by saying that anybody who takes a small piece of land to work it is taking a very big risk. That will always be so, no matter what Government are in power. Such a man will have to contend with the weather and with seasonal difficulties. He will always have a difficult job.
We know that there is room for improvement in marketing, but the hon. Gentleman might have given the Government credit for setting up the inquiry into market gardening by a Committee headed by Lord Runciman, the membership of which was announced recently. That should eventually lead to an improvement in the position. We ought not to divide ourselves between the two sides of the House on this important matter. I believe that the policy which the Government have pursued, though not perhaps always perfect, is an honest attempt to meet this problem.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Bullard) may be interested to know that 666 I am so interested in agriculture that I have had nothing to eat since teatime. I have remained in the Chamber awaiting an opportunity to say a word on behalf of the small farmer.
It may appear strange that we on these benches should attempt to advocate the part played by the small farmer. It is not my intention to ascend to the mountain top, but to go down into the plains and valleys where farming is done. The small farmer plays an important part in many aspects of our national life and particularly in the production of food. No one should underestimate his importance.
I am not now referring to what we sometimes term the " stick and dog farmer." I mean the honest-to-goodness farmer who is doing his best to make a livelihood for himself and his family. If such a man finds himself in difficulty, it is the duty of the Government, of whatever complexion, to assist him. I know that some people will not agree with me about that, but every farmer, like every county, is different. The counties differ in their situation and condition as do the farmers in their faces.
I do not propose to discuss monopolies or price reviews, but I am concerned about the correct restoration of the land, which is a matter of paramount importance. We cannot produce food without good land. In many of our mining areas farmers are playing their part under exceptional difficulties, because their farmland has either been diminished by opencast mining or undermined by deep mining for coal, causing subsidence.
I come from a district which has provided deep-mined coal for the nation since 1546. For over 400 years men have been winning coal in that area. The nation has had the benefit and so has industry, but the farmer tilling the land is finding it difficult to continue to produce essential crops, such as were grown in past years, because of the subsidence of his land. Early in 1941 great inroads were made on farmland in my constituency because of opencast mining. The Minister of Fuel and Power made it difficult for small farmers to make a livelihood.
The result was that on 17th February, 1949, I put a Question in the following 667 terms to the Minister of Fuel and Power, asking him whether he wouldconsider the advisability of setting up a Departmental committee of his Department and that of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to give consideration to the complete and satisfactory restoration of the land, after the operations, of the Opencast Mining Branch of his Department, with the object of bringing a degree of contentment to those whose land had been requisitioned for opencast mining."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1949: Vol. 461, c. 1312.]In reply, the Minister said that he could not. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), who is now present, took part in the debate which subsequently followed that Question.
I want to be fair to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. There has been some improvement in the restoration of the land which was taken from these farmers by the Opencast Mining Branch of the Ministry. We anticipated—and, rightly, our anticipation was based upon information which we had received—that opencast mining would come to an end in 1951. That was the forecast, and, therefore, having only two years to wait, from 1949 to 1951, we thought we would make the best of it.
But what do we find? We find that now, in 1955, opencast mining is still going very strong. It may interest hon. Members if I enumerated the effect which the work of the Opencast Mining Branch has had on the small farmers in my division. Windy Arbour Farm has had 90 acres of its total of 160 acres requisitioned. How can one expect that small farmer to make a livelihood if we take half his farm away from him?
Then there is Maddox Farm, with 109 acres. Practically the whole of that farm was requisitioned, and the farmer who had worked on it for 50 years—and his father before him—had to sell his stock, his dairy cows, everything, because the farm was taken from him. Orrit Farm, which had 161 acres, had 51 acres taken for opencast mining. Harvey House Farm had 52 acres, 46 of which were taken by the Ministry, and another farm in North Ashton, a part of my constituency had 80 acres, of which 20 acres were taken.
It is true that some of the acreage requisitioned by the Opencast Mining 668 Branch has been restored to those farms, but as one who is interested in horticulture and agriculture, I do not think that we shall ever restore that land to what it was originally. There we see the effect of a Government Department not doing all that it should do in making it less difficult for the small farmer.
I have a great respect for the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. He knows in his heart of hearts that the Ministry of Agriculture and the war executive committees have not done what they should have done to assist small farmers. It is true that they have done something, but that something is not enough, and that is why I have waited here all afternoon and evening for the opportunity to ventilate a grievance which has been manifest in my division since 1941, and even earlier.
A few weeks ago the Opencast Mining Branch came into the Billings Higher End district of my constituency to take over the last bit of real agricultural land that is left. It has taken most of the land in that part of the district, and it is now coming to take out the last bit. I deeply regret that opencast mining is still continuing. I know that people will say, " Why do you not get your deep coalminers to produce more? " They are producing more, but I think that more care should be exercised and more attention paid to these small farmers who have been farming all their lifetime, and their forbears before them, to see that they receive the assistance which the Government can give them.
I am not now pleading for a subsidy. That has been done at a higher level, and I am not going to indulge in that. We have some splendid technical officers and surveyors and a lot of talent in the Department, and they could help these small farmers if they were prepared to do so. I am not going to attack the Government. I am merely pleading that the Department should help those people who are in need of help, and who, in the past, have given of their best.
The circumstances of the country are such that they have had to yield their land and sell their stock. They want to get it back if they can, but they can only get it back to the position which they occupied before 1941 if a generous and honest effort is made to help them in the difficult times through which they are 669 passing. I hope that the Minister will respond to my appeal.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)
In the very few minutes that I have remaining to me, I will try to deal with the major issue put by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), but may I say briefly to the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) that I personally have taken a great deal of interest in this problem and that in the time of the previous Administration I paid visits to these opencast sites. As a result of those visits we were able to work out a new and improved technique of restoration of the sites, and I believe that we shall get that land back again into good productive condition within a period of five to ten years after it has been opened.
Bearing in mind that we need the coal, and that we cannot get enough deep-mined coal, I think that the present method of opening and restoring the land is just about as good as one can use. I entirely agree that it is a terrible thing to see and a dreadful thing for the farmer, but we have done our best to see that the land is restored.
The hon. Member for Leek made, I thought, a very entertaining speech. I could not help thinking that the electorate of Leek, even if they did not get many facts about the small farmers, would get a good deal of entertainment. What he tried out in the belief of what is to happen in the coming months seems to me to have been a very healthy exercise. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is now duly refreshed and strengthened by some of the food about which he has been speaking, and will be able to cope with what I have to tell him. I also wish to say a word of congratulation to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Bullard) who made his customary well-informed speech, which was most constructive and helpful.
The position of the small farm is indeed one of first importance in our agricultural economy. About two-thirds of all our farms are small farms. In the United Kingdom, out of a total of about 360,000 commercial farm units, roughly 250,000 are under 100 acres in size, so it is quite clear that the large majority of our farms are small ones. They have made a most 670 notable contribution to our general production and to the splendid increases we had in the war years and the post-war years.
I now want to give some figures from the indices of production, to correct an impression which the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) gave on Monday night. I warned him that I should be doing so tonight, but he was, unfortunately, not able to be in his place. He knows that I am going to give certain figures. On Monday he mentioned rather a surprising figure, which hon. Members may have heard. He said that in the years from 1947–48 to 1951–52—during the term of office of the previous Government—food production increased by 5 per cent. per annum, compared with only 1 per cent. per annum under this Government.
The facts are that, starting from 1945–46 and finishing in 1950–51, there was an increase in the index from 130 points to 143—that is, 16 points in six years. That makes an average increase of 2⅔rds points per annum. During 1951–52, of which year four months—of the farming year, beginning on 1st June for this purpose—was under a Labour Administration, there was an increase of 6 points.
Not more than half that increase could possibly be attributed to the Labour Government, as the greater part of the year was under our Administration. Consequently, if we take a starting point half-way through 1951–52—with an index of 146 points—and end on 31st May of this year, we find that there has been an increase of about 10 points in about three and a half years. The average increase per annum is, therefore, not very different from that which occurred during the previous six years.
In addition, it is well known that the actual index this year is considerably down because of the exceptional weather of the previous year. It is fair to give these figures. They can be examined by anybody. They are now upon the official record, and I think that the right hon. Member for Don Valley, to say the least, was a little selective.
Now I pass to the business that is actually before us—the problem of the small farmer. Let us see how he has been faring. In 1950–51, the average income of the farmer on a farm of less than 50 acres 671 was £350 per annum. In 1953–54, which is the last year for which we have reliable figures—they take some little time to come in—he was receiving an average of £479 per annum. Therefore, from 1950–51 to 1953–54 he had an increase in income of 37 per cent.
I now turn to farms of between 50 and 100 acres. Their average income in 1950–51 was £479, and it had risen to £757 by 1953–54, which is an increase of about 58 per cent. Over that period therefore, there was a substantial increase in the incomes of small farmers. The year 1954–55 was noted for its exceptional weather conditions. I would remind the hon. Member for Leek that although other years have been bad, 1954–55, according to the records of the meteorologists, gave us the worst farming weather we have had for fifty years.
Undoubtedly the small farmers, especially those in the west and north, took rather more than their fare share of the setback. It is undoubtedly the fact that many small farmers had a much bigger setback than the average of 12½ per cent. for the industry. I do not doubt that the figures, when we get them, will show that there was a significant reduction of income for small farmers during the last year.
The hon. Member for Leek is perfectly right in disagreeing with the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans), and in saying that on the average small farm, where the farmer and his wife work on their own, there is no feather-bedding in any year—and certainly not in a year like last year.
§ Mr. Harold Davies rose—
§ Mr. Nugent
The hon. Member must allow me to try to complete my speech. I have only another five minutes, and a lot of ground to cover.
What has been put to us is what are we doing to help the small farmer. The hon. Member made the point that cheap loan facilities should be made available to help him, but my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West rightly made the rejoinder that the average farmer is not a man who is an easy borrower, especially the small farmer. In fact, the business of borrowing money to use it productively, when one intends to 672 repay it, is hard work, because one must not only earn a living while using it, but must also earn enough to pay it back, and anyone who has tried to start a business knows what hard going that is.
One really has to start at a different point in order to see how to help the small farmer, and the point at which to start, in my opinion, is to look at the farm to find out how we can help the farmer to make it a unit with a greater earning power and to bring him a greater net income. We have to see how production can be intensified so that the farmer will do better out of it, and, having made a plan which will enable him to do that, and having worked out a programme for a period of years in which he can do it, see what can be done to help him to finance it. The amount of finance which he needs in starting that operation is not very great, and the farmer can usually raise it from the banks, merchants, from friends, and so on.
What we have done has been to develop the farm management advisory side very considerably in recent years, so that we are now able to advise the farmer specifically how to set about the management of his farm so as to get both greater production and a greater income for himself. We give him advice, not only on the farming process, but on actual business management and the planning of farming operations. We have set up pilot farms in different counties so that he can see these plans working on the farms of some of his friends who have gone in for them. This applies particularly to the smaller farmers, and the response has been quite admirable. In many cases, production and returns have increased by 50 per cent., sometimes by 100 per cent. and even more, by this sound advice on how the farms can be improved.
What we have done particularly to to help the whole of this process is to restore the production grants; the ploughing grant, the calf subsidy and the fertiliser grant, all of which help the farmer at the beginning of the process by putting cash into his hands to ensure that he develops production and receives a benefit from those developments.
In the recent Price Review, we have given an additional £11½ million for this particualr purpose, so that the total of production grants is now over £60 million per annum. We are giving the 673 farmers assistance which is more valuable than any question of cheap credit, because we could not possibly give cheap credit which would give him an additional £60 million a year. That is something which is really helping him and also encouraging him to do what he ought to do in his own interests and in the interests of the nation.
The hon. Gentleman might well reflect, when he is criticising the Government, that it was his party that removed ploughing grants, the calf subsidy and the fertiliser grant. They destroyed them all. When criticising the Government for what he considers they have not done, he ought to be aware of what we have, in fact, done. As well as that, we have made price awards which have given a guaranteed price level which will ensure a fair return for all the main farming commodities. Then, we have given the farmers the opportunity of restoring their producer marketing boards, and to set up a new one, for instance, in eggs, which allows them to sell their produce in the most beneficial and efficient markets. All these things are specifically helping the small farmers.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Committee Tomorrow.