HC Deb 25 April 1958 vol 586 cc1293-5

11.7 a.m.

Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)

On a point of order. I must ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, in connection with a communication which I have received from yourself about a Motion relating to the powers of chief constables which stands in my name on the Order Paper and which is due to come before the House on Monday. You said that the Motion goes beyond the terms of my notice. If I rephrase the Motion so that it does not go beyond the original terms of notice, may I then expect that the Motion will not be ruled out of order? If your answer to that question is in the negative, Mr. Speaker, may I receive your advice as to what machinery I can use to bring before the House of Commons any questions affecting provincial police?

[That an inquiry is desirable into the personal powers, capacities and previous training which influence the selection and appointment of chief constables, having regard to their far-reaching authority and their relations with Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary and the public in general.]

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member was successful in the Ballot and gave notice that he would draw attention to the powers of chief constables. At that time, I had doubts whether that would be an appropriate subject to discuss on Supply because of the possibility of legislation, but I had to wait until the hon. Member expanded his Motion. This he has done with great ingenuity, I must say, but, nevertheless, he has expanded it to deal with matters about the appoint- ment and selection as well as the powers of chief constables. The Motion also deals with their personal qualifications. These matters go beyond the terms of his notice.

In a Motion of this sort that the hon. Member seeks to move as an Amendment in Supply there are three hurdles which he must surmount. The first is that the terms of the Amendment which he proposes to the House must be within the terms of the notice which he has given. If it exceeds those terms, it is out of order. The second hurdle is that, this being Supply, the subject raised must be one for which a Minister is responsible. The third hurdle is that the grievance must not involve legislation for its remedy.

The hon. Member fell down on the first of these hurdles. He now asks me how he can deal with the matter which he wishes to raise and, at the same time, keep in order. I know the subject matter, because the hon. Member made a most gallant but unsuccessful effort to raise it on the Adjournment on 29th May last. I remember the circumstances perfectly well.

The crux of the hon. Member's difficulty is that the control of local police forces and chief constables is in the hands of the local authority. It is a question of considerable controversy whether that should be changed so as to make a Minister in this House responsible for them. That would mean legislation. At present, the Home Secretary's powers do not include responsibility for local police forces.

Therefore, the only advice that I can give to the hon. Member—and I am anxious to help him to raise the matter that he wishes to raise—is that he can, of course, proceed by way of a Bill. He can ask leave to introduce a Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule, telling the House exactly what alteration in the law he desires it to make. He can put down a Motion stating again exactly what he wants the House to resolve. That would not be shackled by the prohibition against topics involving legislation or for which there is no Ministerial responsibility.

A Motion put on the Order Paper and framed in proper terms can be debated, if it succeeds in getting a place. There are still some days left for private Members' Motions, such as we have today, on a Friday. The hon. Member, if he ballots hopefully, may yet be successful.

If he again successful, he would be trammeled by the rule about Ministerial responsibility or legislation, but he could discuss his Motion and tell the House exactly what he wanted it to resolve. Under our rules, this is not a matter which he could raise either on Supply or on the Adjournment. I have given him the best advice that I can in the matter.

Mr. Lagden

I should like to thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the advice that you have just given and to say that you are probably more optimistic than I am about my luck in the Ballot. Nevertheless, I shall endeavour, under one of the headings on which you have guided me this morning, to raise this matter, which is of great importance to 29 million people.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

We sympathise with the hon. Member. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, about the powers of the Home Secretary in connection with local police forces? Did I understand you to say that the Home Secretary was the Minister responsible to the House for police forces generally, but that he had no responsibility for the powers of chief constables?

Mr. Speaker

The Home Secretary has certain powers. For example, he has to approve the appointment of a chief constable, but the selection is made by a county council or other local authority. He has certain appellate jurisdiction in disciplinary cases, that is to say, if a chief constable is dismissed by a county council or other local authority, the appeal lies to the Home Secretary. He has control of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Police, who report to him, under Statute, to make sure that local police forces are efficiently conducted so as to enable the Home Secretary to authorise the grant from central funds, which, I think, is 50 per cent., to the police funds all over the country. However, beyond that he has no power He has no power in day-to-day administration of a county police force or other local authority police force. That lies in the hands of the local councillors, who are elected persons, and, ultimately, in the hands of local government electors.

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