HC Deb 15 November 1962 vol 667 cc543-7
12. Mr. C. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Police 1962, in regard to the responsibility, and accountability to Parliament, of the Home Secretary for Police Forces outside the Metropolitan area.

24. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has for taking steps to implement the recommendation in Paragraph 480 (5) of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Police that chief constables be subject to more effective supervision.

29. Dr. D. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the concern expressed by the Royal Commission on the Police in regard to the insufficiency of control over chief constables; and what steps he is taking to implement the recommendation of the Commission that he be made statutorily responsible for the efficiency of the police throughout England and Wales.

Mr. Brooke

In consultation with the representative bodies concerned, I am considering these and many other recommendations by the Royal Commission.

Mr. Royle

I appreciate that Answer to the full, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is growing concern not only among Members of Parliament but among the public generally about the lack of opportunity to raise questions anywhere about the administration of the police in provincial cities and towns? Is he aware that much of the concern arises about the use of police dogs, as is suggested in Question No. 9 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins), and also about allegations from time to time of assault of accused persons by the police? Is he aware that these things can never be cleared up anywhere? Will he give urgent consideration to this matter?

Mr. Brooke

Many important matters are raised by the recommendations of the Royal Commission which I should think the House would wish to debate one day. The present position is that my predecessor invited the County Councils Association, the Association of Municipal Corporations and other bodies to express their views. The matters with which these three Questions are concerned are also matters of importance to the local authorities and it would be wrong, and the House would not wish it, if I were to reach and announce decisions until I had received, as I have not yet, the views of the local authority associations.

Mr. Chapman

Will the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to have another look and a close look at the recommendations in paragraphs 322 and 323 of the Royal Commission's Report, where it is unanimously recommended that the Home Secretary should have power, as there already is in Scotland—so there is a precedent—to call for reports from chief constables on broad matters of policy, so that he in turn would become answerable to the House? Would it not be the simplest thing in the world to bring English law into line with Scottish law in this matter and so solve much of the terrible problems which afflict Members of Parliament dealing with these matters?

Mr. Brooke

I am working hard on these matters. I know that the hon. Member has regard to the local government side and I am sure that there are many hon. Members, on both sides of the House, who would criticise me if I were to announce decisions on recommendations, however unanimous, before waiting for any views which the local authorities had to express.

Dr. Johnson

Will my right hon. Friend have it in mind during his consideration that the present position is based on legislation dating from the time of King William IV, and would he ask himself if it is really satisfactory to have this antique situation when dealing with the present menace of both criminality and espionage?

Mr. Brooke

It was because the Government felt that the whole matter needed thorough re-examination that the Royal Commission was set up, and I am certain that in due course the House will have very great responsibilities when we come to debate the whole matter.

Miss Bacon

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this most important Report has now been published for some considerable time and that we want a debate on it not "one day" but soon? Is he aware, that, while we appreciate that he says that he has to consult local authorities, local authorities gave evidence to the Commission, so that their views are well known? Although the right hon. Gentleman says that he will not pronounce on it, has he not made some pronouncement on the Report outside the House?

Mr. Brooke

I am certainly not aware that I have made any pronouncements on this subject outside the House. It is not for me to settle the business of the House, as the hon. Lady knows. I should have thought that it would have been out of accord with our normal modes of procedure if, when a Minister—in this case my predecessor—has invited the local authority associations to express their views on a set of recommendations, another Minister were to announce the Government's conclusions before the replies had been received. That is my position. not altogether an easy one, at the moment.

25 Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what inquiries of the kind mentioned in paragraph 480 (108) in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Police he has held in recent years; and what action he is taking on the Commission's recommendation that this power of administrative inquiry by the Secretary of State should be used more readily.

Mr. Brooke

Since the beginning of 1952 there have been two such inquiries, of which 1 will, with permission, circulate details in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I have noted the Royal Commission's recommendation, and will bear it in mind when considering particular cases.

Mr. Chapman

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that in the sort of case mentioned by the Royal Commission, namely, the case where a citizen has a complaint against the police, if he fails to obtain redress locally the right hon. Gentleman will, after due consideration and if he thinks it proper, hold an administrative inquiry into such allegations, in the way recommended by the Royal Commission?

Mr. Brooke

I am not anxious to take these matters out of the hands of, for example, watch committees. The usefulness of the kind of inquiry which the hon. Member suggests is to some extent limited by the fact that there would be no power to compel evidence or to require evidence on oath. But I will certainly take all these matters into consideration as future cases arise.

Following are the details:

Date Subject of inquiry Held by
1952 Allegations against the Chief Constable of Derbyshire and the Chairman of the Derbyshire Standing Joint Committee. Mr. Anthony Marlowe, Q.C., M.P., and Mr. W. C. Johnson, C.M.G. C.B.E.
1957 The administration and efficiency of the Cardiganshire Constabulary and the state of discipline in the force. Mr. H. J. Phillimore, O.B.E., Q.C.