HC Deb 04 February 1965 vol 705 cc1261-3
13. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is now the total shortage of men in police forces.

Mr. George Thomas

The total strength of male police officers in England and Wales on 31st December, 1964, was 8,628 below the establishment. But in some forces where recruitment has been persistently difficult, the authorised establishment falls short of what is required. In order to determine the true shortage my right hon. and learned Friend proposes to ask the police authorities concerned to review their establishments, in consultation with H.M. Inspectors of Constabulary.

Mr. Digby

Is it not true to say that there is an overall shortage of about 20,000? Is not this an alarming figure at this time? Would the hon. Gentleman draw to the attention of his right hon. and learned Friend the interesting series of articles at present appearing in The Times? Can he give any idea of his attitude towards the proposals of the Police Federation, which have been published today?

Mr. Thomas

We have read with interest the articles in The Times. The hon. Member has, however, overestimated the deficiency in our view. It may well be that taking into account the increases of establishment already approved and the necessity to implement the 42-hour week, the true deficiency may be in the region of 15,000. But, of course, with the aid of up-to-date equipment and other means, we may be able to meet our needs with fewer than that number.

Mr. Snow

Will my hon. Friend draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to the fact that the image of the police may be somewhat adversely affected by unreal television programmes and that in the case of "Z Cars" many would-be recruits may be put off by the unreal and harsh discipline meted out to personnel in that series?

Mr. Thomas

My right hon. Friend will no doubt see my hon. Friend's remarks. I am a very great supporter of "Dixon of Dock Green".

Sir J. Hobson

Can the hon. Member tell us a little more about the locations of the major deficiencies on the present establishment? Are they in the great conurbations of London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool? Secondly, upon what basis are the police authorities to be asked to suggest figures for their new establishments in the review, and how quickly is it expected that this review of establishments will be completed?

Mr. Thomas

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite correct in that the largest deficiencies are in the greater conurbations. The Metropolitan Police are over 5,000 below the minimum requirements. In making their assessments, local police authorities will be advised by Her Majesty's inspectors. It has been impossible to find a formula yet for the proper scale of policing, but the Home Office Police Research and Planning Branch is investigating whether such a formula could be evolved.