HC Deb 26 March 1969 vol 780 cc1725-56

8.31 p.m.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)

I beg to move, That the South Wales Police (Amalgamation) Order 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 6th February, be withdrawn. I must confess to a profound constituency interest in this Motion. I tried to discover when the draft appeared what had inspired the Home Office to agree to such a great change in the organisation of the police force in South Wales. I failed to discover any reasons. All that we have learned is that size was the only virtue. In the county boroughs and in Glamorgan administrative area, there is a population of at least 1¼ million people. It is that and nothing more which could have inspired the Home Office to commit this atrocity on our well-established police force.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)

I find it rather difficult to understand why my hon. Friend should describe the actions of the Home Office as an atrocity when his own police authority, that is, the police authority for Merthyr Tydvil, voluntarily agreed in principle on 1st February to this amalgamation.

Mr. Davies

Yes, but my hon. Friend does not know my constituency. Nobody with any authority to speak on behalf of the people of the county borough of Merthyr Tydvil made any such statement. They know by today the small majority which carried this and that it was done with the profound disapproval of the people of Merthyr Tydvil. I fear that this action will reduce the police force of my county borough of Merthyr Tydvil to a crowd of impersonal beings.

I assure the Minister that I know what I am talking about. I have lived in my constituency for over 50 years. I have known many policemen personally and on many occasions I have been able to co-operate with them. Apart from their chief, Merthyr Tydvil's policemen are drawn from the local community which is, because of its industrial history, extremely closely-knit. Our policemen have come through the local primary and secondary schools, they play in the local soccer and rugby teams and they are regarded as friends.

In my part of the world the police uniform has considerable significance. The policemen in my constituency are personal beings who are on friendly relations with the people around them. I have no doubt that the youngsters in my area are just as capable of getting up to mischief as are people elsewhere. Indeed, when I was a youngster, we occasionally indulged in mischief. The police uniform is a mark of authority because the people say that the policemen are their friends and are still members of the community.

Statistics show the number of crimes detected but they do not show the number prevented, particularly in my part of the world, because of the friendly relations which exist between the police and the community. There is a great deal more that I could say on this issue, but as I have no doubt that many hon. Members want the debate to come to a speedy close, I will not delay the House.

We are often told that the police are equipped with modern devices. I accept that they have a number of what I would call "trinkets" which they did not have when I was a boy. Despite the latest technological equipment, the police are at their best when they have the confidence of the community. This helps them to prevent crimes from happening, which is far better than having to apprehend a criminal after he has committed a crime.

What will happen when this Order takes effect? All that unity between the police and the rest of the community will be destroyed. The policeman will cease to be a member of the community; he will be moved from one valley to another valley, from one county borough to another county borough; he will become known, not for himself, but just because of his uniform, and he will enjoy no local confidences at all. He will become just an automaton representing a force, even though part of it is the force which we have and which is such a credit to us.

I hope that my hon. Friends and I will be able to persuade the Home Office to withdraw this stupid and irresponsible draft Order against which we are protesting. I cannot help noticing—my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will take no exception to this, I hope—that the Home Secretary himself is not able to be here this evening. We were told about that. I am sure that he would be here were it humanly possible. I am sorry for my right hon. Friend because he has had this proposal foisted upon him, and the city which he represents is protesting very strongly about this Order, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. E. Rowlands) will make abundantly plain this evening. I hope that this masque of a police force here suggested will be withdrawn and destroyed, and that we shall carry on as we have carried on extremely well in South Wales for many years.

8.42 p.m.

Mr. E. Rowlands (Cardiff, North)

I would not like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) in his excursion to Merthyr, which he has defended so admirably over so many years, but I think there are few who do not regret that this Motion has become necessary, necessary because of the acrimony and internecine warfare which has broken about among the authorities involved in this amalagamation scheme, and which is tragic to the men and women in the forces concerned whose morale must have been battered by the comings and goings and the bitter disputes and arguments over the future of their careers. I do not wish tonight to go into a detailed, blow by blow account of the events which have led to this debate. Suffice it to say that it has become necessary as a result of the almost total breakdown of the relationship between the County of Glamorgan and Cardiff in the shadow police committee.

As a Member of Parliament for Cardiff I must first and foremost confess that my own city was partly to blame for the difficulties over this amalgamation. The city itself has always been a very shy and reluctant bride in this marriage of police forces. Initially the city said it would remain outside the new force. It claimed that, as the capital city with separate policing problems, it should have a separate identity as the national capital and should remain outside such an amalgamation. We pointed out that other comparable forces, such as those of Bradford and Hull, and some even smaller in one or two cases, had survived amalgamation threats, but my right hon. Friend's predecessor, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, felt that in the name of the greater overall efficiency of the policing of this area Cardiff should be included in this amalgamation. The city then put in a counter proposal, for an amalgamation par excellence, as it were, an amalgamation not only of the forces specified in this Order, but an amalgamation including also Newport and Monmouthshire—Gwent. I believe that it could have been a worth-while solution to the pressing problems of South Wales to combine what are now two separate forces. I am not certain why this solution was not originally considered by the Home Office. The protests that have been made by the Cardiff City Watch Committeee have come to naught.

Eventually, on 27th February, 1967, the city agreed, albeit reluctantly, to work with others for a successful merger of the South Wales forces. But above all, a merger depends for its success on the essential good will of all parties to the merger, and their willingness to bury their own sectional and local interests in order to get the greatest good and the greatest efficiency. Even the most objective witness of the activities of the police shadow committee during the last year or so could hardly find that attitude to be present.

Disputes between Cardiff and Glamorgan broke out on at least three issues: first, the constitution of the new shadow committee; second, the siting of the new headquarters and, third, believe it or not, the name to be given to the force. Glamorgan wanted to call the new amalgamated force the Glamorgan force, whereas I am sure that anyone in his right mind would want to call it at least the South Wales force. However, on the issues of representation and the name of the force some sort of agreement was reached before there was a public inquiry, but left unresolved was the major issue, which was the siting of the headquarters.

When, eventually, a public inquiry was demanded by the Cardiff Watch Committee I welcome that decision because it seemed to me to give an opportunity for us to thrash out the issues and get an independent, objective opinion from someone who had no local axe to grind involving any sort of parish pump voice that had bedevilled the amalgamation. I may say, although slightly reluctantly, that I must agree with the findings in the report of Mr. Stephen Brown, the inspector. In particular, I must accept his finding in paragraph 62 of his report. This stated that the amalgamation scheme would increase the efficiency of the policing of the amalgamation area as a whole, and that Cardiff's fears of reduced efficiency in the event of amalgamation were unfounded provided—and these words really should be printed in capital letters—that the headquarters were sited in Cardiff.

There might have been no need for this Prayer had Mr. Brown's recommendations been accepted in toto. Unfortunately typical sectional and parochial attitudes reasserted themselves. The dominant group on the shadow police committee—the Glamorgan group—was not satisfied with the decisions of the inquiry. It wanted its pound of flesh. It wanted to dispute the inspector on the one issue quite clearly recommended by him—the siting of the headquarters in Cardiff.

This may appear to be a minor issue and something not worth quarrelling about. It is not a minor issue because, as I have already said, the inspector, independent of local issues and debates, made the siting of the headquarters a basic condition of the amalgamation. It was his proviso, his condition for giving his blessing to the amalgamation, when he said that Cardiff's fears were unfounded provided that the headquarters were sited in Cardiff. A contrary decision on the siting of the headquarters might put into jeopardy that measure of efficiency which might result from the amalgamation, which the public would expect, and which all the various police forces would like to give.

That is what has happened, and that is what has led to this Prayer. The dominant Glamorgan group in the shadow police committee has decided to to overrule the independent opinion of the inspector; to overrule the view of Mr. Galbraith, the Inspector of Constabulary for South Wales; to overrule the generally known views of the chief constables of the existing forces, other than the chief constable designate; and to overrule the known wishes of the Home Secretary, who has previously expressed himself forcibly on this issue.

It turned its back in so doing on the brand-new £1 million headquarters at Cardiff, which was opened only last year, a building adjacent to the Cardiff city hall, adjacent to the Glamorgan County Council hall, next to the law courts and the Welsh Office, and in the middle of the administrative centre of South Wales and of Wales as a whole. It turned its back on a building described by the independent inspector in these words: having the overwhelming practical advantage of being superbly built and lavishly equipped headquarters building. The inspector recommended that the building in Bridgend which is at present the headquarters of the Glamorgan force could be admirably used for the training and communications centre of the new force.

On what grounds did the shadow police committee reject the findings of the inquiry? It is impossible to discover from the inquiry itself. One can go through the transcripts of the proceedings and find not a shred of evidence. Not a shred of evidence has been given to support Glamorgan's case for siting the headquarters in Bridgend. Not a shred of evidence was given for the outrageous rejection of the inspector's findings, and neither did the legal representative on behalf of Glamorgan County Council, Mr. Myerson, offer any evidence. He could have done so. It has since been argued that he might not have been in a position to do so, but it was known that one of the specific issues into which the inspector was inquiring was the question of the site for the headquarters.

Glamorgan County Council did not produce any evidence to justify its decision to site the headquarters at Bridgend. On the contrary, after overwhelming evidence produced by the inspector of constabulary for South Wales at the inquiry, when it became clear that there was a strong case for siting the headquarters of the amalgamated force at the new building at Cardiff, Mr. Myerson, on behalf of Glamorgan County Council, intervened to say that he had authority from his council to say that it would reconsider the decision which it had previously made to site the headquarters in Bridgend.

I was not present—though I should like to have been—at the meeting of the shadow police committee following publication of the inspector's report, but I am told on good authority that the committee started to reconsider that decision by someone moving that it reaffirm its previous decision without debate. Unfortunately, that is typical of the attitude which has been taken throughout the discussions and negotiations on the amalgamation, and, moreover, it was the attitude taken on an issue which the inspector himself described as the condition for the continued efficiency of the policing of the Cardiff area and the efficiency of the amalgamation itself.

Where is the case for the siting of the headquarters in Bridgend, which still remains the decision of the shadow police committee? As I say, it cannot be found in the proceedings at the inquiry. The only place where I have been able to find it, such as it is, is in the subsequent report, or series of reports, which the chief constable-designate submitted to the shadow police committee and to his own committee, the Glamorgan County Council's police committee, in defence of the decision to site the headquarters at Bridgend.

Unfortunately—I am reluctant to say it—the chief constable-designate's report is a rather thin and desperate attempt to put in a favourable light a 28-year old former Royal Ordnance factory building in comparison with a new £1 million purpose-built building in Cardiff. We are told in the report that the Bridgend building offers the greatest protection against bomb attacks, and includes a basement to provide adequate protection in case of an emergency. In readiness for the unlikely event of the Luftwaffe once again trying to bomb South Wales, he should have looked at the basement of the new million-pound headquarters at Cardiff, where there is a special suite for use as war duties control rooms, to which all members of the administration of the new force could retreat if there were a bomb attack.

Second, we are told that Bridgend is more capable of adaptation and expansion. But the new million-pound headquarters at Cardiff has generous space for the administrative headquarters of the South Wales force, and could easily accommodate a Welsh force if need be. I do not know what we are trying to build up in South Wales. A sort of police Pentagon seems to be implied in the comments of the chief constable-designate on the need for adminstrative space. The Inspector of Constabulary for South Wales, Mr. Galbraith, an independent inspector and the Home Office have all found that there was more than adequate space to accommodate the existing and foreseeable administration of the new South Wales police force at Cardiff.

Third, we are told in the report that the Bridgend buildings are adjacent to the police sports ground. What in the name of heaven has a police sports ground to do with the central administration of a force of this size? It may have something to do with police training. It is perhaps of some value if training facilities are adjacent to a playing ground, but what has the central administration of a police force of this size to do with playing fields?

The most curious and intriguing reason why we should site the headquarters at Bridgend is the argument of the chief constable-designate that the spendid and lavish facilities provided in the new million-pound police headquarters in Cardiff would have a tremendous impact on the young police cadet who started off his career in such an excellent building, that having been surrounded by modern, well-equipped facilities, he would find the contrast when he was transferred for duty elsewhere so shattering that he would be beset by disillusionment and might leave the force. On that argument, it would seem a good idea to have uniforms of mohair and facilities for the young police cadet sufficiently spartan to ensure that he was not disillusioned by any subsequent transfer to less adequate headquarters.

Those are four of the many points made by the chief constable-designate in his report to justify the siting of the headquarters in Bridgend. But there is one factor he raises that I take seriously, namely, that if the new amalgamated force were organised on a district command basis the new million-pound building at Cardiff could be fully utilised as one of the three district command centres, and he appears to have favoured the district command organisation. But how many of the new amalgamated forces are organised on a district command basis? Am I not right in thinking that district commands are no longer generally considered the most effective form of organising the new large forces?

Did not the Home Office inspector, in his evidence to the inquiry, suggest that the system of district commands was a possibility but a poor second choice for the organisation of the new force? Am I not, generally speaking, correct in assuming that the district command system is generally discredited and would be particularly unfortunate in the case of South Wales? Is it not something of an open secret that the chief constable-designate has already decided to rethink his original suggestion of having district commands? If he has the courage and honesty to rethink and change his mind on it, I hope that he has the same courage and honesty to go to the shadow police committee and say, "The last good reason why we should have the headquarters at Bridgend has been removed by my decision to abandon district organisation." There is every reason to believe that if he did this common sense would prevail and a rational decision would be taken.

I have gone at some length into the issue of the headquarters because it is the kernel of the case of those of us who support the Motion. Are we to put through an amalgamation which will not be as efficient as it should be or could be just because a powerful group of members of the shadow police committee want to build a little empire elsewhere? They have demonstrated by their actions so far in regard to the issue of the police headquarters that their first interest is, unfortunately, not the greatest efficiency of the policing of the area as a whole or of the Cardiff area, which is the largest centre of population. They are prepared and are willing to sacrifice a measure of efficiency, to put into jeopardy some part of the efficiency of the policing of the area, just in order to satisfy some local empire building.

I make a plea to the Glamorgan group on the shadow police committee to stop playing parish pump politics with the future of the police in South Wales. The police and the public have a right to demand that the issue shall be resolved by rational discussion conducted in the best interest of the amalgamated force and of the public that it will serve.

This can best be achieved in a most objective manner—and I declare my interest as a Member for Cardiff. The impartial and objective findings of Mr. Brown, the inspector at the inquiry, should be accepted and observed. He has no local axe to grind. He has carefully studied the evidence submitted to him and has found, first, that amalgamation would improve the efficiency of the police in the area as a whole. I and the Cardiff Watch Committee and others in the city who tried to keep the city force out of the amalgamation must now accept, in the light of his evidence and his findings, that amalgamation will produce greater efficiency if Cardiff is included.

But it must be a basic condition of this acceptance that Glamorgan County Council gives up its unreasonable and obstinate anti-Cardiff attitude on the siting of the headquarters in the new million £ building in Cardiff. This is one of the major issues. If no such co-operation is forthcoming, if the smoke signal of peace we have been desperately hoping for does not resolve the differences and the bitter disputes which have gone on among local authorities involved, then I think that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary could look seriously at taking action.

I realise that my right hon. Friend is sadly lacking in the power to prevent foolish decisions being made by the shadow police committee of any amalgamated force. He is powerless to prevent crazy decisions being made on, for example, the siting of headquarters. It is a price we have to pay up to a point for local democracy because these shadow police committees consist of local representatives. However, is the price of local democracy too high in this instance, in that the efficiency of the policing of the area as a whole might be diminished?

Like others, I have looked around for ways and means to compel sense and reason on the shadow police committee in South Wales. I have considered using what is the sledge hammer of withholding the 50 per cent. grant given by the Government to the Glamorgan section of the new police force until Glamorgan comes to its senses. I would not advise that. The sins of those who are playing the South Wales police "Power Game" should not be visited on the poor innocent ratepayers of Glamorgan.

But there are several alternatives which my right hon. Friend should consider. He should consider delaying the Order until he can get a firm assurance from the shadow police committee that it will listen to reason and accept the overwhelming evidence and the decision and the findings of the independent inspector, the Inspector of South Wales Constabulary, Mr. Galbraith, and that of the chief constables of the police forces other than the chief constable designate, all of whom have said that there is a powerful case for siting the headquarters of this force in Cardiff. I should like my hon. Friend to comment on that suggestion.

Secondly, if that is not satisfactory, the Home Secretary could delay the Order until such time as he acquires power under a new Police Act, or through regulations, or in some other way, to direct the shadow police committee on certain vital issues. Section 21 of the Police Act, 1964, with which the Under-Secretary will be conversant, says that in amalgamations the Home Secretary has power in matters incidental and consequential to an amalgamation to make certain directions or recommendations and to force those recommendations through. I am not certain whether that would cover the siting of a headquarters, although in this instance it has been declared by the inspector to be a condition of the continuation of the efficiency of the policing of an area. If my right hon. Friend does not have such powers to specify the siting of a headquarters when that involves efficiency, he should delay the Order while reviewing his powers, because——

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. The hon. Gentleman may discuss only that which is in the Order.

Mr. Rowlands

I accept that, but it is relevant to whether the House accepts the Order to consider whether one of the possible escape routes for the Home Office may be future legislation——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's difficulty, but although it may be relevant, it is not in order.

Mr. Rowlands

I accept that. Fortunately, I have made the point and I pass to my third suggestion.

It is that my right hon. Friend should state categorically that the siting of the headquarters should be in Cardiff.

Secondly, if he allows the Order through, or forces it through, will he tell the Glamorgan police force that he will seek powers to enable him to make retrospective directions upon it? We have had an inquiry, gathering information and expert advice from all sources. It has led to one conclusion—that amalgamation of the police forces in South Wales is a good thing, provided that the headquarters are sited in the new £1 million purpose-built building at Cathays Park. I could almost put it to music. This is one of the conditions for the continuing efficiency of the policing of the Cardiff area in the new amalgamated force. This is not a minor, a fringe issue. It is central to the Order. For that reason, unless we can get the assurance that common-sense will prevail, I am not sure that this Order is good for the policing of the area of South Wales or Cardiff.

Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)

My hon. Friend is talking about these wonderful new headquarters in Cardiff. Can he tell the House whether there is adequate room for extension, and if there is adequate room for car parking, which will be required for a police authority of this size?

Mr. Rowlands

In the evidence given to the inquiry it came out that, administratively speaking, we could house an administration for the policing of the whole of Wales in the building. There is ample room. It was built to very generous proportions, for the simple reason that when the Cardiff Watch Committee planned this building it knew that it could not extend the site any further. It realised that it would not get additional money, so it built the building to a larger capacity than Cardiff requires. The car parking and other amenities are improving. My hon. Friend over-estimates the actual size of the administration required by a police force of this size. We are not including training or communications. These should go to Bridgend.

The top administration of such a force ought to be sited next to the Law Courts, where most of the business is carried out, next to the Glamorgan County Council Chambers, opposite the Cardiff City Hall, and close to the Welsh Office.

For all these reasons it seems absolutely crazy to turn our backs on such an excellent, purpose-built building which would give a new image to the new amalgamated force and launch it with adequate facilities. The buildings in Bridgend are not sufficient, and are already too small for an expanding Glamorgan County force, let alone a new force. For these overwhelming reasons there is a good case for the point that I am making.

9.14 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. E. Rowlands) declared his interest as the Member for that constituency. I suppose that I should declare an interest in that my brother is chairman of the City of Cardiff Watch Committee. But against that interest, if such interest exists, must be set the fact that most of my constituency lies outside the administrative area of the City of Cardiff. I believe that I have succeeded in looking at this amalgamation with as great a degree of objectivity as most of us usually manage when considering matters of this kind.

I have not been opposed to the principle of amalgamation in cases of this kind or in this case. I have been persuaded that, provided that a lot of other matters are correctly decided, benefits would accrue from a successful amalgamation of these separate police forces. But I call the attention of the Under-Secretary of State to the condition which I prescribe, namely, that a successful amalgamation can result only from the fulfilment of certain other requirements. I plead with the Under-Secretary of State, and indeed with the Home Secretary, to appreciate that this is a delicate operation. It is no easy operation to amalgamate four police forces as different in size and character as those affected by this Order.

I commend and praise the Report of Mr. Stephen Brown, Q.C., for its clarity and fair assessment of a difficult problem. It is said in the Report, Cmnd. 3843, that a greater proportion of serious crime is committed in Cardiff than elsewhere in the amalgamation area. It is said that 34.7 per cent. of all crimes known to the police in the geographical area involved in the Order is committed in the City of Cardiff. That underlines the different nature of policing the city area of Cardiff and that of policing some of the other areas involved. Swansea has 12.6 per cent. of all the crimes known to the police in the amalgamation area and Merthyr 5.1 per cent. The balance is in the administrative county of Glamorgan. It is plain that the police constables and officers in the City of Cardiff are not necessarily more clever but certainly more experienced in dealing with offences.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

This forms no part of my case, but 40 per cent. of the population of the geographical county live within a 12-mile radius of Cardiff.

Mr. Gower

Yes. But that does not affect by one iota what I have said. It may be for that reason that the officers of the Cardiff City police force are more experienced in dealing with these matters. I am not concerned with why that should be so, but they have to deal with this kind of crime. It is significant that the headquarters of the regional crime squad is situate in Cardiff.

It is bound to be an extremely delicate operation to combine police forces which have to deal with a great variety of matters. Everything should be done to achieve agreement on the nature of the amalgamation. To make the amalgamation a success must be a very delicate and difficult operation.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, North outlined in some detail the nature of the chief difference which has arisen. I am not opposed to the principle of amalgamation, either in general or in this case, but the way in which the siting of the headquarters has developed is not calculated to give the combined geographical area the sort of policing which it deserves and demands. The responsibility of the Home Office in this matter is very heavy, as is the responsibility of the shadow police authority. I hope that the Home Office will not fall down in its duty in this respect.

It was originally proposed by the shadow authority that the headquarters should be at Bridgend, in the middle of the administrative area. Notwithstanding the opinion expressed by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, Mr. Galbraith, the shadow authority has persisted in this strange determination. The opinion of the Inspector of Constabulary was that the administrative headquarters should be in the City of Cardiff. Despite that, the shadow authority has stuck to its determination that the headquarters should be elsewhere.

It was apparent at the beginning of the inquiry that the Home Office attached great importance to the siting of the headquarters in the City of Cardiff, when the Inspector was invited by counsel, who appeared on behalf of the Home Secretary, in his opening address to express a view on the siting of the headquarters. This obviously was a matter of importance in the opinion of the Home Secretary. But, as hon. Members have been told, all this appears to be of no importance.

It is also noteworthy that when evidence was given at the inquiry by the Chief Constable of Cardiff, Mr. Morris, his contention that the headquarters should be sited in Cardiff was in no way challenged by the Glamorgan County Council——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are discussing the amalgamation of some police forces. I do not see here, although I may have missed it, reference to the siting in Cardiff of the amalgamated police force.

Mr. Gower

Yes, Mr. Speaker, but almost every hon. Member who has so far spoken has concentrated on this point.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am not responsible for speeches which took place while I was not in the Chair. We are talking about the Order, and whatever the hon. Gentleman says must be within the Order which we are discussing.

Mr. Gower

My objection to the Order is that what is proposed is in no way designed to provide a headquarters at the point which was recommended at the inquiry. I will not dwell on that, in view of what you said, Mr. Speaker, although I am severely handicapped by comparison with those who have spoken before me.

It would be a disgraceful waste of public money if this splendid building were not to be utilised. It is a matter of the highest importance, and if the Order is approved, I sincerely hope that the Under-Secretary and the Home Secretary will plead for a reconsideration of any decision which may have been made about this. It is the nub of the matter, and I regret that I did not speak a little earlier in the debate, since I should then have had the opportunity of saying what I want to say about it. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will not be precluded from commenting on what was said earlier because it is of vital importance. I am prohibited by the rules of order from saying anything about this most important aspect——

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. May I submit to you a consideration in this matter? I think that it is germane to the opposition which some people have expressed to this Order that the headquarters is to be in one place rather than another. If that headquarters were moved, much of the opposition would disappear.

I do not seek to challenge your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but perhaps you would agree that, that being so, it would be germane for hon. Members to discuss that aspect of the matter since, if the headquarters were moved, many of the objections to the Order would be removed.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

Further to that point of order. As you have pointed out, Mr. Speaker, this Order does not specify where the headquarters of the new force shall be. As I understand it, that would be a matter for the new police authority to decide at or after its first meeting. The House cannot decide it. With respect to the Home Secretary, he cannot decide it, and there is no procedure whereby Parliament can make the passing of the Order dependent upon the whereabouts of the new police headquarters.

I hope that it will be helpful if I reveal the attitude which I wish to put forward on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, having given the matter some consideration.

Mr. Speaker

This is a characteristically British moment in which the Home Secretary is leaping to the defence of an hon. Member on the back benches opposite, and the right hon. and learned Member on the Opposition Front Bench is leaping to attack the Home Secretary for defending the hon. Gentleman on the Opposition back benches.

I am afraid that I did not hear the earlier part of the debate. I must say, with all deference, that what the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) said fits in with what I have said. We are discussing an Order. I have not found in the Order any reference to a site in Cardiff for the new amalgamated police headquarters. I am sorry if the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) feels that other hon. Members have got away with more than I have allowed him to say.

Mr. E. Rowlands

Further to that point of order. Having made my speech earlier——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will not rule on speeches which I have not heard.

Mr. Gower

I am sorry that I have caused this inconvenience. I was in great difficulty, because this is not a matter of a single remark or a single speech. It concerns a debate which has been going on for some time.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not recall to me what happened when I was not in the Chair.

Mr. Gower

I regret the limitations on the Home Secretary's powers. I regret that he has not greater power in this connection. It is a pity that he has to draw the Order in this form, and I hope that it is a matter which he will examine in future.

It appears that he has no power to prevent the waste of public money. He has no power to prescribe the use of a building worth £1 million. This is an absurd situation. I can only regret, therefore, the narrow limits within which the Order has had to be drawn. I am sure that I must be in order in saying that.

This is a matter of deep regret to me. The Home Secretary has made his position clear. He wants what Mr. Stephen Brown, Q.C, wanted to see done. So do I, and so does the hon. Member for Cardiff, North. I hope that persuasion will affect this decision.

The Order amalgamates these forces, and I suppose that the Home Secretary is determined to push it through. Like the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, it has occurred to me that the right hon. Gentleman might possibly delay the Order. Could he not take it away and, before bringing it back again, use his persuasive powers in meeting the shadow authority?

I wish that the right hon. Gentleman could say, "You cannot have the Order yet. I will withdraw it tonight and bring it forward again." I am sure that it must be within his power. Having read all the documents, the report of the inquiry and the report of the Inspector of Constabulary, I feel that the right hon. Gentleman would be amply justified in doing so. It seems that the shadow authority is determined to act in defiance of all expert opinion. Can the Home Secretary take the Order away, look at it again, and come forward with some other Order after discussion?

I have never objected to the principle of the Order, which is to amalgamate forces. I believe that the purpose of the Order could be good and that the results could be good if agreement were reached between the parties. This is very important. This is just a piece of legal machinery, and I fear that in the present mood it will create a situation which may hold back the efficiency of the force unless agreement is reached.

I am sure that the Home Secretary realises that these are serious matters. I plead with him to do all that he has power to do within the margins of his authority. There is grave anxiety among ordinary people not only in the City of Cardiff but in the surrounding areas and perhaps in other places, too, that the shadow authority may go on in defiance of expert opinion, with a great waste of public money, at a time when we are told that economic conditions prescribe care in the use of public funds. There is a serious background to the matter. That is why I am not happy that the Order should be approved at this moment.

9.33 p.m.

Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East) rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Does the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) wish to address the House on the amalgamation of the South Wales police?

Mr. Mapp

On the Order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Mapp.

Mr. Mapp

Far be it for me to intervene in a local domestic battle in South Wales, but the arguments are familiar with those on an earlier Order. I take the view that the Order, like its predecessor, has defects. Therefore, I take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. E. Rowlands) and by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) that the Order should be withdrawn.

My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) spoke about an efficient police force. His argument was that the Order may bring about a more efficient police force. That is not the true criterion. The true criterion is: what is the most appropriate size of police area to sustain a modern force with efficient implements to combat the modern criminal?

I put it to the House that, just as in Lancashire, the incidence of historical boundaries—in this case Swansea, Merthyr, Glamorgan and Cardiff—is the reason why the Inspector and others seek to argue that within those limitations this is undoubtedly the most efficient way, but not the most efficient way if he had a wider consideration. I am very much concerned about this aspect.

The Minister is caught up administratively in the limitations of an earlier Act. I must not discuss that. However, if the Minister administratively were looking at the whole conurbation, if that is the right word, of South Wales in terms of police efficiency and crime, he might find that the words in the earlier Act about parts of police areas which he is unable to amalgamate were a hindrance. My right hon. Friend must therefore deal with this, as he has in Lancashire and in other parts of the country, on the basis of expediency. Within certain limitations, this is a fair operation for South Wales. Because of the amount of crime—I do not want to overstate this, fortunately it has receded—and because of the techniques which people are now unfortunately using to commit crime, I could not support an argument that Merthyr should stand separate from Cardiff, or that Swansea should be on its own. I take the view that the whole of South Wales west of the Severn, right up to the hills, should be looked at as one area in terms of providing an efficient police force. It would be pure coincidence if the judgment on the test of efficiency came down in favour of having police forces according to local government boundaries.

My right hon. Friend knows his limitations. He knows that he can act only within administrative decisions, but this is a further example of an Order being introduced for reasons of expediency. The modern Britain needs a modern police force to deal with modern methods of crime. I shall not try to tell my colleagues from South Wales what the right answers are, but we have some knowledge of the requirements of a modern society from the point of view of having an efficient police force. The modern method of crime is not the jemmy, but the motor car——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know that the hon. Member has considerable knowledge of magistracy and law, but he cannot amend the Order. He can oppose it or support it. He cannot amend it.

Mr. Mapp

I was about to conclude my speech, having stated my reasons for thinking that the Order is not as good as it should be. For reasons which have been advanced by hon. Members, and for reasons which I have adduced, I think that the Order should be withdrawn for some months to enable us to get a greater measure of good will in Glamorgan and thereby avoid the difficulties and reactions which have followed in another county where an Order similar to this Order was pushed through the House.

9.38 p.m.

Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington, South) rose——

Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) wish to address the House on the amalgamation of the South Wales police forces?

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Yes, Mr. Speaker, but only briefly. Though I represent South Kensington, I was brought up in Glamorgan, and when I am not a Londoner I am a Glamorgan man. In case you think that I am speaking on a subject of which I have no knowledge, perhaps I ought to declare that in a small way I am a landowner in Glamorgan. My home is there, and I am frequently in that county. Indeed, I am there frequently enough to have seen the magnificent headquarters which have been discussed this afternoon going up in Cardiff, and to have been over them during the last few days.

The House is in something of a dilemma, because we have to say "Yes" or "No" to this question of amalgamation. We welcome it on grounds of obvious common sense, but unfortunately we have excellent reasons to believe that if we approve the Order tonight common sense will be defied, and I am bound to join those who feel that the Order ought not to be passed tonight if it is going to lead to a scandalous waste of public money, as we believe it is.

In general, I support the amalagamation of the four police forces and I would even be willing to listen to arguments that Bridgend might have been a satisfactory headquarters. Unfortunately, the decision in favour of Cardiff has already been taken in a convincing and final way in bricks, mortar and magnificent Portland stone. If this headquarters, which I believe cost £1 million, will be wasted if we approve the Order, as a responsible and honourable House we should not approve it. To allow this amount of public investment in a magnificent purpose-built structure to go to waste would be an inexcusable and scandalous error. The findings of the inspector in favour of amalgamation should be accepted in toto or not at all. I have learned the hard way what it is to be on the verges of being out of order, and I hope that my remarks tonight are acceptable to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House.

9.41 p.m.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

I do not seek to justify my intervention—as the Member for Huntingdon—by drawing attention to the fact that Oliver Cromwell was a Welshman of the name of Williams. I do so because I have had some previous ministerial experience with regard to at least two of the Welsh amalgamation Orders.

But I also have strong nostalgic memories whenever Wales is mentioned in the House. I appeared as a young barrister for the Great Western Railway in most of the towns of South Wales. In particular, in 1934, the year that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies) became the Member for that constituency, I had the unusual experience of having to have an interpreter in a case at Merthyr, when I was the only person in court who could not speak Welsh. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power, I went to the mining valleys and always admired the charm and alertness of the Welsh and the wonderful way in which they managed to carry on controversy without indulging in ill-feeling. That is one of the great characteristics of the Welsh. My hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) has addressed the House in perhaps the most worthy capacity that anyone can—as a voter in the area under discussion.

I have great sympathy with those hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), who wanted, in some way which was not consistent either with the legislation which governs us on this occasion or with the rules of order, to make the coming-into-force of the Order depend upon the siting of the new police headquarters. As you have already made clear, Mr. Speaker, we must carry on this discussion on the assumption that only the new police authority can decide that matter. The authority will be very wise to bear in mind what was said by Mr. Stephen Brown in his report. One can only express the hope it can be no more than a hope, because this matter has, in effect, been delegated to the authority by Parliament that it will take note of what has been said in this debate by hon. Members on both sides.

It is no good Parliament blowing hot and cold. It is no good our granting responsibility to people carefully chosen by the electorate or appointed by an elected body and then saying, "We are not leaving the direction of affairs or decisions to you; you must do what we say in a debate". That is not a sensible way of carrying on Parliamentary Government; and one can do no more than express that hope.

However, one can have sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Barry when he found, not only in the rules of order but under the legislation, that even the Home Secretary is powerless to take a decision, veto a decision or make the decision of the police authority conditional. He can only at a later stage, if the occasion should arise, which seems unlikely in this case, frustrate its decision by refusing to approve capital expenditure which might be necessary in certain circumstances to enable a new police headquarters to be sited at a place chosen by a police authority.

We would not ask the Home Secretary to declare his hand in this matter tonight. There is no reason why he should. There might be circumstances in which the Home Secretary would say to a police authority, "In my view the headquarters sited at the place which you have decided would require great capital expenditure and I must make it plain that on grounds of public economy I am not prepared to approve your expenditure". I am not attempting to draw the Home Secretary into saying that. I merely hope that, by stating the legal and constitutional position, my remarks may have been helpful.

My hon. Friends and I are, in principle, in favour of police amalgamations in general. I can go a stage further by saying that we are in no way opposed in principle to this particular amalgamation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barry pointed out, this is a delicate matter. In my experience all police amalgamations involve delicacy. It is also a matter which gives rise to great opportunities for co-operation among public authorities which may or may not have co-operated fully before.

Equally, it is an opportunity for increased efficiency on the part of the police in fighting the rising crime wave. I hope, therefore, that we will not allow tonight's debate to pass without recording our hope that this amalgamation will have that result. My hon. Friends and I extend to the new police force and the new police authority our best wishes for the future. We hope that the new arrangements will enable them to get on top of crime to an even greater extent than they have done before.

9.48 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)

I thank the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), speaking officially for the Opposition, for the manner and content of his speech.

I join with him in hoping that if the Order is signed the new police authority and the members of the new force will have the good wishes of hon. Members in all parts of the House and our hope, expectation and belief that they will make a great success of this venture. Nothing said in this debate should detract from our hopes in this matter.

I apologise for not having been in my place at the beginning of the debate. As hon. Members may be aware, I was attending the hustings at Walthamstow and, as the House will see, I have returned unscathed. It might be fair to say that I had more trouble from those who call themselves my friends than from those who call themselves my enemies, which is a well-known fact in politics.

I appreciate the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. E. Rowlands) had in mind because he was kind enough to talk the matter over with me beforehand. I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) for missing his speech, but my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has informed me of the main points which he had in mind and later I will do my best to answer them.

It is true, as I understood my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North to say, that part of the difficulty about this amalgamation has been the breakdown in relations between the police authorities concerned, and this has caused me a very great deal of concern and anxiety. I would like to tell the House that I did my best in discussions with both sides, on an informal basis, to try to get an accommodation between them on the matters in dispute between them before I brought the Order to the House.

This brings me to the point which has been made by more than one hon. Member, would it be sensible to withdraw the Order and have another try? Well, I naturally thought a very long time before I brought the Order forward. I would like to say I do not think this would work. These discussions have been under way now for nearly three years. May, 1966, saw the beginning of the talks. In that period my own city, Cardiff, decided not to enter into a voluntary scheme. It decided at a later date it would agree to a voluntary scheme. It then at a later date told the Home Office that an agreement could not be reached on a voluntary scheme. Then there were difficulties—I do not blame Cardiff for this—over the title of the new force. Difficulties then arose on a subject which I must not name but which, I believe, is present in the minds of us all. By this time Cardiff was willing to consider it but then backed out again in January, 1968, and in February, 1968, we urged Cardiff to resume negotiations on a voluntary scheme. Cardiff then came back and said, "No, we are not willing to go ahead with a voluntary scheme, but, of course, we must accept a compulsory scheme if you decide to enter into it" and at that stage Swansea and Merthyr and Glamorgan said, "We would like to go ahead with a voluntary scheme" but made a condition about the unnameable subject.

I have given only, as it were, one side of this so far, and that is Cardiff's approach. I think hon. Members will see that this in-out, in-out approach which has gone on now for three years is not one which is likely, I should say frankly, to change very much if I were to withdraw this Order and seek to get voluntary discussions going again. If I thought there would be the slightest chance of their succeeding I would much prefer to have a voluntary Order than a compulsory Order but I must advise the House that I see no prospect of the differences between the parties being resolved.

So what I then had to say was, "Do I ignore the report of the Inspector which was so overwhelmingly clear? Do I set that on one side because relations between the police authorities are so poor?" I had to ask, "Do I say, even though the Inspector found quite clearly, without a shadow of doubt, that the efficiency of the policing in South Wales would be improved by this amalgamation, that because of the relations between the police authorities I should set that on one side?" I do not think I would be justified in doing so and I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Huntingdonshire agrees with me, that it would be quite wrong of me to do that.

What I do say to the police authorities in South Wales—and having made many efforts to get them together I am entitled to say this—is that they should remember that they are there to serve the best interests of the policing of the area, and the interests of the people of that area, in preventing crime. They are not for their own purposes. They are there to serve their people. The Inspector who had held an independent inquiry and my own Inspector of Constabulary who investigated this matter and everybody who has looked into it have come to the conclusion that there is no dissent at all that the efficient policing of the area would be substantially improved. I really think that in these circumstances it would be wrong for me to delay, unless I were of opinion—and I cannot honestly say that I am—that delay would enable me to get a voluntary scheme.

Frankly, I think that it is only when they have had their heads knocked together, and then have to live and work together, that we shall get the co-operation we need. There is nothing like asking people to work together for them then to see where their own positions should be modified and can be improved. I believe that that will happen in this case, and that when these dissident authorities come together and recognise, as I am sure they will, that their responsibility is to the people of the area, we shall get away from these divisions which have dogged this scheme for the last three years.

This scheme is one of only two schemes which are as yet unsettled. All the others have gone through, and have gone through without very much difficulty. I therefore cannot say to the House that there are any major difficulties in this case which are different from those in the other large number of other areas that have been amalgamated.

Mr. Gower

The Home Secretary said that the report of Mr. Stephen Brown was that in his view amalgamation would lead to greater efficiency, but Mr. Stephen Brown added the important proviso that the headquarters were to be at Cardiff. These were the words of Mr. Stephen Brown, Q.C., himself.

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Member is coming back to the question of the headquarters, but I know that he is not accurate in saying that the amalgamation proposals in Mr. Stephen Brown's report were conditional on the headquarters being at Cardiff. It would be fair to interpret Mr. Brown as saying that irrespective of where the headquarters were there would be an increase in efficiency through amalgamation, but that the increase would be even more enhanced if the headquarters were in Cardiff.

Mr. E. Rowlands

Following on what has just been said by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), I would point out that what was said in the report was that the fears of Cardiff about reduced efficiency of the police in the Cardiff area were unfounded provided that the headquarters were at Cardiff. It is to the policing of the Cardiff area that the condition is attached.

Mr. Callaghan

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend.

I cannot tell the House that delay would be likely to improve the relationships or enable a scheme to go through on a voluntary basis. There has been plenty of time for that. Every effort has been made by many people, privately and publicly, to get these people to come together. I therefore hope that the House will accept that I do not feel it right to accept this Motion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), in a most percipient speech, indicated some of the thoughts on the matter which naturally have been in the minds of the Home Office. I should be out of order to go into those in detail—I see your eagle eye on me, Mr. Speaker—but perhaps I may be allowed to utter the aphorism which will answer my hon. Friend, which is that the best is always the enemy of the good. I have to go for the good, and not for the best. There may be an opportunity later to do something different, but I do not think that I had better go any further in that connection.

Even though I am not free to refer in detail to the question of the headquarters, I ought to say in relation to the efficiency of the policing of the Cardiff area, which is obviously a matter of importance arising out of the Order, that the Home Office intends to maintain a very vigilant eye on what happens about the policing of the capital city of Wales. There are responsibilities in this matter which devolve upon the Home Office and they will be exercised. I shall see that my officials pay very close attention to what happens in that case.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North is right to say that there was a proposal that there should be a district command organisation. This is an indication of where the influence of the Home Office can be brought to bear, because the chief constable designate had discussions with Her Majesty's Inspector from the Home Office and with the other chief constables, as a result of which the chief constable designate has now decided not to recommend a district command organisation for the new force in South Wales. That is a significant indication of the value of discussion in these matters.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the Proceedings on the Motion relating to Police may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Ernest G. Perry.]

Question again proposed.

Mr. Callaghan

The chief constable designate is now making special administrative arrangements following his discussions with the Home Office, in particular, about the provision of a support headquarters to meet the needs of Cardiff. I am not discussing where the operational headquarters should be. I am at the moment discussing whether Cardiff will be efficiently policed under this system. I make that point in order to safeguard myself in the course of discussions.

I think that I can say—as far as it lies within my power, I am determined that it shall be so—that the fact that the district organisation is not now going on, and the special administrative amendments which are being made, including, in particular, the provision of a support headquarters, will meet the needs of Cardiff in an efficient way so that crime will be kept down as far as is possible. In my view, this is not as suitable as having the unnamable subject based at Cardiff, but the abandonment of the district proposal does not affect the assessment that the amalgamation will increase the efficiency of policing over the whole of the combined area. This is where I start on this matter.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies), who is a great local patriot, objects, though naturally enough, to the amalgamation of his beloved police force. He is right to be proud of it, and I should not wish anyone to think anything else. There is no reflection on the efficiency of Merthyr or its police force in the scheme for amalgamation. I wish to make that entirely clear to my hon. Friend. I sympathise with him in his view of the need for the local policeman who is known to the local citizens. The unit beat policing system recently introduced is a means of ensuring that there is closer local contact maintained than there was even heretofore.

My hon. Friend, who, as well as being a local patriot, is always forward-looking in these matters, knows that crime nowadays is not always confined within the boundaries of Cardiff or of Merthyr. Unfortunately, criminals, would-be, potential and actual, travel from one place to another. We must have regard to the mobility of the criminal in these matters.

Mr. S. O. Davies

My right hon. Friend has been very kind to my constituency, and I appreciate that, but he must be aware that the police in Merthyr Tydvil co-operate without hesitation or difficulty with the police of Monmouthshire, of Glamorgan and of Cardiff, and that they have done so over the years. There has been no difficulty whatever in that respect.

Mr. Callaghan

I accept that. I ask my hon. Friend to accept in return that a single administration of a force with single communications and with single, united and combined transport will add to the efficiency of policing for the citizens of the area. That is the test. Will it improve the policing of the area?—not will it support the local pride or local stubbornness of any particular police authority? We are not concerned with that here. We are concerned with the efficiency of the policing of the area.

In reply to the hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams), although I regret the decision of Glamorgan on a particular matter, nevertheless, the fact that Cardiff will not have the place which the House unitedly believes that it should have in this matter will not lead to what he feared, namely, a scandalous waste of money. In other words, the building will be used. It will be used very fully. I have had some discussion with the chief constable of Cardiff about his proposals for it and, subject to the chief constable-designate and the new authority, full use will be made of the building. It may be that in due time the new authority will decide that Cardiff's building should have a different purpose. I shall not particularise more than that. The purpose for which the Cardiff building now exists is rewarding and economic, but it could serve another purpose, and maybe it will. I agree entirely with the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire that this is a matter for the policy authority and not for me. I may regret that. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) thought that I should have these powers, but I have not.

If democracy means anything, it is that there must be an opportunity for police authorities to make their own mistakes, to learn from them, recover from them, and correct them. The pressure of local democracy on the new police authority may lead it to that conclusion.

I think that I have covered most of the points raised, although I was not here throughout the debate. If I have missed any point, I shall be glad to give way to any hon. Member who wishes to remind me of it.

Experience elsewhere shows that whatever differences exist before amalgamations of this sort the new forces soon settle down and develop a high morale. As everyone has agreed, the case for amalgamation here is not in doubt. It would be stronger still in certain circumstances, but those circumstances are not for us to determine. I recommend to the House that, despite some of the doubts expressed, it should agree to the Order going through because I cannot see that by delaying it I should stand any greater prospect than I have had up to now of promoting a voluntary scheme.

Question put and negatived.