HC Deb 02 December 1970 vol 807 cc1272-4
18. Mr. Adam Hunter

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will call for a report from the Chief Constable on the plans he has for bringing the police force in the county of Fife up to strength; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I understand that the Chief Constable is running an active recruiting campaign involving selective advertising; maintaining close liaison with local schools; and encouraging his officers to attract suitable men to the service. He is also considering employing additional civilians to release more police officers for duties which require their powers.

Mr. Hunter

The hon. Gentleman has not given the figures of the under-strength in the county of Fife. Is he aware that the position is very serious, and does he agree that increased rates of pay and improved conditions could ease it? Is he aware that when he and his right hon. and hon. Friends were in Opposition they gave the impression that when they came to power they would work miracles in police recruitment? Is the position worse, or is it better?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

If the hon. Gentleman cared to ask me a Question about police strength in the county of Fife I should be very glad to answer. The force is 39 below establishment. I am not in the least complacent about forces that are under-strength. Matters of pay are being negotiated on the Police Council, and I cannot comment on what is happening there.

30. Mr. Sproat

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the shortage of police in Scotland at the latest available date; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The number of vacancies in the regular police force in Scotland at 30th September, 1970, was 856. I am glad to say that in the nine months ending 30th September there has been a net increase of 73 in total police strength. We will continue our efforts in conjunction with police authorities to improve recruitment and the efficient use of police manpower.

Mr. Sproat

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that, in spite of the fact that recently the trend has marginally improved, the situation is very disquieting? Will he not put the full weight of his Department behind any moves to improve the pay structure and working conditions of the police as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I assure my hon. Friend that we are extremely concerned about the position of police in Scotland. Negotiations with the police on the matter of pay are a matter for the Police Council.

Mr. Buchan

The Under-Secretary must be aware of the powerful feeling at present among police in Scotland and in the United Kingdom as a whole. Will he give an assurance that the Government do not intend to make the police the first target for any clobbering of public servants on the income front?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Those words come ill from the hon. Gentleman. I remind him that the present Government, for the first time for three years, have given authority for an increase in police establishments. This will enable the police to start recruiting for the first time in three years.