§ 1.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin McLaren (Bristol, North-West)
In the recent election campaign, one of the issues which was much discussed was that of law and order. Many candidates on both sides of the House felt that the most sensible thing to say was that we should back up the police In my election address I said:We should give every support to the police to ensure the safety of the community.In the Conservative Manifesto we said:The best deterrent to crime is the likelihood of being caught. We will strengthen the police.Having said those things at the election, it would not be right after the election if we were to forget all about them.
Another reason why I have sought the opportunity to raise this matter is that I have received several convincing letters from policemen in my constituency telling me that all was not well. Needless to say, nothing I shall say this afternoon implies any criticism of the Government, who have been in office for only just over one month. Nor is this really a party issue, except to the extent that it was a pity that the Labour Government thought it necessary to restrict police recruitment at a critical time and refused to allow undermanning allowances in some of our major cities.
When we say that we support the police, we mean partly that we respect and admire the work they do for the community. In a recent public opinion poll, one of the questions was:Are the police to be admired a great deal?and 86 per cent. of the people who were asked that question replied, "Yes". In the House we appreciate all that they do for us and we regard them as our friends. Supporting the police also means that we should help them in their work and not hinder them, as a good many people are apt to do. For Members of Parliament, supporting the police means that we should not forget to see whether the conditions in which we expect them to serve are satisfactory.
The central problem of the police today is the rapidly increasing work load and that there are not enough men to 1073 carry it out and that there is a steadily diminishing real reward for the extra effort required from the service. May I examine each of these ideas in turn? Some of the paradoxes in our society are that we have more affluence and yet more violence, more education and yet less responsibility, less poverty and yet more dissatisfaction. There is a rising crime wave with which the police have to contend, and crime takes new forms. There is, for example, the fashion of theft of antique silver and pictures. There is the under-current of lawlessness which shows itself in some of the riots and demonstrations which we have witnessed. Indeed, we had an example here only yesterday. I remind the House that in the Grosvenor Square incident no fewer than 145 police officers were injured. There are the football fans who wreck the trains, the squatters who sit in other people's property, the student disorders, and the skinheads. All these matters involve more work for the police, often of an arduous and disagreeable kind.
These are not the only pressures. There is more road traffic, so there is more work involved in keeping it moving and keeping it safe. There is the work of dealing with abandoned cars and taking particulars of accidents and supplying them to insurance compaines. There are the modern Construction and Use Regulations which impose new duties on the police—for example, inspecting the tyres of vehicles to see whether they are worn. To some extent the recruitment of traffic wardens has helped and so has the extension of fixed penalty offences. But it is still true that the uniformed branch must devote about half its time to traffic management.
There is a spate of new legislation, for which we must bear the responsibility, that imposes additional stresses on the police just as it does on the Civil Service. Examples are easy to find. There is, for instance, the new Firearms Act, which requires that owners of sporting shotguns now have to be licensed by the police. There is the burdensome work in connection with betting, gaming and clubs. Indeed, the police are the maids of all work. They have to enforce livestock movement orders. They have to check on aliens and au pair girls. The size of that task is illustrated when we realise that there are no fewer than 100,000 1074 resident aliens in the Metropolitan police district. In areas where there are many immigrants the police do valuable work with their Liaison Councils. The police have to deal with lost property and stray dogs. They have to enforce local authority warrants for school truancy. There are the drug offences, which largely constitute a new sphere.
All this work is increasing every year. The question is: who is there to do it? The answer is that there are too few people.
The Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary shows that on 31st December last there were well over 10,000 police officers below establishment. The C.I.D. section of the police is carrying a case load too heavy for efficiency with too much overtime being worked. In the uniformed branch, there are large towns with populations of over 100,000 where the number of police out at night can be counted on one's fingers. The problem is that while the demands have multipled, police resources, especially in manpower, have failed to keep pace. The service is overstretched while its responsibilities have grown.
The income of police officers compared with other occupations has not kept pace. Semi-skilled occupations with trade union power behind them have gone ahead. This has led to wastage with the resignation of trained and experienced men, which is a serious problem. It is quite true that last year there was not a net decrease of male police. Indeed, there was an increase of over 600 men. But that does not detract from the disquiet that we should feel over the resignations, before pensionable age, of many trained and experienced men.
It is worth considering why these resignations occur. They are principally on account of pay. If a man sees that he can increase his income by changing his occupation, by moving to work where he is not under discipline and does not have to wear uniform, may not have to work at weekends or on shifts, does not have hours of duty which are liable to be altered at short notice, is no longer exposed to the risk of injury from criminals or rowdy youths, to danger in various kinds of physical emergency, or to unjustified and malicious complaints being levelled against him about his 1075 work, it is only human if he considers whether he and his family might be happier if he were to change his job.
Let us not underestimate the influence of policemen's wives. They have to bear the brunt of many of the factors that I have mentioned. It is they who may question in the policeman's home whether the game is worth the candle.
One new factor about wastage which I should like to mention and which will soon be with us is that many men who joined the police service in 1946 when they came out of the forces after the war will next year have done their 25 years and will be entitled to retire on pension. I understand that there may be about 3,000 men in that category. Will they decided then to call it a day? Some of them undoubtedly will.
There is little question that pay is the principal factor. I will give one or two examples. In Bristol eight police officers from a single division asked to be allowed to work in off-duty hours as taxi drivers and security guards for private companies. They said that they needed to earn more money for their families. Police regulations do not allow outside work of this kind. When the chief constable had reluctantly to turn the applications down, a police officer with 14 years' service and take-home pay of still only £14 left the force for a job as a storeman. Another constable with 16 years' service in the Hampshire force quit to take a job driving a dust cart. He maintained that he was better off after he changed. Last year 45 men left the Bristol force before pensionable age.
I am sure the Minister will agree that it is not in the public interest that this kind of thing should happen. Experienced police officers have a fund of professional knowledge and judgment which simply cannot be replaced by finding new young recruits. That is the dilemma: there is increasing work and not enough police to do it. We all expect to be able to dial 999 and to have a policeman come promptly. However, if this trend goes on he will not be there to answer our call The remedy is more men, and more men will not be obtained without higher pay. There has been an 8½ per cent. interim award back-dated to the beginning of this year, and a review is due to take place in September when the 1076 police service will expect a fair and honourable settlement. I hope that the review will take account of the undoubted fact that current levels of pay have fallen below the standard recommended by the Willink Royal Commission. Better differentials are required among the higher ranks of the service. A chief superintendent receives only £25 more than a superintendent, the rank below. That is the gross figure. When allowance is made for taxation, the extra reward for the extra responsibility of being in command of 150 men is seen to be negligible.
Another grievance is that the detective duty allowance for overtime worked by detectives is paid at rates frequently as low as only half the basic rates of pay.
Coming to police organisation, we have just completed the force amalgamations. What is needed now is a breathing space to settle down. I agree that good progress has been made in the last few years in unit beat systems, panda cars and personal radios. There is perhaps room to apply organisation-and-management methods in police work. Too many police—I believe 500 in the Metropolitan Police district—are employed as court ushers. Time is spent waiting about in courts, executing civil warrants or maintaining school crossing patrols. There is a need for the police to be relieved of minor or time-wasting duties.
The paper work should be cut down, as Marks and Spencer did so successfully. We should develop more highly trained police leaders. The older type of officer, like Mr. Dixon of Dock Green, is on his way out. More graduates are required. Rather than have a graduate entry, it would be better if people with A levels started as constables and, after the completion of their probationary service when their value to the police had been established, they should be seconded to take university courses, which would avoid the internal jealousies always associated with the Trenchard scheme. We should try to establish a more professional status for the police giving them perhaps good monthly salaries instead of the present hourly or day rates.
To sum up, we are concerned with an honourable profession. I do not think that it is in any sense helpful to say that police morale is low. That was not the impression received by the Inspectorate as 1077 given in its recently published report. The police maintain the Queen's peace and ensure that we and our families go about our ways in safety. It is still possible to walk about at night in London and other cities of this country in safety, which is not true of many cities abroad. In return, the police are entitled to expect us to give them conditions of service which are up to the improved standards of the 1970s, which will make them feel well satisfied and happy in their work and which will make them respected and looked up to by people in other walks of life.
§ 1.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. McLaren). The police have one of the hardest tasks in our society in upholding what used to be known respectfully and what is now known perhaps slightly derogatorily as the British way of life. I have always felt that the unarmed police force which we have in this country, is one of the greatest assets of the British way of life.
I have been fortunate enough to travel abroad—for instance, I was nine times in the United States last year—and the more I do so the more I realise how great an asset is our unarmed police force. However, I know that many members of the police force have reservations about our ability indefinitely to maintain an unarmed police force. The Government must not only give backing but be seen to give backing to the police in the execution of their duties.
It is perhaps not coincidental that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West and myself received numerous letters before, during and following the election from many constituents who are policemen. One point made to me on numerous occasions was that the police cannot strike. This week, when we are faced with an emergency and a dock strike I have received three letters from police constituents pointing out that they are called upon to undertake the hardest of tasks in the knowledge that the people they may well have to protect, the dockers, are seeking wages very much higher than those which any policeman on the beat has any prospect of obtaining.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bris, 1078 tol North-West mentioned the hours which the police have to work. I do not propose to dwell at length on this point. Being a policeman is a difficult and frequently unpleasant task—all hours, all weathers, and involving a great disruption of family life. Over the years I have seen in this place as a parliamentary candidate and now as a Member the great virtue of being able to sit in the Public Gallery at any time without there being any question of search or molestation by the authorities. Yesterday's occurrence merely serves to show what a great asset we have in the police and how essential it is that we should back up the police in carrying out their very difficult task. I realise that the relationship between the police and the officials of this House is perhaps a delicate subject, but I always greatly value the opportunity to listen to debates in the House at any time of day or night. Yesterday's occurrence serves to show how much must be done to ensure that our way of life is maintained.
Another letter which I received during the General Election campaign and which impressed me greatly came from a policeman who confessed to being a lifelong Socialist, but he voted this time for the Conservative Party because he felt that it recognises the problem of the maintenance of law and order as being one of the overriding social problems of this country. He wrote a moving letter saying that by voting for me he was looking to me to support him and his interests in Parliament. I hope that my remarks today will give him the feeling that I am doing my small part to justify the support which he has entrusted to me.
The police in the United States, Spain, France and many other countries are armed. When travelling abroad I am always struck by the different atmosphere which exists between the public and the police in those countries and the relationship between the two in Britain. Here we have a mutual respect between police and public which I have always considered to be a priceless asset.
In the last few years I have felt that there is some danger of this mutual respect being jeopardised. My hon. Friend did well to mention the numerous petty duties which our police are obliged to undertake, particularly those 1079 relating to parking regulations and motoring restrictions.
Our police are fair. They are rarely, if ever, vindictive. They are tolerant and cheerful. We have much to be thankful for, but we pay our policemen little thanks. To give and not to count the cost, to toil and to ask for no reward, save that of knowing that they do their job to the best of their ability, seems to sum up the attitude of the majority of our policemen.
I support my hon. Friend in urging the Minister to ensure that there is parity of pay which will make the policeman feel that he is doing a worthwhile job and is getting a worthwhile reward. One of the greater misdeeds of the Labour Government was that rewards tended to be given to those best able to pressurise. Dockers and dustmen received high rewards quickly when they held the public to ransom.
§ Mr. Ray Carter (Birmingham, Northfield)
The hon. Gentleman is implying that the Tories are better friends of the police than the Socialists. Is he aware that in a Parliamentary Answer yesterday it was said that in 1960 there were 72,301 on the strength of police forces in England and Wales and that by 1970 the figure had risen to 93,707? Thus, despite his criticisms, the Labour Government obviously did well by the police. However, it should be remembered—
§ Mr. Carter
I was trying to correct the impression which the hon. Gentleman had given that the Tory Party—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. An intervention must not become a speech. Will the hon. Gentleman either put his intervention briefly or resume his seat?
§ Mr. Carter
Would the hon. Gentleman accept that the Labour Government were highly successful in retaining the required strength of the Police Force, as well as the morale and well-being of the Force?
§ Mr. Adley
I would never seek to suggest that the Labour Government did other than their best. Unfortunately, one of the greatest indictments of the last 1080 five years is that they failed, because of their policies, to generate sufficient growth in the economy to enable them to carry out many policies like maintaining the strength and morale of the police. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that I am saying that the Conservative Party is better able to do this job, then it is the police who have indicated to me recently that they believe that we might be better able to understand their problems and to appreciate the need to take steps to maintain law and order. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman has done his research assiduously and diligently. I stand here with the benefit of having done only little research, save to try to put to the House the feelings of numerous of my constituents, many of whom are now serving in the police force.
I urge my right hon. Friend to be aware of the great value of the police in the maintenance of the British way of life and of the need to do everything we can to see that that essential mutual respect between the police and the public is maintained.
§ 2.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. McLaren) on having initiated this debate. He may recall that I raised a similar subject in the last Parliament.
I am particularly concerned with some of the more onerous duties which the police are called upon to perform. I have a reputation, quite wrongly, for being against the police. Whenever I am in trouble or difficulties with the police they tend to be a little more fair in the other direction, against me, than they would normally be.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh? "]—Some minutes ago I made my way by car towards the Palace of Westminster. As I neared the gates of New Palace Yard the traffic lights were red against me, and, being a law-abiding citizen, I stopped and waited for them to change. While waiting there, another hon. Member, driving a Mini, came on my off-side, crossed the lights, although they were still red, and drove into New Palace Yard. He is a new hon. Member whose name I do not know, but he will know to whom I am referring. I obey the law while he does not, though I should be the first to be accused of breaking the law. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]
1081 The motoring side of police activities is a complete anachronism these days. There is a shortage of policemen yet we ask them to perform tasks which, frankly, any woman, young student or old-age pensioner could do. I am referring to what is loosely termed the road traffic side of police work. It is about time that we had a supernumerary police force to deal with the less essential and inessential police activities which could be done by people other than policemen. Because of the present state of affairs, some of those concerned with road traffic duties have become officious and are taking action when it is not necessary. I will give a couple of illustrations—they can easily be verified—to show what I mean.
Not long ago a man in the vending machine business parked his car at the side of the road by a bank with the idea of changing the coins that he had removed from the machines. This was not in the West End or City of London but well out of town. He was parked on a wide road and there was no possibility of his car causing congestion. He was loaded down with coins and therefore wanted to park near the bank. This he did, and he went into the bank with his coins. He transacted his business within three minutes, but when he returned to his car he found a parking ticket on the windscreen and later received an automatic fine. When he tried to discuss the matter outside the bank with the police constable who had given him the ticket, the constable would not even listen to him.
Another case concerned a motor car which carried two exemption tickets for parking and a war disablement badge. The driver explained to the policeman why he had parked, again for about three minutes, but the constable would not listen. Indeed, he would take no notice whatever of the man's remonstrations. Likewise, he received an automatic fine. The coin-vending machine man was told, "Go away down the road." He said, "How can I with loads of coins?" The constable was quite vicious and offhand and said that the man had to go down the road. Immediately following that incident a Securicor van was parked for 15 minutes, and not a thing was done about it.
1082 As they say in the legal profession, not only must justice be done but it must be obviously seen to be done, and the same must apply to the police. As hon. Members who were in the last Parliament know, I have been running a campaign against the deplorable situation of unlicensed vehicles on the roads, and not only unlicensed but without certificates of roadworthiness, and, very often, without insurance. I have made approaches to the police about this, but the police do not want to know. I can assure the House that there are dozens of policemen who are guilty of this offence.
Only last week I had two occasions to go to policemen about this sort of thing. One incident was in the Clerkenwell Road, outside Clerkenwell police station. I saw a car parked on a yellow band. I saw a policeman and I said to him, "Excuse me, officer, but can you explain why it is that a car can be parked there?" He replied, "It is probably a policeman's." I said, "Still he has got no right to park his private car on a yellow band." I had a look, and there was no road fund certificate. I said to the policeman, "By the way, there is no road fund licence," and he still replied, "It is probably a policeman's." We looked in and saw a policeman's helmet. I said, "Even if he is a policeman he still has no right either to be there or not to have a mad fund licence. Are you going to do nothing about it?" "Oh, no," he said. He was quite reluctant to take any action.
That is one case. I have had reported to me from south London dozens of such cases, and I have had reported to me some cases within a stone's throw of this House. Policemen should be the last people to commit such an offence. I have reported such cases to the police and they are on record. There is one at Wood Green and there are four or five at Hornsey. I suggest that the police should be seen to be enforcing these laws even against themselves.
As I say, what I should like to see is a supernumerary police force. It could be formed. It could be formed not so much for officious enforcement but on the basis of discussion and explanation, and by men who would go round and explain to the public and assist, and women particularly could help.
1083 Women traffic wardens are doing a good job in the centre of London, and invariably they get a good response from motorists. There is a case which is probably sub judice; it occurred recently in Berkeley Square and I sent details to the Minister and they are being investigated. But I have found that the women traffic wardens seem to be doing better than the police. I have many friends among the police and they tell me that this may be so because they themselves are fed up with the job of traffic duties. They do not like it. They say they are fed up with it; they have to make reports about these things and they do not want to make these reports and they do not want to do that sort of job.
In setting up a strong police force for anti-criminal activities, a force of fit men, the younger men, with high pay, it would help if we had a supernumerary force of older men and also of women to do some of the other police work such as the traffic duties. Policemen, instead of retiring, as they do at a relatively early age, would not retire but would switch over to what I would term the guard service and the supernumerary activities, and they would do so instead, as now happens with most of them, of their going to firms like Securicor and other guard firms. They could form the nucleus of a force for guiding, patrolling, school patrols, school children's road crossings.
And they could go out on the beat, the ordinary old beat. I do not know what is the experience of other hon. Members, but I have yet to see more than once in a blue moon a policeman on the beat. When I was a youngster there were always policemen walking around, and I had to dodge them. Now one has to look for them. Some of the older policemen would be quite willing to do that work and it would be helpful if they would.
One of the tragedies of the modern age, particularly in industrial areas such as I represent, West Ham, is the vandalism which goes on. There are the telephone vandals, for instance. A lot of that vandalism would be stopped by just the sight of a policeman in the area. As it is, one can hardly find a telephone box which is not damaged or smashed so that one cannot make a telephone call out of doors.
1084 The supernumerary police force could do an amazing job in helping and advising. I would go further and have them as an advisory force on the beat. I would have them in police boxes—there is a police box in Trafalgar Square—where they could give advice to the general public and help in many ways. It would be excellent to have an old police sergeant sitting in a little box in a busy area where there are people always coming along and wanting help and advice, and he could tell them, for instance, where is the nearest hospital, where is the nearest doctor, where are the nearest first-aid facilities, and so on. He would be a great help in emergencies.
It could be done. It would be cheaper and easier than having a large, expensive police force doing everything. If it were done, people would be happier, and it would help to combat the growing crime figures of which we have recently read in the Commissioner's Report reported in the Press.
I am accused of being anti-police. I hope that I shall lose that title. It is not a title that I like. Perhaps I have got it because I have come forward from time to time with constructive criticisms—but constructive criticisms not only of the police. I can assure them that I constructively criticise my own Front Bench, whether in Opposition or Government, and that I make constructive criticisms of the former Prime Minister or of the present Prime Minister, because I think that that is my job. I come here on behalf of my constituents, and if my constituents want to criticise, then I am entitled to express their criticisms, whether they are of policemen or of Ministers. If the criticisms are investigated and found to be unjustified, they can be withdrawn. Hon. Members who have been here some time know that if I am shown to be wrong I am the first to admit it; I withdraw; I sit down gracefully. That is what I do now, thanking you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make this little, short speech.
§ 2.19 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
The House is greatly indebted to my two hon. Friends from Bristol for raising this matter on this occasion. My hon. Friend and former colleague the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. McLaren) spoke as he always does, 1085 when he elects to speak, having studied his subject in some depth, and he coloured it with a broad brush with accuracy and perception. The people of Bristol are fortunate in having him bask here to represent them once again. His colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley), pursued the matter and took up the same strain. He evidently had been approached about this matter and had recognised the deep feeling there is in this country at the present time about the service and conditions of the present police force.
To the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) I would say, "Methinks he doth protest too much at his reputation." If, perchance, he claims that thousands of police officers do not have road fund licences—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
—and if the hon. Gentleman gives examples of those which he has reported, that is perhaps not the best way of pleasing the police in a debate in which they hope that the hon. Gentleman will be speaking about how their terms and conditions might be improved. I do not criticise him, but that may be one reason why he holds the reputation he does, not altogether without justification.
I specialise in this subject and have made a deep study of it for 10 or 12 years. As is well known to many members of my party, and apparently even to the Prime Minister, I wrote a book on this subject to which the Lord Chancellor wrote a foreword. The subject and the views which I air on it are of course controversial, which, as the Lord Chancellor pointed out, is inevitable if one is to discuss the matter fairly and evoke the right response in the police force and in the community generally.
We are fortunate this afternoon in that we reached this debate early and have a certain amount of time open to us. For that reason and no other I propose to spend a few minutes in developing what I believe are the essential factors to the success of the battle against crime in Britain today. If that battle is to succeed, first, the police force must be content with their conditions of work, secondly, policemen must be able to feel that they are giving satisfactory service to the community—rather like men in the 1086 forces, they like to feel that they are doing that service—and thirdly, we must be able to attract into the police force men and women of ideals. This involves an immediate review of the structure, terms of service and conditions of the police force, and I ask the Home Secretary immediately to undertake such a review. This is a vital and immediate need.
The reason why some of us are particularly closely associated with the problems of the police, serious crime and the question of freedom under the law is that the Government took over a state of affairs in Ulster on which it would be unfair to press the Home Secretary for any immediate answers to the problems we are discussing today and an urgent problem of immigration, and now there is a dock strike. The tackling of crime is almost as urgent as any of these matters.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East was speaking, an hon. Gentleman opposite pointed out that between 1960 and 1970 the police force had increased from approximately 72,000 to 92,000 personnel. That is perfectly true, as was said in a Written Answer to which reference was made. However, in 1960 there were about 500,000 indictable offences in Britain, whereas in 1970 there were well over 1 million. If there is a rise in the police force personnel of, say, 15 per cent. in ten years, and at the same time serious crime more than doubles, apart from the number of small offences which has also doubled, when we pass new gaming and licensing laws which have to be dealt with by the police, it is undeniable that the Metropolitan Police needs at least 5,000 more men to bring it up to something approaching strength. I do not accept that the figures laid down by the inspectorate are right, even then.
The criminal investigation force of the Metropolitan Police as at December, 1968 consisted of about 3,100 men. That is ludicrous. Many detectives working in the Metropolitan Police Force are expected to solve 8 or 9 crimes at one and the same time. The conditions in the Metropolitan Police are far worse than in the county constabularies, and I want to deal first with the question of what can be done immediately to help the conditions of the police force.
Many policemen are dedicated men, and although it is usually said that pay 1087 is the main criterion, this is not true. I know and have spoken to a great many detectives, and many policemen in the county forces and elsewhere over the years, and they have all told me that their conditions of work are equally important.
Let us look at those conditions. It is extremely difficult in many areas, particularly in London, for the police to get suitable housing close to their work, and practically no special conditions are applicable, except in a few local county areas.
Men engaged in criminal investigation work, whether in London or elsewhere, get few week-ends off. Most of us have nothing to do from Saturday morning until Sunday night. Almost all detectives, particularly in London, are burdened with a great deal of hard work over the weekend. Furthermore, they may be burdened with sudden extra duties, such as arise in the Isle of Thanet where not infrequently local forces are called out to deal with disturbances in Margate and Ramsgate.
In addition, the preparation of reports causes difficulty. A detective frequently gets irritated by the inspectorate insisting on having the reports done in precisely the way it wants and friction develops. I came across a case recently in Essex where there were 14 men in the C.I.D. branch and two typists, neither of whom knew shorthand. I asked one of the detectives how he would do his report, and he replied that he knew a policewoman who did shorthand. He said that the others did not know that she could do shorthand, but he took her out for lunch and she assisted him in the preparation of his reports.
The police are entitled to the same secretarial assistance and conditions as are found in an ordinary commercial office. Furthermore, they are without the modern aids which those engaged in detection should have. The police in London have practically no tape recorders. A tape recorder would be of the greatest value because it could be taken to the scene of the crime and the detective could record every detail of the crime and afterwards take a record of anything that is said. Evidence so recorded would be far better than the verbal evidence which is merely noted 1088 down afterwards and is often challenged later by the person who is arrested.
Whether in terms of length of work, home conditions, secretarial assistance, reports, the removal of antagonisms that arise between the constabulary on the one hand and the detective force on the other, they need to be brought up to the standards that now exist in commerce and industry. Case loads must be looked at. That is the way in which to begin to tackle the first part of the problem of recruitment.
There are two totally different types of policeman. There is the type that my hon. Friend and I know particularly well—they were in the Welsh Guards with us, they were the men that I remember commanding overseas. My hon. Friend was more senior than I. He was a Regular whereas I was a war-time officer. These men came from the Welsh Guards. I had 42 Cardiff City policemen—supreme soldiers. Forty-one were very good policemen, but only one had the capacity to be a detective. I hope that we can get the police and the Police Federation to understand that we are not against them. We are trying to point out that to be a good detective requires a totally different character and mould than to be a good regimental policeman.
There is the type of man who gives great service in the House, or as a court usher—the type of man who looks after the ceremonials that take place in county and horse shows. There is the very good local policeman or bobby in the village who looks after the community and who knows Jack and Jill and knows who is likely to cause trouble and who is not. He is the type of person who is excellent in Grosvenor Square and in student demonstrations, or in dealing with Vietnamese objectors. But he is totally different from the Sherlock Holmes or Hercules Poirot type—the first-class investigators. These are often little men. For some reason little men are more likely to be better detectives than big men. They have keener noses. The person who will make a very good investigator is just not the same as the ordinary policeman.
I do not intend to be offensive when I say that the British police force, speaking generally, is amateur and not professional. Last year about eight graduates 1089 entered the police force from university—only eight. We have three thousand detectives in London. That is only one part of the force. Many people would be attracted to a career in the police force if they thought that they could become detectives. They are not attracted to the idea of being mere policemen. I do not want to see the creation of a national police force, as suggested by the Lord Chief Justice. I believe that that sort of force would offend local susceptibilities. We want to maintain the corporate sense of our local community forces.
But serious crime knows no boundaries; it sweeps across Britain and the rest of the world. We want a new structure, and not merely regional crime squads, although they are doing admirable work. We want a centrally controlled, strategically directed force, under the Home Secretary. Such a force, operating from the centre, would have its various regional headquarters in the counties, who would help local forces. Whether or not we call this a national C.I.D. I care not. What is essential is that there shall be separate recruitment into our criminal investigation force.
If a person wants to be a detective and does not want to serve on the beat he should not be compelled to do so. This would involve a separate pay structure, separate allowances and separate pensions. It would not only enable graduates to enter; it would allow for a two-tier type of recruitment. It would enablemen to come in at middle age—specialists, such as accountants. It would enable the recruitment of specialists in forensic science to carry out research into crime. It would enable us to create what we really need—a highly organised body to fight organised crime.
It is astounding that although for many years I have called for these sort of squads, only now are we beginning to understand that criminals operate as specialists in their particular fields, just as hon. Members have their special fields. I speak on tourism, and home affairs; other hon. Members speak on economics. Likewise, we must accept that the same situation exists in regard to the police force. The bullion criminal steals bullion, silver or gold, while the jewel thief specialises in jewels. Despite the fact that I have been shouting for it for many 1090 years—and I have been shouting very loudly recently—there is no proper silver squad in the police force. There is no record of antique Georgian silver or of modern silver, although it is being stolen in ever-increasing quantities. There is no central computer, which would enable all the necessary information to be centralised, so that property can not only be recovered later through market channels, but also so that the extent of a theft can be realised.
A fine arts squad has been set up. The Fraud Squad is hopelessly under-manned. It has no senior businessmen. It lacks a sufficient number of men with business acumen. They must be brought in from outside. We must not allow inspectors of constabulary and others to stand in the way of this sort of recruitment if we want to defeat crime. Then there is the admirable branch that deals with forgery. It is admirable, because it is under the United Nations. There is an obligation to have an international force. The odds are two to one against catching a forger, but they are eight to one against catching a robber.
Those are a few of my ideas. This is an immensely wide subject. It is fortunate that I have had the chance of being discursive. It will not be easy for us to obtain the right conditions which will provide a contented police force. We cannot easily obtain the proper recruitment—not merely among the young but among the older people. We must provide attractive conditions of service. If we could have another 2,000 good men and a few women in the C.I.D. force of the Metropolitan Police we should be able to halve the crime rate in three years. But there must be an intelligence service. There must be an increase in the number of men who can work under cover and move amongst criminals. In the war years, we had a Ministry of Economic Warfare, which was led by the right hon. Member for Coventry. East (Mr. Crossman). Its job was to sow dissension amongst the enemy. It should be the task of a criminal investigation section to move amongst criminals and do the same so that, when money is stolen, instead of saying that the haul has been £1 millon an undercover police officer suggests that it was £2 million, implying that another member of the gang got away with the extra £1 million. Then 1091 the officer might say, "Well, George, you were not selected to go on that robbery because Harry does not like you. He thinks that you are incompetent". Then he might say to another, "George went off with your girl Anne last night".
Anyone who thinks that it is possible to "play it cool" when dealing with the criminals of the underworld today, which is the attitude of many people, is quite wrong. It is essential to know who they are and the type of crime which is to be committed. One of the most important tasks of the police today is to catch villians before they commit crimes. An outstanding example was the Kray brothers, and the police are entitled to point to the arrest of the Krays and the Richardsons as two of their successes. I am delighted that they succeeded, and more strength to their elbows in the future. But what is wrong today in Britain is that we are not prepared to look upon our police as professionals, so that serious crime is tackled at the roots by setting up the right type of professional structure. It is that for which I call.
I very much like the expression, "Protection under the law" which has been used by our present Home Secretary. However, if the police are to be assisted in dealing with the squatters, the vandals at Margate and other seaside areas, the people who destroy telephone booths and those who create trouble as militant minorities in our squares or among students, the police must be given the opportunity to see that when such people are caught they are dealt with effectively. If the effective treatment is not to be applied to that part of the anatomy which was used to it in the past—and I do not call for a return to that—they must be kicked in the pocket. The police must be supported by financial penalties which are certain to be recovered in such cases. They must also be supported by a wider measure of recruitment and receive what they believe to be the support of the courts. Most of all, they must have public support. It is in that respect that I am sure that, in due course, my right hon. Friend will set up a means by which both public grievances and police grievances can be understood, one way or the other, so that we create conditions in which there are appeals both by radio 1092 and television asking the public to support the police.
When my right hon. Friend has a little time, after dealing with immigration and other pressing problems, I hope that he will be able to set up a new structure for our police. As soon as he is able to do so, I am sure that he will treat it as a matter of urgency.
§ 2.44 p.m.
§ Mrs. Monks
Mr. Speaker, I would like your advice. I have not yet made my maiden speech, but I am wondering whether I might be allowed to intervene in this debate.
§ Mrs. Monks
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I have the honour to represent Chorley, in Lancashire, which covers an area of 80 square miles. The constituency comprises Chorley borough, Chorley rural district, and the three urban districts of Leyland, Adlington and Withnell. We are served by the Lancashire Constabulary, which is well known for its very high standards.
Before I was elected to this House the constituency was well served by Mr. Clifford Kenyon, who was a member of the party opposite. He served the constituency well for 25 years, but it would be quite wrong for me to suggest that I was not very happy to take his place, though on the benches on this side of the House.
As a magistrate, I have great respect for the police and the way in which they carry out their duties. However, as I was going about talking to people during the election campaign, I found many signs of discontent amongst the police.
I met one man who was running a small business. Formerly, he had been a policeman. I asked him why he had retired from the police and gone into his small business. He told me that when he and his wife were first married they were very happy. Members of the Lancashire Constabulary are provided with houses, so that they had to nut down no lump sum for a house. With a house 1093 provided and his wife continuing to work, their income was such that they were able to provide their house with all the comforts that they required. However, with the arrival of their first child, his wife gave up her job and their financial difficulties began. He told me that when he had drawn £250 from his savings in the first year he realised that the situation could not continue. He resigned from the police and with the remainder of his savings he bought a business. That was a good policeman lost to the force.
Another instance which I came across during the election campaign concerned more senior police officers. They are extremely concerned about what they consider to be a threat to their pension rights. It has always been considered by the police as one of their "perks" that a man can retire early, get a pension, and then find a light job when he is past his peak of physical fitness. The proposed new pension schemes threaten this practice, and many senior police officers are seriously considering resigning and going into other jobs while they can still retain their pension rights.
We as a nation depend on our police for the life that we have. Yesterday's incident in the House reminds us that if we are to maintain law and order it must be based on full confidence in our police. If our police forces are to be kept at full strength, we must see to it that they are provided with the facilities which other professions have. They must continue to have our whole-hearted support. It is because I feel so strongly about this that I have been moved to make my maiden speech on this subject.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It helps Mr. Speaker, who is not a thought reader, to know when an hon. Member wishes to make a maiden speech. The hon. Lady has just made a charming maiden speech. I did not know that it was coming.
§ Mrs. Monks
Mr. Speaker, I must apologise. I had no intention of making my maiden speech when I entered the Chamber today.
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Richard Sharples)
By leave of the House I will seek to reply to the debate. We have listened, unexpectedly, to a maiden speech from the hon. Lady the Member for Chorley (Mrs. Monks). The 1094 House will be impressed by her sincerity and the thoughtfulness of what she said. I am sure that the police, particularly those in her constituency, will appreciate the interest she takes in their work and will be grateful to her. I hope that we shall hear more of her on other occasions when I am sure the House will listen to her with great interest, if she speaks with the same sincerity as she did today.
Before turning to the main debate, perhaps I might refer to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). As the House knows, he has given a considerable amount of thought to this question. Many of us have seen the pamphlet he wrote entitled, "Conquest of Crime", in which he proposed a major review and restructuring of the police force. In his pamphlet, and this afternoon, he put forward important ideas to which I am sure he will not expect me to reply off the cuff. My right hon. Friend and I have only had a short time to consider these matters particularly in view of the other preoccupations, Northern Ireland, the dock strike and so on which have kept us occupied in the past few weeks. I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall give careful consideration to the issues he has raised.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. McLaren) on raising this subject. Although in some ways his speech was technically a maiden spech it was one we had heard before. We are delighted to see him back in this Housing taking part in our activities and I am sure that all hon. Members would congratulate him upon his return and for the manner in which he delivered his speech. He referred to questions of rising crime, the growth of violence and the growth of forms of crime involving technical and sophisticated techniques. Bristol police forces must take a great deal of comfort from the fact that two hon. Members representing the city have been here today to speak on their behalf.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) also referred to the rise in crime and to the difficult problems of the police because of the changing character of crime. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West said, the main deterrent is the likelihood of a criminal being caught and the 1095 means of catching a criminal is a strong and efficient police force I welcome the opportunity of debating the strength and well-being of the police because it is a subject to which the Government afford a very high priority. This is a wide subject and my hon. Friend was kind enough to give an indication of the points he proposed to deal with. I will have something to say about police manpower and pay and some of the points made by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary in his recent report as well as trying to deal with some of the points raised in the debate by other hon. Members.
The police force is our first line of defence against crime and as a Government we are committed to enabling the country to have a service which is strong and effective, strong in terms of numbers, equipment, methods, powers and by no means least of all, in terms of public support. There was a slowing down in the rate of growth in police forces after devaluation. Although we are still well below the authorised establishment I am glad to say that the strength of the forces generally is picking up. The net increase in the strength of the police in England and Wales of nearly 1,000 in the first five months of this year is about equal to the whole of the increase last year, and this is encouraging.
It is not merely a matter of adding men to the strength of the police force. We have to make sure that we retain in the force those experienced men who are of the greatest value. The job has to be made worthwhile, not only in terms of cash but in terms of conditions of service too, so that the experienced men remain in the force. We must prevent trained men wasting their talents on civilian jobs in the service or outside. They must have up-to-date equipment. The forces vary a lot and there is still more scope for the use of civilians including traffic wardens, to release police officers for operational duties which only they can do. Yesterday my right hon. Friend laid an Order considerably increasing the powers of traffic wardens. The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) referred to this. When he has studied this Order he will see that it is a move in a direction that he has been advocating for many years. This will be a great help to police forces.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
I do not ask for an answer immediately, but can consideration be given to the possibility of students in their off periods helping the police by performing traffic warden duty? This is a double edged weapon, because it would be wonderful if students not at college or university were invited to help the police by performing such duties.
§ Mr. Sharples
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. My only caveat is that if we are to bring in, as we did with the traffic wardens, auxiliary forces of this kind they must be properly constituted, because unless they are they will not have the necessary powers provided by Parliament to enable them to carry out their duties efficiently. I would not support the concept of a kind of amateur patrol with insufficient powers, a kind of A.A. or R.A.C. patrol, trying to perform such duties.
Besides the question of the proper use of the forces we have, it is also a question of improving the management generally and of ensuring that the forces themselves, not only the auxiliaries, the traffic wardens and civilians brought in to assist the police, are deployed to the best advantage. The forces and the police authorities, with whom the Government are in a 50–50 partnership, are showing a welcome readiness to adopt modern techniques of management.
My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet reminded us that the police computer is already under construction. We learned a great deal from the experience of the National Crime Information Centre in Washington, which I was fortunate enough to see in operation. The computer will deal with many of the particular points which my hon. Friend raised about identification of property, criminal records, fingerprinting, and so on.
The main part of the debate has been about the terms of service of the police officer. Here we come straightaway to the whole question of police pay. I recognise, as does the House, the importance of pay both in attracting the young man of high quality into the service and in retaining the experienced man which is, as I have said, of at least equal importance.
The comparisons which the policeman makes between his pay and that of those 1097 in other occupations have been referred to. The last attempt to tackle the task of relating police pay to that in other occupations was made in 1960 by the Royal Commission on the Police, which was set up during the Conservative Administration when the present Lord Butler was Home Secretary. Its Chairman was Sir Henry Willink. Many of the important advances made by the police in the last decade had their origin in the work of that Royal Commission. The Commission's recommendations on police pay were based on comparison with pay in certain other occupations and took into account the special circumstances of the police service, including the difficult hours they have to work.
The House may welcome a summary of the system by which police pay is determined. The Police Council for Great Britain was established under Section 45 of the Police Act, 1964, to consider questions of pay, allowances, leave, hours of duty, pensions, and conditions of service in general. It operates on Whitley principles with an official side representing the police authorities and the Secretaries of State and a staff side representing the police federations and the other associations of England and Wales and Scotland.
This, debate allows me to remind the House that next week the Council will be reconstituted as the Police Council for the United Kingdom to include also representatives of the new police authority for Northern Ireland and of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This is in line with the recommendations of the Hunt Committee and the provisions of the Police Act, 1969, with the aim of bringing the Royal Ulster Constabulary more closely into the family circle of the British police service.
Agreements concluded in the Police Council negotiations are submitted for the approval of the Secretaries of State, who to that extent have the last word. But it has been the established practice of successive Governments to regard the Council as a self-contained negotiating body to be left to work out its own salvation with as little intervention as possible.
The House will realise that national economic policies and national finance, in the form of the 50 per cent. grant in 1098 aid of police expenditure, are involved. But our police forces are local forces, each police authority having a statutory duty to maintain an adequate and efficient force within its area, and the ratepayers of the area meeting half the bill. There must, therefore, be some compromise between the claims of both central and local government, on the one hand, and of the members of the police service on the other, and both sides of the Police Council have shown themselves in the past to understand the need for this delicate balancing of interests.
On the recommendation of the Royal Commission, the Police Council has reviewed police pay at regular two-yearly intervals, using an agreed formula based on the index of wages to ensure that police pay has kept pace with the movement of wages elsewhere. One of the problems has been the much more rapid inflation which has taken place during the last 12 months or so, so that the two-year review left the police at an increasing disadvantage. The Council demonstrated its flexibility in dealing with problems of this kind by recommending early this year an interim increase of 8. per cent.—this was referred to by my hon. Friend—and I am glad to say that it was approved by the Government of the day.
Negotiations in the normal biennial review due this year will, I understand, begin next week, with any resulting award due to take effect from 1st September. The House will appreciate that, as the amount of any award is a matter for negotiation between the two sides of the Council and subsequent approval of any agreement reached is, in England and Wales, a matter for my right hon. Friend, it would be improper for me to make any comment on the merits of any claims which have been made, and I am sure that the House would not expect me to do so.
My hon. Friend referred also to the possibility of attracting more graduates and, in particular, sixth formers into the police. I draw his attention and the attention of those in that category who might be considering taking up a career in the police that the Bramshill scholarship scheme provides for officers to take their promotion examinations after two years' service and, if they pass selection 1099 boards, to go on to Bramshill and then, if they are good enough at Bramshill, to go on to a university. I take this opportunity to draw the attention of the House to that scheme, which, I hope, will receive much wider publicity outside, for it is a way of attracting not so much the graduate but the sixth former, the grammar school boy—that kind of person—into the police force, where he is badly needed and has a great contribu—tion to make.
In conclusion, I draw the attention of the House to one passage in the Annual Report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary. He said that, although there had been grumbles about conditions of service, as there are in any healthy service, it would be wrong to suggest that these grumbles had materially affected police morale. The Chief Inspector pointed out that some doubts and uncertainties, most of which have been referred to in the debate, had not, in his opinion, led to any general fall in police morale. On the contrary, it was his opinion and that of his colleagues that, judging by the competence of the police service and the devotion of its members to their duty, morale remained high. This Government are determined that morale shall remain high.
We owe an enormous debt to those who serve us in the police force. We appreciate the difficult task which they have to perform, a task which, as I said at the beginning of my speech, is made the heavier by the rising volume of crime and, all too often, by the problem of being misunderstood. It is the intention of this Government, of my right hon. Friend and those who serve in the Home Office, to give our full support to the police force in its difficult rôle.