HC Deb 21 January 1971 vol 809 cc1246-9
3. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to make himself responsible for determining the pay of police officers.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maulding)

It is already my responsibility. But I see no reason for altering the statutory provision which obliges me first to consult the Police Council.

Mr. Janner

Have not the police been extremely patient in their pay negotiations? In view of his powers, will the right hon. Gentleman take some steps to speed up consideration of the police pay claim so that these excellent citizens may get proper remuneration for their invaluable work and so that the crime rate may start to go down?

Mr. Maudling

I entirely agree both about their patience and about the contribution of the police to the country. However, the negotiations ought to proceed on the basis which in the long run will be in the interests of everyone concerned.

Dame Irene Ward

When are the police to have a satisfactory answer? My right hon. Friend rightly says that he is getting on with it, but does he not appreciate that the House of Commons wants good rates of pay and good conditions for the police and a jolly good police force, without which we cannot survive?

Mr. Maudling

I entirely agree. What is important is that whatever is determined will be back-dated to September, 1970.

Dame Irene Ward

It must be a big pay rise.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Does not the right hon. Gentleman concede that as the net increase in the number of police officers in England and Wales this year is unlikely to be more than half the average achieved annually over the last five years, only a very substantial increase in pay can change these circumstances and that it is up to him to use his good offices with the Police Council in this connection?

Mr. Maudling

As the hon. Member has raised the point, let me say that the figures for last year, 1970, were very much better than those for 1968 or 1969. The problem is wastage and I am well aware of the difficulties involved in that.

Mr. Stanbrook

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that this is a matter not just of the cost of living or recruitment but of law and order?

Mr. Maudling

That is so. The Government are totally committed to strengthening the police force and I take it as one of my main responsibilities to ensure that that is done.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

We all like the Home Secretary's kind words, but cash is better than kind words. As the Government seem happy to give 66.2 per cent. rises to judges and the highest-paid civil servants, why cannot the Home Secretary give a similar sum to the police? Would not that resolve the recruiting and other problems?

Mr. Maudling

I think that the hon. Gentleman is anticipating a later Question on the Order Paper.

8. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a further statement on the progress of negotiations over police pay.

20. Mr. Golding

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a further statement on the progress of negotiations on police pay.

24. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a further announcement regarding current negotiations on police pay and terms of engagement.

28. Mr. Wellbeloved

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on police pay.

Mr. Maudling

Negotiations are continuing. The agreed date of the next formal meeting between the two sides of the Police Council is 11th February.

Mr. Lane

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that very many of us are anxious to see the most generous settlement possible consistent with the Government's general economic policy?

Mr. Maudling

I am well aware from my postbag of that feeling, which I share.

Mr. Golding

Is the Minister aware that urgency in dealing with any negotiations is also very important? There is a feeling of frustration growing in the police forces, when they see the way in which claims of other public servants are dealt with. It is very important from the point of view of morale that this claim be dealt with not only generously but expeditiously.

Mr. Maudling

I am afraid that I cannot accept that. The offer made to the police gives them a 10 per cent. increase plus an examination of what is needed to deal with the very real problem of wastage. It is understood on both sides that this is the right way in which to handle the problem.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will the right hon. Gentleman define "national interest" in respect of police pay? Is he aware that prior to the election, his party put in the forefront of public comment and controversy the whole question of law and order? Law and order depend upon an effective, contented police force. Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the police force now is frustrated, that a serious situation is developing, and that it is in the national interest that this pay claim be settled at the earliest possible opportunity without any intervention by the Government's repressive policies on public services?

Mr. Maudling

The Government are involved because we are parties to the negotiations. I am represented on the Police Council. The Government have made it clear that we regard the strengthening of the police force as one of the objectives to which we are committed.

Mr. Braine

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the very serious undermanning of the police in many areas—I have in mind my own county of Essex—is being taken into account by the Home Office in reaching a realistic settlement?

Mr. Maudling

Certainly. The problem is not so much recruitment as wastage. It is a very special problem to which we are giving much attention.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

While appreciating my right hon. Friend's difficulties, may I press him further on the point of expedition? I remind him that the heart grows sick with hope deferred, and that there is real dissatisfaction among our police at present.

Mr. Maudling

I get the impression that the police force understands that we are trying to provide a framework within which we can have a stronger and more efficient police force.

Mr. David Stoddart

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the greatest problems arising from this delay concerns experienced officers who will be able to retire in the next couple of years? At all costs, must not these officers be encouraged to stay in the service, and is not that why the matter is of extreme urgency in the interests of law and order?

Mr. Maudling

Yes, Sir. That problem is very much in our minds.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Will the right hon. Gentleman give a categoric assurance that he will not allow any general economic considerations to override the dominant consideration of law and order?

Mr. Maudling

The Government's duty is two-fold: to have regard both to our undertakings about the economic situation, which is fundamental, and to our equally important undertakings about strengthening the police force.

Mr. Fowler

Would not my right hon. Friend agree, apart from a straight pay increase, that one of the most important tests of any new agreement must be whether it provides better incentives for long service and for promotion? In both respects at the moment the police pay structure is quite inadequate.

Mr. Maudling

Once again, I agree that those important factors are very much in our minds.