HC Deb 06 December 1973 vol 865 cc1439-41
17. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to aid recruitment of police for the Metropolitan area.

Mr. R. Carr

A special section of the Metropolitan Police undertakes visits to schools and to Her Majesty's Forces at home and abroad, and arranges the participation of the force in careers exhibitions and conventions. The force is currently running a recruitment campaign on which the commissioner has been authorised to spend £100,000 in the current financial year. A similar sum is proposed for next year. In addition, it benefits substantially from the central recruiting campaign, on which over £600,000 is being spent this year.

Mr. Molloy

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comprehensive reply. I am sorry that I must say, despite all that he has said, that it has not aided the recruitment of police in the Metropolitan area. Does he accept that the real reason is that there is not sufficient appreciation of the qualities now required in a police officer, the extra duties which he has to do and the unsocial hours which he has to work? Would not an increase in the police constables' salary and the differential between the constable and middle-grade officers help to aid recruitment? Should not there be a realistic appreciation of the work of the police in the Metropolitan area which is reflected in their remuneration?

Mr. Carr

The House must realise that the main problem arises not so much from the lack of recruitment, which still remains reasonably healthy, as from wastage. Wastage is a serious matter. The commissioner is currently making a serious inquiry into the various causes of waste. I have no doubt that pay and conditions are among the important causes of wastage. As from 1st January Metropolitan Police officers will begin to have the benefit of a substantial increase in their rent allowance. That, I believe, will deal with one of the more important problems.

Sir H. Harrison

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that during the recruiting campaign some attention is paid to the universities and to the recruiting of graduates?

Mr. Carr

Yes. I do not think that the police force has been getting a big enough share of graduates in recent years. That is something to which I very much hope not only the Metropolitan Commissioner but chief constables throughout the country will give special attention.

Mr. John Fraser

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what part of the campaign will be directed towards the recruitment of more coloured police officers in London?

Mr. Carr

Certainly, that is very much a part of our wish. The numbers are increasing but they are doing so slowly. We want to see much higher numbers. I can assure the House that that is the view of the commissioner and his staff. I am not sure that it is wise to make too directional a recruitment effort as long as we make it clear, as we are doing increasingly, that coloured policemen are very welcome and very much wanted.

Mr. Dykes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in many ways conditions are as important as pay? Will he consider carefully various examples of the need for better conditions, such as better housing and, more specifically for police constables, smaller examples, which are as important in many ways—namely, the provision of good canteen facilities to replace the existing facilities, which in many instances are inadequate?

Mr. Carr

I agree with the matters raised by my hon. Friend. To some extent we are in a vicious circle. A major improvement in conditions would require more men. The lack of men is one of the chief problems in improving conditions.