HC Deb 19 June 1973 vol 858 cc520-38

10.30 p.m.

Mr. David Steel

I beg to move Amendment No. 267, in page 81, line 33, leave out paragraph (b).

I wonder whether it would be convenient, Mr. Speaker, to discuss at the same time my Amendment No. 268, in page 82, line 33, at end insert: '(5) Any amalgamation scheme proposed must be approved by the existing police boards affected'. We might also discuss Government Amendment No. 133. They are all about police reorganisation. There is no point in having two debates. Could they all be taken together?

Mr. Speaker

If that is agreeable.

Mr. Steel

Then I have moved the amendment formally.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Member wants me to speak first?

Mr. Steel

Perhaps I bad better make my own speech.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I called the hon. Member to move Amendment 267 and he suggested that No. 268 should be taken with it and also Amendment No. 133. Is that the will of the House?

Mr. Ross

We could at the same time take Government Amendments No. 134 and No. 135.

Mr. Speaker

Is that the wish of the House? So be it. The hon. Member has moved his amendment formally.

Mr. Steel

May I be allowed to speak on it?

Mr. Speaker

I will allow the hon. Member to speak on it.

Mr. Steel

I spoke at some length on this topic during the debate on the White Paper. I have just been re-reading my speech with some enjoyment. I spoke at great length and with considerable force as well against amalgamating the Borders police force with that of what was then the Forth Region. I do not propose to weary the House at this late hour by going into all the arguments again.

Since then, the great concern in the Borders about the future of their police force and the proposed amalgamation scheme has not abated in any way. It is the case that among the members of the police themselves there is a majority view in favour of the amalgamation scheme largely on the ground, always set out fairly by the Government, of increased promotion prospects in a larger force. Against that, the Border force itself remains opposed to the amalgamation scheme and has accepted it only with great reluctance.

What is even more important is that public opinion in the Borders is disturbed at the prospect of losing a very fine local constabulary which could potentially even extend to cover the new district of Tweeddale. I am against joint boards for any subject, except where they cannot be avoided, and I believe that this one could have been avoided. It would have been more sensible not to have the amalgamation scheme.

To give one example, it makes sense from a chief constable's point of view to deploy his manpower to wherever there is a shortage of men, and if he thinks that the citizens of Hawick or Galashiels are law-abiding and not much in need of police he may deploy his force to Armadale or elsewhere where there may be a problem of manpower and where perhaps trouble lies. Thus the people of Hawick or Galashiels, for instance, would lose the services of their police.

In my constituency there are two polic[...] forces and the people in Peebles-shire will still enjoy the same police service as the rest of Scotland even though they do not have the same local identity and local association with the police as the people in the counties of Roxburgh and Selkirk. Alas, it is not Peebles-shire that has been brought into line with Roxburgh and Selkirk. It is Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles-shire that will have the tail end of a police force based on Edinburgh. It is a mistake, and I do not want to allow this opportunity to pass without reiterating that that is the growing, not the lessening, opinion of people in the Borders area.

Mr. Speaker

I should like to get it quite clear that we are also discussing not only Amendment No. 268, in the name of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), but Government Amendments Nos. 132, 133, 134 and 135. If we have a debate on all those amendments together it will be necessary, if Amendments Nos. 267 and 268 are defeated, for the Government to move the other four amendments formally.

Mr. Mackintosh

The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), though I disagree with the way that he has done it, has put his finger on a tricky point that arises from the Government's decision to set up a separate Borders Region. It also illustrates the difficulty of getting answers to different questions.

In this instance, having decided to set up a separate Borders Region of only 97,000 people—an area which, in non-numerical terms, is not adequate for certain major services, of which the police is one, the fire service is a second, further education is a third, and aspects of child care a fourth—we get difficulties because, for certain services, it will not operate satisfactorily.

If one goes round any part of Scotland, or any country, and asks people, "Do you wish to govern yourselves; do you feel a local patriotism; or do you want to be governed in tandem with the people over the hill in the next place?", and so on, the answer always is, "We want self-government; we want to run our own affairs." One will find that 90 per cent. of the people will say "Yes."

If one then turns to the services, to the people who know about and carry them out, and asks, "Are you satisfied with a police force working in this area with certain limitations of size, of technique, and of approach?", the answer will be "No."

This is what the people in this area said. Over 60 per cent. of the police force, when asked "Do you wish to amalgamate?", said "Yes." The Police Board said "No", because it will disappear under the scheme and it is the local controlling element.

One finds this situation again and again. If one goes round the Borders and asks, "Do you wish to run your own social work or child care services?", everyone will say "Yes." Then if one goes to the people in the services and asks, "Are you happy to run services which on financial grounds cannot have all the facilities of special treatment for the hard of hearing, special homes for epileptics, special help for handicapped children?", because all these require a certain catchment area and certain expenditure, the people knowing the situation and running those services and the few people on the receiving end of those services will say that that is not what they want.

This antagonism between the two points of view comes out. I think that the Government have sometimes given in too readily to the local patriotism of people and neglected or not given sufficient weight to the opinion of people who are perhaps not so vocal regarding the standards of service to people.

I presume that the Minister is putting in the clause the amalgamation of the police forces because he expects that the standard of policing in this sense will be better in the larger area. Otherwise there is no case for it. If it is better, I put it to him that the danger is that it will apply not merely to the police, but to the fire service and to those aspects mentioned in the White Paper of child care, further education, and so on.

What worries me is that gradually, bit by bit, service by service, the Borders major services will be amalgamated with the Lothian services, although the political control will remain separate.

Having set up a Borders Region, I hope that the Government will support that region financially so that it is able to run its own services and maintain democratic control over them. The one thing that we do not want is a separate region which loses control to a neighbouring, larger and more powerful region through the medium of joint boards, amalgamations, and so on.

I was never entirely happy about a separate region for the Borders, for those reasons, but having created it the Government must support it by giving to it adequate finance to run its own services.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

I support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh). He went wider than any of the amendments. I shall try to stick to the police aspect.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) was speaking with his constituency hat on. There was no sign of the Liberal or sheltered approach in his argument. I hope that he appreciates that although his speeches might be for outside consumption, they do not necessarily impress the House.

Mr. David Steel

I referred back to a speech that I made in the debate on the White Paper, in which I explored at great length the wider argument about the police. I thought that I would not weary the House by repeating it. If the hon. Gentleman wants me to make more impressive speeches, he is tempting me to make very long speeches.

Mr. Brown

I know that the hon. Gentleman enjoys reading his own speeches. I give him the benefit of the doubt. There were some Liberal aspects in the parts from which he did not quote.

It has been typical of many of us—I will not say that it is typical of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles—to say that we are all against joint boards unless they are necessary. If ever there was a cliché, that is it. More and more of us have come around to the view that the Borders as a region is a mistake. I am convinced that it is a mistake, but not just because of some of the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles and by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian.

Amendment No. 133 highlights what we already knew would transpire—the need for amalgamation. It emphasises the fears that some people have had. The West Region will dominate local authorities in Scotland. That is a bad thing. I support the West Region, but we could have done with a bigger and much more powerful East Region, including the part of Fife that was proposed and the Borders.

If we have a need for a joint board on the police and adequate resources on the Borders to provide some of the other services, I hope that in the future, from experience of joint boards and the need to come together will come the realisation that we should go the whole hog and make it one region.

We are not discussing Amendment No. 139 at present, but I should like to ask a question on that amendment. Is it an improvement on the position of the pres ent chief constable? Coming into a big force, I should have thought that an assistant chief constable might have been better than a chief in a small tribe.

The Under-Secretary is shaking his head. He should explain not only the purpose behind that—

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

With respect, we are not dealing with Amendment No. 139. That amendment will be dealt with separately later.

Mr. Brown

I said that we were not discussing it, but I thought that I could save time. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will refer to that matter when we reach that amendment. Will the existing chief constable in the Borders region be better off, worse off or the same by becoming an assistant chief constable in the bigger authority?

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I deal first with Amendments Nos. 132, 133, 134 and 135. I shall first try to pay attention to the police aspects of the debate, although I respect what the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) said and bear in mind what he believes are some of the consequences for the Government in relation to their responsibilities having created the Borders Region.

I shall deal first with Amendments Nos. 132 to 135. They follow the undertakings which I gave in Committee as reported at column 2005 to write into the Bill provisions to make it clear where we stand on police reorganisation in Scotland. In other words we are giving effect to what was announced in the White Paper.

May I now turn to the amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. In order to save time he did not go through all the arguments he has put forward before about why there should be a separate police force for the Borders. It will not help to go over the arguments why we have rejected requests to that effect. I have visited the Borders police force with the hon. Member and I have met the Chairman of his authority and the others involved. I pay my tribute to the work of the chief constable, Mr. Tom McCallum, and his force. No one has said at any stage that it is an inefficient force. It is a well-run force. I am certainly sensitive to the feeling about this. The hon. Member has made his position clear. The matter was debated fully last summer and it has been followed up by correspondence since then. I accept that we must not consider simply the views of the police in this. With my responsibilities for the police in Scotland I am equally concerned to take into account the views of the public.

I am particularly clear about the views of the police authority. It has written to my hon. Friend the Minister of State at length about the matter and he has replied. If we were intending to do anything which would hurt the service for the public I should be worried. But in terms of police efficiency—and this is borne out by the views which the chief constable took from the members of his force which showed that they were overwhelmingly in favour of amalgamation with the South-East region—we are embarked upon the correct course. That is borne out by the views of the Royal Commission and the Wheatley Commission. With more and more of the services of the police becoming increasingly specialised, in sheer terms of police efficiency a larger amalgamated force will give a better service to the public. It is becoming more difficult for a force below a certain size to provide these services.

However, this leaves one important matter of public and human relationships to be dealt with—the problem of remoteness to which the hon. Member referred. Many amalgamations have taken place throughout Scotland and that is how the present force has built up.

The police and chief constables are very concerned to see that where there is an enlargement of forces in the interests of efficiency steps are taken to avoid anything that will lose the contact with the public whom they serve in the villages and the towns or wherever it may be. Chief constables are not insensitive to this when amalgamations take place, and I hope that in the amalgamated force of the South-West Region the chief officer, whoever he may be, will be sensitive to the need to serve the public and maintain that contact.

Mr. Mackintosh

Will the Minister recognise that there may be special ground for the fears of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel)? In part I share them, in that the Lothians and Peebles force has, for let us say historic reasons, fallen as an authorised force to one of the lowest in Scotland in ratio of police officers to the population and in expenditure per head. It has one constable for about 630 people, when many others are running at about one to every 500. It would allay many of the fears about centralisation if the numerical strength and expenditure on that force could be raised to the Scottish average.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman raised a point that is new to the debate, but one of which I am aware. The ratio of establishment to population varies between different forces, in the light of the different tasks they have to perform and their different localities. We are conducting review of the establishments of police forces throughout Scotland, in which the Lothians and Peebles force is being taken into account. I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's points in mind. They have also been made to me by no less a person than the chief constable of the Lothians and Peebles force himself, who has a certain concern about the matter. I am not prepared to accept the amendment. I do not reject it out of any lack of sympathy for the motives of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, but nothing new has come up in our discussions to cause me to change our original view as stated in the White Paper and embodied in the Bill. However, I give the assurance that I and the Scottish Office will keep a careful eye on the points raised about service to the public when the reorganisation and amalgamation take place.

Mr. David Steel

This has been a short but worthwhile debate. The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) was right in his general point, which he made very forcefully. I have always agreed with his view that in the small Borders Region we shall not be able to supply all the specialties, such as those of child care and schools for the hard of hearing, but the case has never been made out for the amalgamation of the police force on such grounds.

I agreed with the point of principle that the hon. Gentleman tried to establish, though I do not agree with quite the way in which he put it. If the Government decide to remove powers from the new regions they have created and give them to a joint authority, the onus of proof of the need so to do lies on them. Although general references to efficiency, more specialisation or more equipment have been made in our long correspondence, I have never been able to pin the Government down on the specific advantages of police amalgamation. I can understand that we shall lack other things in the area, but I have never understood the demerits of the police force.

The Government have not proved their case, and I do not think that they can prove that we shall have a better police force through the amalgamation, although I concede that there will be better promotion prospects for the police, which is the main reason why they supported the scheme.

I have great regard for the work which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) has done in Glasgow, but he has the nasty habit of telling us in the Borders what would be good for us. He does it in a rather schoolmasterly way by saying, "If the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles will listen, I will tell him what is good for him". But those of us who represent the area know what are the feelings there, and we are most concerned about the effects of the amalgamation of the police force.

I will see that the Under-Secretary of State's words are duly noted in the area, and I hope that his assurances will be proved right. Let us hope that the amalgamated police force will continue to provide the standard of service to which we have become accustomed.

On that understanding, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 132, in page 82, line 3, at beginning insert: 'Subject to subsection (1A) below'.

No. 133, in page 82, line 12, at end insert: '(1A) The Secretary of State shall make an amalgamation scheme under this Act before the relevant date for the police areas comprised in each of the combined areas set out in the following table—

Combined area Police areas comprised
South-eastern Northern Borders and Lothian Highland and the Islands Areas'.

No. 134, in page 82, line 25, at end insert: 'by virtue of subsection (1A) above'.

No. 135, in page 82, line 29, after (1)', insert 'or (1A)'.—[Mr. Buchanan-Smith.]

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I beg to move Amendment No. 136, in page 83, line 5, leave out 'this section' and insert 'subsection (1) above'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

With this we are taking Government Amendments Nos. 137, 138, 139 and 140.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

These amendments give effect to the Government's acceptance of a case advanced by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland) that it is unreasonable that chief constables, alone of police officers, should have to face the possible loss of their jobs in 1975.

The position is that the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 effectively guarantees to all police constables of ranks up to and including assistant chief constable that in the event of an amalgamation of police forces they will transfer to the new force in their existing rank. The Bill applies these arrangements in 1975. No statutory protection has, however, ever been afforded to displaced chief constables. Police authorities have simply been urged by circular to offer posts at assistant chief constable level to displaced chief constables.

Although the results of this procedure have not been the subject of complaints it has not had to operate in situations involving amalgamations on the scale of that in 1975, where in Strathclyde no fewer than six forces will cease to exist.

To meet this situation, and for 1975 only, Amendment No. 139 provides that each of the new police authorities will be obliged to offer posts at assistant chief constable level to any displaced chief constable—other than a chief constable who has been appointed the chief constable of a new force—the greater part of whose old force has joined the particular new force. The appointment is required to take effect not later than 16th August 1975. To ensure that there will not be any break in continuity in service, the existing statutory provisions give a displaced chief constable protection in terms of membership of a police force, pay, pension, and so on, for a period of three months after his force ceases to exist.

Amendments Nos. 136 to 138 are consequential and Amendment No. 140 incorporates the necessary definitions required for the interpretation of the substantive amendment.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) asked a specific question about Amendment No. 139. It gives something new, and it is in response to a request made by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland).

The position of a displaced chief constable in the Borders will depend on the relative rank and salary level of an assistant chief constable in the new amalgamated region and the current salary level in the Borders. It is not possible to answer the question more specifically because we do not know what will be the new salary of assistant chief constables in the South-East Region. The displaced chief constable from the Borders would move into the new South-East Region at whatever is the appropriate salary scale for an assistant chief constable in the enlarged South-East Region.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

May I pursue this? The Minister was not paricularly clear. My remarks earlier were addressed specifically to the Borders Region because of the amalgamation specified in the previous Amendment, No. 133, but he is a bit vague about it. He is dealing with the generality of amalgamations of the police service and instanced the West Region.

Are we giving a wide authority here that any displaced chief constable, in any place, will automatically be given the rate for the job as assistant chief constable, even though, in effect, that may be promotion? Surely it will be open for discussion? The man might not be worth it. A principle lies behind it.

It may be that things go smoothly and there are obviously rights, and we accept that, but it seems to go beyond that. The Minister is saying that he does not know at what point the man will come in. I should have thought that the normal safeguard will be sufficient, to say that a man will not be worse off than he is at present, provided also that he is not a lot better off. The Minister should assure us that this will not be used with such indiscrimination that we are giving a bonus to displaced chief constables.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will the Minister confirm that if a chief constable is displaced, he becomes assistant chief constable for the new authority, at the rate for the job and that if the rate for the new job is less than his existing salary, he will continue at his existing salary?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Amendment No. 139 is clear, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to read it: "The relevant authority shall offer the chief constable of a police force which ceases to exist on 16th May 1975 (other than a chief constable who has been appointed the chief constable of a new force) an appointment to take effect not later than 16th August 1975 at the rank of assistant chief constable in the relevant new force".

That is the position and they are bound to offer the chief constable that place. He takes it at whatever may be the appropriate salary scale at that time for assistant chief constable. I cannot say now, because it is not worked out, what that salary scale may be, but it will not, I think, give rise to any problems. A person who is a chief constable will be appropriate at least to go in as assistant chief constable.

The chief constable in Caithness has just joined a force in the west with the rank of assistant or deputy.

To the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) I would say that the position is that I cannot say exactly what would be the effect without knowing the precise salary scales, but if the salary scale for assistant chief constable level in the new amalgamated authority is lower than his present salary, that is the salary he will get.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

May I press the Minister? I shall switch to Argyll.

Mr. David Steel

He is not here.

Mr. Brown

That is a help. I do not know the Chief Constable of Argyll but I am sure he is a capable and worthy person. Where is he to go? The Highlands or the West Region? He is qualified to be an inspector in a Glasgow Division at present. Will he be guaranteed becoming assistant chief constable in a force which will be trebled in size and where presumably chief constables and assistant chiefs are paid a rate dependent on the size of the authority? I do not want to be difficult, or to take up more time, but it seems to me that it is over-protection of existing chief constables to write this in, if that is what it means.

Somebody from a small authority such as Argyll—in fact, half of Argyllshire is coming into the West region—is being guaranteed that he will be assistant chief constable not in the Glasgow force as it is now but in the West regional force. That seems to be very generous treatment for redundant chief constables. I wish I could be sure that everyone declared redundant would receive the same treatment.

Unless the Minister can assure me that there are some safeguards and that the provision will not be exploited to the extent that I can see it may be exploited, I am left with the feeling that the provision is over-generous.

Mr. Ross

It may be because I was up until a little later than six o'clock that I am not understanding or reading too clearly, but the possibilities seem confusing. It seems that the important Amendment is No. 139. That amendment gives new protection to a chief constable of a force which ceases to exist. There were no guarantees of anything before. The amendment provides: The relevant authority shall offer the chief constable of a police force which ceases to exist … an appointment to take effect not later than 16th August 1975 at the rank of assistant chief constable … If a chief constable is appointed, of course, he will be entitled to that payment. That is fine. That is clear, is not it? But let us have a look at the clause. Subsection 23(1) says: If the chief constable of a police force which ceases to exist … is not appointed as from the date when that police force ceases to exist … or constable of any rank in any other police force which exists on that date, he shall on that date become a constable of the new force … Subsection 23(2) says: While a person is a constable of a police force by virtue only of this section he shall hold the rank of assistant chief constable, but shall be treated for the purposes of his pay, pension and other conditions of services as if he had continued to be chief constable of the force which ceased to exist. We have been told that an officer must be offered an appointment. Is the presumption of Subsection 23(1) that having been offered the appointment he does not take it? There are two different obligations to the chief constable or the former chief constable of a force which ceases to exist. There is the statutory right to be treated as a chief constable even though there is no appointment and, second, there is the new right that an appointment must be offered.

I hope that between now and another stage the provision can be considered and made a little more clear. I recognise the objection of Amendment No. 139 because there have been difficulties in some parts of Scotland. I fear to think what will happen in respect of the larger areas.

The police authority affected—this will apply, for example, to Strathclyde where six forces will cease to exist—must offer six assistant chief constableships. They need not be accepted. Will there be any conflict with the establishment of the forces? There will be the considerable difficulty of the promotional hopes of some people in the new force if the posts are taken up. We must remember that there may be assistant chief constables existing in some of the present forces. They, too, ill have rights.

This may be accepted as well, and it will be a tricky position. I hope that the Government will watch this carefully. In certain areas near the area that I represent, when three police forces were amalgamated, there was considerable unhappiness in the event, which was not entirely conducive to the well-being of the new force.

Mr. David Steel

If I can make friends again with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown), he has raised an important point. In the new amalgamated Borders and Lothian force, it is relatively simple, because this is a case of two large forces being amalgamated with one small force. But in the west of Scotland the question is much more difficult. Is there a significance in the wording of Amendment No. 139, which says that the chief constable will be offered an appointment "at the rank of" assistant chief constable, not "as" assistant chief constable? Am I reading something into that, or is this wording deliberate?

To come back to the Borders, the area I know, my understanding was that once the amalgamation went through the existing chief constable of the small Borders force would in effect become assistant chief constable in the new large force, with territorial responsibility for the Border areas. Is that belief correct? If so, does that principle apply to the Strathclyde area? Will this be the pattern, or is it merely a device to ensure that the chief constables are given a rank but not necessarily a function, as many chief constables are?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

To deal with that last point first, of course the chief constable will be given a function in the new force when he is offered an appointment in this way. Equally, I cannot say where he would be offered the appointment; that is at the discretion of the new chief constable, whose responsibility it is to deploy his men as he thinks fit. But it is not impossible in certain cases that that kind of situation might arise.

I have to watch what I say to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) because one quickly finds oneself, almost unknowingly, drawn into commenting on the capabilities of individual chief constables. I would wish to avoid that.

The hon. Member runs into a danger in particularising. We must remember that there are certain chief constables of relatively small forces but they have in that area all the functions and responsibilities of a chief constable. I am sure that the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), who represents such an area, will confirm that his chief constable's responsibilities, although perhaps not over such a wide area, are still the same.

So it is not inappropriate in any example that the hon. Gentleman may give that, having held that rank and responsibility, any chief constable is not being treated favourably in being asked to accept a post as assistant chief constable in a larger force.

Although I know the devotion to Glasgow of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan, I do not think it quite fair of him to say that the equivalent appointment of a chief constable in a country area is no higher than that of an inspector in Glasgow. I think that perhaps he did not really mean it.

11.15 p.m.

Before the new areas are set up in 1975, the new chief constables will be appointed. Chief constables of the existing forces can apply for new appointments. It is for them to decide. Those who are unsuccessful in their applications will go into a period of suspense, as it were, for up to three months, during which they have the protected status they already enjoy under existing legislation, with the salary and emoluments of their position.

The change we are making is that during the three months period they must be given an offer of a permanent appointment at assistant chief constable level in the new force. They will also have the option of taking early retirement, built into the Police Act. They are not, therefore, bound to accept the offer. But the onus is on the new police authority to make an offer to the displaced chief constable. In past amalgamations, the chief constable had to stay completely in suspense. We do not know of any practical difficulties which have arisen in this context but the chief constables themselves made the request that we should make the new arrangement whereby the onus is placed on the new police authority to resolve the position.

Mr. Ross

In effect, the displaced chief constables have three months in which to make up their minds and are meantime in a protected position, continuing to get their salaries as chief constables. But in these new areas how many assistant chief constables are we to have? Supposing they all took up the offer? We must remember that there are already assistant chief constables in the various areas. Are some of them to lose their rank in the changeover? Are we to get a superfluity of assistant chief constables? Territorially, the areas are already covered. Are there to be six more assistant chief constables?

If a man accepts an appointment at that rank, he is bound to be paid accordingly. I know that this provision has been made at the request of the officers themselves arising out of past experience, but are there likely to be any difficulties in respect of establishment? Has this matter been fully thought out and discussed within the police service?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are conscious of this point. It could be a practical difficulty. We have looked at the position in discussions with the chief constables and in the Department itself, and we are satisfied that the provision should not give rise to practical difficulties. But I agree that if an existing assistant chief constable were to continue and if an existing chief constable who might be displaced also opted to continue, there could be certain difficulties. This does not take account of wastage through retirement, reaching pension age, and so on both at chief constable and at assistant chief constable level in these enlarged forces.

We are conscious of this. We do not think on our analysis that it should give rise to practical difficulties.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. I think that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) has already spoken in this debate.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 137, in page 83, line 11, leave out 'this section' and insert 'subsection (1) above'.

No. 138, in line 21, leave out 'this section' and insert 'subsection (1) above'.

No. 139, in line 39, at end insert: '(4A) The relevant authority shall offer the chief constable of a police force which ceases to exist on 16th May 1975 (other than a chief constable who has been appointed the chief constable of a new force) an appointment to take effect not later than 16th August 1975 at the rank of assistant chief constable in the relevant new force'.

No. 140, in line 42, at end insert: 'relevant authority" means the police authority or, as the case may be, the joint police committee responsible for the appointment of the chief constable of the relevant new force; relevant new force" means the new force to which the majority of the constables of a police force which ceases to exist on 16th May 1975 are transferred'—[Mr. Buchanan-Smith.]

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