HC Deb 10 July 1975 vol 895 cc827-76

7.16 p.m.

Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the Seventh Report from the Expenditure Committee in the last Parliament (House of Commons Paper (1974) No. 310) on Police Recruitment and Wastage, and of the relevant Government observations (Command Paper No. 6016). I take this opportunity to thank the Committee, its Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis), and my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett), who on occasion deputised for the Chairman, for the report.

There is a major difference between the Expenditure Committee's reception of the ministerial comments on this report and that mentioned in the last debate. The Home Office was most constructive and reasonably speedy in replying to the comments of the Committee.

This was a Committee of the short Parliament. It was obvious that a long Committee report, of the type which is fairly customary concerning expenditure, would have been caught short by an election. This Committee responded to my request to make a brief report on a subject which it could encompass in a short time and about which it could produce firm and sensible suggestions. I believe that the House and the Expenditure Committee would agree that that job has been carried out admirably. There was much more co-operation from the Home Office about this matter than there was concerning education.

In one sense the recommendation of the Committee that pay was at the root of many evils has been overtaken by events. The central theme of the Committee was that wastage and inability to recruit were largely caused by the difference between the rewards to the police and those outside.

The pay award which was agreed on 4th June, but which will not come into effect until 1st September, will go a considerable way to meet the criticisms about the pay and conditions of the police. I do not suppose that it will go the whole way. I read the Police Federation magazine, from which I gather that the police would like a little more. It will be interesting to hear from the Secretary of State how far he thinks that the present pay award will alleviate the conditions to which the Committee referred. The Committee is grateful for the fact that the Home Secretary will speak in this debate and bring the observations of his Department up to date.

I should also like to thank the Civil Service Department for bringing me up to date with a letter, which was not produced as evidence before the Expenditure Committee, from the Department commenting on some of the major issues which the Committee raised and saying how the Department viewed developments since the Committee reported.

The key to the report is money. I quote one sentence: The shortage of manpower remains by far the most serious problem confronting the Metropolitan Police. In a lesser degree it also confronts other police forces.

At the time of the report the Metropolitan Police Force was 20 per cent. below establishment and the force was kept together largely by excessive overtime. The Committee discovered that this over-stretching was extending to other areas which had never experienced it before, and Suffolk was mentioned particularly. The Home Office letter to which I have referred states that since the Committee's report, unrelated to the pay award, there have been improvements in the level of recruitment. The improvement started at the end of 1974 and has continued into this year. The rate of wastage too, I am told, has recently shown a significant decline. The increase in recruitment is apparently not consistent throughout the country and there are still serious deficiencies in the large conurbations.

The central issue to which the Committee drew attention is undermanning, which causes difficulties in the Metropolitan Police area and the large conurbations. Undermanning still continues, and probably even after the pay award it will still cause difficulty.

The Committee recommended that the establishment for the police throughout the country should be revised more frequently. Although recruitment is not affected greatly by that, the Committee thought that that matter should be attended to. The Home Office in replying to that recommendation rather brushed it aside by saying that various improvements had been made in the establishments procedure. I am not convinced by that because, for example, in the Metropolitan area the establishment has not been revised for 10 years. I hope that the Home Secretary will agree that there is room for improvement here.

The Committee rightly said that the difficulties of the job were just as much a disincentive to recruitment and a cause of wastage as anything else. The Committee put it simply, saying that there was more crime, more traffic and even more complicated tasks to do and, as a result, the police had to work irregular hours, had their leave cancelled and suffered the most unsocial of all social conditions. The more the policemen suffered from these unsocial conditions, the more likely they were to leave the force. The Committee had nothing very constructive to say about that. The report is a short one and it would perhaps be asking too much of the Committee to expect it to delve into these problems. I am sure that the Home Office has these problems in front of it all the time, and I shall be interested to hear whether there are any new thoughts on how they can be resolved.

The Committee was undoubtedly of the opinion that pay was at the centre of the difficulties. I was struck forcefully by the way in which a constable's pay has declined relatively since the war. Prewar, the pay of a constable was 62s. 6d. a week, compared with the average industrial wage of 48s. a week. At the time of the report a constable received £26 a week compared with the average industrial wage of £46 a week.

One incentive to joining the police force and similar professions is the good pension conditions at the end of service. The recent increase in pay will put a constable on first appointment in the provinces on a salary of £2,400 a year, compared with £1,862 at present. The total percentage increase of the recent settlement is almost 30 per cent. To that extent part of the report is out of date, and I am sure the House will be delighted that that is so.

The Committee made several comments on allowances and pensions. The Home Office reply seems to suggest that pension percentages and arrangements should be left alone. The Committee wanted an inducement for policemen to stay on in the service for the maximum time of 30 years. Serious difficulties have been caused by experienced policemen leaving the service before the expiration of 30 years, getting entitlement to pension but not giving maximum service. I should like to know whether the Home Office has any more thoughts on that matter other than those contained in its observations on the report.

A most important item is the provision of housing for retiring policemen. Paragraph 14 of the report contains this sentence: We consider that the provision of a generous housing allowance (including practical help in the form of favourable mortgage rates for young officers wishing to purchase houses) is essential. The Home Office observations state that the Police Advisory Working Party is studying this item. From my experience in the Army I consider that satisfactory housing provision is crucial. When I was an Army Minister I visited regiments and talked to the wives and families and housing was one of the most important matters to them. They worried about what would happen when they went out into the cold world, which entailed a change in the children's education, re-equipment with furniture and the provision of a house.

The Ministry of Defence has an elaborate system which provides favourable mortgage terms. I wonder whether the Home Office should not join the Ministry of Defence in stressing to local authorities and the new town corporations the need to make adequate housing provision for police and Service men when they come out of service. The local authorities in my area are fairly good about this, but it is still a great worry to the serving man and to the policeman.

On recruitment, on certain minor matters the Committee considered that there should be changes. One matter which was discussed was the time taken to embody a man from the time when he first applies to become a constable to when he actually gets on duty. That takes two months or so, and the Home Office observations suggest that it is difficult to cut down that period. Once a man is recruited, every effort should be made to get him quickly on to the job. People are much more impatient now than they used to be and actually working on the job is important to them. I should like to know how many potential policemen are lost because of the time lag between the initial recruitment and actually starting work.

The Committee also said that there were insufficient funds available for advertising and public relations concerned with recruitment. The Committee suggested that the Ministry of Defence had experience of this which might be useful to the police. The observations suggest that heavy expenditure on advertising would not be justifiable, but I should like to be assured that this matter will be given the maximum attention.

The observations reject the recommendation that there should be a special adviser on recruitment. Again, I call on my experience in the Ministry of Defence. Perhaps the Ministry of Defence was a little more humble than the Home Office. When a somewhat intractable problem arose the Ministry of Defence would appoint an outside specialist to solve it. For example, on the employment of ex-Service people and on housing, outsiders would be appointed who could look at the Services objectively. They often produced interesting suggestions and original ideas. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mr. Gilmour) will bear me out on that.

The committee wished that the recruitment age could be reduced and considerable attention devoted to the encouragement of cadets. I am told that as a result of the reduction of the minimum age to 18½ and the various other efforts that have been made, about 900 additional constables were recruited by the end of June. This was due to the change of regulations in relation to cadets. The letter I have says that the interest which the measures to publicise this change raised suggest that it may have succeeded in its main object of increasing the attractions of a police career to the 18-year-old school leaver.

There is no better place for a young man who wants an active life than the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, and there is no better place to start than the junior colleges and apprentice colleges. Although I do not know much about police training, I suspect that it is equally as good and that once a young man becomes a cadet he has a good foundation for becoming an efficient police officer.

There were two matters about which the observations were rather negative in relation to the Committee's report. The Committee wanted to see more cadets in the police force. Probably the Home Office does also. However, the Committee's proposal that there should be extra increments for academic qualifications does not meet with favour either by the Home Office or the police. I can well remember the jealousies and difficulties when a graduate policeman got quick promotion. This obviously causes so much difficulty that it would be unpopular to return to that state.

The Committee's idea that the time spent in university should be rewarded by adequate pay in the force perhaps needs further examination.

The observations of the Home Office are quite silent on special constables. The Committee thought that there should be a bounty for special constables, rather like there is in the Territorial Army. It did not draw attention to the fact that the regular police force is not very keen on specials. However, this is an area on which the Home Secretary might comment, because the observations did not do so.

I have not had time to cover the whole of the Committee's report. I had hoped that the Chairman of the Committee would have been present to comment on it. I believe that I have given a faithful summary of the main views of the Committee, which were that the police should be better paid—because this was the key to recruitment and wastage—and that shortage of manpower was the key to the whole situation. Any other supplementary steps, in addition to pay, which could be devised and which would go to the roots of this shortage of manpower and the difficulties of recruitment and wastage would be very welcome.

I end as I began by thanking the Committee for doing its work. I hope that the report will commend itself to the House.

7.34 p.m.

Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)

The country, which is now concerned about the growth of inflation, should be equally distressed by the growth of crime. As the Home Secretary is aware, last year was indeed a record for the criminal. There were more crimes committed in this country than ever before. Indeed, the number of crimes recorded increased by 221,145 to a record 1,264,959. It is against this sombre statistic that we debate tonight the problem of police recruitment and wastage.

The difficulties of police recruitment and wastage, as I am sure the Home Secretary would agree, are clearly not the same throughout the country. For example, provincial forces have doubled their numbers since 1921, but this is not so in the case of the Metropolitan Police or in other police forces which are responsible for some of our large cities and towns. Perhaps London is the most disturbing example of the absence of the required numbers of police officers. Clearly there is a reason for this, and there are grounds for some strong concern about the absence of approximately 5,600 officers who are now required to fill the vacancies which we are experiencing in the London Metropolitan Police.

If we go back to 1921 and examine what happened in the crime statistics then the figures are, indeed, somewhat revealing. For example, in 1921 in the Metropolitan Police area there were 56 robberies. I understand that last year there were 3,151. In 1921 there were 3,723 burglaries and last year in the same area there were 86,378. With those figures displaying as they do the phenomenal, and, I would suggest, somewhat frightening, rise in those two specific crimes, apart from the rise generally in the crime figures, we have to contend with the fact that today the Metropolitan Police have 800 men fewer than they had in 1921. The number of men in the Metropolitan Police force today is 20 per cent. below the number that was regarded as the notional establishment for the Metropolitan force 20 years ago. Indictable crime in the Metropolitan Police area has increased about 20 times above its level in 1921.

How has it come about that we still have serious shortages in places such as London? Why cannot we recruit the police officers? Is it all a question of pay? Has it something to do with the conditions of service, or do we have to look at the realities and say that there are areas in London where it cannot be a great pleasure to work as a policeman, compared with other areas of the country where the lot of a policeman is very much happier.

The dangers that accompany the duties of a police officer every day of his life, the danger of physical injury and, indeed, the danger, in some extreme cases, of death when on duty in this city are, no doubt, a deterrent to many people. One out of seven London police officers each year has to be treated for assaults which are committed against him while he is carrying out his duties.

Although I do not have precise figures, I feel some confidence in putting before the House, as a matter of criticism, the fact that when many of the criminals who carry out these assaults on police officers are brought before magistrates, too often they are let off with no more than a fine or a light punishment. In looking at the sources of discontent which undoubtedly affect the police force today in areas such as the Metropolitan Police area I have no doubt that the way in which some courts deal with criminals who have caused injury to police officers while the officers have been carrying out their duty is one of the reasons why there is a reluctance, among some, to volunteer for police service in London.

One thing is quite clear. That is that if it were not for the efficiency, the sense of duty, the energetic pursuit of the criminal and a determination to preserve law and put down crime that is being displayed daily by members of the police force in this city—and in other parts of the country—certainly London would soon be in danger of acquiring the same sort of morbid and alarming reputation that a city such as New York, for example, has.

I am delighted to know that what I and many people in this country regard as one of the most despicable and disturbing crimes, which goes under the title of "mugging", is not apparently increasing in London. I believe that in 1972 there were about 129 cases of mugging every month, and that now the number has levelled out to about 100 a month.

This is a matter for congratulation, but at the same time it must be borne in mind that the need for extra police in the Metropolitan Police area is all too easily perceived when one understands that there are about 800 square miles in the central area which have to be patrolled by the police. By dividing up the men available in uniform for patrols on the street one can appreciate that there cannot at any one time, unless they are called there for a particular purpose, be more than three or four uniformed police, officers to the square mile.

I should like to bring to the attention of the Home Secretary the fact that about six weeks ago—I should not like to give a more definite identification than that, for reasons which will become obvious—I went out to a party in London. One of our colleagues, who happens to sit on the Opposition side of the House, was also there. I noticed that he had part of his face covered with plaster. I said to him "What has been happening to you?" He said "I have been mugged". I said, "Where did it happen?" He said "It was about 20 past 11 at night as we were coming away from the Haymarket". "On foot?" I asked. He said "No, in a motor car. We were coming down from a car park. My wife was in the passenger seat. When we were driving away two men ran up to us and banged on the window on the driver's side of the car. I drove off. They ran after me. I was held up by a taxi. They then threw a bottle through the window and assaulted me with their fists." As a result of that, he had to go into hospital for treatment.

I mention that because these cases of mugging which are very nasty and very frightening, do not always come to public attention. Indeed, that one I have mentioned never saw any light in the Press. Whether that is a good or a bad thing I know not, but there is no doubt that crimes of this kind can and do take place in parts of London which are regarded as safe.

On the other hand, I should like to pay a tribute to the Metropolitan Police in relation to an experience which I had personally only a few weeks ago. I was in my home early in the morning. Going past the front door, which was closed, I saw the letter-box flap suddenly lift up, just gently and slowly. There was no knock on the door, so I opened the front door. Standing there was a villainous looking man who looked a little embarrassed when he saw me. I asked "What do you want?" He said that he was a window cleaner. He looked one of the most frightening window cleaners I have ever seen. I went to my wife, who was in another room, and said to her "There is a fellow here who says that he is a window cleaner and wants to clean our windows". She said "That is very odd, because someone who was in the flat yesterday saw a man on the roof, and when she questioned him he said that he was a window cleaner sizing up the cost of cleaning the windows."

I contacted the police immediately and told them that outside my home there was a man who did not look to me like an ambitious window cleaner who wanted to clean my windows, and I said that I thought that the police ought to make inquiries. They said "Say no more. We will send the police there."

Nothing else happened immediately, but as I went out about half an hour later I saw that the road outside was jammed with police cars, tracker dogs and all sorts of equipment, with the exception of the fire brigade. On the roof, about 100 feet up, were a tracker dog and a police officer who had just caught the man—or a man—who was alleged to have gone into the flat next to mine and emptied the place and taken all of the stuff up on to the roof. All that was done in about 10 minutes, and I think that it was an admirable example of the way to deal with crime.

Finally, however, if we want—as we must have—a proper recruitment to police forces in London or elsewhere, I believe that the only way we can achieve this with certainty is to pay the people who have to take on the ugly side of police life a proper salary and, if need be, a salary which measures the unpleasantness of the tasks which they have to perform.

The London differentials over the provincial forces are about £340 a year at present. I beg to doubt whether those differentials are enough. The fact that we still have vacancies for 5,600 men in the London metropolitan area seems to indicate that they are not enough. I ask the Home Secretary to consider this particular way of ensuring that we have the right number of policemen in the right places at the right time as a possible way of solving our problem.

7.49 p.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

In rising to comment on this matter, I ought to declare an interest. As the House and the Secretary of State know well, I am an adviser to the Police Federation.

I am very glad that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) should have commended to the Home Secretary the need to pay the police properly, and I shall come to that matter shortly.

This debate takes place in the context of a quite alarming increase in both the volume and complexity of crime and other threats to the public order. I do not think that anything could better illustrate the complexity of the tasks now confronting the police than the story we have been reading in recent days about the so-called Jackal. This gentleman is reported to be a Venezuelan, who was educated in Moscow before studying economics in Britain, and who is now believed to be in the Lebanon. In searching for him the police of two nations have sought two ladies, one of them a British secretary born in South Africa, who is accused of meeting the Jackal at the Invalides air terminal in Paris, and the other a French lady in whose flat the police discovered an amazing stock of weapons, including American grenades, stolen from a depot in Germany, of the same type as those used in the attack by Japanese terrorists of the "Red Army" on the French Embassy in The Hague. That illustrates the complexity of the task which now often confronts the police.

I spoke as well of the volume of crime and other threats to public order, and nothing could better document that than the report, with which the Home Secretary is very much familiar, issued this week by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary. There is no need for me to do anything other than select from that report just these few sentences which illustrate my point perfectly adequately. The Chief Inspector says on page 1 that: This has been an arduous and difficult year for the police service … The resilience of all' of those who are committed to the maintenance of law and order has been severely tested by increased crime, senseless vandalism and to an increasing extent, the challenge and menace of politically motivated terrorism. The statistics which appear in this report —I shall not weary the House by quoting them—document those statements more than eloquently, and I know that the Minister, whose care for the police is well known, fully appreciates the challenge which they and our civilised society now, confront.

I wish to take only two points from the Seventh Report from the Expenditure Committee. Paragraph 3 refers to the chronic malaise of the undermanning of police forces generally throughout England and Wales, more particularly in the conurbations". I do not particularly admire the grammar of the Committee in composing that particular sentence, but I am bound to agree that the figures speak for themselves.

Greater Manchester is short of more than 1,000 police officers. West Yorkshire is short of more than 700. The West Midlands has a deficiency of more than 18 per cent. on its establishment—a shortage of 1,132 men and 57 women officers. Worse of all, as my hon. Friend has suggested, is the position in the great City of London. The Metropolitan force, with its authorised establishment of just under 26,000 men, actually had on its strength, at the time the Home Office commented upon the Seventh Report, only 20,127 officers—a shortage of more than 5,000. This is against a background in London where crime is growing, where traffic is increasing, and where violence is increasing.

I am sure that I shall carry the Home Secretary with me when I say that these figures, by any measure, are quite unsatisfactory. Indeed, they might be described as verging upon the irresponsible, for with a shortage of so many men it is virtually impossible for the police in our conurbations to provide to the citizen that usual protection of his property and his person which is his right in a free society.

But that is not the whole of it. The Committee very properly ask whether the establishments themselves are adequate. They say, in paragraph 9, We confess to a feeling of misgivings about the determination of establishments. They can say that again. They conclude in paragraph 10 that it is unsatisfactory that there is no clear explanation how an establishment is in practice decided. Turning to the comments of the Home Office on these conclusions, I am bound to say that, understanding, as I do, the difficulties of arriving at formulae which will fit all the circumstances of all the different forces in this country, the Home Office comments on this matter seem to me to be woolly, vague and quite unconvincing. I agree with the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) when he says that this particular portion of his report seems to have been dealt with very sketchily by Home Office officials. I hope that the Home Secretary, when he replies, will feel it possible to comment upon the point about establishments.

With regard to pay, I congratulate the Committee on their discerning judgment, where they say, particularly in paragraph 14, that recognition must be given to the abnormality and the exacting nature of a police officer's life and that the rates of allowance which appear to us very low should take generous account of this incontrovertible factor. The Home Secretary and I have from time to time discussed pay in many places, and no doubt we shall continue to do so. In the comments made by his Department on the Committee's report there is a total of twelve lines on page 3 devoted to the question of pay. In my view, this is an extraordinarily short comment by the Home Office when one considers that just over 51 lines are devoted to the question of university graduates and some 42 lines to the question of recruitment propaganda. Pay is the heart of the matter, and I believe that the observations made by the Home Office on the Committee's report are once again quite inadequate.

The position now is that an agreement was reached for an increase in police pay. It was signed and sealed on 4th June. It is not yet delivered. I want to put the House in the picture, if I may, by saying—in, I hope, moderate and measured terms—that that award was not greeted with universal acclamation within the police service. There was some talk of industrial action. I do not believe that that was very serious. There was anger and dismay. These feelings reached a point where the chairman and secretary of the Police Federation waited upon the Home Secretary—who is always generous in receiving them—and told him of the total dissatisfaction of the service with the outcome of those pay negotiations. They told him that some members were resigning from the Federation as their only way of protest. They told him, too, that the Joint Central Committee came very close to losing the confidence of some of its elected branch board representatives in the country.

I know that the Home Secretary appreciates fully the points which were made to him. We now confront what could be a new situation. We are about to hear what is contained in the White Paper. It would be wrong for me or for the House to press the Home Secretary on this matter tonight. I say only to him, in words with which he may be familiar, that it is the clear understanding of the entire police service of the United Kingdom that the recent pay agreement on 4th June will be implemented as agreed. That is the understanding of members of the police force, and I hope that it will be so.

I conclude by drawing attention to an advertisement which appeared in the Sunday newspapers last weekend. It is an advertisement which encourages men to do … a great job in Britain's police. I hope that many people will respond to the advertisement, because they are needed. However, the advertisement goes on: You start at £2,400 per annum", and it adds that there is more to come, There is then an asterisk, and beside it are the words: These are the new pay rates effective on September 1st. The advertisement has been published throughout the United Kingdom, and it reinforces the point which I hope have left with the House that an agreement signed and sealed on 4th June must now be delivered.

8.1 p.m.

Mr. Ian Gilmour (Chesham and Amersham)

I am sure we are all grateful to the Expenditure Committee, especially to those members of the Sub-Committee who produced the report. We are even more grateful to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) for the way he introduced it. Certainly my own experience in the Ministry of Defence bears out his remarks on that subject.

Many organisations claim to be undermanned, overworked and underpaid, including the House of Commons. Whatever may be the truth about that, however, certainly it is true of the police force, and at a time of grave manpower shortage, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) pointed out, we see crime rising fast. Hon. Members will have doubtless read today some of the report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary. On page 23 the Chief Inspector points to the record rise in crime last year. There was a 21 per cent. rise in recorded offences. In the first quarter of 1975 there was another rise of 6 per cent. in the number of offences compared with 1974.

At a time when the police find it difficult to recruit and, what is more important, difficult to keep the officers whom they have, crime is still increasing sharply, and perhaps it is not surprising that whereas in 1973 42 per cent. of all crimes were cleared up, in 1974 the percentage dropped to 39. These figures are slightly different from those given in the Chief Inspector's report. It may be that that is because, for some reason, he does not include the Metropolitan District. But the difference between the percentages is the same. I am not sure why the figures are different.

If we expect our police force to solve the growing crime problem, we must provide it with the manpower and the facilities with which to do it. It is to the benefit of the whole of society to have an efficient, effective, well-respected and contented police force. It is gratifying that there has been an increase of just over 1,100 in the strength of the police. However, everyone will agree that that is nothing like enough. We have heard the figures. We are short of 13,000 police officers in England and Wales, and some police stations are unable to cope even with the inquiries that they get, with the result that quite often people have to wait a long time before their problems can be dealt with. From time to time we hear stories of people having to wait two hours to collect something like a recovered stolen bicycle simply because the police station is so undermanned. Obviously such delays not only cause frustration to the public but also lower the morale of the police.

As we know, the problem is greatest in London. As Sir Robert Mark said in his report for 1974, The persistent problem of shortage of manpower continued to loom large, affecting all areas of our activity in myriad ways. … Once again the main problem facing the force has been shortage of manpower. … The downward trend in strength has continued while commitments have increased. As Sir Robert said, while police strength has been down, we as a Parliament have been asking the police to do more. If we expect them to do more, we must also make sure that their numbers are up to establishment.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde drew a comparison between now and 1921, and it is a very disturbing one. We have 600 fewer policemen in London today than we had in 1921, whereas the crime rate today is more than 20 times greater. It seems crazy that when more crimes are being committed in London we have many fewer policemen to deal with them. The shortage in the Metropolitan area is nearly 6,000 men, which is a 21 per cent. shortage in manpower. What is more, that figure is based on establishment numbers which themselves may be inadequate and have been unchanged for 10 years or more.

Such a shortage of men can mean only that the police can no longer cope properly with the growing number of crimes being committed. Many crimes will not get the attention they deserve and many criminals will go undetected, however hard the police work. If this goes on for long, the obvious likely result will be that the more criminals who go undetected, the more crimes we will have in the future. This will lead to growing frustration and resentment throughout society.

But it is not only recruitment that is important. We must also concentrate on keeping the good policemen whom we have. It is not surprising that we lost nearly 6,000 men from the force last year, more than 1,600 of them from London, when we remember the ever-growing pressures on policemen in present-day society. Because of manpower shortages, many policemen find themselves doing a great deal of overtime, especially at weekends. Whatever else may be said about the growing number of demonstrations that we see in London, they mean to many policemen merely another lost weekend and to many of their wives having to spend another day wondering whether their husbands will come back safely.

Again I quote the Commissioner of Police. He said: I am concerned about the increase in recent years in the number of serious injuries suffered by officers assaulted while on duty, not only from the welfare point of view, but also in relation to the depletion of strength at a time when the force is increasingly hard pressed to meet its commitments. In the Metropolitan District alone, two men go sick every three days after being assaulted. Sometimes their injuries are incurred during demonstrations yet, as Sir Robert points out, the penalties for these crimes are still far from satisfactory.

Obviously this is an extremely difficult moment to be discussing any matter relating to pay, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds, with his special position, pointed out. But it is right to make the usual comment that the basic pay of policemen should compare well with that of other occupations. Unfortunately this is not so.

The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland drew some penetrating comparisons between the present-day position and the position before the war. The recent police review, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds said, was not universally well received, although it may have done some good. Unfortunately most policemen still feel that their basic salary is too low. Like my hon. Friend, I do not wish to try to press the Home Secretary to make any definitive statement tonight, but I associate myself with what my hon. Friend said. If the Government were to go back on the agreement now, there would be enormous resentment and frustration and a great deal of damage would be done. I hope that that is not contemplated.

If we are to preserve the morale of the police and if we are to increase recruitment, the police must be paid the proper rate for the job. If they are not paid that rate, they will leave and morale will suffer. If we are to recruit more police into the Metropolitan force and to stop others from leaving, we must pay them, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde said, a reasonable London allowance. Life is obviously very much quieter and easier for a policeman and everyone else outside the large cities. It is not surprising that many police find it easier to go elsewhere.

Obviously we welcome the London allowance, but why is it so very much less than the London allowance that was given to the civil servants last year? It has been calculated that the £410 London allowance for the civil servants should be increased this year to cover the rising cost of living and working in London. The police have a housing allowance, but there needs to be a larger London allowance to attract more recruitment.

Will the Home Secretary consider the possibility of supporting a two-tier allowance, one tier for London and another for our other large cities which have similar but not quite such great problems? It may be that there should be an increase in the allowance for those working in the large cities and an even larger one for London. Such measures could help recruit more police officers and help to retain the officers we already have.

Thirdly, we might help improve recruitment by making better facilities available to enable police officers to buy their own homes. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland suggested that some of the Home Office comments have been complacent. I shall be politer and say that the comment on the rent allowance seems to be unduly bland. I read it twice, and to me it conveys no information at all. The Home Secretary may be able to tell us what, if anything, has been done about enabling police officers to buy their own houses.

Of course police pay is important, but that is not the only problem. The police force must attract high-calibre recruits, and that can be done only if the reputation of the force is good. As Sir Robert Mark has so rightly said: We can only attract the kind of people we want by raising our reputation for integrity and effectiveness". I am in no doubt that the reputation of the police at present stands very high indeed in the minds of the public, and deservedly. Nevertheless, we must do all we can to help them.

Is there any scope for raising the age at which men can join the force? Would it be possible for forces that are nearly adequately recruited to help the Metropolitan force and some of the forces in the large cities which are presently undermanned? That could be done by providing that recruits outside the large city areas should first serve two or three years in the Metropolitan force or in a large city force. As well as helping the manpower of the less-well-off police forces, such a scheme would provide valuable experience for the officers concerned.

We all agree that the police force is overstretched and cannot keep pace, despite the heroic efforts of the police to meet the ever-growing needs of society. At a time when crime seems inexorably to be growing, at a time when we see international and national terrorism growing, with car and letter bombs being planted in our cities, at a time when extremists are intent on creating social disorder as we saw in Red Lion Square, and at a time when certain Left-wing members of the Labour Party are encouraging and giving aid to those who break the law, as with the Shrewsbury pickets and at Clay Cross, the Government must surely make every effort to increase the police force to its full strength. In the present circumstances it is folly to have a weakened police force. It is unfair to the public and, above all, it is deeply damaging to the country.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

Mr. Secretary Jenkins—

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it not be for the greater convenience of the House if the Secretary of State for the Home Department saved his intervention until the conclusion of the debate so that he might comment on all the points that are made? Or is another Minister hoping to catch your eye at the end of the debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Chair has no control over the time at which a Minister may choose to intervene. I do not think that it will in any way detract from the nature of the debate if the Secretary of State intervenes now.

8.17 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)

I do not wish in any way to inconvenience the House by the time of my intervention. To intervene at this stage, following the speech of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mr. Gilmour), would be in accordance with the normal practice in debates of this sort although there is nothing absolute about the matter. I take full responsibility for the time of my intervention. It was indicated to me that a Government statement now rather than at the end of the debate might be welcome. I hope that the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) will agree that no time is perfect and that this is probably not much more inconvenient a time than any other time.

I welcome the fact that we are having this debate on the Seventh Report from the Expenditure Committee. We have, of course, been dealing with the specific problems of recruitment and wastage. The last time we had a police debate was in December of last year. It was a more wide-ranging debate, as it dealt with the whole range of police problems. It took place at a rather similar time of day and at a similar time of the week. I regret to say that there was a rather similar attendance. This debate is more narrowly based, but I thank the Commitee for its careful and analytical report. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) for the understanding and penetrating way in which he dealt with the matters before us. That was particularly striking as my hon. Friend was not directly in charge of the sub-committee. I think that he showed a great appreciation of the problems involved in the police service.

I listened with great care to what my hon. Friend said, as indeed I did to the three hon. Members who have spoken so far. The hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) was perhaps a little more anecdotal and a little less analytical, but extremely vividly anecdotal in the best traditions of the Bar. The hon. and learned Gentleman illustrated some of the problems which confront us and the police in a way which held the attention of the House. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), who has great knowledge of these subjects from his professional connection with the police, of which we are all aware and which is very valued, spoke with interest and restraint on a number of matters. The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham, from the Opposition Front Bench, raised a number of wider-ranging issues and real problems which confront the police, of which we are all very much aware at present.

The Government's detailed observations on the report were published in April this year and met, as we have heard, with a somewhat mixed reception, which is inevitable. But one is glad to be in the position, which is not always the case with Governments when debating reports of this kind, that we have supplied and published observations and answers on all the points, on some even more adequately than on others, no doubt.

In this short debate it would not be sensible for me to try to deal with every point. I will try to pick out a number of issues, some of which seem important to me, some of which I judge, from earlier comments, to be important to the House. First, I will try to deal with the facts of the basic manning position. Clearly, there is a very serious problem about police manning, although at the same time we must remember, as I am sure is familiar to every hon. Member taking part in this debate, that it is sometimes overlooked perhaps by those who follow police matters closely that in the 10-year period 1964 to 1974 the actual strength of the police service increased by just over 21 per cent. from 80,390 to 102,086, a very substantial increase in strength. One would not say that it is sufficient or ideally distributed throughout the country, but certainly the police force today is 20,000 bigger than it was 10 years ago, and we would be in great difficulty were it not.

Recruitment in 1974 was higher than in any year since 1967, and—something I have just noticed—1967 was the last previous year in which I was Home Secretary; but that is entirely coincidental. Certainly, the next fact, wastage of 5,959, also very high, is totally coincidental. In the first five months of this year, however, there has been an improvement on the 1974 position, because there was a further net gain of 1,478—this is recruitment with wastage taken into account—compared with a gain of 1,520 during the whole of 1974. In other words, the improvement in strength in the first five months of this year was almost the same as that during the whole of 1974.

Metropolitan strength is not doing as well as we would wish. It rose by 77 in the first five months of 1975, although that was better than the recent past. In his annual report for 1974, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary said the picture is not a happy one. I would tell the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham that the reason for the apparent discrepancy in the figures is that the Chief Inspector does not cover the Metropolitan force, over which I am the police authority. He inspects the other force and is, in a sense, my link with the other force. Therefore, he reports on the position in England and Wales less the Metropolitan police district.

If we look more closely at the figures for the last 12 months, we see that recruitment rose sharply towards the end of last year and has continued at a high rate. Recruitment in the first three months of this year is half as high again as it was at the beginning of 1974. In London the improvement began to show rather later, but there were signs of it beginning to gather real momentum in London in April and May.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Has not the increase in recruitment been of about the same order and form as the increase in unemployment, and is it not probable that the two phenomena are interlinked?

Mr. Jenkins

It is obviously the case—and history and our recent experience show this—that police recruitment is rather easier at times when there is a slack labour market than when there is a tight labour market. I am not sure whether the correlation is quite as close as the hon. Gentleman suggests. In any case, we are primarily concerned this evening with the strength of the police rather than with the causes for it. I agree that one could not entirely exclude the labour market as a factor. Nobody wishes to see unemployment so as to strengthen the police force in that way. It is not a direct question of people becoming unemployed and going into the police force because standards of recruitment still are, and should be, very strict.

As the House will recognise, it is important not only to have a strong police force but to improve the calibre of those within the service, and it would be wrong to suggest in any way that the police force is a receptacle from this point of view. But clearly the possibility of recruitment into a public service depends to some extent on the state of the labour market. There has been a significant improvement during this period and I very much hope that it will continue.

Cadet strength is another useful indication of the way things are going. At 30th September, 1974 it was 5,474, a record figure, and evidence so far suggests that there will be again a good intake this year. These are quite good results, but there is a continuing need not only to keep a close eye on recruitment but to reduce wastage, an aspect to which the Expenditure Committee rightly gave a good deal of attention. We now know that the total wastage in the first quarter of this year was some 20 per cent. below the 1974 rate, so that we have had an improvement in both recruitment and wastage during that period.

Both premature wastage and retirement before the age limit have decreased Retirement on age grounds went up slightly, and I hope that this means that more officers are deciding to stay on rather than take an early pension. But, as many hon. Members will know, the decision on the counting of war service for pension, which was rightly taken—and there would certainly have been resentment in the police service had it not been taken—is bound temporarily to increase wastage a little. But, even allowing for that, the present outlook is encouraging.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)

On this question of wastage, have the Chief Inspector and the Home Office done any survey inquiring into the cause of the, wastage which has occurred? Most officers leaving the service are willing to give the reasons why they are doing so, and it would be of the greatest benefit in seeing what could be done to prevent future wastage.

Mr. Jenkins

We are certainly doing that in an endeavour to analyse this problem and to keep as close an eye as possible on it. I am not sure that it is susceptible to quite such a straightforward approach as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests. Most officers probably leave from a mixture of motives and one could not tabulate these and say that this or that is the cause. We regard this as important in trying to understand why people leave the service in an effort to see whether it is possible, within one's powers, to prevent them from doing so. Sometimes they leave for reasons which we regret and sometimes they leave for reasons not entirely regrettable, though the latter are a very small minority. But in any service there are bound to be people who find that it does not suit them or that they do not suit the service. But recent wastage has been rather beyond that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland referred to the effect on manpower of reducing the minimum age for entry. That was one of the Committee's recommendations, and indeed a recommendation to which we have given practical effect. Originally I was attracted—as indeed was the Committee—by recruitment at age 18 rather than 18½, but 18½ is the age which we have now established and which came into effect on 27th June. The problem previously for many young people leaving school between 18 and 19 was that they were unwilling to wait until their 19th birthday before joining the police, or to join the cadet service. We do not know precisely how great an effect the change will have, but it was accompanied by active publicity, and there was a good response from l8-year-olds and schools career advisers.

One reason why the working group of the Police Advisory Board which considered this question did not recommend a reduction in the age limit of 18 was that it would have meant a fundamental reorganisation of the cadet training scheme. There was no point in making the police service attractive to those between 18 and 19 if at the same time the cadet service, an important source of recruits, was seriously disrupted. I think that by selecting the age of 18½ we have got the matter about right. I hope that there will be a further gain to the regular police of cadets between 18½ and 19. This is likely to result in a gain of 900 cadets.

The Committee also recommended that the scope of the activities of the national campaign for police recruitment should be extended. The pressing and present need to control expenditure rules out any great increase in expenditure, but there is much that we can and should do. In the first place, even if the present increase in recruitment is maintained, we shall still have to ensure a steady flow of good quality recruits to replace ordinary losses. The national campaign does not seek merely to advertise. A great deal of work is undertaken in providing recruiting aids, such as literature and equipment for local forces which would otherwise be beyond their resources. For example, a new colour film intended for use in schools about the police as a career, entitled "Challenge for a Lifetime", has been produced and has been worth while and successful.

The Committee did not consider separately the question of the recruitment of women, but the marked increase in the number of women police officers recently is very satisfactory from a number of points of view. Over the past year the number of women police has risen by over 10 per cent. from 4,467 to 4,999. In the Metropolitan Police District the growth has been even faster —over 20 per cent. up, from 638 to 799. I very much welcome the awareness which the service is showing—freely, voluntarily, and indeed enthusiastically —towards the full contribution women can make, not only in those areas traditionally reserved for women officers but in a whole range of police activities.

The recruitment of coloured people to the police is another matter to which I attach great importance. It is essential that the police service should be as representative as possible of society in general. For this reason I fully support every effort made to increase the proportion of black and Asian recruits to police forces. Although it is true that the number of such officers who are at present serving is still small—the figure at the end of May amounted to 111—I believe that chief officers of police share my view and are making the greatest efforts to increase the numbers. We must ensure that this increase continues. I regard it as one of the functions of the national recruitment campaign to present to potential recruits in the coloured communities the facts about a police career. We must also make sure that their advisers—careers masters, parents or youth leaders—are fully aware that the police service welcomes and needs good recruits as much from that source as from any other.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds complained about the number of lines in the report devoted to pay. He implied that we had devoted a great deal more space to university recruits and to one or two other matters. On the other hand, my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland argued that we had not said enough in the report about university recruits. It is clear that what we said about pay has been overtaken by the settlement reached in June. It would not be rewarding for the House had we extended the report to take in the position as it was before the new settlement was reached.

At a meeting of the Police Council on 4th June, agreement was reached on new pay scales for all ranks up to and including chief superintendent. Under that agreement, the basic starting pay of a constable will be £2,400 a year and that of a long-serving constable will be £3,402. This starting figure is very different from the £26 a week mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland. It is much more like £48 a week. When account is taken of rent allowances, which are effectively tax-free, the average basic pay of a married constable under this agreement is likely to be between £3,000 and £4,000 a year, depending on length of service. In London, there is an additional payment of more than £300 and of course none of these figures includes overtime payments.

The right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham seemed to suggest that the London differential was not big enough. There has been advocacy of a bigger differential and one can clearly see a case for it, but this question has never been exclusively one of generosity on the part of employing authorities. It has also been one of preserving what the service regards as a fair balance. We have made a considerable improvement, which I welcome. For the first time, in the course of the last year, we got the Federation to agree that the differential should be quite substantially increased. Even then, we had a little difficulty in making it pensionable. We had to wait for the matter to be discussed at the Federation's conference. I approved of this because I think that these matters ought to be discussed fully. It produced a happy outcome, the corner was turned and the allowance is now pensionable. There are therefore issues apart from money, important though that is in the present economic climate, that have to be considered when dealing with the question of differentials in London and other undermanned conurbations.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I am not being entirely frivolous. There are many mansions in the police service, just as there are in the Government.

Mr. Jenkins

I take note of the hon. Gentleman's comments. The new pay scales, as well as reflecting an improvement at all levels, are also designed to correct a number of long-standing anomalies in the pay structure, particularly the anomaly identified by the Committee under which a superintendent, on promotion, was faced with a loss of earnings because he could earn overtime as a chief inspector, but not as a superintendent. I am glad that the Police Council has been able to find a substantial solution to the problem this year.

There has been criticism in the debate of our reply to the Committee on the question of establishments. The establishment of the Metropolitan Police District has not been reviewed for more than 10 years, but there would not be a great deal of practical point in increasing the establishment, even if it were thought right to do so, while we are so significantly below it at present. I was interested in the comparisons made by the hon. and learned Gentleman for South Fylde with the situation in 1921. What emerged clearly from this was that the establishment was somewhat lower, but the actual number of police in the Metropolitan force was almost exactly the same—if anything marginally higher —in 1921. The number of police throughout the country is substantially greater today than in 1921.

On the whole I would think that if there were to be an up-dating of establishments it would probably relate more to the Metropolitan Police District and one or two other districts which are below establishment than it would to areas which are close to or almost up to establishment. Therefore I do not think it would have any very significant effect on recruitment of police officers or the total numbers.

A number of complex factors are necessarily involved in this subject The numbers of police in the Metropolitan Police District are no more than they were in 1921—although the deficiency from establishment is still very great—and the numbers are not great in relation to the proportion of crime, although the numbers of police in the Metropolitan area are very much greater in relation to the population than elsewhere in the country. However, that is a common feature of capital cities or even of a great metropolis such as New York, which is not nominally a capital city. I do not suggest for a moment that this means that there are too many police in London. I merely say that complex factors must be borne in mind in considering this issue.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

What is the purpose of an establishment? If the Home Secretary had a flat tyre on his car and did not have a foot pump he surely would not wish to use a pressure gauge which registered the pressure which should be in the tyre just because he had not got a footpump to blow the tyre up? Should not the establishment of the Metropolitan force record what the level should be? The fact that the Home Secretary cannot recruit up to that level does not invalidate the need for an accurate measure which shows the difference between strength and establishment. The Home Secretary has said that because he cannot recruit up to the establishment there should be a bogus establishment, and that no useful purpose is served by having an accurate indication of what the strength should be.

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Member took an extremely long time to make his point with a long-drawn-out motoring metaphor. I am glad to say that we have got away from the practice of using foot-pumps to inflate the tyres of Metropolitan police force cars.

We could spend a lot of time discussing theoretical establishments. There is a certain validity in what the hon. Member said, but I do not think that establishments generally are below what they should be. In certain areas they have not been reviewed very recently and they should be reviewed in due course. However, I would not think that is of an immense priority today. It is a theoretical exercise which could make no practical difference to the number of policemen on the ground, which is what we are most concerned about. That, however, is not a reason for not doing a review in the future when it is desirable.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I go along with the Home Secretary on that point. I do not think he can have theoretical establishments. There is no real yardstick. However, the right hon. Gentleman has omitted to mention certain things. Take the question of finger print experts. They are being lost to the force all the time and they are not being replaced. Take the company fraud squad which needs older men. There is no yardstick to enable men to come into the force and work in the squad as accountants because there is no means of paying them a higher rate. Take the university graduates with better academic qualifications. The Home Secretary cannot get them because he cannot pay them a higher starting rate at the age of 21 or 22 which would reflect their qualifications. Those are three examples of where recruitment is needed within the police force, particularly in London, but for which there is no provision at the present time.

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) will not expect me to go in immense detail into the three points he has made, because if I do I shall be speaking for a long time. However, I shall certainly consider the matter.

I remember in 1966–67 making a considerable effort with university graduates. We set up a special working party which went into this matter and did what it could. This is a fairly intractable problem. I do not say that it is a hopeless problem but it is not one that can be easily solved either from the point of view of being able to get large numbers of graduates to join the force or from the point of view of deciding upon a basis which is fair to other members of the force. We must have regard to this as well as to the recruitment of graduates. We must have an incentive scheme for graduates which will be generally acceptable.

It would not be desirable, from the point of view of the efficiency or the morale of the police, to have a scheme which produced, perhaps, a small number of ex-graduates—and graduates are not always of the highest quality—at the price of alienating a considerable number of other policemen. I have always made it clear that I should like more graduates in the police force but on a basis that is agreeable and acceptable to the police generally and not on the basis or getting graduates at any cost, without worrying about the effect on the rest of the service.

I turn to housing. A different point of view was taken by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland. My hon. Friend was primarily concerned with the position of somebody who was nearing the end of his period of service and living in a police house. With the current inflation in house prices such a person would have great difficulty in buying a house.

However, I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was more concerned with serving policemen, perhaps young policemen, who had just got married and wanted to buy houses. It is the case that serving police officers are more interested in and more successful in buying their own accommodation. Some time ago the provision of police accommodation such as police fiats was an advantage for a force, particularly in London. Police accommodation has become increasingly unpopular because people wish to buy houses when they are relatively young. I do not suggest that the problem that the right hon. Gentleman outlined does not exist. It is a diminishing problem, however, because more people are moving into their own houses.

The accommodation problem of police are not wholly comparable with those of Service people serving abroad or in a variety of remote places in this country. When such people retire they have to move into accommodation of their own which they have not previously had, or if they have been serving in Germany or somewhere else abroad they may go to a different part of that country to retire. Most police officers, when they retire, stay in the area in which they have lived for the latter part of their lives. Increasingly they have already bought their own houses.

In an increasingly imperfect world we depend to a great extent on a strong and effective police service. I believe that we are lucky in our police service in this country. Shortage of manpower is often disguised from the public by the resource and experience of our police officers. We cannot expect them to carry more than their fair load for too long. If we do, greater wastage will only exacerbate the problems. I am sure that the whole House will join me in thanking the Committee for its report.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Before the Secretary of State reaches his final sentence, may I raise one point? I have listened carefully to his reiteration of the improved pay scales which will be available as a result of the June award. I understood the point that the right hon. Gentleman was making. However, I should like his assurance that the newspaper advertisement to which I drew his attention and which is, I understand, to be repeated next Sunday, will not be a cause for myself or anyone else to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority that that particular insertion is misleading.

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman put his point with great restraint during his speech. I have described the settlement agreed on 4th June. I would rather not add anything to that at present, except to say that I appreciate and understand what he said and why he wished to press the matter further. It is better left there for the time being.

If I may return to what I am afraid was only too obviously my peroration, the point I was making was that if we allow the police to carry too great a workload for too long we shall get into a vicious spiral with greater wastage exacerbating the problem. We are grateful to the Committee and to my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland for his opening speech. The whole House will join me in hoping that the measures which the Government have taken and will continue to take will maintain the strength and effectiveness of the police, which continues to be the branch of the public service which deservedly stands very high, possibly highest of all, in the public esteem.

8.51 p.m.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

I endorse what has been said by those who have so far taken part in the debate in thanking the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) and his colleagues for preparing the report. I thank the hon. Member for introducing it. His colleagues appear to have left him to carry the flag alone. He has shown himself well equipped to do so. The paradox is that we are debating the report almost exactly a year after it was produced. The Government took nine months to make their observations and we have allowed a year to elapse.

The delay is rather like that in the pay negotiations which stretched out for such an interminable period. It has, perhaps, added a little to the feeling that the police had and to some extent still have that the problems they face have not been accorded sufficient recognition. I hope that today's debate will go some way to dispel that feeling.

The sixth paragraph of the report indicates the serious manpower position in the police force. Thankfully, events have overtaken that paragraph and, indeed, the Government's response to it. The position described there showed a slight increase in the shortfall figure, 21 per cent. as against 20 per cent. Even that figure has been overtaken. There have been improvements in the area that I represent, in the Northumbria police force.

We cannot ignore the point, made during an intervention in the Home Secretary's speech, that there is a fairly clear relationship between unemployment and improvements in recruitment to the police force. This is particularly noticeable in an area with a high rate of unemployment such as the North-East which has traditionally supplied policemen to many other areas because of inadequate employment in their home area. The same is true of the Armed Forces. We have sent many Service men into the Armed Forces. The extent to which we have done so has owed something to the lack of alternative employment in our area, and we must all hope that unemployment will not be a permanent factor in the situation.

We must also bear in mind that the police must always be in a position to select recruits. The Home Secretary referred to the need to maintain high standards. It is vital that recruitment should be at a level which allows selection. There is no suggestion in recent events that the response of the police to recruitment difficulties has been to lower entry standards. I refer not to height standards or such things but to more important qualities. It is of the greatest importance that that should not happen and that the police should always be able to select from a high standard of potential recruits.

The issue of pay looms large in the debate. This has been an exceedingly frustrating year for the police. The deferment until September of a rise which many policemen thought inadequate has greatly worried them. It is inevitable that questions should have been raised in the debate about the effect of the economic measures and whether the September settlement will be delivered in September. We understand the position of the Home Secretary. I hope he will bear in mind that it is possible that any announcements made on pay in general may not clarify the situation. The general announcement in the course of tomorrow's discussions, for example, may still leave the police uncertain where they stand. I hope that the Government will not allow that uncertainty to go on any longer than is absolutely necessary and that if it is necessary to make a specific announcement tomorrow from the Home Office, it will be done so that the police will be left in no doubt. Many hon. Members are deeply concerned that the police should receive what has been signed and sealed.

Hon. Members know of the feelings which have been expressed to them by their constituents. I quote one letter from a policeman in my constituency. He wrote: we were awarded increases around 15 per "per cent. to 20 per cent, from the review in September 1974, plus, as I understand it, a promise of any independent review into police pay and conditions, the result of which would be added to the September 1974 award and back-dated to that date. The review was promised before March 1975. After successive delays the memorandum, dated 24th April 1975, appeared. The apparent recommended increase in pay is beyond my wildest expectations, even though inflation will soon catch up again, but it has apparently been dismissed out of hand by the Official Side, who expect us to wait until September 1975. Do they realise what they are doing? I cannot afford to wait that long. Promises will not pay my bills. Many officers have already left the Police Service for better paid jobs in industry or with private security firms. Many more officers, myself included, have patiently awaited the outcome of the prolonged review, hoping for a decent increase and considering the long wait worth it as it was to be back-dated, but nevertheless quietly making plans to get out if it did not come up to expectations. I do not wish to leave the Police Service. I enjoy my job despite its shortcomings, but job satisfaction will not feed, clothe and house my wife and children. If this review decision is not honoured quickly Britain will find itself virtually without a Police Service. That is strong language, but it is language which expresses a widely-held feeling in the police service. I hope that the Home Secretary will take it fully into account. He cannot avoid—nor can we —the general context of economic policy within which any police pay settlement must be judged. No doubt the official side thought that it was doing just that when it refused to accept the idea of restoring the policeman's pre-1939 status or something like it.

The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland referred in his opening remarks to the figures and the relative position of the police before the war. The Committee said it was evident that the police had fallen behind the advantageous position which they had in the past. The official side countered that by saying that no group of workers had a prescriptive right to an enhanced status in the wages league. I fully endorse that statement. Nobody has any prescriptive right to any status in the wages league. Indeed, if we had applied that principle more successfully and more widely, and done something to dismantle some of the automatic differentials built into our pay structure, our present situation would he less serious than it is. We have assumed far too many prescriptive rights over the years. If the police claim for special consideration were based on a prescriptive right, I should reject it out of hand. It is not based on such a right. It is based on a well-founded case as a result of the distinctive features of their job.

The Home Secretary will have heard at the Police Federation conference the expression "the most dangerous job in the country" used from the platform. The job involves danger and a high degree of personal responsibility, and it requires a wide range of qualities and abilities. In addition there is the domestic disruption and limitation which is imposed upon the policeman and his family, the isolation which he inevitably experiences in any community, the degree to which he cannot be in the same position as any other member of the community and the fact that he does not enjoy the recourse to industrial action which is enjoyed by other groups of workers. Added together, these represent a clear reason for special status.

It is on that rather than on any prescriptive right that many of us feel that there was some sense in the pre-war situation. It is not because we desire to preserve that which was there simply for the sake of preservation but is rather because we believe that the policeman has this special claim that we wish to press his case tonight. Some of the features to which I have referred, especially the danger of the job and the qualities required, are even more strongly apparent now than they were in the prewar period.

There are two features in the report which were not dealt with in the Government's response. One of them is the special constables. The report discussed the ambivalent status nowadays of special constables, but the Government have not responded to that invitation. I think that the Committee was probably chary of making too definite a recommendation but was inviting the Home Office to think again about the role of special constables and about whether we should enlarge the Special Constabulary. The Committee did make the bounty recommendation and proposed consultation with the Police Federation.

We know that there are differences of view about special constables. There is a fear that the special constable may be used as a means of undermining the case for adequate establishment and adequate remuneration, but most of us believe that the Special Constabulary is a highly desirable part-time back-up to the police. It is a way in which the police and the community can be further enmeshed together and we should like to see further building on the rather limited foundations that remain of the Special Constabulary.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

There is a Police Advisory Board working party which is looking at the whole position of special constables. It was previously looked at —not in such a comprehensive way—in 1967. The special bounty was considered and rejected. The working party is con- sidering the whole role of the special constable. We are not neglecting it.

Mr. Beith

I take the point that the Home Secretary may not wish to argue about that while the inquiry is taking place.

Another area in which discussions are taking place is the complaints procedure. That is another subject which is raised by the report but on which the Government have made no specific response in the document before us.

I strongly advocate and support the introduction of an entirely independent element in the police complaints procedure. At the same time I recognise the fears of policemen and the Police Federation and the concern which they feel about malicious and defamatory complaints. I am the last to underestimate the difficulty caused to an individual policeman by the extent to which maliciously motivated complaints can lead to the blackening of his character, and his concern at the limited redress he has against such complaints.

There now seems to be a breed of "professional complainer" criminal. There is amongst the criminal fraternity a group of people who are prepared to exploit every machinery and device, not because they have a well-founded complaint but because it is another way of trying to get back at the system, or to get their own back, and to pursue their criminal activities even when convicted and serving a sentence. None of that takes away the desirability of such an independent element.

My view is that the sooner we introduce such an element and the sooner we succeed in getting it into being, the better will be the position of the police. The existence of an adequate complaints machinery in which the public can have confidence will help to reveal the extent to which complaints against the police can be malicious and unfounded and can lead to the blackening of character for which there is no basis. The independent element can work to the benefit of the policeman as well as of the public.

The Home Secretary may even now be considering the suggestion that the Police Federation should be able to use its funds in aid of policemen against whom mali- cious complaints are made. The Police Federation is in considerable difficulty because it cannot use its funds in support of a policeman who wants to take legal action to protect himself against a malicious complaint. However, none of this undermines the need for such an independent element in the complaints procedure.

Mention has been made of the recruitment of graduates to the police force and various other kinds of specialist recruitment. At a former university teacher I would be diffident in advancing the claims of university graduates to make a special contribution to make to the police force.

However, there is another equally important point. If over the years the police do not increase their graduate intake they will become less representative of society as a whole, because as more and more people have entered universities in recent years, and as more and more university graduates are found in the population at large, there is a danger that the police may find themselves unrepresentative of and isolated from some groups in the community, not least the students themselves with whom recent graduates in particular would have more contact and more fellow feeling. That alone is a particularly strong reason why the police should be encouraged gradually to find ways of taking more university graduates into the force.

I have always felt that one of the advantages of the police in many communities was the strong bond, the common background and the similar educational experience of the policeman with those around him. I would hate to have a police force which was at the other extreme—a police force dominated by graduates, who are a minority within society. At the same time the police will become unrepresentative and lose their contact with the community if they do not have within their ranks a reasonable proportion of those who pass through our universities.

The police are the front-line defence of the values of our community. We depend on their competence and their courage, and on the extent to which they are able to embody the very values they are defending in the way they go about their work. I never cease to admire the extent to which they achieve all this. It is an exacting task and one for which they need a fair return and our determined support—not our uncritical support or a support which is not prepared to face problems when they arise, but the genuine and constructive support of the community for which they do so much.

9.07 p.m.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

I believe that the Home Secretary could have demonstrated a little more the support for the police force to which the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) has referred if he had troubled to sit through a debate on this subject lasting less than three hours and which has so far taken less than two hours. However, apparently the call of dinner is stronger than his interest in these matters.

The Home Secretary ended a speech, in which he said virtually nothing, by observing: I hope that the House will join me in hoping that the measures that the Government are taking". Our job in this House is not to hope. It is to do our best to ensure that the Government take the measures which are necessary. They must not sit back and simply hope.

In so far as the Home Secretary said anything at all in the intervention which he made early on in the debate, he admitted quite clearly that he does not believe either that police establishments are realistic or that there is any useful purpose in their being realistic. He said so in so many words. The purpose of having a realistic establishment is that the gap between the actual strength and the establishment is then the measure of the need to recruit. The Select Committee showed its concern both about the unrealistic nature of the establishments and the apparent absence of any criteria on which they were based. The Home Secretary has done nothing whatever, either in the White Paper, which was in response to the Committee's observations, or in his speech to rectify that situation.

In one of his other infelicitous observations tonight the right hon. Gentleman said that shortage of manpower is concealed from the public by the skill and resource of police officers. It is concealed from the public by bogus estab- lishments. If proper establishments were published and known and if the gap between them and the actual strength was known by Parliament and the public, we might take action to close at any rate part of that gap, and in a way that action simply is not being taken at present.

It is absurd for the Home Office to go to the trouble of publishing the document called Police Recruitment and Wastage—Observations on the Seventh Report from the Expenditure Committee", covering the entire back page, Table VI, with Monthly Return of Strength and Vacancies at 31st December 1974 and ending with a column entitled "Percentage Deficiency", when the Home Office admits that it is a meaningless observation because the establishments from which the actual strength is subtracted to arrive at the vacancies, which are then turned into a percentage deficiency, are themselves meaningless.

It is this sort of juggling with figures which causes immense ill feeling and frustration within our police forces, and it is positively misleading to the public and to Parliament, which ought to be doing something to ameliorate the problem. Problems are more easily ameliorated if there is a basis of accurate information than if there is an absence of accurate information—which is the position today.

I have previously drawn the analogy between a tyre pressure gauge and an establishment. A tyre pressure gauge is supposed to measure the pressure that is actually in the tyre, not what one would like it to be. In the same way, if one has a very considerable gap between what one is able to recruit with the existing inducements and conditions of service and what one needs, one does not serve any useful purpose—in fact one perpetrates a disservice—by using a deliberately inaccurate measure to conceal that gap.

The hon. Member for Bewick-uponTweed mentioned the complaints system as it exists, which is more than the Home Secretary did, either in his speech or in his response to paragraph 45 of the Committee's report, which urged upon the Home Office the need to expedite its report.

At present police officers have no effective redress against those who use the complaints machinery not to make unfounded complaints—unfounded complaints can be made in perfectly good faith—but to make complaints which are not only unfounded but malicious. It is no good saying that the law of defamation provides the safeguard to the police officer concerned. One cannot get legal aid in order to prosecute an action for defamation, and no police officer could do so from his own resources.

Some chief constables believe that the offence of malicious libel can be prosecuted only with the consent of the Attorney-General. This is not so, as the recent report on the law of defamation showed, and yet for some reason chief officers of police never, to the best of my knowledge, use the law of malicious libel, the criminal law of libel, to punish those who quite deliberately use the complaints procedure against police officers maliciously as opposed to mistakenly.

That is why there is now on the Order Paper a motion in the names of some of my hon. Friends and myself calling upon the Home Secretary to ensure that in any new complaints procedure he introduces there should be provision so that those who make complaints which are not only unfounded but also malicious are prosecuted. That, I think, is a protection to which the police officer and his family are entitled, because a police officer and his family are all under very considerable strain during the period when disciplinary complaints are under investigation. It may be a number of weeks before they are completed, and this is a considerable strain, even when the officer knows in his heart that the complaints are completely unfounded and malicious.

There must be two sides to every coin of this kind. The introduction of an independent element into the complaints procedure would surely be the ideal occasion for equipping such a tribunal with the power to prosecute for malicious complaints—and, indeed, not only the power but the duty to do so.

If one talks to any policeman he will make it clear that money is not the only consideration. There is such a thing as job satisfaction, and over the last decade this has reduced dangerously for a number of reasons. One is the discrepancy between what the authorised establish- ment ought to be and the actual strength. This results in quite excessive working of overtime. Worse than that, it results in the complete unpredictability of time off. The frequent cancellation of a policeman's time off and the disruption which that brings into his personal life and that of his family are not compensated for by giving time off in lieu at some unspecified and unpredictable date in the future.

If people are to make use of their recreational time they need to be able to plan ahead, and this is something that policemen cannot do. There is often financial loss involved in the cancellation of plans, where a railway ticket has been bought in advance, for instance, under the 17-day concession, and it has to be cancelled because of a change in duty rosters resulting from the fact that many policemen are required for duty at a demonstration, a football match, a golf tournament or something of that nature. The disruption caused to the personal life of the police officers concerned seems to pass quite unnoticed by the public. This is another reason why it is not good enough to say that we can live with bogus establishments because police officers can be persuaded to work overtime.

Overtime is and can be excessive, and then it becomes a very real evil. But there is another loss of job satisfaction, and this has followed the proliferation—some would say the needless proliferation —of senior ranks which has now deprived constables and sergeants of much of the personal responsibility they used to have and the interest in their job that used to come from the responsibilities which have now been withdrawn from them.

There are now inspectors and chief inspectors doing work which was previously done by sergeants, or even by individual constables. That does not lead to job satisfaction. It leads to frustration and boredom. It also, incidentally, leads to a diversion of funds, because a higher proportion has to be allocated to the salaries of the inflated number of senior ranks, leaving less, within a given financial limit, for the remuneration of the constables and sergeants. With this proliferation of senior ranks has come a doubling up of senior officers, as it were, watching other senior officers instead of doing a job which needs that rank specifically to do it, as was the case in the past.

Of course there is a limit to expenditure, and in times of national financial difficulty—which seem, alarmingly almost always to be with us—there is a total limit to expenditure. But in many of the letters I have had over the past few years, complaining about the rate burden, from those who are worst hit—often the elderly living on fixed incomes —there is very often one exception to the complaint. My correspondents say that if there was a small increase in the rates to enable the areas in which they live to be effectively policed—to see men actually on the beat—they would feel that they were having real value for money, and they would be prepared to make the necessary sacrifice. They want to feel secure in their own homes and in their persons when going about on their lawful occasions. They make that the specific and only exception to their plea for economies in local government expenditure and the national taxation burden. I have received too many letters to this effect to regard it as the quirk of one or two people. It is a view which covers all walks of life from people who are feeling the pinch as a result of local government expenditure.

It is a pity that apparently the Home Secretary is disinterested in all these points. I say "apparently" because he made no reference to them in the speech he made before leaving the Chamber. The occasions are rare when this House has the opportunity to make a positive contribution to improving the working conditions of those in the police force upon whom we all depend. It is sad that the Home Secretary could not bring himself to join us just for three hours in the course of this debate.

9.21 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)

It appears that I have the privilege and pleasure of summing up this debate, a lot which falls to me because of the absence of the Home Secretary and no doubt because of other attractive business of the evening.

I rise to draw attention to some causes and matters which go rather wider than those which have been raised in the debate so far. I speak from a deep knowledge of the causes which I am laying before the House and of the reasons why certain police officers are leaving the force. I shall go on to suggest how it would be quite easy to recruit quite a high quality of police officer into the service.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) represents in this House the Police Federation. He does a very effective job. However, the views which I express are not those of the Police Federation in general. They are the views of a wide spectrum, mainly of detectives in the police force and of those who serve in the higher ranks of the force. They have told me the reasons why they have left the force, where they have left it, and the reasons which prompt them to want slightly different methods.

I agree strongly with those who assert that police pay is by no means the main factor in the malaise in certain quarters of the force. That is not the position. The position is that a great many members of the force are much more concerned with the satisfaction of the job, with the housing that they get, with the allowances that they ought to receive, and with the assistance that they get in the work which they do.

I take first the position of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Metropolitan Police and of those in the CID in the country generally. The main burden of dealing with serious crime rests upon those men. We are still bound by certain light requirements. The sub-committee under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) put a series of questions to Sir John Hill, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary. Sir John was asked about the height regulations: Supposing a chap came along who was 5 ft. 7½ in. and who was a good chap. Do you feel you could accept him? Sir John replied: Yes, but again you may hear from the Police Federation that 5 ft. 8 in. is the lowest height acceptable. When it is converted into the metric scale it is a little less than 5 ft. 8 in. … I am not saying that chief officers never take anyone who is just a fraction under that. The questioner then said: I was recently at a dinner which Nipper Reid of the Yard attended. He seemed to me to be about 5 ft. 3 in. in height. He is one of the most distinguished men in the Police Service, but he is not very tall. I do not think size is very important. Mr. Baker replied: Chief Officers have discretion to recruit under the recruiting limit if they feel a person has special qualities. The questioner said: What with Kung Fu and all the rest of it, you can have a small chap but a good policeman. Sir John then said: We are changing our attitude to this, but the Police Federation takes the view that there ought to be this height restriction. The physical element of police work probably suggests that a man should not be less than the average height of the population in general terms. The problem has arisen because the country will not recognise, the Police Federation will not recognise and the chief inspectors of constabulary will not recognise that what is well known within the police force by every detective is that there are two types of animal in the police force. First, there is the policeman who undertakes general police work brilliantly and effectively. These include, if I may say so, a great many guardsmen with whom I had the pleasure of serving in the Welsh Guards. At one time all the members of one company were members of the Cardiff City Police Force.

That sort of policeman is handling so ably what is perhaps the most difficult problem that the police face today—namely, law and order. They are facing the very real problems caused by the terrorists and the political gangsters who form the ranks of the regular political terrorists. That is one of the most difficult tasks that the police face. As the Commissioner rightly says, it is an exceptionally difficult task because the magistrates will not impose the right penalties upon the regular agitators.

All the problems that I have mentioned fall upon that part of the police force which is so ably represented in the Police Federation—namely, the rank and file of the force throughout the country. They certainly need to have a height qualification. They certainly need to be fit fellows. They certainly are at physical risk in many of the jobs that they undertake. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) has rightly said, they are the policeman the ratepayers want to see on the ground throughout the country.

However, someone someday has to talk, as I intend to talk very briefly, about the rôle of the detective. The detective can be a tiny man like Nipper Reid. He may be a Cockney or he may be a highly skilled graduate from Oxford or Cambridge University of the highest calibre. I have spoken in several universities on police recruitment over recent years and I have found that many people would be willing to go into the force provided that they could go into the detective force. They are perfectly prepared to undergo six to 12 months in the general force, but they want to know as a fact that they are being recruited as a detective.

I hold the view that the day must come when we shall have a national CID in regional areas. By that I do not mean a national police force but a criminal investigation department dealing with serious crime which will come under the overall strategy of the Home Secretary, I believe that it will operate in regional areas with the regional crime squads, which have recently been developed and extended, so as to obtain the maximum co-operation in serious crime. It will work in conjunction with the local provincial forces. Of course, those forces would continue to have their small CID network liaising with the regional areas of the national CID.

I put that view to three previous Home Secretaries and it was taken up by all three. They each found it an attractive idea, but in each case it was knocked on the head by the chief inspectors of constabulary. I had wanted to ask the Home Secretary whether he has given serious consideration to that idea.

If we want recruitment of quality to beat serious crime we must recruit in every possible direction. The university graduate is one of them, but it is no good saying that he must come in at the same financial rate as is paid to a young police constable coming from perhaps a secondary school, because he will not do it. He does not want to come in at 19, 22 or 23. There must be an opportunity for graduates who want to come into the force, and if they do, they will want to become detectives. They are the people with Sherlock Holmes minds. One hopes that they will come in because of their superior intellect, their acute powers of observation and their desire to make the same type of career as in the officer class—but not in all cases.

At the same time we want to be able to recruit those who are older but who have a particular ambition and desire to become a detective. There is no reason why they should not do so. If I may give one example from my own wide experience, I have seen many cases, including the largest, of company fraud regularly in recent years. That offence is greatly increasing in this country. City frauds and company frauds are seriously on the increase. To deal with them there is a totally inadequate number of detectives, and their case load is far too heavy. One problem is that they have no people with sufficient accountancy knowledge to be able to investigate that class of fraud. That requires the recruitment of men from 35 to 40 or even 50 years of age. It requires the recruitment of such people not just as experts on the side but as members of the police force on the specialist side. The Home Office must make it possible for those people to be recruited.

There is huge wastage at present on the scientific side. As fast as fingerprint experts are trained over three years, just so fast do they leave and go to another job. Also, it is necessary to have people working in the various aspects of forensic science, fibre experts and experts on blood and other things. It is even more necessary to develop and create a forensic science side, which can be of considerable advantage. Those people must be brought in as young people or those in later life, and there should be a mass recruitment campaign to entice in at all levels those needed to assist the police force.

That is the right approach, and it needs at an early stage consideration by a compassionate Home Secretary who would have the sense to recognise that there are those who want to come into the force and be a detective without being on the beat. I quite accept that they may have to do a short period of training but, having done that, they should be able to go ahead and negotiate a salary scale. That approach would deal much better with recruitment.

Before concluding, may I deal with wastage. It is quite easy to find out the causes of wastage, which last year was immense. That was the year when there was the big attack by the Commissioner in London on corruption in the police force. As a result of the work he did so effectively, that corruption has been very much reduced. The police officers who were "bent", to use the common phrase, were got rid of in large measure and many of the problems, which dated back over many years, particularly in the pornography trade and the sleazy clubs of the West End, to name just two fields in which corruption has long been rife, were to a large extent disposed of—and what a good thing that is!

It was said by those who did this task that it was done by the uniformed police, and that those engaged in that form of corruption were mainly not in the uniformed police but in criminal investigation—and to some extent, I am sorry to say, that is true. That does not mean that the rest of the Criminal Investigation Department has to be tarred with the same brush as that which applies to a few wrongdoers.

On the question of recruitment, we have to face the fact that there will be a few people who are "bent". The incident in question had an unfortunate effect on morale in the force. It would be very undesirable if police officers had to leave the force because they did not want to be associated with somebody whom they thought to be dishonest. I know that that happened in one or two cases, and I can give chapter and verse if required.

Let me cite, for example, the situation in Rochester Row police station. I know for a fact that two Rochester Row detectives had a caseload of 12 criminal cases and 14 cases respectively, including the burglary and theft of valuable silver and jewellery in the Westminster area. How could they possibly undertake that work load? The situation was impossible. The most they could do was to undertake two or three cases at any one time. They were carrying out the work of six detectives and they just could not cope. Such a situation leads to great job dissatisfaction. Even when officers work 16 hours a day, as they often do, they still cannot handle a case load of that nature.

I believe that we must do all we can to recruit more detectives. A detective requires natural skills of observation and various thought processes to enable him to undertake the task. There are a variety of reasons why men leave the force. They may not be receiving enough assistance, and many of them find themselves having to undertake a great deal of unnecessary paper work. Another reason for staff leaving the police force is that their tax allowances are inadequate. At a time when it is difficult to pay police officers more, it is not so difficult to examine their allowances. The same applies to House of Commons pay. Although there may be difficulties in increasing hon. Members' salaries, it may not be so difficult to obtain an increase in the allowances for our secretaries.

I hope that encouragement will be given, as outlined in the report, to enable police officers to purchase their own houses. Furthermore, I hope that rent allowances, particularly in the London area, are reviewed to see whether they are adequate. There is also the question of uniform allowance and plain-clothes allowance. A figure of £75 for clothing for a plain clothes officer and £60 for a constable is not a great deal in this modern age.

We should also consider the question of detective duty and expenses allowance. It is difficult today for a detective in a large city to cope because the allowances in respect of a detective's personal expenditure do not appear to be adequate. Motor car allowances are paid in some cases, and perhaps that matter also can be re-examined. Perhaps the authorities will also review the allowances made to officers who find it necessary to buy information to counter cases of serious crime.

It is seldom that hon. Members get an opportunity to discuss the police force. When we discuss these matters it usually develops into a debate between the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds speaking on behalf of the Police Federation. There is nothing wrong with the general view of the federation, which represents the rank and file of the force, but let us not believe that it represents the only view in the police force—because it does not.

The views that I am expressing are not my own. As a barrister, I am speaking from a brief. I have a fairly long experience of knowing and mixing with many detectives of all kinds from ail parts of the country, both retired and serving.

In my own county of Kent, crime is still increasing and there is an inadequacy of good detectives. The county has not been able to contain serious crime and the police are getting very little assistance from local people over local problems such as the vandalism in some towns, for example Margate and Ramsgate. So much could be done by local people if they came forward to help the police. I am pleased to see the increase in the number of chief constables in London and elsewhere.

I hope that the Home Secretary will consider all these matters and realise that we rely on any Government, whatever their political complexion, to look dispassionately at the problems of the police and to recognise that, although pay is important, the police must have the support they need. They need help with their housing and rent allowances and they must have reasonable caseloads. The people of the country must understand that the police force is not just the man on the beat; it is the co-ordination of many activities. If we can provide for the contentment of the police force, they will gain ever greater respect in the country and we shall perhaps be able to deal with some of the unruly violence, political agitators and law and order problems that we have and also reduce the instances of serious crime.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of the Seventh Report from the Expenditure Committee in the last Parliament (House of Commons Paper (1974) No. 310) on Police Recruitment and Wastage, and of the relevant Government observations (Command Paper No. 6016).