HC Deb 27 November 1975 vol 901 cc1028-9
10. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many complaints have been made against the police in the last 12 months for which figures are available, expressed in absolute figures and as a percentage of the total number of police.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

In 1974 the police in England and Wales received 17,454 complaints—that is, approximately 17 complaints for every 100 officers.

Mr. Jessel

As the number of complaints, which may not all be valid, is so small compared with the total number of police, and as the police have such exacting duties nowadays, would it not be better for the Home Secretary to support the police in every possible way rather than to propose a new and expensive measure which would facilitate and foster complaints against the police, and so pander to criminal elements?

Mr. Jenkins

No, I hardly agree with the hon. Gentleman on any point. The number of complaints is not small compared to the number of police—17,000 is a large number. What was small was the number of substantiated complaints, which was 1,141. This was the view taken by my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Carr). We can help to sustain the police, which I am dedicated to doing, by ensuring that justice is not only done but is seen to be done. That has been broadly accepted in this House and is now broadly accepted in the police service. The enactment of police complaints legislation—I hope to get an early Second Reading for the Police Bill—will, seen in perspective, strengthen and not weaken the police.

Mr. Corbett

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there has been a general welcome at all levels of the police force for his proposal to introduce an independent element into the complaints procedure?

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I have my own sources of information within the police force and, broadly speaking, they agree that this is a necessary step forward.

Mr. Alison

Will the Home Secretary recognise that at a time when good police morale is a vital ingredient of wider public well-being, this morale could be seriously damaged if the impression were given that chief officers were not fitted to play a major rôle in vital matters of discipline in their own forces?

Mr. Jenkins

That is the reason, as the hon. Gentleman who is the assistant Opposition spokesman on this matter will be aware, why I have been careful to reserve the position of chief officers—I have treated the deputy the same as the chief officer for this purpose—in the initial investigation of complaints, when the chief officer acts as the disciplinary authority.