HC Deb 23 December 1976 vol 923 cc890-2
6. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement about the recruitment to the Metropolitan Police.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

In the first 11 months of this year the Metropolitan Police had a net gain of 966 officers, bringing the strength at the end of November to 22,193. I hope this favourable trend will continue.

Mr. Goodhart

Following the Old Bailey corruption trial, should we not recognise that nearly 40 policemen a day are injured protecting our society from violence and that the number of policemen who are willing to risk their lives and limbs to protect us is infinitely greater than the number of policemen who have been corrupted? Is the Secretary of State aware of the deep dissatisfaction in the police about the way in which their pay claims have been handled and of their concern about what they see as lack of support from the present Parliament? When will the Home Secretary give the police the support they deserve?

Mr. Rees

On the last point, the hon. Member should bear in mind the Government's pay policy, which I support, and the very special transitional arrangements which were made for the police in 1975, when they received 30 per cent. instead of £6 a week. The free market argument is that the level of recruitment is related to the amount of pay, but the level of police recruitment at the moment belies that argument. There is more to the numbers of recruits attracted than simply the pay that is offered. There is full support for the police in that respect. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says about the corruption aspect. Such things do the police no good when they are bandied around in the Press, but it has happened, and it is right that it should be investigated. However, none of that should colour the fact that the police perform a vital job extraordinarily well for our society. I and the Government, and, I believe, the whole House, give them our support for the work they do.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that recruitment depends on morale and that many of us feel that the morale of the Metropolitan Police has been raised by the bringing to justice of the policemen in the case that ended yesterday and my right hon. Friend's appointment of a new Commissioner, who has some knowledge of really independent prosecuting procedures in Scotland? Is he further aware that morale depends also on confidence that the Judges' Rules will be followed? Has he yet received the Fisher Report? If not, will he promise to act on it when he does?

Mr. Rees

I take my hon. Friend's view about morale; he is absolutely right. The police themselves accept that when any of their colleagues is found to have done wrong he should be dealt with in this way. To that degree, morale is not affected. The House knows that general problems arise with the changing modes of modern society and the acceptance of the police in society. I should be foolish if I denied that there was a problem. But these are not factors which can be clearly related to aspects of pay or even to other points to which my hon. Friend has referred. As soon as I get the Fisher Report, I shall consider it.

Mr. Whitelaw

Is the Home Secretary aware that the Opposition support him strongly when he says that Parliament must be behind our police force in the duties they carry out. I am sure that that is the wish of the whole House. With that in mind, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will as quickly as posible get on with the discussions that he has promised with the Police Federation to achieve an early solution to the present unfortunate dispute?

Mr. Rees

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support. I should have known that I had his support in this even if he had not expressed it. I have spoken several times to the Police Federation about the current dispute. There is a basic problem about the 6 per cent. We have had some discussions, and other discussions are to follow on matters raised by the police. There are aspects underlying the problems we are asked to discuss which might lead to the formation of a national police force, or at least a movement in that direction. They are all aspects that we have to watch carefully.