HC Deb 16 June 1977 vol 933 cc546-7
14. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what meetings he has had during the Whitsun Adjournment with the Police Federation.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

My most recent meeting with Federation representatives was on 25th May at Scarborough. My Department remains in frequent and regular contact with them, and I shall be glad to see them again myself whenever it seems that a meeting would serve a useful purpose.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Did the Home Secretary notice the publication, during the Whitsun Recess, of statistics given by the Chief Constable of the Thames Valley area? These statistics show that in this area during the first half of this year reported crime was up by 20 per cent., but the effective strength of the force, as a result of early retirement and resignations, was down by 148. This deteriorating situation is causing the greatest concern to all people who are worried about law and order.

Mr. Rees

The problem of the rising crime rate should concern us all, and when we talk about sentencing we are talking about a part of the problem. In the two years up to the end of this year, despite the pay situation, police recruitment has gone up; therefore the correlation between pay and recruitment is not as clear as it appears to be on the surface. Last year, because of the pension arrangements and indexation, and the fact that it is 30 years since the end of a war when large numbers of people joined the police on leaving the Armed Services, there were a larger number than usual retiring. In phase 2 of the pay policy I was not able to do for the police what my predecessor did as a special case under phase 1.

Mr. James Lamond

Has the Home Secretary received any apology from those responsible for inviting him to the Scarborough conference of the Police Federation? The conduct of its members inside the conference hall was shockingly rude, and outside the building the demonstrators and pickets were disgracefully violent.

Mr. Rees

Certainly—forgetting my own position in the matter—the people outside the building behaved badly. It did no good to the cause of the police, and large numbers of policemen accept that. As for the behaviour inside, the fact is that I was invited to the conference—I did not push myself there. If the Federation's members choose to act in this way in future, Home Secretaries may have to ask themselves whether there is any purpose in going to the conference.

Mr. Whitelaw

Will the Home Secretary say whether he intends to produce the order giving effect to the pay settlement that he has imposed on the Police Federation? When will he bring it before the House? Whatever the merits of the situation now, the sooner the settlement is implemented the better.

Mr. Rees

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and I have taken note of his point. It depends on the nature of the order. We shall consult my right hon. Friend, the Leader of the House, and I hope that we shall find a means of discussing it.