HC Deb 08 June 1978 vol 951 cc351-3
7. Mr. Goodlad

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he next expects to meet the chairman of the Police Federation.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I met Mr. Jardine at the Association of Chief Police Officers' joint conference yesterday. I have no plans to meet him again at present.

Mr. Goodlad

When the Secretary of State next meets the chairman of the Police Federation, will he discuss the continuing trend of experienced policemen and policewomen retiring and resigning prematurely and the remedies to the problem? When is the Edmund-Davies Committee likely to report? Will it be before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Rees

I hope to receive the report shortly. Premature retirement from the police is a major problem. But, as I said at the ACPO conference yesterday, we have 7,500 more police today than we had four years ago. Recruitment is high. Wastage is a problem, but resignations normally happen during the probation period. We shall have to look at that problem. I hope that when there is a substantial increase in pay shortly we shall not believe that that will necessarily solve the problem. Pay is a major part of the problem, but it might well prove that there are other factors to explain why young men do not stay in the police force.

Mr. Mayhew

Is it not the case that the proportion of women officers in police forces has never been higher and that the chairman of the Police Federation yesterday publicly disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman and expressed the view that in many cases this factor was preventing the police from dealing effectively with violent crime? What is the Home Secretary proposing to do about that?

Mr. Rees

I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman supports the chairman of the Police Federation on this matter, although there are other views on it. Women represent 7 per cent. of the police force. I do not regard that figure as too high. I believe that the problem is not concerned with the recruitment of women but that we ought to recruit more men. The Government have set about that problem with a deep-seated inquiry to examine the major factors and to replace the inquiry of 1961. That is a better approach than having given 10 per cent. plus a little bit more last year, which would not have solved the problem. Our inquiry will handle the matter in the proper way, and I shall bring the Edmund-Davies Report before the House very shortly.

Mr. Christopher Price

When my right hon. Friend next meets the chairman of the Police Federation, will he discuss with him the problem of co-operation between the police and the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedures on the experiments that the Royal Commission wants to carry out, particularly into tape recording? Such an experiment could be as helpful to the police as it could be to the courts in the saving of time. Is my right hon. Friend sure that sufficient co-operation exists so that these experiments will be properly concluded and the Royal Commission will be able to take cognisance of their results?

Mr. Rees

I hope that the Police Federation gives its views on this matter to the Royal Commission. However, it is most important that those who run the police force should give their views. The Police Federation does not run the police force. I am sure that both the federation and the chief officers will give their views to the Commission, and I want to do all I can from the Home Office to speed up the experiment.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Does the Home Secretary agree that it is not only the question of pay that is causing frustration in the police? Will he look at the complaints procedures? I support them, but the bureaucracy in the right hon. Gentleman's Department is causing concern to the police. It is taking chief officers and others way out of their own areas for long periods of time. Surely this could be simplified, and this would lead to fewer policemen leaving the service over complaints which turn out to be trivial.

Mr. Rees

I object to trivial complaints, and I agree that they present a problem. But it is right that, for example, I should ask a senior officer from well away from Lancashire to look at the serious matters that are under investigation there. In such circumstanstances, it is important to get senior officers from elsewhere. I accept the hon. Member's comment about frivolous complaints, but it is important to the police for serious complaints to be investigated.