HC Deb 25 January 1979 vol 961 cc662-5
10. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with current recruitment to the police force.

19. Mr. Sims

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the net increase to the latest available date in the strength of the Metropolitan Police since he announced the implementation of half the wage increases recommended by the Edmund-Davies committee.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I am pleased to say that provisional figures show that for the period 1 July to 31 December 1978 the total strength of the police service in England and Wales increased by 1,267 to 109,066. This includes a net increase of 330 by the Metropolitan Police, bringing the force strength to 21,961.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

That is a modest but to be welcomed improvement. Will the right hon. Gentleman say what thought he has given to asking police authorities generally to reassess their establishment strengths to reach figures that would meet the increased rise in crime?

Mr. Rees

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman gives a modest word of thanks. One cannot win in this place. If recruitment is falling it is bad, and when it is increasing it is "modest". I leave establishments entirely to the Inspectorate, which is composed of professional policemen working in the Home Office. They go around the country and discuss with the local police authority, or the chief constable, what the establishment should be. I think that I ought to leave it to them.

Mr. Sims

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the figures conceal the fact that a large number of experienced officers are being lost to the force and are being replaced by new recruits? Does not he think that, had he accepted the recommendation of the Edmund-Davies report completely, and implemented them in full, this drain would not have occurred?

Mr. Rees

I think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong, because my information is that wastage has dropped by over 30 per cent. in the second half of 1978. A full analysis is not available, but it is quite clear that a substantial drop is caused by a deferment of retirement. Because there is a deferment of retirement, where people are waiting for their enhanced pensions which will take effect next September, because pensions were treated on the full rate, I must warn the House that there will be a problem in September since retirements will then take place.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will not my right hon. Friend encourage the police to look at their management techniques? Giving the police decent pay is very imimportant, but if they continue to use management techniques, particularly in relation to graduates, which are not acceptable to modern industrial relations, there will be considerable difficulty irrespective of the amount of money.

Mr. Rees

There are two aspects to my hon. Friend's question. The question whether one uses graduates is a separate issue. What the police have tended to do is to send to university policemen who, in the main, come back. The police are giving a lot of thought to management. As a result of the greatly enhanced salaries, the police are now paid very well indeed. Therefore, police authorities—certainly I as police authority in the Metropolitan district—tend to use men in a better way because they cost more money.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Does the Home Secretary recall that the Edmund-Davies settlement was based on giving the police a substantial, immediate increase and an inflation-indexed review machinery to see that they did not fall behind again? Does he also recognise that that was based on two things—first, that the police are a vital service and, secondly, that they do not have the right to strike? Does not he think that the time has come to apply those same principles to other vital life-support services, for example, in the hospitals, in the fire service and—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That goes far beyond the question on the Order Paper.

Mr. Edward Lyons

Is my right hon. Friend aware that at a Press Gallery luncheon yesterday the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis expressed some satisfaction with the increase in police recruitment? Does he not agree that it would be a bad thing for the police to have the return of a Tory Government and a far lower level in police numbers? Is it not a matter of great satisfaction to the police that, taking into account his free allowances and London weighting, a police sergeant in London now has a salary substantially more than Members of Parliament?

Mr. Rees

What I am prepared to do is to take all the praise for putting up police pay.

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