HC Deb 26 July 1979 vol 971 cc865-6
7. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidelines exist for the circumstances under which chief police officers may charge for the attendance of the constabulary.

Mr. Brittan

The practice of charging for the attendance of police officers is governed by section 15 of the Police Act 1964, which provides that a charge may be made by the police authority if the chief officer of police has been requested to provide, and has provided, special services at any place.

Mr. Miller

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that on several occasions police cover in my constituency has been severely reduced by the need to send support to major cities to provide protection for the public—persons and property—against organised marches and demonstrators? Will he consider whether it might be advisable to allow chief officers to charge those responsible for such demonstrations and marches for the police services provided and to recompense police officers who are injured in the execution of those duties?

Mr. Brittan

I am extremely sympathetic to the thinking behind what my hon. Friend has said. At present, charges can be made only for what are described as "special police services", which are services which would not normally be provided in pursuance of the general duty of the police to preserve law and order. The sort of police activity that my hon. Friend has described is onerous, expensive and can lead to casualties, but it is within the ordinary course of the work of the police in the sense that it is for the purpose of preserving law and order. Therefore, at present charges cannot be made. However, I think that the case for the extension of the right to make charges deserves serious consideration.

Mrs. Knight

Can my hon. and learned Friend say whether there is any possibility of presenting a bill for police attendance to protect the public and small shops when football supporters go on the rampage?

Mr. Brittan

I do not think that is possible at the moment.

Mr. Stoddart

If the hon. and learned Gentleman believes that the organisers of marches should pay a charge for police services, does he think that that might be extended to people who run racecourses such as Ascot, where the police have to deploy many men to deal with traffic and other problems?

Mr. Brittan

The difficulty, and the matter that causes justified anxiety and concern, is that people who run events of that kind pay for police services inside the place of activity, whereas others do not. I think that there is a case for looking afresh at the whole question of police charges.