HL Deb 08 August 1919 vol 36 cc633-7

Read 3a (according to Order).

Clause 4:

Power of Secretary of State to regulate pay, etc., of police forces.

4.—(1) It shall be lawful for the Secretary of State to make regulations as to the government, pay, allowances, pensions, clothing, expenses and conditions of service of the members of all police forces within England and Wales, and every police authority shall comply with the regulations so made.

(2) A draft of any regulations proposed to be so made as aforesaid shall be submitted to a council, consisting of the joint central committee or a deputation from the joint central committee of the Police Federation and representatives of the chief officers of police and police authorities selected for the purpose by the Secretary of State, after consultation with the county councils association and the association of municipal corporations, and before making the regulations the Secretary of State shall consider any representations made by such council.

LORD MONK BRETTON moved, in subsection (1) of Clause 4, to leave out "government," and to insert "promotion, discipline, mutual aid." The noble Lord said: I owe some explanation to your Lordships for moving an Amendment on Third Reading. This is an Amendment which is for the most part promoted by the County Councils Association whom I represent. It is not particularly easy for a body corporate, particularly one which has its representatives all over the country, to keep track of a Bill that is passing through your Lordships' House so fast as this Police Bill, which has gone through its successive stages in four successive days. I gave notice of an Amendment yesterday, and was in conference with the noble Earl in charge of the Bill. After consulting with him and his official advisers, I put this Amendment off, in order that it should be submitted to the Secretary of State to ascertain whether he would accept it or not. The Amendment I wish to move is to leave out the word "government" and to insert other words.

When this Bill was in another place a Motion was made to omit the word "government" and Mr. Shortt, the Secretary of State, begged that it should not be pressed. He did so on three grounds. He said that he wished to have power for the Home Office to make Regulations as to disciplinary codes for the Police and Regulations as to the methods of promotion, and that he also wanted to standardise promotion from one force to another—from a smaller to a larger force—which could only be done by Regulation at a central source. In this Amendment we attempt to accomplish what the Secretary of State desires without the insertion of the word "government." The County Councils Association objects very much to the word "government" because it implies executive powers. I cannot conceive the word "government" without executive powers; and Mr. Shortt distinctly said in the House of Commons that he does not want executive powers. But if he wants to regulate promotion of policemen from one county to another it seems to me he is assuming executive powers. Supposing it is a case of Sergeant Jones, of Dorsetshire, being promoted to Inspector in Cornwall; that is a matter of executive, and if it comes under the word "government," then I submit he is using the word "government" for the purpose of obtaining executive powers.

I know where this word came from. It came from the old Police Act of eighty years ago, and it is rather dangerous to assume that the word "government" will not be taken more advantage of in this Bill than it was in 1839. It is a dangerous word, and I hope the noble Earl will consider whether it cannot be taken out. If the Government has executive powers with regard to the Police then the nationalisation of the Police is complete. On the Second Reading the noble Earl, Lord Jersey, told us that it was to carry out the recommendations of Lord Desborough's Committee. I should like to read to your Lordships what Lord Desborough's Committee says with regard to what practically means the nationalisation of the Police— The adoption of direct central control of the Police would be foreign to the constitutional principle to which we have referred, by which the preservation of law and order in this country is primarily the function of the proper local authority. It would alter the whole basis of the Police system and, in particular, would prejudice the intimate relations between the Police and the localities where they serve, which many experienced witnesses have regarded as one of the most desirable characteristics of the present system, and to which they attribute in great measure the happy relations which have existed between the Police and the general public in this country. If, as I believe, the word "government" contains in it the germs of complete nationalisation, and if Mr. Shortt is not anxious to assume these executive powers, then I ask the Government to accept this Amendment which gives all that Mr. Shortt asked for in another place.

I would also call the noble Earl's attention to the fact that I have words at the end of my Amendment—"mutual help"—which, I think, strengthens the Home Secretary's powers in periods of difficulty in moving police from one part to another. That being so, I ask the noble Earl to accept the whole of this Amendment. If it is accepted it will mean a consequential Amendment in the last clause. That is perfectly clear and plain. I have not put it on the Paper because I thought the Home Office would do it.

Amendment moved— Clause 4, page 2, line 27, leave out ("government") and insert ("promotion, discipline, mutual aid").—(Lord Monk Bretton.)


My Lords, I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Jersey is imperatively absent. He would have been able to deal more fully with the Amendment than my noble friend will expect me to deal. I am instructed that there is no objection to the insertion of the words "mutual aid," but I am also instructed by the Secretary of State to say that I cannot accept the omission of the word "government" and the insertion of the words "promotion, discipline." Section 3 of the County Police Act, to which the noble Lord has referred, empowers the Secretary of State to make rules with regard to the government of the County Police, and this clause in the Bill only extends this power to Borough Police. The rules did not apply to Borough Police, and therefore were of very little use. I may also point out that the local Borough Police authorities wish for this extension.

This power does not enable the Secretary of State to alter the statutory provisions as to the control of the Police by the local autuority, but it would be in the opinion of the Secretary of State undesirable to alter the wording in a way which may be held to limit the scope of the existing power, which is not confined to promotion and discipline. These terms were used only as examples by the Home Secretary. It is necessary that there should be power to deal with such matters as the organisation and duties of the several ranks, with a view of effecting the greatest degree of standardisation as recommended by the Desborough Committee, and to prescribe the books and records to be kept by the Police. These matters would not be covered by this clause as it is proposed to amend it, and it is important that the Secretary of State should have power to deal with them and with other matters of general Police organisation which may be the subject of subsequent recommendations by the Desborough Committee.

I can give this definite assurance, that only general regulations will be made, and that the clause cannot be used to transfer to Whitehall the control of the Police now exercised by Standing Joint Committees and by Watch Committee. Moreover, the clause itself provides for Police authorities being fully consulted before any regulations are made. With the exception of the words "mutual aid," to which I propose to agree, I therefore hope that my noble friend will not think it necessary to press his Amendment.


I am much obliged to the noble Viscount for his assurance, which I understand confines the powers of the Secretary of State under this clause to regulations, and explicitly excludes executive functions or interference either with the Standing Joint or Watch Committees. I am much obliged to the noble Viscount for what he has said. With regard to his remarks about "mutual aid," personally I think it is an excellent Amendment. I do not propose that on behalf of the County Councils Association, but I have put that in on my own authority. If the Government are prepared to accept it, I beg to move it.


I am able to accept that, as I said. Will the noble Lord therefore move?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments moved— Clause 4, page 2, line 27, after ("government") insert ("mutual aid"). Clause 14, page 5, line 19, after ("government") insert ("mutual aid").—(Lord Monk Bretton.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.


I beg to move that the Bill do pass.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.