HL Deb 27 March 1919 vol 33 cc1092-114

LORD HARRIS rose to call attention to various communications to the Press on the subject of the administration of the Metropolitan Police Force; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is now some weeks since I put this Notice on the Paper, which I did in consultation with some of my friends. Even then I did so with some hesitation, and I have been in some hesitation since, as to whether I should bring it forward for discussion, because it is not always wise when matters of some delicacy are under discussion in private to arouse a public discussion. But certain communications which have appeared in the Press quite recently convinced me that it was justifiable for me to bring this subject before Parliament. The peace and the safety of the public are so dependent upon the Police that it is quite natural that we should take a deep interest in that body, and that we should be anxious if we have any reason to apprehend that there is any possibility of disorganisation being introduced into it.


Hear, hear.


I hope very much that the Government may be able to-night to reassure us upon this point. There certainly are disturbing features in some of the communications to which I am going to call attention. I shall confine myself strictly to those matters which we know of, which have appeared in the public Press, and I shall do my very best to avoid any expression or any reference which might cause irritation to any one concerned among those who apparently are in dispute about matters of very vital importance.

After the lamentable abstention from their duty of last year of the Metropolitan Constabulary—a calamity which I am afraid I must say has severely shaken the confidence of the public in the stability of the force—a Representative Board was formed, representative of several ranks in the Police. The object in view was to give an opportunity to all ranks of representing their grievances to the Chief Commissioner, and I must say here that I cannot conceive it possible that a force with such high traditions, with such a reputation, which had won not merely the confidence of the inhabitants of the, metropolis but was the admiration of the world and the pride of the metropolis—I cannot believe that such a force could haw got into such a state as it was last year, and, if these statements are correct, which I hops they are not, into such a state as it is now, unless there had been very serious grievances to be remedied. This Representative Board was agreed to by the authorities with this object. Apparently this Board has not given entire satisfaction to everybody, and it is now proposed to form three different Representative Boards, representing each of the different grades or ranks in the service; and in connection with the subject, there appeared on March 24 a statement issued by the National Union of police and Prison Officers, which concluded with these words— The public must not lose sight of the fact that if the Force is to have the Representative Board made for them in this manner— the preceding sentences had referred to the way in which the new boards were be formed— the present irritation will be intensified. This is a rather ominous expression. It-alleges that there exists irritation and that unless care is taken it may increase. That is my justification, I think, for bringing the matter under discussion now.

I have been, and I should imagine most people who have read these communications to the Press have been, much puzzled as to these manifestoes, as they have been termed, by the Union of Police and Prison Officers. They are constantly appearing. Sometimes they have adopted a tone which I venture to submit is very much to be deprecated. I cannot make out to whom they are. addressed. Are they official? Are they addressed or sent to the Home Office or to the Chief Commissioner? They do not appear to be so. They may be addressed merely to the public, but I should like information upon that. They do not appear to be addressed to the authorities. Yet, in one case, on March 8, official notice was taken of one of these communications, and quite appropriately, I daresay, although an official order has been emulated to the Police that the Cabinet has decided that recognition should net be given to the Union of Police and Prison Officers. I submit, therefore, that it is legitimate to ask what are the relations if any of the authorities with this Union and what is the objection to the scheme of a Representative Board which was established by which is now going to be substituted, so I gather, by a scheme with three Representative Boards.

On March 8 there appeared a statement which is described as from New Scotland Yard, and in that state-merit reference is made to a communication of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers, so that I in that case at any rate recognition was given to the Union. in that communication, which is very long—I do not for a moment propose to read it—the Commissioner stated that certain communications he Lad made had been misrepresented. As I have already said, I can conceive that before the war there were grievance existing in the Force. I think that is highly possible. I can also conceive that the intention to remedy them was prevented by the war. I can also conceive that dining the war the Metropolitan Constabulary were specially hardly tried in many respects, and I daresay the fact these grievances which existed before the war had not- been Up was extremely irritating to them. But now a change has been indicated and some very valuable concessions have been made, to the Force. For instance, ns regards their emoluments pay and allowances of several kinds, a Committee, appointed by the Home Secretary, with Lord Desborough as chairman, is going into the whole subject.

As regards other matters in which they may have grievances of various kinds they have now got either one board or three representative boards, constantly sitting and passing resolutions up to the Chief Commissioner, and it has been conceded that prompt personal attention should be given to these representations by the. Chief Commissioner himself. Surely these are very valuable concessions to the Force, which should satisfy than as a body that attention being given to such cases as they may be able to represent. In fact, it is only in the matter of discipline that there is any reservation, and I am tempted to express the opinion that in the matter of discipline, that reservation has been wisely made. I should like to read an extract from the Metropolitan Police Orders of a date which I do not recall but quite recently, referring to the substitution of three boards for one. The Chief Commissioner, I take it, gives this as one of his reasons for preferring the three boards which are representative of different ranks to one board representative of all ranks— In the opinion of the Commissioner, judging from his experience during the last six months, it is impossible that the discipline necessary to the efficiency of the Force can be maintained if the interests of superior officers are placed in the hands of the lower ranks; or if, in discussions which affect the Force as a whole, officers place themselves on the same level as those who are under their orders. A matter like this cannot be treated in the same way as if officers and men were engaged in sport, where, for the moment, the question of rank is waived, and all take their Stand on their proficiency in the game. These seem to me to be very appropriate words, and to express a justifiable opinion on the vital subject of discipline.

In the command of such bodies as the Navy and Army, seized with the duty of protecting the country from invasion, and in the case of a body such as the Police seized with the duty of protecting the civil community from depradations and violence, where strict obedience to orders has always been regarded as essential, and essential not merely for the security of the body to be protected but also for the cohesion and the safety from attack of the protecting body itself, discipline is always and always must be under the control of the commander of the unit, however small or large that unit is. Are we to understand that the undermining of this exercise of authority has been aimed at? If so, is it aimed at by the representative board or boards; and is it that which has caused the existing dissatisfaction with the system of one board and the necessity of resorting to three boards.

As I have already said, on March 8 there appeared in the Press a communication from the Chief Commissioner referring to some statements of his which, I gather, he considered had been distorted in a statement issued by the Union of Police and Prison Officers, and referred to on February 22, in a Resolution No. 147, issued by the executive com- mittee of the Representative Board, the tone of which seems to me likely to cause offence, and certainly reads like a refusal to accept the statement of the Chief Commissioner as truthful. This is one of those statements which I have referred to as much to be deprecated. In the end this particular dispute between the Representative Board, or its executive committee, and the Chief Commissioner has gone up to the Secretary of the Home Department, but what the position is at the present moment I do not know, and I do not think we have had any information in the public Press. Apparently with it is involved this other question of the establishment of the new three boards in lieu of the old one board. I ask my noble friend whether any Papers can be presented which would be explanatory of the causes which have led to this change of system, and what right the board, or boards, desire to have added to those which have been given to them.

I draw a distinction between the objects which the Representative Boards aim at and those which the Union of Police and Prison Officers may aim at, because the Representative Boards are recognised whereas the Union is not. I assume, of course, that the Union does aim at recognition. They have issued statements, one of which I have referred to, upon which it is possible to place an ominous construction and which ought to be deprecated. I wish to be absolutely just in referring to any communication from the Union. This week there has been sitting in London a conference of delegates, called by the National Union, and The Times of the 25th instant states— The agenda for the conference including the full text of the constitution and the draft rules for the union, together with a series of amendments of which notice has been given, are published in the current issue of the Police and Police Officers Magazine. On a recent date, the 25th instant, this appeared in the Press— The first four objects of the Union are worth quoting:

  1. "(a) To use every legitimate and reasonable effort to maintain a just, impartial, and efficient public service.
  2. "(b)To promote and encourage at all times the due observance of the regulations and discipline of the services.
  3. (c) "To rigidly maintain a true sense of the obligation to the public to permanently guard against any possibility of members withholding their services as a means of obtaining 1097 redress and to have all differences between the authorities and members arranged or decided by amicable or conciliatory means.
  4. "(d)To establish harmonious co-operation between members and the governing authorities."


Are those the Articles of Association?


I can only give you them as I get them. It is the misfortune under which we rest that we are entirely dependent for our information upon these matters upon the Press. We have no other information, and this is evidently a Press description of something which occurred. I will read the commencement of the paragraph; I take it that this is not a communication from the Union, but a Press explanation— The agenda for the conference, including the full text of the constitution and the draft rules for the union, together with a series of amendments of which notice has been given, are published in the current issue of The Police and Prison Officers Magazine. The first four objects of the Union are worth quoting. And those are what I have read.


Thank you.


They seem to be laudable objects, qualified to satisfy one as to the intentions of the Union to do all in its power to maintain the discipline of the Force. I am bound to add this, that on the 13th—I do not know whether it was in consequence of, but it was following the announcement of the War Cabinet that recognition was not to be given to the Union—the National Union, in a long manifesto, of which I will quote the concluding words, said— The Police Force have not, nor have they had since the commencement of this crisis— There again is an ominous word. According to them there is a "crisis" existing— any intention of striking, and they ask the public to assist them in this intention by seeing that they get a full and impartial inquiry into the whole matter which is in dispute between the Chief Commissioner and the Representative Boards. I felt Bound to quote this statement of the Union as regards their intentions and the existing position from their point of view. But in the same column I have quoted, giving the first four objects of the Union. I find this, which is stated to have appeared in the Union Magazine of January 23, and is attributed to a constable, who is described as the secretary of the Metropolitan Representative Board. These words are attributed to him— There is one point that must not be lost sight of, and that is that every member of the Board must be a Union member and that only Union members' complaints be considered by the Board. If that means anything it means that any policeman who is not- a member of the Union, or any number of policemen who have grievances and are not members of the Union, shall not have those grievances taken up by the Representative Board because they are not members of the Union. It seems to me that that is entirely inconsistent and absolutely conflicts with one of the four objects which is to have; all differences between the authorities and the members arranged by conciliation. It has a strongly suspicious resemblance to that practice of tyrannical exclusion from the benefits of Unionism which is brought to bear by members of Unions of many kinds upon those members of the community who are not themselves members of the Union, and of the refusal to them of the right of enjoying liberty of action. Again I must quote, I am sorry to say, something that appeared on the 10th. This is a statement by the Union and it concludes thus— When will the Government realise that to serve the best interests of the country it is necessary to remove and not create friction in a body of men like the Metropolitan Police who have in their keeping the safety of the lives and property of the citizens of the great Metropolis. It is well to point out that in the. event of extreme measures being necessary the whole of the Police Force of the United Kingdom would be involved. It is quite possible to construe that as a threat of a strike. It is a very incautious statement and is liable to mislead and also to excite the members of the Force to whom it was addressed. There are other somewhat similar expressions, and they inevitably lead one to the suspicion that efforts are being made in some quarters to undermine the disciplinary system of the Force and the control of Authority

I venture very temperately to offer my humble advice in attempting to dissuade the members of the Force from listening to any such insidious temptation. They have been granted ample opportunities of presenting their grievances. I am sure that they cannot dispute—for I have seen The Police Orders for the last five months—that in many instances these are being looked into sympathetically. The whole matter of pay and allowances is being gone into by a competent Committee at which they are being heard. They have also like every citizen the opportunity of presenting their grievances through any Member of Parliament either in this House or another place, and I ventured to suggest to them that if they desire to reinstate themselves in the confidence of the public, and to regain the admiration of the world, and to hold fast by those high traditions which were to their honour and of which they must have been very proud, they will take warning in time of the danger of attempting to tamper with the delicate matter of discipline.

I will read to your Lordships the form of declaration which a constable makes on joining the Forces. The general declaration reads as follows— I, being appointed a constable of the Police. Force of the Metropolitan Police District, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lord the King in the office of constable, and will act as a constable for preserving the peace That is not an attestation, it is a declaration, but I submit that it is as valid as an oath. These are men of experience and position and education, and, having solemnly made that declaration, if they contemplated joining anyother community of men it is their bounden duty before joining such a community to take care that none of its rules run counter to the declaration that they have freely made.

Let me ask them to look round the world. There is plenty of opportunity for giving consideration to various forms of government just now. I ask them to consider whether under any form that has suddenly come to the surface there is any real abstention from an insistence upon the principle of discipline. I have submitted that, however small the unit be or however large, in the case of certain forces, which have to be maintained for the protection of a country or its civil population, the control of the officer of the unit is inevitable and must be insisted upon. I would ask them to consider what has happened in Russia where control was withdrawn in the case of the death penalty in the Army. What followed? The murder of officers without court-martial, and it has gone on to wholesale murder. I do not suggest for a moment that there is anything comparable between the character of the Metropolitan Police and of the Russian Army as it was, or that under any circumstances the British character is capable of the enormities which have been committed in Russia and other countries, but I submit that in this matter of discipline a lesson is afforded which our constabulary may well study if there is any suggestion made to them that the rules of any community which they should join should come before the declaration which they have solemnly made of their duty to their Sovereign and the public.

In bringing this matter, which I think is a serious one, before your Lordships, I have taken care to avoid any expressions or descriptions which are calculated to irritate any parties in the disputes or arguments that are going on. But, having regard to the statements, some of them very conflicting, which have appeared in the Press, I feel that I was justified—and I hope your Lordships will support me—in bringing this matter forward. I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like to draw attention to one aspect of this matter which has, perhaps, not received sufficient attention. In the present situation in regard to the relation of the Police authorities and the Force, the noble Lord who has just sat down has dealt so completely with that that no further reference to it is necessary. I should like to say at once, as regards the present situation, that the stand which the authorities have taken up in their refusal to recognise the Police Union is one which I am sure will meet with the whole-hearted support of your Lordships' House, and, I believe, of the vast majority of the general public. But I think it is a little unfortunate that the events which have led up to the present situation are more or less clouded in obscurity. It is a pity that the Government have not taken steps to inform the country of the reasons for the course they have taken. Their failure to do so has, I believe, led to the conclusion that in some respects that policy has net been as consistent and as logical as it might have been.

The first point to which I should like to draw attention is the origin of this trouble—the strike that occurred at the end of last August. The circumstances attending the outbreak of that strike were somewhat remarkable. In the first place the Com- missioner of Police was in Ireland at the time, and I believe the Home Secretary was also. There appears, so far as Press statements can be relied upon, to have been no widespread discontent or dissatisfaction; at least there was no outward sign of it in the Police Force before the strike. The strike notice was only given on Wednesday, August 28, and the notice expired, the men were due to come out on strike, on the evening of the next day—on Thursday. Thus the authorities were only given a little more than twenty-four hours to prepare for this emergency. Moreover, that notice came not as a collective representation on the part of the Police, it came from the Police Union, which the authorities had up to that moment, and have up to; the present time, refused to recognise. The Commissioner also stated that the first collective representation he had received from the Police was on the Friday, the day when the strike actually occurred.

The first impression given by these circumstances was that the strike was brought about almost deliberately, in such a way that no arrangement could possibly be come to by the authorities at a time when the Home Secretary and the Commissioner were away, and also—what is even more remarkable—at a time when the authorities were actually doing their utmost to meet the men's demands; because a scheme had been prepared by which the pay was to be gradually increased, and the scheme was even to go farther in some respects than the men's demands in that a pension for widows was also provided. It would appear at first, sight that this strike was deliberately brought about in order to forestall the: scheme which would have met the men's demands, and was intended to precipitate a strike at all costs, and to bring about a situation under which an arrangement would prove to be impossible. I do not say that that is the correct conclusion—very likely it is not—but that is, I think, the natural inference that anyone would draw from reading the, accounts which have appeared in the Press. It seems to me either that that is the conclusion, or else the inference is that the Police authorities were extraordinarily and culpably out of touch with the feelings and sentiments of the men.

As far as the strike goes, there is no reflection whatever on the Government. But we now come to certain steps which the Government took in order to deal with this situation. The first step was the personal intervention of the Prime Minister, and this, I think, emphasizes the force of certain remarks made by the noble Vis-count, Lord Midleten yesterday in regard to the unfortunate consequences of the intervention of Ministers in settling these questions of vital importance. The noble Viscount referred to the necessity of the resumption of Cabinet Government, which has practically ceased to exist. The Police deputation was received by the Prime Minister, and the first point to be noted is that the Prime Minister had announced that he would not recognise the Union, but the deputation which was invited to appear before him consisted of the representatives of the Union. The explanation given of this apparent inconsistency by the Home Secretary, Sir George Cave, was that the Prime Minister received them, not as trade unionists, but as policemen. There may be a distinction, but I think it is almost a distinction without a difference; at any rate, it is such a nice distinction that I am perfectly certain that there are very few people in this country who can possibly understand it.

I need not go into the details of the way in which the Prime Minister satisfied the men's demands. He satisfied their demands as regards pay and the reinstatement of the constable whom they wished to have reinstated. With regard to the recognition of the Union, the Prime Minister said it was impossible in war time to sanction a union, as that would be recognising a principle which had reduced the army of Russia to a state of complete demoralisation and disintegration. I think few people would be disposed to quarrel with that statement, but it is not quite evident what he meant by the words "in war time" There might perhaps be some logic—I think it would be very unsound—if you were talking of a military force, that some relaxation of discipline might be permitted in peace time but could not be permitted in war time; but I cannot see how there could be any logic whatever in making such a statement to a Police Force. The functions of the Police Force are precisely the same in war time as they are in peace time.

I would not wish to press this point too far, because I quite realise that in the course of a more or less informal interview with this deputation the Prime Minister might have used words which he may have attached no particular meaning to; but it does show the evil of this way of settling these very important questions. Such a question as this should have been settled after a Cabinet meeting, after the most mature consideration, and the declaration of the Government's policy finally given to this deputation should have been most carefully worded so that all possibility of mistake might have been avoided. We all recognise the Prime Minister's qualities. He is peculiarly well fitted to deal with this situation. He has an extraordinary charm of manner, he is very eloquent, and he has a wonderful faculty for hitting the nail on the head. That may be all very well when you are dealing with matters which require tact only, but these are matters of very important policy, which cannot be decided in an informal and more or less haphazard manner. The Prime Minister at any rate made it quite clear that they could not recognise the principle of a union. That was at the end of August or the beginning of September, 1918.

The next thing that happened was that at the end of February of this year the Government issued an invitation to an Industrial Conference to the representatives of various trades unions representing the industries of the country, and they included the Police Union among them. It seems very extraordinary that they should refuse to recognise a certain body of men as representing the Police in August and in the following February invite them to attend this Conference. The Conference was attended by the Prime Minister. We are given an account in the Press of how he listened with considerable amusement to a speech which was delivered by Mr. Marston, the President of this trade union. Mr. Lloyd George seemed really to have treated the incident in a peculiarly light-hearted manner and not to have realised the very serious consequences of the course which was being pursued.

Those are, I think, the main criticisms which can be brought against the Government; but there are one or two minor points on which further information is desirable. One of the demands made by the Police was for the reinstatement of an ex-constable. I do not know how to pronounce his name, but it is spelt, T-h-i-e-l, and appears to have a somewhat foreign ring. When the Prime Minister settled the question at the beginning of September last it was decided to reinstate this police-constable. Since then he has been doing his utmost to undermine the discipline of the Police Force, and I think it would be interesting to your Lordships to know what the present position of this constable is, because if he is still in the Police Force that position is to say the least a very anomalous one.

Lord Harris has referred to the representative boards which are now the channels of communication between the Police Force, and the authorities. As he said so much on that question I do not think it is necessary for me to add anything; but I believe your Lordships would like to know the reason for the formation of those boards. I do not know that there is any exact analogy between a police force and a military force—I am not well enough acquainted with the interior economy and administration of the Police to know; but if there is not an exact analogy between them the analogy is at any rate a very close one. I fully appreciate that these representative boards are not allowed to deal with questions of discipline, but, even with regard to other questions such as pay and pensions, allowing such a principle as this must tend to undermine altogether the authority of the police officers. The officers as channels of communication with the Commissioner are completely eliminated. All I can say is that a principle such as that introduced into a military force would lead to complete disorganisation and demoralisation, and no battalion or regiment could exist for a moment where it was recognised.

In these few criticisms which I have made I should like to assure the House that I have not made them in any spirit of trying to find fault with the Government. We all recognise the difficult and delicate situation with which His Majesty's Government have to deal; and, as I have said, with regard to their present attitude I am sure they have the support of your; Lordships' House. I can only hope that these criticisms will prove to be un-founded. If they are unfounded I do not see that it will be my fault but rather the fault of the Government which has neglected to explain its policy to the country. We have ahead of us a very serious situation to face. We live in a time of great unrest. We do not know in the least what the outcome of the present state of affairs around us may be.

The time may come when the Government may have to make a stand. I think it was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, speaking on the question of Industrial Unrest, who said that he hoped that the Government would go to the furthermost limits of concession, but, having reached those limits, that they would stand firm and that nothing should induce them to concede a further point. If we should over have to come to that situation it will be absolutely essential that the Government should have the support and sympathy of the country, and it is necessary that in this case, and in all such cases, the policy of the Government should be explained. If the Government has made a mistake it is far better for them to say so. There is nothing which does more to discredit Governments then the air of infallibility which they are so apt to assume. In conclusion, I hope the Government will give us a complete and adequate answer to the various criticisms that have been made.


My Lords, I fully appreciate the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, in asking this Question to say nothing which could accentuate the difficulty of the situation to which he referred. I hope I may be successful in satisfying him on the majority of the points upon which he touched, and also that I may be able to enlighten to a certain degree the obscurity to which the noble Duke has referred.

I would say first that the "manifestos" to which Lord Harris referred are communicated to the Press by the Union and are not addressed to the Home Office or to the Commissioner, and that no official notice is taken of them. It may be convenient if I here remind your Lordships that the Union is a union of Police and Prison officials throughout the country, whereas the Metropolitan Police Representative Board is a board freely elected to represent only the Police Force in the Metropolitan area. The resolution to which the Commissioner referred in his General Order of March 8, which appeared in the Press, was not a resolution passed by the Union, it was one appended by the Metropolitan Police Representative Board to their draft constitution which they had submitted to the Commissioner. The resolution ran as follows— In submitting a copy of the above reconstruction of the Metropolitan Police Representa- tive Board for the information of the Commissioner, this Executive Committee resolves that the Metropolitan Police Representative Board is regarded purely as a temporary instrument of representation of the Metropolitan Police-pending the early recognition of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers, and this Executive Committee are convinced that if the Commissioner would recommend this cause for adoption by the Home Office his action would be keenly appreciated by the whole of the Metropolitan Police The Commissioner pointed out that there could be no question of basing proposals for the welfare of the Metropolitan Police on the recognition of the union. The union had not been recognised by the Government, and the organisation of the Representative Board for the coming year must be based on that fact. The Government decided in August last that the union could not be recognised as a body entitled to make representations to the authorities with regard to matters affecting the Police, but at the same time the men were to be permitted to join the union, "so long as the union did not claim or attempt to interfere with Police regulations or discipline or to induce members of the Force to withhold their services" This condition was agreed to by a deputation of members of the Police to the late Home Secretary. The Government have, recently confirmed their decision not to recognise the union. But when this decision of August last was come to it was felt that the Police should have better means of collectively representing their grievances to the authorities than had existed in the past, and accordingly a Representative Board was set up to represent the members of the Force in matters connected with their conditions of service and general welfare, other than questions of discipline. I would ask your Lordships to note that the question of discipline is absolute excluded from the-purview of the Board.

The Board was to be elected by ballot, and they in turn were to elect a committee of not more than twelve members who should hold office for a year and then-retire, but who should be eligible for reelection. The Committee elected last autumn has sat almost continuously for six months and the members of it have been withdrawn from their police duties for approximately two days in every three. The committee have passed a large number of resolutions, many of which have been; couched in peremptory terms, and on February 21 they forwarded to the Com- missioner a resolution in which the committee "emphatically declined to accept a statement made by the Commissioner;" and with reference to an attempt by the Commissioner to remove a misunderstanding by a conversation with the secretary of the committee the resolution "requested that in future all comments intended to be conveyed to the Executive Committee or the board should be reduced to writing" The Commissioner thereupon announced in General Orders that he would not receive as delegates from the committee any of the men who were parties to the drafting of that resolution, although he would be willing to receive such a deputation provided that none of the members who took part in drafting the Resolution which I have quoted should form part of the deputation.

The term of the present Representative Board expires at the end of this month, and It became necessary to arrange for the election of a new Board. Judging from his experience during the last six months the Commissioner had come to the conclusion that it was impossible that the discipline necessary to the efficiency of the Force could be maintained if the interests of superior officers were placed in the hands of the lower ranks, or if in discussions which affect the Force as a whole officers were placed on the same level as those who were under their orders. The Commissioner therefore decided that instead of having one Representative Board for the whole Force there should be separate Boards representing the Inspectors, the Sergeants, and the Constables. This will explain to the noble Lord the origin of the three Boards instead of one. The existing Representative Board took exception to this change, and the result has been a partial boycott of the elections of the new Board and only the Inspectors' Board has been constituted. The existing Representative Board had submitted a counter-draft of what they thought should be the constitution and scope of a Representative Board. They claimed that the Board should have (1) jurisdiction in all matters affecting the welfare of the Force or any member—that is to say, without any exclusion from their purview of questions of discipline; (2) they were to have access to records, documents, and books, or any written matter whatsoever connected with any subject of their inquiry, which might be a matter or question of discipline; (3) the Executive Committee of the Board was to have power to cause the attendance before them of any member of the Metropolitan Police Force, which, of course, would have included power to summon the Commissioner before them. It was to this proposed constitution that they appended the resolution which I have already mentioned, and to which the Commissioner referred in General Orders of March 8. It will be seen that the scheme was so framed as in effect to throw the entire administration and working of the Force into the hands of the Executive Committee, and that while responsibility for the Force rested on the Commissioner's shoulders the power in all matters that might come before the Representative Board, including questions of discipline, would pass into the hands of the Board or their Executive Committee.

The attitude of Mr. Marston. Mr. Thiel, and Mr. Zollner, the chief leaders of the Union, with regard to both the Representative. Board and the question of the recognition of the Union, may be gathered from recent issues of the Police and Prison Officers Magazine, which is the organ of the Union. Thus, in the issue of January 23, Constable Patterson, the Secretary of the Metropolitan Representative Board, wrote— There is one point which must not be lost sight of, and that is that every member of the Board must be a Union member and that only Union members' complaints be considered by the Board; while in the issue of February 6, Mr. Zollner, who is described as the Union Organiser for the City Police, wrote— We, as a body of men, are determined to have recognition, and we are also determined that the Union shall have a say in matters of discipline. This shows the length to which they are desirous of going, and that it is their extreme aim in the direction of recognition and self-government, rather than lack of consideration on the part of the authorities, that has caused the friction to which the noble Lord refers.

The noble Lord said, and said truly, that it was difficult to realise how a Force with such traditions could have got into such a state unless, in fact, it had been treated with want of consideration; and I fancy that the noble Duke rather inferred the same thing. May I suggest that this comment is based upon a misapprehension as to the history of the Police Strike which occurred in August last, and perhaps it would be as well to remind your Lordships of the circumstances in which the strike occurred. At the time the Homo Office issued the following statement— It has been generally assumed and repeatedly stated that the strike of the Metropolitan Police had been preceded by many applications from the men for an increase in pay which the Commisisioner of Police and the Home Office has refused to entertain. This is not the ease. The following are the facts. In December 1917 the war bonus was raised from 8s to 12s. per week, and the allowance for each child was raised from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. This increase was accepted by the. Police as entirely satisfactory, as appeals from a Setter addressed by the editor of the Police Review to all members of Parliament in which the following passage occurs: 'On behalf of the Metropolitan Police Force we can testify to the general feeling of satisfaction which this substantial rise in their wages has given to the men, and, perhaps, even more so to the wives.' It was assumed that no further increase would be asked for immediately, and, as a matter of fret, from that time until August 28 no application for an increase of the Police pay was received either by the Commissioner or the Home Office, though in July one or two Question asked in Parliament indicated that a further increase was desired. In the meantime, however, applications for approval of an increase of pensionable pay had been received from the police authorities of Lancashire, the West Riding and other counties, and when the Home Secretary, on his return from The Hague at the beginning of July, after hearing a deputation from the police authorities, approved the increase, it was decided in principal that an increase of pay should be granted to the Metropolitan Police at an early date. The Commissioner of Police proposed that the grant of this increase should be accompanied by a scheme for the payment of pensions to widows of police officers and pensioners, and this proposal, which involved actuarial calculations, was referred to two well known actuaries. Mr. F. B. Wyatt and Sir Gerald Ryan. Their report had not been received when the strike occurred—


What date was this?


Late in August. The statement proceeds— As regards the recognition of the Police Union, the position was as follows. Ever since the formation of the Union every Home Secretary, with the full concurrence of the Commissioner of Police, had refused to recognise it. In June, 1917, the reasons for this refusal were fully set out in a letter addressed by the Commissioner of Police to Mr. Wardle, M.P., with whom he had discussed the matter. No reply had been received to that letter, and the Home Secretary, in replying to Questions in Parliament, had adhered to his decision against recognition. On August 28, 1918— I would ask the noble Duke to take special notice of this point— a letter was received from the Executive Committee of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers demanding (among other things) that the war bonus of 12s. weekly be immediately increased to £1 per week and be converted into permanent wages and be made pensionable, that a war bonus calculated on a basis of 12½ per cent, on all wages and allowances be granted in addition to the above demand, and that there should be complete official recognition of the Union and its duly authorised officials. The letter concluded with an intimation that non-compliance with the above demands by 12 o'clock midnight, August 29, 1918, would necessitate the suspension of Clauses (a), (b), and (c) of the Union Rule 2. The rules referred to are as follow—

  1. "(a)To use every legitimate and reasonable effort to maintain a just, impartial, and efficient public service.
  2. "(b)To promote and encourage at all times the due observance of the regulations and discipline of the Services.
  3. "(c)To rigidly maintain a true sense of obligation to the public, by permanently guarding against any possibility of members withholding their services as a means of obtaining redress, and to have all differences between authorities and members arranged or decided by amicable and conciliatory means."
Lord Harris has already quoted those rules and has rightly described them as very laudable objects, but may I point out that these laudable objects were to be suspended the very moment that they became inconvenient. The Home Office statement concluded— The letter did not contain, any statement that a strike would take place at the time mentioned, and the men were under a legal obligation to give a month's notice before withdrawing from duty. The strike broke out without further notice at midnight on August 29. This will clearly show that it was not a strike to which the men were driven by any reluctance on the part of the authorities to entertain legitimate grievances but rather a strike probably against the better judgment of many members of the Force, sprung upon the authorities by those who were determined to secure at all costs, if they could, the recognition of the Union.

Lord Harris has referred to the Committee of which Lord Desborough is chairman, and this Committee is going fully into the question of Police pay, pensions, and conditions of service, and it is hoped that when their Report is received it will be possible to deal with the whole matter in a satisfactory way as regards not only the Metropolitan Police but also the Police Forces throughout the country. The object of the Representative Board as originally laid down was to bring to the notice of the Commissioner matters affecting the conditions of service and the welfare of the various ranks, other than questions of discipline, so that he might investigate them and as far as possible remedy them or bring them forward for consideration by the Home Secretary as police authority. The Commissioner has placed on record his appreciation of much of the work done by the Representative Board and its Executive Committee in bringing matters to his notice which required adjustment, and it is his considered opinion that the system of these Representative Boards is necessary to the wellbeing of any Police Force.

Many of the Police authorities throughout the country have adopted the suggestion of the Home Office and have constituted Representative Boards within their Forces. It is hoped that before long the system will become general throughout the country, and in this connection I am authorised to state that the Secretary of State is considering the advisability of bringing in a Bill to place these Representative Boards on a statutory basis. Many of your Lordships know the difficulty with which Standing Joint Committees are faced owing to the competition which prevails between different counties when the rates of pay of the Force are being constantly varied. While there are great difficulties in the way of instituting a uniform scale throughout the country owing to the difference in local conditions, it is hoped that some scheme may be devised which will ensure an equitable arrangement and meet any reasonable differences in the matter of pay, pensions and conditions of service.

I will only say, in conclusion, that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, quoted the declaration which is made by a constable on his appointment. I entirely agree with all that he said in that connection, and I think we shall all agree that it is difficult to see how a man who has made such a declaration can faithfully observe it, and, at the same time, obey the orders issued by a Union which, in pursuance of its own ends, may be in direct conflict with the authorities whom that man is pledged to serve. I hope I have answered the noble Lord's Questions to a large extent to his satisfaction, and I venture to express the hope that he will not think it necessary to press his Motion.


My Lords, I think very little remains to be said after the exhaustive statement of my noble friend who has spoken for the Government. I am sure we owe a debt of gratitude to the Home Office for taking the public so fully into its confidence, through the mouth of my noble friend. I venture to think that in this controversy, this lamentable controversy, between the Metropolitan Police Force and the Government, the Government cannot take the public too much into its confidence. I am perfectly certain that the less secrecy there is and the more publicity there is the more sure the Government may be of the approval of public opinion. I think the statement of my noble friend is a very grave statement. I think all your Lordships will have listened to parts of it with a feeling of intense regret and even of sorrow, for there was no Force serving His Majesty in any part of the United Kingdom or the Empire that had a larger share of our confidence and, indeed, affection than the Metropolitan Police Force, before the events of August last.

My noble friend has shown that the strike of August last was deliberately engineered and was doubly, trebly unjustifiable. It was trebly unjustifiable because there was no sufficient grievance even for a Force that was not under discipline; trebly, because it is quite incompatible with the obligation of a Police Force to strike; trebly, because this ultimatum to the public was given at a time when this country was still engaged in war. I cannot help thinking that the trouble which still confronts the Government is largely due to the manner in which that strike was dealt with last August. I have already said so in your Lordships' House, and I shall not repeat what I said. But nothing will change my conviction that that strike was not dealt with at the time with the necessary firmness and decision. The question is how to deal with the situation with which we are now confronted. I hope my noble friend's statement will be read throughout the length and breadth of the country tomorrow.

That statement proves that those who are responsible for the policy of the Police Union are deliberately endeavouring to obtain a share in the control, the command, and the discipline of the Police Force. There can be no other conclusion from the quotations he read to us. The Government are bound to resist that claim to the very end and at any cost. I do not doubt for one moment that that is their intention, but it is vital to the well-being of the nation, the safety of the metropolis and the very existence of the Police Force. I know of no argument, usually used for urging the policy and the wisdom of giving those employed in industry a share in the management of that industry, which applies to the case of the Police Force. The Police Force is not an army, it is perfectly true; but a school is not an army and yet a school requires discipline, and a Police Force requires discipline. It is only begging the question, only endeavouring to lead to a false trail, for the officials of the Union to declare, as they do whenever insistence is laid on the matter of discipline, that it is an attempt to militarise the Force. It is nothing of the sort. Take discipline away from that Force, as you most certainly would by sharing the command with Union officials appointed otherwise than by the officers of the Crown, and you destroy the discipline; and, the discipline destroyed, the Police Force is destroyed.

This debate will have served, I think, a most useful public purpose. First of all, it will, for the first time, give a consecutive story of the Police strike of last year. It told us what we did not know before—that, in order to strike, the Police Union had to suspend the first four rules of its own constitution. In the second place, it has given us a very full account of the story since that strike. Further, it has exposed to the whole public gaze the real objects of the leaders of the Police Union. I think His Majesty's Government will reap, as their reward for this publicity, the general assurance from public opinion—as I am able to give them an assurance on behalf of my friends in this House—that, so long as the Government maintain their present policy of endeavouring, in the first place, to remove all legitimate complaints as to the conditions under which the Police serve, and to secure for them the best possible conditions of pay and service, while, at the same time, maintaining the discipline of the Force without hesitation or indecision and continuing to refuse this demand for recognition of the Union—so long as they maintain that policy, they will have not only the support of your Lordships' House but that of the whole public opinion of the nation, to which in the last event they must always appeal, and which will always in the end decide the question.


I should like to ask the noble Earl who represents the Home Office whether he can give a specific reply to the question of the noble Duke, as to how it came about, having regard to the settled policy of the Government not to recognise the Union, that the Union officials, or rather representatives of the Union, were invited to the Industrial Conference.


My noble friend has not been warned of that question; but whatever the explanation may be, I think the noble Marquess can rest assured with the very clear announcement my noble friend has made as to the attitude of the Secretary of State and the Police authorities towards the recognition of this society as a whole.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.