HL Deb 10 May 1923 vol 54 c92

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, before the war, under the Act of 1831, special constables could be appointed in counties only when a tumult or a riot had taken place or when such disorder was reasonably to be apprehended. Under the Act of 1882 special constables could be annually appointed in boroughs, but this provision was very often a dead letter. No provision existed for any general regulations for the control of special constables, their conditions of service, their expenses and matters of that kind. Further, except in the Metropolitan area the expenses of special constables fell upon the rates, instead of upon the police funds.

When the war broke out an addition to the police was found to be urgent, and these difficulties then became apparent. Consequently, the Act of 1914 was passed, empowering regulations to be made under Order in Council to provide for the appointment of special constables, although no tumult or riot had taken place or was to be immediately apprehended. The Act also provided for the expenses, instead of being borne upon the rates, being paid out of the police funds; but it applied only to special constables appointed during the war. The operation of the Act was continued under the War Emergency Laws (Continuance) Act until August 31 last; so that while the Act and regulations made under it apply to special constables appointed before that, no further appointments can be made except under pre-war conditions. This Bill is devised to make the Act of 1914 permanent and enable further recruitment to take place. The Bill makes no change in the powers of special constables. They have always been part of the regular police system and I believe that the first Act in relation to them was passed as far back as the time of Charles II. They are of course voluntary and can only act when the regular police are insufficient to maintain order. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Onslow.)

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.