HL Deb 21 April 1964 vol 257 cc679-742

3.41 p.m.

Debate on Second Reading resumed.


My Lords, as I was saying, I should like before I sit down to offer a few thoughts on one or two wider aspects of the task before the police. We are all agreed—certainly the Home Secretary is agreed—that the most urgent requirement of all in the battle against crime is a strengthening of the numbers of the police. We are all aware that the police forces in the big cities, whatever may be the case in the country districts, are much below strength. To take the Metropolitan Area, for example—and these figures may surprise the House as they were something of a surprise to me—the actual strength of the Metropolitan force in 1918 was 18,700; in 1939 it was practically the same. 18,800; and now it is slightly less, 17,800. So the strength of the Metropolitan force to-day is slightly less than it was just before the last war or just after the First World War. In an era which has seen such a great increase in crime and some increase in population, I think these figures are rather staggering.

On this question of how to strengthen the Police Force, I have been in close touch, as no doubt have others, with the Police Federation of England and Wales, and I am bound to say that their view makes a great impression on me. There is a fairly widespread belief that the police are faced with a severe recruiting problem, but the difficulties to-day appear to lie not so much in the field of new recruitment as in the grave problems caused by excessive premature wastage of trained men. This is the real issue. The Police Federation, I am bound to say, are concerned with what appears to be a certain complacency on the part of those in authority about this constant drain on their resources. Although the enhanced rates of pay undoubtedly had for a time the effect of halting wastage, there are disconcerting signs to-day that the impact of the pay scales has lessened, and once again the figures of wastage are becoming dangerously close to those of recruitment. As I say, this seems to be the key issue.

Except, perhaps, on the starting pay of a probationer, the Police Federation have noticed a remarkable absence of complaints from their members on the question of pay. So, although one must mention the fact that there has been this wastage since the stimulus of the enhanced pay scales wore off, it is not at the moment, for the most part, the pay that is directly causing the wastage. The real causes of wastage go much deeper. Of course, we are aware that some of the less attractive features of the Police Service—such as shift work, work on public holidays and week-end work, and so on—are inseparable from the job. There can be little prospect of altering those; but the police feel that much more imagination is needed to alleviate some of the unnecessary hardship to the policeman's lot. When I talk of "the policeman's lot", I am thinking to a considerable extent of the policeman's wife and family, who are undoubtedly in many cases leading the policeman to suppose that he would be better employed elsewhere. I am bound to say that many of these minor irritations, in the view of the police, are the responsibility of the less imaginative chief constables and senior officers. The police are fairly sure of this because there are quite a number of areas where these irritations do not occur, owing to a wiser attitude on the part of the chief constable; but in quite a number of cases there is an insufficient appreciation of the problems of man management—indeed, of the whole meaning of man management—on the part of the higher authorities, and the police are convinced that it is in these areas that the wastage difficulty becomes most acute.

As the Minister will be aware, and as perhaps others, also, will be aware, in the view of the Police Federation there is a direct connection between wastage and the length of the working week. One of the major difficulties in London is that members of the force are still working a six-day week of 48 hours in arduous conditions, with the full knowledge, of course, that those in most other occupations are now working a five-day week. This factor is undoubtedly having a telling and adverse effect. In addition to the 48-hour week there are plenty of spells of overtime. I will not go into details now, but I think we ought all to be aware that the dangers of requiring police officers to work too long hours are becoming graver every day. This applies particularly to the C.I.D. in many forces throughout the country. It is not without significance, surely, that the report of the Sheffield inquiry and another analogous report have both within recent months drawn attention to the grave effect on detectives of excessive overtime for long periods. That applies throughout the Force as a whole. In my opinion, if we are going to talk about the difficulty of securing an adequate Police Force, it is here, to the hours and conditions of work, that we must look above all for an explanation of the wastage.

My Lords, although I felt it right to mention those points—although, if you like, they are rather tangential to the Bill—the Bill as a whole is one which, as I say, we here approve in principle, although of course we shall bring forward certain proposals for improving it. The Bill should, as we see it, enable our police forces, not only to render more effective service in the future but to go forward on terms of still better understanding with the general public in the common task of preserving law and order. That task is the professional duty of the police, but it is the civic duty of all of us. I believe the police will set about discharging that task in future with an even clearer knowledge that, though they are human like the rest of us, they enjoy in quite a special degree our respect, our gratitude and our confidence.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, this is very much an agreed Bill. It passed without Division in another place; and, in fact, the Third Reading there was in an atmosphere of mutual congratulation which is more customarily found in this House than elsewhere. It was the product of a very important Royal Commission which had a very cogently argued Minority Report by Professor Goodhart, with which it was quite clear, from the accounts voiced in the House, a good many of the members of the Commission had a great deal of sympathy. But, whilst the Master of Magdalene, Cambridge, as President of another Commission, got all the members of the Commission to his College for a Cambridge week-end to secure unanimity, Professor Goodhart remained in true blue isolation at Oxford.

Far be it from me, or from any of us, to decry Minority Reports. After all, from the days of St. Athanasius at the Council of Nicene to the Webbs in their Minority Report, Minority Reports have sometimes proved to have had later general acceptance. Clearly it is right that it is better to have an agreement on which you can get legislation through than to have one of those unanimous Reports which cannot command sufficient unity and remain in the limbo at the back of the Vote Office for many years.

I think this Bill is an extremely good Bill and a great step forward. We must not forget the ghastly, tremendous rise in crime since the war, since when indictable offences have quadrupled and offences of violence have remained about the same, the policy of longer sentences having made no change. Poverty does not seem to have been the cause of crime, for poverty has now been virtually abolished. Yet criminals are sleeping three in a cell. We have this apparently insoluble problem; and what is the most frightening of all is that the rate of detection of crime has gone down steadily while the figures for crime have gone up. There have been, one might almost say, too few policemen chasing too many criminals. It must be mainly in regard to how far this Bill tackles that social problem or does its part towards doing so that this Bill must be judged.

In addition to having been a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Home Office and having had a little to do with home security, I can claim to live in a county—Buckinghamshire—where the most remarkable crime for many years recently took place. What staggers the imagination when one looks at the pictures of the people concerned, is how young they are. Here are young, clever and mobile men who planned on a wide and imaginative scale; and unless our police can be organised to compete against that new type of criminal we are in for a bad time.

The key to the problem is in larger police units; and this Bill gives the Home Secretary the power to enforce amalgamation. Most police officers would say that unless you have a police force of between 600 and 1,000 men you cannot get the optimum advantage of expenditure on laboratories, cars, radar and the whole supporting equipment. That means that the Home Secretary of the future is the person who is going to make this Bill effective; and this he will not do unless he is courageous enough to make decrees which may hurt a great many village and local feelings. Recently we have had new, small forces like that of Luton borough created, instead of there being amalgamation into a larger unit. I suggest that amalgamation is the key to this Bill. It is to be hoped that both sides of the House will support the Home Secretary of the future in action taken to make large and viable units.

This Bill has enhanced the status, the power and the independence of the chief constables. They are the key men of the whole picture. Unless we have the best chief constables we cannot win this battle. As Napoleon said, there are no bad soldiers; there are only bad officers. Those of your Lordships who have been in the Services will know the dramatic effect produced when a ship, a battalion or an army is taken over by a man with great powers of leadership which permeate right the way down, and how the lack of that magic touch—what in the Navy would be called the "Nelson touch"—could result in the whole force of skilled men deteriorating.

We have been living on the inheritance of Lord Trenchard. The 180 graduates who survived the war are now, as the Report will show, in the key positions; but they are reaching retiring age. It was one of the great regrets, during the period when I was Lord Templewood's P.P.S., that we made the decision to close Hendon, which was said to be temporary but which was in fact permanent. When it was reopened after the war the lessons of the war were forgotten: that if you want to train leaders you must catch them young. You can make a lance-corporal a commissioned officer more successfully than make an elderly sergeant a commissioned officer.

After the war when the police college had a rather high age entry they were not producing chief constable material. I had the pleasure of visiting the police college at Ramshill earlier this year, and any noble Lords who have been down there must have come away deeply impressed and very proud of what they had seen. I would congratulate the Home Office in getting sufficient money out of the Treasury to build really fine buildings which do not clash with one of the most beautiful old houses in England.

The general morale, the atmosphere, the teaching staff, the methods of working with a small group of twelve people, and the whole tutorial system were extremely inspiring. Now, as your Lordships will know by the White Paper of 1961, they are getting in a very much younger age group who are extremely good.

But the fact is that we have to attract university graduates; because while I have the utmost sympathy with the views held by noble Lords on the other side before the war, who felt it a great thing that the working class should be able to get to the top of the Police Force and did not want this outlet to be taken over by the universities, nowadays almost all the people, from any class, with character, brains and ability are going to universities; and this will be even more so as the Robbins Report gets implemented.

In my own county I gather that an immense number of our policemen's sons are going to university. We want that type of man to continue in the career of his father. This is the sort of man we want. But it is anomalous at the moment that the Police Force is the one part of the national set-up which is not attempting to attract university graduates. Noble Lords will see in the Report that not a single university graduate has enlisted in the police since the war. The standard of "A" and "O" level attainment among police entrants is depressingly low. We know that establishments like the Coal Board and the great oil companies are out to attract the university man, and we must work out some solution by which men from the universities, which are now getting the best men of all classes—there is no class matter involved in this at all—can be attracted into the police.

There will be this gap until these newer men come up to fill some of the chief constable jobs; and I hope that the Home Office will be sufficiently courageous, if there are no really good men inside the Police Force for the particularly good jobs, not to be afraid of going outside if necessary. But ambition must be developed in the Police Force so that it can produce within itself its own leaders. If your Lordships have any doubt about this, then I beseech you to read carefully paragraphs 308 to 316 of the Report on this very point.

Leadership is so often the key. What does it consist of? First, that the leader should know his job thoroughly and be as efficient as possible, and that he should know everybody else's job as well as his own; to have everybody going into action giving of his best, knowing that everything that can be done in training and care has been done to support him. He should have not only detective ability but character. Secondly, he should be a human person, continually putting the welfare of subordinates, of their wives and their children, which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, mentioned, to the forefront of his mind. These are the qualities which are essential to be developed fairly young in a man. These qualities exist in all classes of the community and they must be selected and brought out.

There are two points I would make on the Police College which I hope the Government will think about. The first is that the teaching staff is half police and half academic. The governing body is wholly police. I know that they get unofficial advice; but I think it might enhance the position of the academic staff if they had a certain number of people on the governing body as well as purely police officers. Secondly, they are working almost beyond human endurance, because they have so many terms in the year and very short holidays. In these circumstances, we cannot get the best men even though we pay them more; and even if we do get them, they will not have the necessary proficiency in teaching.

In the provisions for the standing joint committees and watch committees, I think that a good compromise has been worked out, but I see one disadvantage in the fact that people who serve on watch committees nowadays are political partisans, on one side or the other. We have to remember that many people outside politics are far better than we are—or, at least, quite as good—at this kind of work. We should therefore try to get appointed not merely people of one political persuasion or another, but the sort of people who have not the Party mind; or people like doctors, who cannot take part in politics because of their intimate personal relationship with, and their need to have the confidence of, people of all Parties. I am sure that there is a mass of people, apart from politicians, who can give very useful contributions to the standing joint committees.

As regards complaints, I think that a good solution has been worked out. There is one point on which I would press the Government and on which I hope the House will support me. If there is an inquiry by a police officer into an allegation against a subordinate, the complainant can be asked questions; but when it was suggested in another place that he should have a solicitor or friend present, this was refused. I know that it is a perfectly logical argument to say that if the complainant has a solicitor, then the police will ask for one, and the whole thing becomes too formal. But we must look at the human side of this question.

Maybe the complainant is a young girl or an old lady, or a rather illiterate working man, who has not the ability or the nerve to ask the right questions. Surely it would be better to allow the complainant to be accompanied, and if necessary represented, by a solicitor. I have spoken to members of the police force about this and they agree with the suggestion. Also, if a solicitor is present the complainant is less likely to make wild allegations; and questions can be asked reasonably and responsibly. I think that such a procedure would help to get justice done. I hope that on Committee stage the Government will make a concession on this point, which will be in the interests of both sides.

It is a pity that during the Commission's proceedings consideration of the Judges' Rules was dropped, at the request of the Lord Chief Justice. I wonder whether the Judges' Rules should not be a matter for legislation by this House rather than a matter for the Judges. We all respect and admire the wisdom of our Judges (I must say this, because I am married to a Judge's daughter), but these are really important questions. If the Rules are too restrictive, the police do not observe them; and, of course, as has been said before, the police must have confidence in the laws on which they are working. The whole question of whether a witness should be protected by Judges' Rules should be a matter for wider consideration.

I especially welcome Clause 42, which allows the Home Secretary to set up a police research and planning organisation, which he has now done, so that he can obtain advice on a wider scale on how modern techniques of investigation can be used to detect and catch criminals. Already a tremendous post mortem is being held on what exactly happened during the Buckinghamshire train robbery, and this is welcomed by the police. As has already been said, we are living in a computer age, in which we cannot neglect any means.

I am glad that, at the same time as this Bill is going through the House, the Government are setting up a Commission on the causes of crime. This is a difficult subject, which defeated even the two years' effort of the noble Earl, Lord Longford.


My Lords, the Government seem to have given up in despair, because their Commission is not expressly an inquiry into causes.


My Lords, if it is not, I hope that the Commission will read its mandate widely and deeply, and do its work profoundly; because this is a problem which has baffled the best brains. We know that many people start on their criminal careers even before they have left school—many under the age of fourteen—and nobody knows why. But it is the case that the crime rate among Jewish juveniles, for example, is much lower than that in any other community. What have we to learn, as a nation, from that community on ways of avoiding delinquency? There are many problems that must be worked on, not merely for catching the criminal, but also for trying to find out the causes of crime, and I therefore welcome this Royal Commission.

In the end, however, there is no substitute for personal contact between the police and the public. The man on patrol and the village constable, who walk the street and know everybody, are the men who create confidence. The public know them and help them, as they will not help people who come from a distance and about whom they know nothing. We must give the Police Force a chance of gaining this confidence by recruiting sufficient numbers to give the police close personal contact with the community. I also feel that recognition of the courage and work of the police should be extended by giving them more, and possibly new, decorations. Think of the way decorations go out among civil servants and the Fighting Services! The police have small reward in this way, and I think we should show our respect and admiration for the police in greater measure. I hope that, with this Bill, will go a message from this House to the Police Force that they have our confidence.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, it is with a good deal of apprehension that I rise to address your Lordships this afternoon, because I was earlier introduced by my noble friend Lord Longford as an expert. I want to disabuse your Lordships from the very beginning of that suggestion. I am a writer about the police. I have a rag-bag of information about the police, but I am not an expert on the subject. A further cause of apprehension on my part is the fact that I usually write scripts for other people to deliver: to-day I am in a position in which I have to deliver my own. I would also add that I do not write political scripts for political speakers, though I believe that this is done on occasions.

Like a good boy, and a new boy, I have been sitting in your Lordships' House for the last six to eight weeks, studying the customs of the House, listening with great sympathy and learning a great deal from the speeches that have been made. I have observed that it is the custom, when one of your Lordships rises to speak, for him to say that he does not intend to detain the House long; but I have discovered that this is a rather elastic phrase. In fact, during some debates—especially the exciting and interesting debate on whether we should call the Commission our seamen serve the Admiralty or the Navy Board—I was reminded of the old Chinese philosopher, who said to his pupils, "Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish. Don't overdo it."

I should like, first of all, to declare my interest so far as the police are concerned. I can put it quite simply and say that I should be out of work if there were not a Police Force. So I am all in favour of one. I agree with what has already been said—namely, that this is a good Bill. It is also a much better Bill than it was when it was introduced, and I think that our colleagues in another place, on both sides, are to be congratulated on the changes and improvements that have been made to it.

I propose to concentrate the main points of my remarks on the vital question of the relationship between the police and the public. I would say at the beginning that I believe that much nonsense is talked on this subject, and we do not face the reality of the situation. The duties of the police and of a policeman consist in the preservation of order, the prevention of crime and the detection and apprehension of criminals. In order that they may do this, we have to give them certain powers and authority over other citizens. No body of people with such powers and in such a position can be popular. It is hardly likely to make them the "pin-up boys" of the nation, especially in a situation such as we have to-day, when our laws grow more complex every day and hundreds of thousands of people are put into the position of being potential law-breakers. Fifty years ago the police did not have to bother with the motor car. To-day there are millions of motor cars, millions of drivers and millions of potential law-breakers; and our police force is hardly stronger to-day, so far as manpower is concerned, than it was then.

We have continual sources of friction between the police and the public, and it would be unrealistic and stupid to think that it will ever be possible to iron out this friction entirely. The relationship between the police and the public can never be a fixed thing; it is something which requires constant vigilance and constant readjustment. But the important thing, in my opinion, is not that the police should be loved—they can never be that—but that they should be respected, and that on their part there should be respect for the public. I doubt whether the public image of the police is any worse now than it was fifty years ago; in fact, it is probably better. Two hundred years ago, for example, the City of London opposed the institution of a police force because, they said, it would infringe the rights and liberties of the aldermen.

The Labour movement has often been critical of the police force, and rightly so, because of its use in industrial disputes and demonstrations. Very often the defence of property was seen as the defence of privilege, and it aroused in the Labour movement, sometimes on the basis of misunderstanding, a very natural bitterness. We failed, perhaps, to realise that the police were instruments and not responsible for the policy. When I was a boy in a poor district of London there was constant hostility between the local people and the police. In fact, one of our pastimes on a Friday night used to be to beat up a policeman; and it was quite a common thing to tie a policeman to a lamp-post and leave him there for hours. Savage, brutal, it may be; but it was a war between the police and public.

Most of the people who felt this antipathy towards the police were honest people, but they had sympathy with their friends against the police because they were the hated symbol of authority. There was friction; there was war. To-day that feeling no longer exists. There is a changed and better public image of the police, and a better relationship. Our general view of the police could be summed up in the phrase that none of us felt that their mothers and fathers had ever celebrated the matrimonial state. And I may say that we did not use the term, as the Speaker in another place once said, in any affectionate sense. I can remember my mother taking me to the Wood Green Empire to see Gordon Harker playing in an Edgar Wallace "thriller". Gordon Harker was playing a Cockney, and he was put into the witness box and asked the question: "Do you know of an armed body of men who prey upon the public?", and he said: "Yus, guv'nor—the police." And there was a tremendous roar of cheers and applause from the audience. That shows how we felt then.

Let us be realistic and face the fact that to-day, to a great extent, due to the development of the police and the understanding of the public, this feeling has gone; and it is a good thing that it has gone. It is still the case that there are clashes between the police and the public, not so much through any fault on the part of the police, as through fault on the part of the public, because we tend to judge their actions by our own self-interest. The fact is that we appoint the police—we ought to be honest about this—to do the "dirty work" of society, work that we should not like to do ourselves. It is a rotten and thankless task. Therefore we should not wonder, or be surprised or shocked, as some of us seem to be, if some of the police get their hands dirty in the doing of it.

There will always be a percentage of bad and vicious policemen, because even a small modicum of power can corrupt. This Bill, I think, provides adequate facilities for rooting them out ruthlessly; and that must be done. But, my Lords, I do not think we should condemn the whole Force, as is often done, on account of a few bad policemen. I should like to comment on a statement made earlier, in the form of a quotation from a chief constable, who spoke about the possibility of policemen just riding along, and not making any arrests for years on end; just riding out time until they could draw their pensions, because they were afraid of the regulations. I think that that chief constable, quite frankly, was "pulling a fast one". It is a fact that if a policeman went on, week after week, without reporting one member of the public for any offence whatever, he would soon be in trouble and "on the carpet". In fact, I know of some policemen who, if they find their book is a little light, so far as cases are concerned, go up to a local "Halt" sign where they reckon they can "knockoff" at least fifteen motorists in an hour.

The police have come in for criticism in relation to the recent crime figures. Is it the fault of the police, or is it the fault (and we should perhaps look at this point more deeply on another occasion) of some basic sickness in society at large? I think one might just as well blame the doctors for the increase in lung cancer as blame the police for the increase in the crime figures. How can we blame the police when we have a morality which breeds this "easy come, easy go" attitude in so many people. Only last week we had the farcical situation (though perhaps it was more serious than that) that on the same front page of a newspaper we had news of the train robbers, having been tracked down, being sentenced to 300 years between them because they had got away with something like £2 million, and another item saying that a great industrial concern had got away with £4 million; and they had done it a good deal more easily and with much less danger.

There must be ultimate control, with checks and balances on the powers of the police; and if these checks and balances seem to operate in favour of the public against the police, this is only right, because you cannot give power to a body of men without making quite sure that it cannot be abused. I believe that the police themselves recognise the need for these checks and balances.

I am also concerned, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said, that the Bill still contains provisions for a number of magistrates to be appointed to police authorities. I regard this as basically a wrong principle. It is a relic of a Victorian age, when the magistrate was a squire and virtually controlled his local police force—or, at least, they deferred to him. This principle should be abolished. There is no special magic about a magistrate, whether Conservative, Labour or what-have-you, which gives him some special understanding of men and the police force. Moreover, the principle is a bad and dangerous one. The magistrate's job is to administer justice impartially, and he should have no connection with either side—the police, who are perhaps prosecuting, or the man in the dock. I think, therefore, that it is wrong to retain these provisions and that we should keep these two functions separate.

Also, I think it is wrong that the Bill does not allow for an independent person to be present at disciplinary inquiries or investigations. We are told that this is cumbersome and time-wasting. In many cases it may be, but it is surely not beyond the wit of the Government to devise some system whereby, in the more crucial cases, some independent person can be present. I fully agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said in his remarks about the need, in certain cases, to supply a complainant with a spokesman. These are vital issues, and I hope they can be amended.

There is one other question on which I think it is important to touch—one that is very often forgotten—and that is the right of the policeman, too. Many complaints are made against policemen, and they are always a matter of very grave concern to the chief constable and to the policeman himself. They vary from allegations of violence to the allegation which your Lordships will have read about some time ago, where a policewoman was accused of dropping a toffee wrapper in a "No litter" area, and was hauled up before her superior officer as a result. All these complaints have to be investigated. But the fact is that there is no provision here for real redress for the policeman if a complaint is malicious or libellous. He does not have the co-operation in getting justice that he should.

I should like to give your Lordships a recent example. A policeman in London was consistently and persistently accused of perjury by a certain gentleman. This gentleman sent letters to the Home Secretary, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the Lord Chief Justice and certain M.P.s, in which he repeated these allegations, which had been investigated and found to be untrue. Most of these letters were published on an occasion of qualified privilege, so that the policeman could take no action. I understand that the problem always is to prove publication, and in these matters police authorities are not helpful. The chief constables obviously do not want a court case in which a policeman is suing a member of the public for libel or slander, because this again hurts the image of the police. But I think it is wrong.

There could be circumstances in which a policeman could quite definitely be "framed"—be the victim of a "frame-up"—by certain people. He should eventually have the right of access to the original letter of complaint. I do not say at once, but some method should be found, because this is the basic problem: that the chief constable is reluctant to hand over the first and original piece of evidence—that is, the letter that has been addressed to him. In my view, a policeman is as much entitled to justice as the next man, and should not be penalised in the cause of a public image. This is a general problem. Chief constables are always reluctant in this matter, but I am sure some method could be found.

This bears very strongly on the question of recruitment to the police force. I know of a policeman who resigned because he found that he could not stand the job any longer. He could not stand the complaints of the public; he could not stand the hours and he could not stand, above all, the fact of the social ostracism which often goes with being a policeman; that you cannot mix as freely as you once could with your mates and friends. There is always some element of that kind, and policemen tend to get thrown together. He resigned for that reason. This form of complaint, with no balance on the side of the policeman, often helps to speed up that process.

Nowadays, we expect our policemen to have the stamina of a Gordon Pirie, the strength of a Jack Dempsey, the shrewdness of a Solomon, the ingenuity of a Sherlock Holmes, the wisdom of a Socrates, the insight of a Maigret, the good humour of a George Dixon, the toughness of an Inspector Barlow and the patience of a "Saint". But you cannot get people like that for £1,000 a year. You cannot get them anywhere. You might get them here at three guineas a day; but even then I doubt it.

This Bill is welcome, but it only does a thorough job of tidying up. The basic problems still remain, and I hope the Government will turn their attention to some of these. There is the problem of recruitment, and I just want to throw out two ideas. I do not know why we should be so rigorous on this question of height. I am sure there must be many jobs in the Police Force which could be done by people who may be half an inch or an inch lower than the standard requirements. I have never heard that height is an equivalent of intelligence. I do not see, either, why it should not be possible to recruit some West Indians to the Police Force. I am not suggesting for one moment that there is any colour bar in the Police Force, but it will appear to be so unless some development is made in this direction. I believe that one West Indian was recruited as a "special" some months ago in the West Country, and I should like to see this extended, together with a general extension and drive for the recruitment of special policemen to take some of the more routine jobs from the regular ones.

I should like to see more policemen on the beat, and I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, on this point. We are told that this is reactionary and wasteful of manpower, but I think it is vital that the police should be seen not to be a machine, but to be human. Above all, I should like to see a thorough study of police organisation at all levels. I am not convinced that it has the quiet efficiency on which we pride ourselves. I believe we load them with all kinds of unnecessary work. One constable told me that he estimates that at least 15 per cent. of his time in any one week is taken up with writing reports, summonses and so forth. The equipment that is in use in the offices would in many cases make any modern industrialist ashamed. Police offices sometimes have the appearance of a Civil Service office in Dickens's time. The police should be given the benefit of every possible form of automation and office machinery in order to cope, and to release constables from the minor task of writing out or typing reports with one finger. We could use more civilian clerks. We could keep on more older policemen for internal duties. Above all, we could, given this, release more men for the vital job of crime prevention.

I want to conclude by telling your Lordships—and this touches on a question which was raised in the final part of his speech by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor—something which happened in Northampton, and to which I should like to draw your attention in this matter of crime prevention. In Northamptonshire, no less than 54 per cent. of the total detected crime in 1962 was committed by persons under the age of 17. These disturbing figures prompted the Chief Constable to suggest to the County Education Officer that talks at schools might be given by senior police officers. The suggestion was accepted, and in due course the heads of 20 secondary schools invited the attendance of a police officer to address the children.

Mr. Gott, the Chief Constable, states that it is difficult to assess in figures the result of the visits, but he gives some details which are highly significant. The percentage of total detected crimes committed by juveniles in this area fell from 54 per cent. before the talks to 30 per cent. afterwards; and the number of crimes known to have been committed by juveniles dropped from 665 before the talks to 515 afterwards. Furthermore, in one town where the Chief Constable's proposal was most enthusiastically received, and every headmaster requested a visit from a senior police officer, the decrease in crimes by juveniles was much more marked than in other parts of the county. I suggest to your Lordships that we do not allow the police sufficient time, sufficient manpower, to do this vital job of crime prevention at the very beginning, and I should like to see them, as a result of this Bill, given that time, given that money and given that manpower, so that a massive drive could be made on this subject of crime prevention.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, before I address myself to the subject of the Bill, may I discharge the time-honoured, pleasurable duty of offering the congratulations of the whole House to the noble Lord who has just addressed you, upon a very excellent maiden speech? May I give him one word of advice? He will find it far harder always to win in this House than does the figure of fiction he has invented, Mr. Dixon, who has never lost a case yet; and the same could be said for the police. However, I think we most admired his engaging candidness in addressing your Lordships, and we have hope that he will address us on many occasions in the future.

My Lords, I intend to deal with only one subject, which I consider to be one of the most serious problems facing this country to-day and which is practically ignored in this Bill, after strong representations about it in the Report of the Royal Commission. This is a good Bill so far as it goes, but it does not go very far. I want to quote the paragraph in this Royal Commission Report which sets out what I think is our greatest problem, that of enforcement of the law to a degree which will meet with the approbation of the public and to a degree which will cause less irritation to a large section of the public. Paragraph 391 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Police 1962 says: It is in our view essential to the maintenance of good relations between the police and the motoring public that the police should adopt uniform policies in every aspect of the enforcement of the traffic laws. It is equally necessary that these policies should be widely regarded as fair and reasonable. We accordingly recommend that chief officers of police, in consultation with other authorities concerned, formulate uniform policies in regard to the matters to which we have referred. We also recommend that these policies be given adequate publicity, so that the traffic laws can be seen to be consistently enforced throughout the country. This Report was published two years ago. Nothing has been done between then and now, and there is nothing in this Bill, to implement in a concrete way this very strong recommendation of the Royal Commission. Yet the number of mechanically propelled vehicles which must come under the supervision of the police in the enforcement of the road traffic laws now amounts to 10 million. It is increasing at a rate of 6 per cent. to 7 per cent. per annum. And for the operation of these vehicles there are 13½ million people holding driving licences who are potential law breakers, not with any malice but largely because they do not know what the law is, for it is enforced with variation by every police authority throughout this country. This has meant that the official Home Office figures at the end of 1962 showed that 1,300,000 offences and alleged offences, involving 1 million persons, had been committed against road traffic laws, resulting in about 1 million prosecutions.

What are these offences, and why is there not this uniformity? Let us take one aspect, the speed limit. We have one speed limit of 30 miles per hour, another of 40 m.p.h., and another of 50 m.p.h., laid down in the Statute as law. All are interpreted by various police forces as an opinion. What is the proper speed? The law says it is an offence if you travel at more than 30 m.p.h. in one regard, and at more than 40 m.p.h., or 50 m.p.h., in another. Yet, if one makes inquiries all over the country one will find that this law is enforced with varying forms of tolerance. Where there is a 30 m.p.h. limit, anything just under 40 m.p.h. "goes"—which is about a 25 per cent. tolerance. What is the tolerance for the 40 m.p.h. limit? And now we have a 50 m.p.h. limit at varying times. How can we expect the ordinary motorist to view such laws with anything other than contempt?

Take the parking regulations. In some areas a motorist can park at night without lights; in other areas he must have lights. The poor, wretched motorist, who represents 13½ million of the population of this country, may drive for 100 miles, and over that distance the law by which he has to abide is interpreted differently six or seven times. The M.1—sixty miles in length—goes through five different police areas. Again, if we take the lighting regulations, they are differently interpreted. If there is one thing which causes irritation to a large section of the public it is this lack of uniformity in enforcement of simple laws. My Lords, something must be done about uniformity.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, paid a tribute to the late Master of University College, Professor Goodhart. It would be an exaggeration to say that the one part of the Royal Commission Report that was really worth reading was Professor Goodhart's Minority Report, but I should have great difficulty in faulting it, because he quite rightly asks, all the way through, how you can expect to achieve uniformity of enforcement of traffic laws—and the traffic laws comprise the bulk of the laws which cause irritation to the public—when there are 156 chief constables operating them without any overall supervision. Professor Goodhart quotes the Royal Commission as stating that the chief constable is accountable to no one, and subject to no one's orders, for the way in which, for example, he settles his general policies in regard to law enforcement over the area covered by his force, the disposition of his force, the concentration of his resources on any particular type of crime or area, the manner in which he handles political demonstrations or processions and allocates and instructs his men when preventing breaches of the peace arising from industrial disputes, the methods he employs in dealing with an outbreak of violence or of passive resistance to authority, his policy in enforcing the traffic laws and in dealing with parked vehicles, and so on. Then he says this: I find it difficult to accept the view that to give such unfettered power to 156 chief constables is in accord with a democratic form of government on which so much emphasis has been placed. Why the opposition to this? After all, 25 per cent. of the Police Force of Eng- land and Wales is now nationalised, and that covers a quarter of the population. We have a nationalised Police Force in the Metropolitan Police District. Why is it that what is right for a quarter of the population in this country is wrong for three-quarters? I fail to understand the opposition. I know that there is opposition, and I know that no Amendment to this Bill to bring in a centralised Police Force would be acceptable to the Government. But I guarantee—and here I echo what the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said—that within 25 years there will be a centralised police force in this country; because unless we do have a centralised police force we shall never get uniformity in the application of the law. As things are, it is impossible; and this is causing very great distress to a considerable number of people.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, mentioned a personal experience. May I give an example which happened when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport? There was the advent of a certain vehicle known as a station wagon, and the law was such that the police could interpret "station wagon" or "estate wagon" as they pleased, as being a commercial vehicle, and therefore subject to the 30 m.p.h. limit, or as a private car, and therefore not subject to any limit outside the fixed limit of 30 or 40 m.p.h. That law was interpreted differently in practically all the counties in the country where it was operated at all; and some of the chief constables said, "To hell with this; we are not going to try to operate it!" Yet hundreds of people were fined thousands of pounds when they should not have been fined. Because, of course, the law eventually had to be altered; and to-day there is no such distinction. That example occurred when I was in the Ministry of Transport. I hesitate to tell your Lordships how the situation was rectified, but the start of this rectification was when a certain Cabinet Minister's wife was fined a substantial sum of money for exceeding the speed limit in a county in the South of England.

I would ask the Government what they intend to do to bring about this uniformity that runs right through the Report of the Royal Commission on the Police. The nearest we get to this is in Clause 21, which talks about amalgamations. Clause 21 (1) says: If it appears to the police authorities for any two or more police areas … expedient that those areas should be amalgamated they can by voluntary action apply for amalgamation. What a hope! Chief constables are charming people. They are not going to commit professional suicide by amalgamation if they can possibly help it.

Then we come to subsection (2) which says: If it appears to the Secretary of State that it is expedient in the interests of efficiency that an amalgamation scheme should be made for any two or more such police areas and no scheme satisfactory to him has been submitted under subsection (1) of this section, the Secretary of State may for that purpose by order make such amalgamation scheme as he considers expedient. May I ask the noble Lord whether he will consult with his right honourable friend the Secretary of State to cause inquiry and serious investigation to be made as to where this kind of thing would, to the advantage of everybody, bring about this uniformity of police administration?


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. Will he explain exactly what he is asking me.


am asking the noble Lord to consult with the Home Secretary, who is the Secretary of State referred to, whether he will set up an inquiry to see whether or not implementation of subsection (2) of Clause 21 can be speeded up. And while that speeding-up process is taking place, which will take a long time—




I have never known the Home Office to be renowned for the speed with which it moves. Perhaps now the noble Lord is there the bad old days are over.

There is in existence a Central Conference of Chief Constables, and I take it that the Royal Commission had this in mind when they advocated the following: We accordingly recommend that chief officers of police, in consultation with other authorities concerned, formulate uniform policies in regard to the matters to which we have referred. Could this section of the Royal Commission Report be referred to this Conference of Chief Constables, over which I think I am right in saying, the Home Secretary presides, with a view to speeding-up this matter?


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt again, but I still do not understand what the noble Lord is talking about. The chief constables have nothing to do with forming new amalgamated police authorities. Why should they?


I did not say they had. May I read this again? The noble Lord either misheard me or did not hear me. I was referring to the recommendation contained in paragraph 391 of the Royal Commission's Report, which says: We accordingly recommend that chief officers of police, in consultation with other authorities concerned, formulate uniform policies in regard to the matters to which we have referred.


I understand that particular point. I thought the noble Lord was mixing it up with having joint authorities.




I quite understand.


My first point is, will the noble Lord refer the whole question of amalgamation to the Home Secretary? And, while that is being considered, will he refer this matter to which I have referred to the Conference of Chief Constables? That is the only way that I can see that we shall unscramble this terrible confusion of the traffic laws. There is another example which has come up lately, which I do not intend to discuss because I am going to put down a Motion in your Lordships' House, and that is the conflict between the police and the Judiciary on the question of drunken driving and prosecutions. That is a serious matter, but one that we can leave to another time. I hope that the noble Lord will do what I have asked, so that we can make some progress with what I have considered and put before your Lordships as one of the outstanding problems we have to solve, the relationship between a vast section of the British public and the police authorities.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to start, if I may, by adding a small corollary to Lord Lucas of Chilworth's story about the irregularity of fining for speeding. The chief constable of a small county which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, knows, with the permission of his standing joint committee, purchased at considerable expense a radar speed trap. Everybody was very pleased with it, and it was taken out one day, and within a short time he had acquired sufficient "birds" to occupy the whole of his staff in the office for quite a long time; it was as much as they could cope with. These people were brought up before the magistrates and were fined in due course. That was that.

Then the chief constable had a bright idea, and asked them all to come and meet him. I do not think it was a sherry party, but there may have been sherry. Most of them came—nearly fifty of them. He addressed them and told them why it had been done, how it had been done, and how lucky they had been. He said that he understood perfectly well that many people had got away with it and had not been caught, because he just had not the men to deal with the catchings. They were all nice to him afterwards. One man in particular came up to him and said, "This has been one of the best days of my life. I feel now that I shall never go against the law again. My conscience has definitely been touched. I will travel at 30 where it says '30'; I will travel at 40 where it says ' 40 '." The story does not go on to say whether he stuck to those ideals or not; but he definitely said that, and he meant it.

This Bill has three aspects. There is the aspect which affects the criminal; then that which affects the public; and then that which affects the police. In regard to the criminal, we hope that it will make him think again, and perhaps think the crime is not worth while. But the public is much more important than the criminal. The public, through this Bill, has an opportunity to ask questions of the police committee in the county council or whatever the suitable place may be. I expect that most of your Lordships know that many tiresome questions are asked in county councils on various committee matters. People come up again and again with absurd questions, and it is hard to stop them. On the other hand, reasonable questions arise. That is all right. But is it a good thing to let the type of question to which I first referred loose on the public? Because anything that comes up in the county council of course comes out in the local press, and afterwards you hear all about it, either correctly or incorrectly. I am not quite sure that I like that.

Then the amalgamations will come about, and in due course most of the amalgamated police forces will get bigger and bigger. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, thinks on the subject, I say that no force should be of greater size than 800 men under one chief constable. I think that is approximately the right size. I think that otherwise the public will gradually lose, as they have lost already, the nice, personal touch of the policeman on the beat. That has been inevitable. But the bigger the force you get, the more you will find the public saying, "Where have 'our' policemen gone? They are all 'out in the air' now. We cannot find them. We cannot get at them. We have not got a telephone". I think, therefore, that any figure above 800 under one chief constable would be wrong.

The standardising of the size of the forces will definitely make them become more efficient; there is no question about that. The quite small ones lack efficiency because they have neither the cash nor the things to work with. The area of the authority is interesting. Your policeman now may go for his holiday in Northumberland, and there he is still a policeman. That was not the case before this Bill. What happens when he goes over the Border? Is he still a policeman across the Border, or not? I cannot find that in the Bill. What about the police cadet? Is he a policeman up in the North or out of his own area? I rather gather not. I think that he, like the special constable, covers only his own field and the bit he can reach over the hedge.

Then there is the interesting point concerning membership comprising one-third magistrates, which seems a little to have upset my noble friend on my left. I do not understand why there is any particular magic about one-third of magistrates and two-thirds of council—but I expect there is. But if there is, how does it come about, in relation to this queer business in Cambridge, that five extra are put on for the university, and nothing is said about two-thirds of the five—which of course might be difficult—being magistrates? Ought they to be, or ought they not?

Then there are Her Majesty's inspectors. They are an admirable force who, I understand, give great satisfaction. I think they might receive a little more mention in this Bill. Are they part of the force or not? Does one of Her Majesty's inspectors count as a man who must not be a policeman when he comes to an inquiry? An inquiry should have one man on it who is not a policeman. I am not clear whether Her Majesty's inspector can count as such a person or not. I think your Lordships will agree that policemen are not actually appointed to do the dirty work. In my view, policemen are appointed to stop those who do the dirty work. Of course, your Lordships will realise that one of the serious moments in one's life is when one passes a policeman on the beat and thinks, "How young that policeman looks!" It is one of the worst moments in life that you can come to.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the observations made by Lord Lucas of Chilworth in relation to the speech which we have had the pleasure of hearing from my noble friend Lord Willis. I suppose there is hardly anyone in this country who has done so much as my noble friend to improve relations between the police and the public, and most of us are deeply grateful to him for the enjoyment which he has provided for us in our homes. It is therefore a special pleasure to me that we are now going to share that entertainment in your Lordships' House, and I hope that we may have a great deal more of it in future.

This Bill has enjoyed a good deal of praise. In some respects, I think it may have enjoyed exaggerated praise. Undoubtedly, it is a Bill which looks in the right direction. But, as so often happens with measures that come from the Government opposite, when they look in the right direction they look timidly, and they advance hesitantly and slowly. Something of that sort, I think, might be said about this Bill, although undoubtedly it is a much better measure than when it was first born in another place.

It is, I think, getting on now for a century and a half since Sir Robert Peel, whom we look upon as the founder of our present Police Force, remarked that the country had entirely outgrown its police institutions. In the intervening century and a half the country has grown a good deal, and so, indeed, have the police institutions. But I am not sure the rate of growth of the latter has been sufficiently rapid to have over-taken the rate of growth of the former. I think had Sir Robert Peel been here to-day he would be more interested in the Minority Report of the Royal Commission than in that of the majority, which has been in the main the foundation of the present Bill.

The real crux of the matter is that to which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, called attention. It is that the police still occupy an anomalous position in a democratic constitution. This was well-illustrated by the paragraph which the noble Lord read from the Report of the Royal Commission showing the very wide powers which a chief constable enjoys. The origin of this, of course, as with everything else, is to be found in history; and the history in this case bears the marks of an association of the police force with the military forces. The analogy was, and to some extent still is, that the police are the force that fights the enemy within the gates, just as the soldier fights the enemy beyond our shores. But the analogy, which has been much reinforced by what was at one time the common practice of appointing military men to be chief constables, does not bear to be pressed too far; for the police are, after all, doing only the job which every citizen is supposed to do should occasion arise. It is certainly not true that every citizen out of uniform is required to do the same job as the soldier in uniform. Indeed, he gets into trouble if he attempts to do so.

The Bill has done something to remove these anomalies, but we still have rather hesitant steps of improvement and still have (if I may quote Professor Good-hart's Minority Report) the chief constable in a position as if the chief education officer of a borough were given complete power to appoint, promote and discipline the teachers within his area, and to have final powers of direction concerning the conduct of the schools. We still have chief constables in an exceptionally authoritarian position. The Bill has given the Secretary of State more power to control them. It has given him power to require resignation. One cannot imagine that this power will often be exercised; it is likely to be only in extreme cases. The Bill has given the Secretary of State power to call for reports and to receive regular reports from chief constables. It will allow members of police authorities to ask questions, though I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, was very modest in his claims as to the results of the right to ask questions. He said, if I remember correctly, that most police authorities would be able by asking questions to stimulate interest—which is a rather different purpose from that which a democratic authority usually has in mind when asking questions.

The Bill is going to make easier the combination of police forces. If one thinks of combinations in other fields, one cannot be very optimistic about the speed with which this result will be realised. I am thinking of the long time some of us have waited for the combination of water authorities to provide adequate water supplies in some of the rural districts of this country. If the rate of progress in the combination of police authorities is to be comparable with that, we shall be waiting years hence while the country still outgrows its police institutions.

All these powers are limited; and they are limited partly, it seems, because of this curious fear that a National Police Force is in some respects a threat to liberty. This is something which I have never understood. Other national services are not threats to liberty. Parliament is held to be the guardian of our liberty, and those services which are controlled by Parliament are surely controlled with a view to the protection of our liberties. Crime knows no local boundaries. Motorists know no local boundaries. I think that is true to-day when one considers that on about 50 or 60 miles of the M.1 motorway five police forces have to combine. It may be that in five years' time they will be combined into one police force, but in the meantime your Lordships know very well the anomalies, the confusion that prevails when an accident occurs and five police forces may be involved in dealing with the vehicles affected.

There are other blemishes in the Bill to which noble Lords have made reference. There is the question of the inclusion of magistrates on all police authorities. This is a point which we shall no doubt pursue at a later stage, but it should be made clear that our objection has nothing to do with the merits of magistrates. In most cases magistrates are no doubt appointed in an admirable way. There are occasionally, perhaps, mistakes, or occasions of intemperance—and here I need only quote my own case: I was appointed as a magistrate at the age of 29, in a state of total ignorance and at an age at which Parliament did not then consider me sufficiently responsible to cast a vote. As I say, there may have been mistakes. The essence of the matter, however, is that magistrates are not appointed by any procedure which could be called democratic. We are trying to work up to a system in which we shall bring the Police Force within the ambit of the democratic procedures of a democratic community.

Then there is the inquiry machinery. This, too, is a matter that we shall perhaps pursue at a later stage. It is surely unsatisfactory that, as the Bill now stands, complaints from the public, whether trivial or serious, will normally be dealt with only by police officers, though a senior police officer from another police force must be invited to deal with the matter if the Secretary of State so directs. Everybody knows that "dog doesn't eat dog", and this is as true of the profession of the police as it is of any other. It seems rather odd that if we have a complaint to make against our doctor, it is heard, in the first instance, by a service committee of the executive council, on which doctors do not have more than half the representation and the chairman of which is a layman. I do not think it surpasses the wit of man to devise a system in which trivial complaints could be dealt with quickly and expeditiously, with opportunities for more serious complaints to be investigated by a body totally unconnected with the police.

Much has been said, and more will be said, about the relations of the public with the police. Here I should like to remind your Lordships that the Royal Commission itself instituted an inquiry into this subject. On the whole, the result of that investigation was to show that the public does not believe itself to be more dissatisfied with the police than it was nine or ten years ago. But there were some results that came out of that investigation which should be borne in mind, because it is of primary importance that the relations between the police and the public should be as harmonious and co-operative as possible.

They showed, for instance, that some 28 per cent. of the public questioned had had some unsatisfactory experience in their contacts with the police. It might have been an unsatisfactory experience long ago, or it might have been an unsatisfactory experience in which the member of the public was entirely wrong. But it remains clearly as an irritant in the minds of that section of the public. Nearly a third of the public questioned had the belief, which may have been totally mistaken, that the police would sometimes distort evidence in order to get a conviction; and some 18 per cent. of the public questioned thought that the police sometimes used excessive force in handling persons. All these may have been totally ill-founded impressions, but it is important that they have been found to exist in the minds of the public.

Perhaps still more important is the attitude of the police themselves, whose views also were investigated by the survey. The police themselves were very much inclined to think that relations had worsened. In fact, two-thirds of the police who were questioned in the survey expressed the view that relations with the public had worsened in the last ten years; and nearly half of them—which is rather sad—felt that their own opinion of the Force had deteriorated since they themselves had joined it. It had not, apparently, come up to their high expectations when they were first enrolled. These facts do, I think, show that we cannot relax our efforts to improve the relationships, neither from the point of view of the police nor from the point of view of the public.

A good deal has been said about the waste of time of the police in carrying out clerical duties, and I could not agree more about the importance of getting men back on to the beat. A good deal of this, when it is said outside your Lordships' House, sometimes savours of hypocrisy. There is one thing that a very large section of the public could do to save the time of the police and to get the police back on to the heat, and that is a very simple thing: they could keep the law. Week in week out I see the time of the police spent on proving cases, bringing summonses against persons who break the motoring laws, laws about traffic signs, laws about parking. Within a stone's throw of your Lordships' House it is not uncommon for 200 cases of parking in prohibited places to be heard in a single morning, and this is how the time of the police is spent. If you want the police to spend their time dealing with more important matters, then law-keeping begins at home. This is the one great contribution that everyone in your Lordships' House, and outside, who owns a car could make.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to say something about a personal experience. I have spoken of the more objective aspects of the relations between police and public which are obtained from an independent survey. Having, as I have mentioned to your Lordships, served as a magistrate for an indecently long time, I have had contact with the police over an equally long period. I should like to say that I think there have been, in my experience, very considerable changes in the attitude, particularly of senior police officers. It is now customary, certainly in the higher ranks of the Force, and to some extent also in the lower ranks, for the police to see their job in a very much wider social context than they used to do. This view has been encouraged, to the great advantage of both parties, by the many courses and discussions that are now organised between the police and the universities all over the country, as well as at the Police College.

I should like to say that something of the same attitude, particularly of a sense of social mission and purpose within the Force, has been developed by one section of the Force who have had no mention in your Lordships' House this afternoon, and that is the women police officers. I have never yet met a woman police officer who did not see her rôle as that of a social worker, as well as that of a police officer. These are encouraging developments, but they will not, I think, come to fruition so long as the Force is exposed to the irritations of unnecessary minor law breaking, and so long as there are obstructions due to the failure to organise an efficient Police Force which can operate as one unified Force throughout the country. I could not agree more with my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that this is something which in 25 years we are certainly going to see.

If some criticisms are made of the Force, and if some criticisms are made of the Bill, they are made not with the intention of adding to the burdens of the police, which are heavy enough in all conscience, but with the purpose of integrating the Force more closely and in a more modern fashion with a democratic community. It is a surprise to me that we have got through this debate without anybody quoting W. S. Gilbert. It is surely still true that, When constabulary duty's to be done, Ah, take one consideration with another, A policeman's lot is not a happy one. My Lords, we all hope that this Bill will make it a happier one, and we hope, too, that the Government will look with favour upon those Amendments to the Bill which we will want to propose at a later stage, which should make the policeman's lot not only a happier one, but one in which he can more efficiently and satisfactorily fulfil his duties.

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, before proceeding to make the few remarks that I want to make on this Bill, I should like to add my tribute of appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for his maiden speech to-day. We looked forward to it with great expectations and those expectations have not been disappointed. We shall look forward to many further contributions from him.

I want to deal with just one or two points which have to do with the control and administration of the police. I should like, first of all, to start with this question of Clause 2(3), which provides that the watch committee, which is the police authority for the borough, shall consist as to two-thirds of members of the borough council and as to one-third of magistrates appointed by the local bench. I know that this is a point which has been referred to as suitable for the Committee stage, but I agree with the noble Lady who has just sat down, that there is a democratic principle in this specific appointment of magistrates. I know that it follows recommendations contained in the Report of the Royal Commission, and it departs from the existing law under which the watch committee is composed entirely of members of the borough council.

In counties at present, as your Lordships know, the police authority consists of a standing joint committee, half of whose members are members of the county council and the other half are county justices. Under the Bill the police authority for the county will be the police committee of the county council, consisting, as is proposed for the watch committee also, of two-thirds elected members and one-third appointed justices. Thus, while in the boroughs the effect of the Bill is to add magistrates to a committee on which they have not before sat as such, in the counties the magistrates will be represented on the police authority to a lesser extent than they are now.

The case in favour of retaining the existing position in boroughs was argued both in Committee and in the Report stage in another place. The Government, I gather, desire to assimilate the two systems of county council and borough administration. Since they believe that the inclusion of magistrates in standing joint committees has worked well, it follows, in their view, that magistrates must be included on watch committees in boroughs. There seems to be no overwhelming case for this assimilation. It can be strongly contended that in boroughs, at least, only elected representatives should have responsibility for exercising the functions of the police authority, and of recommending or of authorising expenditure from the rates in pursuance of the police authority's functions.

My Lords, it is anomalous that, when county councils were established in 1888, it was decided to make the administration of police in counties a joint function of county councils and quarter sessions—a compromise to retain for the justices some of their earlier administrative functions. But now newly to grant administrative functions to justices in boroughs would be to retreat from the advance to a democratic system of local government which was achieved in 1888.

The Government believe that the particular experience of magistrates is such as to enable them to make a special contribution to the work of the police authority. To the extent that this is a valid argument, it can be met by the inclusion on watch committees of magistrates who are already elected members of borough councils. A recent inquiry showed that, on an average, five magistrates who are elected members of the council sit on each borough watch committee.

Furthermore, my Lords, notwithstanding that police authorities do not discuss or authorise criminal prosecutions, the presence on the bench of those who may also be involved, by virtue only of that office, in the administration of the police service is likely to give the impression that the functions of the police and the courts are not entirely separate. The Royal Commission on the Police recommended that anything which gives a mistaken impression of the respective functions of the police and the courts is better avoided; and against the inclusion of borough magistrates as such, it may also be added that, unlike members of borough councils, who must be closely associated with the borough, by residence or otherwise, magistrates merely have to reside within fifteen miles of the area for which they are appointed, and they may have no close connection with the area at all.

The next point that I want to bring forward deals with Clauses 28, 29 and 30. One of the matters which arises on the Second Reading of this Bill is surely that of ensuring that it is drawn in such terms as to make chief officers of the police accountable in one way or another to the public; and that, as part of the process of accountability, Members of Parliament should be enabled to question the Secretary of State in Parliament about police matters in the Provinces, as they can question him now about the Metropolitan Police. By Clause 30 the Secretary of State appears to put himself in the position to answer questions in Parliament about provincial police, in that, as it says, he may require any chief constable to submit to him a report on such matters as may he specified in the requirement, being matters connected with the policing of his area". Without in any way dissenting from the principle of the Secretary of State putting himself in a position to answer questions in Parliament, surely reports, except on minor or technical matters, should be obtainable, not from the chief constable direct but through the police authority. So long as the police authority retains any responsibility for policing, it is objectionable, as I see it, that the chief constable should make reports, the contents of which may not necessarily be made known to the authority.

Thus, my Lords, so far as the accountability to the police authority is concerned, the Bill would have the effect, particularly as regards boroughs, of drastically reducing the powers of the police authority and of putting the chief constable in a more or less independent position as to the manner in which the area is policed. The Home Secretary made his views quite clear on the Report stage in another place when he said that the police authority's duty was to secure the maintenance of an adequate and efficient police force, and that the authority did not in any way carry responsibility for what was actually done by the police.

The Home Secretary has also stated that the terms of the Bill are in this respect designed merely to state the existing law more explicitly, and not to alter it. May I respectfully suggest that the Home Secretary is incorrectly advised as to the present state of the law? In giving evidence to the Royal Commission, Professor E. C. S. Wade, Q.C., Downing Professor of the Laws of England at Cambridge, said: I see no reason why a watch committee should not instruct a chief constable to increase his efforts to suppress certain categories of crime". And, again: The suggestion that it would be ultra vires for the watch committee to give orders"— to prevent the excessive use of force by the police— to its chief constable seems to me untenable". That is what that authority said. But, my Lords, whether the Home Secretary or these other people who differ from him, and who have also taken legal advice (including the Association of Municipal Corporations), are right as to the law regarding accountability to the police authority, it is relevant to try to assess the position of the Home Secretary as proposed by this Bill.

Clause 28 provides that he shall exercise his powers under this Act in such manner and to such extent as appears to him to be best calculated to promote the efficiency of the police …"; but it does not actually give him any powers. Clause 30 gives the Secretary of State power to call for a report, but this is clearly not an executive power. Clause 29, however, gives the Secretary of State power to call upon the police authority to retire the chief constable. This is a new power, and is a dangerous one, in that it derogates from the responsibility of police authorities and could be used to overthrow the local police system, as I believe was indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth.

The Association of Municipal Corporations have said that they would not expect this power to be widely used, and were glad to note that during the Committee stage elsewhere the Home Secretary expressed himself as sharing this view. But, in effect, the removal of powers from the police authorities, accompanied by some obscurity as to the position of the Home Secretary, appears to leave the chief constable in law largely to go his own way: a result that is objectionable, because all public servants ought to be subject to a democratic control and thus be responsive to public opinion in the area which they serve. It is not suggested, of course—and I was not dreaming of suggesting it—that the police authorities should be able to intervene in particular prosecutions.

The last matter to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention arises from Clause 21 and Schedule 3 to the Bill. Clause 21(2) authorises the Secretary of State to promote amalgamation schemes for any two or more police areas where he considers that amalgamation would be expedient in the interests of efficiency; and Schedule 3 governs the procedure in connection with amalgamation schemes. Paragraphs 1 to 3 of Schedule 3 give the police authorities an opportunity to state their objections at an independent local inquiry; but the inquiry is to be into the objections to the scheme rather than into the scheme itself—that is, to the need for a scheme at all. That, apparently, is not a contemplated power. This reverses the usual obligations as to the onus of proof which have applied in regard to the amalgamations made under the Police Act, 1946, and other Government Statutes. My Lords, that concludes the comments I have to make. They do not detract from my appreciation of the Bill as a whole, and perhaps Amendments may receive favourable consideration at the Committee stage. Subject to these comments, I support the Second Reading.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, like most of your Lordships I accept this Bill with what might be called "modified rapture", if I may cap a quotation from W. S. Gilbert while the noble Lady is still here. I think its great virtue is that it paves the way towards a solution of twin problems: the one, the maintenance of the confidence in the police and respect for the police on the part of the public; and the other the necessity for maintaining the morale and discipline of the police. I call them twin problems because they do not conflict with one another; they are complementary. The greater the respect and confidence on the part of the public the easier will be the maintenance of morale and discipline on the part of the police; and the better the morale and discipline, the greater will be the confidence and respect of the public.

It is in the light of those twin objectives of the Bill that I want to make three comments. The first is how to deal with complaints against the police. This is provided for in Clause 49 of the Bill; and I cannot regard the provisions of that clause—although they are a very considerable advance on what exists to-day—as quite satisfactory, for this reason. One of the most difficult things that any man has to do when he is in command of a body of men and women in contact with the public is to deal with complaints from the public. When he is in that position he is in a serious dilemma. On the one hand, he must support his subordinates if he is to maintain the morale and discipline of his force; on the other hand, he clearly must deal with public complaints. The last person, I should have thought, who, entirely on his own responsibility, ought to be given that dual job is the chief constable of a police force. It is not fair to him to put him in that position. The noble Lady seemed to think that chief constables might have certain canine characteristics. I am prepared to assume that they are entirely human. The more human they are, the more difficult their position will be and the less, in my submission, your Lordships ought to put them into it. I suggest that there is a very strong case indeed for modifying that.

How can a chief constable under Clause 49 get out of his dilemma? Only by calling in another chief constable or some police officer nominated by another chief constable; and that chief constable is in just the same dilemma at only one remove. I suggest that really it is in the interests of everyone, including the interests of getting at the truth—which is what everybody is concerned with here—to associate at least some independent person with the chief constable in any inquiry which he is bound to undertake (he is given the statutory duty of undertaking it), by Clause 49 of the Bill.

Then what happens when this inquiry is started? As it stands at the moment the chief constable—and this would apply even if he had a colleague with him—must listen to the complaint and must get the truth out of the complainant. By the time the complainant gets there he will be face to face, in the most extreme form, with authority. He is almost certain to be in a state of panic and is almost certainly wishing he had never gone anywhere near the place or had ever started the complaint. He will be incoherent and tongue-tied. That is the person out of whom the chief constable is expected to extract the truth. I support the suggestion made by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that he ought to be able to have his lawyer with him under those conditions—not only to protect his interests but to make it so much easier for the person conducting the inquiry to get the truth out of the man in question. I would suggest that that is another thing that should be done about Clause 49.

The same remarks might apply to an inquiry under Clause 32, the inquiry set up by the Secretary of State. There again people may be subpœnaed and brought before this inquiry, possibly quite unwillingly and not voluntarily, for the purpose of giving evidence; and what they say in evidence at that inquiry may have quite an important effect on what may happen to them thereafter. These are not trials; they are another attempt to get at the truth by way of inquiry; and I suggest that it should be axiomatic that a person brought before that inquiry should be able to have the help of his lawyer. Again it is a case where we are trying to get at the truth, and we are more likely to get it in that way. It does not mean that the thing must be converted into a trial; it does not mean the lawyer must necessarily address the court, or examine or cross-examine every witness. It is the person conducting the inquiry who will have the discretion as to what part the man's representative may take. It should be axiomatic that the representative should be there to aid, comfort and counsel the witness.

The last point I would make, my Lords, is the first point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and that is regarding the mixture of justices with councillors in the police authority. Years ago it was common practice to talk of the magistrates' court as the police court. We have all tried to get away from that; but there are many simple souls still who think that in some curious way the police court is run from the police station. It is difficult to eradicate that: it is not everyone who can distinguish between the functions of the man in blue on the door; the functions of the man in blue who is looking after the accused; and the functions of the man in blue in the witness box who is rapidly reading from his note book.

Is it not confusing if we inject the magistrates into the process of selecting and appointing the chief constable who will be responsible for prosecutions before the magistrates, and also inject them into the body who, under Clause 33 of the Bill, will be the disciplinary body of the chief constable in the event of a complaint being made against the chief constable? If we accept this, it will mean that everybody will know that the magistrates, who are judicial officers, have some responsibility, not only for the appointment but also for the discipline of the chief constable, who will be the principal prosecutor. I think that this is constitutionally wrong, and I support, with great respect, the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and other noble Lords who have made this point.

These are the three points I want to bring before your Lordships on this Bill. I hope the Government will see their way to meeting us during some stage of the Bill, because I believe that dealing with these points will effect a great improvement.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, I would join with other noble Lords who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Willis on his outstanding maiden speech. It seemed to me that the debate, up to the point when he spoke, had been somewhat pedestrian, and he brought a breath of fresh air and of realism into the situation. I think that his speech must have relieved millions of people outside your Lordships' House, because he made clear that he was going on writing the scripts in which he has created the character of the beloved George Dixon. But if ever my noble friend decided to give up television scripts and carry out his threat to write scripts for politicians, he would not lack for customers. I hope we shall hear him speak on many more occasions.

I am grateful for some of the things which he said about the police. He said that we cannot place on the police the blame for a decline in the standard of public morals. The rights of policemen are often forgotten. There is no provision for redress for a police officer if a complaint against him is malicious and libellous. And a police officer is as much entitled to justice as anyone else. One would think that these things were self-evident, but they need saying with force. I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Willis for also completely debunking the chief constable's letter which was read by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. I thought that the answer given by my noble friend to the suggestion that the police might run away from doing their duty and from the danger of wrongful complaints, was very effective.

The only point on which I did not wholly agree with him was that public opinion of the police and the morale of the police was far worse some thirty, forty or fifty years ago than it is now. My noble friend quoted an incident at a music hall, but my memory is a little longer. Although it is true that fifty years ago, in places like Hoxton, policemen used to go in twos, that was for a small minority of the population. One has only to think of the songs of the time to get an idea of how the police were popular figures in those days. There was one that went: As a member of the force, He has a watch and chain, of course, And if you want to know the time, Ask a policeman". I think it is true that we should be very much better off if we had more constables on the beat in closer contact with people. But there is nothing new about this. Another old song went: You can bet a penny to a pound, I am always to be found— But never when I'm wanted". I would say that every noble Lord who has spoken has expressed general approval of the Bill, but I would not go so far as the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, in saying that it is an agreed measure. It may be largely agreed, but I think that we shall find many areas of disagreement when we come to Committee stage. My noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger gave some indication of these, particularly the question of magistrates, in which she was supported by the noble Lords, Lord Milverton and Lord Tangley. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, spoke on the question of the limitation of powers, because a National Police Force is regarded as a threat to liberty. My noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger mentioned five police force areas through which a criminal or suspect might quickly go and cause an enormous amount of trouble. I believe that it is the case in the neighbourhood of Salford and Manchester, including parts of Lancashire county, that in a comparatively few minutes one can pass through the areas of, not five but eight different police forces. I fully support what my noble friend said: that experience of other matters gives us little confidence in believing that these amalgamations will be accomplished with anything like celerity.

The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, gave us a clear and concise account of the Bill, but in doing so it seemed to me that he advanced no arguments in support of the Bill, except in the one question of dealing with complaints against the police. He told us clearly the way in which the present position had been strengthened and of the safeguards which had been decided by the Government in regard to complaints, and advanced arguments in favour of the Government's decision. My noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger and the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, appeared to disagree with the way in which the Government propose to deal with complaints by members of the public against the police, and I strongly disagree also. I feel that this is the major controversy over the Bill and I should like to devote some time to it.

First, however, I wish to make my own position perfectly clear in this, because this is something about which we should not be mealy-mouthed. We should stand up to this problem. I would say that the British police is one of the finest bodies of men I know, and I firmly believe that we have the finest Police Force in the world. The least of their duties is to work shifts in all weathers, monotonous, trying, but certainly necessary duties—from which, at any time, they may be called to perform acts of courage of the highest order. Some thirty policemen are injured every week in the Metropolitan Police Area alone. That gives us some idea of what they have to do. It is their ordinary life lo handle the most stupid, sordid and brutal people in the country and protect us from them. They are obliged to come in contact with the respectable majority of us on the unpleasant or annoying occasions when we are not at our best.

At all times the police are expected to keep their tempers, whatever the provocation, or be "shot" at if they do not. They are under-manned, over-worked, overstretched, and they were until recently under-paid. Since 1938 there has been more than a three fold increase in indictable offences, but only a one-third increase in police establishments—not necessarily in the number of police—over the whole country. My noble friend Lord Longford gave the figures for 1919, 1938 and 1962.


For the Metropolitan Area.


Yes, for the Metropolitan Area. I think I am right in saying that the number of police officers in the Metropolitan Area in 1962 was nearly 1,000 less than in 1938, and that not only with the increase in indictable offences, but with the tremendous increase of work they have to do.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said that crime was up and the success rate down. I should like to make the point that, certainly crime is up, in the sense of the number of indictable offences, but so has there been an increase in the number of things for which we can be indicted. It is not merely that we have grown all that more vicious. The proportion may be down in the Metropolitan Area, and it may be half the rate for the whole of the country, but the fact is that the number of criminals being caught by a lesser number of men is larger. I think we should never lose sight of that.


My Lords, what I was saying was that, over the whole country, compared to the indictments the number of successful prosecutions has gone down. The absolute number may go up, but the relative number compared to crime has fallen.


I accept the point. The actual number of successful terminations of the efforts of the police has gone up.


It has gone up absolutely, but not relatively.


Absolutely. The police in the Metropolitan Area, with fewer men, solved more crimes last year than they did twenty years ago. But when we compare the number they have solved with the total number of crimes committed the percentage of successes has gone down. That does not mean that there has not been a lot more work done and a lot more successes. These percentages are so deceiving when they are quoted. The real point is that the police are doing a great deal more work, and doing it successfully.

Two out of three offences are committed by motorists, and this, as has been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and others, has posed a modern problem and subjected a new and large class of otherwise respectable people to the care of, and frequently prosecution by, the police. Partly because of this and of incidents arising out of some of these prosecutions, there has been a most unfortunate decline in the confidence which the public respose in the police, and there has been a natural decline in police morale. I know that my noble friend Lord Willis did not agree with this, but certainly I find the figures quoted by my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger very convincing. That appears to be the view of the Home Secretary and of the Police Federation, and I think they would know.

In my view, the policeman-motorist relationship is only part, and I think the smaller part, of the reason for this decline of the police in public esteem. The major reason, in my view, is the growing awareness, not that there are black sheep in the police force (there are, and there must be some in any body of men), but that the police are resolutely determined that such men shall not be dealt with in such a way that the public can see that justice is being done. That, in my submission, is the real reason for the decline in public confidence, and it is deplorable that it should be perpetuated in this Bill. I say this as an admirer and champion of the police. I had the good fortune, in January, 1960, to move a Motion about police pay, which gained support in all parts of the House and eventually had the effect that the Royal Commission decided to make an Interim Report. I had the privilege of seeing through your Lordships' House a number of Bills for the Police Federation which I think is a very fine body. But on this matter the Federation's view and mine are completely opposed; and I think the Federation is making a big mistake.

Apart from physical violence, the most serious complaints that can be made against the police are those which allege the perversion of the course of justice leading to the imprisonment of a man for a crime he did not commit. These include perjury, planting of evidence, rigging of identification parades and the use of unfair methods to secure a false admission of guilt. I should like to quote two paragraphs on this subject from a Memorandum supplied by "Justice", which, as your Lordships well know, is a body of many eminent lawyers who speak responsibly. This is what they say: Under our system of criminal prosecution the police have very wide powers and opportunities. It is not unfair to say that if they make up their minds that they want to get a man convicted the most vigilant judge and jury cannot prevent them. They interview suspects and witnesses, and can produce or withhold statements at will; they can take away clothing and cars and examine them without the suspect or his solicitor being present; they arrange identification parades; they often decide whether or not to prosecute, and on what charges. At present an accused person has no real protection against any malpractice. If he has a record, he cannot attack the police in any way without it being disclosed to the jury. If he decides to take the risk, he is unlikely to be believed by the jury or the judge. If he appeals, the Court of Criminal Appeal will take the view that his complaint has been, or should have been, dealt with by the court of trial. His only remedy is to petition the Home Secretary, or to complain to the chief constable of the force involved, when the complaint will be investigated by an officer of the same force which conducted the prosecution. If it is rejected, the prisoner can do no more. It is the view of "Justice", on the basis of cases they have investigated, that there may be even hundreds of men in prison who are not guilty as charged. The position is that once a man is sentenced, and his appeal has been dismissed, even though one may be convinced that the facts are in his favour and he is innocent, it is almost impossible to clear him and secure his release. My noble friend Lord Longford referred to me as expert on this subject. I reject the soft impeachment.


The noble Lord would not have liked it if I had said he was inexpert.


No. But I will give my noble friend a chance to judge. It is the fact that over a period of some twenty years I have had the opportunity to examine a large number of cases, and I will give your Lordships, quite briefly, two instances to illustrate my point.

The first case concerned a man who was given seven years for an offence which it was geographically, physically and medically impossible for him to have committed—I say "geographically", because he was many miles away. I was told that he had been "framed". Throughout my service in the other House I had the most excellent relationship with the police forces, and an arrangement that they would give me the facts of a particular case, which saved a great deal of trouble with what we used to call "nut" cases. I asked them about this one, giving them the facts. I was told it was so—that the man had been "framed", but I was not to worry about it as this would make up for other jobs when he had not been caught.

Of course, I did not take that view. Two sergeants were involved. I obtained evidence from witnesses who had not been produced before, and affidavits. I summarised the facts, including this fresh evidence from respectable witnesses, and went to see the Home Secretary, asking for an inquiry. Ten days later the Home Secretary told me that he had made inquiry, but that there was no case for him to intervene. I told the Home Secretary that no inquiry had been made, that none of my witnesses had been interviewed but only one person, who had been warned to say nothing.

I demanded a real inquiry, which then took place under a named inspector. Meanwhile, one of the two officers concerned resigned, and successfully avoided all my attempts to contact him. The inquiry, of course, was negative in the end, although the case was absolutely cast iron—the man was innocent beyond dispute. So I called a Press conference, stated the facts, without, of course, mentioning in any way the police officers or involving them, and appealed for witnesses to come forward. There were two results. The first was that a friend of mine, a very well-known figure in public life, asked me, in my own interest, to drop the case. He told me that Scotland Yard had told him that they were determined not to give this officer up to justice, and it would only harm me if I went on with the case.

The other result was that a very respectable national newspaper reported that a man then in prison at Chelmsford had confessed to the crime. I immediately telephoned the Home Secretary and asked whether he would arrange for me to see the prisoner before anyone else could see him. Four or five days later I was informed that he could not find the man; that there was no confession. I saw the editor of the newspaper and the very well-known crime reporter who had written the story. They both assured me it was entirely true and that the information had come from a high-ranking police officer. They declined to name him because they could not—and I understand this—destroy their source of information. Months later I tried again with a new Home Secretary, this time on a completely confidential basis. This time I was sure that justice would be done. It was not. The ranks were closed from top to bottom. The police officer continued until his normal retirement, and the prisoner did his seven years, less remission.

The second case I want to mention concerned a detective inspector. He was one of the worst men, if not the worst man, who ever disgraced a police uniform. He organised robberies and "fenced" the proceeds. He even took part in robberies himself. He then blackmailed his agents. He "framed" criminals by planting goods on them, and then demanded money from them or their relatives, to show favour. In the end he fell: but, of course, he was never punished. He arranged for his sergeant to plant goods on a man who was conducting an honest business. He charged the man, and then demanded £200 to show favour. The man was acquitted and came to me. I tested all the statements as well as I could, obtained affidavits on this and other cases, submitted it all to the Home Secretary and asked for an inquiry.

The detective inspector immediately resigned from the force—he was only in his early forties—and went abroad. On his return he was charged with a rather serious passport offence. Another inspector gave evidence of character on his behalf in court—a most glowing character—and he was only fined £50. A few weeks later I was both horrified and extremely indignant to learn that the inspector assigned to the job of inquiring into the damning evidence I had produced against this villain was the same inspector who had given him such a glowing character in court.

Of course, as soon as I protested to the Home Secretary a change was made. Another officer was put on the job, with the result that I had come to expect—nothing. But could there be clearer evidence of the cynical attitude of the police authorities to a serious and responsible complaint, backed by evidence, and of their refusal to deliver up to justice an officer whose misdeeds were known to, and loathed by, most senior police officers and every leading crime reporter in London? Because they all came to help me with evidence as soon as they knew that I was dealing with this man.

Now we are told that this situation will be remedied by the provision in the Bill that a chief constable may bring in an officer from another force to investigate a complaint. It will not alter the present position in the slightest. It is understandable that the instinct of loyalty and the temptation to cover up for colleagues is too strong. There is only one case I know where an officer from another force was called in, and that was the Brighton inquiry. That officer was well known to me. He was the head of the C.I.D. in my own division. He was an exceptional police officer who had had a meteoric career, and was assigned to this particular task. I have not heard anything of him since that inquiry. It will still be an inquiry on a police officer by another police officer. Justice will not be seen by the public to be done. It will not satisfy the public, and it will still leave decent policemen—the overwhelming majority—in their present unhappy position of feeling that, in the eyes of the public, they are liable to be tarred with the brush of the few black sheep. I want this altered on behalf of all policemen as much as on behalf of the public.

I have carefully studied the views of the Police Federation on the subject in their pamphlet, The Thin Blue Line, with much of which I agree. It repeats the view of the Royal Commission regarding complaints—and I quote: The appearance of greater justice to the public is liable to be bought at the expense of the police. I am convinced of the exact opposite. The trouble is that this "thin blue line" becomes hermetically sealed whenever there is a complaint about a policeman. My noble friend mentioned the case of the doctors. They are just as much liable to close ranks as the police when one of their number is thought to have offended in some way. But in their case a layman has been accepted as chairman of the committee, and half the committee of investigation are laymen.

I am therefore convinced that an independent investigator of some kind would be the proper way to deal with these complaints. I believe that the lessening of public confidence and the lowering of police morale is the heavy and bitter price we are all paying for the absence of independent machinery which would indisputably clear the police of the vast majority of charges which are made against them. The setting up of a Commission of Rights, or some similar lay body, which could include police representation, would immediately restore public confidence; and it would raise and not lower the morale of the police. It would also relieve the police of an enormous burden of time-wasting work and worry. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, quoted one chief constable. One of the points the chief constable made in his letter was that far too much time is spent on making out reports in answer to complaints, and on having them investigated by senior officers. I am quite sure that this is true; and if there were a Commission of Rights it would relieve officers of this trouble.

As has been mentioned, the Thin Blue Line mentioned the case of a woman who had to face a full-scale investigation because she was reported for dropping a sweet wrapper in the gutter. There are thousands of such utterly frivolous complaints, including many quite worrying ones, from people who have an obsession against the police in general or against one officer, in particular. I am inflicted with a large number of these complaints from obsessional people in which there is no substance at all. I act as a kind of filter. But under the Bill as it now stands, the chief constable must make immediate inquiry into every one of these and, presumably, occupy the time of a great many of his staff. But if we had a Commission, the burden would be removed.

There would presumably be regional committees or tribunals, with, say, five members, with perhaps a lawyer as chairman. He could easily sift out the frivolous chaff and the many cases where, even on the complainant's evidence, there was no case to answer. Inquiries involving the time of the police would then be limited to the small number of complaints of substance where there was prima facie evidence of a case to answer. I am firmly convinced that this sort of system must come, and I am even more certain that such an organisation would he as great a boon and assurance to the police as it would be a safeguard of the liberty of the public.

My Lords, this Bill, to which I hope we are now going to give a Second Reading, removes in some ways a centuries-old jungle of legislation; it does a great many things, and makes a great many things clear, and we very much welcome it. But this particular point is, I believe, a major defect, and I hope that your Lordships will support those of us who think in this way in striving, and continually striving, to bring about a change. We support the Second Reading of the Bill.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I shall deal in one moment with the questions which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, alone raised, as I believe he may have to go shortly. But, first of all, may I say that I have seldom been in charge of a Bill for which the general acceptance has been so noticeable, though, of course, there have been criticisms of detail. I am grateful for the general acceptance of the Bill. May I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Willis, on his maiden speech? I shall deal with certain points he raised presently. There were certain general points (they were not all, of course, non-controversial) which I will study at the Home Office because they were general ideas which merited study. I will leave the rest of his speech until later on.

In answering the noble Earl, Lord Longford, I will leave till last his questions about Clause 2, because they have been asked by many other people and I should like to deal with them together. The first question the noble Earl, in particular, asked was: what is the real job of the Secretary of State in all this? The answer is really laid down in Clause 28: The Secretary of State shall exercise his powers under this Act in such manner and to such extent as appears to him to be best calculated to promote the efficiency of the police. What I want to make clear to the noble Earl is that we accept the paragraph which he read from the Royal Commission's Report. The only thing we reject is the specific assumption (I said it in my earlier speech) that the Secretary of State should be responsible for efficient policing in any area. He has to see to the general efficiency of the police, and of course has certain duties as regards chief constables and so on; but it is important, I think, that the local police committee should be the people really responsible for securing the maintenance of an efficient police force. The Secretary of State has overall responsibility, and in the normal way, except in respect of specific matters laid down in the Bill, he would not interfere.

Perhaps I can be a little more explicit. Supposing the Secretary of State thinks that a police force is inefficient, it will be his duty to draw the attention of the police authority to that fact. It will then be the duty of the police authority to put the matter right. That is really almost a chain of command. I do not know whether that is satisfactory to the noble Earl in answering his point, but that is about as far as I can go.


My Lords, I realise that it is a difficult matter to carry much further, at any rate this evening, and we may want to come back to it in one form or another. If a citizen of, say, a city like Oxford has come to the conclusion that the police force there is really very inefficient, can he bring that to the notice of the Secretary of State and, in the last resort, pin the responsibility on the Secretary of State if the police force continues to be inefficient there?


I hope that what he would do, if he were a citizen of Oxford, would be to bring it to the attention of the Oxford City Council, who would ask questions of their police authority, who are the body responsible for the efficient running of the police there. But there is absolutely no reason why he should not notify the Secretary of State. In fact, what will happen after this Bill becomes an Act is undoubtedly that the Secretary of State will have to answer in Parliament. Up to now, apart from the Metropolitan Police, the Secretary of State has been almost bound to say, "I cannot answer that; that is a local police force." But when he is entitled to call for reports from the chief constable, and a Question is asked in Parliament, he will have the authority to answer it. Whether, in fact, he answers it is, of course, the same as with any other Parliamentary Question. He will have the authority to answer, and I think that is important.

I should like to say a word also about the noble Earl's next question, which was about police recruiting and wastage.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the previous question, can he answer my very simple question. In answer to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, the noble Lord said that the police authority of, say, Oxford could ask the chief constable for a report. In the event of not getting it, the Home Secretary could ask the chief constable. Suppose the chief constable said, "I am not going to give you a report." What then happens?


I did not say that at all. I said that I hoped the citizen would notify his council, who would then tell the police authority there had been complaints about the efficiency of the police. It is the police authority's responsibility to see that an efficient police force is maintained. I then went on to the further question of Parliamentary Questions, and said that the Secretary of State will now be able to answer in Parliament Questions of a certain kind which he has not been able to do up to now except in the case of the Metropolitan Police. That is all I said.

May I go on to the important question raised by my noble friend Lord Astor as well as by the noble Earl? The police strength and wastage picture is not quite as gloomy as perhaps appears at first sight. There is a big recruiting campaign going on at the moment. The noble Earl is quite right that the shortage is in the big cities. Most other police forces are—I was going to say, up to strength, but in fact they are probably not, because as soon as they get up to strength their establishment is probably increased; but they are for an appreciable time up to strength.

There has been a net increase in police strength (this is overall; it is not so in the case of the Metropolitan Police) during the last three years of about 2,300 a year. There is no doubt that to have all the police forces, including London, fully manned we require about another 10,000 men. But the reason I say that the picture is not quite as gloomy as it appears at first sight, is that towards the end of 1963 there were many men who got in three years' service with the higher pay awarded in 1960, and this gave them the full value of these rates for pension purposes. That was the agreement, in fact. Because of it a lot of men have left earlier than they would otherwise have done. That situation will not occur again. That is not quite as gloomy as it might be, but it is very serious in certain cities, particularly in the Metropolitan Area.

The noble Earl also mentioned the question of man management. Of course, this is a very difficult problem. The noble Earl is quite right: the contented police forces are those with good man management, but if you are short of men man management becomes increasingly difficult because you are short of men and there is something of a vicious circle. I think that recruiting is the important thing. If we have enough men not working undue overtime the force is a happier one; on that I quite agree with the noble Earl.

The other matter specifically mentioned by the noble Earl was the question of magistrates serving on the watch committees. The noble Lord, Lord Willis, also mentioned it, as did my noble friends, Lord Milverton and, I think, Lord Tangley. May I just read an extract from what the Royal Commission said, in paragraphs 207 and 210—why they thought this was a good idea? First of all, they wanted to get the counties and the county boroughs on to the same sort of footing; and that. I think, is a course which, taken by itself, is proper and reasonable. They said in paragraph 207: … we think that the time assimilate the two. In paragraph 210 they said that they recognised locally elected persons as entirely fit and proper people to discharge the functions which we propose in future should be accorded to police authorities. That was the point of the Royal Commission. Their Report goes on: But we think that they can be greatly assisted in their tasks … by the inclusion in their number of a proportion of justices. Through their judicial work magistrates have a close knowledge of police affairs and problems, and they above all people see the fruits and nature of police work. They constitute a body of public-spirited citizens whose services cannot be enlisted through the normal machinery of local government; and the inclusion in the police authority of a quota from the magistracy widens the: field of selection. Certainly my noble friend Lord Milverton and also, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, raised this question. Let me say quite frankly that this situation exists to-day. Magistrates may sit as councillors, but they remain magistrates and serve on watch committees, and that situation will continue. I do not see why it will be worse in the future to have that situation than it is now. Nobody has complained up to this moment. That is the reason the Royal Commission wanted magistrates (to "let in a bit of fresh air", is the rude way of putting it), and the Government agreed with them.

I come next to the questions of my noble friend Lord Astor. I am glad that he mentioned the Police College. It is well worth a visit from any of your Lordships; it is extraordinarily interesting. The important thing about it now is that it is taking in young men. There is a chance of early promotion. After three years on the beat a young constable can now go there if he is selected, passes the necessary examinations, and so on. But he not only has to pass examinations; he must also be selected. When he has passed out of this long course, if he passes out, he is automatically made a sergeant; and thus he is well on the way up the ladder at a young age.

It also means that some even reach the rank of inspector at an early age, which must he a good thing. Probably there will be no vacancies for such officers in their own force. Already vacancies for inspectors have been advertised, and there is increasing interchange of officers of the rank of inspector and above. Chief constables are very keen to do this. One can get to these advanced ranks now at a much younger age than was possible formerly. Because of the Police College and other methods of procedure, the Police Service offers a good opening for a young man, and we hope that when this becomes better known university graduates will be joining the Service. Conditions, of course, vary very much in different parts of the country, but they are improving all the time. This has been very noticeable in the last few years.

May I now come to the question which has been raised by my noble friend Lord Astor, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham and my noble friend Lord Tangley, on the question of a complainant at an inquiry having a solicitor or somebody with him. I know that the House feels strongly about this matter. I do not think it is quite understood what this Bill does in the investigation that is set up. The investigation is of the same character as an investigation into an alleged crime, which it may well be—that, of course, is not known at the beginning of the investigation. Several detectives may be employed (in a recent case large numbers of detectives were employed) including some from other forces, and they may be simultaneously engaged in their inquiries in different places. That being the case, it will not be practicable for the complainant to be represented wherever inquiries for the purpose of the investigation are being made.

Further, it is, I think, well accepted that investigations into crimes must be treated as confidential. An investigation into a complaint may well involve an investigation of a possible criminal offence, and the efficiency of the investigation would be affected if it were not entirely confidential. That is the line we have taken, and we believe it to be right. At the beginning we may not know it, but it may lead to a criminal investigation. When the Bill becomes law and the Discipline Regulations are revised, provision will be made for the complainant to attend any disciplinary proceedings arising out of the investigation of a complaint. That is the next stage.


My Lords, I understand that one cannot have a solicitor rushing around with a detective, but when there is a disciplinary inquiry at which the complainant is present, surely, for the reasons that I and other noble Lords have given, there should be present a legal representative; because the person making the complaint may be uneducated, some young woman, somebody quite incapable of putting forward a case and asking questions, and so on.


I think the word "investigation" is misunderstood by my noble friend. This is investigation by the police into what may possibly be a crime, and it would be quite impracticable to have outside people there. The investigation may take place all over the country. If there is a disciplinary action as a result of the investigation then the complainant will be able to be present.


With a lawyer?


I am not quite sure. I am sorry that I cannot answer that question now, but I see nothing against it.


I am very glad, because, so far as I could make out in another place, the Government answered, "No". If the noble Lord says, "Yes", that is a major change, which will be welcomed. At that moment—at the disciplinary tribunal, not at the preliminary inquiry—the complainant should have a solicitor.


I am not certain on this point, but I rather think not. I should like to write to my noble friend. At the moment I think the answer is. "No", although the complainant can certainly be present.


My Lords, this is a very important matter, and I am sure the noble Viscount will not mind if I suggest that, since every noble Lord is interested in this particular point, if the answer is to be communicated the noble Lord should communicate it generally. I think it is a matter that we shall want to raise in Committee, but the noble Lord will forestall us if he tells us in advance that it is unnecessary to do so.


May I leave it at that for the moment and carry on with Clause 32? One must remember that the inquiry under Clause 32 will be held normally by a barrister of standing. One must appreciate that, and it is up to him to protect the interests of the complainant or of anyone else. But it will be entirely within the discretion of the person holding the inquiry whether a person appearing before him is allowed to be legally represented. All persons appearing will be witnesses. It is an inquiry and not legal proceedings, and it is rather inappropriate, I think, to make it a rule that witnesses should be legally represented.


My Lords, the noble Lord will recollect that they are witnesses brought there on subpœna, probably greatly against their will, much against their interest, and putting them in peril in the immediate hereafter.


It is not, of course, a court of law; they are witnesses and they appear simply as witnesses. If it looks as though they are going to be involved, if I may use the term, in any guilty way, it is up to the person in charge of the inquiry who, as I say, will almost certainly be an experienced barrister, to say that they ought to be legally represented. That is the position at that sort of inquiry.

Returning to the earlier point with which I was dealing, I think I should like my noble friend, if he would care to do so, to put down an Amendment, because I should rather like to consider this point. I do not think the matter is quite settled. I am offering nothing by doing that. I may well turn it down, but perhaps I could enlarge upon it a little better if an Amendment were put down. My noble friend raised the question of the train robbery and lessons to be learned from it. I think he is concerned about that because it took place in his county. The Research and Planning Branch is indeed paying special attention to that case. I am grateful to my noble friend also for the suggestion about the governing body. He had been good enough to write to my right honourable friend about that. The matter of whether there ought to be some body of that kind is being considered.

I have already mentioned the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Willis. One matter which he raised was the question of modern office equipment, machinery and the employment of civilians. That is increasing in practically every force; and I think the noble Lord will find when he visits the more modern police divisional headquarters, and so on, that they are being rapidly mechanised. One has to do it a little at a time. It is an expensive job. But most police forces now have all kinds of recording machines, and so on, for the C.I.D.; and the use of civilians to save the time of policemen is being increased everywhere.

May I here say, in answer to my noble friend and to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that I do not think the chief constable in the letter I read did, in fact, indulge in "debunking". What he, in fact, was saying, if noble Lords look at the letter, was that if there is endless nagging, a man who is getting near his pension does not look for trouble; and he was suggesting, in rather strong terms, that it is perhaps a police officer's job to look for trouble—no more nor less than that.

Now I come to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who made, I thought, some rather unduly sweeping statements to the effect that nothing had been done, which, of course, is not so. He said that since the Report of the Royal Commission nothing had been done about getting police officers to operate the traffic laws in the same sort of way. That is not really true. Frankly, that is not a matter for legislation; it is a matter for consultation between chief officers and other authorities concerned. You have the law—that is a matter for Parliament—but how it is operated is not a matter for a Bill; it is a matter for agreement and consultation.

The Royal Commission recognised in Recommendation 85 that this was necessary, and the Home Office agrees with the view of the Royal Commission that uniformity in this matter is desirable. Special reference to this recommendation of the Royal Commission was made in a circular issued to chief officers on May 8, 1963, a year ago. All chief officers were circularised at this point commending certain of the Royal Commission's recommendations for immediate adoption. Consultations in a matter of this kind must necessarily be continuous, because circumstances change all the time. A new review has just started on this point; so we have not just stayed idle. The Police Research and Planning Branch is preparing and collecting information about the various police forces in different parts of the country and how they differ—


My Lords, the noble Lord says that I made sweeping statements, that I was quite wrong, and that something had been done. The net result is that a circular letter went out in 1963. Is that it?


And continuous consultations are going on as circumstances alter.


But the practical effect is nil.


I do not agree that the practical effect is nil. If the noble Lord thinks that this Bill can be so amended to do what he wants—and I say that legislation is not suitable—he must put down an Amendment. Then he went on to talk about amalgamations. He asked, whoever had heard of anybody amalgamating voluntarily? But some police forces have already amalgamated voluntarily, and in this Bill the Home Secretary has power to amalgamate them. The noble Lord then went on, in his rather sweeping fashion, to say that nothing is likely to happen for years.


My Lords, I did not say that. I said that nothing is likely to happen quickly.


Well, I thought I made it clear in my speech that not only has my right honourable friend said that his intention is to review the police areas as soon as the Local Government Commission have made their proposals and the Minister of Housing and Local Government has announced his decision on them, but, under Clause 23, he has also enabled these amalgamation schemes to come into operation on the same date as local government reorganisation. He has moved as quickly as that. He cannot do it now because this Bill giving him the power is not through. But as soon as this Bill is through, he can and will act at once.

I must point out to the noble Lord that the first stage in regard to amalgamation is to try to get the constituent authorities in agreement. If they are not in agreement, then the Home Secretary steps in and says, "This will be the amalgamation agreement." But it is not so difficult to get local authorities to agree. Some have already done it. One amalgamation that comes to my mind at once is the City of Gloucester and Gloucestershire police forces. They used to be separate forces. In the interests of efficiency they agreed on amalgamation. So there is no reason why any of this should take an exceedingly long time.

The noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, unfortunately is not in his place. I should like to answer three of his questions because I think they are of general interest. He said that he did not think the size of a force ought to be greater than 800 or 1,000. I think that is entirely a question of local circumstances and geography. I say that advisedly. If you have a force that is bigger, I would remind your Lordships that it is not difficult to have a chief constable and, if necessary, three or four assistant chief constables. I think that is quite suitable in certain cases. So I do not think one can categorically state the appropriate size of a force. It depends on the area and on local circumstances.

He then asked whether a constable was a constable anywhere in England and Wales, or a constable in Scotland as well. When this Bill comes into force he will be a constable anywhere in England and Wales, but not over the Border. I think he mentioned a police cadet. A police cadet is not a constable. He also mentioned Cambridge, and referred to the five members of Cambridge University. They are five separate members, who will presumably be dons. They do not come into the one-third—two-thirds magistrates and counsellors. They are quite extra and separate.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, made the strange statement that every citizen is supposed to do everything a police officer does. With all respect, not quite everything, only certain things. She spoke about the powers of a chief constable and compared them to those of other borough officials. But the difference is purely that the police are and must be a disciplined force. Although local authority employees may be disciplined in themselves, they are not of course a disciplined force. It is for this reason one has to give these powers to the chief constable.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord to clarify this, one must give the chief constable powers to exercise discipline over his subordinates, but this does not mean that one must take away control from the police authority, or that one must not give the police authority control over general police policy in their area.


This Bill does not in fact do that. The Bill makes clear what is now the law. It has not been clear in some cases, unfortunately, that the chief constable was responsible for the discipline of those under him and that it was not the business of the police authority to interfere with that discipline, but only to ensure that the police force was efficient. That is not changed in this Bill, except that we have dotted the i's and crossed the t's.


My Lords, that is surely what we are complaining of.


I daresay that is what the noble Baroness is complaining of, but other people have been complaining that they did not know where they were. She also raised the question of when a councillor had a question to ask of the chairman of the police authority. The Bill lays down that a councillor is entitled to ask the chairman questions, provided they are about the efficiency of his force. They were not to consider themselves entirely divorced from their council. This has nothing to do with the statutory questions which must be answered by the chief constable to the authority. This was quite a separate point. The noble Baroness mentioned that nobody had talked about women police officers. The difficulty is that whenever I go visiting the police forces the women police are always out working and it is difficult to see them. It seems to me that they work all hours of the day and night.

My noble friend Lord Milverton (I see he is not now here) asked about Parliamentary Questions, as to whether, if the Home Secretary wanted to know something, he asked the chief constable or the police authority. Very often there is not much time to get the information to answer a Parliamentary Question, and it depends what the Question is. If it is something that comes within the purview of the chief constable, dealing with the discipline of his force, the Home Secretary would probably ask the chief constable. If it dealt with the efficiency of the force, he might ask the chairman of the police authority. One cannot lay down a rule, but he now has power to ask these questions. I do not think my noble friend Lord Milverton is yet clear about exactly who is responsible for what. If I may repeat it again, the chief constable is responsible for the efficient running of the police force, and the police authority is responsible for seeing that it has an efficient police force. They are two distinct things and I do not think they are difficult to understand.

I believe that I have answered all the questions put by my noble friend Lord Tangley, except one which he rather hinted at which dealt with the question of complaints. It appears that he did not like a police officer to deal with the first investigation. He must remember, when considering how the chief constable deals with complaints, that he is being watched by three people: by his own police authority, by inspectors of constabulary, and, indirectly, by the Secretary of State. He has to keep a record of every complaint and, as laid down in the Bill, the police authority have to satisfy themselves that a record of complaints is kept and that they are properly dealt with. The second point is that, unless it can be proved without any shadow of doubt that there is no possibility of a criminal offence having been committed, then the papers have to go to the Director of Public Prosecutions. So if it is purely trivial and nothing criminal is involved that is another matter, but if there is the slightest suggestion that there may be something criminal involved it has to go to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I should have thought that ought to be good enough.


My Lords, what happens in a case which involves only a fine, as in the case of the policewoman who dropped a sweet-paper and was fined £5?


It was not a serious offence in that case. I do not think that it would worry anyone unduly. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, raised any new questions. I was rather sorry that he spent so much of his time—I do not think he meant to do so—trying to prove, as it appeared, that police officers were never proper people to investigate complaints against the police in case something went wrong. We know that there are, and have been, bad cases; but, on the whole, if you are going to make a man chief constable you have to give him that authority. I do not think it was quite fair to stress the two possible cases—one of which the noble Lord admitted was never proved, or which was proved to his satisfaction but to nobody else's—and to say that that sort of thing goes on. That was the general tenor of his speech. I wish he had not done it.

I hope I have answered all your Lordships' questions. There is, at any rate, one outstanding question which we shall answer at Committee stage, if my noble friend puts down an Amendment.

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