HL Deb 11 May 1964 vol 258 cc79-88

6.23 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Derwent.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD AIREDALE in the Chair.]

Clause 13:

Collaboration agreements

13.—(1) If it appears to the chief officers of police of two or more police forces that any police functions can more efficiently be dis- charged by members of those forces acting jointly, they may, with the approval of the police authorities for the areas for which those forces are maintained, make an agreement for that purpose.

LORD MERRIVALE moved, in subsection (1), after "functions" to insert "including the policing of rivers". The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to highlight the need to increase river patrols in general, and in particular the need for a joint force for the policing of the upper reaches of the River Thames—that is, between Teddington Lock right up to Lechlade, a distance of 125½ miles. The Thames Conservancy, for the purposes of inspection and control of navigation, patrol an area of river between Cricklade and Teddington, a distance of 136 miles, and this stretch of river is divided into four districts. To do that work I understand that the Thames Conservancy has twenty navigation officers, who come finally under the Secretary of the Thames Conservancy. But these officers are mainly concerned with navigational offences and offences with regard to the locks along that part of the river. Their task is not to curb the increasing vandalism which is prevalent on this part of the river.

To deal with this problem a joint force should be set up under a collaboration agreement between the county constabularies of Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Gloucestershire, as well as the county borough police watch committees of Oxford and Reading. I understand that the Police Federation are in support of such a scheme, although they had certain reservations to make with regard to the shortage of manpower. That is why it is right that I should mention to your Lordships that members of the River Thames Society would willingly volunteer as special constables and loan their own boats if required to do so. The River Thames Society was formed to promote and preserve the amenities of the River Thames for the good of all who, by profession or inclination, pursue their business or pleasure on or adjacent to the River". Already seven members perform voluntary duties as members of the Thames Division (Metropolitan Police) Special Constabulary.

The need for a joint force is certainly apparent if one considers that, over the last few years, there have been such cases of vandalism as those I am about to mention. In the Windsor district there has been serious damage to craft and injury to scullers by airguns; also air gun damage to lights in the streets and public parks adjacent to the river in Windsor, Eton, Maidenhead and Reading. Moorings of vessels have been cut. Many wild river birds have been maimed by hooligans. There have also been many reports from amenity societies of damage to trees and shrubs by the river, especially in Reading and Caversham. Seats, et cetera, have been damaged or thrown into the river at Windsor and Maidenhead; public refreshment places by the river have been damaged at Henley and Reading; riverside public conveniences have been damaged. Bronze gates weighing half a ton each were stolen from Twickenham Bridge. Life-saving equipment has been damaged, destroyed or removed, and I am told that at Barnes, in London, such damage to a life line resulted in the death by drowning of a young child only six years old. Therefore, it is right that I should remind your Lordships of the words of my noble friend's right honourable friend on April 27 last, during the course of a debate in the other place on juvenile delinquency and hooliganism. I quote his words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 694 (No. 97), col. 9O]: One point I wish to make clear is that when young people misbehave the forces of law and order must be capable of dealing with them resolutely. It is our duty as honourable Members to see that those forces exist.

Therefore, while realising that the words of our Amendment may be quite unnecessary, I hope that my noble friend will be able this evening to give the Committee an assurance that his right honourable friend is proposing to take advantage of the powers conferred upon him by subsection (5) of Clause 13, to instigate an agreement between the parties concerned for the setting up of a joint river police force to patrol the upper reaches of the Thames. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 5, after ("functions") insert ("including the policing of rivers").—(Lord Merrivale.)


May I, first of all, say to my noble friend that this Amendment is quite unnecessary. Under this clause the policing of rivers is fully covered. I am pretty certain that my noble friend moved this Amendment to raise this question of the Thames. He said that in the upper reaches of the Thames (and I think he was referring to the Thames above Teddington) there is a good deal of vandalism, and that the river there is inadequately policed. The Thames Conservancy have been in touch with the Commissioner of Police about this problem—and I would add that, as this is a matter for the Metropolitan Police, this subsection does not "bite", for there is no question of cooperation between two police forces—and he is sympathetically considering whether he can extend his river patrols up the river as far as Staines. There are, however, considerable technical difficulties which he is at present discussing with the Conservancy. That is the present position. These discussions are going on, and I hope the Commissioner will be able to do something. May I go hack to the Amendment? It is unnecessary, and I hope that my noble friend will therefore withdraw it.


May I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that the Amendment would cover amalgamations of police forces, for the purpose of protecting the upper reaches of the Thames beyond Staines? It seems to me that, in speaking of the discussions which are now going forward with regard to the river police, the noble Lord envisaged some improvement only in so far as policing the river banks as far as Staines is concerned. Even if the Amendment is unnecessary, could he not be a little more forthcoming and encouraging, and indicate that this matter is being considered in the upper reaches? I think it is of some importance that positive steps should be taken to organise defence and protection against this very bad vandalism.


I was referring particularly to the river as far as Staines, because we are dealing with the Thames Division of the Metropolitan Police, the river police. I can assure the noble Lord that above Staines, and in fact along any river, this clause covers cooperation between police forces who look after a particular area. I was giving the additional information about the Thames Division only because my noble friend asked for it; but any policing of rivers is covered by this clause.


I thank my noble friend for the few remarks he has made. They were not very encouraging, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that my noble friend is not going very far; nor are the police. Staines is a little further than Teddington Lock, but it is still a fair distance from Lechlade, for instance, which, in effect, is what I was asking for. There is a lot of vandalism on that part of the river, and I am very disappointed that my noble friend cannot give an assurance that he will have conversations with the other police authorities affected. He said that at the moment the Thames Division of the Metropolitan Police go up to Teddington Lock, and that they might patrol as far as Staines. That is fine. But I can see no reason why other police forces should not be encouraged to patrol further up the river.

With regard to the consultations with the Thames Conservancy, I can assure my noble friend that I have contacted them, and, so far as I can gather, they are in favour of a proposal such as I have adumbrated to your Lordships today. So I would ask my noble friend whether he will look at this matter again, because all he has said is that the Thames Division of the Metropolitan Police would possibly extend their activities as far as Staines. He has not referred at all in his answer to what I asked him, which was whether the Minister could take advantage of the powers which he has under subsection (5) of Clause 13, to have consultations with the other police authorities concerned to see whether, in effect, it would be feasible to police the river above Staines.


I think we really must talk to this Amendment. I added the information about the Thames Division of the Metropolitan Police, but the Metropolitan Police have neither the equipment nor the men to police right up to the source of the Thames. I can assure my noble friend that police forces bordering on rivers are fully aware of their responsibility for policing the rivers; and if, in any particular part, there is any thought that comes to the notice of my right honourable friend that a river is not being properly policed (I am talking about the banks, of course), then he will use the powers under this clause. It is not every part of the river that is suitable for boat policing. In so far as my noble friend's Amendment is concerned, any question of co-operation, and any powers which my right honourable friend has to enforce co-operation, should such a thing be necessary, are fully covered in this clause.


That I fully realise, and that is why I said that no doubt this Amendment is unnecessary. What I would point out to my noble friend, with regard to the vandalism which is taking place, is that it is much easier for the police to be aware of it if they are patrolling by a craft, than if patrolling is carried out by the normal police forces operating on land.


I would point out to my noble friend that where provincial police forces are concerned, the actual carrying out of the police duty is the responsibility of the chief constable. If he wants boats, and thinks that he ought to have them, he must go to the police authority responsible for seeing that the policing of the area is efficiently carried out. But it really does not add anything further to this Amendment, and I can only repeat that this Amendment is unnecessary.


My intention, of course, is to withdraw this Amendment. I can only hope that the chief constables of the police authorities which I have mentioned will in due course take action and provide suitable patrols.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clauses 14 to 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Police Cadets]:

On Question, Whether Clause 17 shall be agreed to?

6.39 p.m.


I am not proposing an Amendment to this clause, but I want to make a kind of psychological appeal to the noble Lord who is in charge of the Bill. I am speaking on behalf of, and representing the views of, the Association of Municipal Corporations in relation to management of police cadets. Clause 17 gives a specific statutory power for the appointment of cadets, and places the power in the hands of the chief officer of police. The clause follows a recommendation in paragraphs 192 to 194 of the Royal Commission's Report, in which it is stated that responsibility for appointing cadets should be transferred from police authorities to chief constables.

In fact, the published evidence given to the Royal Commission shows that only the Association of Chief Police Officers asked that the change in the law provided for in the Bill should be made. The Association said (I am referring to the Association of Chief Police Officers) that difficulties had arisen in certain parts of the country where police authorities had taken a very active part in selecting as police cadets boys who might not be considered suitable by chief constables. They felt that all these boys were potential candidates for the Police Service, and that it was essential that they should be acceptable to the chief constable and that there should be standard conditions of service and rates of pay.

Neither the Association of Municipal Corporations nor anyone else that I know would for a moment dispute that only candidates who have the support of the chief constable ought to be appointed as police cadets, but this can be achieved without making the chief constable the appointing authority. Moreover, the negotiation of national rates of pay and conditions of service can be achieved without the cadets formally becoming part of the force. No evidence has been adduced to the effect that it is necessary for the proper control of cadets that they should be formally subject to police regulations. I am suggesting that it is not desirable that young men—or, perhaps I should say, boys, because the minimum age of recruitment for police cadets is 15—should enter what might reasonably be described as the closed society of the police service before it is necessary for them to do so, which is when they become constables. It is much better that they should feel themselves fully part of the general community, and appreciate what that is; and that is easier for them psychologically if, as now, they remain local government employees, as indeed they are to be treated in this Bill under subsection (3) of this clause.

It is therefore suggested that the clause might be redrafted to provide that cadets should be appointed by police authorities upon the recommendation of the chief officers of police, and should be employees of the police authority for all purposes, though of course under the day-to-day supervision of the chief police officer. I hope that that suggestion may be considered by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill.


I think my noble friend really has two things in mind. First of all, I think I will go into a little detail as to why the Royal Commission recommended that police cadets should come under the chief constables, although from one or two hints which my noble friend let drop I think he was probably thinking about their training and their general bringing up—because many of them are only boys when they join. At present, police cadets are employed without express statutory authority, and the Royal Commission recommended, as my noble friend said, that their present status should be reconsidered with a view to them.

giving chief constables control over

The Royal Commission held that the chief constable was obviously the right person to be in charge of the selection of cadets. By Clause 7 the chief officer is responsible for appointments to the rank of constable, and it would therefore be for him to decide, when the cadet had reached the appropriate age, whether he was suitable for appointment as a constable. The Royal Commission are a little more definite than my noble friend, because they said, as he quoted, that at present some police authorities appear to play an active part in enrolling boys for cadet service, but they went on: with the result that some of those selected are not acceptable to the chief constable". There have been quite a lot of cases where the police authority have recruited cadets without his knowledge, as it were, and they were not acceptable when they reached the minimum age for constables.

I would, if I may, just take this opportunity of saying one more word about their training, because I think it is important, as they are boys. Many forces already have comprehensive training programmes for cadets. I say "comprehensive": I mean civilian training, apart from police training on a very wide scale. The object of these comprehensive training programmes is not only to foster an interest in the police service, but also to improve the cadet's education and develop his general knowledge and experience on as broad a base as possible.

In answer to my noble friend, may I just say this. A Working Party, consisting of representatives of the local authority associations and the police representative organisations, under Home Office chairmanship, is at present considering the conditions of service and training of cadets; and I would point out to my noble friend Clause 35, which empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations as to the government, administration and conditions of service of police cadets. May I also tell my noble friend that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is paying very particular attention to this, as are many chief constables and as will be other chief constables in the immediate future: of that I can assure him. So we now have two things: the local authority associations combined with the police arranging for the cadets' future training and conditions of service in consultation, but the actual control of them and the recruiting of them being in the hands of the chief constable. I hope that that will, at any rate to some extent, satisfy my noble friend.


If the chief constable or the chief police officer in the police area is not in charge of the training of the cadets, can the noble Lord say who would in fact be in charge of them if the ideas of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, were accepted?


Presumably, the police authority.


That would be somewhat odd, would it not? Whom would they get their orders from? That is what I am thinking of.


I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I have nothing more to say.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clauses 18 to 28 agreed to.

Clause 29:

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