§ 2.49 p.m.
LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR rose to call attention to the importance of the morale, the numerical strength, the efficiency and equipment of the Police as the principal protection of the law-abiding public against criminals; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords,
… we cannot escape the fact that a greater proportion of the public is unfortunately becoming more dishonest each year and more and more people are prepared to break laws relating to offences against the person and against property. The greatest deterrent is the certainty of being detected but police action to that end alone cannot cure this rise in crime. We shall not, in my view, see an appreciable reduction in the amount of crime committed unless and until the commission of crime again becomes socially unacceptable and, a cause of concern to all law-abiding members; of the community.
In the meantime, the continuing rise in crime is a warning that we cannot without risk relax our efforts to build a larger and more efficient police service.
§ My Lords, that is not an expression of view by any politician: it is a statement in the most recent report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, who of all people is qualified to speak with authority on these matters. My purpose in to-day's debate is to suggest to your Lordships that that statement should be taken very seriously. Your Lordships will recognise from what I have read that it is a problem for both Parliament and the nation. It is, in fact, two problems intertwined. It is for the Government and for Parliament to see that the necessary measures are taken so that the police will have the strength necessary to carry out the job which is entrusted to them by Parliament; that is, the enforcement of the law as laid down by Parliament. But as the Chief Inspector says, the police cannot do that alone; they can do it only with the support and the backing of the public opinion of this country; and the police will only be enabled to serve us as we look to them to serve us if public opinion has the strength and the good sense to give them the backing which they require.
§ My Lords, it is some two and a quarter years ago that we last had a major debate on violence, and that was introduced by that friend of all of us in all parts of the House, the late Lord Rowley. It 1153 was a valuable debate. Since then we have on more than one occasion debated questions of penalties and punishments. We have debated a non-Party measure which became the Criminal Justice Act 1968, and we have debated, very recently, the penalty for murder. Indeed, we meet to-day under the shadow of successive murders of policemen in England and in Scotland. I am not intending to-day to revive or repeat that recent debate of ours on the death penalty. My point in this regard would rather be that those murders of policemen are but the most terrible facet of the carrying of firearms in the course of crime, and what we require to do as a nation is to pay very serious attention to the growing habit of criminals carrying firearms.
If I may quote from the most recent report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis—and I should mention that, naturally, only the reports of the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and the Commissioner of Police for the year 1968 are yet available, so all the statements and figures which I have cause to quote will relate to 1968—he said that in 1968:
Over one-seventh of all robberies and assaults with intent to rob were carried out with the aid of firearms. … There was a rise of 17 per cent. in the number of indictable crimes in which firearms were used but in the case of robberies or assaults with intent to rob, the increase was 31 per cent.
I am not for one moment wishing to disparage the importance of the protection of the lives and safety of the police in the war against crime: I am arguing only that we should look at the picture as a whole, and recognise that it is the sheer carrying of firearms which we must take far more seriously than ever before. This carrying of firearms can in my opinion be stopped only by exemplary sentences on all who are caught with firearms in their possession.
§ I said that two and a quarter years ago we debated the subject of crimes of violence. I wish, with respect, to put to your Lordships to-day that by now a special debate concentrating on the position of the police is justified, and that is what I am venturing to initiate. At the very least, such a debate in your Lordships' House would convey fresh assurance to the police that their needs, their problems, their requirements, their 1154 difficulties, their dangers, are fully recognised by Parliament. This Motion which I have tabled has attracted a notable list of speakers, including three noble Lords who are going to make their maiden speeches. I know that we all look forward to them with pleasure and with expectation.
§ My theme, my Lords, is this. We have reached a situation which a country with law-abiding traditions cannot tolerate. We must plan a massive effort to help the police put down crime. It is no longer enough to tinker here and there; to seek to improve in one direction, to spend a bit more money in another. We must now conscientiously measure what is necessary to win this war against crime. We must plan, and Parliament and the public should call upon the Government to plan, as thoroughly and as comprehensively as we planned for D-Day. The public will, I am certain, back any Government who do this. The ordinary member of the public is sick of insecurity, and is longing for protection such as the police used to be able to give.
§ I said that on several occasions in the last two years we have debated penalties. Penalties are very important; but whatever the penalty may be, it is that much less a deterrent if the law-breaker feels confident that he has an excellent chance of not being caught. The statistics, alas!, show that at the present time the odds are against his being caught. Indeed, in London, the Metropolitan Police area, the odds are actually 3 to 1 against the man who has committed a crime being caught. In those circumstances— when, although the police are doing their very best, the detection rate, as it is called, is so relatively low—is it any wonder that crime is increasing? The number of indictable offences known to the police in 1958 was 626,000. By 1963 it was 978,000. By 1968 it had gone up to 1,289,000. It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will be able to give us the provisional figure for 1969, but such information as I have indicates that the figure for 1969 will again show a considerable increase.
§ My Lords, it is fashionable in these days to decry the 1930s and those who carried responsibility then. There have been many advances of all sorts in the last forty years, but in those last forty years respect for the law has disgracefully diminished, and we should honestly 1155 face that fact. This Britain, where crime and violence are increasing year by year, would be hardly recognisable, hardly believable, to people forty years ago. Crime is now four times as common; four times as many people are in prison. We cannot make any effective excuse for ourselves by saying that there is a crime wave in other countries too. Of course there is. But that does not justify in-action on our part. The situation here is bad enough to make all of us ashamed. No post-war Government can feel any satisfaction at all over the crime wave— the present one, I am bound to say, least of all, for in the 13 years of Conservative Government the average increase in indictable crime was 42,000 a year, whereas since 1964 it has been 55,000 a year.
§ My purpose to-day is not to make Party points but to insist that crime and law breaking have reached a pitch at which a counter effort of altogether new intensity is necessary. The essentials are: first, a rapid strengthening of the police; secondly, assurance to the police that the full good will and backing of the nation are behind them, and, thirdly, a return to the older, keener recognition by the whole of the public that the police are the friends of freedom and that those who resort to violence and crime for their own ends are its enemies and must be overthrown. The revolt against all forms of authority which is popular nowadays has led to a certain sympathy with wrongdoers. If that sympathy went too far, it could progressively undermine law and order. History tells not only of great countries destroyed from without but of great countries eaten away from within. We have twice in the last sixty years rescued ourselves from the first peril; now we must save ourselves from the second.
§ I say this, my Lords, to guard against being charged with arguing that if only we have enough police we can leave it all to them. That is not true; certainly it is not the whole of the truth. Changes in national attitudes are needed, and improvements in Press, radio and television, if we are to create the tone of society in which an impossible job for the police becomes a possible one. In the meantime we can, and must, act quickly to reduce the strain on the police collectively and individually, the strain 1156 which now is growing towards breaking point.
§ I have listed in my Motion, "morale … numerical strength … efficiency and equipment". Police equipment is being rapidly improved. Unit beat policing has raised productivity—if one may use that term. The regional crime squads, which I got established as my last act as Home Secretary, have greatly strengthened the efficiency of the police in their powers against large-scale mobile crime. The Police Act 1964 paved the way for Mr. Roy Jenkins, as Home Secretary, to carry out a major reorganisation of the provincial police forces—for which I give him full credit. Those new forces are only just settling down. I am perturbed to see that in the White Paper, The Reform of Local Government in England, which has just been published, it is forecast that we shall soon have a further reorganisation of the police. Appendix D of that White Paper seems to make it all too clear. My Lords, I pray that we are not going to have shortly a second reorganisation of police boundaries and police forces. I honestly do not believe that the police can stand it. There must now be time for consolidation of the new provincial forces, for studying the jobs in hand, for establishing the circumstances in which unit beat policing can be applied with the greatest success, and for perfecting the regional crime squads.
But the overstrain on the police cannot be mitigated until they get their numbers up. The strain is caused not only by the crime wave but by the spate of demonstrations which has flowed so strongly and continuously, with so much help from the organs of publicity, in the last two years. May I quote from the last Report of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis. It said:
Perhaps the most troublesome and persistent manifestation of 1968 was the development of the technique of public protest. Between Spring and Autumn, culminating on 27th October, few weeks passed without some public demonstration or procession which threatened, or regrettably in some cases resulted in, actual disorder. Whatever the reason, and many were offered … there was invariably the same underlying motive, a revolt against authority and the establishment signifying social and political unrest. The great majority of the people taking part were sincere and pacific but increasingly a militant element came to the fore, whether Maoists, Trotskyists or anarchists, who felt that their aims could only be achieved by violence and who hoped
that by the hysteria and excitement generated on these occasions they could carry with them many of the uncommitted.
§ It is not only London which has been the scene of these demonstrations; there have been similar demonstrations—it may be on a lesser scale—in other big towns and cities where, lacking the resources of the Metropolis, it has been necessary to call in police from other neighbouring forces, thereby denuding the public in all that area of their normal protection against crime. Demonstrations which necessitate the presence of large numbers of police for the maintenance of public order give burglars their opportunity. That is well known; and in that sense those who organise these demonstrations, whether violent or non-violent, would do well to bear in mind that the inevitable concentration of the police opens the way to crime being more easily committed in the whole area around.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? What conclusion does he draw from this? Would he have us ban these demonstra-tions?
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I think that my speech would be shorter if I were allowed to complete it uninterrupted. I was about to deal with that very point. The very next item on my notes was to make it clear to your Lordships that I was not speaking about the case for or against demonstrations. I am quite sure that peaceable demonstrations are a necessary part of democracy, and I hope that the noble Lord will agree with me that violent demonstrations are a slur upon democracy. All I was seeking to do in this speech was simply to put on record the effect of large demonstrations, whether peaceful or violent, on the police, whose unquestioned duty it is to be present in sufficient numbers to ensure that there is no breach of the peace.
My Lords, the police in England and Wales—I do not dare to speak about Scotland because I have not the necessary knowledge—are at the present time some 16 per cent. under strength. That average naturally covers inequalities. I know that the Government will agree that this shortage of police is worst in the big cities. In London and other centres of criminal activities—because necessarily it is the big cities which become the 1158 centres of criminal activities—the deficiency is 20 per cent. or more; I think it is just 20 per cent. in the Metropolis at this time. One may be blinded by percentages, but a deficiency of 20 per cent. means in fact that four policemen are having to do the work for which five are needed, or else leave part of that work undone. Inevitably that creates overstrain and tension. The effect is probably worst on the C.I.D. It is common knowledge that detectives are grossly overworked, and have been for a long time. It is common knowledge that frequently they have to drop one important investigation because another still more important investigation has come along through news of another crime.
My Lords, this was the situation in which, two years ago, the Government placed a restriction on the growth of numbers of the police. It is well known— indeed we debated it in this House less than two years ago—that two years ago, with the Police Service something like 17,000 under strength, the Government insisted that not more than 1,200 of that deficiency could be made up by March 31, 1969, and not more than another 2,000 by 1970. What is less well known is that in pursuance of this economy measure the expenditure permitted by the Government on recruitment publicity was cut back in each of those two years. The result of this reduction in recruitment publicity was that the police did not manage even to bring their strength up to the permitted limits.
May I, with permission, read what the Chief Inspector of Constabulary said about this in his 1968 Report. He said:The announcement of a restriction on recruitment, together with the suspension of the national advertising campaign, had the effect of reducing considerably the total number of applicants for the service. There was by the end of the year a loss in total strength of 237 compared with an increase of 3,004 in the previous 12 months.The Commissioner of Police of the Metro-polis likewise reported, for the same reason, a fall of something like 40 per cent. in the number of applicants to join the Metropolitan Police. All this happened at a time when recruiting had been going well and when the gap between current strength and establishment had been rapidly closing. The two-year restriction has stopped that process and has kept the gap wide. It is no good the 1159 Government saying that now they have taken off the restriction. It is quite true that less than three weeks ago they belatedly issued a circular removing those restrictions. In the two years of restriction they have lost several thousand potential recruits to the police. And how the police would love to have those extra thousands of trained men in their ranks to-day!
Nor is it any good the Government claiming that police strength is 13 per cent. higher than when the Conservatives were in power. That is perfectly true; but in the same period indictable offences have gone up, not by 13 per cent. but by 30 per cent. It is like a football manager claiming that his club is doing much better and scoring more goals; they used to lose 2–1, and now they are only losing 5–2. Recruitment had been going so well. There was a net gain to the Police Service in every year from 1961 to 1967. Then, through the decision of the Government, the net gain in 1968 was reduced to a couple of hundred. That is what causes me to ask whether the Government have been sufficiently alive to the necessity to give very high priority to the war against crime. I have no doubt that it is the wish of the public that that should be done.
Are the Government now going to try to make good the evil that, maybe unwittingly, they have done? Are they going not only all out to attract recruits but also to take more seriously than ever the need to reduce wastage from the Police Service? That wastage is particularly serious because it tends to happen with men around 30 years of age who are fully trained, and who have justified themselves in the Police Service. Those men find the pay and conditions of service are not sufficient to compete with the attractions offered to them outside. My Lords, that should not be so, and that is something which Parliament alone can correct.
Wastage is largely a matter of pay; it is partly a matter of overwork and irregular hours and partly, in some cases I know, a matter of the old-fashioned police stations in which men have to work. I happened by chance to hear yesterday of a constable who had his Christmas leave last December altered five times in three days. Compare that with the experience of a man doing an ordinary job who knows exactly when 1160 he will be off for Christmas; and consider not only the attitude of the man, who may be a most loyal policeman, but the attitude of his wife who has to bear with that.
Some of your Lordships may have heard what I thought was a most telling interview with a policeman's wife on sound radio after the 10 o'clock news on Monday night. She was wonderfully loyal to the service, but I noticed particularly the phrase that she used about the isolation of a policeman and his family from society. Right reverend Prelates and the noble Lord, Lord Soper, may know some-thing about the isolation of clergy and of ministers, who are looked on as being separate from ordinary people; as some-one in whose presence one has to be careful about what one says. The police are looked on in exactly the same way, and they and their wives may have less power of resistance to that kind of pressure. This policeman's wife said that the police and their families "live in no-man's-land on their own". That is a very true comment. I suggest it is something that we should all bear in mind when we are thinking of the handling of police questions, because we need to ensure that those who are serving the public are able to regard themselves and be regarded as full and normal members of the public.
A policeman is bound to have less regular hours than people in many other professions. It is all the more necessary that that hard fact should be recognised and reflected in their pay. Your Lordships may have noticed that I used the word "professions". We ought to recognise more actively that the Police Service should be looked on as a profession, and as a most honourable profession. Police work should be looked on as an essential social service like nursing, teaching and other professions. People in those professions have very responsible tasks, even though, unhappily, the teachers are spoiling their reputation for responsibility just now. I am not going into the intricacies of police pay, now under negotiation, although personally— and I speak only for myself now—I should like to hasten the day when constables are treated on the same basis as salaried staff, not as weekly wage earners.
Police morale is not particularly high just now. Many of your Lordships may have read in the papers yesterday the 1161 remarks of the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire on this point in his annual report, and there are other chief constables who would feel themselves forced to say much the same. This situation as regards morale is due fundamentally to overstrain, a feeling among the police that their job is growing ever more formidable and yet they are not getting the recognition and help that they deserve. It is essential to raise police morale without delay, after these two difficult years, by vigorous action on recruitment, on wastage and on pay.
It is also essential to attract to police work, which is rapidly becoming a more sophisticated service, its fair proportion of the nation's brains. That is not happening sufficiently at the present time. There is a scheme to recruit university graduates into the police, though it has not got far as yet. Better progress has been made with the plan of sending promising young policemen to the university at police expense, and many of those who have gone on to the university after passing through the Police College at Bramshill have done extremely well there. But there is no escape from the fact that the police are not yet attracting nearly enough sixth-formers, either boys or girls.
What is the reason for that? Largely, I believe, it is through dissuasion from parents, who would like to see their sons and daughters aiming, as they think, rather higher than the police. And that is why I laid so much stress a minute or two ago on an improved status for the police. If police work can be widely enough recognised as a social service, I think it may help the parents to change their view and cease suggesting to their sons and daughters that they might be able to do better elsewhere. In fact, that suggestion is not likely to be correct in the case of some of the able ones among them, because the Police Service offers rich rewards at comparatively early ages to those who show themselves really good. There is no reason why a man should not aspire to be a chief constable or deputy chief constable at 35. But all this has to be conveyed to parents and to the public, if we are not to get this unhappy brake on sixth-formers going into the police.
As for the boys themselves, I think there is a certain fear that if they go into 1162 the police their academic qualifications will not be recognised. That, too, we must change, because, after all, there is competition nowadays for sixth-formers. One has only to look at the advertisements to see that. The police must offer to the able boy or girl as promising and as exciting a career as any other service or profession or industry can offer. I wonder whether we could now guarantee that a boy or girl who had sufficient "A" Levels to get him or her into a university could be assured of a place at Bramshill Police College at the end of two years if he or she was accepted into the police. I believe that it is that kind of assurance which is badly needed if the police are to recruit a sufficient number of our more able boys and girls.
There are other ways of relieving the present overstrain on the police, all of which need to be thoroughly and fearlessly studied in the course of this massive effort to correct the situation for which I am calling. To give one example, I am convinced that there are large numbers of people who would be prepared to enrol as special constables, if there was a clear call to them that this was a national service which they could perform. The numbers of special constables now are at relatively low levels. We all know that special constables cannot relieve the trained police of all their duties, but we do know that, like traffic wardens and other civilians, they can take over many jobs which otherwise would have to be done by a uniformed policeman or would not be done at all. I cannot help thinking that it would be good for police morale and for public morale if the recruitment effort for the Police Service generally could be extended to include more special constables.
I strongly suggest also that we need to embark more extensively and wholeheartedly on management studies, to see how it is possible to cut out unnecessary procedures and paper work in the Police Service, and also to cut out the use of police on non-policing duties. Much has already been done, I entirely agree, in these directions, but not all has been done that would be possible. I certainly feel that the situation of strain on the police is so serious that we ought now to put great pressure behind the furtherance of management studies of the kind that I have mentioned. I am 1163 aware that a great deal has already been done in the civilianisation of police work (to use a word on which I know that my noble friend Lord Conesford has particular views), but civilianisation could still be carried further.
The police—and here I am certainly not making any Party point—are a conservative service, with a small "c". They change slowly. They need to be persuaded to change. I feel sure that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, with all his experience at the Home Office, will con-firm this. We have to break down this conservatism in many police practices and procedures, because in fact all kinds of novel methods will work which in the past have been supposed to be unthinkable. I know that when I first became Home Secretary it was considered impossible in London to employ women traffic wardens or coloured people as traffic wardens; there were none at all. Those inhibitions have been broken down, and now they are working admirably at that job.
My Lords, I go back to my plea for a massive planned policy to make sure that the police end up on top, whereas there are too many signs to-day that it is the law-breakers who are on top. There is splendid leadership in the police; there is excellent material in all ranks. What we want here in this country is certainly not a police state, where the police repress opinion: what we want is a democratic state of liberty, where the police are granted the strength to enforce the law as made by Parliament. That is the condition; that is the very touchstone of liberty. It cannot be achieved by the police alone. Strength and health in public opinion are needed, too; and in introducing this important debate I have sought to get the balance right.
There is a story of a young man, recently elected to a borough council, who was talking to the mayor and said to him in the course of conversation: "Mr. Mayor, how long has the town clerk been with us?" And the mayor replied, somewhat gloomily: "He is not with us; he is against us." My Lords, what Parliament and the public have to do is to convince the ranks of the police that we are with them; that so long as they themselves observe the law, they have our strong support and back- 1164 ing. They are our principal protectors against crime. If they lost confidence in us, if their morale were to break, we should realise, and realise too late, that they had been the protectors of our liberty, too. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT NORWICH
My Lords, I see from the list of speakers this afternoon that your Lordships are going to have a long debate, and therefore 1 shall not take up too much of your Lordships' time. Before I begin, I should like to make a brief personal apology, in that I think it is unlikely that I shall be able to be here at the end of this debate. I shall read it all in Hansard, and if I am in any way controversial I shall be only too pleased to take up any points and defend them as best I can at the earliest opportunity.
It has long been a truism, a cliché, that our police are wonderful: and so I think they are. I am sure that I echo the thoughts of virtually all your Lordships here this afternoon when I express at the outset my admiration and gratitude for the magnificent job which I believe the police to be doing in the teeth of appalling difficulties. But magnificent as the job they are doing is, the fact remains, as we heard two days ago from the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire and as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has reminded us, that at least some sections of the police are seriously demoralised. I should like, in the few minutes that I propose to detain your Lordships, to think just a little about why this demoralisation should have occurred, and to suggest some possible measures by which, we may, if not eliminate it, at least in some measure diminish it.
The first, and I think we all agree the most important, task which faces the police to-day is the fight against crime. Although the figures are not encouraging, as we have just heard from the noble Lord, I think we can put them into some kind of perspective. First of all, let us remember that the really major crimes that hit the headlines are almost always solved by the police fairly quickly. I can think of very few major headline crimes in the past two or three years which have not been solved within a week or two. We still think back after five or six years to the great train robbery, 1165 which at that time caught the public imagination in a way that few crimes have. We all thought about those master criminals, the brilliance with which the crime was planned and the superlative technique with which it was executed. We did not notice so much that the police "licked" that one within 48 hours.
It seems to me that where the police record is less successful is in relation to the minor crimes. The little semi-amateur housebreaker is the one who often gets away. To some extent that is obviously explicable, because these crimes are so much more numerous. But I think there is more to it than that. Before I go further I should like to lay a point that is bound to come up in this debate even more than it has already. Much has been said and written in the last two or three days of the price which has had to be paid for the police successes: the fact that in the last three days yet another policeman has been murdered in the course of his duty. One realises that it is inevitable that such tragic events should cause an immediate new agitation for the return of the death penalty, at least in the case of murdered policemen. I think that can only mean that perhaps on both sides—that is, on the side of the public and on the side of the police—there is an insufficient awareness of what seems to me to be a vital point about the entire concept of the Police Force; namely, that the Police Force is, must be, and always will be a dangerous profession.
I hope that it will not be construed in any way as lack of sympathy for the wives and families of these men when I say that this is part and parcel of the Police Service, in the same way that it is part and parcel of a soldier's life, a sailor's life, a test pilot's life or a bomb disposal expert's life: it is a dangerous life, and it must be accepted as such by us and reflected in the pay of the police and in the terms of service which we offer them. I do not believe that any of the most enthusiastic abolitionists—of which I like to think I am one—ever believed that the abolition of the death penalty was going to stop police from being killed; and it is well-known that a great many police were killed while the death penalty was still in force. But this is no reason not to accept the fact that something must be done to give the 1166 police, not additional security, because that can never be guaranteed, but at least some recognition for the dangers which they run.
In the case of the smaller crimes, where I believe the police record is less good, I think that one of the reasons for this is the fact that the general public themselves are, I will not say insufficiently aware, but insufficiently educated in the ways in which they can help the police in their task. To illustrate that I should like to tell your Lordships a brief story. A friend of mine happened to be visiting a house at the moment when it was broken into by four burglars. She fought the burglars, but inevitably she failed. All she got for her pains was a blow on the head, and serious concussion followed.
A few days later the police got into contact with her and said: "We think we have caught those responsible for the burglary and we should like you to come to an identification parade to see whether you can identify anyone. "She went. She was told that she need not be hurried but could take her time and could ask the men lined up before her to say any words that she might have heard spoken when the crime was committed, to see whether their voices corresponded. But when she got there she hardly had time to go down the line before she was asked: "Do you recognise them? Do you recognise them?". This slightly rattled her. Then she saw the man who she was almost certain had been responsible, and she said: "Say ' Come on, Charlie ' ", or whatever it was she remembered being said. She saw that the man was trembling all over and that sweat was standing out on his brow. She suddenly thought: "What am I doing? Am I 100 per cent. certain? If I say that this is the man, am I condemning him to 5, 10 or 15 years' imprisonment? How many children has he? What is his wife like? Should I be doing this?" At the critical moment her courage failed her, and she said: "I am not sure."
The policeman drove her back home afterwards and he said to her:"What can we possibly do with people like you? Here we are; we do our work as best we can and we find the man. You know that that is the man, and I know that that is the man. We need you to identify him, and you let us down. Can anything be more demoralising than that? ". That 1167 story was told to me by the woman, who by this time was feeling ashamed, and almost feeling remorseful, at having let the police down in that way.
Here is a point on which people might be educated: first of all to look at the criminals with whom they may come in contact. She also said: "If only I had spent the time looking at them instead of trying to fight them, which was quite ridiculous; if only I had spent the time taking in their faces, voices and special marks and peculiarities, the colour of their hair, that would have been much more useful than trying to fight them." Those are the matters in which the general public are not educated. There are endless stories which any policeman will tell you of people who dial 999 and say that their house is being burgled or is on fire, but they put the telephone down without giving any address. Every school should give special tuition in what to do in an emergency and if you are suddenly faced with a crisis. I am perfectly sure that that would diminish the number of unsolved small crimes to a very considerable extent.
That brings me to the second main point that I wish to raise this afternoon, which is the relationship between the police and the general public. There are two principal problems here We have already heard one from the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. It is the question of demonstrations, which used to be rare but are now everyday occurrences. Obviously, there is nothing one can do to stop them—the cure would be worse than the disease. The fact remains that they exist. The police are forced, two or three times a week in many cases, to run risks, not of death but of being hit, kicked and generally getting into fights —a state of affairs which must in the long term have a terrible effect on their nerves, on their families and on their satisfaction in the force. This is made worse when demonstrations are political, as they often are, for the police may feel just as strongly about race, about Vietnam, about the Springboks, or what-ever it is, as many of the demonstrators, yet they are forced to take this line against them, frequently in the knowledge that many of the onlookers are against them. They are fighting in a minority—at least until somebody hurts one of their horses, then the whole situa- 1168 tion changes. But until that moment, they fire fighting in a minority.
The other point concerns the police and motorists. We have not yet managed completely to appraise this subject, because the very fact that the motor-car is now part of our lives means that there is an enormous new class of potential malefactors and potential law-breakers. If we use our car every day in our lives none of us can hops to get through his lifetime without having been brought up against the law in one way or another. This must also inevitably slowly alter the outlook in our attitude towards the police, and indeed the attitude of the police to the normally law-abiding public.
What can be done? This is obviously a question where both sides have to do their work: both sides have to make their contribution. Here is a case where, certainly in my experience, the police are to some extent to blame. They are not as aware as they should be of the immense harm that is done by paying attention to the letter rather than the spirit of the law, by imposing police traps on open stretches of road where they know that a great many infractions of the law are bound to occur. If many infractions of the law occur on the same stretch of road it is almost certanly because that stretch of road is safer or straighter, and where the speed limit is unrealistic. If one knows in one's heart that one is not driving dangerously or carelessly when driving at 10 m.p.h. above the limit, then one is tempted to do so. One can drive dangerously at 15 m.p.h. and safely at 60. If a person is going to be allowed on the roads at all, he should be given some credit for knowing when he is driving dangerously and when he is not. If people get their licences endorsed for a misdemeanour of this kind, it is not going to increase their love of the police or their respect for them.
I should like now to refer to another matter of which we have seen two or three examples in recent weeks: I refer to the sudden police swoop, which I am afraid more often than not is apt to be quite tragically misdirected. This is the moment—which I invariably deplore— when, for reasons which seem good at the time, they are apt to set themselves up as guardians of public morals. This is what happened when they seized the lithographs of Mr. John Lennon. They 1169 did that a month ago, but to this day, I understand, no charge has been preferred. All they have done is to give Mr. Lennon a great deal of publicity— to which I suspect he is not entirely averse —and they have also enabled him to double or treble the prices of the lithographs that he still has to sell.
Similarly, when they swooped, as they did three weeks ago, on the Open Space Theatre—an entirely reputable organisation—they seized the film which was being shown, the projector which was showing it and the screen upon which it was being projected. But they have preferred no charges. They have also seized the membership list of the club, on which I have the honour to have my own name. Once again I am afraid that they bring themselves unnecesarily into disrepute. I understand that this particular occurrence was probably due to a telephoned complaint by a member of the public, who probably remained anonymous. If this was the case, then it seems to me that the whole practice relating to anonymous telephone calls, or those which are not anonymous, to police stations should be tightened up.
I should like to tell your Lordships one more personal story of an incident which occurred two years ago at my mother's house. She was away at the time, but her house was raided at two o'clock in the morning by the police, who thought that a drug orgy was taking place there. In fact at the time my mother was in Brighton, and there was nobody in the house but the elderly maid. The police came the next morning with an extremely polite, civil and sincere apology, and they explained their action by saying that they had received an anonymous telephone call. My Lords, if anybody can telephone the police anonymously at two o'clock in the morning, and tell them to go and raid a house, where do we end? I am saying this not in a spirit of criticism of the police, but simply as a suggestion, so that their relations with the general public, and the general public's relations with them, may be improved. This is a sphere in which there is room for very considerable improvement and rethinking with regard to the functions of the police in these circumstances.
My Lords, I conclude by saying that contributions must be made on both sides. 1170 We, the general public, have to give the police greater respect, and must strive to ensure that they receive pay and conditions of employment proportionate to the risks which they run, to the duties which they perform so well, and to the vital part they play in the community. With respect, I suggest that the police have to realise that we are to some extent at their mercy; that we want to love them, that we want to respect them (and on the whole we do) but that in return for that we expect in some spheres slightly more understanding and consideration than we at present receive.