HL Deb 06 July 1977 vol 385 cc341-3

2.41 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are in a position to announce the composition and terms of reference of the review body into the negotiating machinery for police pay.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, my right honourable friend hopes very shortly to be able to announce the membership and terms of reference of the review body. Consultations with all the bodies represented in the Police Council for the United Kingdom have almost been completed.


My Lords, though I thank my noble friend for that promising Answer, may I say that there is no definition of "very shortly", and that much the same words were used in the official Statement made by the Minister in another place in May? He himself also went on to call attention to the urgency of this matter since the police claim under the third year of the pay round is due to be discussed as early as September. September is very near and the situation is becoming more and more serious, so the sooner an announcement can be made the better.


My Lords, I expect that the review body will be set up by the end of this month.


My Lords, is it recognised that service in the police force is perhaps now just as dangerous as service in the coal mines? Should it not, therefore, be rewarded on a similar basis?


My Lords, that raises wider questions which will, no doubt, be taken into account when this matter is discussed with the representatives of the police organisations.


My Lords, can the noble Lord also make it clear that the Royal Commission which sat in 1960 and 1962 and of which I was a member, made it clear as regards the question which it was asked to determine—that is, the relationship between police wages and those of the central community—that it regarded a 4 per cent. increase over average wages as essential to preserve the independence of the force? Is my noble friend aware that police wages have fallen well below that in the course of the last few years?


My Lords, my noble friend's Question related to the question of the review body. I have already indicated that I expect that there will be a Statement on this before the end of this month. My noble friend is now going into the merits of the question. All that I would say is that I believe that we have behaved to the police wholly in accord with the second phase of the incomes policy. I think that we were absolutely right to make that decision. The consequences of having done anything else would have been extremely damaging to the interests of this country and, in the longer term, to the interests of the police service as well.


My Lords, do the Government acknowledge that there is a real feeling of resentment on the part of the police in this country which has led to a considerable loss of morale? Will the noble Lord say that, whatever the deliberations of the review body may be, at least the Government have the welfare of the police in mind?


My Lords, I think that it would be unusual were I to say that the Government had not got the interests of the police in mind. Of course we have. It would be quite preposterous to say anything else. We recognise completely the valuable work done by all members of the police service. I am slightly surprised that such a question should be put by the noble Earl. I can say that despite the recent difficulties that we have had, there has been a substantial increase in the size of the police service. Since March, 1974 there has been an increase of 9,000 men and women police.