HL Deb 15 November 1977 vol 387 cc558-96

5.12 p.m.

The EARL of KIMBERLEY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they propose to take to enhance and strengthen the position of the police force in our society, thereby preventing any further decline in its morale. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I believe that it is customary in your Lordships' House to declare a vested interest if it is in business I can only say that I have a vested interest in the police, because I have a son who is a Metropolitan policeman. Last week, in the home affairs debate, the affairs of the police were aired in a not inconsiderable manner. But in spite of this, I make no apologies for asking this Un-starred Question this afternoon as there are many matters still to be resolved.

The problems of the police have, over the last few months, been very well publicised by the media. When I say "well", I do not necessarily mean in a truthful way, because often the publicity has been adverse or only one-sided. Alas!, my Lords, time forbids me to cover all the aspects of the police and I promise that I shall be as brief as I may. But before I go on, it might be of interest to your Lordships if I gave a very brief summary of what a month in the life of a Metropolitan police constable, with one year's service, is like.

He has seven night duties, inclusive of weekends; he finishes his night duty at 6 a,m. and starts work the same day at 1.45 p.m.; he has seven late turn shifts from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and seven early turns from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., working on bank holidays—the pay, I agree, is at double time, but there is no time off—and he is allowed one weekend and six days off a month. But all his duties are subject to change, including his weekly leave, and for this month's work he received before the 10 per cent. increase the princely sum of £148.78 net, which is about £38 a week. Somebody who is drawing National Assistance can draw £35 a week, and I do not decry the fact that he should draw that money—

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

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Earl. Is he including tax free rent allowances which are paid to the police?


My Lords, is it £148 before or after deduction of tax?


My Lords, it is net.


What does that mean?


After deduction of tax.


What is the gross?


My Lords, I should have to search through my file to find the gross figure. Perhaps I may be forgiven for not doing that, but I can tell the noble Lord afterwards. All I am saying is that it does not seem very fair.

The main problem that we have is that the police throughout England and Wales have an acute manpower shortage, and I think everybody in this Chamber, including the noble Lord, Lord Harris, could not fail to agree with me that possibly this shortage has been caused in the past largely by inadequate pay. However, the Police Federation have accepted the Government's offer of a 10 per cent. pay increase and an independent inquiry, to be conducted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, which will make possible discussion of the wider problems, of which there are still many, in a much calmer atmosphere. While I am on the subject of the Committee can the noble Lord tell us who are to be the other members?

So that instead of the confrontation which we nearly had, which has lowered the morale of the police, I hope that we shall be able to find a constructive approach by all concerned towards lasting as well as satisfactory solutions. That does not mean that the problems are less acute, but the Edmund-Davies Committee gives us all a breathing space and the police now know that they were justified in their dissatisfaction, because there is to be this investigation. They also welcome the Government's assurance that the Committee's conclusions will be accepted.

I ask Her Majesty's Government to bear in mind that, in spite of this, the Police Federation and its members have to take a great deal on trust, but they have, nevertheless, expressed their confidence in the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies. When this new inquiry was set up, the noble and learned Lord was already conducting an inquiry into negotiating machinery arrangements, and to this will now have to be added pay for the police and even the future of the Police Federation itself. This must be a very good thing, as any two without the third are useless, because all three points are very closely intertwined and connected. Therefore, as a layman I look forward to the Edmund-Davies Committee.

The Committee has three major tasks: first, to find the correct pay level; secondly, to devise a new method of negotiating machinery so that the situation which has blown up in the last two years cannot recur; and, finally, to decide to what extent the Police Federation should operate on some form of union lines. At the risk of repeating one or two points which some noble Lords may know, and for the benefit of those who do not, for people who read Hansard, visitors and the Press, may I fill in very briefly some details of the grim background to the events which have led to the setting up of this court of inquiry?

In January 1977, the police force of England and Wales was more than 8,500 below the authorised establishment of 117,000. In many forces, particularly in the Metropolitan Police where the deficit was 4,463 in January of this year, the authorised figures, alas! do not reflect the true requirements of the police. Last Wednesday the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said that since 1974 the Metropolitan Police had made a net gain of 1,500. I do not disagree with his figure. I believe that his figure is right and that the deficit figure also is right, but either way the figures are still not good.

The reason why the authorities which at the moment have serious manpower shortages see little point in increasing forces' establishments is that there is little prospect of recruiting up to the existing establishment levels. Today, there are not that many more police constables than there were 50 years ago, but 50 years ago there were annually 17,000 indictable crimes whereas today the figure exceeds 500,000. These figures do not include road traffic offences and the social problems of racial tension, nor the seasonal influx, particularly this year, of thousands upon thousands of tourists. The problems that we have in London occur in the other large cities of our country.

May I therefore ask the Government whether they agree that since the war the manpower shortage has perhaps contributed more than anything else to the growth of crime and to the breakdown in the social structure of our urban life—because of the police forces' lack of ability, not lack of willingness, to maintain the necessary minimum standards of policing? Crime flourishes in direct relativity to the known ability of the police to meet the challenge. The detection rate today is about 40 per cent., so the criminal knows that the odds are heavily in his favour before he starts. Yet I am led to believe that the CID have had their overtime cut. On many occasions when he was Commissioner, Sir Robert Mark said that detection is the greatest single deterrent to the criminal. The police have new scientific equipment which is of great help, but it cannot turn the detection odds in favour of the police unless we have more men. It is the manpower shortage that stops preventive policing. Whole areas of our densely populated cities and of the country are very often without sight of a police constable on the beat.

I believe that a new phrase has been coined by the police—fire brigade policing. It means that the police have to concentrate on reacting to incidents after they have happened, since they cannot prevent crime, as used to be their wont. It is admitted by them that very often in the case of housebreaking they do little more than go through the motions of attempting to discover the criminal. They all agree that the detectives are overworked and that the criminal investigation departments are undermanned. However, the dilemma which the chief officers face is that if they increase the detective strength the uniformed branches will suffer.

In my humble opinion, therefore, the Edmund-Davies Committee should take particular account of a situation where manpower is so much below par that at the moment it is incapable of mounting an offensive against crime. It is true that we have had two relatively good recruiting years, but since January of this year the number of police in England and Wales has fallen by 586. This fall has been somewhat offset by the recruitment of women, but even in this era of anti-sexual discrimination the woman police constable's quality is not, alas! so high as that of a man.

I assure women police constables that this is no attack upon them. It is simply accounted for by the fact that the average career of a woman police constable is three or four years, which is a much shorter time than that of her male colleague. Also, women police constables have limitations. For instance, if the police are summoned to a football match, violence is probable rather than possible. It is really not fair to send a woman police constable out on the beat alone. There are 12,000 assaults each year on the police, which is 1,000 a month or just over 33 per day, and the people who commit these assaults are no respecters of the fair sex. So in a way the problem has been increased by the influx of women at a time when it is difficult to attract men because of the low starting pay. There are almost twice as many women today in the police as there were three years ago. Another problem which has beset the police over the sexual discrimination legislation is that, because it was not anticipated, it was not recognised that one in four of the recruits of the future would be female.

The last major independent examination of the police service was made between 1960 and 1962 by the Royal Commission under the late Sir Henry Willinck. When he conducted his inquiry there were 750,000 indictable offences in England and Wales. This year, the figure will not be far short of 2½ million. Thus, my Lords, we have a threefold increase in crime and yet the police force has risen by only about 45 per cent. The Willinck Commission made pay recommendations which were accepted both by the Government and by the police. At that time these recommendations led to a substantial increase in pay, and for a while everything in the garden seemed lovely. It is a pity that since then no new negotiating machinery has been set up for maintaining police standards.

Besides all of these problems, the Edmund-Davies Committee will therefore have to consider the great change in society's attitude towards crime and the police. The 1976 criminal statistics show how violent our society has become. Briefly for the record, in 1960 there were 14,000 unlawful woundings; in 1976, there were 72,000. Rape offences have doubled. Robbery has risen from 2,000 to 9,000, and breaking offences, which amounted to 150,000, amount now to more than 500,000. These are the signs, the portents that threaten the health and safety of our citizens and their homes. If somebody had forecast in 1960 that in the mid-1970s we should have a threefold increase in crime he would have been called an alarmist. If this trend continues, what will be the position in 1990?

It is true that the size of the police force has increased, but it has not increased enough. What is perhaps not generally known are the efforts made by the police to be more effective. Today they have personal radios. However, today's beat officer with a radio has two to three times the number of incidents to deal with than in 1960. It is true that the police have more cars, non-police personnel, traffic wardens and clerical help. Therefore I hope very sincerely that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, will recognise the full co-operation that the police have shown in improving their working methods and that he will thereby evaluate the added duties and responsibilities that they have faced since 1960.

Today there is so much talk of productivity and of productivity deals in all other spheres of industry. Surely the police are entitled to some recognition and tangible reward for their past co-operation and for their efforts to use very limited resources towards maximum efficiency and productivity. No, my Lords, I believe that the root of the widespread feeling of dissatisfaction lies in the fact that in the past the Government, and authority in general, have been rather indifferent, or have given the impression of indifference towards the feelings of the police. It does not help for Ministers to line up with pickets. It does nothing to ameliorate the justifiable feeling that the police have; all it does, if anything, is to increase it and to make matters worse. Furthermore, I think it was in June this year that the compensation to a police constable for criminal injuries, which used to start at £50, was increased to £150. So to take a simple example, if a police constable goes to a football match or a demonstration and has his nose broken, unless it costs £150 to mend he gets no compensation.

The Edmund-Davies Committee has to be taken on trust by the police. Can the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, say when the report will be made public? Further, can the noble Lord promise that there may be an interim report on pay whereby, when this comes through, regulations can be laid before the House immediately and that any recommendations will be made retrospective to 1st September? Would it be too much to hope that the Edmund-Davies Committee will not turn the Police Federation into a union, thereby not giving the police the right to strike?—because, should this be the case, should we not bear in mind that, other than, I believe, the Armed Services, anybody who works for the United Kingdom Government has both the right to join a union and the right to strike? If the police force does not have these rights, does it not make them a special case?

Lastly, can the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, not agree that it is a statutory duty laid down by Parliament that the Home Secretary and local authorities have to maintain an adequate and efficient police force, and therefore would not the noble Lord further agree that the Home Secretary and local authorities should fulfil their duties?

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, said, during the debate on the gracious Speech last week we had a debate on home affairs and there was quite a lot of talk on the question of law and order, during which a small amount of time was devoted to the police force. Nevertheless, we welcome this further opportunity to debate the whole question. I was particularly careful to look at the Unstarred Question and its precise wording because I think it is important to our deliberations. In fact, it says: To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they propose to take to enhance and strengthen the position of the police force in our society, thereby preventing any further decline in its morale". One immediately sees that the form of the Question implies that there is room for improvement so far as the morale of the police force is concerned. That is not a facetious remark, but I think that when one comes to talk about morale one must differentiate between various different police forces; one must differentiate between New Scotland Yard—the Metropolitan Police—and the provincial forces, and above all, one must differentiate between outer forces in the Provinces and, for instance, the police in Scotland. I do not think any consideration of this nature is valuable unless one makes such differentiation.

A short time ago I had occasion to go on a very long journey by aeroplane and I bought a paperback called The Fall of Scotland Yard. I was so taken with it—not that it was a particularly well written book—that I read it all the way from London Airport to Tokyo, except at such moments when I was being plied with food and drink. I got no pleasure from reading it because so many of the matters contained in it occasioned me great sadness. I should have said that the book dealt with the recent corruption trials of the officers in New Scotland Yard: how they came about and how the trials were conducted. From my days of prosecuting for Scotland Yard I personally knew quite a number of the officers involved, and the book made a journey which was very interesting but brought no joy. The authors had their point to make and they made it fairly, but, putting that aside, it is amazing to me that what they have had to contend with has not resulted in the morale of the police officers being lower.

This brings me to my first point: that anything that the Government are able to do to improve the morale, any encouragement that the Government can give to the new Commissioner, Mr. McNee, to make the necessary adjustments and improvements, must be something to which they give the greatest priority and they must give Mr. McNee the greatest encouragement. Unless and until Scotland Yard, and more especially the detective officers and the criminal detection branches of it, can reassert a pride in themselves and what they are doing I do not think we can expect an increase in morale.

If I say that the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, was typical of a father who has a young officer in the force I hope he will not take that as being insulting. Quite obviously he is a young man who works hard and gets a pay packet of £38 a week—and let us face it, we can talk about gross pay and about allowances, but 38 is the number of greasy notes that this young man unwraps. That is what it means to him. Quite obviously the deliberations and conclusions of the Edmund-Davies Committee, and their implementation, play a very important part. I concede that at once, and I join with the noble Earl in the questions which he has put to the Government about this Committee. But if I may say so, if one is talking about the morale of the police it is letting the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, off the hook much too easily merely to talk about the Edmund-Davies report, when it comes. It will be said that the Committee has been set up, that it will report with as much despatch as it can muster, that from the distinguished people who are already appointed or who will be appointed as soon as possible the Government have no doubt that the report will be fair and conclusive, and the Government have no hesitation in saying that they will implement the report at such time as it is economically and socially possible to do so. I think I have probably anticipated the noble Lord's brief—and I see him grinning.

The morale of the police, or the lack of it, owes a lot to other considerations, some of which the Government are responsible for, some of which they are in no position to influence and there are some where I think they can help. On the question of pay we all agree that certain parts of the police force are undermanned. I think we all agree that the police force is underpaid. I think we all agree that the time should come when the pay of the police force will be so raised that they realise and feel that they are an élite organisation and that any deviation from strict standards of conduct and propriety will ensure their speedy dismissal, so that they feel they have a pride in their position and in their duties.

But of course pay goes much further than that. Because we have had equality of pay increases for so long eventually the time is going to come when the Government are going to have to regard the police as a special case. They will have to say to us and to the community in this country, "If we want the police force which we deserve we will have to make them a special case". It really does not matter what the national finances are; they will have to be paid sufficient. That will demand leadership eventually on the part of the Government.

Secondly—and this is a much deeper point—I think the police have to be viewed by the Government in a rather different way from the way they have been viewed up till now. The police force does not have any elitist element in it; there is no officer class. There is no way in which somebody with a degree can march into a police station and come out as some sort of officer cadet. I am not for one moment advocating that there should be any return to the situation which obtained in the 1930s, but I think the Government must in some way reward people who work very hard and improve themselves so much they that carry out a far more responsible role than the ordinary constable on the beat. I am thinking for instance, of officers who go into the fraud squad. I was amazed by the fact that they, having had no specialist training, no degree, no qualification in accountancy or even in financial matters, were able to unravel the most complicated long-term frauds perpetrated by some really very talented but dishonest gentlemen who carry on business. As prosecuting counsel, or even as defending counsel for that matter, I personally found them very difficult to unravel, usually even with a report from the Fraud Squad concerned. How much more difficult for some of these young men who have not got the education but simply pick it up.

May I say this,—and it is not really for the noble Lord, Lord Harris. There is a deplorable lack of officers in Scotland with the necessary qualifications so far as their Fraud Squad is concerned. If somebody would like to write to me about that I should be very grateful, because great fears have been expressed to me that persons engaged in such activities as long-term frauds are getting away with it in Glasgow and other places because there is nobody to investigate the offences. I think that is one area where the Government have to give leadership. They have to take on a new concept, a new thinking, so far as the role of the police is concerned; the police have to be paid and organised appropriately.

Then, the police have got to be provided with a proper back-up, and this is a matter where I can congratulate the Government mildly on having to some degree, quite recently restored the civilian back-up. It was a really painful matter to go into a police station in the old days and see officers who towards the end of their tour of duty had arrested people—drunks, flashers, all the sorts of people who appear in court before the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, sitting opposite—typing out their reports and witness statements with two fingers on an antiquated typewriter. We must not ever get back to that unfortunate and quite unnecessary state of affairs.

There is now, too, great technology which can help the police, although it poses some formidable problems. In my part of the world every household and every motor car is on a computer, so that a member of the police force with a personal radio can identify any motor car which is seen within a matter of seconds. I think we are the first police force to have this, because geographically, and so far as population was concerned, it was convenient. It certainly brought a smile to the face of our local chief constable—to whose courage in taking the place of a hostage, if it is not out of order, I should like to pay public tribute. I am being a little philosophical about this. The whole question of electronic aids to the police poses some formidable questions as to the liberty and privacy of the individual. The provision of these new techniques and equipment poses questions which, I suggest, the Government must ponder over and debate, I hope, publicly—and this is particularly suitable, I suggest, to your Lordships' House.

I do not want to take up too much time. Thirdly, we come to what I call the legal atmosphere. It is impossible for the police to establish among themselves price in their job, high morale, and desire to serve the public, if the rule of law and the legal system are not conducive to such an increase in their morale. The noble Earl has already touched on this. The police are above all employed to carry out the rules as laid down by Parliament or the common law. If we are going to have demonstrations, it cannot be right that persons who are supposed to be in high places and in positions of authority should apparently lend their presence and their encouragement to those who, quite flagrantly, are breaking the law. This is a matter of leadership and discipline for the Government. Of course nobody wishes to restrict the right of the ordinary citizen to demonstrate in a lawful way or to do anything which he has a lawful right to do. But the Government must, I suggest, be able to say to the whole community, "We are 100 per cent. behind the police in carrying out the rule of law". There has, I fear, been an air of equivocal vagueness on the part of the Government about this. I am trying to be as polite as I can; I could say it a great deal more firmly. I think it is something the Home Office should consider.

Then we come, finally, to the legal system we have in this country. At the moment I think the temptation to young detective officers is to cut corners, to give their evidence in a way which will ensure a conviction, and occasionally—one has to face it—to ensure that their evidence is tailored so that they do get a conviction. We have had various debates on standards of proof and so on, and I think it is probably the feeling among your Lordships that those who are accused of crimes probably stand about right so far as the bench of magistrates or jury is concerned.

There will be those who say that too many accused persons get off, if I may use the expression, and that the scales of justice are weighted too heavily in favour of the defendant. I have no doubt there will be some who say that quite the opposite is the case and that the prosecution has everything in its favour. All I say is that I think the revision committee concerned with criminal procedure should and I suggest it must, continue to work and to think of improvements to criminal procedure which will not tilt the balance unfavourably one way or the other, but which will perhaps, as Sir Robert Mark implied in one of his lectures, enable the truth to come out rather better, which is really what a court is for.

I also feel very strongly that the morale of the police would be improved if they were not, in effect, the prosecuting agents. I shall not say that this is a hobby horse, but it is something about which I know the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, feels strongly. I, in my humble way, have had experience of both the English system of justice and that which obtains in Scotland, where we have the procurator fiscal. The Scottish system is very successful. I do not want to go into the merits of the system except to say that although we in Scotland think that there is a considerable advantage in the police not being responsible for whether a prosecution should be initiated, and not even in the position of being able to urge a prosecution on the procurator fiscal, it would, I suppose, be a tremendous upheaval if our system of law in England were to be adapted to make the necessary changes. However, I believe that something along those lines should be considered by the Government. Indeed, perhaps one day a committee may examine yet another point and take this one on board as well.

One matter of which I am certain is that the crime statistics are frightening. The only way in which people will be deterred from crime is the certainty of detection, conviction and, in the appropriate case, punishment. The first part of the process is detection. If we want criminals detected, we must do everything we can to help our police force, and that includes some of the matters that I have been urging on the Government tonight.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we are all deeply grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, for introducing this Question this evening and for doing so in such a splendidly informative manner. I am happy to follow the noble Earl and agree with almost everything he said, which is probably a unique experience for me and perhaps one which I shall continue to enjoy throughout the term of this new Session.

I have no vested interest to declare other than that, during 20 years as a magistrate, I have had an increasing admiration for the work of the police and, in a rather unique way, I have seen them as ordinary citizens because I live next-door to a police house. During the 15 years that I have been in the area, that house has been occupied by four different groups drawn from different levels of the police force, all of whom, including their wives and their children, have been splendid neighbours. Surely they could not have been hand picked for me! However, they represent to me the kind of people about whom we are talking tonight.

I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, emphasised that we are dealing with rather more than the narrow issue of pay. One of the great opportunities that your Lordships' House enjoys is that we can constantly bring to the Government's attention matters which might otherwise be left lying fallow. I like a passage which appeared in the Daily Telegraph during October, because I believe that it describes what we are discussing this evening. It says: The truth is that in a free society the law can be efficiently enforced only when the vast majority of people not only habitually obey it, but are willing to do all they can to ensure that it is not successfully defied by others". In other words, the number of police or enforcement officers assumes that we have more people who keep the law than break it. However, the picture as presented by both previous speakers is not very pleasant and must be set against the Question raised this evening.

During the debate on the Queen's Speech I drew attention to the fact that an indictable crime was committed every minute of every day and night. I am now given to understand that that was a conservative estimate and that, in fact, the figures are higher. If we consider some other areas which must be dealt with within law enforcement we learn from the reliable source of the Automobile Association that last year £50 million was lost through car tax evasion. I once walked out of the court at Great Marlborough Street and observed that of 12 cars parked immediately outside the court, seven had licences that were out of date; in other words, the police just do not have time to deal with these matters.

Crimes involving shotguns have risen by a half in one year. That is a gloomy picture, one which I could continue to present, but I do not wish to cover any ground which has already been covered. However, now that I am concerned in a campaign to try to prevent theft in shops, I have become involved in research more specifically into crimes against property. To those who say that crime does not pay, it is interesting to note that, in 1976, £148 million worth was stolen and £26 million worth was recovered. Therefore, for that year the gross criminal earnings were £122 million. It is also interesting to note that the group of workers whom we are discussing could probably not amass such an amount as their earnings for one year. Who stands between the kind of crimes that are committed, the potential victim and the offender? Quite categorically, it is the best police force in the world.

I am bound to say that I was rather glad to learn that when some of our football enthusiasts went to the Continent they experienced another police force which is not exactly known for its gentle handling. Our police force is not paramilitary; nevertheless it is highly disciplined and highly efficient. It is subjected to constant insults, often from people who should know better, as well as threats and even violence. I hope that most of your Lordships saw the copy of Police which was included with the House magazine and which showed pictures of some of the terrible violence which has been perpetrated against the police in recent months. More than that, the police have the permanent role of " holding the peace "—that phrase is not used very often, but historically that was the description of the police—" according to the laws of the land Every time we in this House introduce another law—and we are extraordinarily good at that—we place yet further duties upon fewer and fewer enforcement officers.

I know that the Minister will disagree with any figures that I produce, so I have chosen to put forward only one. He disagrees very gently: he merely nods his head, but he does so the wrong way ! Last year in July—I believe the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, quoted this figure, which I have checked and re-checked—the Metropolitan Police were 4,329 officers short. I shall leave the matter there.

Why are they short? Of course, we can start with pay. We can argue about gross pay, take-home pay, police houses and so on. However, along with many of your Lordships, I listened to the police wives on the radio. Who knows better than a wife the situation of the pay packet? Some who come to the domestic court do not even know where their husbands work, but most wives know what their husbands earn. We heard from splendid young women who, your Lordships may remember, broke all records by demonstrating, which was almost unknown. One woman said that her husband collected the princely sum of £49 a week. There was none that made reference to the £70 a week which has been suggested.

I point out in passing—and I should like an answer to this—that, I understand it, the 10 per cent. which is now bandied about as almost sacrosanct, is not a legal requirement but one which the Government have rather pulled out of the air—like Jack Jones suggests, a pension. In other words, we are not tied to 10 per cent.; it is a voluntary matter between those who are employed and the Government of the day.

Next, we have hours of work. It seems perfectly reasonable to consider this aspect. I wonder that police marriages survive when one considers the number of hours that a policeman has to put in—unsocial hours which, I suggest, no one, except probably nursing staff and possibly ambulance drivers—I have one in my family—also work. I understand that at one stage the cadets were to be cut. I do not know whether the Government have changed their mind on that, but at the same time the cadets were asked to take part in a school leavers' programme. There seems to be a slight contradiction there which can perhaps be ironed out.

I turn to another point which has not so far been mentioned but which is very important. When I was young certain groups of workers were looked up to as the aristocrats of the system. As I recall, bus drivers were one. One had to be of a very high standard medically and mentally to be a bus driver, and it was murmured, "They have very good pay". Police were also looked up to, not only for the position they occupied in society but because they were regarded as being reasonably well paid and, magic of magic, they had a good pension—something that was very much envied and sought after by most workers.

What has actually happened? Pensions, which were originally good, have not kept pace with the other schemes that have been introduced. What was a good scheme before 1948 now appears to be a dear one and not as good as some others. I have received a copy of a letter from a policeman. I shall not read it all but I think it tells the story better than I can. He says: Since receiving the last increment [to his pay] my only incentive was the prospect of my pension on retirement. Only now as the day seems to approach am I beginning to enquire and find out the rewards to be received. Fortunately, I am able to retire after 25 years' service and receive a pension equal to half my pay, of which I can commute one-sixth. On the other hand, officers who joined after 1961, after completing 25 years' service, will have to wait until the age of 50 before they are able to receive their pension". He concludes: The incentive of a pension on retirement becomes less of an attraction to serve your time or, in fact, even to join the force". Therefore, we have to look not only at pay, but at hours, conditions and pensions. Just as people vote with their feet, so the police, who have shown great dignity in this present difficult situation and who have not exercised the right to strike—or, indeed, to go further, claimed it—have moved over to other jobs. We cannot afford that. I beg Her Majesty's Government to respect a group in the community whose only way of voicing its claim is through a Question of this kind. If this does not achieve the object, then many of us in your Lordships' House will return again and again to plead the case for this group.

6.4 p.m.


My Lords, it cannot be very often that we in this House debate matters bearing on the police twice in one week. However, I do not think it is a bad thing because the matters we have debated this evening and which we debated last week affect everyone in the country, not just policemen. If much police work is highly confidential, the police tend to be too much of a closed world. I submit it is a good thing that we should know rather more about them and about their world.

Last week when we debated home affairs, law and order were pushed into second place by devolution. I believe I am right in saying that my speech was the only one about police and, in particular, about preventive policing from beginning to end. In his closing remarks the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich—who is nodding—welcomed my enthusiasm, for which I thank him. He said much about policing, but he did not say a single word or make any comment about what I was trying to say, which is that in the years ahead we must concentrate much more on preventive policing. However, I shall resist the temptation to make the same speech again this afternoon in the hope that I might be able to draw from him at least a comment or two about it.

I am very glad to have followed the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and I think I can say that I agree with all she said. The noble Baroness followed me last week and at the beginning of her speech I think she implied that she agreed with all I said. That seems to be a happy situation.

I do not think that the morale in the police force, which is really the essence of this debate, is governed simply by numbers, which are bound to be referred to many times in a debate such as this. There are also the questions of leadership and quality. It is about leadership in the police and the ladder of advancement from first enrolment as a police constable to the rank of chief constable that I want to speak in the few minutes available to me this evening. In particular, I want to speak about the trouble taken over the selection for the special course — which, in ordinary language, is a junior staff course—with appointment to assistant chief constable or chief constable. I submit that all this has a bearing on recruiting.

First, however, I want to say a few words about the formality on joining. This, again, is an important factor when we look at recruiting. We must consider the responsibility which a PC or a WPC, no matter how junior, bears at all times. In my submission, the swearing—in ceremony should be carried out simply and with appropriate formality. Many PCs and WPCs are very young indeed. Some will have had very little experience of formal occasions or the opportunity to shoulder responsibility, and the occasion of swearing-in should, I hope, be something to be remembered and contribute much to a young man's morale.

It is best done in court, singly, proudly wearing a new uniform, with the magistrate having been warned beforehand that this will happen so that he or she can prepare a few friendly words. It may mainly be done in that way in the country, but that is not always the case. I have heard of another method, which I take as very slipshod, where the appropriate officers at police headquarters ring up a magistrate, who may have an office nearby and take the one, two or three newly joined with them, either in uniform or not, and let them take the oath in the magistrate's private office. Again, some noble Lords will have seen an official film of the Metropolitan Police which was shown on the BBC not so long ago. In it the 30 or so newly joined were marshalled together in plain clothes in a classroom and then at a signal they all picked up a board which had the oath printed on it and recited the oath together. I do not want to be unduly unkind, but I was reminded more of a choir practice and the first rehearsal of a piece of music which none of them had seen before. We need not remind ourselves, because we know, that Members of Parliament and Members of your Lordships' House renew their Oath every Parliament and try to do so with dignity.

I should now like to contrast the extended interview procedure, which chooses the cream of the younger members of the force to attend the junior staff course, with the later selection for higher office, to which I shall refer in a minute. I have had the privilege of attending the extended interview procedure as a visitor, and a great privilege it is. About 48 hours are spent on doing written work, discussion and holding separate interviews by the lay and service members. The best candidates whom I saw during my weekend with such an interview board were very good indeed, but there were not enough of the really good—the quality tailed away. That is a sign that the police are failing to recruit, or else, having recruited, are failing to keep a fair proportion of the very ablest young men whom they must have if in due course they are worthily to fill the higher ranks and to command the respect that we all want to pay them. I am told that the position with women is slightly easier, but, as has already been said, comparatively few women in fact serve for any length of time, so this is less important. If this procedure is contrasted with the appointment of chief constables it is rather frightening. After advertising the vacancy a short list is prepared, and there are interviews which must be nearer to 48 minutes than 48 hours by a specially appointed selection committee of the appropriate authority. On that selection committee there may, or may not, be someone who has experience of selecting men for the very highest appointments, which is a highly skilled business.

Once appointed, unless disaster overtakes him or he moves to another job, a chief constable holds that position until he reaches the age limit for retirement, which I believe to be 65. In an age when we are hoping to see younger men promoted more rapidly, it could well be that someone reaches this high rank comparatively early in his career and may in fact, if he does not move, stay there well beyond the time that he is urged by the essential inspiration and enthusiasm which makes men admire him and follow a leader.

I would ask the noble Lord what confidential reports are written by HMIs or others on chief constables which could be compared with the reports which are written regularly on generals and admirals and, I believe, ambassadors, too. If we compare this appointment to CC with that of managing directors in industry we find that a managing director normally serves under a service agreement for a term of years which is extended if both he and the members of the board feel that that is the right thing. I really think that the noble Lord ought to look into this system of appointment to the highest police offices in the land, and not least since I believe the Commissioner of the Metropolis is appointed under rather different terms. The noble Lord is nodding. I believe it is somewhat similar—but I could not be precise about it—to what I am suggesting should in fact be made standard elsewhere.

Although we have had the services of a large number of most distinguished men holding these high offices since the war we have had a few who have shown themselves to be unworthy of the appointment, and there are others who, because of the system, have probably stayed in these positions too long. None of that is good for the morale of the police and for the younger people coming up the ladder, to which the noble Earl referred in his opening speech. I notice that the noble Earl asks the Government what steps they propose to take to enhance and strengthen the position of the Police Force". I would suggest that, among other things, they should do all that they can to ensure that the quality of leadership in the police is as high as it can be, and that in looking into this they ought not to delay.

6.13 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, in finding the wording of this Motion a little misleading to anyone so innocent as I. Indeed, I would say that, for myself, had I thought that this was intended to be a debate purely about police wages, I should have preferred at this moment of delicacy and difficulty not to put my name down in the debate. I am not suggesting for a moment that anything is sacrosanct and should not be discussed by other people, but I had understood that a measure of agreement on reference, and so on, had been obtained. I am perfectly certain that the admirable speech made by my noble friend Lady Phillips, who set out the facts very fully, can do no possible harm.

With regard to figures generally—and may I say on this single item that I wish it referred to every industrial dispute—there are simple ways of stating figures cogently and fairly. I should have thought that this business of talking about weekly earnings was always grossly unfair. The figure that should be given is the gross wage. If there are fringe benefits, they may be stated as fringe benefits. Generally speaking, both sides tend to be a little coy about giving the accurate figures.

I myself saw Mr. Jardine of the Police Federation at this House three or four months ago. I was greatly impressed by his personality, and by what I thought was his patent sincerity about the possibility of a breakdown in relations. Indeed, he gave me some figures which I checked through carefully. I was a member of the Police Commission many years ago, and we gave the first really substantial increase to the police. We were rather proud that we had produced, as a result of that report, a policeman who could get £1,000 a year; not as the opening wage of a young policeman, but the wage which an ordinary copper could attain to. We stated the principle that, having decided that the policeman was sui generis, there was no basis of comparison; there was no standard of wage with which one could make comparison. We then expressed the view that the policeman's minimum should be at least 4 per cent. over the average industrial income of workers generally. At any rate, that gave satisfaction at the time and worked satisfactorily.

We were then able to proceed with the job that we had started, which was to consider the future of the police force and the organisation of the police force. We had three years on that; not unrewarding years to the police and to the community at large. Most of our proposals were adopted. I was left without a financial interest in the matter either before or after, or in any other organisation, or in any way. I always appreciate applause from my noble friend on the Front Bench. However, I am not for a moment suggesting that it was wrong for the Prime Minister to have a declared financial interest at the time he did years ago. He was quite open about it and he worked quite openly, and I respect the way he did it.

I am bound to take serious issue with one observation of the noble Earl on the Front Bench. I so very rarely disagree with anything he says that I think it is notable. The Royal Commission took the view that the basis of the police force virtually everywhere was the man on the beat. He was the man who had constantly to keep observation in business areas. In a sense, he was there to take note of everything, and to observe everything. He was then, perhaps to a greater degree than now, the man who, in a very grave and dangerous emergency, had to make his own decision if it involved his own life. He is no longer at any rate, to be regarded as a man without education or attainments. The police force needs men of ability. I take the view, as I look at our major difficulties in a land in which education is free, higher education is available to a great many and when the gap in the remuneration between the qualified and the not quite qualified man is often too wide, that the policeman on the beat still has a very hard, dangerous and difficult job.


My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that there should not be extra reward for extra qualifications, which in the case of the ordinary police officer means extra effort? Putting it another way, would be not agree with me that without the extra attainments such as I described in my speech, the police cannot function efficiently?


I entirely agree with the noble Earl about that, my Lords, understood him to refer to the policeman on the beat as a man of no particular educational attainment. That is not really so and, as he knows, there is much more interchange of occupation, disposition and so on. I should have referred to the fact that the provision of communications between the man on the beat and the moving patrols has, to an extent, diminished, although not eliminated, his own responsibility on occasion to make decisions on the spot, to take responsibility for them and to take the risk.

I agree with what my noble friend Lady Phillips said. The Home Office has always been dishonest about the question of free houses, rent-aided accommodation and so on. They build a charming little cottage in a village which the policeman and his wife occupy—a sort of dream house with roses round the front door—but from that moment on he and his wife are on 24-hour duty, every day and in every way, serving the community often in ways that are almost incumbent on the holder of the position of village policeman. This is a sort of social duty, giving advice, helping out and so on. He has hardly any rest and hardly any relief, and when he finishes his duty at the end of his career the Home Office chucks him out and puts somebody else in the house.

I appreciate that this will give my noble friend Lord Harris a chance to say that they do their best, take all relevant considerations into account and explore every avenue in looking at the present and the future and that they now have a computer to help them think. That is all very well, but I have not wished at this stage to assume more than the view we expressed in 1960, namely, that the police force generally has a job of high responsibility which is deserving of full recognition, even in present circumstances; we said then that the nearest comparison when we called the police sui generis was the firemen with their responsibility.

At present, the Government face a very grave problem indeed and the Prime Minister has taken a course that is painful, onerous, brave and, some may say, reckless. None of us wishes to see the conflict which sometimes seems inevitable and impossible to avoid. The Police Federation were pressed to take drastic steps (undoubtedly they have a case) and tried to come to a measure of agreement with the Government in relation to further consultation. I hope that will prove possible, at any rate for the time being. I shall listen with interest and some apprehension to what my noble friend Lord Harris has to say about the present state of the negotiations and about the necessary inquiries.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, it is always difficult to speak following the noble Lord, Lord Hale, because of his enormous wisdom on so many subjects. Tonight he has helped us all to realise a little more about the problems of the police force and I am sure we are all grateful to him. Those of us who have the onerous job of implementing the law rarely have the opportunity of giving a word of thanks or encouragement to the police force; that is why I am so grateful tonight to the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, for asking this Unstarred Question.

For too long we have assumed that the ordinary person is a law-abiding citizen and that the last thing he wants to do is to come up against the police. Now, with fewer numbers in the police force, the deterrent of being found out no longer applies. How many of your Lordships would have dreamt five years ago that each of us would not only know personally someone who has been attacked by a mugger but might even have been so attacked himself?

A secretary in my office was attacked at 10 o'clock on a Saturday evening in Hampstead High Street. Her wrist was broken and she was left unconscious and with a lacerated head. Five years ago the police would have been around and the mugger would have had the deterrent of knowing that he would be caught. But at 10 o'clock at night in Hampstead High Street there was nobody around to stop this young woman from being attacked. The result, as she did a lot of typing in my office, was that she could not be employed on her normal work for nearly two months. We had to find her other work in the office, which we were pleased to do, but, there was no recompense from the Industrial Injuries Tribunal, to which she had applied and we had to employ another secretary.

I very much doubt whether those of us who are older realise the deterrent effect of seeing a policeman around, or the deterrent effect of being found out if one commits a crime. I doubt very much whether we realise what a deterrent that can be to young people. As many of your Lordships will know, I have the doubtful honour of presiding over a very large juvenile court, and I can say categorically that if we had the necessary strength of police in evidence, not only on foot but in patrol cars and wherever they may be needed, I should not be faced with the vast increase in juvenile crime that I have at this time.

The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, gave your Lordships a few statistics, and I should like to give just one or two more. Last year in the Metropolitan district in the age group under 14 there were 5,103 males and 203 females involved in the offence of burglary in a building other than a dwelling. In the age group 14 to 17 there were 12,049 males and 334 females involved in the same type of offence. I am quite certain that if those children who eventually came before magistrates, and possibly went on to crown courts for sentencing, had known that they might well have been caught they would not have dared to enter the premises they were burgling.

As everybody will know, violence is increasing every day. Among the under 14s, 562 males and 114 females were taken before courts for offences in this category. Similar figures for the age group 14 to 17 showed 3,716 boys and 693 girls involved in such offences. As I have said, if those young people knew that there was a probability of being found out, with the end result possibly being imprisonment, and certainly their liberty being taken away, I am sure that that would act as a deterrent. Last year there were 28,702 burglaries involving children under 17, and in the same age group there were 44,503 cases involving theft, shoplifting and handling stolen goods.

In paying my tribute to the police I am very mindful that sitting in a juvenile court, as I do every Wednesday of the year, I have to thank them considerably—and not only for the way in which they handle children. They do this in the kindest, nicest possible way commensurate with handling juvenile crime among the younger age groups. But some of the police are themselves young. We were all young once, and to gain experience one must start when one is young. I should like to tell you a true story which I heard in the North of the country about a fortnight ago. Two young boys stole a car. They went to a garage in the country and asked for half a gallon of petrol. The garage proprietor very wisely rang the police, who were directed to the road which the young thugs had taken. The police set up a road block through which the young thugs drove the stolen car. A sergeant and a very young officer drove at speed after them, and cornered them. When the sergeant and the young officer got out of their car they each took a young boy from the stolen car. When the sergeant shouted, "Cuff him, Bill!" and a right hand fist was administered to the jaw of one of the young thugs it was too late to say, "Handcuff him, you fool!" We all have to learn somehow when we are young.

With the greatest possible force at my command, I should like to say that we can, and should, increase police pay. We can, and should, increase and encourage the recruits by putting these matters before the schools. We can, and should, increase their pensions. We can, and should, give them better working conditions. But unless we make the police aware that we regard them as being a vital part of our society now and in the future, our country, and in particular law and order, will be in a very dire strait, and law and order as we know it in this country today will be a thing of the past.

6.36 p.m.


My Lords, I did not intend to intervene in the debate, and I must beg your Lordships' pardon for so doing, but I feel that I must support the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. I wish to make only one point, and I will make it quickly. The most serious results of years of neglect by Government of our police force are already upon us: it is the erosion of skilled manpower in the senior positions within the police force. Recently I was honoured to be the guest of a personal friend who only this year retired after 25 years' service with the Metropolitan Police. He invited me to the ex-Metropolitan CID Officers' Association annual dinner. What struck me immediately upon entering the banqueting hall was the youthful appearnce of so many of the (to use a perfectly horrible American expression) "retirees". On inquiring of my host, he told me that almost every CID officer he knew has told him that the moment their 25 years' service are up they are quitting the service. When I suggested to my host that I felt it very sad that the Metropolitan Police had lost an officer of his experience and ability, his reply impressed me. It was: That's as may be, but my wife and family have gained a happier man, and a better provider, and a better husband". I am convinced that this is why it was disclosed, only the other day, that at Scotland Yard there is only one chief superintendent of more than one year's standing. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, to confirm this point. Even if that figure is only partly correct, it presents a very frightening picture.

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, I certainly welcome this debate. It was only last week that I drew attention to the fact that in the 3½ years that I have been responsible for the police service nobody had raised in a debate the subject of the police force. Therefore I am particularly glad that within a week we are discussing this issue. I said then, and I repeat this evening, that it seems to me rather curious that we apply our minds to a very large number of other issues, yet on this matter, over which there is widespread public concern, remarkably little time has been devoted to it in this House in the past. That being so, I think the debate is particularly welcome, and I am grateful to the noble Earl for having raised this matter, although I must make it absolutely clear that I in no way accept the implications of the Question he has put down.

We must recognise that all Administrations—the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat made this point—face difficult problems in this area. It is a subject for informed discussion, not for partisan debate. That being so, I particularly welcome the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, which I thought was characteristically thoughtful and sensible. He raised one or two issues which I should like to touch upon later, as well as one or two others which I will take into account in the months to come. I also (if I may say so before getting into the substance of this debate) very much welcome the fact that my noble friend Lord Hale was able to participate, given his own involvement in the past in the affairs of the police service.

The noble Earl who opened this debate—and, indeed, other speakers—have referred to the many difficulties which are facing the police at the present time: the problem of rising crime; the increased level of violence; the problems of public order; the very relevant question of the recent difficult negotiations over police pay, and the not altogether unadjacent matter of the number of officers coming into and leaving the service. I propose, if I may, to deal with each of these issues. As to the character of the crime problem facing the police, there is little I can add to what I said last week at the end of the debate on the Address in reply to the gracious Speech. There was last year a modest increase of only 1 per cent. in crime, and that, although it indicated a further upward movement in the level of crime, was a great deal better than was the situation in the two preceding years, when there was a far sharper increase.

However, having said that, crimes known to the police in the first six months of this year rose by a further 11 per cent., and, that being so, there cannot be any justification for complacency. At the same time, we should not lose sight of the fact that the problem of rising crime—and, again, I said this last week—is one which we share with every other major industrialised Western country; and, frankly, the speeches which have been made here tonight could have been made in any other Parliament in Western Europe. It is a problem which we in this country have in common with every other industrialised country. There is no unique British problem. That is not to say it is not a serious one: it is just to say that this is a difficulty which the whole of Western society is having to face.

As to the question of public order, we have taken steps to ensure that the police have the essential equipment they need to preserve the peace on our streets, and on a number of fairly recent occasions we have backed the professional judgment of the senior police officers who have had to take difficult decisions in this type of situation. My right honourable friend has indicated his willingness to consider the adequacy of the legal powers available to the police in handling serious public order situations. But let no one underestimate the inherent limitations of attempted legal controls over public, political behaviour. The chief officers of police we have consulted confirm our judgment that changes in the law are unlikely in themselves to prevent the violence on the ground with which the police have to deal.

Another difficult issue—and a number of speakers in the debate have touched on this—is the problem of police pay. The House will recall the history of this subject, which, briefly, is this. Special transitional arrangements were made for the police when Phase 1 of the present pay policy came into effect, and the police then received a pay increase of just under 30 per cent. rather than the £6 which they would otherwise have received. In July 1976 the Police Federations for England and Wales, and for Northern Ireland, left the Police Council in a dispute over whether the Federations should get that £6 or the lesser figure which could be made available to them under Phase 2 of the incomes policy. Now I have set out this background, not because I want to become involved in all the disputes which we have had in recent weeks as to the precise way in which all these figures were calculated but because I think it important to set out the facts of the matter, which will obviously be considered by the inquiry which will go into this whole question.

I intervened in the speech of the noble Earl at the beginning of this debate, when he was giving a number of figures purporting to show what was the take-home pay of a particular police officer, not in any way to make a debating point but merely in order to emphasise the fact that it was very necessary to take into account all the factors in police pay and not just some of them: and one point which it is important to bear in mind—this deals with a point which my noble friend Lord Hale raised—is this question of rent allowances. In my view it is absolutely right that the police should get these rent allowances, but sometimes they are left out of account when debate takes place. It is not the case, as my noble friend suggested, that these allowances are paid to people in police houses. These allowances are paid to people who do not live in police houses; and they are quite significant figures, ranging from the region of £600 a year tax-free to a figure of around £1,000 a year tax-free, depending on the force. I mention this because it is important for everybody to be aware of the particular facts of the matter when discussing this question, but I repeat that I say this not in order to get involved in the disputes of the past but simply in order to clarify some of the points which have been made in the debate today.

My Lords, in the course of this breakdown in the negotiating machinery for the police the Government set up an inquiry under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, into the negotiating arrangements for the police service. The Government also agreed that there should be an inquiry into the constitution of the Police Federation itself. I think it is absolutely right that this whole matter should be gone into. It was raised with us by the representatives of the Police Federation, who indicated that they thought, so long after all the affairs of the 1919 dispute, that it was right that this matter should again be considered, and we agreed to that.

As to the issue of pay, earlier this autumn the Federation submitted a claim which sought to show that increases of between 78 and 104 per cent. were justified. They compared the position in the pay league which they saw the police holding now with that which the police held following the report of the Royal Commission in 1960. While comparisons of this sort are notoriously difficult to sustain, there can be no doubt that the job of the police has changed in a number of quite significant ways over the years, and this is obviously one of the matters which will be considered by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, and his colleagues. In the circumstances in which we then found ourselves, the Government made an offer to the Federations on the 27th October of an immediate increase in pay of 10 per cent. of earnings, which is in line with pay policy. I agree with my noble friend Lady Phillips, it is not a statutory policy, but it is one which is of high importance so far as the future of every citizen in this country is concerned.

In addition to that, the Government made an offer of an independent wide-ranging inquiry into pay and a number of other matters. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, has agreed to undertake this extended inquiry, and the Government are indeed extremely grateful to him. To deal with a point which was put to me directly by the noble Earl who raised this debate, we hope to announce the names of the other members very soon. I believe, certainly, that the Committee will want to deal with this issue of pay with all possible dispatch, and I believe that we shall receive this report within a matter of months. The Government have told the Federations that they are willing to accept the conclusion of the inquiry on pay; the inquiry certainly will be free to recommend a degree of phasing in the implementation of its recommendations, and the Government will also want to consider this particular point. Certainly my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I welcome the fact that the Police Federations felt able to accept the offer we made to them. It enables us to put aside, I think and hope, the unhelpful atmosphere of the past 15 months and to turn our minds in a constructive way to the future. I am sure that the noble Earl—indeed, I suspect the whole House—will welcome this.

The noble Earl and many others who have spoken in this debate touched on the question of the strength of the police, and I want to deal with this fairly directly. Three years ago—I make this point in no Party sense because, as I have already indicated, I do not believe that these matters are appropriate for the normal small change of political debate—the deficiency on establishment in the police service in this country was 12½ per cent. Now it is slightly over 8 per cent., which is a fairly significant improvement.

Certainly—and I would not in any way want to minimise this problem—there is a significant problem of wastage, particularly of some of the most experienced officers. This is a serious matter. I do not believe that there is a simple explanation for this wastage. Nevertheless, I hope that the settlement of the dispute about pay and the fact that we are now moving into the period of the year when police recruitment is normally rather better will mean that we can overcome this particular problem. I think it right to point out that the number of officers in the force has greatly improved since the situation three years ago. There are now, as I said at the end of the debate last week, around 8,000 more police officers than there were three years ago. This 8,000 includes 1,500 in the Metropolitan Police district. That is not to say that there is not a substantial shortage in the Metropolitan Police. All I am saying is that the position is better than it was three years ago; although I have already indicated that the crime situation is also significantly worse than it was at that time.

A very substantial proportion of the total manpower shortage in the police service is in the major conurbations. A very high proportion of the total shortage is in the Metropolitan District itself. I did not agree with the implications of the suggestion by the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, that there was an overall shortage of policemen. That is not true. In many areas of the country there is not a significant shortage of policemen, though that is the situation in the Metropolitan District.


My Lords, I think that there is perhaps a slight misunderstanding between the noble Lord and myself. I was not implying that there was a general loss all over the place, but that there was a fall in the total for England and Wales.


My Lords, I am obliged. I am glad to see that the noble Earl and I in that case find ourselves on common ground. There are three other forces which are deficient by more than 10 per cent. The City of London is one; Derbyshire is another and the West Midlands is the third. There are significant shortages in a number of other forces; but a number of forces, a quite substantial number, are fairly nearly up to establishment. It is also right to say—notwithstanding that I thought this was perhaps an implication of what the noble Earl said—that over the past year or so establishment increases in a number of forces have been approved by the Government.

I hope that, to some extent, that deals with the general question of recruitment to the service, subject, perhaps, to two particular points which I should like to make. One is that I was not quite clear what the noble Earl was suggesting as far as women were concerned. It is true that a significant number of new recruits are women. He referred to the Sex Discrimination Act. I was not quite clear whether he was suggesting that the Sex Discrimination Act was wrong in this respect. After all, this measure was debated at length in this House and the noble Earl, I think, took part in our deliberations. As far as I can recall, no suggestion was made in this House—and I am speaking off the cuff—that the Sex Discrimination Act should not apply to the police. It does. But it is quite wrong to suggest—and I am hoping that I misunderstood the noble Earl on this point—that women cannot do a very large number of police duties. They do. They render valuable service. I hope very much that nobody would make any suggestion that they are in some way not real police officers because they are women.

I must point out also to the noble Earl that, so far as the particular question of sex discrimination is concerned, the same situation applies in the USA where the level of violence which is offered to the police service is a great deal more serious than in this country and where, again, women take a leading role in the police service. There are obviously a number of duties that men will do better than women; but there are some duties which perhaps sonic women will do better than men. They most certainly fulfil a useful role and I believe that the intellectual qualities of many of the young women coming into the police force at the moment are of a very high order. That is not only my view but that of a substantial number of chief officers of police.


My Lords, obviously I did not make myself clear. In no way was I trying to run down the prowess or qualities of women police but was referring to such things as demonstrations or football matches where perhaps women can be "knocked for six" and cannot knock the assaulter for six in his turn.


My Lords, I am glad to hear that. The noble Earl touched at one stage, as did the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, on the number of civilian employees in the police service. I think this is a not unimportant point. The noble Earl made the point—and he is not the first to have done so—that, despite the substantial increase in the level of crime in the Metropolitan Police area, there has not, over a period of 30, 40 or 50 years, been an accompanying substantial increase in the establishment of the Metropolitan Police. I think I got him right on that. That is broadly true. But there have been a number of other changes in that period. Twenty or 30 years ago, many policemen in London had to fulfil routine clerical jobs of the character that the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, touched on. Let me give the figures. This is not without interest to the House. I am talking about the question of civilian employees in the police force in England and Wales. In 1957, there were 9,970; in 1967, 19,846; in 1976, 34,551, and I am excluding from that traffic wardens who in some cases fulfil some of the duties previously carried out by members of the police service. I say none of this in order to minimise the substantial manpower problem; but it is important to look at this in a balanced way, looking at all factors and not just some of them.

As to resources, the Government have taken steps to shield the police service from restrictions on expenditure which inevitably had to be introduced because of the country's economic circumstances. In fact, there has been no reduction in expenditure on the police service; indeed, additional money has been set aside to enable forces to recruit up to their existing establishment and, as I said, a number of establishments have been raised. We have permitted some of these increases in establishment and now we are already spending over a quarter of a billion pounds more in real terms on law and order services than was the situation three years ago. As my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced recently in another place, another £9 million will be made available for the law and order services next year. This will enable us, among other things, to increase civilian support for the police, to restore substantially the cuts made in the police cadet scheme and to make more provision for police vehicles and equipment. The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, welcomed this and I, too, do so. I think it is important to mention this additional support for the police service in the difficulties with which they are at the moment confronted.

These measures show the high degree of priority the Government attach to the police service and, in addition, the House must not overlook the constant exchange of information, help and support which takes place between the Home Office, including the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Police Service. One example is the work of the Police Scientific Development Branch and the Police Research Services Unit in developing technical equipment for police forces. I think that the considerable advances in command and control computers for the police force over the last few years are the result of this work, as are the very substantial developments so far as the Police National Computer is concerned. Despite all our economic difficulties, we have been pushing on with work in this important field which increases to a very marked degree indeed the operational efficiency of the police service, not only in England and Wales but Scotland too because forces there are linked up to the Police National Computer.

The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, asked a rather interesting question about fraud. This is a matter in which I have taken a personal interest, partly for the reason he indicated. It is a difficult matter and I can speak with authority only for England and Wales. So far as the particular case of Scotland is concerned, I will gladly draw the matter to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and suggest that he acquaints the noble Earl with the situation in Scotland.

There is a training scheme which is organised by the joint squad which exists between the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police. There is a major fraud department and provincial police officers from other police forces have a training course here. They are not accountants, though accountants can be called in if it is wished for particular cases. Broadly speaking, the police at the moment are fairly content with the arrangements that have been made. Certainly they would in no way wish to be complacent about it for the reasons to which the noble Earl drew attention.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, raised a number of questions. He put a point which he had made to me previously on preventive policing. He raised that in the debate last week. I am sorry that I did not deal with it in my reply then. I was trying to answer so many points that it was inevitable I would miss out some. We are giving the highest priority to this matter. I would in no way differ from the noble Lord in the priority he accorded to it. As to the other points he made, I should like to deal with two matters. First of all, I very much welcome what he said about the special course, at Bramshill. This is an important scheme. Broadly speaking, it means that young men who are selected to go on this course—and, as he rightly said, it is on a highly selective basis—assume the rank of sergeant. After the course, some 12 months or so later, they attain the rank of inspector.

It is a matter of high importance that we pick out the very bright, high flying young men. I, like the noble Lord, have had the opportunity of sitting in at the extended interviews and, like him, was impressed by them. Similar interviews take place so far as the Part 2 command course is concerned. This is the level of superintendent or chief superintendent. Candidates attend an extended interview in order to compete for places on what used to be called the senior command course. It is now the Part 2 command course. Essentially these are the people who are likely to be the future leaders of the service. They are likely to become assistant chief constables, deputy chief constables and chief constables. I attach the highest importance so far as the Home Office is concerned to ensuring that we have adequate resources available, in the very difficult situation with which we are dealing, to make sure that we pick out the right men for these highly responsible positions.

The noble Lord contrasted the situation in London with the situation in the Provinces and said this was different so far as the appointment of chief officers was concerned. That is true because the Home Secretary is the police authority for London. He appoints the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, the Deputy Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner. The situation outside London is different. The appointment is made—as the noble Lord rightly said—by the individual police authority. I do not altogether share the noble Lord's anxieties on this particular score. The overwhelming majority of the people who now are appearing as candidates for the rank of assistant chief constable, deputy and chief constable, have already attended the Part 2 command course at Bramshill, which is in itself highly selective. I have had the opportunity of sitting in at these interviews, as I indicated, and I am very satisfied with the quality of people who are coming forward for these interviews.

Secondly, although the appointments are made by the individual police authorities, they are subject to the approval of the Home Secretary in each case. Before that approval is given, a careful process of assessment is gone through which includes the provision of a professional assessment of all the candidates by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary. Here again, there is no justification for being complacent, but I believe that the situation I have described deserves some public confidence so far as the arrangements are concerned.


My Lords, may I ask a short question in explanation? Am I right in supposing that his right honourable friend's appointment of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is on different terms from appointments which are normally made in the Provinces, either for a term of years or an earlier retiring age?


My Lords, given a clear question of that sort, I always speak with some degree of hesitation. My understanding is that generally the terms are the same in the case of the Metropolitan Police as they are in forces outside London. They are not made for an explicit period of years, if that is the suggestion of the noble Lord. They are made, as it were sine die, and there is a reserve power in the Police Act to deal with the situation if the Home Secretary is concerned about the operational efficiency of any police force. He has a clear power so far as this is concerned, which I am delighted to say I do not think he has had to exercise at any stage on any occasion in the past.

I will now conclude, my Lords, having spoken for a formidable amount of time. The noble Earl in the terms of his Question implied that morale in the service is low. I do not find that is so in the frequent visits that I have paid to police forces in England and Wales. I am glad to say that since I have been Minister of State I have had the opportunity of visiting all 43 police forces, talking not only to senior officers but also on occasions to members of the Police Federation branch boards. Of course, there are grave problems and the most substantial difficulties. These are often and quite rightly drawn to my attention. We are not really discussing a situation of a totally demoralised police force. That is not a fair assessment of the situation with which we are confronted at the moment. I do not accept the implication of the Question that the position of the police service could in some ways be higher in the eyes of the community. In spite of all the difficulties which we are facing and have faced, the reputation of the British police service remains substantially higher than any other institution in this country: I think that I can say that without any qualification of any sort. I agree with my noble friend Lady Phillips on this matter. Since I have been Minister of State I have had the opportunity to visit a number of police forces outside this country. Abroad, the reputation of the British police service is high. We are highly respected for the operational efficiency and reputation of our service in this country. We should be proud of that. When one goes abroad it is a pleasure to hear unqualified praise in this respect for the way in which we are running something.


My Lords, when the Question was put down about the morale of the police force, it was before the 10 per cent. pay increase had been agreed. The Question is several weeks old.


I rejoice to hear that. Certainly, I think the professional skill and dedication to duty of the police is one of the most encouraging features of our public life. But, as I indicated at the beginning of my speech, I in no way underestimate the very serious problems we are facing: these include increased crime, increased violence and a formidable addition to the everyday problems of the police force, such as urban terrorism, international terrorism and difficulties as far as the IRA are concerned in the recent past. In addition to that, just to take an example of the last 48 hours, an additional burden has fallen on the police force as a result of the firemen's dispute, and all this has happened at a time when there is a significant rise in the level of crime. As the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, said—I am entirely in agreement with her on this point—the general public is more anxious, and indeed it has every right to be anxious, because, as she said, far more people are now touched by crime. It is right for us to take serious account of this when discussing the problems of the police service. I think I can do no better than repeat the last few words of my speech last week when I said that in the situation I have described I believe that the police force deserve the wholehearted support of both Parliament and the people.