§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lady Tweedsmuir)
I beg to move Amendment No. 45, in page 38, line 6, to leave out "shall" and to insert "to".
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that it might be for the convenience of the House to take at the same time Amendment No. 46, in page 38, line 8, to leave out "before trial".
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
The purpose of the first Amendment is merely grammatical, to fit the wording of Section 4(1,b) of the 1956 Act. It is the second Amendment which is the more important.
I should make clear at once that this Amendment makes no change of substance, but it is intended to remove a misleading implication. The police powers of arrest and detention are strictly limited in time, as the House knows, and the police have no discretion in the matter. A person arrested and detained must be produced to a public prosecutor so that, unless the prosecutor decides that no proceedings ought to be taken, he can be brought before the court—I quote from Section 20(3) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Scotland) Act, 1954—wherever practicable…not later than in the course of the first lawful day after such person shall be taken into custody".That is a strict legal limitation on the duration of police powers of detention. The police comply with it and do not delay in bringing an arrested person to the prosecutor. It is the existing law and there is no need to repeat it here.
The words "detained…before trial" might be read as implying that the police have powers or a discretion affecting an accused person's detention or release right up to the trial diet, whereas, as the House knows, once a public prosecutor comes into the case, police powers in that regard cease. On 810 reconsideration of the provision, the Government consider that, since the powers of the police can have no effect once court proceedings have started, the words "before trial" can have no effect and can only mislead as to the nature and extent of police powers. They, therefore, propose the omission of these words.
As I have said, the Amendment does not alter the substance of this provision to the effect that, so far as they have powers in the matter, the police shall not unreasonably and unnecessarily cause the detention of persons charged with criminal offences.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: in page 38, line 8, leave out "before trial".—[Lady Tweedsmuir]
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I beg to move, Amendment No. 47, in page 38, to leave out lines 9 and 10 and to insert:for subsection (2) there shall be substituted the following subsection—'(2) The performance by a constable of a duty under any other enactment or under any rule of law shall be subject to the direction of the appropriate chief constable.';for subsection (4) there shall be substituted the following subsection—'(4) Any constable of a police force shall have all the powers and privileges of a constable throughout Scotland.';in subsection (6), after the words 'police forces' there shall be inserted the words 'or to collaboration agreements';after subsection (6), there shall be inserted the following subsection—I suggest that it might be convenient, Mr. Speaker, if the House were to consider, at the same time, the consequential Amendment No. 72, in Schedule 9, page 56, line 15.'(7) This section shall be without prejudice to the next following section, and to any other enactment conferring powers on a constable for particular purposes'".
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
The Amendment is designed to give the Scottish constable, in place of his present limited jurisdiction, a general jurisdiction throughout Scotland. There is, however, a saving for the provisions of Section 5 of the 1956 Act which gives limited jurisdiction across the Border to constables of the Border counties of 811 Berwick, Roxburgh, Dumfries, Northumberland and Cumberland in relation to the execution of warrants. There is also a general saving for powers which may be conferred on a constable for particular purposes.
To take the various subsections in the Amendment in sequence, subsection (2) is a consequential Amendment necessitated by reason of the addition of subsection (7) to the Section. To avoid repetition, the saving portion has been moved into subsection (7), and what remains as subsection (2) has been slightly recast.
The main amendment is to subsection (4), which disappears and is replaced by a new subsection conferring a general jurisdiction on all constables throughout Scotland. The proviso to the old subsection (4) is now replaced, as I have said, by the new subsection (7), which also saves the trans-Border provisions of Section 5.
Subsection (6) refers to collaboration agreements and is necessary because these agreements are introduced for the first time in the Bill.
Hon. Members will recall that, on 4th February last, in the debate in the Scottish Standing Committee, the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) referred to the difficulties caused by small police areas particularly in connection with the escorting of oversize vehicles through different police areas. It is hoped that the new provision will go a long way towards easing those difficulties.
The consequential Amendment No. 72 repeals Section 13 of the Prisons (Scotland) Act, 1952. This Section enabled a constable to escort prisoners outside his own police area. Since he will now have jurisdiction throughout Scotland, the Section is no longer required.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
This is an eminently sensible suggestion which the Government make by the two Amendments. It meets points of criticism which we made in the Scottish Standing Committee. It gives us the same sort of general rights in respect of the powers and privileges of constables as have already been obtained for the police in England and Wales, thanks to Amendments put forward in Committee by my hon. Friends. We readily accept the 812 Amendments as a useful addition to the Bill.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Ross
The Amendment which I have moved is, of course, consequential upon the removal of the word "assistant", which would be brought about by Amendment No. 50. Our concern here is to limit the interfering powers of the Secretary of State, a task to which I dedicate myself whenever I have the opportunity.
This is a weird exercise in confusion, and a very successful one, legislating by scheduled Amendments, by reference forward and by reference back. To add to the confusion, this subsection confers upon an assistant chief constable the right to contest his compulsory retiral by the police authority before the police authority has the right to retire him compulsorily.
We have to go to the next page before we find out what this is all about. On page 39 there is a proviso in rather mysterious words:Provided that paragraph (d) of the said subsection (3) and the said subsections (3A) and (3B) shall not apply to a constable below the rank of assistant chief constable unless he holds the appointment of deputy chief constable".This should take us to the Scottish Act of 1956.
But when we look at that Act we find that there is no paragraph (d), and then we realise that paragraph (d) has already been dealt with on page 38. Paragraph (d) says:may, without prejudice to those regulations, be required to retire by the police authority acting with the approval of the Secretary of State where they consider that his retirement is in the interests of efficiency".In other words, by reference back to what we have done in respect of chief constables we find later on that we do it in respect not only of chief constables 813 but deputy and assistant chief con-stables.
Subsection (2) of paragraph (4) gives an assistant chief constable a right to be heard before he is required to retire by the police authority. We should not desire to remove that right from the assistant chief constable, and I hope that the noble Lady will tear up that part of the speech which would destroy this Amendment by saying that.
The real argument arises on the Amendment in page 39, line 41. If we remove the word "assistant", the requirement of retiral by the police authority in the interests of efficiency will not be applicable to assistant chief constables. It may be argued that this request for his retiral can be made only with the approval of the Secretary of State, and we may be criticised, even at this stage of the Bill, for leaving un-touched the same requirement about approval to be given by the Secretary of State in respect of the appointment of an assistant chief constable.
But having allowed that the Secretary of State has the veto on appointments—I have been concerned with this matter under existing powers concerning chief constables—the Secretary of State for Scotland can select a chief constable and, after the passing of this Bill, will be able to select an assistant chief constable as well. That being so, I should have thought that it was unnecessary further to exercise jurisdiction and powers in respect of approvals of retiral of the same person. In other words, we think that the Secretary of State is going far too far in taking unto himself all this power of appointment and approval.
We must face facts in Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland is so busy that he cannot even come to the House of Commons. I do not know whether he is away looking for a new Solicitor-General. I can see that his absence today is probably to do with an address which he may be giving to the Convention of Royal Burghs today. I hope that he is explaining to that body how he is cutting into the powers of police authorities in Scotland in respect of not only appointment, but approvals of compulsory retiral of assistant chief constables.
814 We feel that if the Amendment in page 39, line 41, is accepted it will enable a continuation of the position in respect of assistant chief constables, which has given no trouble. When we remember that the Secretary of State is taking powers concerning approval the chances are, according to him, that we shall get me right man. Therefore, it is less necessary for him to intervene by compelling dismissal or approving the compulsory dismissal by the police authority.
I hope that the Government will have second thoughts about this matter and will realise that they are going unnecessarily far. We have had little or no trouble in his regard. If we limited the powers of the police authority and the Secretary of State concerning compulsory retiral to chief constables and deputy chief constables, we should be doing really well. We do not want the hierarchy of the police looking over their shoulders all the time at the Secretary of State and the police authorities. This is the Government's mistake. They have been interfering far too much, and the nature of the interference is such as to create a condition of uncertainty and a lack of confidence which will not redound to their credit or to the efficiency of the police.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I have once again considered this Amendment very carefully. We had some discussion on this matter during the Committee stage up-stairs. I agreed with the preliminary remarks of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) when he mentioned how very complicated study of this Schedule can be, with the various references back. But it is the price which we had to pay for ensuring that we got this legislation. We have had a Succession Bill, and at that time a Bill dealing with the countryside should have been before the Scottish Standing Committee.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
We are now at the Report stage, so that we have been able to make some progress.
I cannot accept these Amendments. I quite agree that the Amendment in page 39, line 41, is the most important. It would remove the power of a police 815 authority to retire an assistant chief constable in the interests of efficiency, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. The Amendment in page 38, line 45, would be consequential, and I understand that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to remove the safeguards in subsection (2).
The reason that these provisions are in the Bill is that they follow the recommendation of the Royal Commission, which considered that the appointment of assistant chief constable should be in the hands of the police authority, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, in the same way as appointments of chief constables. As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock said, this has been accepted. Therefore, the question now is whether the same consideration should apply to the removal from office of deputy and assistant chief constables as applies to the removal of chief constables
I should have thought that the power to retire in the interests of efficiency would follow logically from the power of appointment. In a force where there are assistant chief constables—that is, a force of some size, namely, over 400—the people at the top carry heavy operational responsibilities, and it is important that they should be fully up to them. If the appointments are made by the police authority, it would seem right that it should also have power to require retirement if it proves that the officer fails in some important respect—for example, through a loss of keenness or competence.
It is right that such officers should not be liable to arbitrary dismissal, and for that reason there are written into the new Section 6A safeguards which ensure that any officers threatened with retirement have an opportunity to state their case to the Secretary of State before he determines whether the authority is justified in seeking his removal.
I must advise the House not to accept these Amendments.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Lady has mentioned logic, which is a dangerous thing to do, particularly on the part of the present Government. Will she justify that logic by the application of a different principle to the compulsory retiral of an assistant chief constable? 816 The hon. Lady knows well that the new Section 6A(1) applies to a chief constable, but not to an assistant chief constable. Why the differential treatment? It is the hon. Lady who is being entirely illogical and we who are logical.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
No. It is the hon. Member who is illogical, because, surely, he would not wish to remove the safeguards in subsection (2).
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
The Under-Secretary has spoken about the interests of efficiency of a police authority which has retired a chief constable. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), the hon. Lady went further and said that the police authority might find the chief constable on his assistant inefficient or, for some reason, not competent to carry out his duties on behalf of the authority. Frankly, the situation goes much further than that.
Does not the hon. Lady agree that retirement in the interests of efficiency could have nothing to do with the competence of the officer concerned? Possibly, because of the amalgamation, for example, of two forces, an officer must go. Whether the chief constable or the assistant, he could be competent or efficient. This provision in the Schedule specifies that the construction which one might place upon such a state of affairs would be that the person concerned was incompetent. That does not necessarily follow. A most competent chief constable or an assistant might be required to go because two forces were being amalgamated. The Under-Secretary does not take cognisance of this important point, which the Scottish Chief Constables' Association has continually made.
What exactly is wrong with the wording of the existing Police (Scotland) Act, 1956, that it is necessary to replace it by this kind of provision? My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock has tried to impress upon the Under-Secretary that the question of police appointments and relations between a chief constable, his assistant and the police authority have proceeded sweetly for some time. Why interrupt that relationship? Is it because there have been some unpleasant experiences in the south of England? Is it these which 817 must upset the arrangements which have operated for eight or nine years in Scotland?
The Under-Secretary should tell us frankly the reason for the change. We have had no trouble. The hon. Lady has been unable to specify one instance of the need for suspension or termination of the services of a Scottish police executive officer, whether a chief constable or an assistant. Why is it necessary at this stage to interfere with the smooth running of the Scottish police forces? This is something which I have tried for some time to elucidate, but the reason is still not forthcoming from the noble Lady, who represents the Scottish Office on the Government Front Bench.
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, who made an effective case indicating that our administration is as near perfect as could be, it would be interesting to be told why there should be a change. It is bad policy to change something which works well. My hon. Friend's argument took this factor into account, as well as the unique experience which we have had north of the Border which, unfortunately, police
§ authorities have never been able to enjoy south of the Border. The noble Lady should be forthcoming on this point, which has been strongly emphasised by the Chief Constables' Association of Scotland.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I beg to move Amendment No. 49, in page 39, line 12, to leave out from beginning to "but" in line 15 and to insert:(4) Where the Secretary of State is satisfied that the whole or any part of the expenses of a chief constable or deputy or assistant chief constable in respect of an inquiry under this section were not reasonably incurred, he may direct the constable to pay those expenses or that part of those expenses, as the case may be, or such proportion of the whole or of that part as he may think fit.This is an Amendment which was discussed with an earlier one on the English part of the Bill.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment No. 50 proposed: In page 39, line 41, leave out "assistant".—[Mr. Ross.]
§ Question put, That "assistant" stand part of the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 175, Noes 151.819
|Division No. 56.]||AYES||[4.17 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Critchley, Julian||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Allason, James||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)|
|Arbuthnot, Sir John||Curran, Charles||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Balniel, Lord||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hendry, Forbes|
|Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Dance, James||Hiley, Joseph|
|Barlow, Sir John||d' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Barter, John||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Batsford, Brian||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Holland, Philip|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Doughty, Charles||Hornby, R. P.|
|Biffen, John||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Alec||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Duncan, Sir James||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John|
|Bingham, R. M.||Duthie, Sir William (Banff)||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Bishop, Sir Patrick||Eden, Sir John||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Elliott, R. W.(Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||James, David|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Emery, Peter||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Braine, Bernard||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Brewis, John||Ernoll, Rt. Hon, F. J.||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. Sir Walter||Finlay, Graeme||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)[...]||Fisher, Nigel||Kitson, Timothy|
|Bullard, Denys||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Freeth, Denzil||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Chataway, Christopher||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Gammans, Lady||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Glover, Sir Douglas||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Goodhew, Victor||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Gough, Frederick||Longbottom, Charles|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Gower, Raymond||Longden, Gilbert|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Grant-Ferris, R.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Corfield, F. V.||Gresham Cooke, R.||McLaren, Martin|
|Coulson, Michael||Gurden, Harold||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy(Bute & N. Ayrs)|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Maitland, Sir John|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Marshall, Sir Douglas||Pounder, Rafton||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Mathew, Robert (Honlton)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Prior, J. M. L.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Mawby, Ray||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Pym, Francis||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr, S. L. C.||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Mills, Stratton||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Redrnayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Turner, Colin|
|Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr)||Risdale, Julian||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Rlppon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Roots, William||Walker, Peter|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Russell, Sir Ronald||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Scott-Hopkins, James||Webster, David|
|Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Shaw, M.||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Skeet, T. H. H.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Stanley, Hon. Richard||Wise, A. R.|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Stevens, Geoffrey||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Partridge, E.||Stodart, J. A.||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Peyton, John||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Studholme, Sir Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Peel and Mr. MacArthur.|
|Ainsley, William||Hannan, William||Oram, A. E.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Harper, Joseph||Padley, W. E.|
|Baoon, Miss Alice||Hayman, F. H.||Paget, R. T.|
|Barnett, Guy||Healey, Denis||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur(Rwly Regis)||Parker, John|
|Benn, Anthony Wedgwood||Holman, Percy||Parkin, B. T.|
|Benson, Sir George||Houghton, Douglas||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Blackburn, F.||Howie, W.||Peart, Frederick|
|Blyton, William||Hoy, James H.||Pentland, Norman|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Randall, Harry|
|Bowles, Frank||Hunter, A. E.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Bradley, Tom||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Reid, William|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Rhodes, H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Callaghan, James||Janner, Sir Barnett||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Ross, William|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Kelley, Richard||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Crosland, Anthony||Kenyon., Clifford||Short, Edward|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Silkin, John|
|Dalyell, Tam||King, Dr. Horace||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Darling, George||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Small, William|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lipton, Marcus||Snow, Julian|
|Dempsey, James||Loughlin, Charles||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Doig, Peter||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Driberg, Tom||McCann, J.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Duffy, A. E. P. (Coine Valley)||MacColl, James||Steele, Thomas|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||MacDermot, Niall||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McInnes, James||Stones, William|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Stross, Sir Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Symonds, J. B.|
|Evans, Albert||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Tomney, Frank|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Manuel, Archie||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mapp, Charles||Weitzman, David|
|Forman, J. C.||Marsh, Richard||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mason, Roy||Whitlock, William|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mellish, R. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Ginsburg, David||Mendelson, J. J.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Millan, Bruce||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Gourlay, Harry||Monslow, Walter||Woof, Robert|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Moody, A. S.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Mulley, Frederick||Mr. G. H. R. Rogers and|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Oliver, G. H.||Mr. Lawson.|
|Hamilton, William (West Flfe)||O'Malley, B. K.|
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I beg to move Amendment No. 53, in page 42, line 23, at the end to insert:10. In section 12, in paragraph (b) of subsection (2), after the words "police forces" there shall be inserted the words "or to collaboration agreements", and in paragraph (c) the words "other than a constable" shall be omitted.These alterations are consequential. That to Section 12(2,b) follows on the new section 16A in paragraph 11 of Schedule 6, and that to paragraph (c) follows on the Amendment we have just made to Section 4(4) of the 1956 Act giving a constable jurisdiction throughout Scotland.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I beg to move Amendment No. 54, in page 43, line 11, at the end to insert:12 In section 23, for subsection (1) there shall be substituted the following subsection:—The effect of this Amendment is that where a police officer originally belonging to a force effected by an amalgamation scheme is away from his home force on central service or with an overseas corps, any right of reversion he has to his home force will become a right of reversion to the new, combined, force unless the amalgamation scheme provides otherwise. The same provision was made in the Section of the 1956 Act that is to be replaced, except that it was restricted to officers on overseas service and there was no provision for any exception in terms of the amalgamation scheme.(1) Where, immediately before the date when an amalgamation scheme comes into operation, either—
applied to any person as having been a member of a transferred force, that section shall, unless the amalgamation scheme otherwise provides, apply to him in relation to any period after the said date as if for any reference to the police force to which be was entitled to revert there were substituted a reference to the new force, and references in that section to the appropriate authority shall be construed accordingly".
- (a) section 29B (1) (a) of this Act, or
- (b) section 2 of the Police (Overseas Service) Act 1945,
Under the new section 29B(1) an officer engaged on central service will no longer be treated as a member of his original force, and so will not be transferred automatically to the new force, 822 but will have the same right of reversion to his home force as a member of an overseas corps. It is, therefore, necessary to mike similar provision for his return to the combined force after completion of central service if the home force has on the meantime been caught up in an amalgamation.
The reference to the Police and Firemen (War Service) Act, 1939, in the existing Section 23(1), is no longer necessary, since the appropriate provisions of that Act became spent soon after the Police and Firemen (War Service) Acts (End of Emergency) Order, 1947, declared the end of the emergency as 31st December, 1946.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Ross
I beg to move Amendment No. 55, in page 44, line 7, after "authority" to insert:shall satisfy itself that the chief constable has laid down a regular procedure for recording and investigating complaints by members of the public a feeling the conduct and efficiency of the police force and every police authority".The new wording to be imported as Section 23B is:… Every police authority and inspectors of constabulary shall keep themselves informed as to the manner in which complaints made by members of the public against members of a police force are dealt with by the chief constable.Quite frankly, I do not know what effective action arises from this provision. If ever there was a pious piece of prose, this is it. It begs all the questions that have been raised by incidents in Scotland and elsewhere where the public have felt that their complaints have not been properly investigated by the police. Here we have the Government trying to satisfy the people of Scotland by a statement that the police authority shall inform itself how these things are dealt with.
I do not think that these words are even necessary, because police authorities in Scotland at the moment have the right to ask a chief constable to report to them on any matter concerned with the policing of their area. Indeed, I would suggest that investigation of a complaint would be a relevant matter on which they could call for a report. What is required to allay the public 823 and to give a certain measure of protection to the police themselves is that there should be a regular procedure for recording complaints and investigating them, and part of the follow-up of recording would be the recording of the findings of such an investigation. Only in this way will we be able to allay adequately public feeling that there is a tendency for the public to be pushed off with statements made by a chief constable.
I cannot see how the Government can possible refuse to accept the Amendment. It does not lay down a national procedure, because by the nature of things this would be a matter for each local area to ensure that there is a procedure in that area. I would hope that the public would be informed exactly how to go about making a complaint and how complaints would be dealt with. If the noble Lady will look at the Government's words in the Clause I am sure that she will agree that there is in it some measure of allaying public concern, but without meeting or removing the reasons for the concern.
It would be far better from the point of view of both the police and the public to ensure that the Bill contains words which will enable the public to know how their complaints will be dealt with and to know that it will be open to anyone, and particularly to the police authority, to ensure that the regular procedures are carried out.
If the words of the Amendment are inserted, they will give some substance to the words which are already in the Clause, because then all that the police authority will have to do will be to inspect the records which by Statute we have said must be kept and, having done that, the authority will be able to carry out the responsibilities which the Government have placed upon it to keep itself informed about the way complaints are dealt with. The Clause otherwise will be merely a piece of pious generalisation.
As the Clause stands, the public are left to ask how complaints are made and what happens after they have been made, because inspectors of constabulary have no relationship to the police authority or the police force apart from the duty of inspecting and reporting back to the Secretary of State. The right hon. 824 Gentleman, in turn, has no powers over the police authority, apart from the power which he has now taken to compel the compulsory retiral of a chief constable.
It would be far better for Parliament, rather than to jump all these serious hurdles, to insist that there shall be regular procedures for dealing with and investigating complaints. I hope that the noble Lady will not say that this is not necessary. I assure her that in the matter of public feeling it certainly is necessary. It was found so necessary in England and Wales that a firm Clause 49 was inserted in the Bill. This gave rise to considerable discussion in Standing Committee and the noble Lady will see from that Clause how important this matter was felt to be in England and Wales.
We do not want to go quite so far in Scotland, but we raised the matter in Committee and we felt that the sympathy of the Committee was with us in the suggestion that we made at that time. The words of the Amendment could be inserted without causing offence to anyone or giving rise to any feeling that we do not exactly trust the police force or the chief constable.
It is reasonable from the point of view of the protection of the police themselves that there should be a regular procedure for them to follow. They will be doing their duty and it will be easy for the police authority to carry out the instructions which have been laid down for it in the new Clause by inspecting these procedures if and when the authority feels called upon to do so.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has recalled, we had a considerable discussion in Committee of the recording and investigation of complaints. I certainly recognise that this is one of the matters which most interest the general public, but I must advise the House to reject the Amendments, for reasons which I should now like to give.
Under the new section 11 (2,e) of the Police (Scotland) Act, 1956, on page 41 of the Bill, the Secretary of State will continue to have power to make regulations about discipline, and a committee of the Scottish Police Council is already considering how the existing regulations should be revised. The revised regulations will be laid before Parliament and 825 it seems clear that they must be the same throughout the country. I suggest that although the Amendment appears at first sight to be very reasonable, it might have the effect that an individual police authority would encourage its chief constable to lay down a special local procedure which might differ from a national standard.
As everyone knows, where there is an allegation that a police officer has committed a criminal offence this is reported to the procurator fiscal and he, and not the chief constable, carries out the investigation according to his own procedure. There is also a third category of complaints which suggest neither a disciplinary nor a criminal offence. The procedure for handling these will also be laid down centrally by the Secretary of State. I do not think that it is necessary or desirable to accept the Amendment merely to ensure that these lesser complaints are recorded and investigated.
At present, the Bill provides merely that every police authority "shall keep themselves informed" about the manner in which complaints are dealt with by the chief constable. The Amendment would oblige the authority to "satisfy itself" about the procedure. I have no quarrel with the word "satisfy", but I think that "keep themselves informed" is perfectly adequate. If the authority is dissatisfied it can unquestionably put its suggestion to the chief constable, and if it is seriously dissatisfied it can require him to retire.
§ Mr. Dempsey
This is one of the weakest arguments I have ever heard in the Chamber. The noble Lady obviously has not studied the purpose of the Amendment with the earnestness that it deserves. The Amendment is concerned with complaints by the public and not complaints against police officers by the authority because of some criminal offence that he or she may have committed. The Amendment is designed to gain the confidence of the general public. It is not intended to encourage the public to make complaints. It is intended to provide some medium whereby members of the public who are aggrieved can express their feelings through the proper channels. The pious generalisation in the Clause, which was 826 so ably expounded by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), begs the whole question.
If the noble Lady will think of a police authority, especially in a county where there are several divisions and a chief constable and a superintendent, she will appreciate that there can be all sorts of methods, procedures, and organisations for dealing with complaints. Some counties may have very little in the way or organisation for this purpose. I had occasion not so long ago to complain to a police authority. It was not a Lanarkshire police authority, but I was compelled to complain because of the treatment of an apprehended person.
I was given information on the telephone about what was happening, and I conveyed it to the relatives of the apprehended person. Two days later we discovered we had wrong information entirely. When I complained to the chief constable about having been misled, there was not a single record of the telephone conversation of the complaints I had lodged or of the information which I had got. There was not a single record in that police office. It had never been recorded. There was no means of recording it. This seemed to me to be very unsatisfactory.
I recall it now as an illustration of what happens now and to indicate that there is a definite necessity for having some regular means of dealing with complaints by members of the general public. At least, the Amendment sets out some principles by which we could have a complaints machinery established which would operate in every police office in the area of the police authority. It is nothing other than good business to have in the administration a methodical organisation which can deal with problems raised by the general public and satisfy the police authority—or the Members of Parliament for the area—that the police administration is in sound running order.
I was very surprised to hear the noble Lady tell us that there was some difficulty about looking into this. The police are divided, in many respects, on this issue, and I do not think we should find many senior officers of the Scottish police who follow a general pattern for dealing with this problem. They all have individual ideas about it; they 827 all employ separate initiatives in dealing with this aspect of police administration. That is why, if we were to lay down some general principles and say to the chief constables that they should be responsible for having such an administration, then, of course, we could have some means whereby the members of the public could be satisfied when their complaints are lodged.
I know one authority which has a system of this nature. It works perfectly. There is no reason why that perfection should not be extended to other police authorities. This is not a question of political controversy, nor one affecting the rise and fall of the Government. It is a matter of common sense to have a system whereby the citizen, the ratepayer and the taxpayer, in lodging a complaint, can be satisfied that it is recorded, investigated, and, of course, answered by the chief officer of the police concerned. That is all the Amendment seeks to do.
The noble Lady goes on to tell us that the Secretary of State has powers and can introduce regulations. That is the trouble with the Secretary of State for Scotland. We could spare the Secretary of State a lot of time in introducing regulations if we made this Amendment to the Bill, because it would specify the means whereby complaints by members of the general public could be recorded and dealt with by senior officers of the police themselves. I am at a loss to understand why the noble Lady could not accept the Amendment because whatever advice the police may be able to give and whatever regulations the Secretary of State may be inclined to adopt, it is a set of general principles which the Amendment seeks to include in the Bill. It asks only that we have an administrative system whereby complaints can be dealt with.
We do have a few complaints—I regret to say that—about the police. One consolation, of course, is that they are not always well founded, but we still have some legitimate complaints, because our police, like other sections of the community, are human, and of course, being human, they are inclined to err. It would satisfy the general public and the public representatives if 828 there were some means whereby aggrieved individuals could air their feelings, their convictions in some cases, and have them cleared up, and that would be to the benefit of the public and the police alike.
It is for that reason that the Amendment is very sound sense, because it seeks to say that the chief constable shall do this in the interests of the efficiency of the police force and in the interests of the efficiency of the authority concerned. I should like to hear the noble lady say in what way this set of general principles can conflict with any regulations the Secretary of State might make or any advice which, for instance, the Police Council can give. We have police federations in Scotland; we have the Chief Constables Association in Scotland. They have from time to time discussed matters of this nature. The noble Lady will be aware of them. I cannot visualise any single chief constable or police authority taking exception to the Amendment my hon. Friend has so ably moved from the Dispatch Box.
I ask the hon. Lady, therefore, surely this is not so far-reaching an Amendment that it could not be accepted in its intent? Surely it would not create any disagreeable repercussions for the Bill or for the policing of Scotland in general to embrace at least the intentions of the Amendment? I have quite a bit of experience of meeting members of the public and arranging interviews with chief constables and with superintendents. I have done this repeatedly, and I find that if we have mechanics of this nature they do lead to the elimination of all misunderstanding and to the building up of confidence by the general public in the efficiency and impartiality of the police forces in Scotland.
The Amendment is aimed at promoting that kind of understanding, and I feel that the noble Lady should accept it.
§ Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)
If I may intervene for a moment, merely as an Englishwoman, I should like to put one or two points to the noble Lady. If she were to accept the Amendment, even so the position in Scotland would not then be as satisfactory as this Bill makes the position in England and 829 Wales. I cannot see why it is impossible to do for Scotland what this Bill does for England and Wales.
The new Section 23B which the Amendment seeks to amend contains words which are almost identical with the words of Clause 50, which says thatEvery police authority in carrying out their duty…shall keep themselves informed as to the manner in which complaints from members of the public against members of the force are dealt with by the chief officer of police.Those words are a follow-up of Clause 49(1).
Clause 49(1) says:Where the chief officer of police for any police area receives a complaint from a member of the public against a member of the police force for that area he shall (unless the complaint alleges an offence with which the member of the police force has then been charged) forthwith record the complaint and cause it to be investigated…".This is very much stronger than the position will be in Scotland, even if the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is accepted.
I was rather surprised to hear the noble Lady say that one of the reasons why she could not accept the Amendment was that the Secretary of State for Scotland intended to revise the disciplinary regulations. In the Standing Committee which dealt with the English and Welsh parts of the Bill we were told by the Secretary of State for the Home Department that he, the Home Secretary, also intended to revise the disciplinary regulations for England and Wales, but the fact that the English and Welsh disciplinary regulations are to be revised does not make it impossible for us in England and Wales to have Clause 49(1). It seems to me that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock is being very modest in putting forward this Amendment, because, as I say, even if we accept it, the position would then, in the case of complaints against the police in Scotland, not be as satisfactory as the English and Welsh position is under Clause 49.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
It seems to me that the kind of answer that the noble Lady is likely to give to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) is that we in 830 Scotland do not need the changes that are being made in England and Wales because the situation is so much more satisfactory in Scotland. This is the kind of argument that has already been advanced, and I have no doubt that the kind of argument that will continue to be advanced. I find it very difficult to believe that this is so.
I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) saying that he had actually lodged a complaint, or had sought to lodge a complaint, by telephone, concerning the police, and that, subsequently, it was found that no record taken of the complaint was being made. I presume that my hon. Friend when he raised this question, or sought to do so, said who he was. If, when a Member of Parliament lodges a complaint, a situation can arise where no record is taken of that complaint, what will be the situation that we can expect when a member of the public, in the normal sense, lodges a complaint?
Can the noble Lady tell us whether this was a freak or unique occasion? Can she tell us that there is already established in Scotland, and working in Scotland, means whereby any such complaint lodged is recorded? Can she describe to us the machinery for such recording? If so, can she explain why it is that other Members of Parliament, who have had difficulties in this matter, have found that it was often exceedingly difficult to establish what had happened in the past? If records had been taken, there would have been no difficulty in establishing certain questions or giving answers to certain questions that they may have raised.
I am sure that all of us have found on occasion that if some time has elapsed, a month or two, and then the question is probed and there is no record, the whole matter has to be started from the beginning, from the ground up wards as it were. It seems that the only justification for the hon. Lady's argument—and I repeat "only"—is if she can assure us that the machinery in Scotland is already adequate for doing under the Bill what it does as it applies to England and Wales. From my own experience, and knowledge arising out of discussions with my hon. Friends, I find it very difficult to believe 831 that this is so. I shall expect the hon. Lady to explain this to me.
There is another point. If there is something that might partake of a criminal nature and there is an allegation against the police that there has been some criminal offence, the hon. Lady has already told us, and we were told in Committee by the former Solicitor-General for Scotland, that the established machinery was that such complaint always went to the procurator fiscal and it was for him to act on it. I raised at that time doubts whether this always happened. I put forward the view that in many cases the chief constable himself might judge whether this was a criminal case and whether it should be reported to the procurator fiscal.
I said then, and I repeat it to the noble Lady, that, with respect to what the Solicitor-General had to say on that occasion as to this machinery being the established machinery, operating without exception, I knew of one particular exception, although I am not giving the details. When this was said to Scottish Members of Parliament, I think that I am correct in saying that my hon. Friends were surprised at this information.
Certainly, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), who, only a short time before, had discussed with me certain difficulties that he had had with complaints of this sort, expressed his surprise that this was supposed to be the established means whereby such complaints were dealt with.
If there was any reason for surprise by Scottish Members at the machinery being there and their knowing nothing about it, it seems to me that one can suspect that this machinery had not been functioning adequately in all cases, and that we ought to be able to have this explained to us adequately and be shown where it is in fact functioning. We might, for example, have evidence from a police report that complaints had come up and had been dealt with in a certain way. Is this a regular feature of police reports being discussed always by the police authority? This is the kind of thing that we ought to be assured about.
As far as my experience takes me—and I am not saying that the police forces of which I have any knowledge 832 are worse than any other police forces; in many cases they are probably substantially better—I put it to the noble Lady that there is great doubt about the efficacy of such machinery, so the very fact that many of us have not been aware of it being in existence must be taken as evidence that something has been wrong.
I think that most of us, not frequently but upon occasions, have had difficulties concerning our constituents who have been confronted with this type of stumbling block and who have found it exceedingly difficult to have matters probed adequately so that they can be satisfied that justice was being done.
It is not in our own interest that there is a strong suspicion about the police force. We do not wish to see this. We wish to see the police forces very highly respected, and I am sure that I speak for all my hon. Friends in saying this. But there exists a suspicion, and the very fact that we have this Bill, which applies to England and Wales, with this bit added for Scotland, is evidence of this suspicion.
I repeat that the police are no worse in Scotland than in England and Wales in this respect, but if it is necessary to provide machinery, machinery that can be easily understood, to operate in England and Wales, we ought to be assured, not merely on the word of the noble Lady but on the basis of adequate evidence, that like machinery is not necessary for Scotland.
Finally, on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East, it seems to me that the second leg of the argument of the noble Lady is that it is unnecessary to accept this Amendment because of the examination into the discipline of the police force with a view to putting forward regulations which shall apply over the whole country. It seems to me that if this does not make it unnecessary for specific procedure to be laid down locally in terms of how complaints shall be recorded and investigated in England and Wales, it should certainly not make it unnecessary in Scotland. If this does not make nonsense of local recording methods in England and Wales, then it should not make nonsense of such practice in Scotland. This is a very weak argument.
833 We wish to see adequate machinery by means of which the public can be assured that if they have a complaint it will be recorded without fail in all instances and that if it warrants it, it will be investigated, and that if somebody does not think it warrants investigation the record of the complaint will nevertheless exist and can be referred back to so that we can find out why it was not investigated at the proper time. If the noble Lady tells us that the Amendment is unnecessary, she will have to do much more in explaining the practices which make it unnecessary.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I hope the noble Lady is seized of the importance that we attach to the Amendment. The genesis of the Bill, in part at least, was the deteriorating relationships between the police and the public. Therefore, any part of the Bill dealing with these relationships ought to be treated as important and considered in detail by the House.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) will not be satisfied with even the most complete assurances by the noble Lady about current practice. Assurances in this House are not enough. They are not enough even with regard to England.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) referred to Clause 49, which states that the chief officer of police:shall forthwith record the complaint and cause it to be investigated…and shall…request the chief officer of police for any other police area to provide an officer of the police force for that area to carry out the investigation.All that is stated in specific terms, I can see no reason why there should not be a similar definition in the Scottish Schedule.
The words that we seek to amend suggest that a complaint will be investigated after the event by the police authority. It suggests that the police authority will keep itself informed about the manner in which complaints made by members of the public shall be dealt with. In other words, a complaint might be made by a member of the public, and it might or it might not be recorded by the chief constable; at any rate, it is only afterwards that 834 the police authority will be able to assess whether or not the complaint has been dealt with satisfactorily.
If the Amendment is accepted, there will be a definite yardstick to which the police authority will be able to refer before a complaint is made and after it is made, and it will then be able to judge with some measure of accuracy whether or not the chief constable has conformed to a practice which is laid down in law. It is much more desirable that that should happen, as it will in England, when Clause 49 comes into operation. Unless this specific provision is incorporated in respect of Scotland, we shall have trouble of the kind referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) when he spoke of the complaint that he made to a police force.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
Perhaps I may speak again by leave of the House to reply to the points that have been made.
First, the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) mentioned an occasion when he made a complaint by telephone and no record was kept. There is a subsequent Amendment on the Notice Paper which suggests that the complaint should be in writing and should not be accepted over the telephone. I cannot reply to the hon. Gentleman about a particular case, but I would certainly try to investigate the case if he would like, even at this late hour, to give me details.
§ Mr. Dempsey
Perhaps I might just mention that the matter has been investigated through the courtesy of the chief constable, who has established that no record was taken, but I am happy to say that he believed me implicitly when I said I had made a complaint.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
Perhaps it will ensure that a record is kept in future.
The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) referred to Clause 49(1) and asked why Scotland was not following the procedure in the English part of the Bill. I cannot resist saying that she will have noticed that generally in police matters Scotland has been far ahead of England and Wales, if I may be allowed to introduce a little matter of nationality into the debate. I 835 suppose that we probably could have accepted the substance of Clause 49(1) for Scotland, for it seems in a way perfectly harmless, except that one would have had to make different arrangements in Scotland because of the different arrangements with the Procurator-Fiscal.
The hon. Members for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) and Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) asked what the practice is north of the Border. We are talking about three types of complaint here. There are complaints of a disciplinary character, those which may involve offences of a criminal character, and those which affect matters of much lesser importance. Procedure exists in Scotland to deal with the first two categories. Every report or allegation about discipline has to be recorded. That appears in Regulation 16 of the Police Discipline (Scotland) Regulations, 1952.
There is also the arrangement which was referred to in paragraph 437 of the Royal Commission's Report whereby any complaint alleging a criminal offence is referred to the procurator-fiscal, who will himself take charge of the investigation. The hon. Member for Motherwell queried whether this was uniformly the case. From inquiries that I have made, I am not aware that this is not universally the case. Naturally, I have not inquired personally of 'every authority, but I am assured by the chief constable in my part of the country that this is always the case.
§ Mr. Lawson
The noble Lady will have regular access to the reports from the chief constables of all the authorities, and I think she will agree that if the practice were regularly carried out it would regularly appear in those reports. Can she tell me, if not now, soon, whether or not there is evidence that this is being regularly done and reported on in the annual reports of chief constables?
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
To give the hon. Member an absolutely accurate reply I should like a little notice, but, on the converse side of it, I am not aware of any complaints in this respect.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I cannot give way at the moment.
I now come to the third category, the one with which we are really dealing. I accept that there is at present no administrative or statutory requirement in Scotland that all complaints by members of the public against the police should be recorded. I also naturally accept that the Royal Commission recommended that regulations should provide that every complaint, however trivial and from whatever source, should be recorded in a complaints book. While this has been accepted in principle in Scotland, it has not been thought necessary so far to make specific provision in the Bill. This is because, as I have already told the House, a committee of the Scottish Police Council is inquiring into the whole question of disciplinary procedure and the handling of complaints.
Therefore, although we could possibly have accepted the Amendment in order to put it in a statutory form, we felt that the more reasonable way to approach this problem was to await the result of the consultations now taking place. Any Amendments which prove necessary can be carried out by means of regulations.
It is true that the Royal Commission made a recommendation on these lines, and that is exactly why we have seen to it that the subject is now being investigated by the Police Council. What the Bill does for Scotland is to make a new provision—Clause 23(b)—for police authorities and inspectors of constabulary to keep themselves informed as to the manner in which complaints against the police are dealt with by the chief constables. This should ensure that complaints are satisfactorily dealt with.
If a chief constable fails to deal with complaints satisfactorily, it will be possible, in using Parliamentary language, I will not say to sack him, but to ask for his retirement in due course. We must get clear in our minds the category of complaints with which we are dealing. They are the third and perhaps the less serious types. I cannot forecast in detail what the Police Council will recommend, but I expect that the existing procedure, modified by the provisions of this Bill, and, no 837 doubt, by improvements which the Council will recommend, will make reasonable and proper provision for ensuring that complaints against the police are effectively handled.
I accept what the hon. Member for Fife, West said—that we want what he called a yardstick of procedure which will also ensure that confidence is retained between the police and the public. While the point of the Bill is to try to ensure the efficient discharge by the police of their very difficult functions, I join those hon. Members who have paid tribute to the work of the police throughout Scotland.
§ Mr. Millan
I am sorry to prolong this discussion, but the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary of State would not give way when I wanted to refer to the matter. She said that investigation with regard to criminal offences was by the procurator-fiscal. Is that correct? Surely the investigation is by the chief constable and the
§ papers are sent to the procurator-fiscal who decides whether or not a prosecution should be made. That is quite a different thing from what she said.
§ There is everything to be said for laying down some regular procedure as to the way in which chief constables regard complaints of this kind and carry out investigations. The procurator-fiscal's decision depends on information passed to him by the chief constable, since he himself does not go into the facts, having neither the staff nor the facilities. Indeed it is not part of his duty to do so.
§ I find the hon. Lady's attitude most extraordinary. This is a very simple Amendment and everyone agrees that its purpose is desirable. It is lamentable that the Government should fail to accept it.
§ Question put, That those words he there inserted in the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 164, Noes 191.839
|Division No. 57.]||AYES||[5.14 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||McBride, N.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vate)||McCann, John|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Forman, J. C.||MacColl, James|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mclnnes, James|
|Barnett, Guy||Galpern, Sir Myer||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Ginsburg, David||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Been, Anthony Wedgwood||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Gourlay, Harry||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Benson, Sir George||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Manuel, Archie|
|Blackburn, F.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mapp, Charles|
|Blyton, William||Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Marsh, Richard|
|Boardman, H.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mason, Roy|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Bowles, Frank||Hannan, William||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Bradley, Tom||Harper, Joseph||Millan, Bruce|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hayman, F. H.||Monslow, Walter|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Healey, Denis||Moody, A. S.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Mulley, Frederick|
|Callaghan, James||Holman, Percy||Oliver, C. H.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Houghton, Douglas||O'Malley, B. K.|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Howie, W.||Oram, A. E.|
|Cliffe, Michael||Hoy, James H.||Padley, W. E,|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hunter, A. E.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Parker, John|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Dalyell, Tam||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Darling, George||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Peart, Frederick|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Pentland, Nerman|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Prentice, R. E.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Dempsey, James||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Randall, Harry|
|Diamond, John||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Rankin, John|
|Dodds, Norman||Kelley, Richard||Redhead, E. C.|
|Doig, Peter||Kenyon, Clifford||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Driberg, Tom||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Reid, William|
|Duffy, A. E. P. (Coine Valley)||King, Dr. Horace||Rhodes, H.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lipton, Marcus||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Loughlin, Charles||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Evans, Albert||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Ross, William|
|Fernyhough, E.||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Steele, Thomas||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Silkin, John||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Whitlock, William|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Stones, William||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Skeffington, Arthur||Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Swain, Thomas||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Symonds, J. B.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Small, William||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Snow, Julian||Tomney, Frank||Woof, Robert|
|Soreneen, R. W.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Watkins, Tudor||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Weitzman, David||Mr. G. H. R. Rogers and|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Goodhew, Victor||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Aliason, James||Gower, Raymond||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)|
|Arbuthnot, Sir John||Grant-Ferris, R.||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Balniet, Lord||Green, Alan||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Gresham Cooke, R.||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Gurden, Harold||Partridge, E.|
|Barter, John||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Batsford, Brian||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Peel, John|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Peyton, John|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Biffen, John||Harvey, John (Waithamstow, E.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hastings, Stephen||Pitman, Sir James|
|Bingham, R. M.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Hendry, Forbes||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bishop, Sir Patrck||Hitey, Joseph||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Brewis, John||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin||Pym, Francis|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Holland, Philip||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hornby, R. P.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter|
|Bryan, Paul||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Redmayne, Rt. Hen. Martin|
|Bullard, Derrys||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hughes Hailett, Vice-Admiral John||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)||Hughes-Young, Michael||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Chataway, Christopher||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||James, David||Seymour, Leslie|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Jennings, J. C.||Shaw, M.|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (portsmth, W.)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John|
|Cooke, Robert||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Cooper, A. E.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Cordle, John||Kitson, Timothy||Stodart, J. A.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Stoddart-Scott, Col, Sir Malcolm|
|Coulson, Michael||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Critohley, Julian||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Litchfield, Capt. John||Taylor, Edwin (Belton, E.)|
|Curran, Charles||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Longbottom, Charles||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Dance, James||Longden, Gilbert||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|d'Avlgdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||MacArthur, Ian||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Doughty, Charles||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Alec||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maginnis, John E.||Turner, Colin|
|Duncan, Sir James||Maitland, Sir John||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Duthie, Sir William (Banff)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Eden, Sir John||Marshall, Sir Douglas||Walker, Peter|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Mathew, Robert (Honlton)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Elliott, R. W. (Newc'le-upon-Tyne, N.)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)||Webster, David|
|Enroll, Rt. Hen. F. J.||Mawby, Ray||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Farr, John||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Fell, Anthony||Maydon, Lt. Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Mills, Stratton||Wise, A. R.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Montgomery, Fergus||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Freeth, Denzil||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Neave, Airey|
|Gammans, Lady||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Mr. McLaren and Mr. Ian Fraser.|
|Gyln, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie|
§ Sir Myer Galpern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I beg to move Amendment No. 56, in page 44, line 11, at the end to insert:
§ Method of making and dealing with Complaints
23c.—(1) A police authority shall take notice of a complaint against members of a police force only if the complaint had been made in writing to the Chief Constable, in the manner prescribed by the following subsection:—
(2) The Secretary of State shall prescribe a form on which complaints against members of a police force shall be made, and he shall prescribe a uniform procedure to be used in defiling with complaints".
§ During the course of the afternoon, the noble Lady has constantly referred to Clause 23B and, while elaborating on its contents, has said that she would welcome a national standard of registering complaints in the circumstances mentioned. However, Clause 23B does not in the least achieve a national standard, for it is open to any police authority to make arrangements for dealing with complaints in any way it chooses and it is open to the inspectors merely to inspect the manner in which complaints are recorded.
§ My hon. Friend the Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) has already highlighted one of the weaknesses of the present system. He spoke of telephoning a complaint against a constable and then having a dispute about whether the complaint had been received. In his case, presumably because he was a Member of Parliament, the chief constable concerned was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and to accept his statement that the complaint had been made by telephone.
§ One-third of the complaints against police come from irate motorists who in some way have transgressed the motoring law and who are so incensed by the action of the constable who has "booked" them that they rush to the nearest telephone kiosk to make a complaint. Could not similar disputes arise as to whether such a complaint had been received? Similarly, an individual may make a complaint against a policeman on the beat who may say, "If that is the way you feel, I will report it", and may then not do so. Again there will be a dispute about whether the complaint had been made.842
§ In order to obviate these difficulties, chief constables would welcome an entirely new set-up such as that suggested in my Amendment. When a complaint is made by a member of the public against a member of the police force, the complainant should first realise the seriousness of the action he is taking. All too often when there are newspaper reports of a case against a policeman there is a rash of complaints from people who have been encouraged by what they have read to make their own complaints. One complaint against the police force often begets 100 more in a short time. The possible serious consequences for the individual complained of should be clearly explained to the member of the public making the complaint, who should be able to think it over and decide whether it is just and reasonable.
§ The complaint should not be made by telephone. Is there any commercial or industrial undertaking which would listen to a complaint against one of its own officers made by someone speaking from a telephone kiosk? Would not the immediate reply be that the complaint should be made in person or in writing? The policeman has to be protected as much as Life member of the public, for the serving policeman in the discharge of his duties may do something which is not well liked by that member of the public. Before any complaint is even considered, it should be made in writing.
It may be argued that the ordinary man is not too well schooled in these matters and may not know how to go about it. The Royal Commission dealt with that when in paragraph 451 it said:
It is not to be expected that most people who wish to complain about the conduct of a police officer will be familiar with the way in which their complaint is dealt with. Ignorance is all too likely to beget suspicion, and we recommend that a standard explanatory leaflet be brought into use throughout the police service containing brief notes on the procedure adopted for dealing with complaints. Such a leaflet should be given to every complainant as a matter of course.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ This form could be handed to an individual who arrived at the police office after telephoning his complaint. He would there be given the information on how to complete it. The Royal Commission recognised the need for a standard practice in making complaints. 843 What is unreasonable in asking that a member of the public who makes what may well be a serious charge against a police officer should do so in writing? Some people may argue that because of a lack of education an individual may not be able to put his complaint in writing, but the officer on duty at the bar of the police station will have the duty of helping such an individual to put his complaint into the proper form.
§ It is no good saying that because there there are so many types of complaints different forms will have to be issued. When an insurance company asks an insured person to report on an accident in which he has been involved, it does not issue him with a green, yellow, or blue, form according to the type of accident. He is issued with a standard form on which he reports his accident and makes his claim.
§ One standard complaint form will be sufficient for the purpose of making a complaint. If the individual is unable to complete the form, he will be assisted by the officer on duty at the police station. The questions to be answered will be laid down by the Secretary of State for Scotland. This will ensure that there is a uniform procedure, whether the complaint is being made in Lanark-shire, or Dunbartonshire, or anywhere else. As the hon. Lady admitted, there ought to be a national standard form for dealing with this important matter.
§ If the complaint is made in writing, there can be no argument at a later date about whether a complaint had, in fact, been made. The evidence will be there. The complaint will be in writing and there can be no possible argument whether it was made over the telephone or to the officer on the beat.
§ If the complaint is made in writing, it will be a form of protection for the police force, because it will enable the person complaining to think over what he is doing. Instead of just rushing in to the police station and making a verbal complaint, he will have time in which to think about the seriousness of his intended action. It will give him time to think over the event and decide in a calmer atmosphere whether he has in fact been wronged, or whether the constable was perhaps right in what he did, or failed to do. It will also stop 844 people making frivolous complaints such as having seen someone climbing through a window with the help of a policeman.
§ The proposed procedure will not mean that a police authority will interfere because a complaint is made in writing. All that the Amendment seeks to do is to provide the form in which the complaint will be made. It will be prescribed by the Secretary of State, and will be of a national pattern.
§ Since this matter was debated in Committee upstairs I have given it considerable thought, and I have discussed it with the chief constables of Glasgow. They are in complete agreement with it, and are anxious that there should be a standard form of complaint. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Lady will accept the Amendment. It is not good enough to say that the police authority will deal with complaints. We ought to lay down a proper method of dealing with complaints by the public. I repeat that by doing so we shall protect both the public and the police. If the complaints are made in writing, they will not be subject to the whims and caprices of people who may object to a certain policeman, or merely because motorists are annoyed at being "booked".
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
We must all recognise the seriousness with which the hon. Gentleman has approached his task of trying to frame an Amendment which would meet the problems he has posed, but he will not be surprised if I tell him that I cannot accept it at this stage, just as I could not accept it at an earlier stage.
The hon. Gentleman admitted that there were defects in the Amendment. He referred to the speech of the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) who pointed out that one must be able to make complaints by telephone, and, of course, the Amendment provides specifically for them to be made in writing.
There is also the fact that members of the public who have genuine complaints may be frightened to come forward and say so.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I am not referring only to those people who are not able 845 to express themselves very well in writing. I think that to prescribe a form in the rather rigid manner envisaged in the Amendment would not meet all the types of complaints which we have in mind.
The hon. Gentleman said that he was concerned to try to protect the police. I am glad that he mentioned that, because when we talk about complaints by the public against the police we are often in danger of failing to realise that the police themselves have to be protected against what the hon. Gentleman described as frivolous complaints.
For the reason that I gave on an earlier Amendment, that the Scottish Police Council is examining this question, and because of the defect in the Amendment itself, I ask the House not to accept it.
§ Amendment negatived.
Amendment No. 58 proposed: In page 45, line 40, at the end to insert:
(4) Where the report of the person holding an inquiry under this section is not published, a summary of his findings and conclusions shall be made known by the Secretary of State so far as appears to him consistent with the public interest.—[Lady Tweedsmuir.]
§ Question proposed, That those words be there inserted in the Bill.
§ Mr. Millan
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out from "State" to the end of the proposed Amendment.
I did not have the advantage of serving on the Committee that considered the Bill, and I am not as clear as I otherwise would have been about what matters can be investigated by a local inquiry ordered by the Secretary of State, but since the provision is expressed in the most general terms the Secretary of State could presumably order an inquiry into literally any matter affecting a local police force. I would assume that an inquiry of this sort would normally be into an extremely serious matter.
In those circumstances, it makes a great deal of difference, from the point of view of public confidence, whether or not the report of an inquiry is published. At the moment there is no provision for the publication of such a report if the inquiry is held in private. Now, as a result of the Government Amendment, 846 a summary of the report may be published once the report has been received by the Secretary of State. Unfortunately, however, the provision includes the wordsso far as appears to him"—the Secretary of State—consistent with the public interestI wonder whether those words are required. The provision could mean that in certain circumstances a report would not be published at all: there would be no kind of summary of findings or conclusions. I cannot conceive of circumstances in which it would be possible to hold that it would not be in the public interest to make available to the public a summary of the findings and conclusions of an inquiry of this sort, and it therefore seems completely unnecessary to incorporate this qualifying phrase in the Amendment.
If we agree to the Amendment as it is at present we may render nugatory its ostensible intention. On all these matters we want absolute frankness. The publication of a summary of findings and conclusions seems to me qualification enough, compared with the publication of a full report. I can see no need for any further qualification in the public interest. In every case I would think that the public interest would demand that at least a summary of the fir dings and conclusions be published. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lady will find it possible to accept my Amendment to the proposed Amendment.
§ 5.45 p.m
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
We missed the hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) in Committee. He has taken a leading part on almost every other Bill that has affected Scotland. When the English part of the Bill was discussed my right hon. Friend made it clear that an Amendment in exactly similar terms to this would be moved in Schedule 6, and that was accepted. No query was made about the effect of the third line in the Amendment, which the hon. Member for Craigton seeks to omit.
I suggest to the hon. Member that it would not be wise to leave out the words:so far as appears to him"—847 that is, the Secretary of State—consistent with the public interest".He quite rightly said that if it was felt that the publication even of the conclusions and findings in a summary form was unwise it would be for some fairly serious reasons. We are talking about a local inquiry, which may be held into any matter connected with the policing of any area. This is a very wide power, and it is impossible to forecast in detail how it will be used. We hope that it will be used rarely.
But it is conceivable that an inquiry might have to go into matters touching on national security. In such a case I suggest that it would be clearly wrong to publish the findings and conclusions. Although this security consideration will not arise very often, the inquiry might also touch upon police methods, and I would regard it as being unwise in that case, too, to broadcast the methods used. For those reasons I suggest that the best course would be for the hon. Member to ask leave to withdraw his Amendment to the proposed Amendment.
§ Mr. Ross
I find it very difficult to accept the conclusions of the noble Lady, certainly in respect of the instances that she has given. We are here dealing with local inquiries, and I would not have thought that they raised such high sounding and terrifying conclusions as those to which she referred. In a case where matters are as serious as the hon. Lady has instanced the Secretary of State would obviously exercise his discretion and hold the inquiry in private. But I presume that a local inquiry arises out of concern on the part of the public about some aspect of police procedure or some failure of the police. The public will know that an inquiry has been held.
The discretion of the Secretary of State consists, first, in deciding whether or not there shall be an inquiry and, if he decides that there shall be, whether or not it shall be in private. We are limiting our concern here only to those inquiries which are held in private. The Government Amendment apparently provides that the Secretary of State can say that nothing at all will be published. There is no doubt that the last line of the Amendment gives the Secretary of State a discretionary power not to publish at all.
848 This is utterly ridiculous. If there is a matter of such importance that a local inquiry must be held because it is a local matter, that inquiry is of public concern, even if it is held in private. Whether or not she meant to say so, the noble Lady indicated that the Secretary of State reserves the right not to publish the findings of the person in charge of the inquiry, quite apart from the summary of evidence. Some report ought to be available to the public.
I cannot see exactly how we are restricting the Secretary of State to the terrifying extent referred to by the noble Lady if we delete the third line of the Amendment. I do not accept that the Secretary of State would be so foolish as to endanger the safety of this realm by including in his summary something that is really explosive. We do not want to give the Secretary of State such a complete blanket censorship as to render nugatory the suggestion that the Government are going some way towards meeting the complaints that have rightly been made that if there is no publication in respect of a private inquiry the public will not be reassured. I hope that the Government will consider the matter again.
§ Mr. Peter Doig (Dundee, West)
I am concerned about the type of inquiry and the way in which it may be conducted. If we were to have the sort of inquiry that was held recently in Dundee, all sorts of strange things might happen or be said. In the inquiry to which I refer, there was a dispute about what had been said by a person before he went to lunch and what he said afterwards. In an attempt to clarify the matter, the person concerned asked that the shorthand note should be read, which surely was a reasonable request. But the person conducting the inquiry refused to allow this to be done. Some rather strange statements were made during the inquiry which did not appear in the subsequent report. If that is the way inquiries are to be conducted, both local authorities and the public will be apprehensive.
We should insist that any inquiry is conducted in a reasonable and clear way and that anyone who may feel that he has been slandered, or anyone giving evidence, should have access to the shorthand note of the proceedings. In a great 849 many cases witnesses at such inquiries are members of local authorities and have given up their spare time to serve the public without recompense. The type of inquiry which we are considering causes grave concern. I hope that the Government will learn from past mistakes and that future inquiries will be conducted in an open manner. Then there would be no need to try to hide anything or refuse to publish a full report of what happened. It is in the public interest and in the interest of fair play that all evidence should be available, particularly to any witnesses or anyone who may consider himself slandered.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I wish to ask the Under-Secretary of State to look at subsection (1), which states:The Secretary of State may cause a local inquiry to be held by a person appointed by him into any matter connected with the policing of any area".That is a matter of routine and is not connected with any important aspect of police work relating to security, or any of the matters which were mentioned by the noble Lady. Subsections (3) to (9) of Section 355 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, will apply, and the noble Lady has not said what those subsections contain. Someone is appointed to hold an inquiry and has the power to call for witnesses and for papers and to take statements on oath. Witnesses would not be required to reveal documents or make statements which they would not be required to do in a court of law. This suggests to me that the noble Lady has exaggerated the importance of the kind of inquiry which is likely to take place.
What would be her answer if asked what the Government would do in an inquiry such as took place in the constituency of her hon. Friend the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson)? I agree that this inquiry was of a different kind, but surely it was in the public interest that it should be held. It was right and proper that the public should be informed of what took place, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) has made a good point. As was indicated in the discussions on previous Amendments, none of us 850 wishes to do anything to hamper the police in the performance of the important and dangerous job which they have to do. But, at the same time, incidents occur whirr require the public interest to be safeguarded. Occasionally reprimands or inquiries must be held. In view of these considerations, I ask that the noble Lady reconsider her statement.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) thought that all the evidence should be revealed. It has been accepted that there are times when inquiries must be held in private and that if all the evidence were made available the whole point of the inquiry would be defeated. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) referred to what was called the Thurso case. This was conducted under the provisions of the tribunal of inquiry procedure, which was a rather heavy procedure and was criticised by the Royal Commission. For this reason we decided on this type of inquiry, which goes further than the Royal Commission recommended, although it reflects the views of an earlier Royal Commission. We consider it important to be able to compel the attendance of witnesses.
I do not think that the subsection to be added to the Bill would be improved by deleting the last line. There are times when the Secretary of State must exercise his discretion about what findings or conclusions should or should not be made public.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment negatived.
§ Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ross
I beg to move Amendment No. 61, in page 46, line 14, to leave out from "may" to "refer" in line 15 and to insertafter consultation with the police authorityThis wording which I seek to amend is not new. It appears very much earlier in the Bill as Clause 12(3). It is word for word something put into the English part. It deals with reports which may be required by police authorities from chief constables. That states that if a chief constable thinks that such information which is required is not in the public interest to disclose or not needed for the discharge of the police authority, he 851 may request that authority to refer the requirement to the Secretary of State.
That may be satisfactory to our English colleagues, but we have been told by the Under-Secretary of State that Scotland is well ahead in police matters. England and Wales are bumbling towards democratic control of police affairs which we have had for a long time in Scotland. Chief constables in Scotland, under Section 34(1) of the Police Act, 1956—which was not the first word on this matter, but was a consolidation Measure—have laid on them a requirement that when asked by certain authorities for information they shall give itbeing matters connected with the policing of the area for which the force is maintained.It is not just the police authority which can ask for reports. The Secretary of State for Scotland can ask for reports. The sheriff of an area can ask for a report by a police authority in a county area. Magistrates of a burgh can ask the policy authority for a report as well as the police authority of a burgh.
Here the Government are slavishly following the bad example given in England by putting this into Scottish legislation. I want to know why. Has there been any trouble between police authorities and chief constables in Scotland about the power they have had and exercised for so long which is now to be restricted? This is a very unwise thing to do if it is unnecessary. We should be looking at legislation from the experience of the past and not from the immaturity of England and Wales. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) will support us, for the better we make Bills in Scotland the better eventually will be the Bills for England.
The Government are singling out the police authority. They are not placing this restriction on the sheriff. They regard him as part of the Establishment because he is appointed by themselves, by the "great approver". They are placing no such restriction on magistrates of a burgh but only on the police authority. The magistrates are part of that authority because the whole council is the police authority. In Committee, we objected that it should be-done in this way. We do not want to 852 repeat our objections; you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would not allow us to do so.
The Government suggest that if a chief constable thinks that some information asked for is not in the public interest to disclose or is not connected with the policing of the area, he should tell the police authority his opinion and if the authority wants to further a case it will have to get into touch with the Secretary of State for Scotland. What a job that will be. I presume that eventually the Secretary of State would reply to the police authority, but suppose he opposes the police authority? The police authority would write again to the chief constable and he eventually would write back to the police authority. There would be about six stages in these proceedings.
I hope that the noble Lady has worked out how many stages there would be if, to achieve the same object, she followed my suggestion. My suggestion is that when there is a disagreement the two sides should get together. There should be discussions and the chief constable should get in touch with the Secretary of State. If the Secretary of State told him to comply with the requirements of the police authority the whole proceeding would be considerably short-circuited.
What is suggested, for the first time, by the Government would inevitably drive a wedge between the chief constable and the police authority. I hope that the English Under-Secretary to the Home Office has had a few second thoughts about what he said in a very rambling speech one night some time ago. The Government are telling the police authority where they can get off. That is not guaranteed to create harmony. We suggest that there should be immediate discussions between the police authority and the chief constable. If they do not settle the matter in favour of one or the other, it should be up to the chief constable to refer to the Secretary of State, who himself would directly reply to the police authority.
By that means at least two stages would be saved. We should also save a cleavage and growth of discontent between the persons concerned and they would come to a solution very much quicker than under the suggestion made by the Government. I hope that the 853 noble Lady has read the speech of her hon. Friend the English Under-Secretary, because that is how not to deal with this matter. If she wants this proceeding satisfactorily imported into the Scottish part of the Bill, the best way to do it is suggested in my Amendment. We would rather that it were not done at all. It has not been proved by experience to be necessary but if it must be done this would be a much tidier way and a way which would retain harmony between the police authority and the chief constable.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
The effect of this Amendment would be to make a chief constable who failed to comply with a requirement to submit a report to the police authority responsible himself for referring the requirement to the Secretary of State after consultation with the authority.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I certainly agree that they are most important. Therefore, I stressafter consultation with the police authority".Under the Bill it is for the police authority to refer the matter to the Secretary of State where there is a dispute. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) maintains that his Amendment would provide a tidier method of dealing with this procedure. It is true that, in practice, the Secretary of State would wish to hear both sides of the case. I do not think, therefore, that there would be any effective difference if I accepted the Amendment.
But may I put this point to the hon. Gentleman? If the request were to come from the chief constable there would be a need, in any case, for the Secretary of State to consult the police authority. The fact that the request is made through the police authority avoids any suggestion that the chief constable is going behind the back of the police authority.
§ Mr. ROSS
I suggested that the noble Lady should forget all about the speech made by the Secretary of State. That is exactly what he said. It may have had some relevance in that case, but it has no relevance here. In this case, there have been discussions between the police authority and the chief constable, and he could not possibly be going behind the authority's back. He must have acted on the basis of having had discussions and there having been no agreement.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
There is certain substance in the hon. Member's argument, and I confess that I do not feel very strongly about retaining these words. But I put it to him that if the Secretary of State then communicates his decision and it goes back to the chief constable, in a way might be thought to by-pass the local authority. I am, however, more convinced by his argument that we want to keep ahead of England and Wales in all these matters. If I accept the Amendment we shall be different from England and Wales. It is, I am afraid, for that reason that, with pleasure, I accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.