§ 9. Mr. Goodhart
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement about recruiting for the Metropolitan Police.
§ 16. Mr. Molloy
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is 435 satisfied with the current level of police recruitment for the metropolitan London area; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I am concerned about the serious deficiencies experienced in certain forces, in particular the Metropolitan Police, where total strength at 31st March was 21,859—more than 1,100 more than in March 1974. While pay is not the only factor it is very important, and that is why the review which the Edmund-Davies Committee is carrying out is most important. In addition, the Government have allocated additional sums which will allow about 3,000 more cadets to be recruited this financial year in London and elsewhere, and provision is being made for additional civilian staff to release police officers for operational duties.
§ Mr. Goodhart
As the people of London are not receiving adequate protection against crime and violence, and as resignations from the Metropolitan Police have reached record levels, how can the Home Secretary justify present restrictions on Metropolitan Police overtime and the retention of any remaining restrictions on the recruitment of civilian staff to help the police?
§ Mr. Rees
In regard to civilian staff, I have said what we are about to do. I have taken no decision on overtime and I would not do so. It is a matter for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. I invite the hon. Gentleman, as a London Member, to talk to the Commissioner. I support the Commissioner in what he does. It is wrong to put the blame on the Government in regard to overtime. There are more policemen than there were three or four years ago, and when the hon. Gentleman talks as he does about the problem in London he overlards the situation. There is a real problem, but the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is a good political issue and he is not concerned about the realities.
§ Mr. Molloy
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the trend towards increasing numbers in the Metropolitan Police, small though it is, is very welcome? Has he heard of the proposal, apparently from the Leader of the Tory GLC, that the Metropolitan Police should be put under the control of the GLC? Does my right hon. Friend know whether that is official 436 Conservative policy or simply a maverick suggestion?
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Is there not a link between this Question and the attitude of the courts as revealed in reply to the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark)? While it is, of course, true that in individual cases specific penalties are a matter for the courts, is it not also a fact that, from time to time, the Lord Chancellor gives appropriate guidance to magistrates and justices? Is this not a case for doing so in view of the deplorable situation revealed by the Under-Secretary's answer to my hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Rees
That is another matter, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion will be passed on. It would be a grave error for the House to interfere with the judiciary in any shape or form. Magistrates must take the decisions themselves.
I take the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point. It is a matter for the Lord Chancellor and the judiciary and it should remain there, otherwise we should be following a royal path which has been followed in other countries with dire results.
§ Mr. Greville Janner
I fully agree with my right hon. Friend's last answer that the job of the judiciary should be left to the judiciary, but does he not feel that recruitment to the police would improve if the job of the police were left to the police and if politicians took decisions on political matters, such as the banning of marches that cause danger to the police and the private citizen?
§ Mr. Rees
I would not like to have taken a decision this week in London when nine marches took place. If I had 437 made a judgment about those people who were marching and whose views I disagreed with, I would have taken a different decision from that taken by the Commissioner of Police. The judgment that was taken at the weekend was the right one. There were marches in all parts of London and they passed off with remarkable peacefulness. Other parts of the world could well look at that. It is not a job for a Home Secretary, and it is certainly not a job for a local authority.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Reverting to the question of recruitment, will the Home Secretary draw to the attention of the Edmund-Davies Committee two facts that he has given to the House this week? First, while the retail price index has shot up by 108 per cent., the pay of senior constables has increased by only 75 per cent. Secondly, policemen are quitting the service at the rate of one sub-division—120 men—every working week.
In view of these facts, will the Home Secretary give an assurance that when the Edmund-Davies Committee reports and recommends an increase in police pay, it will not be treated in the same shabby fashion as the Armed Forces were treated after their independent pay review?
§ Mr. Rees
I think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong about the Armed Services and the recommendations made by the Review Body. I have told the Edmund-Davies Committee on behalf of the Government that we shall accept what it says. I say to the hon. Gentleman, with his other quite proper responsibilities, that I have stated on behalf of the Government that I will accept whatever the Edmund-Davies Committee puts forward. I hope that those who have given evidence to it will accept its report in the same way, because there may be some recommendations made by it which will not necessarily be highly regarded by police forces in all parts of the country.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The Home Secretary will have heard his Under-Secretary say that she placed great reliance upon the report of the Edmund-Davies Committee for stemming the losses in the police force. I agree with her about that, as I am sure the whole House would agree. If that were the case, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us when the Edmund-Davies Committee is likely 438 to report, since, clearly, from what the Under-Secretary has said, this is a matter of considerable urgency? Second, if that report is to lead to the results which the Under-Secretary wants, does the Home Secretary agree that much will depend upon the way in which the Government decide to implement the report when it comes?
§ Mr. Rees
The implementation will be from 1st September, the beginning of the pay year. It cannot be implemented before then, whatever happens. When the report comes, much will depend on the length of time between then and the date of implementation. Orders have to be made. They need not necessarily be made while the House is sitting. We have looked into all these eventualities. Our job is to implement the report. The Edmund-Davies solution will be far better than 10 per cent. plus something which we were being asked to provide last year. The report will provide a fundamental review of police pay, which is something the Police Federation greatly welcomes.
§ Mr. Rees
I have explained that there is time to make the orders in the recess, if needs be. I am not prepared to tell Lord Edmund-Davies the speed at which he should work. Lord Edmund-Davies wants to provide a report that will stand the test of time. That may take a long time rather than a short time. The committee feels that to bring forward something that is slipshod would be bad for the police. I agree.